|The Long Year
Author: Fujiwara no Seimei PM
Just when Akira and Hikaru explore with the idea of being friends as well as rivals, Hikaru leaves the country for a year. When Hikaru sets off, Akira does something surprising, making the distance as awkward as humanly possible. Shonen-ai.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Romance - Akira T. & Hikaru S. - Chapters: 5 - Words: 12,121 - Reviews: 56 - Favs: 62 - Follows: 71 - Updated: 07-31-10 - Published: 06-08-10 - id: 6034322
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Long Year
Hikaru no Go
"For how long?" Akira stammered.
"For a year," Hikaru said, cleaning his stones off of the goban in the Touya Go Salon.
"A year? In America? I thought it was going to be weeks, months at most! What about your pro matches? Your dan level, what-"
"Touya, that's not going anywhere," he said, a bit irritated, and showing it with a slam of the lid on the goke. "Yeah, I'll get behind, but I won't stop being a pro, and I can start advancing again when I get back. The point is, I'll get to go from one side of the United States to the other, playing all the best players and teaching lots of people about Go."
"But...a whole year..." Akira said, withdrawn.
"Akira, come on. You'll get to advance for a whole year without me. At least try to act like you want to take advantage of that."
He didn't. Right now, being far away from Shindou Hikaru, be it physically or in skill, wasn't very appealing.
It was clear why Hikaru was selected for the American Go Institute Ambassador Program. The United States was never very prominent in the global go market, though that wasn't to say there weren't some talented players. But they wanted to generate interest, and so they wanted a young, hip go prodigy to tour with the American Institute to do it, as well as foster program donations, as the funding was quickly diminishing with the economy. Hikaru was everything they'd wanted: young, talented, quick rising (5 dan, now, just one dan short of Akira's current rank), as well as attractive and easygoing. He had been studying English pretty thoroughly (as all of Morishita's students had been advised to do), and could maintain at least a simple conversation. Most of all, was his willingness to drop out of the Japanese pro circuit for a year. He had hesitated at first but, in the end, he was excited to see new places and play people he'd never played before.
It was in this way that Akira and Hikaru's differences were accentuated. Soon after going pro, Akira began studying Chinese and Korean, in order to solidify his understanding of the traditional domestic go market. He would clearly be playing in those countries and against those people, so it made sense. What did Hikaru do when he went pro? Missed whole lengths of matches to go to Taiwan, Europe, and the United States. Studied English, of all things. Though a useful language, globally, it was just another representation of Hikaru's middle-class modernness- in complete contradistinction to Akira's refined upper class upbringing. Akira functioned on the idea of being useful to his country. Hikaru functioned on the idea of enjoying the hell out of himself.
And so, while Akira would never take such an opportunity up in a million years, Hikaru was more than eager to take it in a second. He wanted to live his life by his terms.
That was part of the reason Akira was starting to get these funny feelings- Hikaru's love of life. The feeling that he wanted more of Hikaru's kind of life in his life than he already had. And more of Hikaru, himself, it turned out. More than just games, friendly or heated exchanges over the goban. But Hikaru's downtime was spent in a pack, a configuration Akira was certainly not comfortable in, especially when it involved Waya Yoshitaka, who had never seemed to like Arika all that much in the first place. His sense of decorum and pride also ensured that he would never say anything sappy or stupid to Hikaru, which was unfortunate as the root of these "feelings" were nothing but sappy and stupid.
And now on top of that, on top of not being able to bring Hikaru closer, he was actually going farther away.
"I think I need to go," Akira said.
"What? We only played two games."
"I've got a lot to do, Shindou. I can't spend all of my time-"
"Yeah, yeah, can't spend all your time 'tutoring me'- you said that yesterday too."
"You did. And the day before."
"There's no way I said that three days in a row!"
Hikaru had to hide his smile. No, he was lying. He had only said it twice, but these moments were precious. He loved ruffling Akira's feathers.
"There is, cause I heard it!"
"Oooh, you," Akira said, finger shaking in Hikaru's face.
"You leaving or not?" Hikaru said with a provoking grin and a raised eyebrow.
Color rushed up to Akira's cheeks, a reaction that caught Hikaru- and Akira himself- off guard.
"Wha-" Hikaru began to ask, but Akira was already half way out the door.
"What was with that...?"
Akira ran down the sidewalk towards the bus stop as far away as he thought was necessary to have escaped Hikaru. Slowing to a walk, he raised his hands to his cheeks, trying to shake the image out of his head. Those crossed arms...that smile...God, that smile. Sometimes Hikaru looked positively... well, he didn't really know what to call it, but it made him feel like he was going to pass out every time he saw it. Hikaru was not a kid anymore. He was 18, and he was starting to look like an adult. A man.
Akira didn't fare so well in that department, never shaking his lithe, slender figure, though it likely didn't help that the most strenuous sport he ever played was go. Another thing that set him apart from his rival was how damned active the older boy was. Volleyball at the beach, soccer games on his home block, even the occasional jog or hike... Akira would never be found doing any of that. Hell, he probably forgot even how to break a sweat, at this point.
Arriving at the bus stop with a few minutes to spare before the next bus, he reached into his pocket.
No. No he hadn't.
Yes he had. His wallet was in his jacket pocket, which he'd left in the salon. Damn. Akira paced back and forth for a second, wondering if there was an alternative to not going back until tomorrow, but there wasn't and he couldn't get home without using his Suico pass or calling Ogata-
Oh, guess I can't do that either, he thought, tapping his empty back pocket.
Well, Hikaru was probably gone by now, right? He only came to the Touya salon to play Akira. Hikaru had his own recreational facility to play in. Which he had invited Akira to numerous times, and had been declined numerous times, sort of terrified of the kind or salon Hikaru called home. He had a really rather exaggerated in his mind what the people there were like, rough, burly, drunk. He knew that couldn't really be what it was like, but he couldn't shake the aversion.
Alright, he would go back. Hikaru would definitely be gone. Although, he started to care a little less about whether Hikaru would still be there or not on account of how cold it was. And how stupid it was to run out into the streets with no coat in early December. And yet, he cared all over again when he reached the door.
His steps slowed to a stop about two meters away from the salon entrance. There he was. Waiting. With his coat. Outside.
What the hell?
"Forget something?" Hikaru called, coolly. Too coolly.
"Sh...shut up, Hikaru," he said gruffly, before his eyes widened and he slapped his hand over his mouth.
"First name basis, huh?" Hikaru laughed.
Stop being so cool, you asshole, Akira's brain hissed.
Hikaru closed the gap between them and held the coat out at arm's length. "Here," he said, defeated," I just can't win against you in anything, can I?"
Akira was unaware as to what game they'd been playing. Akira reached out to snatch for the coat, but at that very moment, Hikaru pulled it away again, grinning.
"Hey!" Akira shouted.
"So what's your deal?" He went on, more seriously. "Why'd you go and bug off without your jacket?"
"Oh get off it," Akira said, rubbing his arms with his hands, trying to stifle a cold shiver. "Give me my jacket."
Hikaru frowned, a little hurt. "What the hell, Akira?" He said, shoving the jacket into his rival's hands.
"Akira?" the namesake repeated, hurriedly putting on his jacket.
"Are we having the same conversation?" Hikaru asked, hands on his hips.
"Are we having a conversation?" Akira replied, bitingly.
They were at an impasse, neither able to read ahead on the board. Hikaru was the one to give in, moments later. He sighed, and threw up his hands as he turned.
"Whatever," he said, flippantly.
"What- whatever?" Akira said incredulously. No, the damage was done, and whatever test he had just been subjected to, he had failed, punctuated by Hikaru's- wait, was he giving Akira the finger?
"Please tell me that my phone fell out of my jacket pocket in the coat room, Ichikawa-san," Akira pleaded the next evening, hands clasped in prayer at his forehead.
"Akira-kun," she said, "I didn't see..."
"Please check. Please? Before Hikaru shows up."
She took a cue from his desperate intonation and checked the coatroom again. She came out defeated.
"Uggghhhh," Akira groaned, uncharacteristically inelegant of him.
"Akira-kun, would you mind if I asked you something...?" the hostess went on.
"What? Yes, of course, Ichikawa-san."
"Did you know you just called him...Hikaru?"
At that moment, the phone rang, and she bowed quickly to excuse herself.
Akira exhaled hard.
"Oh, hello Sh- Oh? Yes," she put her hand over the receiver and mouthed to Akira 'don't leave yet!' before resuming her conversation. "Yes. Yes, oh dear. Can't you just...? Okay. Of course. I'll tell him." She hung up the phone with a distressed glance before looking back up at Akira.
"W...what is it?" Akira balked.
"S...Shindou-kun...says," she cringed for a minute, obviously dreading whatever she has to say out loud,"that if you want it back you better come to the Lilac Cafe."
"That son of a-"
He should have thanked her for enduring that awkwardness, but he'd apologize to her later because right now, he kind of wanted to hit Hikaru in the face. And so, to the Lilac he went.
It wasn't far, just a couple of blocks away. A lesser-known cafe, they both knew where it was because a year ago they'd stumbled in at the same time and wrestled ferociously over whether they were supposed to sit together or not. This time would not be so much of a dilemma.
"Shindou," Akira said, rather ferociously.
"My my," Hikaru said, laying it on right away. "Testy."
Akira was livid, being spoken to like that. All admiration he'd had for his rival was currently vacationing on another planet.
"What are you doing," he hissed.
"Giving you back your phone?"
"Why did you take it in the first place?" he said, putting his palm out to receive it.
But Hikaru made no motion to give it up. "To get you to talk to me?"
Akira shook, just a little, and retracted his hand, as it seemed evident nothing was being put there any time soon.
"Shindou, I talk to you every day at the salon, why do you need to hold my phone hostage?"
"We don't talk over the goban," he replied, raising his voice,"we argue. We argue every day-" Hikaru was interrupted when he finally noticed the nervous waitress standing next to them. Hikaru asked for two tapioca teas, strawberry for me, green for him, and she was off. He refocused.
"We argue every day, and yesterday, we actually almost hold a conversation and you run away."
"You..." Akira lit up. "You don't need to be informed as to why I do anything, Shindou!"
Hikaru sighed, his eyes tinged with dissapointment, and he leaned back, shaking his head.
Akira's temper softened just the slightest bit, wondering why his rival was backing down, looking damn near forlorned.
"Touya?" Hikaru said, almost trembling, "Are we... friends?"
Touya froze. Much against his will, the anger he'd harbored moments ago flushed out of him instantly. The only thing he could think of to do was to answer honestly.
"I...don't know, Shindou."
"I thought maybe we should decide," Hikaru went on. "Maybe we'd fight less."
Hikaru stared down at his hands in silence while Akira stared at him, drinks landing gently on the table by the hand of the waitress. Neither were all that interested in drinking them. Hikaru raised his hand, phone clenched inside. "If I give this back, will you not run away?"
"The way this is going, I can't guarantee it, no," Akira said, still feeling honest. Hikaru put the phone back in his pocket.
"How do you decide who is your friend, Hikaru?" he went on, nervously. It wasn't a shock to anyone that Akira didn't really know much about having friends.
Hikaru shifted his weight anxiously. "Well..." he began, "Two things come to mind." He paused, making sure Akira was attentive, cause he sure as hell wasn't going to say it twice.
"First, they'll miss me when I'm gone for a year," he said. Akira's eyes cast down, nervously. "And, he said," moving on without mercy, "sometimes they refer to me by my first name."
Akira thought back quickly, realizing that he had used it again just a second ago.
"My birthday's in your phone calendar," he went on.
Akira had no idea what he was supposed to be saying or doing, but he felt like he was being accused of doing something wrong, so he stared at the table in front of him, silently.
"And then, on January 15th, it says-"
"Shindou!" Akira yelped, a little to loud.
There was a brief pause. Akira knew what it said on January 15th.
"Wh...what are you getting at, Shindou?" He said, hiding his trembling.
"You...ran away yesterday. I told you, I wanted to know why. Do you want to tell me, or should I tell you?"
Akira sat, tense and silent, and after a beat it was apparent that he was not going to be telling anything.
"You...I don't want to sound like I'm presuming anything, but... were you upset that I was leaving?"
Akira took a deep breath. He knew the cafe was full, but he could barely hear any of the background noise. Rain was falling outside, he could see the dotted cafe window behind Hikaru's form. Yes, he thought, yes, I'm upset that you're leaving. And I'm more upset that I don't know how to tell you I want you not to go. So he was honest. It was working fine so far.
"Hikaru, I... don't know...how to tell you what I'm feeling," he stammered.
Hikaru breathed carefully, as if making too loud a noise would startle his rival.
"Just...okay. Okay," he said. "That's okay. Can I...make a suggestion, then?"
Akira nodded, eyes still glued to the table top.
"Lets be friends," he said.
Akira exhaled slowly. "O...okay."
Hikaru breathed a sigh of relief, then fluidly grabbed the phone out of his pocket and tossed it on the table.
The sudden break of tension jarred them, and they looked up at one another with a renewed sense of clarity.
"God, I feel like I just proposed," Hikaru said. "This is so weird."
"Oh God," Akira said, dropping his hands into his face.
"Laugh, you idiot!" Hikaru demanded.
"Laugh! Come on! Friends do that sometimes. More often then not, actually."
"Hikaru," he went on, ignoring the bit about the laughing out of self-preservation. "Why did you think...I mean you...were...rightandall, but...how did you know that I...?"
"Ever since I told you I was going to America," he said, relieving Akira from his train wreck babbling, "you've been accidentally calling me Hikaru instead of Shindou."
"A...ah," he acknowledged.
"It felt...like..." Hikaru scratched the back of his head, "Like you weres trying to keep me from leaving."
"I guess so."
"The fact that your phone calendar says 'Hikaru might be leaving' on the day I leave for America doesn't help either."
Akira suddenly flushed.
His sudden nervousness was only compounded by the sound of his first name.
"I'll miss you too, you know."
Akira's heart stopped for a moment. Suddenly, things were very clear. This was going to be a hard year.
End of Chapter 1.