Disclaimer: I know almost nothing about the Witness Protection Program in the States, and I don't even know if they have an equivalent in Japan, let alone anything about it. I'm sure I got a million details wrong, but I did my best.
Title: By Any Other Name
Series: Prince of Tennis
Warnings: lemon, yaoi
Total length: 16,205
This part is not work safe!
What do you do when the thing you want most in all the world is dumped right into your lap... and you're not allowed to have it?
Shishido looked up and met his eyes, but didn't say anything. For a long moment the silence stretched between them, growing more and more painful as Shouichi's heart pounded in his chest. Finally, unable to stand it any longer, he said the first thing that came into his head. "Wrong drawer," he whispered, his voice cracking.
"Yeah, I kind of figured that out," Shishido replied, sounding dazed. Anger was rapidly winning out in the mix of expressions on his face, however, and he was glaring. "Choutarou, what the fuck? What the hell kind of game are you playing at?"
"Shishido-san..." The honourific slipped out without him meaning to use it, and he winced when that made Shishido's glare intensify. If there had been even the slimmest doubt in the other man's mind, Shouichi had just destroyed it. "I... I can explain," Shouichi said weakly.
"Oh yeah?" Shishido arched an eyebrow, his expression plainly stating that he was waiting and that he expected the story to be damn good. It would certainly have to be, to explain what Shouichi had done to his partner so long ago.
Problem was, the only story that made any sense was the truth, and that was the one thing Shouichi couldn't tell him. Enough damage had already been done by the fact that Shishido had recognized him. Damn it, he'd known he was going to regret this!
"I..." Floundering, he searched for any feasible excuse, and couldn't come up with anything. Eventually he hung his head in defeat. "I take it back. I can't explain."
"Damn fucking right you can't," Shishido growled, and Shouichi winced again. "Choutarou..."
"Don't call me that," Shouichi said, more sharply than he'd meant to. He couldn't have expressed just how much it hurt to hear his old name again, especially in that tone from the person who'd meant the most to him in all the world. "Please, don't call me that," he added more softly. "My name is Shouichi."
"Why?" Shishido burst out, disbelieving. "For fuck's sakes, why? All you had to do was tell me you'd changed your mind, you didn't have to run away! To America? And changing your name? Gods, Choutarou!"
"What?" Startled, Shouichi jerked his head up and met Shishido's eyes again. There was pain there under the anger, and another kind of anger that was directed inward. "What do you... you didn't... oh, gods." Horrified, Shouichi finally realized what it must have seemed like to Shishido. "You haven't spent this whole time thinking I left because of you, did you?"
"What the hell else was I supposed to think?" Shishido demanded, slamming the photo down onto the dresser. "The day after I confess to you that I'd been in love with you for years, you vanish. Just vanish, gone without a trace or so much as a phone call to say goodbye! Not even a damn note! I figured either you'd changed your mind..."
"Are you crazy?" Shouichi blurted out, unable to keep from interrupting him. "How could you think that? I don't think I could've been any more obvious about the fact that I wanted you just as bad unless I'd climbed into your pants!" His cheeks burned as he said the words, but it was the truth. They'd both been a little shameless after admitting their feelings for each other.
Shishido looked away, breaking their inadvertent staring contest and losing a great deal of his anger. What was left was the pain, clearer than ever and making Shouichi's heart ache to see it. "I thought maybe you'd decided it wasn't worth the risk after all," he said miserably. "That you'd gotten scared when you'd actually started thinking about it. Or... hell, I don't know. Sometimes I thought maybe your parents had found out somehow and dragged you off to get you away from my evil influence, or something, but I know you! You'd have found a way to call me, write me, something to let me know!" He looked up again, jaw clenched but only grief and pain in his eyes. "At least, I thought I knew you."
"No," Shouichi whispered, unable to get more than that simple denial out at first. He shook his head helplessly, trying to find a way to explain without actually explaining. "Gods, no. Shishido-san, it had nothing to do with you. Nothing. Never. That night with you, before I went home, was the last truly happy moment of my life."
"Then what the hell?" Shishido demanded, the anger returning all in a flash. This time Shouichi knew it was being used to cover that deep pain, but that made it hurt more rather than less. "Your parents just decided to move out of the blue, and you couldn't call me to tell me so? Do you have any idea how fucking worried I was? Before I decided it was all because of me, anyway."
"Yes, they did, and no, I couldn't," Shouichi replied, and his words seemed to startle Shishido badly enough that the older man couldn't think of anything to say. Sighing, Shouichi decided that damage control at this point was beyond hopeless. He trusted Shishido, more than anyone else, even after so many years apart. His parents would kill him themselves if they ever found out he'd told someone the truth, but then again the worst damage was already done. Shishido knew who he was, and Shouichi knew his former partner well enough to know he wouldn't drop the subject until he was satisfied.
"Look... I'd rather not have this conversation as a shouting match in my bedroom," he said. "Come out in the living room and sit down, and I promise I'll tell you everything."
Somewhat mollified, though obviously in no way appeased, Shishido finally lifted his hand from the picture and stalked out of the room. Shouichi stepped aside to let him pass, then moved forward to look at the picture. As he'd thought, it was that shot of them from their last game together; ecstatic at their victory, hugging and slapping each other on the back and laughing with the sheer joy of the game.
Tracing his fingers over their smiling faces, Shouichi sighed. Had either of them ever been happy since the last time they'd been together? He was starting to think not. He'd always wondered what Shishido had thought of his sudden disappearance, and he'd known his best friend would be confused and hurt, but it had never occurred to him that Shishido would blame himself.
Opening the drawer, he put the picture back where it belonged, on top of the picture of his sister playing in concert and the family portrait taken of the four of them a few months before she'd been abducted. There was a dirty, worn tennis ball tucked back into a corner - one of the balls he'd used when nailing his scud serve through that broken down wall when Shishido had helped him perfect it. Beside it was a small block of the rosin used on violin bowstrings. And that was it, everything he had left of his life as Ohtori Choutarou.
He made his way back out into the living room to find Shishido standing against one wall like he wasn't sure what to do with himself, his arms crossed tightly over his chest. The look on his face was distinctly unfriendly, and Shouichi closed his eyes briefly.
"Sit down," he asked softly. "Please," he added when Shishido only glared at him. He sank down beside the table first, and decided not to ask again. If it would make Shishido feel better to glare down at him from the advantage of height, then he probably owed at least that much to his former partner.
Shishido did sit, though, dropping down unceremoniously to sit cross-legged on the other side of the table. His voice was slightly less hostile than it had been; maybe some of Shouichi's misery and desperation was showing in his eyes, and the older boy was taking pity on him. "So? I'm still not sure what possible explanation you could have for all this."
Taking a deep breath, Shouichi tightened his hands into fists in his lap and looked into Shishido's eyes. "When I was an infant, my father was a detective in Kyoto. He was involved in a case that ended up with a major yakuza boss behind bars. Threats were made against everyone who'd been involved in the case, and the Japanese government quietly relocated the key people. Including my father."
Shishido was silent; he looked startled, but at least he was thinking about it rather than arguing. Taking that as a good sign, Shouichi continued. "I didn't know any of this, of course. My family never spoke of it. I still don't even know what name was on my original birth certificate, just that it wasn't Ohtori Choutarou." He shrugged. "It doesn't really matter, I guess. I'm Shouichi Okada now, and I have been since the last time you saw me. It's probably - hopefully - the last name I'll have. If they find us here, I don't think changing my name and moving again is going to help."
Eyes wide, Shishido stared at him. "They... found you?" he ventured a guess based on what Shouichi had said thus far. "You know this sounds completely crazy, right? Like something out of a really lame novel."
"I know, but it's the truth," Shouichi replied bitterly. "Do you think I'd have left behind everything that mattered to me by choice? They kidnapped my sister, Shishido. They took her right out of her apartment, and left it a bloody mess. When I got home from your place that night, everything was chaos. Two hours later I was on a plane with my parents, heading for America. They'd agreed to shelter us because the yakuza family involved had caused them a lot of trouble too, and they were grateful for the bust."
"Your sister?" Now Shishido looked shocked instead of startled, and dismayed. "Gods! Is she okay? But... you said you were an only child..."
"I am, now," Shouichi confirmed, his voice raw with grief. "They never found any trace of her. She's probably dead, but I doubt we'll ever know for sure. In some ways, that's worse - imagining that she might be out there somewhere, scared and hurt, being tortured because they can't reach my father."
"I... gods. Chouta... Shouichi," Shishido corrected himself hastily, and that more than anything else he could have said eased some of the lump of agony in Shouichi's chest. Shishido believed him. "Shouichi, I'm sorry. I... I didn't know..."
"How could you have? I didn't even know, until it happened. And how could you have guessed why I'd disappeared like that?" Shouichi shrugged painfully. "I pleaded and argued with my parents, begging them to let me at least send you a letter from somewhere, or something. But they were right to say no. If they were following us closely enough to take my sister like that, then they must have known that you were my best friend. They'd have been watching you like a hawk, waiting for some sign that I'd contacted you. And almost anything can be traced with the sort of resources they have."
"Watching me? Gods, that's creepy," Shishido shivered, looking haunted. "But... today, why didn't you..."
"How could I?" Shouichi shook his head. "You have no idea what I felt when I saw you sitting there. I was terrified you would recognize me. I never should have invited you back here, but... well, it was so good to see you and talk to you again, even if I couldn't tell you who I was." He lowered his eyes. "You can't imagine how many times I wanted to say something, to tell you the truth, to take the chance to finally say goodbye. But it's not just my life I'm risking by telling you all this, it's my parents' as well."
"You don't trust me?" Shishido snapped, obviously stung. "What, you think I'm gonna go back and turn you in?"
"No, of course not!" Shouichi exclaimed. "But it wouldn't take that much. If you slipped up and mentioned to Atobe that you'd seen me... and then he might tell someone else, not realizing the significance... just one little thing is all it would take. One little, seemingly harmless concession my parents made to my sister all those years ago is what caused them to eventually track her down, and us through her. These people are deadly, they've got nothing but time, and they never give up."
"I guess." Sighing, Shishido ran his fingers through his long hair, which he'd let down from the ponytail at some point when Shouichi had been in the bathroom. "I'll be careful, I promise. I wouldn't risk your life, Ch-Shouichi. Damn it, that's going to take some getting used to."
"I don't see why," Shouichi objected, frowning. "You certainly can't refer to me as Shouichi if you're talking about me as Choutarou."
"Yeah, but... hey, you're not planning to cut me off again, are you?" Shishido scowled at him. "What, were you thinking I'd walk out of here and that would be the last time we'd ever see each other?"
"Well, yes," Shouichi admitted, confused. "I just explained to you why I can't stay in contact with you, Shishido-san! I don't know that they're still watching you after all this time, they might not be... but I don't know that they aren't."
"So? I haven't heard from Ohtori Choutarou since we were in high school, and never will again," Shishido waved that off. "Why can't Okada Shouichi, the poor airsick bastard I got friendly with on the plane, stay in contact with me? I have occasionally made friends in other countries, you know."
"I..." Startled, Shouichi thought that over. Was there any valid reason why he couldn't, as Shouichi, be Shishido's friend now that they'd met through a random coincidence? Surely the yakuza weren't hunting down every friend Shishido ever made, anywhere in the world?
"Is it any bigger a risk than the fact that you're going to law school?" Shishido asked. "I mean, your dad was a lawyer. Wouldn't they look for that sort of thing?"
"I guess so," Shouichi admitted, and slowly a knot that had been in his chest for so long it felt like it was a part of him started to loosen. "You'd want to? After everything? You'd still want to be my friend?"
"Idiot," Shishido said scornfully. "I'm stubborn, not stupid. I was pissed off at you because you left without telling me for no good reason. Except you had a reason, a damn good one. I'm not going to hold it against you!" He smiled wryly. "What kind of totally uncool friend would that make me, huh?"
Choking on a laugh to hear his former partner using his once-favourite slang phrase, Shouichi sniffled. He didn't realize until he did it that he was crying, and he quickly wiped at his face in embarrassment. "Ah, gods, I've gone soft living here," he muttered into his hands. "These people are so casual about showing every little thing they feel."
"Ch... Shou.... no, damn it, this I need to say to Choutarou," Shishido tripped over himself with a scowl. "You were my best friend. More than that, you were my partner. What hurt wasn't that you left, wasn't even that it seemed like it was my fault... it was that you'd broken the trust we had between us, or so I thought. You think I wouldn't jump at the chance to have you back? I've never had another friend like you, before or since." He grimaced. "Never let anybody close enough, after you were gone. Didn't want to risk getting hurt like that again."
"I've missed you," Shouichi choked out. "Every day at first, for years. Now I can go for months without thinking of you, sometimes... but it never stopped hurting when I did think of you."
"Yeah, well... me too," Shishido conceded, looking away. He'd never been good at handling emotional confessions, Shouichi certainly remembered that well enough. This felt even more awkward than the conversation they'd had the last time they'd seen each other, when they'd admitted their feelings for each other. "So are you going to stop being stupid, and let me be your friend again?"
Unable to speak for fear of breaking down entirely, Shouichi nodded. Slowly Shishido reached over the table, offering his hand, and after a brief hesitation Shouichi clasped it in his. Not a handshake, but hands locked over each other's wrists, the way they used to do when vowing to win the game, not to let anything ever stand in their way.
"Maybe more than a friend again?" Shishido continued after a moment, his voice dropping and going husky. A little thrill of heat shot through Shouichi as he realized what Shishido was offering. "I saw the way you were checking me out, once you admitted you liked guys. Why do you think I kept crowding you like that? I liked watching you blush over it. You're damn hot, Shouichi... maybe even hotter than the only guy I ever loved."
The air caught in Shouichi's throat at that, and his hand tightened around Shishido's wrist. "Do you have to leave in the morning?" he asked, almost pleaded. "You said your next tournament wasn't for a month..."
"I need to get some practice in with my coach before the tournament, or he'll disown me," Shishido replied, his blue eyes going dark with a heat that Shouichi still remembered from that last, fateful night. "But no, I don't have to be back tomorrow." His lips curved in a smile, and this time there was nothing wry about it. "You asking me to stay, Shouichi?"
There were a dozen things Shouichi could have said to that, teasing and serious alike. But only one answer felt like the right one. "Yes," he agreed simply, and tugged on the older man's wrist to pull him closer. Leaning over the table he met Shishido's mouth with his, and did his best to prove that he knew more about kissing than he had in high school.
When he pulled back again he was dizzy and breathless, and smiling even though there were still tears on his cheeks. "You can stay as long as you want," he added to his earlier statement. "As a friend, lover, whatever, I don't care. Just as long as you're here with me. Gods, Shishido..."
"Will you just give it up and call me Ryou?" Shishido demanded, laughing at him. "If I have to learn to call you something new, you can too. Ryou and Shouichi, not Shishido-san and Choutarou. Fair?"
"Fair," Shouichi agreed. He'd called Shishido by his name before, but only briefly. Only for the span of those few hours between when they'd confessed to each other, and the moment he'd left to go home. "Then stay with me, Ryou." He managed a watery grin and a teasing tone. "I'll show you all around L.A., and I'm sure we can find something to do in our spare time..."
"Asshole," Shishido accused him. "When did you turn into such a tease, huh?"
That sobered Shouichi slightly. "We don't really know each other any more, you know," he pointed out sadly. "It's been more than six years. That's a long time, especially with everything we've been through."
"Oh, bullshit," Shishido declared bluntly, startling him. "We've got details to learn, but... hell, Shouichi. I was drawn to you the moment I met you on the plane, though damned if I could figure out why. It made me nervous, because the last time I felt that way about anyone it was... well, you, when you were Choutarou. Don't you feel it?" He searched Shouichi's eyes, his voice dropping. "Or am I just crazy, and I was imagining it right from the beginning?"
"No, I... I know what you mean," Shouichi agreed hoarsely. "It's the same thing that made us such good doubles players. And such close friends, so quickly. I didn't like you much when I first met you... but I never could ignore you or turn away from you."
"Heh, thanks," Shishido rolled his eyes. "I think. The rest is just surface crap. The potential is still there for us to be partners, like we once were. That's all that matters. And I know I sound like one of the idiots from Oshitari's romance novels, shut up," he added, flushing.
Shouichi couldn't help but laugh. "I wasn't going to say that. I was going to agree with you."
"The hell you were," Shishido retorted. Then he grinned again. "And you're right, I'm sure we can find something to do with our spare time. We can't spend all our time in here. And I do want to talk to you, get close to you again." His eyes lit up. "Maybe we can find a street court and go play. I know it won't be the same, but..."
"No!" Abruptly Shouichi jerked back, and only the fact that Shishido clamped down on his wrist kept him from breaking the contact entirely. "Gods, Shishido, you still don't get it, do you?" He shook his head in frustration. "I haven't touched a racquet since the last practice you and I had together. I haven't so much as looked at a sheet of music; I get nervous just listening to classical music on CD, I don't dare actually go to a concert. I had to give up everything. Not just you. Anything and everything that might identify me."
"What? But... but..." Shishido floundered, gaping. "But tonnes of people play tennis and music for fun! Music and tennis were your life!"
"Exactly," Shouichi agreed bitterly. "They were my life. So I couldn't have them any more, because they might lead someone back to me. Do you know how they found my sister? She'd been taking piano lessons for about a year when my parents moved and changed their names the first time. She begged and pleaded with them to let her continue, and they finally decided there couldn't be any harm in it, because lots of girls took piano lessons. She turned out to be something of a prodigy, I don't know if I ever told you that. As far as anyone has been able to determine, that's the connection that led them to her. That's why it took them so long."
"That's insane," Shishido said flatly. "That's completely insane. I... I can't even imagine... I'd kill anyone who tried to take tennis from me. I'd rather die."
"That's what I said, at the time," Shouichi replied softly, his voice full of grief for the things he'd lost. "But apparently I didn't quite mean it literally. I lived. I moved on with my life. Eventually I even found other things I enjoyed, but never anything that meant as much to me as tennis and music had. I've never let myself so much as go near a court or a music store, for fear the temptation would be too much. And once I'd justified it once, it would be that much easier to do the next time. You understand?"
"Gods." Shishido closed his eyes, and squeezed Shouichi's hand. When he opened them again, though, his expression was full of determination. "You can't keep this up. You'll go insane. I know you, Ch... Shouichi. I don't know how you've lasted this long, frankly."
"The hell there isn't!" Shishido snapped. "That's what they told me when I said I was going to get back on the Regulars, too, remember? 'You can't do it, it's impossible'. Did I give up and believe them? Hell no! I found a way. You were that way. Remember?"
"I remember," Shouichi agreed. "How could I forget? But I don't see..."
"How did you ever make it onto the Regulars in your second year with an attitude like that?" Shishido demanded, cutting him off again. "You didn't, that's how. The Ohtori Choutarou I knew was damn near as stubborn as I was, that's why we made such good partners. Did you lose your backbone when you changed your name?"
Hurt, Shouichi tugged at his hand, but Shishido refused to let him go. "You don't understand," he protested. "That was different. This is my life we're talking about!"
"Yeah, it is," Shishido nodded. "A life you've spent being miserable over the things that were taken away from you. We found a way to get me back in your life. Did you ever even try to find away around the restrictions?"
"Like what?" Shouichi demanded.
"Like... playing in private?" Shishido said, rolling his eyes. "Soundproof a room, play violin in there. Pretend like I'm teaching you tennis, because gods know I've dragged every other boyfriend I've ever had out onto the courts, and we'll book indoor courts and play where nobody can see us. Yeah, you can't do either of them professionally, or even in public, but there's no reason you have to shove the things you love out of your life completely!"
Trembling, Shouichi considered it. Could he? Dared he? It was still a risk, however slight...
So was walking out the door in the morning. So was becoming a lawyer. So was being with Shishido... and Shouichi didn't think he could give that up, not now that he'd agreed to let himself have it.
"You're terrified of flying, yet you take a plane home every holiday so you can see your parents," Shishido persisted, his voice dropping to something less harsh. "Where's that courage the rest of the time, huh? Where's the strength of will that made you one of the best players in Tokyo, that made you strong enough to be my partner and keep me from running roughshod over you? Because I'll tell you right now, this isn't going to work without it. None of it."
"I can't..." Swallowing, Shouichi chopped off the rest of that sentence - that excuse - and made himself admit the truth. "I'm scared. I'm terrified."
"So be smart and don't take stupid risks," Shishido told him. "But don't define 'stupid' as 'any tiny possibility'. I'm scared, too," he admitted. "Scared that I'll lead them to you, scared that they'll take me to get at you. Hell, scared that things won't work out, that it's been too long and we've changed too much. I was terrified I wouldn't get back on the team, too. Never let it stop me."
"You were? Really?" Shouichi was surprised by that. "You never showed it, not at all. I thought you were suicidal and insane, but never scared."
"Well, I was," Shishido shrugged awkwardly. "If Atobe hadn't spoken up, if you'd refused to offer your spot on the team - I just about died when he asked you that, I was sure that was the end of it - half a dozen things could've gone just a tiny bit different, and I wouldn't be here now. But they didn't, and I am, and if I hadn't tried then I'd still be just 'that loser Tachibana crushed'. Are you gonna let them make a loser of you?"
"No." Gods, maybe Shishido was right. He'd spent more than six years essentially cowering in fear in a corner, hoping he could protect himself by refusing to actually live his life. Yes, he had to be careful. No, he couldn't live the life he'd once had planned for himself, as a concert violinist or a professional tennis player. But maybe, just maybe, he didn't have to lose everything.
They couldn't watch everyone in the world, right? As long as he didn't draw public attention to himself...
"No, I won't let them," he repeated, his voice stronger this time. He looked up into Shishido's eyes, and felt a spark of the sheer determination that had gotten him a spot on the Regulars as a junior. Shishido must have seen it in his expression, because he suddenly grinned fiercely, the same grin he used to give when he was sure they had a game in the bag.
"We'll beat them," the older man promised. "Together, we can beat anyone and anything, remember? Nothing can stop us... as long as we don't give up."
"I won't," Shouichi swore. "I won't, Ryou. If you'll help me."
"All you had to do was ask, stupid," Shishido chided him. "So quit mooning over it, already. Tomorrow, we'll find an indoor court and I'll start teaching you how to swing a racquet." He grinned and ducked the mock-punch Shouichi threw at him. "And then you can show me the city. Before that, though..." His eyes went dark again, the way they had earlier. "I guess we've got some time to pass."
Shouichi couldn't help himself. "I've got a mahjong set," he offered innocently, and laughed when Shishido swore at him creatively. "Well, all right, I didn't know you disliked the game that much," he snickered. "Chess? Or maybe shougi? I think I might have a go-ban around here somewhere..."
Tugging at the hand he still held, Shishido tried to pull him back over the table where the older man could kiss him again. Instead Shouichi braced himself, and pulled back. He was still taller and heavier than his old partner by a good bit, and he had better leverage because he was kneeling. Shishido ended up sprawled half over the table with his free hand on the floor on Shouichi's side to stabilize himself, and Shouichi promptly took advantage of him.
That kiss was unlike any they'd ever shared before. The kiss earlier had been more of a symbol than an actual statement of intent. And as teenagers they'd been hesitant and uncertain, struggling to find their way through something that was equal parts instinctive and bewildering. This time, though, they were both coming into it with plenty of experience and knowing exactly what they wanted. And that made all the difference in the world.
Shishido tried to take control, but Shouichi wouldn't let him. One important change their time apart had wrought; back then Shishido had been - well, not dominant, because they'd definitely had a partnership of equals. But Shishido had been the more aggressive of the two of them, and Shouichi had adored him enough to let him do pretty much whatever he wanted.
So he caught the older man completely by surprise when he dominated the kiss, but Shishido didn't seem to be complaining. Not at all, judging by the startled, needy little sound he made in the back of his throat.
"Okay, we are not doing this on the coffee table," Shouichi declared when he finally drew back for air, leaving both of them panting. He had to smile at the dazed look in Shishido's eyes.
"Yeah, but..." Shishido's eyes trailed towards the bedroom. "The bed is all the way over there." He sounded plaintive.
Shouichi understood. He didn't want to let go, not even for an instant, lest this turn out to be a dream after all. "I never said anything about the bed, just that we're not doing it on the table," he asserted. "It'll break, it's not meant for that kind of abuse. So get over here already," he added impatiently when Shishido just stared at him.
"You know, I don't remember you being this bossy," the older man mused, pushing himself back off the table just long enough to move around to the same side Shouichi was on. It was a task made more difficult by the fact that they still hadn't released each other's hands, but neither of them suggested it.
"That's because I usually let you think you were getting your way, and then convinced you that 'your way' had been what I'd been suggesting all along," Shouichi told him, lips twitching. It wasn't true, mostly he'd just gone along with whatever Shishido suggested, though he'd certainly never hesitated to speak up if he disagreed outright. But he knew that now Shishido was going to drive himself nuts trying to figure out if Shouichi was telling the truth.
"You're evil," the older man finally declared. "Totally, completely evil. Keep it up, you're obviously learning from me."
"You wish!" Shouichi retorted, but he was laughing again. When was the last time he'd laughed so much in such a short period of time? Years? Maybe even since the last time they'd been together?
Shishido tried to tackle him, but Shouichi rolled with it and ended up on top. He'd been taking judo, not because of any delusion that it might protect him from the people who were after his father, but because he'd had to find some way of keeping in shape once tennis had been denied to him. The move obviously surprised Shishido once again, because he didn't struggle. Or maybe he'd just decided that it wasn't so bad after all.
Shouichi certainly did his best to make it an appealing position to be in. He kissed Shishido again, fiercely but briefly, before running his mouth down over the other man's strong neck. The slippery strands of Shishido's hair slid off his shoulder, tickling Shouichi's cheek as they fell. He wanted to bury his hands in it, but they were in the wrong position for that. Later. There would be a later, he didn't have to do everything now.
It was as if he'd spent the last six years wrapped in heavy cotton, able to see and interact with the world but not really able to touch it in any concrete way. Now that he'd given himself permission to have the things he'd so desperately wanted, including the person he'd needed most of all, it felt like that wrapping had suddenly been torn away. Everything was bright and intense and new, and he had to savour every moment of it.
Even if it drove Shishido crazy, which it apparently was doing. The older man was writhing under him, not trying to get away but rather in reaction to what Shouichi was doing to his neck. "Tease," Shishido accused him again.
"I'm enjoying myself," Shouichi replied, pulling back a bit. "Are you saying you're not?"
"Gods, no, I didn't say that," Shishido moaned. "And I didn't say stop, either!" he complained when Shouichi didn't return to what he'd been doing.
"Huh. I don't remember you being this demanding, either," Shouichi mused as he sat up enough to give himself room to work the buttons of Shishido's shirt. "Oh, wait. Yes, I do." He was glad the other man was wearing a button-up top, since it meant they didn't have to release their hands in order to get at skin. At Shishido's skin, anyway, since Shouichi was wearing a pullover.
Growling, Shishido apparently decided that retaliation was a better strategy than negotiation, and worked his hand up under Shouichi's shirt. The younger man shivered at the feel of the rough callus on Shishido's fingers against his skin, then gasped when Shishido suddenly raked his nails down over Shouichi's back. Shishido grinned and did it again, obviously pleased to have found something that made him react so strongly.
Taking advantage of the bare skin revealed now that the shirt was open, Shouichi moved further down and teased one of Shishido's nipples with his lips and teeth. The older man groaned again and arched up into the touch, not incidentally pressing his groin against Shouichi's hip. He was hard, that was easy to tell even through the heavy jeans he was wearing. Biting down a little harder, Shouichi ground himself into Shishido's thigh in turn, revealing that he was no less hard than the older man.
As teenagers they'd been inexperienced and a little nervous, and it probably would have taken them weeks to work up the courage to go the whole way. Tonight, there was not a doubt in Shouichi's mind that they would be joined in the most intimate way possible the moment they were both out of their clothes. Part of him wanted to draw it out and savour it, but the rest of him was too busy luxuriating in something he'd never thought he would have.
"There's just one problem with staying out here," he murmured against the skin of Shishido's chest. When Shishido made an inquiring noise - that being as coherent an answer as he seemed to be capable of at the moment - Shouichi sighed. "I have lube, but I already unpacked it and put it in my bedside table," he explained. "So unless you have something, one of us is going to have to go get it."
"Mmph... left side pocket of my duffle," Shishido gathered himself enough to say. "Still too damn far away, but a hell of a lot closer than your bedroom."
Glancing over the few feet between them and the spot where Shishido had dumped his bags, Shouichi groaned. "I'll get it," he volunteered, since Shishido couldn't go anywhere while Shouichi was pinning him like that. "Don't move."
He took the opportunity to pull his shirt over his head as he went to the bags, leaving it carelessly on the floor where he dropped it. He could worry about picking up after himself later. The lube was easy enough to find, and there was a strip of condoms along with it. Shouichi flushed, embarrassed he'd forgotten to even think about that and grateful that Shishido was apparently careful. As much as he hated the idea of anything being between them now that they were together at last, he took one of the condoms as well.
Turning, he found that Shishido had disobeyed his instruction not to move, having sat up to discard his shirt and start working on his pants. "Gods, you're beautiful," Shouichi said softly, just absorbing the sight of him. Shishido looked much as he remembered, his skin tanned from hours playing under the sun and muscles sliding smoothly underneath. He looked like what he was, a professional athlete, and the sight was even more breathtaking than Shouichi had found it in high school.
It made him a little embarrassed, knowing that he'd lost a lot of the strength and definition he'd once had. Judo helped keep him in shape, but a few hours in a dojo several times a week wasn't the same as hours spent on the courts every day. His skin was pale after a winter spent in Boston, instead of the tan he too had once sported.
Yet the expression in Shishido's eyes as he looked Shouichi over was anything but disappointed. "So're you," the tennis pro asserted, reaching towards him and gesturing impatiently when Shouichi remained just out of reach. "So get over here, already."
Belatedly Shouichi rejoined him, and Shishido kissed him again fiercely. Setting the bottle and condom aside, Shouichi resumed exploring Shishido's body, his hands running over the older man's chest and finding every spot that made Shishido gasp and squirm.
Shishido's hands briefly did the same, then dropped to Shouichi's pants and started fumbling with the fastenings. "You're wearing too much," Shishido scolded him breathlessly as he broke the kiss. "And so'm I. Gods, Ch-Shouichi. I want you so bad. Don't think I ever stopped wanting you, no matter how mad at you I got."
"Me neither," Shouichi admitted, leaving off teasing the older man for a moment while he helped to shed them both of their remaining clothes. As soon as he had access he wrapped his hand around Shishido's cock, making the older man moan and jerk his hips up into the contact. Somehow they got their pants the rest of the way off, and then they were pressed together completely naked for the first time.
It was everything Shouichi had known it would be, and more. Fire raced through him from every inch of skin that was touching Shishido's, and it only got worse when the older man retaliated by stroking his hand over Shouichi's cock. It felt so good it made him shudder, and he moaned.
"If we don't hurry, we're not gonna get much farther than this," Shishido growled, echoing the thoughts in Shouichi's head. "Been too long. I'd forgotten how good it feels with someone else."
"It's better with you," Shouichi asserted, kissing him again before releasing Shishido to reach for the lube. He wasn't sure if the words were true or if it only felt that way because he'd wanted Shishido for so long, but he certainly couldn't remember anything with his previous boyfriends ever being quite this intense.
He hesitated briefly, then remembered the hungry noise Shishido had made when Shouichi had taken control of the kiss and the way the older man hadn't objected to being pinned. Pouring a puddle of the lube into his hand, he dipped his fingers into it and trailed them down over Shishido's cock and balls, teasing him. Shishido made a startled sound but didn't object.
Far from it, he squirmed and spread his legs a little wider in obvious invitation. Glad he hadn't read his former partner wrong, Shouichi dropped his hand the rest of the way and carefully worked two fingers into the older man's body.
"Fuck, Ch... fuck," Shishido cut himself off before he could say the forbidden name, one hand clenched in the pile of the carpet and the other still teasing Shouichi's cock.
"Have you done it this way before?" Shouichi asked curiously, as Shishido visibly forced himself to relax and take the intrusion. It seemed like he knew how to make it easy on himself, but he was so tight.
"Sometimes," Shishido nodded, closing his eyes and throwing his head back as Shouichi scissored his fingers to stretch him. "Had one boyfriend wouldn't do it any other way, but that was a while ago... nnh!" His voice broke as Shouichi found his prostate and pressed against it hard.
"Mmm, I like that reaction," Shouichi murmured, and did it again just to watch Shishido squirm.
"Did I mention that you've turned into a damn tease?" the older man gasped, shuddering. "Will you just fuck me already?" Seeming to remember the grip he still had on Shouichi's cock, he squeezed it once and flicked his thumb over the tip, making Shouichi gasp in turn.
"Since you ask so nicely," Shouichi agreed, his voice shaking with just how much he wanted to do what Shishido was asking. He withdrew his hand, Shishido stifling a needy sound of protest, and reached for the condom.
Somehow between the two of them they managed to get it on him without tearing it, and then Shouichi was kneeling over Shishido's prone body once more, his cock pressed against Shishido's entrance but not yet pushing inside.
"If you ask me if I'm sure or ready or any of that sappy shit, I will hit you," Shishido growled a threat as Shouichi opened his mouth to do just that. "I'm not a damn girl, I won't break, and I've wanted this since we were fourteen. Do it!"
Not in the least reluctant, Shouichi groaned and gave in, pushing forward. Shishido grunted and did his best not to fight the intrusion, but he was tight enough around Shouichi's cock to make him ache with how good it felt. "Gods, Ryou," he whispered, his voice broken as his thoughts scattered to the four winds. "Gods, you feel so good."
Panting and clutching at Shouichi's shoulders to steady himself, Shishido nodded. "You... you too," he agreed, his voice only slightly more steady than Shouichi's. "Stop... teasing!" Before Shouichi realized what he intended, the older man gripped him tighter and arched his lower body up, forcing Shouichi the rest of the way inside him.
Shouichi had to stop for a moment to adjust or he'd have been in danger of coming right then and there. His gaze was a little unfocused as he stared down at Shishido, but even so he'd never seen anything as beautiful as his partner below him, dark hair spread out like a halo and an expression of exquisite pain and pleasure on his face.
The moment he'd caught his breath he withdrew again, then thrust home fast and hard. That set the pace, leaving both of them gasping and clutching at each other hard enough to bruise. Shouichi couldn't have stopped or slowed down if his life depended on it, too caught up in the incredible sensations and breathless with the knowledge of who exactly he was fucking. Shishido hadn't been his only love, but he'd been the first and certainly the most intense. And, it seemed, the most lasting.
"Oh, gods," Shishido said, his voice tight with the strain of holding onto his control. "Fuck, Shouichi... I... I'm not gonna last much longer..."
"Do it," Shouichi whispered into his ear, nipping at the shell just to hear Shishido groan again. "Do it, I want to feel you writhing beneath me." For good measure he shifted his weight to brace himself on one arm and reached between them with his other hand, wrapping his fingers around Shishido's cock and stroking in time with his thrusts.
That was all it took, and with a wordless shout Shishido came hard. His back arched with the force of it, pressing Shouichi deep inside him as his body shuddered beneath him. Shouichi moaned and rocked his hips into that tight heat, losing his rhythm in favour of keeping Shishido around him as long as possible. The older man was only beginning to come down off the high of orgasm when Shouichi followed him over the edge, his voice breaking as he cried out.
For a moment the world went fuzzy, and Shouichi wallowed in the ecstasy of it. Had it ever been this good with his other lovers? At the moment he couldn't remember a single other encounter, so it was hard to compare. Not that he wanted to compare, not really. He just wanted to savour it as long as he could, and store it up against the long, long months that were going to pass between visits.
When he came back to himself he found Shishido's strong arms wrapped around him, pulling him close to the tennis pro's solid body. Shouichi's face was buried in the junction of Shishido's neck and shoulder, and he was startled to realize he was crying. Sobbing, actually, and shaking with the release of tension he'd been carrying around with him for more than six years.
"Shouichi?" Shishido's voice was hoarse, but the concern in it was clear. "Are you okay? Shou?"
"I'm... okay," he finally managed to say, hugging Shishido tightly in return. "I'm okay, it's just... a lot of things. Sorry."
"Nah, it's fine," Shishido assured him softly, loosening his grip enough to let him stroke Shouichi's shoulders. "I might be doing the same if you hadn't beaten me to it, honestly." Astonished at the very idea of Shishido crying over something like sex, Shouichi lifted his head to look up into his friend's - his lover's - eyes. There were no tears there, but there was a wellspring of emotion deeper than anything Shouichi could have imagined.
Impulsively he kissed the older man, keeping their gazes locked. When he pulled away again Shishido smiled, and ran a hand through his hair. "We've got a lot to relearn about each other," Shishido said. "But I think this is a pretty good start."
"A new beginning," Shouichi agreed, his voice rough. "How many people get a chance to start over fresh? Ryou... maybe it's too soon to say this, but I love you. I still love you, I think I always have."
"It probably is too soon, but I don't care," Shishido chuckled softly. "I love you too, no matter what name I have to call you by. Never did manage to stay with anyone else longer than a month or two. None of them ever came close to understanding me the way you did, even if we were supposedly platonic for nearly all our time together." The chuckle turned into a laugh. "Never found another doubles partner I could stand, either. Went back to singles after less than one season."
Smiling, Shouichi rested his head on Shishido's shoulder once more. In a moment they would have to move, separate and get cleaned up, then probably head to the bedroom. And then... well, they had a lot of lost time to make up for. It would be difficult, pretending they'd only just met in public, and his parents were going to kill him when they eventually forced him to bring his boyfriend home to meet them, but he could deal with all of that later.
Right now all he cared about was that he had his lover, his partner, in his arms once more. And this time he wasn't going to let anyone or anything tear them apart. "Together, we can face anything," he murmured, remembering their old promise to each other with a smile.
"Damn right we can," Shishido agreed, stroking his hair. "Just as long as we hang on to our trust in each other. And I swear, I will never doubt you again, no matter what. Choutarou or Shouichi, you're my partner and that's the end of it."