Title: "/!\\"
Pair: Shiraishi/Fuji
Rated: safe.
Warnings: Reappearance of the Rambling Ryoma
the rest:
written for countervalue/lj, re: help_japan
hopelessly late and yet i'm still apologizing
some of this stuff is seriously saptastic, but i haven't written anything in months ;_;
wordcount 2069


#1, crush



He could count them on three fingers and one thumb.

They weren't really subtle or furtive or obnoxious or deep. Wasn't even meant to be dirty. So they were simple ones, tip of the finger turn of the clock, clicks and tumbles and sweeps and bumps, completely unadulterated and over-deliberated and once the results turned up on the developer, so cold it burned. No breathtaking fireworks, just tiny little candles. That season, he turned the key in the ignition. That season, he spoke his mind. He took photographs on a black and white film camera, a Minolta 35mm SLR, and every time he tried to connect, it became a little harder. Every time he tried to make himself clear, he could see Fuji slipping up and out, a fraction of a centimetre out of his grasp. How it was lovely, how it wasn't silent, how it was blurred. And most of what he remembered now, it made him sure.

Four times. He could count them on three fingers and one thumb.



"You got a problem with talking, Echizen?"

"Only when it's people I don't know very well."


"No, seriously."

"Care to give an example?"


"Oh, come on. I'm listening."



"...I know you get the feeling. It's kind of like, I want to say something relevant and important and potentially witty, but I'm not sure if you'd find it relevant or important or potentially witty at all. I want to establish connections, you know? And then it gets silent and awkward and being the gentleman that you are, Shiraishi, you'd start a lame conversation about tennis and say something stupid about your, quote, Style of Biblical Proportions, unquote, and as a member of Seishun Gakuen tennis team, I'd then be obligated to tell you how much you suck and I really don't think that's necessary for either of us, do you?"

"So," Shiraishi said, "You're saying you don't know me very well. And I'm also a gentleman who brags about my tennis. Are you that opposed to talking to me?"

"By principle."

"What a shitty principle."

"I mean-"

"Oh and you think I suck?"

"-you know what, I think that's exactly what I'm saying. You should go home."

"Oh. Okay."

"...It's because you want to talk to Fuji-senpai, isn't it?"

"You know, I liked you much better when you were laconic."



Hair first. He touched Fuji's hair first.

It was likely because they were discussing girls. He didn't know it was Fuji then, but he'd assumed that it was some nerdy buddy of Oshitari Yuushi's and although he didn't exactly dislike Yuushi he could say that he much preferred Kenya, and Kenya only because of the excess vitriol, his status as a glutton for pain irrelevant to the cause. Either way, Yuushi was one of those kids who wore dress pants and poofy leather jackets with metal buttons that shone unnaturally bright. He was also one of those kids who spoke like a vampire.

It was likely because they were discussing girls. The other boys on the team were still finishing their sets and the two clowns were charged with barring Kintaro from the conversation, so it was just the four of them, Shiraishi and Kenya and Yuushi and Yuushi's friend. A lively quartet. Somebody was imparting wisdom and somebody was cracking dirty jokes; the scales seemed to balance themselves and the sky was blue that day, so they were all happy. He felt like he could take a bite out of the sky. It was that blue.

So it was likely because they were discussing girls, and because Kenya cupped his hands around invisible breasts in the air and made crude sucking noises, that it seemed natural when he asked Shiraishi, "Hey buchou, what kind of girl do you like anyway?"

He blinked. "Me?"

"Yeah, you," said Yuushi, and he was smirking. "I'm sure you're popular with the girls here, aren't you, buchou? Got a fanclub or two?"

"Actually, he's kind of unhelpfully cold," Kenya said, "like expired fish in the market. Extremely unapproachable. Believe me, I've tried."

"You're certainly not a girl," Yuushi pointed out. "I know this for a fact."

"True!" said Kenya. "But he's still unhelpfully cold. Like expired fish in the market. Do you like my analogy?"

"I don't quite understand it, but it's nice," Shiraishi said dryly, "I also appreciate it when you talk about me like I'm not here. And when have you ever tried to approachme? Because I don't remember any such incident."

"Last week!" Kenya pouted. He pointed an accusing finger at Shiraishi's nose. "I tried to approach you last week. Don't you remember? When we were in Tokyo. Suidobashi. Sushi bar with the girl who wouldn't stop talking about skinny jeans and Koreans. Remember?"

"Kenya, you were trying to approach me for money."

(Fuji let out a small laugh.)

"Doesn't change anything," said Kenya, and he went back to air-groping. "So what do you look for in a girl, buchou?"



(But it was only for a fraction of a second when he was caught off guard, and he had involuntarily reached out a hand and he felt hair and it was soft and it was like seeing weird lights go off in the sky and he was alarmed but he couldn't say anything. But it came too fast and even though his reflexes were quite splendid he was no match for Yuushi's friend. "I like hair," he blurted out, and three of his fingers were still threaded through thin brown hair and Yuushi's friend just stared at him, bemused. Neither of them moved. Shiraishi couldn't figure out the expression on his face.

"I like hair," he said again, louder.

"I can see that," said the boy, and he smiled. Shiraishi retracted his hand and it burned.

"Fuji's hair, for example," said Yuushi. His eyebrows were raised.

"Y-Yeah, Fuji-san. I like your hair.")



There is something that comes completely natural to the people who are part of the worlds of business and competitive sports. Polite form: grasp his right hand with your right hand and shake twice, the first time smoothly and the second time firmly. Casual form: raise your right hand up high, extend your fingers, wait for him to slam his palm against yours with a satisfying crack (fist bumps are optional unless you're Gin).

It's not even about establishing a connection. It's common courtesy. Shiraishi knows this because he's experienced more than his fair share of handshakes and high-fives across the tennis net, mostly from winning and a handful from losing. After a while, the gesture loses its meaning. It's simply a brush of fingers, a flash of teeth between sweaty upper lips, dead fish eyes and flecks of perspiration that drip down in awkward places. He won't buy you coffee tomorrow. He won't even consider orange juice. Just what is he to you? A friend? Oh hell no, you just spent the last forty-five minutes rallying for match point against this guy. A foe? But look, he just lost the game to you. He's insignificant now. A monster? That one only works when it's Rikkai-dai.

There's something about high-fives that Shiraishi just doesn't get.

But when Fuji Syuusuke offers him a hand from across the net, he can't help but feel a little breathless.

"You were quite the challenge." There was a smile, now. He'd already learned by this point that Fuji had nothing but smiles.

"Knocked me off my feet, certainly," he said, and he hoped he was being polite enough.

Fuji held up his right hand. "You're too kind." They high-fived. Shiraishi retracted his hand and it burned.

(So what is he? You won't find out until you're on your ass panting like a two-hundred-pound dog and your teammates are all trying to forget your phone number.)

Could be that he'd just fought a long and grueling battle between the white lines, but he's willing to risk it to wax some poetics. And when Fuji's eyes remained closed, Shiraishi knew that it was paradise lost. No coffee. Not even orange juice.



Water bottle came next.

It was between two sets, when Fuji wasn't really there and Tezuka was and Shiraishi was sort of just standing between them, pretending to himself that he rendered some sort of physical presence, there in the blank space above the white lines of the tennis court and below the grainy wooden bleachers. The sun was setting but no one seemed to care and it was just another one of twenty-thousand afternoons when there was an endless match because the sun couldn't bother to drop off the edge of the world. Tennis players must all be masochists.

I'm here, he kind of wanted to say, but then he kind of didn't.

Fuji was watching the sky, in a careless sort of way. There were no clouds and his tennis racket was wedged between his right elbow and his hip, sweat dripped off the bridge of his nose and his eyes were slightly scrunched and the sun was bright and he could have been happy but Shiraishi wouldn't know.

Two sets. Ball bounces out, once, twice. Something that resembled the Higuma Otoshi, but that was a move from a year ago so it couldn't have accounted for much. Tezuka is Tezuka. He isn't Echizen, but he's Tezuka. Another point, three more points. Tezuka, Fuji, Fuji, Tezuka.

Shiraishi hadn't thought about the water bottle until the very last moment. There was a whole pile of them near the benches, but the players on the court would have to scramble across the pavement and volley over the picket fence to get to the bleachers, and it always seemed altogether too troublesome for Shiraishi, so most of the time he'd gather a couple dozen bottles with him and bring them onto the court. He just happened to see Fuji there. It didn't mean anything. It really didn't mean anything.

Their fingertips brushed. Shiraishi retracted his hand and it didn't burn.

(Perhaps, he thought, this is positive reinforcement. Or maybe I'm just insane.)

"Thanks," said Fuji.

"You looked thirsty," was all he said.

(And then, "Hey, do you happen to carry any painkillers?" So it came to be that he welcomed insanity with open arms.)



Ergo, the last touch was the one that cinched it. The high-five at the end of the match. He might have collapsed but he doesn't really remember; the only bit he does remember about that day was that he'd been unnecessarily strict about their seating arrangement in the bleachers while simultaneously wary of Kintaro chumming it up too much with the opposing teams. Gin tried to be reassuring; he glared at everyone who wasn't Shiten within a fifteen-meter radius of the bleachers. The rest of his team needed tranquilizers.

That was when the glockenspiels started playing.



"Let me get this straight, you touched Fuji-senpai four times-"

"It was strictly platonic!"

"Platonic! I understand. I think we learned that word in class. The class where we got to use dictionaries."

"...That's great."

"So anyway you basically high-five him a couple of times and fondle his hair and hand him a water bottle or something and now you're madly in love with him? Is this how it's really supposed to work? Your mind is so messed-up. It's like that crack ad. This Is Your Brain On Fuji-senpai. You know how messed-up this is? Your mind is so messed-up."

"Not love. It's not love, Echizen."

"Fine, then. A crush. It's a crush, right? That sounds pettier and much more your style, anyway."

"And I'll remind you again: you are not talking to Atobe."

"You know if you keep changing the subject you'll never get to see Fuji-senpai."

"At this point I'm not sure I want to."



He broods for a while in his room that night. It's really hot and there are mosquitoes humming in the air so he starts to feel like he's being smothered by a pillow and this weird dream is playing on the radio like the air conditioning's getting smashed,

And now he's imagining weird shit like holding hands and warm coffee in the morning and snow, lots of snow because there's not a lot of it in Osaka. He does it four times.


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