Disclaimer: I don't own Hikaru no Go or the song One Step Closer by… damn. I can't remember whose song it is. Still not owning, though.
Warnings: This fic will contain spoilers till episode 63 in anime and chapter 124 in manga (volume 15) and beyond. If you have not seen/read that far, stop reading or you will get spoiled! Also, this fic is loyally slash/shounen-ai/yaoi/boys love/malexmale/what-ever-you-like-to-call-it meaning boys liking other boys. You have been warned.
One Step Closer
Step one: The world without you
Shindou had appeared in front of me. It was Shindou that had come to me. Suppressing the little voice saying that I had been the one accepting the game, I blamed it on him. He had been at fault. If only he had played someone else. Played somewhere else. Had never shown me the enigma called Shindou Hikaru, had never entered the Go world, had never turned my head from my clear path. Then I wouldn't feel this shatterness inside of me. It is almost as if something broke inside of me that day. But as hard as I might, I can't mend it.
The long day is finally over and I set my walk again to a, now familiar, path towards the west quarters of the city. There is no need to take a train, my destination isn't that far. Besides, he would've liked to walk there from the Nihon Ki-in. Shindou was always eager for fresh air. And frankly, now that I walk after a long, tiring game towards the white building, I welcome the fresh air and the small exercise to my almost sleeping legs. Seiza can do that to you, sometimes. No wonder Hikaru doesn't use it that much, I chuckle to myself. At least... he didn't.
My games haven't been going that great.
Even though I won the third preliminaries against Hagiwara 9-dan in the Honinbou match, it was a close call. Only the thought of Shindou, chasing after me to the path I will make, kept me playing with fierce resolution. I will make a path that is worth walking. Because I'm sure he'll come. He has to.
I believe my father and Ogata-san are the only ones that have noticed my sudden lack of strength in the game and I think they understand. From others around me I only get praise for my splendid play. That's why they are not worth thinking of, the amateurs. Shindou would've noticed.
I have no idea how long I'll be able to keep going with this farce. I'd never thought that something else but Go could invade my mind this completely but now I've came to the shocking realization that Go hasn't been my superior motive in playing for two years now. Instead of playing the game for the sole purpose of playing, I have been playing in order to gain strength to win. To win Shindou, to be precise. If he had not come to me on that fateful day, nothing (or no-one) would've made me go and learn more about Go, confident in my skills as I was. Then again, if he hadn't come to me on that day...
It has now been three weeks from the day when I chased after him from the library to the streets.
I still think it was my fault. And I don't actually hear anyone claiming otherwise. I had been the one to upset him. I had been the one to chase him. I had been the one to make him run away. It was the first time I actually thought that chasing him hadn't been such a good idea. Maybe if I had refrained myself from such childish actions, that would have never happened. From the beginning, we should've never even met.
Reasoning and calculating with logic brings me to the same conclusion every time: If only I hadn't met him. And yet, my heart seems to wrench slightly as I think about my resolution, as if someone clasps a hand over it and squeezes it gently until I'm sure it will burst under the pressure. Despite the clench, I feel the pain welcomed. After all, it had been my fault. In the end, I can't blame him, even if he isn't here to object. I had to keep myself truthful to me, to him. It had been my fault.
Musing ending; I have reached my destination.
I walk through the glass doors and straight to the lifts and push the call-button. There is no need for me to go to the front desk: I know the number of his room by heart and I could probably sleepwalk the way without getting lost. After all, I had become a regular visitor in the last three weeks. The nurses are already familiar with me and hardly no-one tries to stop me anymore or question the reasons of my presence. I find this slightly discouraging; had it really been that long already? The lift comes with a soft 'ping'. I step inside and push the button for the fifth floor.
I feel a sigh forming, but won't let myself do the privilege. I am in no position to sigh.
By this time I go the whole thing, that incident, over again in my head, to justify my presence, my visitations. It had been my fault. I can remember it like it was yesterday: I had been furious over the games he forfeited and my missed opportunity at Wakajishisen, at which he hadn't shown up. I was forced to chase him again, even though I felt like it was still his turn. I wasn't even sure there were turns, but it seemed to me that if such things existed, I was positive it was his turn. But he had given up for some reason, so it was up to me again to pursue him. The lazy bum.
Arriving at his school, I was told that he was in the library. I didn't let his odd choice of place puzzle me: I was determined to get to the bottom of things. I followed the instructions given to me and found him there, slumped at the table, as if sleeping. I carefully took the seat next to him and he immediately rose to regard me. As he realized that it in fact was me, he startled and blamed me for surely giving him a heart-attack someday. That did little to waver my determination. I was on a mission and that mission involved him in the crucial part.
Things went from there hardly as I expected. Hell, I hadn't been expecting much, I hadn't been even sure whether I would actually find him, but things really went differently than anything I was prepared for. As I demanded his antics regarding the Ooteai matches and Wakajishisen, he first answered with nothing. He looked at me with those incredible green eyes as if contemplating something and I saw sadness in them, so deep and profound that it scared me. Shindou always gives such an air of goofiness and rudeness regarding others that this immense sorrow that shadowed his eyes in that moment froze me to the bone with fear. I chose to remain quiet and wait for his answer. Which was more horrifying than I had ever thought to hear. Though, when he just turned and airily informed that he was no good, I didn't see the danger coming. I hadn't understood. Baffled, I repeated what he had said and asked what that meant.
"It's a waste of time to play someone like me, that's what I mean!" he yelled, and few students studying in the library told us to be quiet. I was shocked at what he had said and voiced my opinion to him vehemently but quietly. He was my rival for Christ sake! It was never a waste of time to play my rival. Though, I didn't say it with so many words. He looked at me with a surprised face and said my (last)name with such tenderness that I melted. I was kind of surprised even myself that I felt this strongly and wasn't quite sure my anger was really justified.
Until he kindly informed me that he wasn't going to play anymore.
I was so enraged at his words that I completely forgot where we were and yelled at his statement against his face with disbelief and then proceeded to use harsh words that somehow only he seemed to know existed in my vocabulary. A large amount of people kindly reminded us that we were too damn loud again. As I look back at that moment, I feel grave regret for yelling at him like that. If only I had kept my temper... If only. But Shindou has the ability to wreck my cool exterior and fill me with emotions that I didn't even know existed.
His deep sea-green eyes filled with a silent plea for understanding. It looked like he would break down any time on me and I could see unshed tears glistening in his eyes. With one final glance, he was gone, bolting through the doors and out to the yard. After a moment of shock, I gathered myself quickly and swiftly followed him. I remember thinking that this couldn't be happening. For some unknown reason I was losing my one and only rival, and that scared the hell out of me. In desperation I asked him, wasn't it I that he played for? Wasn't he chasing me? And that was where my hell began. Literally.
He was blinded by sorrow, it seems, and as he ran, he crossed the street without looking and therefore failed to notice the car coming around the corned. For my defence, I didn't see it coming either. I would've shouted to him to look out for it, if I had. Though that holds very little difference now. Instead, I did see the collision. By the laws of continuation of movement, the car hit him straight on the right calf and, slightly rotating from the impact, Hikaru flew to the hood of the car on his back, his head and left shoulder colliding with the car, breaking the front glass in the process and just as I thought that the time had stopped mercifully to let it be a dream, anything, the car finally came to a halt and he slid painfully slowly from the hood to the hard ground like a huddled heap of flesh. The door opened as I sped towards him and a man came out in a hurry to see what had happened. He didn't go near Hikaru and I was thankful for that. He went to get his phone as I finally reached my rival and flew next to him to see if he was okay. I didn't know what to do. A puddle of blood formed slowly under his head and his right leg was in a weird angle. I vaguely remembered that you are not supposed to move the victim, so I only bent down over him placing my hand gently on his torso to feel a fait heartbeat and reaching to touch his cheek with a gentle stroke. I didn't even realize that I had called him by his name over and over again, like a mantra, hoping it would wake him, until a medical attendant pried me off to help him and I realized that all I could do was to say his name.
If you ask me what has been the worst moment of my fifteen years of life, I'll give you the exact date and time.
Things after that were like a blur. I'm still not sure what happened then. Somehow I found myself in a hospital waiting-room with a cup of warm tea in my hands and a blanket draped over my shoulders. I explained to the officer one last time what had happened and then my parents were there. I still have no idea who called them, why someone called them, why had they come, why didn't they tell me anything about Shindou and why didn't they let me spend the night waiting for news. Only after we had arrived home and mother was making some hot chocolate and father looked me squarely in the eye and asked quietly what kind of a rival would I be to Shindou if I didn't take care of myself, that I finally started to gradually get over the shock: He was right. I had to keep going. Otherwise there wouldn't be anything for him to reach, when he was back in health. He would out right laugh at me for being such a worrywart and gleefully point out that since I hadn't been practicing he would pass me in no time at all, thank you very much.
I could almost hear him say those things.
So I accepted the offered warm drink from my mother, the comforting pat from my father, and went to sleep. And dreamed of Hikaru. After the first day the routine was something like this: I slept, only to dream of the accident. I ate, only to think of ramen. I went to school, only to wonder about his Go club and school. Attended my games only to think how he would play, were he my opponent. Actually, I don't think my days were that different, only somehow more intense. And then I finally went to my father's Go salon, only to wonder if he would ever visit me here like he did the first time we met.
I had been so determined to move on for him, that I had forgotten the reason.
So my habit changed, slightly; Instead of going to the Go salon after my games, I headed straight to the hospital. Hikaru's mother was there, sitting beside him, until it became painfully clear that Hikaru wasn't waking up during the critical forty-eight hours. She went back to work after Hikaru had been transferred to his current room, and I would occasionally meet her when my own schedule allowed me to come sooner. She had to be practical, like I was. We never talked, but I knew that she was always grateful that I came. Because she would always leave then. She went home to prepare supper as I watched over her son until the end of visiting hours.
We were left to wait.
At those ungodly hours I spent beside his bed, I came to realize that I didn't want to be separated from him. During the two years we had known each other I had always thought that if I just kept playing, he would be there to chase me. As a silent vow, I promised to myself that I wouldn't let him go when he came back. Because he would came back. How would I know? Because he was Hikaru. My rival.
Ping. I reach the fifth floor.
I turn left and walk halfway down the corridor. To my left there is his single-room, but unlike normally my hand stops at the handle as I see a sign on the door.
My heart leaves a beat. And imagining the worst possible situation, I ignore the sign, push the door open quickly and practically rush into the room. The window has been left open and there is a figure sitting on the bed, watching out of the window and enjoying the small breeze. Due to my barging in, it turns to me and I can only hold my breath as I recognize the familiar blue-green depths looking quizzically at me.
"Shindou?" I ask quietly. If this is a dream, do not wake me up.
"Yes?" he asks puzzled. I finally find my lungs working again. I hadn't realized I was holding my breath. But still I can't bring myself to approach his bed, even though I have an urge to just embrace him in a tight hug and never let go. My education firmly fights against it. Besides, I'm almost positive that if I made such as move, this sweet illusion would shatter and dissolve, leaving only a comatose Hikaru behind.
"How do you feel? Are you all right?" I ask politely as I realize that we are staring at each others; that is all I can do. Plus, I really, really want to know. (If you ask me what the sign said on the door, I'd have to say that I honestly don't have a clue.) I finally let myself a tiny flicker of hope that maybe this isn't a dream.
"I'm fine, thank you," he smiles gently the most beautiful smile at me and as my heart struggles to keep a rhythm, I vaguely wonder why he's so polite with me. Well, the polite part is what I'm amazed at. He's never polite. To anyone.
"Oh," I say intelligently and stare him. It's been so long since I've felt this at peace. Then I realize that I could try to articulate some more. "Good." Okay, now he knows I'm happy. Let's tell him why, shall we?
"I was worried," I say stupidly. But under his presence, after all that has happened, that is all I can say. My mouth has officially left for vacation. He smiles so brightly at me that I can almost see the room lighten up. My internal organs are having a blast at my expense, since my heart picked that exact moment to skip a beat and my lungs refused to let me breathe. He has never smiled at me like that. It is a dazzling sight.
"It seems to be an epidemic," he chuckles with that winning smile of his. (Repeat of organs-in-alliance messing with me; now my stomach is flipping slightly too.) "Ever since I woke up, loads of people have been coming to see how I am. Doctors got really pis-- nervous. Hence the no visitors."
I blink at the correction. He has never before corrected himself in my presence. Oh, don't worry. I soon found out exactly why he was so polite with me. I have up until then felt like the king of the world. He had woken up, hadn't he? Who wouldn't be happy? He was speaking to me with such ease, my skin prickled in excitement. And with such a smile, there was no way anything could be wrong, right? I was sadly mistaken.
Hikaru tilted his head slightly to one side and seemed thoughtful. "Of all the people that have been here, you look really familiar. Have we met before?"
I blinked at him, not understanding at first.
Then my world came crashing down.
Wakajishisen – Young Lions Tournament
seiza – the traditional Japanese sitting position, which causes your legs to sleep
Ooteai – the games to move up ranks by gaining dans