Title: For the Love of the Game
Paring: AkiHika, Waya/Isumi
Rating: NC-17 (PG-13 for this chapter)
Disclaimer: I do not own Hikaru no Go, but oh how I wish I did. The characters are not mine, but the plot, if you really want to call it that, is mine, and mine alone. Hikaru no Go was created by Hotta and Obata and distributed by Viz, Shogakuen and Shonen Jump.
Notes: I bet you thought this was dead forever! Well, it's back, folks. I hope it was worth at least some of the wait.
Chapter 4: What's in a Name?
"What the fuck is wrong with you?!"
"He seemed so tense. I thought it would help him relax..."
Touya cracked his eyes open slightly, dilated pupils searching for the source of the noise. A blur of yellow accented by a smear of black identified Shindou, while a patch of brown fuzz proved to be Waya. What was all the yelling about? He sort of wanted to know, especially because a quick glance at his surroundings told him he was in his own apartment. Why were they fighting in his house? The noise continued in his kitchen, and on closer inspection, he could tell a very nervous Waya was standing next to the door with a very angry Shindou in his face. His head felt a little fuzzy, and he had to strain to make out what was being said, as all sound seemed to echo in his head, completely and utterly distorting it.
"You could have killed him! You were just having fun? You could have given him alcohol poisoning! You could have killed my best friend!" Alcohol poisoning? Killed his best friend? Aren't I his best friend? What the hell is going on?
"Hikaru..." He choked on his own breath, sour, raspy and dry. He tried to swallow when he noticed the angry sounds had stopped and all eyes were now on him.
"I'll be there in a moment, Akira." Hikaru began. Waya had this strange, incredulous look on his face, but it seemed Hikaru didn't notice. "Please don't try to move. It will only make it worse."
"Wha-" Touya attempted to sit up and immediately regretted it. His head spun, a sickening dizziness that made his stomach lurch. I'm sick? And then it clicked. Best friend. Alcohol poisoning. I'm... drunk?
Touya was trying to sift through the haze in his head when Waya spoke up. "You two are on a first name basis?" All thoughts about the mornings' events ceased in his confused head as he waited for Shindou's reply.
At first, Touya thought he wasn't going to answer. He considered answering himself, but in his current condition, that was more than likely a bad idea. He'd heard all about the kinds of things people say when they're drunk. Wait... what had he talked about with Waya? He was broke from his thoughts again by the sound of Shindou's voice. "Is there something wrong with that?" Shindou's face was defiant, but his voice failed him, sounding meek and fragile.
"I can't believe you! Why don't you just go hop in bed right now?! When did this revelation come about?" He was... angry?
"About a month ago..." Shindou seemed so small now. Touya wanted to say something, anything, but his spinning head and twisting stomach warned against it. It had been Touya's idea... and now Waya was upset... Wait, why was he upset? Was it really a big deal? And what about that bed comment? The day was getting more and more confusing as it moved along.
"You were hiding it from me all this time?! You've never called each other by your first names in front of me before! What about last week when we went to the movies? Or the week before that when we went to the arcade? I can't believe you didn't tell me!"
"I... I didn't think it would be a big deal..."
"You were deliberately hiding it from me! You're always talking about Touya being your best friend, but what about me? Aren't I your friend? And you couldn't even tell me?"
"Fuck this. I'm out of here, Shindou-san." The door slammed behind him and Shindou stood, quietly staring at the closed door.
He wasn't quite sure how it had happened. One minute, he was screaming at Waya, the next, Waya was screaming at him. He felt very childish, and Waya was right, he should have told him, but with how much he hated Akira... It just didn't seem like a good idea at the time. But now, it seemed so foolish.
Slowly, he turned and walked to the couch opposite from Akira and sat down.
It startled him, Akira's voice unexpected and quiet. "It's not your fault."
"It is though. It was my idea." Akira put his head down, his silky hair covering his puffy red eyes, the proof that he was still drunk.
"No." He said firmly. "It's not. I should have told him. You've done nothing wrong."
"Oh." There was a moment of silence. "Hikaru?"
"Thank you. For standing up for me, I mean. I really appreciate it."
"You don't have to thank me. I did it because I wanted to." Hikaru ran his fingers through his long blonde bangs, pushing them fruitlessly out of his face. As soon as his hand returned to his lap, they fell back down around his cheeks, partly covering his eyes. He let out a long sigh. "How do you feel?"
"Strange. I'm having trouble recalling things, and my head feels a little fuzzy."
"You'll have one hell of a hangover later, but it'll be alright. Trust me, I've been drunk enough times to know."
"I've never seen you drunk." It was more of a question than a statement, and Akira stared at Hikaru with curious eyes.
"Well, it's usually those nights I stay at Isumi and Waya's..." He fell silent, feeling the guilt building up inside of him. Akira must have sensed his uneasiness, as he did not inquire further. Hikaru wrestled for a moment with his unwillingness to talk about Waya and his curiosity about the events that led up to a drunken Touya Akira until finally, the latter won in his mind. He had to ask. "So what happened, anyway?"
Akira seemed to think about this for a moment. "Well... we met at that club thing, and he got me a drink. That much I know. As for our discussion..." His face scrunched up a little as he animatedly tried recalling the events of the morning. Hikaru smirked. "I remember apologizing for my seemingly condescending attitude. I also remember him asking me if I had a significant other..." His face suddenly went pink, and for a moment, Hikaru was afraid Akira was going to puke. "He told me that he was dating Isumi! And I asked... a really... embarrassing question..." Akira flushed and averted his eyes.
"I... I asked how sex works... you know... in that kind of relationship..." His flush deepened, and he turned his head, deliberately not looking at Shindou.
Shindou started laughing.
"It's not funny!" He cried, his hands now covering his maroon cheeks. Shindou chuckled a little more. How unlike Akira. There was none of his cold exterior. He'd have to get him drunk more often.
His face was on fire, and Shindou was laughing! He couldn't believe he was being laughed at. Did Shindou think it was funny to embarrass him further?
Then another feeling came, more unpleasant than his burning face and raw embarrassment. Nausea.
He tried desperately to stand, but the head rush was overwhelming, and he stumbled forward. He held a hand over his mouth to keep from vomiting on his carpet. A warm hand pulled him up and forward by his elbow and set him lightly before the toilet just in time for him to empty the contents of his stomach into the toilet in front of him.
Fingers combed his hair back, and a hand held it there, neatly out of the way. Another hand rubbed slowly up and down his spine. What a sight he must have been. Yet Shindou was being so motherly to him.
He let his chin rest for a moment on the toilet seat. He was sure he was finished, but it felt so nice to be taken care of. He didn't really want to move. "It's alright." He heard Shindou's voice in his ear, soft and soothing. And to think, only moments ago, he was laughing at his awkwardness. But now, in his truly vulnerable moment, there was no laughter. Only heartfelt gestures to help him through it. The effect was an inner warming sensation. To be cared for.
He stayed in that position for as long as he could bear, but after only a few minutes, he could no longer stand the taste in his mouth. As he went to stand, Shindou jumped up and ran out of the room, only to return a moment later with a glass of water. "Rinse your mouth out before you brush."
Akira obeyed him without question, swaying slightly from the increasing light-headedness, and he watched as Shindou prepared his toothbrush and a cap of mouthwash for him. "You should try to get some rest. The alcohol will wear off in a few hours. Don't worry, I won't go anywhere."
Inclined to do whatever the good natured boy told him to do, as soon as he finished brushing and rinsing, he went straight to his bed. His last thought before he fell asleep was Why?
As soon as Akira was asleep, Hikaru sought out the phone.
"Yoshitaka did WHAT?" Hikaru blinked, taken aback that Isumi had used Waya's given name. It wasn't something he heard often.
A heavy sigh came through over the line and Hikaru could just see Isumi rubbing his temples. "Don't worry about it, Shindou. He was probably startled, that's all. I'll talk to him about that and what he did to Touya." Hikaru heard the tell tale click of the door across the line, signaling Waya's return. "He's back now. I'll talk to you later."
"Thanks, Isumi. Bye."
Isumi didn't sound very happy with Waya. He'd hate to be in his shoes right about now.
With that thought, Hikaru hung up the phone and perched himself in Akira's room, watching over the severely drunk teen under the guise of reading his Kifu books.
Pain. It was the first thing that registered in Akira's fogged over mind. He wondered if he just laid there, he might slip back into unconsciousness, but he could hear the quiet flipping of pages and the distinct clack of stones being played and he cracked his eyes open.
Hikaru had dimmed the lights, and for that, Akira was grateful. A wave of nausea came over him as he turned his head, and he found himself lying as still as possible, watching Hikaru's silhouette recreating games on his goban. It was peaceful despite the pain, watching his rival and best friend study in the quiet dark of Akira's room, completely relaxed.
It wasn't long before Hikaru looked up to find Akira awake. "You're up."
Akira went to nod, but decided against it when his temple gave him a sharp throb. "Yes."
Game forgotten, Hikaru stood up. "Let me get you some aspirin." Akira audibly sighed his relief as the blond banged boy left the room.
When he returned, he had a full glass of water and three small tablets in his hand. He set the glass down and carefully slid his arm behind Akira, helping him sit up slowly to avoid lightheadedness and dizzy spells. The arm around him was warm and reassuring, and he flushed slightly when he realized he enjoyed the contact. He pushed the thought aside though and concentrated on swallowing the little white pills Hikaru had brought for him.
"Make sure you drink all the water. It helps." Akira did as he was told, having not been steered wrong yet and handed the empty glass back.
With no real reason to be on the bed with Akira anymore, Hikaru slid off the bed and back onto the floor, his attention once again on the recreation of a game. The raven haired boy watched in silence, waiting for the aspirin to kick in.
As the pain started to subside to a dull throb, Akira was able to concentrate enough to pay better attention to the game Hikaru was playing out. "That's the first match we played together as pros." It wasn't a question. The sharp-eyed teen knew the game by heart.
"Yeah. I knew I had the record of it somewhere." Hikaru held up an old notebook with frayed edges. "I recorded it as soon as I got home that day. It was an amazing game."
The blue-eyed boy let his eyes wander over the pattern of the stones, remembering the tension of that day as clearly as if it were yesterday. He found no glaring errors in the flow of the stones, and though they had since played games of a much higher skill level, there was no doubt in his mind that this game had pushed their skills beyond their limits back then. "Yes, it was," he replied simply.
"Are you feeling better?"
"A little, thank you."
Hikaru smiled softly. "Anytime." He cleared the stones away from the board and set his kifu aside. "Are you hungry at all?"
Akira's stomach flipped over at the thought of food. "I don't know if I could hold anything down just yet."
"I'll make some broth for you. You just rest."
Akira smirked. "Do you think you can manage to not burn it?"
Hikaru just rolled his eyes and walked out.
Not for the first time, Akira wondered why the other teen was taking such good care of him; and more importantly, why he enjoyed it so much.
"Yoshitaka." Isumi was calm, yet firm as the annoyed 5-dan walked through the door.
Waya sighed, not looking the taller pro in the face. "Shinichirou."
"Shindou called." It was a simple statement, but the implications of the conversation that was likely to follow weighed heavily in the air around them.
Before Isumi could say anymore on the subject, Waya launched into an explanation. "I know what I did was stupid and wrong, so you don't need to tell me. I just wanted to put Touya at ease, but things got out of hand. I'll apologize to Touya, of course."
Isumi merely looked at him. "And Shindou?"
"I- Well, what about him?" Waya said defensively.
Isumi reached a hand out as Waya tried to pass and pulled him down onto the couch. Waya tensed, but when Isumi shifted him to where his back was flat against the 4-dan's chest, he relaxed into the embrace. "You hurt him."
"Waya stiffened slightly. "Yeah, well…"
"I know he hurt you, too. But he wasn't trying to hurt you. You know that, don't you?" Isumi spoke softly, running his fingers through Waya's hair.
"Why couldn't he have just told us?"
"You hate Touya."
"I know, but-"
"You go out of your way to make sure everyone knows you hate Touya."
"You can't see why Shindou wouldn't be so quick to tell you?"
"Of course I do, but I thought-"
Isumi raised an unseen eyebrow. "You thought it would be best to ask him why he didn't just hop into bed with him right there?"
"Damn it, let me finish!" Waya moved to sit up, but Isumi held him firmly in place.
"No. You're only going to make excuses for yourself when you already know the answer to all your own questions."
Waya huffed, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Yoshitaka, what Shindou and Touya have is very delicate right now. Neither of them knows how they feel for one another. That much is obvious just by observing the way they interact. Being on a first name basis is the first in a long line of hesitant steps they're making towards each other. Do you remember when you first realized you had feelings for me?"
Waya's face softened. "Yeah, of course I do."
"How long did you have those feelings before you realized what they meant?"
"…A long time."
"So you understand."
"I just wish they'd include us, you know?"
"They will when they're ready."
"I know." Waya twisted in Isumi's arms and kissed him. "Alright, I'll apologize to them both." He sighed. "Everyone is changing so much."
"We all are," Isumi replied, and Waya kissed him again.
After Akira recovered, the two rivals fell back into their routine as if nothing had happened. Neither of them spoke of the incident with Waya or of Hikaru taking care of Akira in his time of need. Even after Waya officially apologized to each of them, they didn't talk about it. They both felt that it was over and done with, so there was no need to discuss it.
Instead, they both fell that much harder into their Go studies.
On an afternoon like any other, Akira was preparing for an early dinner and Hikaru was recreating a game played during a Juudan title match by Ogata, the defending champion, and Kajawari, a 9-dan from Osaka. Ogata had firmly defended his title, but not without some difficulty.
"Hey Akira, after dinner do you think you could recreate this game with me? I want to see if I could have made it play out differently for Kajawari 9-dan."
Akira moved around the kitchen with ease, heating the pan while slicing the fish. "I can't. My father is home all this month, so he'll be holding some study sessions, remember? That's why we're having dinner so early. I have to leave afterwards." A quick dip in the batter and the thinly sliced fish was crackling merrily in the pan while Akira plugged in the rice cooker.
He flipped the fish and moved to the fridge to pull out the vegetables. "Yes?"
"I know Morishita-Sensei wouldn't approve… but do you think your father would mind if I tagged along?" When Akira hesitated, Hikaru looked up. "Uhm, unless you don't want me to, that is," he amended quickly.
"No, it's not that at all!" He replied quickly. "I was just thinking about how many people are going to be there. I don't think it would be a problem if you came."
"Who's going to be there?"
"Well, Ogata-San, Kurata-San, most of my father's regular attendants, a couple of new pros that were invited, me and you, of course…"
"Eh? That many? It's practically an exhibition!"
"Don't worry, my father always makes sure everyone gets a chance to play and learn. Plus, with so many high level players there, they can easily set up a few different groups…"
"I take that back. It's IS an exhibition," Hikaru groaned.
"Do you want to come or don't you?" Akira clucked, divvying out equal portions of fish, rice and vegetables onto separate plates.
"Of course I want to go! I wouldn't have asked otherwise!" Hikaru said defensively before shoveling a pile of rice in his mouth. "Do you think Ogata-San would recreate that game with me? It would be better to actually play him to see if I could have turned the tides in that game or not."
The raven haired boy shrugged, taking the time to swallow. "You'd have to ask him. And don't talk with your mouth full. It's disgusting."
They cleaned their plates relatively quickly and headed for Touya-Sensei's house – but not before Akira made Hikaru help with the dishes.
In the front hall of Touya Kouyou's massive house, Akira and Hikaru traded their shoes for house slippers and made their way to the den. Hikaru took in as much of the house as he could, admiring the refined taste Akira's parents had. The 7-dan had to slow down several times to satisfy the 4-dan's curiosity.
When they finally approached the study room, Hikaru noticed there were only a handful of people there.
"Ah, Akira-kun, you're here early. And you brought Shindou-kun? What a pleasant surprise."
"Hello Father." Akira bowed his head politely and stepped into the room.
"Good afternoon, Touya-Sensei." Shindou bowed much lower than Akira and trailed along behind him to sit beside the goban.
Touya Kouyou was playing a friendly game with Kurata-san, and Hikaru was quickly engrossed in the game, watching the almost playful moves dance across the board. He barely noticed as the room quickly filled up around them, Ogata fielding players into their own groups. When the game was finished, the former Meijin had won by a significant amount. After the thanks were given, Hikaru was ready to comment.
The former Meijin looked at the young pro's eager face and said, "Something you'd like to say?"
"Well, yeah. This move here," Shindou pointed, "really turned the tides on Kurata-san, but if he would have responded with a tsuke here," he motioned towards an area of stones, "he could have gained a lot more territory and threatened this large cluster as well."
"Oh? Hmm…" Kurata studied the board carefully. "I see what you're saying, but…"
Hikaru excitedly continued, "But it wouldn't have been enough to win the game, right? However, if Touya-Sensei responded to your tsuke, you would have been free to attack the bottom right formation, successfully cutting the stones here and preventing Touya-Sensei from connecting. Wouldn't that have put you on a more equal playing field?"
"Oh! It would have effectively lessened the moku difference to between two or three!"
Good work, Shindou-kun. An answer worthy of the one my son calls his rival." The former Meijin set his stare on Hikaru, and he flushed.
"Uh… no, not really… I'm sure Touya could see it too…"
Touya said nothing.
The atmosphere started to get a little heavy, so Hikaru excused himself and sought out Ogata.
"Um, Ogata-san, if you're not busy…"
Ogata took his glasses off and cleaned them with his shirt. "You want a game, Shindou-kun?"
"Well, actually, I was wondering if we could go over one of your title matches."
Ogata's eyes shot up. "Oh? Which one would that be?"
"The third match of the Juudan title with Kajawari 9-dan." He pulled the kifu for the game out of his bag and held it out to Ogata. He replaced his glasses and glanced at the kifu.
"This one? We could go over the fourth match if you'd like. It was a much closer game than this was."
"But that's just it Ogata-San. I think if I altered the play a little, I could turn it around. But it would be completely meaningless to try it without playing with you because no one but you can be sure as to how you'd respond."
Ogata smirked. "Well, I guess I could indulge you. Care to bet on the results?"
"O-Ogata-san… I'm a little young to bet…"
Ogata grinned. "You're never too young to bet, Shindou-Kun. Besides, you're already a pro."
"No, I really don't think I should…"
"I'll bet with you, Ogata-san." Hikaru's eyes widened as Kurata-san approached, pulling out his wallet. "Shall we say… 10,000 yen?"
Ogata laughed, pulling out his wallet. "Pocket change, eh? Well, it's better than nothing, I guess."
"I will bet."
"I'll bet 20,000 yen that Shindou can turn the game around." Touya's eyes were sharp, daring anyone to disagree.
"Akira-Kun, 20,000 yen is pocket change to someone with titles and a 9-dan, but that's really a lot of money…"
"I said 20,000 yen. Do you take the bet or not?" Akira pulled out his money and threw it down on the collection that had started there. The other two pros shook their heads and added to the pile. A few of the other pros also pitched in, and though Touya Kouyou did not bet, he did come to watch the match.
By the time the opening moves were played, the entire study session has watching. Hikaru swallowed hard, knowing that if he lost, so did everyone but Ogata. And even Akira… What is he thinking?
Several moves went by in silence. "Just let me know when you're ready, Shindou-kun."
"You'll know when I stop playing from the kifu." As the game progressed, Hikaru began to feel the shape of the stones and the pressure of the eyes on the game and the money beside the table started to disappear. It was a few minutes more, and then…
"A hane there?!" Kurata-san exclaimed, trying to read deeper into the move.
Ogata replied flawlessly, but it was not enough to stop the turbulence he had created on the board.
"Hmm." The former Meijin crossed his arms in front of him, studying the turn of events unfolding in this old game turned new.
Ogata was resisting well, but Hikaru was forcing the fight across the board, diving deeper and deeper into Ogata's territory. It almost looked as if he had the advantage until Ogata played a tsuke on the lower white formation.
He's effectively cut off my access to the top left portion of my stones. If I can't solidify in the middle, I'll lose what little lead I've got.
Hikaru aggressively attacked the middle left, but it wasn't enough to keep Ogata from cutting through the formation.
He tried to make it up in yose, but in the end, he lost by two and a half moku.
"I apologize, everyone…" But before the words were even completely out of his mouth, everyone was taking animatedly about the game.
"I would have never thought of that! It was very effective, though…"
Hikaru backed away from the crowd to watch from a comfortable distance. Touya Kouyou was there, though, and his gaze pierced through Hikaru like a laser. "Well played, Shindou-Kun. It won't be long now…"
He walked away, leaving Hikaru to wait for Akira.
When Akira was finally ready to go, they left his fathers' house in silence. They walked for a while before either of them spoke.
"I'm sorry you lost your money."
"It was worth it."
Hikaru looked at him; even opened his mouth to speak, but Akira looked back with that steely stare that meant it wasn't up for debate.
There was silence for the remainder of the trip.