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Shishido doesn't even know how to describe the expression on Atobe's face when he loses. It's like watching the sun go out. Fudomine roars in victory, and Hyotei watches their captain return to them, defeated. The team clusters around Atobe and Kabaji hugs him and then they're all in a big group hug. Shishido's pressed against Atobe's back and he can feel his shoulders shaking. Is he crying? It doesn't matter. Choutarou's crying, everyone's crying, Shishido's not even sure if he's crying or not. It was their last shot. The last match they'll ever play as this team. And now it's over.

 

In senior year, with Nationals behind them and nothing but exams ahead, Gakuto decides that what the team needs is a new goal. A more fun goal than passing exams. He decides that he's going to have a girlfriend by the time they graduate, and that everyone else should too. Hiyoshi, Choutarou and Kabaji are luckily exempt, since they still have another year before they graduate. Oshitari is exempt because he already has a girlfriend, of course. Shishido has a feeling nobody else really cares about finding a girlfriend, including him, but he'll go along with it. Atobe is not so agreeable.

"I'm not going to ask someone out simply for the sake of your arbitrary goal, Mukahi," Atobe says huffily.

"But you're Atobe Keigo! You could have any girl you want!" Gakuto says, outraged.

"I have no interest in girls," Atobe replies.

"It's ridiculous that you of all people are going to make it through high school without dating anyone!" Gakuto shakes his head. "Shishido. Tell Atobe he's being ridiculous."

Shishido shrugs. "Maybe he just doesn't think he can." It's a cheap jab but whatever.

Atobe narrows his eyes at him. "You are not needling me into this inane endeavor. Might I remind you of your last attempt at dating someone just for the sake of it?"

Shishido scowls. That was below the belt.

 

In Shishido's opinion, the best way to deal with Gakuto's dumb plans is to just do what he wants and get it over with. It's better than having him bring it up every time he sees him. Shishido's going to ask out Chie, a girl in his class that he's kind of had a crush on this year. She's pretty, and she's on the soccer team. That's all he really knows about her. He doesn't have a particular plan for asking her out. He sees her in the cafeteria one day and decides this is the moment.

"Hey, uh, can I talk to you?" he says.

"Sure." She looks confused. He pulls her aside to a slightly more private corner of the cafeteria.

"Uh," he tries briefly to think of something interesting, charming, romantic to say but quickly gives up. "Do you wanna go out with me?"

Chie looks absolutely flabbergasted that he would ask her out. "Um. No. Sorry," she says bluntly.

Shishido nods. "That's okay." Really not the worst reaction he could have gotten. There doesn't seem to be much else to say, so he heads back to his table, where Gakuto has been watching this whole exchange raptly. Shishido feels kind of relieved, actually. He's not really sure what he would have done if she had said yes. Hopefully this attempt will get Gakuto off his back.

"What'd she say?" Gakuto demands immediately.

"No." Shishido sits down and starts eating again.

"Oh. Bummer," Gakuto frowns. "You don't see that upset."

"I'm not."

Gakuto seems thoroughly put out by this lack of reaction. "Whatever. I don't get you guys. You should just date Atobe or something, since neither of you seem to care."

Shishido chokes on his food. He looks over at Atobe, who has been watching their conversation with the air of someone watching a vaguely amusing commercial. Atobe raises an eyebrow delicately when they make eye contact. Shishido's ears turn red and he looks away.

"Don't be gross," he mutters into his food.

 

Atobe is busy this year, busier than the rest of them combined. He's preparing to enter Atobe Corp. or whatever next year, which means business meetings and parties and all kinds of work Shishido can't even begin to understand. Shishido misses him, though he'd never admit it. So he decides to call Atone one evening, under the pretense of asking about homework. Well, it's not entirely pretense. He really does need help with his English homework. Atobe had student council earlier, but he doesn't have any business stuff tonight, so there's a good chance he'll actually pick up.

Atobe picks up almost immediately, which surprises Shishido. Before he can say anything, Shishido hears an annoyed voice in the background.

"—Can't believe you're answering the phone right now."

"Stop whining, Hikaru," Atobe says. "Hello?

"Uh, hey," Shishido says. In the background, Hikaru exclaims "excuse me?" "Is this a bad time?

"No, it's fine, Did you need something?" Atobe asks, ignoring Hikaru.

"Uh..." Shishido says, a little distracted by Hikaru still talking loudly in the background. "I was just gonna ask you about the English homework. I don't get it."

"Ah? You need my expertise?" Atobe says. Shishido hears a door slam in the background and Atobe exhale the tiniest sigh.

"Yeah, yeah," Shishido rolls his eyes. "Hey, uh... Did I interrupt—?"

"Shishido. It's fine," Atobe says. "I can help with your homework after school tomorrow."

"Really? You're not busy?"

"There's a meeting tomorrow, but I can miss it if I need to study."

"Okay. Well, thanks. I'll see you tomorrow then," Shishido says.

"Have a good night, Shishido. Sleep well." There's a fondness in Atobe's voice that catches Shishido offguard. He stares at his phone after he hangs up, his ears burning. Maybe he imagined it.

Chapter Text

Yamagata Hikaru is a second year. He's on student council with Atobe. Shishido thinks he's treasurer or something. He didn't know Atobe hung out with him though

"Shishido, are you paying attention?" Atobe asks impatiently.

"Yeah, yeah," Shishido mutters, refocusing on the textbook. They're studying in Shishido's room because the library is overcrowded with other third years studying for finals. Shishido's desk is small, so they're sitting practically shoulder to shoulder. Shishido is trying to focus, but he keeps thinking about the weird phone call last night. Atobe, who is perceptive at worst and a fucking mind reader at best, has noticed his distraction.

"So, uh... What were you and Hikaru doing yesterday?" Shishido asks faux casually. He can hear an implication in his voice but he's not even sure what he's implying.

Atobe gives him a look halfway between smug and consideration. "Ah? You want to know?"

Shishido scowls. "I just— It seemed like I was interrupting something."

Atobe gives him a long, piercing look, the kind of look that always makes Shishido slightly uncomfortable. Like Atobe can see into his soul or something. "Shishido, I am going to tell you something very personal. I don't think I need to state that these are private matters and you are not to share what I say in confidence with anyone else."

Shishido raises his eyebrows at Atobe's dramatic tone, but he can tell Atobe's being serious. "Of course, dumbass. You can trust me."

"Hikaru and I are going out," Atobe says, lowering his voice even though there's no one around to overhear him.

Shishido blinks. "Oh. Uh... Huh." He's not really sure what to say to that. "So you're...?"

"I'm gay, yes," Atobe says, a little defiantly, as though challenging Shishido to be an asshole about it. Shishido is not going to be an asshole about it. He may be totally blanking on the appropriate reaction to one of your best friends coming out to you, but what he knows is that he does not want to be an asshole about it.

"Oh. That's cool," Shishido says. "I mean... for how long?"

"I've known since I was five," Atobe says.

"Wow, shit. And you just kept it a secret this whole time? Does anyone else know?" Shishido can't imagine keeping that kind of secret for so long.

"Kabaji knows." Atobe says. "I learned to hide it quickly. I knew it wouldn't be... to my advantage."

Shishido doesn't know what to say to that. "Fuck. I mean. Shit."

Atobe shrugs. "It's fine, really. I've grown accustom to it."

"That sucks," Shishido says. There's a pause as he stares at the corner of his wooden desk, looking at the grain and feeling angry. "Hey. Tell me about Hikaru." Atobe looks surprised. "I mean... I dunno, you probably don't get to talk about it a lot, right?" Also, Shishido is curious. To his knowledge, Atobe has never dated before. He wants to know what kind of guy can hold Atobe's attention.

Atobe smiles a little. "Well, he's very energetic. Extremely motivated. Also, stubborn. He challenges me, sometimes too much. He's a brat, really." Hearing Atobe speak so affectionately about someone is strange. "I don't think we'll be together much longer though," Atobe continues.

"Huh? Why not?" Shishido asks.

"Hm... different values. I wasn't even planning on dating at all this year. I certainly won't have time for a relationship next year, once I join father's company." Atobe pauses. "And... there's someone else I've liked for a while and I think Hikaru knows it."

"Really? Who?" Shishido says, surprised.

"Hm... someone I've known for a long time, He still thinks he's straight," Atobe says.

"But he isn't?"

"It's not that I think he isn't. But I very much doubt I've imagined the connection between us." Atobe gives Shishido another x-raying look. Then, he turns back to the desk. "Shall we continue?"

Caught off guard, Shishido fumbles for his pencil. "Uh, yeah, sure."

 

Shishido is glad Atobe came out to him. They got off to a rocky start back in middle school, but he really is one of Shishido's best friends. Shishido just feels... it's hard to name. He remembers there was a certain age when his sister was tall enough to go on certain rides at the amusement park, but Shishido wasn't. He feels kind of like that.

Gakuto is not having much luck finding a girlfriend. Shishido feels bad for him, but also, he's sick of hearing about it.

"She said she likes Mori. Can you believe it?" Gakuto fumes. shoving a large handful of fries in his mouth. They're sitting in McDonald's after school, even though they should be studying. That's what everyone else is doing. "What's so good about that guy anyway?

"He's kinda hot," Shishido shrugs. "He's funny. He's got nice eyes."

Gakuto gives him a look. "That's kind of gay."

"What— Dude!" Shishido sputters. "I'm not— Don't be—."

"Chill, I didn't mean it in like, a bad way," Gakuto says. "Just like, calling another guy hot is kind of gay, isn't it?

"Well, if you don't think about... what makes other guys attractive to girls... then how are you gonna get a girl to like you?" Gakuto looks unconvinced as Shishido struggles to explain himself. "Like... figuring out what girls like in a guy... so you can like... do that."

"Well, I think you need a new strategy, cause this one doesn't seem to be working," Gakuto says, sipping his milkshake. Shishido scowls and takes a bite of his burger. His face is burning.

"You know it's fine if you are, right?" Gakuto says after a pause.

"I'm not," Shishido says immediately.

"Okay, just like. If you are."

Shishido looks at Gakuto. They've been friends since elementary school, but they're still not great at talking about feelings. He kicks Gakuto under the table. "I know, dumbass."

 

Shishido knows there's nothing wrong with being gay. Of course he knows that. He just isn't. He's not. He can't be. He's just not interested in dating, just hasn't found the right girl yet, he's just a "late bloomer" as his mom likes to say. Maybe he'll just get an apartment by himself and live there and have a dog and live by himself forever and be fine. That would be fine.

Chapter Text

Finals are just around the corner and Shishido is starting to feel the pressure. Atobe is still helping him with English when he can, but it's not nearly as often as Shishido would like. He studies with his other friends too but Atobe has always been the best at languages. He doesn't begrudge Atobe for being busy, obviously. He's sure Atobe is under way more pressure than he is. But he didn't realise how much pressure it must be until Atobe doesn't show up for class one morning.

Shishido tries his best to focus, but he's thrown. Atobe never misses class. Not for anything. Is he sick? Did something happen? Shishido gives in and texts him discreetly.

hey where ru

To his surprise, he gets a response right away.

Student council room.

Shishido doesn't understand. What the hell is he doing in the student council room? Is there an event he forgot about? Definitely not. Is Atobe skipping?

Shishido is barely aware of standing up as he frowns at the text. The teacher looks at him and he quickly hides his phone.

"Shishido? Is something wrong?" she asks impatiently.

"I, uh... I feel sick," Shishido lies, casually shoving his things into his bag as he talks. "I'm going to the infirmary."

She frowns. "Are you sure? This will be on the exam. I don't think—."

"I think I'm going to shit myself," Shishido blurts out. He immediately turns red. He doesn't know why he said that. He was just worried she wasn't going to let him go. The teacher looks slightly alarmed. Shishido leaves quickly before anyone can say anything.

Shishido's not sure why he feels this urgency. He could just catch up with Atobe at lunch. There's just something in his gut that tells him something is wrong.

The student council room is locked. Shishido knocks on the door but there's no response. "Atobe?" he calls.

He hears a sigh and a creak, then footsteps. Atobe opens the door, looking far more disheveled than Shishido is used to. His hair is tousled and his eyes are tired. He tie is loose and his shirt is crinkled. He doesn't smile.

"What do you want, Shishido?" Atobe says heavily.

"Uh..." Shishido says, taken aback. "Why aren't you in class?"

Atobe presses his lips together momentarily. Then he turns and walks back into the room. "Close the door behind you," he says over his shoulder. The student council room is set up a bit like a board room, a long table in the center with chairs all around it. Atobe goes to the couch by the window and lies down. It creaks again. Shishido sits down awkwardly in one of the chairs. He's never seen Atobe like this. He's seen him upset, but never so... subdued. It's making him nervous.

"So? What was so important that you had to come find me immediately?" Atobe says. His eyes are closed, making him even harder to read.

"Uh, you're not in class," Shishido repeats, frowning.

"No, I'm not," Atobe says shortly.

"Why?" Shishido asks impatiently.

"I thought I deserved a break."

Shishido glowers at Atobe, even though he can't see it. Atobe clearly doesn't want to talk about whatever it is, but Shishido is tired of his haughty evasiveness. "Stop avoiding the damn question. Since when do you skip class to take breaks?"

"Since I broke up with Hikaru."

The possibility of Atobe being upset over a break up hadn't even occurred to Shishido. He's a little stunned.

"That sucks," he says eventually, unable to take the silence.

"It does," Atobe agrees tonelessly.

"What happened?" Shishido asks.

Atobe sighs. "I told you. Different values."

Shishido frowns again. "It's really hard to comfort you if you won't talk to me."

Atobe tilts his head slightly to look at him. "You want to comfort me?"

"Uh... yeah...?" Shishido says, surprised at the question."

"Why?"

"Uh... because we're friends?"

"If Gakuto skipped class because of a breakup, you would skip to go find him and comfort him?"

Shishido really doesn't understand this line of questioning, but Atobe looks serious, so he thinks about it. "I mean... I dunno. Yeah, I guess. Or I would go find him after class. But Gakuto skipping class isn't really weird."

"But it's weird if I miss class?"

Shishido is starting to get annoyed. "I mean, yeah! You never miss class! Excuse me for thinking something was seriously wrong!"

Atobe sighs again. "Fine. You want to know why we broke up. I'll satisfy your curiosity. My father wants me to start meeting arranged marriage candidates."

"Shit," Shishido says, running a hand through his long hair as he processes all the implications of that. "Oh shit."

"Exactly," Atobe agrees.

"But you're gay," Shishido says, as if to double check. Atobe nods. "So what are you going to do?"

"Whatever my father wants," Atobe says resignedly.

Shishido stares at him, surprised. "That's not like you."

Atobe snorts. "I'm sorry Shishido. What do you think I should do?"

"Look, I'm not going to pretend I know what it's like," Shishido pauses. "It's just weird to see you give in so easily."

"I'm not giving in," Atobe snaps. "It's what I have to do if I ever want to run my father's company."

"I know, I just..." Shishido lowers his head, frustrated. "I just think if you love someone, you should fight for them."

"Hikaru and I would've broken up anyway," Atobe waves a hand dismissively. "I hadn't seen him in over a month."

"Why?"

"I'm very busy preparing to enter my father's company," Atobe says pointedly.

"But you still had time to tutor me..." Shishido trails off, realising what that means and immediately feeling guilty. "Shit, I didn't know."

"Shishido, it's fine. I prioritized," Atobe says.

"Why would you prioritize helping me study over your boyfriend?" Shishido asks, confused.

Atobe smirks self-deprecatingly. "I suppose I'm not a very good boyfriend."

"That's not true," Shishido says immediately. "I think you'd be a great boyfriend." There's a beat of silence as Shishido realises what he just said. He can feel his face heating up. "Uh... I mean..."

To Shishido's amazement, Atobe laughs. "Shishido, you are honestly the densest person I've ever met. You're worse than Gakuto."

"Wha... huh?" Shishido says, dumbfounded. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Exactly," Atobe laughs again. Shishido doesn't really understand what's going on, but it seems like Atobe is feeling a little better. If he has to be dumber than Gakuto to make Atobe laugh, well, he's fine with that.

"Ok... ok. This has been way too much talking about feelings. Jesus," Shishido rubs his face with his hands. This conversation has felt like trying to put together the worlds largest brain teaser. "You're good, though? You're okay?

"Yes Shishido, I'm fine. I'll go back to my nap and release you from this emotional vulnerability," Atobe smiles almost fondly at him.

"Ok, I'm gonna go back to class. Or maybe I actually will go to the infirmary," Shishido says, standing up. "You're eating lunch with us today, by the way. No excuses."

"Fine," Atobe says agreeably, leaning back into the couch and closing his eyes. Shishido hoists his bag over his shoulder and turns towards the door. Just when he's about to leave, Atobe calls his name.

"Shishido."

"Yeah?"

"Thank you," Atobe says softly.

Shishido can't help but smile a little. "Anytime, idiot."

 

Shishido's known Gakuto and Jirou since they were kids but he's never had conversations with them like he has with Atobe. Honestly, he's still a little surprised he and Atobe have grown as close as they have. He hated Atobe so much for most of middle school, until that time he lost to Tachibana and almost got kicked off the team and Atobe stood up for him. And really, it still pissed him off, that Atobe thought he needed his help, right up until Atobe said, "This guy here hasn't lost yet." That's when Shishido knew that Atobe got it. Got him.

Shishido had a girlfriend in his first year of high school. It was a disaster. One their last date, she tried to kiss him, and Shishido panicked. He pushed her away. He still doesn't know why. She broke up with him immediately, saying he didn't really care about her, which in all honesty was fair. He only said yes because it was the first time a girl had ever asked him out. Atobe was the only one he ever told the whole story of their breakup.

"Idiot," Atobe snorted. "Why are you making yourself miserable over something like this? Clearly, you weren't compatible. There's no reason why you should feel guilty."

"Don't call me an idiot, dumbass," Shishido retorted, punching Atobe lightly in the arm. Atobe gave him that faux affronted look he does, the one that always makes Shishido crack up. And in that moment, he suddenly felt like things might be okay.

Chapter Text

"She said yes!" Shishido holds the phone away from his ear as Gakuto shouts.

"Are you trying to make me go deaf, idiot?" He grumbles.

"I told you I could get a girlfriend before we graduate! I told you!" Gakuto says excitedly. Shishido rolls his eyes. He had almost forgotten about Gakuto's stupid plan.

"Yeah, yeah, well done," Shishido says.

"Look, I know you don't care about dating, but you could at least be happy for me," Gakuto sulks.

"I am happy. Now I don't have to deal with you following me around all the time cause you're lonely," Shishido says. It's late, and he's lying in bed with a sports magazine. He was just thinking of going to bed when Gakuto called.

"Shut up. You're the one who would always crawl into my bed at sleepovers when we were little," Gakuto retorts.

"I did not—," Shishido breaks off as his phone beeps. "Hang on, I think I'm getting another call."

"Oh. In that case, I'm gonna go. See you tomorrow," Gakuto says.

"Yeah, see you." Shishido hangs up and answers the other call. "Hello?"

"Shishido." It's Atobe's voice, but it sounds off. Like it's muffled or quiet or something. "Sorry to call so late."

"Atobe?" Shishido sits up, putting the magazine aside. He can hear wind in the background. "Are you outside?"

"Yes," Atobe says. "I— Sorry. I don't know why I'm calling."

Shishido is immediately concerned by Atobe's uncertainty. "What's going on? Are you okay?"

"For the most part, yes," Atobe says.

Shishido groans. "Atobe, can you stop being a cryptic bastard for like two seconds? What's going on?"

"I came out to my parents," Atobe's voice cracks halfway through the sentence.

"You— what? Holy shit," Shishido says, running a hand through his long hair. He stands up, pacing his room as he talks. "Are you okay? Fuck, no, lame question. Where are you?"

"I'm on my way to Sakaki's house?" Atobe says.

"Sakaki's house?"

"He knows," Atobe says. "He's known since middle school. He's graciously offered to let me stay with him until I can make other arrangements."

"Other— They kicked you out?!" Shishido exclaims.

"Yes. I didn't expect a good reaction but..." Atobe says heavily.

"I'm coming to get you. Where are you?" Shishido says, looking around for a jacket.

"Shishido, it's fine."

"No, it's not fine!" Shishido says hotly. "What part of this is fine?"

Atobe is silent for a few seconds. "Look, I have things under control—."

"Bullshit."

"No, listen to me," Atobe says sharply. "I have things under control. I have a suitcase of my belongings. I have a phone and I have money. I have a place to stay. I am going to debrief with Sakaki, and then I am going to bed. Your anger means a lot to me, Shishido, but you don't need to rush over right now."

Shishido snorts at Atobe's use of "debrief". Like Sakaki's still their coach and Atobe's reporting on practice to him. "Okay. Fine. Okay. Shit, Atobe. This sucks."

"I know," Atobe agrees.

There's a silent pause. "Fuck, I'm sorry," Shishido says.

"You have nothing to be sorry for. My father is the one that will be sorry, when I become the most successful man in the country without his help," Atobe declares. Shishido chuckles softly. That's more like the Atobe he knows. "I apologize if I alarmed you, Shishido."

"Don't apologize," Shishido says immediately. Atobe laughs.

"I just wanted to hear— well, to talk to you," Atobe says. "I'll be going now."

"Wait, don't hang up," Shishido says quickly. "Don't hang up until you get to Sakaki's."

"Ah? You want my attention that badly?" Shishido can hear the smirk in Atobe's voice.

"Yeah, yeah, I just can't get enough of you," Shishido says sarcastically, rolling his eyes.

"You know, you can be surprisingly charming sometimes," Atobe says. Before Shishido can process what that means, Atobe continues. "Alright. Tell me about your day."

Shishido smiles slightly, sitting back down on his bed. "Sure."

 

Atobe isn't at school the next day. Shishido is actually kind of relieved. He imagines Atobe needs the time off after last night. He texts Atobe periodically throughout the day. He seems to be fine at Sakaki's house. He texts Shishido various pictures of Sakaki's cat playing with a toy mouse, drinking out of the toilet bowl, sleeping on the couch. It's cute. Shishido didn't even know Sakaki had a cat.

During lunch, Gakuto asks where Atobe is. Shishido has been dreading this question. He doesn't want to lie, but it isn't his place to say. He just shrugs noncommittally.

"Is his sick?" Gakuto wonders.

"Yes," says Kabaji. Shishido makes eye contact with him. Kabaji probably knows what's going on. He wonders if Kabaji knows that he knows. It feels weird that he's been given Kabaji-level of trust from Atobe.

When no one's looking, Kabaji smiles and puts a finger up to his lips in the universal shh gesture. It's kind of adorable.

 

Kabaji is going to visit Atobe after he's done his homework but Shishido doesn't feel like waiting. He heads over to Sakaki's house right after school and immediately gets lost and has to call Atobe for directions. When he finally gets there, Atobe opens the door, as Sakaki is still at work. His eyes look a little tired but overall he seems okay and Shishido is suddenly overwhelmed. He's furious at Atobe's parents, of course, but he's also just upset that Atobe even has to deal with this. He feels like he still can't quite believe it.

"Are you going to come in? Atobe asks when Shishido stands in the doorway for a solid fifteen seconds.

"Uh, yeah." Shishido steps inside. Sakaki's house is cozy, with nice red carpets and brown couches. It feels weirdly taboo to be in his former teacher's house. Atobe leads Shishido to the guest bedroom where he's staying. It's a plain room, with a bed and a closet. There are no chairs, so Atobe sits on the bed and motions for Shishido to do the same.

"So," Shishido says, wiping his suddenly sweaty palms on his pants, trying to angle his body so he can look at Atobe. "You gonna tell me what happened?"

Atobe gives him a look. "My father disowned me, Shishido."

"Sorry, we don't have to talk about—."

"No, it's fine," Atobe sighs. "I told you before that my father wanted me to start meeting arranged marriage candidates. Last night I was supposed to meet the daughter of a family friend. I couldn't go through with it. I told my father to cancel it, because I was gay, and couldn't marry a woman knowing I could never properly love her. It wouldn't be fair to either of us. He didn't like that, obviously." Atobe breaks off and closes his eyes, pausing for a moment, like he's trying to hold something in. Shishido reaches over and awkwardly pats him on the back. Atobe takes a deep breath and continues. "He said some very nasty things to me, that I was disgusting and unfit to take his place and to get out of his house."

Shishido's hands are shaking slightly by the time Atobe is done. "Fuck. Christ. He's full of shit, you know that, right?"

"Yes, I know," Atobe says wryly.

"You're not— you aren't— you're the most capable, most amazing— just fucking, you're just fucking great, I can't believe— fuck," Shishido puts his head in his hands, trying to calm down. He has to keep it together. Atobe's dealing with enough without Shishido just fucking exploding.

"Thank you, Shishido," Atobe smiles one of his genuine smiles, one of the ones without pretense and smugness, the kind that softens his whole face and makes him look like a glowing silver star and Shishido feels like he's melting. He has no idea what his emotions are doing around Atobe ever. Even when they first met, he hated Atobe so much, but there was something under that too. He's never been able to describe it, but right now, sitting in Sakaki's guest room, Atobe smiling at him somehow, even though he just got kicked out, all Shishido wants to do is kiss him.

Shishido looks away from Atobe the second he realises what he just thought. What the hell. What the hell was that? Shishido stares at the red carpet wide eyed. He's suddenly very glad for his long hair hanging around his face as he leans over his knees, hopefully keeping Atobe from seeing his expression.

"Shishido—," Atobe is cut off by the doorbell. "That must be Kabaji."

"Yeah." Shishido doesn't look up as Atobe goes to answer the door. As soon as Atobe leaves the room, Shishido buries his face in his hands. He is eighteen years old. He is about a month away from graduation. And apparently, he is a complete emotional disaster.

Chapter Text

Atobe is back at school the next day. Shishido thinks he could've taken a few more days for himself, but it's probably just as well, since exams are coming up fast. Not that there's any doubt that Atobe would pass with flying colours even if he missed a whole month of school.

The team (and it's funny how it's still The Team, even though they're not on a team anymore, even though other people have rotated on and off the starting lineup. This is always going to be The Team) eats lunch in the student council room, so Atobe can have some privacy to explain his situation to everyone. His explanation is a lot more... sanitized than the one he gave Shishido yesterday. He clearly prepared exactly what he was going to say. Everyone is some combination of outraged and supportive, which Shishido is glad for. Atobe doesn't need his friends being dickheads on top of everything else.

After school, Shishido goes over to Choutarou's house to study, because studying is the only way he can hang out with his friends anymore. Choutarou obviously isn't graduating yet, but he still has exams coming up too. Shishido is having a hard time concentrating though, and he thinks Choutarou can tell.

"Shishido? Is something wrong?" Choutarou asks.

"It's nothing," Shishido mumbles evasively, trying to make himself focus on the textbook in front of him.

"Do you need help with something?" The annoying thing is, Choutarou probably could help Shishido with his work, even though Shishido's a grade above him.

"I'm fine."

"...Are you worried about Atobe?" Choutarou asks. Shishido sighs and gives up squinting at his textbook as though narrow eyes will make reading easier. Choutarou's partially right.

"Choutarou," Shishido swallows hard. There's no way to ask this other than to just ask it. "Do you think I'm gay?"

Choutarou looks surprised. "Are you?"

"No, I mean..." Shishido sighs again, running a hand through his hair. He could only have this conversation with Choutarou. "I don't think I can be? I don't really... look... gay..."

"Shishido, are you asking me if you're too masculine to be gay?" Choutarou asks incredulously. Leave it to him to get right to the heart of the matter.

"Well... yeah, I mean. It'd be weird if I was, right? I'm too..."

"You have long hair," Choutarou muses. "And I don't think tennis is the most macho sport in the world. But I think it's more about whether or not you like boys."

"Argh,,, I guess, but..." Shishido lays his head on the table, frowning.

"So, who is it?"

"Who's what?"

"The boy you like," Choutarou smiles knowingly.

Shishido blushes and glares at him. "Shut up."

"Well, I just figured if you were asking, there must be a boy," Choutarou shrugs.

"Ugh... I don't know..."

"You know, there was a boy I liked in middle school," Choutarou says.

Shishido sits up, surprised. "You never told me that."

"Of course not. I was really ashamed for a while. But eventually I just accepted that sometimes I like boys too, you know?" Choutarou smiles sheepishly. "Sorry. I don't really talk about it much."

"No, uh. Thanks for telling me," Shishido says, taken aback by Choutarou's candidness. Sometimes he takes for granted that because they've been friends and doubles partners so long, he knows everything about Choutarou, but obviously not. "God. I wonder how many people on the team are actually gay."

"Hm. Probably more than you think."

 

Shishido's conversation with Choutarou helped him calm down, but that doesn't mean he has any idea what to do. He's still not sure about his feelings towards Atobe, but he has no time to think about it, because exams are upon them. Shishido thinks he does okay, even in English, thanks to Atobe's tutoring. What does it mean when someone skips seeing their boyfriend to tutor someone else? When he's not studying, Shishido is preoccupied with Atobe. He's turned everything over in his head dozens of times, trying to piece it all together. The problem is, he already knows the answer, if he's being honest with himself. He's just not sure he likes it.

"A blind date?" Shishido says skeptically.

"Yeah, Satsuki has a friend. I told her you might be interested," Gakuto says. Leave it to him to spring this on Shishido minutes before their final exam.

"Why?"

"Y'know our 'getting a girlfriend before graduation' pact," Gakuto says.

"You mean your pact," Shishido replies. He never agreed to this. He just wants to focus on his math exam.

"Oh, come on! You haven't dated anyone since Atsuko. Why not?" Gakuto presses.

Shishido suspects Gakuto will drop it quicker if he just agrees. Besides, it's no skin off his teeth to spend an afternoon with a girl he doesn't know. "Fine. What's her name?"

"Yui. You're free this Sunday, right?" Shishido nods as Gakuto texts somebody quickly. "There. I'll give you her number later so you two can set things up." Gakuto quickly stuffs his phone in his pocket as the teacher arrives. Shishido can't help feeling like this is a bad idea, but he's already said yes.

 

"A blind date?" Atobe says skeptically when Shishido mentions it. They've been walking home together lately, since Sakaki's house is in the same direction as Shishido's.

"Yeah. Something about Gakuto's girlfriend's friend," Shishido says.

"Why would you do something like that?" Atobe says. Shishido is taken aback by his tone. Is he angry?

"Why not?" he shrugs, parroting Gakuto.

"That sort of attitude is why you've only had one relationship," Atobe scoffs.

Shishido narrows his eyes. That felt below the belt. "What's your problem? It's none of your business who I date."

"What's the point of dating someone you've never even met?" Atobe demands. "The chances of you actually being compatible are extremely low."

"It's just a date, Atobe! It's not like we're getting married!" Shishido snaps. He stops, realising something. "Wait, is that why you're mad? Because you had an arranged marriage thing and—."

Atobe snorts. "Don't be stupid."

"Then what's your damn problem?"

"Nothing. You're absolutely right, it's none of my business. I'm going this way." Atobe turns abruptly down the wrong street. Shishido stops walking, dumbfounded.

"Atobe? Where are you going? Hey!" Atobe doesn't turn around. Shishido can't believe they just had a fight over a date he doesn't even care about.