The "S" Word

"I'm sure you're all aware that we have a new member joining us for the first time on this visit, so I feel it's necessary for us to have the talk again, as a team," Atobe called from his position at the very back of the "bus" (read: obnoxiously over-sized limousine) before stepping off and waltzing into the mansion the regulars were staying at for a special training camp over the weekend. The others all groaned loudly and trudged after their captain, dragging their luggage along with them, and quickly disappeared into the huge building.

All except for Hiyoshi Wakashi and his official tour guides, Taki and Gakuto. The latter spoke up almost immediately. "Hey, newbie. Wanna get over the fact that Atobe's at least 100 times richer than you could ever hope to be and get off the bus anytime soon? And be sure to grab my luggage on the way out. It's a rule that kouhai have to take care of their senpais' things when they're being nice and showing them around the place," he claimed loftily, then shoved Hiyoshi out of the way and performed a flawless back handspring that landed him next to the luggage car on the front lawn.

Taki merely patted him gently on the shoulder before brushing past and exiting the vehicle. "He's always like this," he called back to Hiyoshi. "I think he has a bit of a complex about his height, so he likes to play the 'senpai' card whenever he can get away with it."

Hiyoshi nodded slowly and followed Taki off the bus. Gakuto almost immediately threw a suitcase on top of him. "Yes, Sebastian, there will be no need for you to take these bags up to the room," he was saying, "since we have a new member who will be performing that task in your stead." The butler only murmured a "Very good, sir," and wheeled away a golden cart with the rest of the team's bags on it. However, Hiyoshi was unable to follow this exchange because of the 20-kg weight that had just landed atop him.

"What do you have in here?" he gasped in Gakuto's general direction. "A bunch of rocks?"

"Of course not, idiot. That's my set of weights. Atobe doesn't have the right kind, so I always have to bring my own…" Gakuto sighed as if the world was coming to an end because of this, then brightened considerably. "So I guess you're going to have to carry that in for me! Haha, it'll build your strength up for sure!" He bounced up the stairs, followed by Taki, who was also burdened by a suitcase. ("You take one too. It's the least you can do, I mean, you're not even a regular anymore.") Hiyoshi struggled up behind them, moving as fast as he could, which wasn't really very fast at all. When he finally made it inside, Sebastian kindly took the luggage from him, and he was free to stare at the inside of the magnificent house.

And stare he did. He stared at the chandeliers that were covered in gold and dangled with crystal gems that glittered like diamonds –they probably were, knowing the captain. He stared at the elegant grand staircase and the sturdy Neo-Classical pillars that supported the second level. He tried not to stare at the portraits of Atobe that lined the walls, all of which seemed to feature their subject in various states of undress, but that was easier said than done and he ended up goggling at them anyway.

Eventually, Taki ended up dragging him away, explaining that they were having a meeting in the parlor, and that it was absolutely essential that he attend. "Otherwise, he'll force us to have the talk again some other time, and if everyone else has to sit through it not once, but twice more, you're going to be hauling in everyone's luggage," he said with such candor that Hiyoshi couldn't help but wonder if Taki knew from first-hand experience.

Either way, the threat seemed valid, and he followed as Taki led the way through corridor after corridor and spacious room after spacious room until Hiyoshi was well and truly lost. They finally ended up in the nicest –and smallest– room yet. The walls were painted a delicate shade of robin's egg blue, and the bay windows on either side of the room filled the space with light, making the small silver chandelier in the center of the room almost unnecessary. Couches and comfortable-looking chairs were arranged in an oval, all but a single loveseat already occupied by a Hyotei regular. Taki didn't hesitate for a moment, and dragged Hiyoshi over to the unoccupied couch and gestured for him to take a seat.

"So, Hiyo-kun, you've finally arrived. What did you think? Enjoying yourself so far?" Atobe asked, lounging on a giant recliner.

"You certainly have a very nice mansion, Atobe-buchou."

"And you haven't even seen your accommodations yet, ahn? They should be to your liking… If I understand your tastes."

"I'm sure they will be," Hiyoshi replied non-commitally. He knew that the vain boy was just fishing for compliments, and didn't feel like indulging him today, especially if he was forcing him to listen to some sort of painful lecture.

Atobe pouted –actually pouted– and finally turned away to snipe at Jirou instead. "You, wake up. You know you need to hear this again since you always sleep through it, and whenever you Do It with me, something always goes wrong. Jirou, are you listening?"

He prodded Jirou's head with his foot, and eventually got a response. It wasn't the response he was looking for, though. "Mmm," Jirou moaned, swatting at Atobe's foot, "if you don't like it, you shouldn't request me every time."

"I do not request you every time! It just usually happens that everyone else is already paired up –I can't have Shishido anymore, Gakuto always claims Oshitari– so I can only choose between you, Kabaji, and Taki, and to be fair I switch between you. Is there something wrong with that?"

"Nah, I guess not. It's still your fault, though." Jirou rolled over and started massaging Atobe's foot.

"How's that? You're the one who always falls asleep in the middle and ruins the whole experience for me." Atobe brought his other foot up to Jirou's couch and started tapping it on his head. Hiyoshi watched, as if hypnotized, noticing that Atobe was bouncing his foot to the same rhythm that Jirou was rubbing to.

He snapped out of it with Jirou's next words. "Mmm, shouldn't let me top, then."

Hiyoshi sprang up from his comfortable position next to Taki. "Wait, what?! What are you talking about?"

Immediately, all the other regulars' expressions changed from mild amusement to something far more predatory. "Well, that's sad. A boy your age and you still don't know?" Oshitari grinned.

"Shut up! I was just confused before! He said 'the talk,' but I didn't think he meant The Talk! I thought it was something about tennis!"

"Oh, hon, it has everything to do with tennis," Gakuto cooed.

"Well, if Hiyoshi doesn't understand, we better start explaining It to him, naa?"

"And so just what is 'It?' Care to enlighten little kouhai?" Shishido said from his position in Choutarou's lap. The two had decided to share a plush armchair, and were wrapped around each other in a way that would be either extremely awkward or extra cozy, depending on how deeply you loved the other person. From what Hiyoshi could see of their tangled limbs and the blissful smile on Choutarou's face, he rather suspected it was the latter. Everyone else seemed to have the same opinion, as they were looking at the pair with a mixture of mild disgust and amused tolerance.

Except for Atobe, who was glaring at Shishido. "You can just shut up, if you know what's good for you," he said icily.

Shishido's smirk grew wider. "Aww, whatsa matter? Can't say it, Atobe? Can't say the word?"

"Anyway…" Atobe growled before turning away to stare fiercely at Hiyoshi, who only managed not to flinch because of his years of martial-arts training. "We are here to discuss 'It,' the 's' word, if you will. It's for the good of the team and everyone else. Unless you have a lot of experience with this sort of thing, I suggest you just listen to your senpai-tachi for the next hour or so."

The others groaned. "Seriously, Atobe? An hour of this?" Gakuto complained. "You know, this was pretty funny the first time we went through it all together, but… an hour? For Hiyoshi?"

"Well, it's my duty as your captain to relay this sort of information, especially in a club like this one." He cast a pointed glance at Shishido and Choutarou, who were too busy snuggling to care or even notice. "You could do with an hour or two of review yourself, Gakuto, if the stories I've heard from Oshitari are true."

Gakuto smacked Oshitari, who was sitting next to him on the sofa. "Ne, Yuushi… What are you telling that guy? I can't remember ever doing anything that Our Captain would disapprove of…"

Oshitari pushed Gakuto away and leaned in. "Hmm, how about every night we've ever spent together here?"

"Oh yeah. Forgot about that. Gonna remind me tonight?" Gakuto leaned in as well so that their noses were touching and Oshitari's long hair fell into his face.

Atobe broke that up as quickly as he possibly could. "No, no, no! None of that from you! Those two are bad enough, so don't even start." During Oshitari and Gakuto's moment, Shishido and Choutarou had entwined themselves further and were gazing soulfully into each other's eyes. Atobe decided to drop his responsible façade and smiled diabolically at Gakuto. "Sorry, but there won't be any new memories for you tonight. You get to stay with Taki and Hiyoshi instead. I mean, you did request guide duty, and who is Ore-sama to get in the way of your true feelings? I suppose I'll have to take your usual partner off of your hands for you then, ne Gakuto? That is, if you don't mind, Oshitari-san."

Hiyoshi stared disbelievingly at Atobe as the banter continued. "Of course I don't mind, sir. I'm getting a little tired of spending the night with him. There are only so many acrobatics a man can tolerate, after all…" Oshitari responded.

"Yuushi!"

"Aa, Gakuto, sounds like you're out of luck. He's clearly stated his preference. Don't feel bad. You get a lovely threesome with the two least-essential members here (which means that you can force them to do whatever you want them to do), and I get to experience Oshitari's… technique again."

"Anything, huh? Is that you giving me express permission to do with them what I will?" Gakuto's eyes lit up greedily and he grinned toothily at Taki, who recoiled in horror, scooting closer to Hiyoshi as he did so. Hiyoshi instinctively moved away from him, but was having a hard time focusing on much of anything. Atobe wanted him to –was forcing him to– sleep with both Taki and Gakuto at the same time? As it happened, Hiyoshi was straight, and while he respected those who weren't (apparently, all of his teammates), he wasn't about to be forced into something like that.

Privately, he began to wonder if it was too late to transfer to Yamabuki or Fudomine or one of those normal tennis schools where "training camps" involved playing tennis instead of massive orgies.

"Yeah, sure. Just as long as they're able to play tennis again within a week or two of camp," Atobe said dismissively in response to Gakuto's query. Gakuto's grin grew even wider, and he got off the sofa he was sharing with Oshitari to plop between Taki and Hiyoshi. He pulled them closer, squeezing an arm around each of their shoulders.

"Did you hear that, darlings? I get carte blanche to do what-ever-I-bloody-well-want-to to you two. That means I get to try out some of the things that not even Yuushi will let me do to him. Looking forward to tonight yet?" He petted them sympathetically on the head before jumping up and sprawling back on top of Oshitari.

Hiyoshi wanted to say something. He wanted to stand up and scream in Gakuto's face that there was no way in hell that he was going to be spending the night with him, or with anyone here, for that matter. He wanted to utilize his years of martial arts training and take down everyone there, except maybe Choutarou and Shishido, since they didn't have anything to do with it, really, and besides he and everyone else in the world already knew that they were like that.

But he couldn't move. He couldn't speak. He couldn't even raise a hand to shove Taki away from him. (After Gakuto had gotten up, Taki had only squeezed closer to his new partner in suffering. So much for being a good senpai…) He was frozen in his seat, practically physically attached to the soft burgundy cushion. Hiyoshi just couldn't get past what Atobe wanted him to do. He wondered how he could have ever respected the charismatic captain, how he had ever found him worthy of "Gekokujou." All he was worthy of now was a kick in the teeth and a resignation letter stating in no uncertain terms that Hiyoshi would never return to Hyotei Gakuen tennis club for as long as he lived. His muscles were completely petrified, and he managed only a low grunt before he froze up completely and toppled to the floor.

"Excellent! I killed him!" Gakuto cheered, jumping up to stand in a triumphant pose above Hiyoshi, placing a foot on his stomach and displaying a peace sign to the rest of the room.

"Er, Mukahi-senpai, you probably shouldn't do that… You could hurt Hiyoshi-san, and I'm sure he's not in the mood to-"

"Shut up, Ootori. He's my new bitch so I can do whatever I want to him. Atobe said so, so nyeah." Gakuto stuck his tongue out at Choutarou and made a rude gesture; in a second, Shishido was on his feet and at Gakuto's throat.

"You apologize right now, you bastard," he snarled. "You apologize to Choutarou right now, or so help me, I'll-"

"Shishido-san, it's all right, really," Choutarou said, trying to soothe Shishido. He got up as well and started rubbing Shishido's shoulders gently. "Hey, you know he didn't mean it."

"Maybe you're right… But he just…!" Shishido leaned back into Choutarou, but didn't loosen his grip on Gakuto's collar. "You know I hate when somebody does something like that to you, especially if it's Gakuto."

"Che… You two are awful. God, if you were any more in love with each other, the world might explode or something. And y'know what? I did mean it!"

Choutarou let go of Shishido. Shishido hit Gakuto with all the force he could muster, smashing him to the floor and continuing to pummel him. Gakuto fought back, naturally, and both landed several decent hits. The others watched, but made no move to stop them; they had seen worse from them before, and even worse when Gakuto and Oshitari decided they had to battle it out. Watching Gakuto and Shishido fight was nothing new, though it was a change for Choutarou not to be trying to stop Shishido. (He must have been pretty annoyed as well.) It was such a common occurrence that Jirou decided to sleep through it, because he knew that somebody would wake him up if something happened.

He changed his decision as a misplaced foot lashed out and a mournful caterwaul rose from Hiyoshi's prone form.

Then Hiyoshi was on his feet and in the fray, striking out furiously in every direction. Gakuto and Shishido both stopped what they were doing and attempted to defend themselves from the flailing limbs. Fortunately, before any major damage could be dealt to anyone, Atobe snapped his fingers. Kabaji, who had been there the whole time, sprung up and restrained Hiyoshi, holding his arms behind his back and ensuring that he could not continue lashing out at anyone. Oshitari and Choutarou retrieved their own partners, with varying degrees of force: while Shishido was easily calmed by Choutarou's hands on his waist and the soft press of Choutarou's lips against his own, Oshitari actually had to throw Gakuto onto the couch and sit on him until the redhead would stop struggling.

"Ore-sama is very displeased with the lot of you bumbling twits, and not-so-humbly requests that you keep your pathetic and pointless little rows away from me, as well as our new friend here, who I'm sure is already a little frightened by what we should be discussing instead of letting you get off on another of your pointless little tiffs. In case you've forgotten, that would be s-… s… that 's' word, and if you continue to ignore me and blindly antagonize a very valuable future member of the team –and the potential captain for next year–I may need to take a leaf from Rikkai's book and Tarundooru-slap the lot of you into submission instead of just assigning 15 laps, which, you know, I think I will." Atobe paused to breathe following this angry tirade, then whirled on Gakuto, who was muttering something from beneath Oshitari. "And before you ask, Gakuto, yes, a Tarundooru-slap is very much like one of your famous bitch slaps, but it hurts a hell of a lot more. If you don't believe me, I'm good enough friends with Sanada Genichirou that I could easily convince him to come over and give you a lesson in how to really beat the shit out of someone. I'm sure you'd enjoy being on the receiving end of it for once."

Gakuto just growled something unintelligible back and buried his face in the couch cushions. Everyone else was sufficiently cowed into silence and sat back down. Except for Jirou, who had selective hearing and jumped up excitedly. "Oh my gosh, we're going to have a training session with Rikkai Dai! You're going to let me play against Marui-kun, right right right Keeeeeeeeeigooo?"

"Focus, Jirou. Marui is not coming to Hyotei!"

"Oh, so we're going over to Rikkai! Awesome! Or… even better, we're all coming over here sometime! And then… oh wow, I get to…! Oh my gosh, sharing a room with him! With Marui-kun! It'll be sooooooooooo sweet! Literally!" Jirou was totally freaking out, but calmed down long enough to leap over to Atobe and curl up to him. "Ne, Keigo, I think I love you," he said before drifting off to sleep again. Atobe ran his fingers through Jirou's soft hair briefly before turning to face those team members that were still conscious.

"I certainly hope no-one else will feel the need to interrupt for anything but the most dire of emergencies," he said dryly, "because we've wasted over 15 minutes thus far, and I'm not letting Hiyo-ko in there unprepared. We are going to have this Talk whether you like it or not." When nobody interrupted, Atobe relaxed slightly and returned to caressing Jirou before continuing. "Now, Hiyoshi-kun, there comes a time in every young boy's life when he starts wanting to do certain things with other boys. It's perfectly natural, I'll have you know. The trick is- Yes, Hiyoshi?"

Hiyoshi had politely raised his hand. "Er, yes, couldn't you do it… with girls instead…?"

Everyone present took the opportunity to burst into uncontrollable, hysterical laughter, which didn't stop for quite two minutes. Eventually, Gakuto managed to choke out, "You some kind of idiot? We're tennis players, in case you haven't noticed," which only served to set the others off even more. Finally, they were all calm enough to continue with the lecture.

"It's funny because it's true," Atobe sighed, wiping a tear from his eye. "Anyway… Like I was saying, the trick is using protection. Even if you've Done It a million times before, even if you only have one partner, even if you're both manly men and think that makes you immune, you have to stay safe." He clapped his hands. "Example time."

Obligingly, Shishido stood, dragging Choutarou up with him. Oshitari got up as well, but made sure Gakuto was sufficiently restrained before letting him stand by his side.

"Here we have two fine couples," Atobe narrated. "On the left, we have the 'Good Pair,' made up of Shishido Ryou and Ootori Choutarou." The two waved to Hiyoshi, who waved nervously back. He wasn't sure what he was expecting, but he was sure it couldn't be anything good. "And here is the 'Bad Pair,' or as they have so aptly named themselves, the 'Dirty Pair.' Oshitari Yuushi and Mukahi Gakuto!" As they were taking on the part of the villains of the story, Oshitari and Gakuto groaned and grimaced grotesquely for Hiyoshi's benefit. "The Good Pair stays safe every time, and look at them! They're still as in love and healthy as ever! Isn't that right?"

"Yes, of course!" Choutarou cheered, wrapping an arm around Shishido and squeezing him tightly. Shishido responded with a slightly pained grin.

"On the other hand, these two here are Courting Death every time they get together," Atobe proclaimed darkly, "for they never take any precautions, ever! In fact, it's really lucky Gakuto isn't a girl, or he'd probably…"

"Hey!" Gakuto protested, clinging to Oshitari. "Just what are you suggesting?"

"Oh, heaven forbid I refer to you as male, but I think in just this one situation, it's fitting to refer to you as a boy instead of the bitchy, PMS'ing teenage girl you so long to be. Care to show Hiyo-chi your scars?"

Gakuto started spluttering again and would have launched himself at Atobe, but the long-suffering Oshitari was already holding him back. "Hey, we made our choice. There's no time to regret that now, okay?" Eventually, Gakuto nodded and relaxed, though Oshitari continued to hold him back… just in case.

"It's true, though. Due to their unsafe practices, poor Gakuto's once-perfect skin has been permanently marred. There was even a time where he had to quit tennis for a while, it was so bad! Not to mention, there is a chance his life will be unfortunately cut short because of this…"Atobe said dramatically. "Though on the other hand, I suppose nothing bad's happened to Oshitari yet. It depends on how lucky you feel, and let me tell you, in terms of luck, you're no Oshitari. Anyway, there should be plenty of things for you to use, so there's no excuse. Unless you get really crazy, you should be fine."

Hiyoshi nodded carefully, accepting Atobe's advice. He didn't want to be in the kind of situation where he would have to use any sort of protection at all, but since he was already fatalistically assuming that he would be forced into something, he would rather end up like Choutarou than Gakuto.

"Very good… Ah!" Atobe beamed down at him, obviously proud that he had accepted the lesson so quickly and easily, then seemed to focus on the next part of his lecture. "Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I feel I must inform you that, well, outside of our little 'safety issue,' you can feel free to do pretty much anything your little heart –or any other portion of your anatomy– desires, just so long as your partner's willing to go along with it. You, of course, get to suffer at the hands of the evil Gakuto tonight-" (here Gakuto shot him that same evil grin from before) "-but I'm sure that since it is, ostensibly, your first time…" he trailed off, waiting for a response.

Hiyoshi blushed and nodded hesitantly, ignoring the others' mixed reactions until Choutarou stepped forward and patted him gently on the shoulder. "Don't worry about it, Hiyoshi-kun," he said in his soft, kindly voice. "I had never done it before coming here either, so I was a little nervous, but eventually I realized it was all right as long as Shishido-san was with me. So even if you're not as lucky as I have been in finding that one special person… I think you should know that all of us here care very deeply for one another, and won't let you get hurt, okay?"

"Well said, Ootori," Atobe said. "Anyway, since it's your first time, I think Gakuto can keep his hunger in check long enough for you to, maybe, uh, try it out with Takkun over there. Experience helps, especially in these matters, so I'm sure there'll be no objections… and I for one have always found him to be a very… accommodating partner, though you have to take into consideration that he may not let you top. Naturally, I have prepared all the ingredients one might need for the most satisfying possible experience, and you can find those around in one of the many drawers. I'm sure someone'll be glad to help you out if you need something. Anyway, you'll soon learn that each of us has his own particular pleasures, so I suppose we should save you some grief later on and tell you some of these things up front. We'll start with me. Ore-sama is not given to enjoying the simple pleasures of you commoners, and prefers something a little more… refined and tasteful. Therefore, I will be taking the lead in whatever escapades we should venture on. Usually, you would be able to find that out firsthand, as it was a tradition for me, the captain, to spend the night with any newcomers, but ever since Ootori joined our group and refused to stay with anyone but his beloved Shishido-san, that tradition has no longer been adhered to. Please don't be offended, dear Hiyoshi, but I can be with you anytime, and it's a rare occasion indeed when Gakuto lets go of Oshitari long enough for me to do anything with him. Rest assured that I will get around to you once I have time."

Hiyoshi was not at all offended, nor was he reassured. Though he still kind of wanted to "Gekokujou" Atobe, he had to admit that he was more than a little terrified of his captain, particularly at this moment in time. Regardless, he nodded as usual to show that he understood.

Atobe met his gaze, smirked knowingly, then looked down at the sleeping boy in his lap. "Jirou here is easy to take care of. He likes it simple and sweet, but he sometimes falls asleep… Don't let it get to you if he does. It's not that you're bad. It's just that it's not what excites him, if you know what I mean. No matter how good you are, no matter what you do, you're never going to be his Marui-kun." Atobe frowned down at Jirou, caressing his cheek. "It's just not fair…" he whispered sadly before turning back to Hiyoshi. "Oh, and as for Kabaji over here, well, he's a copy master in this as well. An evening spent with him is never an evening wasted, let me assure you."

"Usu," Kabaji agreed.

"I think everyone else can speak for themselves," Atobe said, gesturing broadly to his remaining teammates in an attempt to get them to help Hiyoshi learn their ways. Since obviously no-one wanted to volunteer to go first, he eventually had to call on someone. So he decided to pick Taki, just to get him over with. Not that he was going to have that much to say anyway; he just wasn't that kind of person.

"Uh, yeah…" Taki blinked shyly at Hiyoshi from beneath his long brown fringe. "I guess I just like the usual kind of thing, nothing too fancy. But I'm more than happy to go along with almost anything, since you seem like a reasonable kind of guy, Hiyoshi-kun."

Hiyoshi edged away from Taki, who was still a little too close to him. He had really thought that, of everyone present, Taki would be the most similar to him, and therefore the most willing to rebel against Atobe's dictates. He had even harbored the small hope that he would be able to persuade him to help him out against Gakuto. But it seemed that Taki was completely obedient to Atobe's will. It was a shame, really, that there wasn't anyone at all on the team that he could respect, or even tolerate, anymore.

Then Taki leaned in even closer, and Hiyoshi had no space to retreat further. "But you know, I wouldn't mind…" he started, then cupped his hand around Hiyoshi's ear and began whispering. "Okay, listen up. When we get to the room tonight, go to the kitchen immediately. Atobe gave us a way out since it's your first time with all of us here, so you can hole up with me in there and pretend we have something special going on. I know Mukahi and I know how impatient he gets. If we fake it for long enough, he'll go off and bother Oshitari and Atobe, leaving us to get a normal night's sleep. Now, pretend I just said something disgusting and shove me away before they suspect anything."

Hiyoshi sat in shock for a second or two. For one thing, it appeared Taki actually had a spine; for another, he was willing to help him out with the Gakuto problem. At the same time, a tiny seed of doubt had been planted in his 'shroom-like head. He had thought they were talking about tennis at first, then about something decidedly different, but with this mention of "kitchens" and "hunger," he couldn't help but wonder if he had it wrong yet again. That just didn't seem right, though… at least, not with the way Atobe had been talking.

He thought through all this very rapidly, then remembered he had to react to Taki. Rather than taking his advice, Hiyoshi made a quick decision and pushed Taki, pinning him down to the couch, leaning even closer than Taki had earlier –in fact, even closer than Gakuto and Oshitari usually got. "You know, I don't think I'd mind either," he said roughly, and was rewarded with a slight shiver from Taki. Then Hiyoshi closed the remaining distance between them, kissing Taki softly. "In fact, I think it'd be delicious," he breathed after breaking away, confident that this statement would satisfy either scenario.

Someone, most likely Oshitari, whistled long and low, and Atobe said snarkily, "I thought you were straight, Hiyoshi-kun…?"

"I am," Hiyoshi replied nonchalantly, "but you have to admit, it's quite easy to pretend he's a girl, so I'm not too worried."

"Hey, so then did you like Ryou-kun back when he had long hair too?" Jirou asked. He always woke up in time for a romantic scene.

"I wouldn't say that… but I was better able to appreciate his feminine beauty back then."

That statement caused quite the reaction. "I am not feminine!" Shishido yelled as Choutarou murmured, "Please leave my boyfriend alone, Hiyoshi-kun. I'm fairly certain he doesn't like you like that…" Meanwhile, Atobe and Oshitari were discussing the similarities between the Silver Pair and the new "couple."

"They have the age difference in common."

"Not only that, Taki got kicked off the Regulars and probably feels the need to redeem himself."

"So if they just start training together, we could have another nationally-ranked doubles pair."

"A nationally-ranked doubles pair held together by the bonds of love, no less. Those do tend to be the best kind…"

"I'd just hope we wouldn't have any of the same hair-cutting drama. Hiyo wouldn't have a reason to stick around anymore."

"Unless Hiyoshi was the one to cut his hair."

"Ahhh, excellent point."

"Come on!" Shishido interrupted. "You can't possibly be comparing them to us." Naturally, this sparked a whole new argument.

Hiyoshi took advantage of the confusion to quickly explain his actions to Taki. "Sorry about that. I didn't really mean it, you know. I just figured it'd make more sense for us to be locking ourselves away if they thought we were… a little closer, you know?"

Taki was not at all offended. "That was excellent, Hiyoshi-kun. Brilliant improvisation. I truly appreciate your sacrifices. You can probably let me up now, but we'll continue to sit close together and I'll rest my head on your shoulder from time to time so they don't suspect anything."

"Y-yeah," Hiyoshi said, taken aback. He quite admired Taki's quick cool logic. That was probably why he had been given the position of club treasurer… It was a little frightening, actually. "So, the kitchen, right?"

Taki gave him a look. "Yeah. Where else would we do it?"

"Never mind." Hiyoshi was more confused than ever, but as the argument ended and the discussion got back on track, he resolved to pay closer attention so he could figure out which idea was right.

He got his answer and resolved to stop listening again when Atobe selected the next "volunteer."

"Me and Yuushi, we're into S&M," Gakuto said bluntly.

"Actually, Gakuto's the one that likes the 'M,'" Oshitari clarified.

"Well, it's true…" Gakuto admitted. "But of course I would be when Yuushi's in charge of the 'S'…" Oshitari glared at Gakuto, who stuck his tongue out in return. Oshitari then pounced, much like Hiyoshi had just a minute ago, only he wasn't acting (or if he was, he was doing a very convincing job of it).

Seeing that certain glint in their eyes, Atobe gave the two up as a lost cause, shifted the again-napping Jirou to a more comfortable position his shoulder, and turned to the last two people that hadn't yet spoken. "As I recall, we haven't convened since you got together. Care to enlighten us as to your practices, mm?" he said, deliberately mocking Shishido's word choice from earlier.

Choutarou blushed a delicate shade of pink. "Well, that is, uh…"

"Why do you want to know all of this, huh?" Shishido demanded. "Don't you think it's a little creepy, asking your players something like that?" He clung protectively and possessively to Choutarou, who nuzzled into Shishido's chest.

Atobe just smiled. "I suppose if you don't want to tell me, I could just leave Oshitari to his buddy over there and take you away from your Ootori… or better yet, take your Ootori away from you."

"No!" they both shouted in horror, clinging even more tightly to one another.

"Well then…"

"Okay, okay." Shishido sighed heavily. "So, well, a lot of the time, I like spicy things… so that plays a major role. Because we have a lot of respect for each other and such a good relationship, we trade off on who gets to top."

"Since when?" Choutarou asked.

"Since always." Shishido gave Choutarou a strange look. "You didn't notice?"

"Was I unconscious at the time?"

"I don't think so."

"But you've always been-" Choutarou broke off in confusion, and the two stared at each other for a long moment.

"Trouble in paradise?" Atobe inquired.

"No, of course not," they replied in synchro, not looking away.

"Are you confused, Choutarou?" Shishido eventually asked.

"Are you?" Choutarou countered. "I'm pretty sure I know what's going on at times like that, but you seem to think I'm wrong…"

"It's not exactly the kind of thing you could be wrong about. And I find it hard to believe that you all of a sudden forgot, considering how happy you get every time I-"

"For me to forget something like that, I'd need to have a memory worse than Mukahi-senpai's."

They were stuck at an impasse again until a frustrated Atobe finally had to say, "Can we move on and finish this? Ootori, tell'm what you like."

"We are all dying to know…" Oshitari said, leaning off of Gakuto just long enough to wink roguishly at Choutarou.

He blushed again, then glanced at Shishido for confirmation. Shishido nodded and kissed Choutarou on the forehead, which only made him blush more. "Ah… um, yes. I like spicy things as well, though I prefer more the cooking type of spices rather than, like, peppers and stuff." Hiyoshi found himself very, very confused. Again. The topic seemed to have changed back to food for some reason, and Hiyoshi only hoped that Choutarou was talking about something different from what Atobe and the rest had. "Things like… paprika, cinnamon, oregano…"

"Is that the one that always makes me sneeze?" Shishido said suspiciously.

"No, that's cilantro."

"Oh, right. I always get those two confused…"

"I know. Yeah, but anyway, when I'm preparing, I like to sprinkle a bit of thyme and basil all over my Shishido-san's-"

"HOLY JESUS!" Jirou yelled, bouncing off of Atobe's lap and leaping onto Choutarou and Shishido. "Thyme? I love thyme! How about rosemary, an' cloves? Naa, Ootori-kun, make me some of that sometime!"

"'Make' you…" Choutarou was confused. "Jirou-san, I don't-"

"Oh, come oooooonnn… You can still be with Ryou-kun and all, just include me too! Atobe hates spices for some reason…"

"All right, it'll be fine if you do that sometime," Shishido told him. In response, Jirou snuggled closer and fell asleep. Again.

"Shishido-san, is that-" Shishido cut Choutarou off with a warning look.

"I don't know what you're playing at, Choutarou. There's nothing wrong with letting Jirou stay with us for a little bit. It's not going to kill you."

"But I don't want to! All I want is to be with you… Not with anyone else… Not even for a day."

Hiyoshi watched Shishido and Choutarou continue to argue as Kabaji retrieved Jirou and brought him back to a jealous-looking Atobe. He was confused. He didn't know what they were even supposed to be discussing anymore. And he couldn't take that anymore, so when the commotion seemed to have died down a little, he politely raised a hand and even more politely said, "Excuse me, but exactly what the hell have we been talking about for the last half-hour?"

Atobe turned to stare incredulously at him. "You don't know, and you only just decided to mention this now? We're going to have to start all over, from the very beginning, and-"

"N-no, I remember everything, it's just-"

"Well then, what on earth don't you understand? It's only the 's' word, after all, and despite the time we've spent talking about it thus far, it's really not that complicated. If you need me to go through it step-by-step for you, I can, but I mean, you're a teenage boy. You should know how to do this."

Hiyoshi nodded, but forged onwards. "I'm almost 100 percent certain I understand… but just to make sure, will you tell me exactly which 's' word you mean?"

Almost immediately, nearly every head in the room turned to Atobe to see what his reaction would be. (The exception was Choutarou, who was still futilely trying to talk to Shishido, who was no longer paying any attention to him at all.) "Well, er, that is…" Atobe said, obviously trying to avoid something. "I, er… the, uh…"

"Oh, come on, just say it already," Shishido complained.

"Yeah, do it!" Gakuto cheered.

"There's no way out of it this time, so you may as well get it over with," Oshitari said.

"Usu," Kabaji agreed.

"Please just say it so Shishido-san will pay attention to me again, Atobe-san," Choutarou pleaded.

"Yaru ne," said Taki.

"Mm, Keigoooo, I think you gotta say it. It's just too funny, come on, do it already," Jirou said sweetly.

"Please, Atobe-san. Please just tell me," Hiyoshi finished sincerely.

Atobe sighed heavily. "Fine. But only because you all won't leave me alone until I do," he finally said. "The 's' word, Hiyoshi, is…s…su…suki…skechi."

"S… 'skechi?'" Hiyoshi asked, baffled. No wonder he hadn't understood what the focus of the discussion was, seeing as how it was some sort of made-up word.

Everybody besides Hiyoshi, Atobe, and Choutarou (who was still trying to talk to Shishido) burst into hysterical laughter.

"God, every time he says that…" Gakuto snickered. "What an incredible dork…"

"I know, right? All the other languages he speaks 'fluently' and he can't even say that word properly. You'd think it'd be pretty high on the priority list…" Jirou giggled.

Kabaji crossed the room and rested a hand on Atobe's shoulders, which were shaking with anger. He didn't bother to hide the low rumble of his own laughter.

Shishido's laughter had been interrupted by a kiss from Choutarou, the one thing guaranteed to shut him up. Suddenly, his eyes widened. "Oh. I forgot. Choutarou, you-"

"I love how he can't even-" Gakuto's strident voice cut across the room.

"-weren't exactly here last time we-"

"-pronounce the name of his own favorite-"

"-did this, so you don't actually know-"

"-dish. I mean, really, how hard is it to-"

"-what we've been talking about. Let me-"

"-say the word 'spaghetti?'"

"-explain…" Shishido trailed off as he realized Choutarou was no longer paying attention to him.

Choutarou smiled at everyone, realization in his eyes. "Oh, so we weren't talking about sex?"


Omake:

"So, Mukahi-senpai… S&M?"

"Spaghetti and Meatballs?"

"Ahh…"


Xiana: This story's a little different from the usual kind of thing, I guess. I hope you liked it, and that you were able to read it both ways, as I spent quite some time working on that bit. If there was any part that you didn't quite catch the second meaning of, I'd be happy to help you out with that, 'cuz I think I can justify almost anything in here. :D But anyway, yeah, if there are any spelling/grammar mistakes I'll try to get to them soon, though I actually think I did a decent job this time.

What? Me? Silver Pair-biased? No...

Review, ne?