Disclaimer: Sadly, I own nothing but the plot.

Note: Written for Chouta-Angel during the Spring-Fluff Exchange held on LiveJournal in 2007.

The One Where Shishido Gets Punched in the Face.

---

I'm not sure how to word this, but I really look up to you and admire your strength but recently that has shifted into something... different. Or at least I think it's different. I'm not quite sure how to approach it. You keep looking at me strangely, expecting more from me and it makes me feel like I'm disappointing you. I can't tell you directly. I'm not even sure why I'm writing this out because that is just pointless. I know I won't give this to you but maybe writin

---

The paper crumples between his fingers, his fist clenching tightly around it and trapping it against his palm. He can feel the edges sticking into his skin, creating paper cuts that will make holding his racket painful for the next few days but that seems unimportant compared to the contents of this one, small sheet of torn paper. It is such an insignificant looking piece of paper, one that was probably ripped out of a school note book and shoved hastily out of sight. Probably forgotten as well.

Shishido frowns at nothing in particular, standing alone in the silent change room by Ohtori's open locker. The short note ends abruptly, unfinished and it leaves him feeling confused and angry.

The room suddenly feels a lot smaller than it really is. He feels almost trapped. The need to escape nearly overwhelms him. He doesn't allow himself time to analyze this strange feeling; he simply follows his instincts and leaves the change-room to get fresh air.

Without thinking, he shoves the piece of paper into his pocket with one hand and reaches for Ohtori's bag with the other, slamming the locker door shut with his shoulder as he turns towards the door to leave.

Ohtori has a crush.

Shishido's frown deepens until it's indistinguishable from a scowl. Ohtori doesn't have time to be distracted by a crush. Especially not a crush on him. It would make playing doubles difficult if Ohtori was to get confused and distracted by his emotions. It could cost them important matches. Tennis is more important. Winning and proving that they are the best is more important. Tennis and crushes aren't even on the same level. Crushes shouldn't be an issue that they need to worry about but it seems as if he's the only one who's thinking that way.

As he reaches the exit, he glances to his left towards the mirror near the doorway and adjusts his hat automatically, looking himself up and down out of habit. He scowls at his reflection, pulling a face before pushing the door open and walking outside. It's a lot cooler now; the sun low in the sky and tinting the clouds pink and purple as it gradually descends. There is hardly anyone around, only lone figures that move across pathways in the distance, walking from one building to another or leaving the school completely, but Shishido ignores them and they ignore him. They're not important to each other.

Shishido glances around but Ohtori isn't there like he said he would be. "Lame," he mutters under his breath, shifting Ohtori's bag on his shoulder, trying to dislodge it from digging into his back awkwardly.

At least Ohtori being late gives him more time to think. Whether to ask Ohtori directly about the note or to leave it; pretend he's not aware of its existence until he knows for definite whether Ohtori likes him or not. Neither option is really overly appealing to him. The idea of leaving the contents of the note nagging at him from the back of his mind, wondering constantly and distracting him, isn't a very intelligent idea. But the idea of asking Ohtori outright makes him feel awkward and flustered. It's a feeling he'd rather not experience unless he truly has to.

Right that second he wishes that Atobe hadn't needed to have an important but private talk with Ohtori and asked him 'politely' to retrieve his kouhai's bag from his locker. If none of that had happened, he would probably never have found the note and wouldn't be standing there preoccupied by its existence.

"Shishido-san," a voice calls from his right.

Shishido looks over and almost grimaces when he sees Ohtori walking his way, his long legs making him reach him quicker than expected. "Here," Shishido mutters, shrugging off Ohtori's bag and handing it over to him. When Ohtori passes his bag back to him, he grunts a thank you and stands there uneasily as he shifts it onto his back, noticeably lighter than what Ohtori's bag was.

"I'm sorry that I made you wait, Shishido-san," Ohtori says, looking apologetic and almost forlorn. Ohtori frowns, shifting from one foot to another. "I don't even know what he wanted exactly. It didn't seem very important. Not like he led us to believe."

"Whatever. It's Atobe." Shishido attempts a smile but probably fails, too distracted to really make an effort in pretending. "Uh, I have to go home sooner than I thought," he says. "I forgot I have a family thing happening. Can we train tomorrow night?"

Shishido hates to lie, even if it's only a small one and for Ohtori's best interest -- it's still a lie. There would be no good coming from them spending extra unnecessary time together until Shishido wraps his mind around this new knowledge. There is no harm in cutting out earlier than usual.

"That's okay, Shishido-san," Ohtori reassures with a small smile. "I was just about to tell you I need to cancel tonight anyway. Hiyoshi-kun invited me to see a movie and I said I'd go."

The urge to scowl again is almost too tempting and he hopes he can manage to resist it. It is one thing for him to cancel because he needs to think things over but it's another thing for Ohtori to ditch him for an outing with Hiyoshi. Even if he's a team-mate.

"Okay," he replies with a shrug, turning away. "I'll see you at tomorrow's practice."

Ohtori smiles and nods, lifting his hand in a small, parting wave. "Have a nice evening with your family, Shishido-san."

Shishido feels rotten inside for his lie. Even if his intentions are, in his mind, perfectly valid and reasonable. Ohtori's easy trust in him, not even pausing to question if what he said was the truth, makes him a little uneasy. It had never bothered him before – the unquestioned trust. Perhaps because he never had a real reason to pay that close attention before now. It had always just been that way and he had accepted it. Only now it made him think that perhaps it wasn't such a great thing.

Now that his awareness of Ohtori has shifted into something unfamiliar and new, his thinking is beginning to change and he is already seeing him differently

---

For the first time that he can remember, he is too preoccupied to even notice how long the walk from school to his home is. Normally he catches a bus, or his brother picks him up or he goes somewhere with Ohtori. But today he walks alone, paying no mind to the steep hills he walks up or street after street of roads he has to cross. It all blends in together and he's unaware of his aching muscles and tense shoulders, finally reaching his home. The hour long walk is gone in a blink of an eye.

No one is home and Shishido is grateful for the silence.

Food is quickly prepared, cheese sliced and bread buttered and he drops the sandwich haphazardly onto a random plate before moving towards the stairs to his room. He carefully places the plate on his bedside table as he sits down on his bed, falling back until he's lying down and looking blankly at the ceiling. Reaching up, he pushes his hat off his head and throws it across the room, vaguely hearing it hit the opposite wall.

The original anger and confusion that had developed after reading the note has long faded into numbness, his mind easily reflecting over the words and he blindly reaches into his pocket. The paper is still there, crinkled and bunched up, but still there. Shishido slowly pulls it out, bringing it up to his face and he stares at it for a moment, not bothering to unfold it so he can read it. He still remembers pretty much everything that was written anyway. Part of him wants to burn the paper, wants to watch it as it smolders into nothing but ash, then have the wind blow it away so easily that it's forgotten. No longer existing.

But a bigger part, to his shame, can't even bring himself to drop the paper from his hand, let alone destroy it.

Shishido swears under his breath, glaring at the paper and he feels his stomach twist unpleasantly.

There is no time for crushes. Tennis comes first. Winning is more important. He isn't old enough to understand or want a teenage romance or some silly love affair. Ohtori is younger than him and most definitely shouldn't be thought of like that. It's not right. Shishido repeats these things to himself, firstly in his mind then he starts murmuring it under his breath.

But he can't deny that it doesn't cross his mind, as much as he wants to deny it and forget it. Before today, he'd never even let his mind wander in that direction. It wasn't a part of his thought process but it's like this one note opened his mind to possibilities. Possibilities that he doesn't want - but does want.

He finally realizes that he's gripping the note firmly in his palm again, a tight fist crushing the paper even more and almost destroying it anyway. The sound of his heartbeat is deafening and he's panting heavily.

He swears again but this time very loudly.

---

The next day is awkward.

Or it is in his mind. Arriving at school he is greeted by both Ohtori and Hiyoshi, and by his deduction, they must have slept at either one of their houses the night before and had come to school together. The day becomes even more awkward for him when he feels a pang of jealousy and wants to ask what they did, where they slept, what they watched and lastly - did Hiyoshi do anything that he needs to be yelled at for?

Shishido leaves them quickly, ignoring the way Ohtori's expression shifts from happy to confused at his sudden departure and how Hiyoshi places his hand on Ohtori's arm and smiles up at him.

Jealousy wasn't an emotion he should be feeling. Hiyoshi might not always be his favorite person but he was still a team-mate and they were, in a way, friends. But not as close as he and Ohtori were.

When had it changed from anger to jealousy? To being annoyed by the possible interruption of the way they interacted as doubles partners to not wanting Ohtori to be touched by a mutual friend or anyone else?

A thought occurs to him and it's enough to make him freeze in the crowded corridor, students crashing into him and each other, yelling out protests and disgruntled remarks in his direction. But he barely notices, let alone acknowledges his abrupt standstill and he quickly turns into an empty classroom. He moves towards a desk, hands falling flat onto the hard surface and he stares at it blankly.

What if the notewasn't meant for him?

It is a possibility. But taking that into consideration, as much as he doesn't want to, forces him to ask himself why he assumed it was referring to him in the first place. There is no name on the note. Nothing hinting at the intended recipient. For all he knew, it could have been for Hiyoshi and that was why Ohtori had canceled the day before. They spent the night together. Ohtori and he have never done that – it had never come up.

Shishido slams his fist onto the desk, standing straight and he adjusts his hat roughly, almost dropping it.

It is too much to take in.

---

Falling asleep has never been an issue for him. It was simply a matter of brushing his teeth, putting his sleepwear on and climbing onto bed. Five minutes later he is asleep. Simple and natural. Falling asleep later that night didn't happen. Instead he spends his time thinking. He's never been someone who over-analyses everything that happens in his life. Most of the time he just lets things happen without batting an eye but for once he can't stop himself from thinking and thinking.

In the morning his eyes are bleary, red and swollen. His mother just looks at him and pushes a bowl in front of him, gesturing for him to eat. Days off from school due to lack of sleep don't exist in their home, and even if it did he wouldn't take it up. He ends up being ten minutes late for his first class, arriving covered in sweat and panting, his jacket falling off his shoulders and his tie attempting to strangle him. Classmates hide their amusement behind their hands, whispering to each other and passing notes. Shishido just ignores them and sits down at his desk, untangling himself from his possessed uniform.

He can already tell it's going to be another long day.

---

There is a commotion in the change room after practice. All their bags and clothing are scattered around, shirts hanging from shower heads, underwear in sinks and a pair of shoes in a toilet. The regulars stand around, looking at everything and then at each other. Nothing like this has happened before but they all have a general idea of who it was. A second year, frustrated and angry after being humiliated because of an embarrassing defeat. It's a stupid form revenge.

No one says anything. They each collect their clothing, stuffing them into their bags and tidying up. It goes unsaid that Atobe will handle the second year, that he'll never be seen on a court or in the school again. Shishido feels nothing towards the boy. He only looks towards Ohtori, watching him change and pull his school pants up.

"I think you're wearing my underwear," Shishido says loudly before it even sinks in. He flushes, feeling his face heat up and he drops his school bag. Ohtori turns around, confused and awkward. His pants are halfway up his thighs and he's bent forward, still in the act of tugging them up. They look at each other, neither knowing what to say or what to do. Ohtori looks away first, gazing down at himself and Shishido watches as Ohtori stiffens and slowly stands up. Instead of taking his pants back off like Shishido thought he would, Ohtori just looks straight at him and pulls them up completely, the sound of his zipper closing the only sound in the room.

"Sorry, Shishido-san. I must have picked them up by mistake." Only Ohtori doesn't sound sorry at all and Shishido watches him as he leaves, not looking at anyone else as he hurriedly exits the change-room.

The rest of the team remains silent as they prepare to leave and Shishido finds it unsettling. Normally Gakuto or Oshitari would take this opportunity to make a lewd remark but neither of them say a word. Shishido leaves five minutes after Ohtori but doesn't see him anywhere on the school grounds.

---

The weekend is long and dull, nothing but a mountain of homework to entertain him and it barely holds his interest for longer than five minutes every time he manages to focus on the numbers in front of him. Each time he thinks that he is getting somewhere, that another math problem is solved and correct, his mind drifts and he loses his place. It's frustrating and irritating and he wants to punch something, anything, to release the gradually building tension inside of him.

Nothing is going how he wants it to. He had a fight with his father and was grounded for the weekend, got reprimanded by Atobe because he had to miss a team practice and his mother stopped speaking to him when he accidentally knocked over her favorite flower vase. Being confined to his bedroom is sending him spiraling into a place where he has to think to entertain himself. No internet, no TV, not even a tennis ball to bounce and throw. Nothing but homework and his slowly expanding imagination

After the last practice, the last thing he needs is for his thoughts to wander and imagine what Ohtori did when he got home. Wonder if he removed his underwear straight away and put them into the wash, or wonder if he continued wearing them for the rest of the day. Wonder, if maybe, he slept with them on all night. It's a dangerous line of thinking but every time he gets to that place, it's like he can't pull away and has to keep going, deeper and deeper until the need to remove the tension from himself is too great and he feels like he's going to explode.

In the end his self control breaks. Afterwards, he stares at the ceiling, blinking slowly and wonders, if maybe, Ohtori had done something similar the night before.

---

Blushing is what girls do when they're embarrassed or being girly and weird. Shishido never blushes and never plans to. When Ohtori comes over the next morning and wakes him by sitting on his bed, Shishido doesn't blush but flushes and pulls his blankets higher over his chest. There is a large difference between blushing and flushing. Flushing is acceptable and the only one Shishido will acknowledge and admit to doing.

"Choutarou?! What-- How?" Shishido chokes out. He coughs to clear the roughness from his voice and blinks rapidly, pulling the blanket up even further when he remembers what he did the night before. Shishido feels the heat in his cheeks intensify. Nothing could be more unsettling for him than what he is having to experience right that second. Normally he sleeps in his sweatpants and a loose shirt but he had removed them when he went to bed. Now there is only one thin sheet separating them and Shishido is very conscious of the musky scent lingering around him.

Ohtori doesn't say anything at first, just sits at the end of his bed, fingers picking at the loose bit of cotton on the blanket. Shishido brings his legs up and away from Ohtori, not wanting to find out what would happen if Ohtori were to unintentionally touch his leg. In his present state, he doesn't trust himself and doesn't want to do anything he might regret later..

"Choutarou," he says again, this time more calmly. He brushes his fingers through his hair, pushing strands out of his eyes and off his forehead.

There is a rustling and Shishido's lap suddenly has a bag on it. "What is this?" Without waiting, he opens the bag and immediately closes it, wondering if it was in fact possible for him to blush. Flustered was another more fitting word.

"Ah. Uh, thank you," he finally mutters, keeping the bag closed. He doesn't look at Ohtori.

"Sorry that I didn't bring them around sooner, Shishido-san." Ohtori's voice is strained and quiet, and Shishido looks at him quickly but Ohtori still isn't looking back.

Shishido smiles tightly. "At least they weren't Atobe's or Oshitari's, right?"

It's a relief to see Ohtori relax, his shoulders dropping and he smiles, finally turning to look at him directly. "My mother made me bring them around. Your mother told me you were grounded but I told her why I came over." Ohtori's smile turns almost teasing. "She said that she hadn't known about the mix-up and told me to come straight up after I mentioned they didn't need washing since I had already taken care of that."

The teasing smile fades somewhat and Shishido is almost taken aback when a faint flush tints Ohtori's cheeks. He coughs again, this time to give Ohtori a chance to collect himself and control his reactions. The abrupt change doesn't help Shishido in the slightest, in fact it only makes things worse and worse. The possibility that Ohtori had done it. Had worn his underpants and touched himself, gotten off and then taken the time to wash them clean again... In his mind, the chance is higher and his imagination runs with it, creating a colourful array of mental images. It is enough to get him into even more trouble if Ohtori was to edge closer to him, or to move the blanket or any number of things that could happen and expose his rapidly growing problem.

When he speaks again, his voice is deeper and gruffer, unlike how he normally speaks to anyone.

"I think you better go now, Choutarou."

There is no offer of further explanation or even a trace of apology in his tone. All he wants right that second is either Ohtori out of the room so he can take care of his problem or Ohtori in the room and under the sheets with him. There is only one option and that is for Ohtori to leave. No matter how cold he has to be. He'll make up for it the next time he sees him. That is if he can look him in the face, in the eye and not flush in embarrassment.

When he hears his door shut, the sound of footsteps descending and the front door slamming, he loses all of his desire and he flops back down on the bed, he kicks his legs out and the blanket falls off the bed. As frustrated and on edge he was only moments ago, he is now the complete opposite and he lies there, once again thinking too much for his own sanity.

---

It cannot be left like this. It's been barely a fortnight since he found the note but it's more like it has been one long day that refuses to end and continues in a cycle. It is making him moodier than usual, snapping at random people when they try to talk to him or accidentally bump into him.

He ends up with a black eye when he crosses paths with Rikkaidai's Kirihara and makes a comment about his girlfriend's too short skirt. The comment seemed fine at the time but an hour later, sitting with an ice-pack on his face and his mother scolding him, he decides that telling a crazy person their girlfriend looks like a whore isn't a good idea. No matter how you are feeling or even if you're irrationally jealous over the fact that they were walking around holding hands. The memory of it makes him wrinkle his nose and his eyes water from pain.

Shishido leaves his mother and the icepack, deciding he needs to go for another walk before he snaps at his mother for her ever increasing commentary about Good Boys and Bad Boys, and black eyes and her disappointment in his involvement with fighting. It is not like he wanted to be punched and he didn't hit Kirihara back or anything. He just walked off, leaving his girlfriend to do the scolding. It's almost worth the black eye to see Kirihara cower in front of Tachibana An.

There is a park near his house and he heads for that. When he arrives there, he is taken aback when he sees Hiyoshi idly pushing himself on the swing, kicking up the sand under his feet and letting them drag around. As he gets closer, Shishido calls out to him, waving when Hiyoshi's head jerks up and he looks in his direction.

"Hey," Shishido says stiffly as he leans against the pole of the swing set.

"Shishido-senpai."

Neither of them say anything for a few minutes and Shishido is unsure why it is awkward since there really isn't any reason to be. Hiyoshi, as far as he knows, has no reason to be uncomfortable.

"You know that Ohtori-kun likes you, right?"

Shishido blinks as he takes in what Hiyoshi just said, not moving from where he is standing but frowns instead, his mouth forming a straight line. It bothers him that Hiyoshi had just asked that. Hiyoshi made it real and there is no way to take that back or deny it. It was okay to hope that maybe Ohtori liked him, even if it made playing tennis together difficult and possibly created distractions, but he could live with that. It hadn't been real and he could focus on tennis. But now hearing that, it made everything more clear and it turned the 'maybes' into real possibilities.

Shishido closes his eyes and sighs, crossing his arms over his chest. The irrational jealousy that maybe the note had been for Hiyoshi lingers and he has a moment of suspicion that Hiyoshi is playing a weird mind game with him, getting his hopes up before crushing them. Thankfully he dismisses that before the idea can grow into anything more than momentary insanity.

"And how do you know that?" Shishido asks, opening his eyes to look at Hiyoshi.

Hiyoshi shrugs. "I just do. I'm not entirely sure even he realizes it yet. I saw a note in his bag one day and I asked him about it but he just shoved it further in his bag and didn't say another word to me all day."

"A note?"

"Yeah," Hiyoshi replies as he swings a little higher. "It wasn't addressed to anyone but I read the first line or two and thought of you."

"Was this it?" Shishido reaches into his pocket and pulls out the note, unfolding it carefully. In the two weeks that he has had it, it has become crinkled and creased with food stains tingeing it in places from where he was just a little sloppy while eating and reading. He hesitates before passing it to Hiyoshi and eyes him warily for a moment but then frowns and lets him take it.

There is silence between them again but this time Shishido is completely unsure how to take it. The note is such a personal possession and he hasn't allowed anyone else to see it, let alone touch or hold it, and now Hiyoshi is reading it. It makes his finger twitch, wanting to grab it back and make it his own again.

Hiyoshi offers it back to him without a word and Shishido hastily takes it, refolding it correctly and he pushes it deep into his pocket, where it is safe and secure once more. "Well?" he prompts, a bite of impatience in his voice.

"It's the same one," Hiyoshi admits after a pause.

Shishido grins, looking down at the ground to hide the relief and happiness he's feeling from him, wanting some privacy for a personal matter in front of a kouhai. After everything he first felt, finding out that Ohtori had written the note and that he wasn't the only person who thought it was for him actually makes him happy and something else he can't quite define but it definitely isn't anything bad.

"Can I ask you a question?" Hiyoshi asks, and Shishido glances up at him and notices that Hiyoshi is looking at him oddly.

"Yeah?" he replies warily.

"How'd you get a black eye?"

---

It takes him a week to prepare himself to talk to Ohtori about the note.

Shishido spends extra time relieving stress on the tennis courts and in his bedroom, working himself up to it. It would be embarrassing if people were to discover how preoccupied he's being over it but he can't bring himself to care anymore. Ohtori liking him is now so firmly lodged in his mind that it's no longer a farfetched notion or weird alternate reality.

It's a fact that Ohtori has a crush on him.

It's a fact that he needs to address it.

It's also a fact that he is nervous and scared, although he'd never admit the latter, to broach the subject with Ohtori and finally bring it all out in the open.

But it has to be done and soon. Hiyoshi keeps sending him exasperated looks after each practice and it's quickly grating on Shishido's nerves and his senpai pride. The last thing he needs is to be lectured by his arrogant kouhai, especially when he receives knowing smirks in reply to his scowls. Personally Shishido thinks Hiyoshi will follow Atobe's footsteps perfectly, and maybe even go further over the top – if that was even possible.

In the end it's the smirking that finally pushes him over the edge and the desire to regain his pride that causes him to reign in his nerves and approach Ohtori. He does so after the last practice that Friday.

He can feel the back of his neck burning and his palms are sweating. He doesn't know what is wrong with him but continues standing by Ohtori's locker anyway, waiting for him to close it and acknowledge his presence.

But when Ohtori does that and looks down at him, smiling genuinely, Shishido finds that he is at a loss for words and stands there mouthing soundlessly like a fish. It only makes him more embarrassed and the flush spreads from his neck to his face and he finally thinks that he should just call it a blush. Because when it comes down to it, it is a blush and there is no way for him to deny it.

"Are you okay, Shishido-san?" Ohtori asks, his brow creasing and he places his hand on Shishido's shoulder. The concern is evident and Shishido feels bad for making his kouhai worried when there really is nothing to be worried over.

"Ah…" His attempt to speak falters once more when Ohtori squeezes his shoulder and smiles encouragingly. Shishido licks his lips, his hands clenching and unclenching by his sides. He had wanted to reclaim his pride by finally asking Ohtori but instead he ends up humiliating himself.

"H-here." Shishido hastily shoves the note at Ohtori and crosses his arms over his chest, refusing to look at him as he takes the note. He can hear the way the note crinkles as Ohtori unfolds it and Shishido squeezes his eyes closed, waiting for something to happen. It seems like it's taking Ohtori forever just to open the piece of paper and Shishido gnaws on the inside of his cheek, tasting copper.

"Shishido-san…"

---

You don't need to tell me, Choutarou. I know and I feel the same way.

P.S. You could never disappoint me.