Xiana: Another Silver Pair story from me. For some reason… I don't know why I like writing them so much, considering they're not my "usual type" of pairing. Oh well… It's kind of long. I broke it into four chapters though it was originally one long chapter because I'm a review whore and I figured I'd get more this way. Haha!

Disclaimer: I wrote and wrote for two weeks straight and if I owned Prince of Tennis I'd be making some money right now for sure! Also, I really don't know much about Catholicism so if I get something wrong feel free to correct me! Finally, Choutarou is not actually Christian, as stated quite definitively in OVA 8, also known as the best episode ever. Hyotei!

Pairing: Silver Pair, Golden Pair and Dirty Pair mentioned.

Rating: T, I suppose. Some language and, erm, suggestive themes. Also religion, so if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Or something.

Dedicated: To Keselyx Meeko Lyszerxon. Because it's so… fitting? Nyaa, it might not be the kind of thing you like, though. Oh well, we'll see what happens. Sorry for stealing your anecdote though to be fair I did the same thing. Also, maybe written for Valentine's Day/Choutarou's birthday though to be honest I didn't think of that at the time.

Suggested Listening: HYDE's entire Faith album, particularly "Jesus Christ," "Made in Heaven" (My official OshiGaku theme), and "Perfect Moment."


Salvation

Part 1: Creation

"Listen for the voice of God and follow it, and in time you will find your salvation. "
-Death Note Episode 1 "Rebirth."


1.1


Religion was not number one on Shishido Ryou's list of Problems With The World, but it certainly made the top 10. His parents had never instilled any religious values along with the moral ones they had imposed on him in his youth, preferring to remain secular and mildly agnostic. At the age of 7, Shishido had come up with a theory about the universe that closely resembled Hinduism while sitting at home, bored out of his mind, on a rainy day; when he was 12 and could properly appreciate what he had done, he promptly dismissed all religion as a sham. If a little kid could make something like that up on his own –something that a sizeable percentage of the world believed in- wasn't it likely that most faiths were just products of overly-fecund imaginations and fear of death? At the age of 13, Shishido learned the word "atheism" from his history teacher in the middle of a lecture about religions of the world, and proudly proclaimed his lack of faith to anyone who bothered to ask his religious status.

The only person ever to do so had been his doubles partner and best friend, Ootori Choutarou. He had asked regarding a sleepover the two were to have, because the entire family woke early on Sundays to go to morning mass, and he was wondering if Shishido would like to accompany them. Shishido had demurred, saying that he had never set foot in a church in his life, and never wanted to, either.

He only realized belatedly that he had probably hurt Choutarou's feelings when the eternally polite Ootori hung up the phone without so much as a "Ja ne" to signal the end of the conversation.

Shishido hadn't been raised to be particularly tolerant of the beliefs of others. Respecting the more major religions around was simple. He could deal with Jirou and his prized Buddha statue, and he wouldn't disturb a grain of sand in Atobe's spectacular zen garden. However, Choutarou was a Christian, and a Catholic at that. Shishido wasn't particularly certain of the details of the different sects of Christianity, especially considering that no one he had met besides Choutarou followed that religion, but he gathered that Catholics were known for being rather extreme in their beliefs. As one who had never been constrained by what he saw as the burden of faith, he was suitably leery of the situation.

But wariness and outright rudeness were two completely different things, and Shishido knew he wouldn't be able to withstand The Look that Ootori would surely give him if he didn't quickly make amends. He called back and informed him that "I was only joking, Choutarou. I'd be happy to go with you guys."

That Sunday, his worst fears were realized. Not only was going to that church the most awful experience of his life (the sermon would have been boring even if it hadn't been in Latin, and he certainly didn't understand what the stale bread and grape juice represented and why everyone treated them as if they were holy relics when he knew they came straight from a convenience store), but it turned out that the Ootori family was almost ludicrously religious. They even said something ridiculous called "grace" before eating, which was a long and tiresome speech that could have been easily avoided by the word "itadekimasu." Choutarou was the worst of the lot. It wasn't just the crucifix he wore around his neck. It was the posters on his wall, the knick-knacks in his room, and the strange light in his eyes that could only be described as fervor when he tried to explain it all to Shishido. He had never been able to look at Choutarou the same way since.

Another event further changed his opinion of his partner. At the end of a particularly heated match against a doubles pair from Yamabuki, Choutarou had been overcome by emotion and had embraced Shishido in a tight and entirely too passionate hug. The strange thing was that he hadn't minded at the time, had even reciprocated, much to his and Ootori's surprise. The other thing that he had noticed at the time was that when they finally broke apart, Choutarou seemed be breathing more heavily than usual, and had begun to flush a shade darker than his normal coloring. Of course, it didn't seem odd at all when one considered the length of the match, the heat of the day, and the decreasing flow of adrenaline that had kept them going the whole time. But when one also took into account Ootori's increased propensity to watch him, hover around him, and appear as if he was constantly on the verge of saying something important to Shishido whenever he wasn't focused on a match, things became very suspicious indeed. At long last, he could only conclude that Choutarou had a bit of a crush on his senpai.

After continuing to consider the matter, he concluded that the feeling was mutual. At this point, he began doing research on the Catholic Church, particularly its policy on homosexuality. What he discovered, at least about the church's official position, left him disgruntled and not exactly hopeful for a happy future with Ootori. Though he was resigned to religious differences coming between them and forcing them apart, he rationalized that he wouldn't know if they would unless he asked Ootori himself.

It was only a coincidence that he asked Choutarou when the normally packed clubhouse was completely deserted save for the two of them. And it was only because after considering all possible options and determining the best one that he "asked" with a kiss.

Choutarou's immediate response was to return the favor, and the two made out happily for a while before the part of Choutarou's brain that was controlled by religion found its keys and walked back in to reclaim the house that had been thus defiled by the part of Choutarou's brain that was nothing more than a rebellious teenager throwing a party and finally Getting Some while the parents were away.

At least, that was the analogy that Shishido's own brain came up with as he flew across the room and smashed into a locker. As he refocused gradually, he noticed that Choutarou was dithering, unsure whether to go and help Shishido out or not, and that this problem was causing some serious emotional pain. Shishido solved this problem by standing up on his own… then made it worse by toppling back onto the ground. After this, Ootori was able to make a decision and finally rushed over to help.

"Sh-Shishido-senpai! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to, it's just that I overreacted a little and I-"

"Yes, I noticed," Shishido interrupted, more sharply than he had meant to.

"Oh… Oh, yes… I'm sorry… Now, um, what exactly hurts?" Choutarou asked, desperately trying to salvage the situation.

"It's my head… I think I smacked against that hinge up there," Shishido said, pointing up at the offending locker as his vision wobbled and the room turned sideways for some odd reason.

If it was possible, Ootori's expression grew even more concerned. "Oh no! Senpai, you might have gotten a concussion or something! Um, let's see… I'll try and make you more comfortable, and then I'll go get help." Shishido was happy to learn that Ootori was very pragmatic in an emergency-type situation, but disappointed that he had to find this out first-hand.

This sentiment was reinforced further when Ootori slid his shirt off and used it to cushion Shishido's head and staunch the blood that was beginning to flow from a large cut at the base of his skull. If only it had been… Hiyoshi or someone that had gotten shoved into a locker by Ootori instead. Then he would have been able to fully appreciate the sight of a half-dressed Choutarou. However… that would imply that the other party had been the one kissing Choutarou, and Shishido wasn't going to allow that in his half-lucid thoughts. So it would have been best if the other, incidental character had run to call for help so that Choutarou could have continued to watch over and protect him while he stared appreciatively up at nicely defined abs. But the best possible situation wouldn't have involved any emergencies or injuries at all because Choutarou wouldn't have rejected him in this version of the story, and they could have lived happily ever after, la la la…

Sadly, Shishido lost consciousness before Choutarou returned with Atobe and two of the paramedics Atobe kept around "just in case," and wasn't able to enjoy the feeling of Choutarou holding his hand tightly the entire ride to the hospital.


1.2


"No major damage was sustained, but it'll be best if he avoids athletic activities for a few days and stays overnight for observation."

"Um…Mr. Doctor, sir? Do you think it would be all right if I…if I stayed here for a little while? I… I promise I wouldn't be a bother… I just want to apologize to him really quick…"

"I'm sure that'll be fine, as long as you're sure not to over-stimulate him. I'll allow it as long as you promise to inform us if you note a change in his condition."

A callused hand folded itself over Shishido's fingers, and he opened his eyes to see Choutarou sitting beside him, waiting for him to wake. Shishido waved at him weakly; Choutarou jumped guiltily and blushed.

"Um, I'm really sorry, senpai. I didn't meant to… to get you hurt… I don't know why I reacted… er, so violently… I…er, um, I…"

"Yeah, okay. Apology accepted. I don't care that you did it, you know. What I'm really interested in is why. Why did you react that way to me?" Neither physical nor emotional pain hurt him. It wasn't physical pain because the doctors had given him plenty of painkillers, and it wasn't emotional pain either because he had been completely ready to be rejected. He was just honestly curious about what reasons and excuses Choutarou was going to give him.

"I, er… well, I… I didn't want to be let into temptation. I do have, erm, strong feelings for you, Shishido-senpai, but I don't think that's what God wants for me."

So religion had been dragged into it this early on, huh? Shishido didn't even know where to start pointing out the holes in the argument, but he started with what he felt was the most interesting part of Choutarou's statement. "And can you explain these 'strong feelings' in greater detail?"

"I…" Ootori ducked his head, clearly feeling embarrassed. "I like you more than others, even though you should love everyone equally, and I… I've thought about… doing stuff with you… like what we did in that clubroom before the accident..."

"Hmmm… Interesting, interesting. Would you, then, qualify these feelings as 'love?' Do you love me, Choutarou?" Shishido teased, not noticing that this was perhaps not the best question to ask. He had a head injury, okay? He wasn't thinking as clearly as usual!

"N-no! I don't love you!" Ouch. Very vehement, that. While Shishido had been expecting outright rejection, he hadn't expected it to be so harsh, especially from Ootori, of all people. "The feelings I have for you… they aren't love. It's lust. I'm being tested by God and tempted by the Devil. I'm sorry, Shishido-senpai."

"But I love you… and I'm completely sure of that one," Shishido pressed, not quite realizing that it would be best to move on and acquiesce the point for the time being. "Unless you're trying to accuse me of being the devil."

"E-everyone is put on this earth for a reason…" Choutarou started shakily.

"And my reason for existence is to drag you out of God's light and down to the depths of hell?" Shishido couldn't help but wonder. "I'm really glad I don't have to follow your religious principles if you can believe in something like that."

Two bright red spots appeared on Choutarou's cheeks. "That wasn't what I meant at all, senpai! Let me finish before you start making assumptions about people!" Shishido noticed how he unconsciously twisted his crucifix tightly as he spoke, as if it would repress his anger. It wasn't working. "I only meant that, maybe I'm supposed to help you find your true path, to help save you or something!"

"Oh, so now you're trying to convert me? Yeah, that's a lot better than what I said! I truly love you, Choutarou, but when it comes to religion, you're such a stubborn jackass!"

Choutarou flinched, but continued. "Yeah, well, what about you? Just because you don't believe in the Creator, you think that all religion is baseless and a waste of time! You don't know how faith enriches people! It promotes good values, and makes people want to help others, and it gives them a reason and way to live their lives. I bet you've never even considered that there could be life after death because you're so busy looking down on everyone who thinks so!"

"Yes, I have considered it, actually! And I don't look down on people! Listen, I guess religion's useful in promoting morals, sure. But I don't see how you can say that it's necessary for something like that! I turned out okay, didn't I?"

"Not really! I'll be the first to admit that it could have been worse, that you could have turned out to be some sort of… violent anarchist or something, but your entire argument thus far has proven that you don't have a decent respect for others."

"I can't respect people like you that take everything so seriously. Christianity? Catholicism? Fine. But you keep blathering on about God and Jesus and temptation, and what exactly do you know about those things? Isn't 14 a little young to know your entire stance on religion now, forever, and always?"

Ootoiri remained silent for a minute. "If you're still trying to tempt me… You're not doing a very good job of it," he said finally. "And if you feel that you know everything there is to know about my faith and my life and therefore have the right to change my opinion for me… then I guess we have nothing left to say to each other." He strode swiftly away and out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

It was only after Shishido fully comprehended that Choutarou had left –had actually walked out on him- that the feeling started to return to his fingers and he realized that Choutarou had been gripping his hand nearly as tightly as he had the crucifix.


1.3


Shishido returned to school without incident. Obviously, Ootori was tending to avoid him more than usual, but their teamwork was still flawless (though he wasn't strictly allowed to play by doctor's orders). Still, Choutarou had taken to spending more time with Hiyoshi and some of the other second years so that he didn't have to be around Shishido any more than was absolutely necessary. As a result, Shishido hung around Atobe, Jirou, Oshitari, and even Mukahi instead, and this pronounced difference did not go unnoticed by the others.

"So he rejected you, Ryou-kun?" Atobe smirked.

"What do you expect? He doesn't have the experience to please Ootori-kun. Don't worry, Ryou-kun. I'd be willing to help you out with that… for a price," Oshitari purred.

"Yuushi!" Gakuto complained. "You can't do that, you belong to me, remember?"

"I'm fairly certain it is you who belongs to me," Oshitari corrected, leaning down and kissing Gakuto on the forehead.

Before the two could go on with what would surely be an overly-romantic scene, Shishido finally spoke up. "Wait, does Choutarou know… about you two?"

Oshitari frowned. "I'm pretty sure that the whole school… scratch that, I'm pretty sure that every middle school tennis player in Japan knows about us."

"It's not exactly a well-kept secret," Mukahi added, and Atobe agreed. (Jirou had long since fallen asleep.)

"But then… how does he feel about you two… being together? I mean, his religion… And before you ask, yes, he rejected me. But I didn't expect anything else… and he seemed pretty pleased with my technique, thank you very much, Oshitari-san. It's just his stupid religion!"

Atobe and Mukahi laughed; Oshitari suppressed a chuckle and answered the question. "I'm pretty sure he already thought we were going to hell, but still doesn't approve. He's far too polite to say anything, though."

"I see… thanks." He turned to leave, but stopped when he was Atobe and Gakuto waiting with expectant looks on their faces. "Oh, would you two like to offer your oh-so-helpful advice?" Shishido sighed resignedly.

They grinned evilly in unison. "In Ore-sama's professional opinion," Atobe began, "Ryou-kun needs to be a little kinder to little Ootori. After all, the Atobe family mansion wasn't built in a day (it took a whole week, actually), and since he's only ever known one way of life, it's going to take him a while to get used to the idea of going against it by following his heart instead. Now, if you listen to me, everything will work out perfectly."

Gakuto scoffed. "Yeah, right. Now, what you've got to do is screw religion, and once you're finished with that, start screwing Ootori instead. If you're really as good as you're insinuating you are, he won't stand a chance. He'll be in love with you before you know it."

Shishido grinned slightly. "He's already in love with me, Gakuto. He just hasn't agreed to go out with me yet." Turning to face everyone, he announced, "While you all know that I hate to agree with Mukahi on anything, I concede that he does have a bit of a point… By which I mean that he's absolutely correct when he says 'screw religion!' Argh! It's so annoying having to deal with it… especially when all religion is so completely useless!"

This last remark had the effect of waking Jirou, who sprang up from the bench he had been sleeping on. "Don't think I didn't hear that, Ryou-Ryou-kun! Some weird things that those American people make up, like Mormonism and Scientology, those are stupid! They really give religion a bad name! But then there are the good ones! Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiike… Buddhism!" He produced a small, golden statue of Buddha from his pocket and held it in front of Shishido's face. "Now apologize to Buddha," he said sternly.

Shishido knew that there was only one thing he could do in a situation like this, so he bowed his head and mumbled, "I'm sorry, Buddha."

"That's better! That wasn't so bad, was it, Ryou-Ryou-kun?" Jirou stowed the statue safely back in his pocket and laid back down on the bench. "Now, if you'll excuse…"

He was asleep before he finished the sentence.


1.4


40 kilometers away from where Shishido was asking Buddha's forgiveness, Choutarou was getting some advice of his own, from the two people he was sure would be able to help him out.

"Wait, you're… Hyotei's Ootori, right? What are you doing here?" the black-haired boy asked.

"Nyaa! Did you come to have a match against us? Where's your partner?" asked the redhead, jumping onto his own partner's back and looking around eagerly.

"Um… well, that's why I'm here. You two, um… have a relationship, don't you?"

"We are on the same team… and we are doubles partners, you know…"

Choutarou's face began to heat up. "N-no… I mean… like the relationship between our Doubles 2 pair…"

Their expressions changed to those of comprehension. "Ohhhhhhhh… Well, yes, but not exactly the same as those two… I'd say we're a bit… less promiscuous than them, ne, Eiji?"

"That's right, Oishi! But why do you ask?"

"Ah, well… I find myself in a… situation with Shishido-senpai, and I can't really talk to anyone on our team… gossip gets around quickly at our school, and I know you guys don't have a vested interest in the situation."

"Tell us about it," Oishi requested, leading Choutarou and Eiji over to a bench. They took a seat, and Ootori relayed the details to the pair.

"I… know that his feelings are pure… but I don't think that my own are. And I can't just knowingly go against God's teachings. I don't want to hurt Shishido-senpai. But I also want to do what's right. I know about you two… and I think that somehow, you belong together. But based solely on the principles of my faith, it's a perversion of God's intentions for a man to be with another man. Maybe I'm a rebellious teenager. Maybe it's just a phase I'm going through, and I'll grow out of it soon enough. But Catholicism stresses obedience to God's well, and I… I'm starting to question my faith," he concluded, hugging his knees to his chest and burying his face in his hands.

A soft tap on his shoulder made him look up and into Eiji's grinning eyes. "Hey, don't worry about it. I have to admit I don't really know much about your religion, but from what I do know… You guys say that 'God is Love,' right?" When Ootori nodded, Eiji continued, "If Shishido's feelings for you really are as pure as you say they are, that implies to me that it's love. That maybe it is God that's behind it after all."

"Not to mention… the church has admitted that it's been wrong about things in the past. Remember, they did change their position from creationism to 'intelligent design' a while back, and publicly stated that not all parts of the Bible were to be taken literally," Oishi added. "So that tends to prove to me at least that while God certainly has the final word on everything, human beings aren't divine. Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they don't quite understand what God wants from them, and I'm not entirely sure… but I get the feeling that this might be one of those cases."

"We can't tell you what to do, Ootori-kun, but we can tell you what we've thought about… for the time that we've spent together, anyway. We know how others feel, but we believe we're right… that you and Shishido are right. But you should probably talk to some other people too, and get their opinions."

"If you talk to your parents, or a priest or something, even just discussing the situation as an abstract concept, I'm sure they'll give you a slightly different viewpoint. It'll probably have a different bias than ours has, but between the two extremes, you're sure to find some sort of common ground for compromise."

"Okay…" Choutarou sighed heavily. "You guys are a lot more rational and a lot easier to talk to than senpai is…"

"Speaking of Shishido," they chimed in unison, "you need to talk to him, too."

"But-"

"Hey, hey, listen! You're going to have to tell him what you decide on sooner or later! And you need good communication for a good relationship, if that's what you eventually decide on."

"Even if it isn't you need to be able to talk to be an effective doubles pair. Plus, if he's not respecting your faith and your choices, you need to know that, and you need to tell him it's unacceptable."

"Right, right… Thank you for all your help, you guys. I knew that you'd be able and willing to help me out." Impulsively, Choutarou added, "I hope that… everything works out for the best. With you guys too, I mean," before he left, ready for the long train ride home and a chance to re-organize his thoughts.

After he was out of sight, Eiji, who had been severely restraining himself in front of Ootori, leapt into Oishi's lap. "Nyaa! That was kind of sudden, don't you think?"

"Yeah, I was a little surprised too. I didn't think anyone would ever randomly come to us for advice –someone from Hyotei seeking relationship advice, no less." Oishi began absentmindedly stroking Eiji's hair. "I hope things work out for him…"

"Aww, yeah, me too! They make such a good couple… for some reason. And maybe it's just me… I always thought that they were already together. Ne, Oishi?"

"Yeah, I kind of got that impression as well. The one thing he said at the beginning, though? About 'a vested interest' or something?"

"Heheh, I thought that was funny too. Of course we have a personal stake in the matter. We are the Golden Pair, and they're Silver… and respectable, top teams like us gotta watch each other's backs. Not only that… well, he should have known that we were going to support love no matter what, ne?"

"Yeah." Oishi hugged Eiji tightly to agree. "Speaking of which, shall we get on with what we were doing before and help Kaoru-kun with his… issues?"

"Ne, if we keep this up, they'll think we're some sort of counseling service and come to us with all their little problems."

"As long as we can help them out. Isn't… that for the best?"

"Yeah, I guess… As long as I'm with you."

"You'll always be with me, Eiji. For as long as you want to be."

"Guess you're stuck with me forever and ever then, Oishi."

"Guess so."


Xiana: That was part one. There will be four parts total, in case you forgot or didn't read the note at the top?? Um… yes. By the end of the story, it should be pretty clear what my position is on all this, if anyone cares ;D I'll get the next part up after I'm finished with my history homework x-x;;

Jirou makes me laugh. He's fun to write about :D

Review, ne?