By Mizu | mail | www

For two weeks, Atobe Keigo has been playing billiards alone.

The billiards table is the most incogruously out of place piece of furniture in the Hyoutei regulars' clubroom; Atobe and Sakaki revamped the rest of it after he was handed club leadership that March, but Atobe had wanted to keep the heavy felt-covered table despite the fact that it didn't match the rest of the sleekly modern décor. He didn't really expect to have time to play - he was student body president, top student in the school, tennis captain, and none of that left much time for other games - but it was staying all the same.

Oshitari and Shishido had both rolled their eyes at him when he said it was for memories, and Shishido had said as he tucked a long tendril of dark hair behind his ear that Atobe didn't need to keep it there just for him.

"I like to play too, idiot," Atobe had said, and Shishido had laughed, just hard enough for Atobe Keigo to feel a little insulted. But as predicted, he didn't play, and the only time he heard the hard plastic balls clicking against each other as they rolled across the green felt was when Shishido played a game with himself, while he waited for Atobe to finish club business and go home for the night.

It seems to take longer to finish the paperwork and the practice plans for the club these past few weeks; Atobe knows that the reason for this is the silence. Shishido isn't on the regulars any longer, so he doesn't come into their clubroom, so there's no companionable sound as his teammate waits to walk to the train station with him.

He started to play the game to give himself that sound again, even though he knows that it's not at all the same thing. It gives him a sense of the familiarity, and that's what he was looking for anyway.

Atobe narrows sharp blue eyes as he aims at the solid green six ball, and grimaces as it just misses the pocket.

"Haven't you gotten any better at that yet?" comes a voice from the doorway. "You'd think with all the billiards you've been playing in the past two weeks, you'd practically be at expert level."

"Bite me," Atobe Keigo says as he straightens. There's a long streak of brown dirt running down the front of Shishido's t-shirt, he notes, and a sheen of sweat on his skin.

He steps back as Shishido automatically sets up the balls again, leaning on his cue. "Your hair looks like shit," he says conversationally. "You should go somewhere and get it fixed."

Shishido shrugs as he picks up his on cue. "Doesn't bother me."

"You aren't looking at it," Atobe says drily, and Shishido barks out a laugh.

"If it makes you feel better, I'll get it trimmed up by tomorrow," he says, leaning over the table, lean muscles moving under his shirt as he lines up his shot.

"Good," Atobe says. "I'll be curious if anything can be done with that mess."

Shishido rolls his eyes, and for a while, they play in silence. Atobe has a feeling that Shishido's still giving him a handicap, but he allows it this once next time, he'll tell Shishido not to insult him by not giving him his best, the way Shishido does when they play on the tennis courts.

The game is almost over when Shishido speaks again, leaning against the wall. "Hey, Atobe."

"What?" If he sinks the number eight, Atobe thinks, he'll win, but if Shishido talks to him he'll probably be distracted and miss.

"Thank you. For today. I know Sakaki wouldn't have..."

"Don't thank me," Atobe says a bit sharply. "Just don't prove me wrong." He takes his shot, and as predicted, he misses, the black ball just glancing off the pocket.

"That was your fault," he says as he stands up straight. "How many times have you told me not to talk while you're shooting?"

"Yeah, yeah," Shishido says. He sinks his own eightball with enough ease to make Atobe's eyebrow twitch. "You're just making excuses for the fact that you suck."

"Asshole," Atobe says. But he's smiling, and Shishido smiles back as he puts the cues back into the rack on the wall.

"Come on," he says. "Let's go home."

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