"My First White Day"
By Dark Cyradis

Edited 12.27.05
Disclaimer: Hikaru no Go and all its lovely characters belong to Hotta Yumi and Obata Takeshi. This is only a fanwork.
Notes: This is the (looooong time in coming) sequel to "Hikaru's Valentine!" If you haven't read that first, I suggest you do. Spoilers for episode 50/volume 15 of Hikago and up. Shounen-ai HikaAki.

Dedicated to Euphie-chan


"The decision to kiss for the first time is the most crucial in any love story. It changes the relationship of two people much more strongly than even the final surrender because this kiss already has written in it that surrender." Emil Ludwig
"Gochisou-sama deshita."

"Are you sure you've had enough to eat, Akira-san?"

"Thank you, I'm quite full, Mother."

"All right, then."

As Touya Akiko gathered her husband's and son's plates together to clear, Akira stood and offered to help, as he did every night. And as she did every night, Akiko smiled and refused and thought herself lucky to have such a polite son.

Setting the little pile of lacquerware and ceramic plates down, she plugged the adorably tiny kitchen sink with a light pink plastic stopper and settled into her nightly dishwashing. It was hardly an unpleasant chore; Akiko rather liked the soft floral scent of her favorite dish soap wafting up from the warm, sudsy water. The work went quickly, anyway; they were a small family, after all.

There had been a time when she'd wanted more children—a girl, at least. Someone to chat with while cooking, to lend a hand with chopping carrots or something simple like that. But while Akira had been growing up, she had thought it very fortunate that her child was as mild-mannered and self-sufficient as her husband; it left her as much time as she wanted to herself to shop, read, or go to tea with her friends. Now, though, as her other married friends were starting to discover the people their little terrors had grown into, she had begun to wish, just a bit, that her child was someone she could talk to.

It wasn't that there was tension or discomfort between them or any such thing—they had always gotten along perfectly. But that was the problem; neither had ever bothered with the other's affairs. If Akira had been a rebel, then, at least, they could have had fights that would have forced them to look closely at each other. But Akira had always been a perfectly-behaved child, and Akiko had provided him with the meals, clean laundry, and cozy home that were the responsibilities of a good mother, and then left him be. They really had no personal connection.

Frowning slightly, Akiko poured some water into the kettle and set it on the stove. Normally, after it had boiled, she would pour the water into a small dispenser full of tea leaves, set it on a tray with two cups, and then carry it out to the tatami room where her son and husband would be engaged in a game of Go or studying kifu by themselves. Tonight, though, she pulled out another pot and filled it with canned chicken stock to boil. She then called, "Akira-san! Could you come here for a moment?"

She heard a distant reply of, "Coming, Mother," and set about pulling vegetables out of the refrigerator. After a moment, her son entered the kitchen.

"Is there something you needed, Mother?" he asked.

"Ah, Akira-san, I'm so sorry, but could you prepare the after-dinner tea? I just remembered that I was going to bring Grandma some soup tomorrow."

"Of course, Mother," Akira said, going toward the tea set. "Is Grandmother all right?"

"Oh, she's not sick or anything like that," Akiko said, "but with all this snow we've been having these past few weeks, I'm just a bit worried about her. Fresh, hot chicken soup in cold weather is the best thing for your strength."

Akira smiled and said, "That's true," and then turned his attention to measuring out the right amount of tea leaves in a small scoop. He'd always had such a pleasant, polite smile, but Akiko wondered when it had become such a handsome one. The thought reminded her of something else.

"That's right, I forgot to ask—how was your Valentine's Day, Akira-san?"

Akira paused and for the briefest of moments, his eyes seemed to see something far away as the softest of smiles tugged just a bit at his lips. It disappeared instantly, but to Akiko, who had seen nothing but his amiably polite face for years, the sudden surge of warmth was as apparent as a flashing sign. She set down the vegetable peeler that she had taken to the carrots and turned to look fully at her son. It suddenly seemed that this conversation would be much more interesting than she'd thought.

"Did you get a valentine from someone special?"

Though his face was perfectly straight, a very pale blush was creeping along Akira's cheeks. Could it be he's in love? Akiko thought with growing amazement and pleasure.

"N...not really," Akira said slowly, but Akiko would have none of his reticence now that she was interested.

"Really, Akira-san! There's nothing to be embarrassed about! Boys your age should be getting interested in girls and things like that." She giggled, pleased at the thought of her handsome, innocent son shyly accepting Valentine's chocolate from a sweet, blushing girl. Now that she thought about it, he really would make a lovely boyfriend, courtesy and quiet warmth in his every interaction with the lucky girl. It reminded her of the few, fleeting moments of affection her husband had shown her—on their wedding day, and the day of Akira's birth, his first steps. They were few and far between and never overly expressive, but the depth of the warmth in his eyes and deep voice at those times was enough to satisfy her womanly need for affection, even without passion. But Akira was young, and passion came easily to teenagers, even the most restrained ones. She thrilled at the idea.

"Akira-san," she said, her voice deceptively mild, though Akira could see the excited twinkle in her eyes, "if there's anything you want to talk about with me… any questions or… how to approach a girl…"

At this, Akira's eyes widened in surprise at the very different direction their conversation had taken from what—or, to be more precise, who—he was thinking of, and he stammered quickly, "M-mother, it really isn't necessary. I…" He turned away, blushing furiously, much to his mother's amusement. "I'm not thinking about… being in a relationship…"

"Well, suit yourself, then," Akiko said merrily, mercifully releasing her son from the conversation but obviously not believing a word he had spoken. She began humming quietly as she continued peeling and chopping vegetables and Akira gratefully turned back to his tea-making as he tried to recover himself. By the time he'd poured the boiled water into the tea dispenser and set it on the tray, he felt composed enough to turn back to his mother and bow as he made to exit the kitchen.

"Just one thing, Akira-san," his mother called as he reached the doorway, "if someone gave you a valentine you liked, it would be nice to say thank you with a White Day gift."

"I'll remember that, Mother," he said quickly, just to escape before he began turning red again. But as he walked down the hall toward the tatami room where his father waited, he started to turn the idea around in his mind. A White Day gift, huh?

---

"And the total comes to… twenty-eight!"

"What?" Waya keeled over and flopped bonelessly onto Hikaru's bed. "I can't believe it! Twenty-eight valentines?" He sat up abruptly and said, "Are you sure that's right, Isumi-san?"

"Positive," Isumi said, punching the figures into the calculator again. "After we subtract the plush animals that came on chocolate, but add the three valentines Shindou ate and the five we ate today, and cancel the one Nase gave Shindou with the one that that girl put in the wrong mailbox… yep, it's twenty-eight."

"Oh, god…" Hikaru moaned into his hands.

"And this, my friend," Waya said, "is what they call the St. Valentine's Day Massacre."

"How the heck am I going to buy White Day presents for all these girls?" Hikaru wailed.

"Plan on not eating out again until Christmas, Shindou," Isumi said, giving his friend a consoling pat on the shoulder.

With his newly-found appreciation of the expense girls incurred to provide him his "annual chocolate bonus," as he thought of Valentine's Day, Hikaru had determined to give White Day presents back to each girl who gave him Valentine's chocolate this year. Unfortunately, at the time he had made this decision, he had thought that that would only amount to Akari, Nase, and perhaps one or two of Akari's Go Club friends. His estimate had been about right until around five o'clock on Valentine's Day, when he had reached his house and discovered that history really, truly did repeat itself.

Hikaru had come home, glowing and dreamy-eyed at the memory of his kiss with Akira in the snow, only to be jerked roughly back to reality by what had awaited him there. It had been unbelievable—an exact replay of the previous year, except this time, the girls had gathered to wait for him outside his own home. Oblivious as he had been in his little reverie, he hadn't seen them until it was far too late to turn around or hide.

They had been upon him in an instant, made aggressive by the long, cold wait they'd had outdoors, and had pressed upon him from all sides. Box after box of chocolate had been thrust into his arms and girls pulled him round this way and that to face them as they made their presentation and attempted confessions that were cut short by other girls shoving them aside or wheeling Hikaru around to face them. It hadn't been long before it had all dissolved into a slushy, snowy melee, with girls shoving each other to the ground or slipping and sliding into one another in their hurry to get to him. It had been all Hikaru had been able to do to maintain his footing and the teetering pile in his arms while trying to keep out of everyone's grasps.

Thankfully, the front door of his house had opened and his mother and Akari had hurried out to him, shooing the girls out of the way. By the time they had helped him carry his valentines into the house, the girls had gotten themselves back under control and were lined up in front of the porch to bow politely to Mrs. Shindou and apologize for disrupting her evening. Then they had shuffled off in groups of three or four, giggling and perfectly reconciled.

Once inside, Hikaru had peeled off his sopping sweatshirt and sunk down gratefully on the couch, thinking he'd endured his Valentine's Day ambushing for the year. He had, of course, been dreadfully wrong.

"Shindou? Shindou, are you listening to me?"

Waya's annoyed voice broke through Hikaru's thoughts and he realized he had been completely zoning out of the conversation.

"Ah, sorry!" he said, chuckling nervously. "What were you saying, Waya?"

"Man," Waya sniffed, "We take all this time out of our busy schedules to come and help you when you came crying to us with your little love problems and this is how you thank us? Wasn't it you who said that we had to take this seriously because we're running out of time?"

"You really do only have one week left, Shindou," Isumi agreed. "And with all the title preliminary matches you've got this coming week, on top of your usual teai matches, you'd better work on this stuff this weekend."

"I know," Hikaru sighed. "I shouldn't have waited this long but…"

"What? You were hoping they'd disappear if you didn't think about them?" Waya snorted.

Hikaru laughed sheepishly, not wanting to admit that was exactly what he had done. Mind occupied with several other (and not all of them unpleasant) concerns, he'd tried shoving the whole problem out of his mind for awhile by stuffing all the chocolates into a large bag which had sat, untouched, in the corner of his room for the past three weeks. But now, with White Day a mere week away, he could no longer ignore the problem and had appealed to his friends for help. "Yeah, sort of."

"Shindou!"

"Now, now," Isumi interjected, trying to quell the growl rising in Waya's throat, "what's done is done. We'll just have to figure it out from here."

"Right," Waya said, abandoning the lecture he had been about to give his bleached-banged friend in the interest of solving a problem that he had now taken, it appeared, as his own. "Now, what to get for all those girls…"

Hikaru watched in amusement as Waya and Isumi assumed identical "deep thinking" poses, sitting perched on the edge of the bed, elbows resting on their knees and chins atop clasped hands. Hikaru wanted to comment about how old couples began resembling one another, but thought it best to keep his jokes at a minimum while his friends were pondering on his behalf. He thoughtfully settled back against the broken, mini fridge he kept in his room to hold his old manga collections and procured another chocolate from the valentines bag.

"Want another one?" he asked, offering the bag to his friends.

"Thanks," Waya said, snatching one without breaking the ponderous set of his eyes and brows. As Isumi declined the chocolates with a polite shake of his head, Waya skillfully denuded his chocolate of its wrapping with one hand and popped it into his mouth without looking at it. He promptly gagged a moment later.

"Gargh! Raspberry cream—yuck!" he proclaimed after grabbing one of the tissues Hikaru had proffered to him and depositing the offending confectionary into it. "Oh, gross! Who eats raspberries in chocolate anyway?" he demanded, looking threateningly from Hikaru to the bag of chocolates.

"Apparently, Yagami Chiaki from class 4-B does," Isumi said, reading the gift tag on the chocolate's wrapper.

"Well, obviously, she doesn't like Shindou as much as the girl who got him the Meiji truffles," Waya snorted. "I mean, I would never get someone I liked something so disgusting!"

"I like raspberries with chocolate," Isumi said unobtrusively.

"Well, you're weird!"

"It's like a secret message…" Hikaru said, picking up on Waya's train of thought. "Or, a veiled insult or something. Like—you can't tell a person outright that you don't like them, so you give them something that looks like a nice gift, but you make it something they wouldn't like."

"Yeah, it counteracts it!" Waya said. "On the outside, it looks like you're doing the nice, proper thing, but you're leaving a bad taste in the mouth, so that their thoughts of you get soured."

"It's perfect!" Isumi cried. "Shindou, you want to be nice to these girls but let them know you're not interested, right? Well, you've just got to get them something sort of like this—something that looks nice but leaves a bad taste."

"What? Like day-old sashimi?"

"Something that tastes bad—not something that'll give them food poisoning!" Waya snapped.

"How about boxes of Pocky?" Isumi suggested. "Girls like Pocky."

"We're trying not to get them something they like, Isumi-san," Hikaru reminded him.

"Oh, yeah." The older boy looked sheepish.

"Something odious but seems like a nice gift… how about caviar?" Waya said.

"I would go broke!"

"Ah, true! Hmm…" Waya's brows furrowed further. "Gum?"

"Too cheap."

"Sandwiches?"

"How would I wrap them?"

"Oh! Cans of soda!"

"Too random."

"Then, I don't know!" Waya cried. "Why don't you think of something?"

"I don't know either," Hikaru sighed. "When I try to think of food, nothing comes up but ramen." He patted his stomach. "I guess cuz it's almost lunch time…"

"Shindou…" Waya muttered, eyebrow twitching.

"Oh, Shindou!" Isumi interjected quickly. "Did you hear about that new ramen restaurant by the Go Institute? It's called 'Ramenesque' and it's supposed to serve a huge variety of flavors."

"Wow, sounds awesome!" Hikaru said. "Wanna go there for lunch?"

"Shindou!" Waya said. "You promised not to make us eat ramen for one week if we helped you with your White Day problem!"

Hikaru's face fell. "But… but I said it out of desperation!"

"A promise is a promise!"

"But—!"

"Shindou!"

"Oh, fine…" Hikaru sighed. "A promise is a promise. And speaking of promises…" He perked up suddenly, as though remembering something. "Guys!" he said, jumping to his feet. "Thanks a ton for your help! You've totally solved my problem!"

"But… but we haven't figured out what you should buy the girls yet," Isumi said.

"Aah, some kinda food, it should be fine!" Hikaru said, proffering his hands to pull his friends to their feet. Noting Hikaru throwing on his jacket and gathering his bag, Isumi and Waya took their cues and gathered their belongings as well.

As they walked out of the Shindou residence behind a suddenly energetic Hikaru, the two older boys exchanged a look of confusion. Their blonde-banged friend was hardly known for his manners, but he wasn't the type to throw his friends out of the house, either.

"So…" Waya began. "I had thought we might go get lunch together, but it looks like you've got plans?"

"Huh?" a cheerily distracted Hikaru asked, turning around to look at him brightly. "Oh, yeah! Ah, sorry guys—I just remembered something I was supposed to do. And I've taken up so much of your morning already—thanks a ton!"

"All right, then," Isumi said, Hikaru's infectious cheer making the corners of his mouth quirk up as well. "We'll see you at the Go Institute on Monday?"

"Totally! I'll see you guys later!" Hikaru called cheerily. He whirled and hurried off down the sidewalk, swinging his backpack into place on his shoulders and smoothing his hair as he walked. Isumi and Waya watched their friend's retreating back and both noted the bounce in his unusually energetic step.

"Wow, it's like he's on his way to the candy store or something," Waya said, wide-eyed.

Wearing a similar expression, Isumi nodded stiffly. "I haven't seen him look so energetic since our insei days. Like when he got into the Wakajishisen and thought he'd get to play Touya."

One of Waya's eyebrows twitched up. "Isumi-san, I think you've got it," he said.

"Huh?"

"The magic word… Touya, obviously," he added with a bit of exasperation at Isumi's blank look. "What else could set Shindou off like this? He never gets more excited than when he's gonna play Touya or see one of his big matches or something like that."

"Well, you're right, but it's been awhile since we've seen him like that, though," Isumi said thoughtfully. "Ever since he finally 'caught' Touya, they've been very… calm. Settled. Or something like that."

"You're right, Isumi-san," Waya said, rubbing his chin. "But suddenly he's back in 'chase' mode. I wonder what's up."

"Maybe he finally beat Touya in one of their private games?"

"Maybe," Waya agreed. He glanced back at his friend's retreating back. "It looks like he's in a different world."

"One where girls and White Day presents don't register, I guess," Isumi laughed.

Waya laughed as well. "That Go freak," he said, his eyes looking a bit fond. "Wish I could get lost in Go like that."

"Guess it helps to have someone as gung-ho as you are, huh?"

Waya snorted. "Only Shindou could find that guy so interesting."

Isumi nodded. "I wonder how they can spend so much time together playing Go. Do you think they do anything else?"

"With Touya? What else would they possibly do?"

---

As he reached the entrance of the park, Hikaru reigned in his galloping step and composed himself. Although he and Akira saw each other on a nearly daily basis either at the Go Institute or in Touya Kouyou's Go Salon for practice games, they had relegated the new, alternative aspect of their relationship to a weekly, two-hour meeting in a secluded section of a nearby park. It was a place where couples strolled in the evenings, full of private niches and cozy, leafy glens. They had chosen it for its quiet and the fact that none of the people they knew would ever go there.

By the time Hikaru reached the designated stone bench nestled under some heavily-leaved, evergreen trees, Akira was already seated and waiting for him.

"Sorry I'm late, Touya!" Hikaru called, hurrying forward. Akira smiled at him.

"It's all right, Shindou," he said. "I just got here myself. Had a busy morning?"

"Aah, not really," Hikaru said, dropping his backpack on the ground and seating himself next to his rival. "I was with Waya and Isumi-san."

"At the arcade?" Akira asked, his head tilting to one side so that his straight, shiny hair fell away from his face.

"They were helping me figure out what to get all those girls for White Day," Hikaru said with a laugh. "But anyway…" he reached out and touched the dangling lock of Akira's hair and stroked his cheek in a familiar way. "Let's not talk about all that."

Akira had begun blushing at the touch and the proximity but managed not to look away. "What do you want to talk about then?" he asked with a little smile.

"Touya…" Hikaru said, grinning both shyly and goofily. "Can I… kiss you?"

He looked up at his rival's face to see him blushing and looking down at his lap, just as shyly. "Uh…" Akira breathed, a little smile on his face. Finally he raised his eyes to look into Hikaru's and nodded slightly, looking both embarrassed and eager at the same time.

Touya Akira, looking shy and unsure, Hikaru thought, marveling at how unlike his usual stern, unapproachable 4-dan self he was looking at the moment. This was an entirely different side of him that he was beginning to allow Hikaru to see, and it was just about the most adorable thing Hikaru could imagine. A fond smile spreading over his face, Hikaru leaned in eagerly and pressed his lips against Akira's, reaching up to grip his rival's arms and pulling the two of them close together. He closed his eyes and savored the softness of Akira's lips, the puff of Akira's breath against his cheek, the whisper of Akira's bangs against his brow.

It felt so lovely, he continued the kiss for as long as he could, wanting to deepen it but feeling a bit shy to seem too passionate. He could get no indication from Touya about how he was feeling and whether he wanted to press further, so he decided not to push it either. Their shallow kiss soon became a bit awkward but Hikaru had no idea what else to do, so he pulled back and glanced up at Akira to find that he was looking a bit nervous as well. They sat there beside each other a bit awkwardly.

"So," Hikaru said finally, hating himself for pulling them back into conversation. "How's your week been?"

"Good," Akira said, also looking a bit regretful to re-enter the world of convention, but seeming relieved that the silence was over. "And you?"

Not nearly as good as it was thirty seconds ago, Hikaru thought sadly. This problem had been growing worse in the past meeting or so, when they had naturally worked their way to wanting deeper intimacy. But neither was willing to breach the subject, so they were stuck where they were. Hikaru had dropped an abundance of hints that he would like to be more passionate with Akira, but the boy hadn't responded in like. He hated to admit it but Hikaru was beginning to wonder if he had misinterpreted the look Akira had given him after their first kiss. After all, he had never actually said he had feelings for Hikaru. Maybe he doesn't return my feelings, he thought anxiously. Perhaps he was to Akira what those girls who had given him valentines were to him. The thought made his insides churn.

He wanted to ask him. He wanted to hear it from Akira's mouth, to demand to know his feelings since Hikaru had put his so plainly on the table. He opened his mouth to speak and glanced at his rival. Akira was looking expectantly at him for an answer. Now was his chance, or it would be another week before he could talk to Akira about their relationship again.

"…This week's been great," Hikaru said finally, and mentally wanted to cry. "Do you want to get some lunch?"

---

My life sucks, Hikaru thought to himself as he trudged back home after he and Akira had said good-bye in front of the gyouza restaurant (which, Akira had been surprised to find, Hikaru had suggested they eat at instead of their usual ramen stand). He was at the end of his weekend, still without any definite idea what sort of White Day presents to buy and more and more confused about his relationship with Akira.

In fact, the more he thought about it, the more it seemed that he was forcing himself upon an unwilling partner. True, Akira had never made the slightest suggestion that he disliked what they were doing, but he never seemed overly eager, either—or at least, not as much as Hikaru was.

It's just like it was in Go, Hikaru thought somberly, recalling the long, long period of their "rivalry" when Akira had simply turned his back and walked away anytime Hikaru was present. It had confused him and made him doubt himself once in awhile, but especially with his steady improvement and Sai to constantly encourage and coach him, Hikaru had never seriously doubted that he could obtain his goal and make Akira look at him again. But now, it was different; one couldn't practice or gain strength in order to make someone love him. Love was an entirely different matter; in Go, one naturally gravitated towards someone with equal strength and ambition, but love was completely subjective. I could be the greatest, smartest, handsomest guy in the world, but that still wouldn't guarantee that someone would fall in love with me, Hikaru thought, then quickly ammended that—he now knew that there were, in fact, several people who would fall in love with him, as limited an offering as he saw himself to be. But it was all for naught. A million people could fall in love with me, he thought, and it wouldn't mean a thing if Touya wasn't one of them.

Hikaru sighed as he crossed the street to get to the subway station. It was one he was very familiar with because it was the station that served the Go Institute. In fact, he knew this entire area very well, which was why he paused in his step as he caught sight of a rather large, new store façade a few doors down from the station entrance.

That must be the new ramen store Isumi-san was talking about, he thought, curiosity piqued. He had promised not to eat any ramen for a week, but there was no harm in looking. He sauntered casually over to the window and peeked in. The inside looked wonderfully posh, with well-appointed leather cushions and sleek, dark wood furniture. Classical, white Roman columns built into the walls added an interesting contrast to the modern upholstery.

I could just go in to take a better look…Hikaru thought and was reaching for the door when it opened straight upon him.

"Ouch!"

"Oh, sorry!" a familiar voice said.

"Waya?" Hikaru cried. "And—Isumi-san, too!"

"Shindou!" Waya gaped at his friend, looking more than a bit guilty.

"What are you doing here?" Hikaru demanded. "I thought you said no ramen for a week!"

"That was what we made you promise," Waya said, grinning. "We never said we couldn't eat ramen—just that you couldn't make us!"

"But—but—"

"Actually, Shindou," Isumi piped up, "we were doing some more brainstorming for you."

"Suuure," Hikaru said skeptically.

"No, seriously! Look at this!" Isumi pulled a packet of smart-looking, richly-textured cards out of his bag. They were all a deep crimson and proclaimed, in gold-embossed writing, that the coupon was redeemable for a bowl of the "special" at Ramenseque.

"It's a special deal they have right now," Isumi explained. "To promote their grand opening, they're giving away an extra gift certificate for every two you buy. You could give these out as White Day presents!"

Hikaru eyed them suspiciously. "But… but they're for ramen. No one in the world would find these a good gift except for me!"

"Exactly!" Waya said. "We want to discourage these girls from liking you, right? So why not stress your extremely uncool habit of eating ramen non-stop to them? This will remind them that they won't be eating anything else if they become your girlfriend—that would put any girl off!"

"Hey!"

"It's kind of true, Shindou," Isumi said with a wink. "And besides, it's a nice restaurant so it's not a horrible gift. It'll just… remind them of the practical aspects of dating you."

"I guess that's true…" Hikaru said, wondering a bit if Akira was ever put off by how much ramen Hikaru made him eat. Though he did complain, he never seemed seriously unhappy about it, and even unconsciously walked toward their usual ramen stand now, whenever he and Hikaru went out to lunch. Hikaru smiled. He's one in a million, he thought and resolved that next Sunday, he would ask Akira about his feelings.

---

Sunday, March the fourteenth was White Day, and it saw a very dissheveled and disgrunteled Shindou Hikaru trudge to his meeting place with Akira.

"There you are," Hikaru said. With a sigh of relief, he threw himself onto the bench next to Akira. "Man, what a day!"

"You look like you've had the workout of your life," Akira said, grinning at his friend's exaggerated panting and general, melodramatic air of exhaustion.

"Man, you have no idea!" Hikaru said, pushing his bangs aside and swiping at his forehead. "Going from house to house, having to dodge all these looks from parents—some of the moms were nice, but some were kinda looking at me like I was a bug or something. Oh, but the worst—" Hikaru shuddered and leaned in so that he was peering straight into Akira's face, a bit too close for comfort, "—were the ones who were like this." He leaned in closer and thrust a beady eyeball in Akira's face, making an expression that reminded Akira of the way his mother eyed cuts of meat in the supermarket. "And they were all smiling and giggling and asking me how old I was. Like they were sizing me up for something."

"Sh-shindou!" Akira said, trying to hide his discomfort at the extreme proximity in a laugh.

Having made his point, Hikaru drew back, crossing his arms. "Scary, isn't it?"

Akira laughed. "Makes me glad I don't usually do these sorts of things—Valentine's and all."

Hikaru sighed, still looking rather put out. "Yeah, me too. This was my first White Day, and for good reason. I should've just stayed out of this whole thing."

Seeing his cheery, honest Hikaru pouting about his attempt to be gentlemanly and grown up made Akira want to laugh in delight. It was just the sort of well-meaning antic that his rival would get himself into—and into well over his head.

"You do have a tendency to plunge into things headlong without stopping to think about what you're doing, don't you, Shindou?"

"Huh?" Hikaru looked up at him, half surprised and half wondering if he should have been offended. Akira was smiling sweetly, as he seemed to be doing a lot more these past few weeks, Hikaru was secretly pleased to note—but still--! "What do you mean by that?" Hikaru asked, preparing to be miffed.

Akira gave a little laugh and Hikaru turned red, his pout becoming more apparent. "What?"

"I was thinking about your Go," Akira said, calming his laughter but retaining something of the glow of it in his eyes. "You were a complete beginner when I played you at the junior high tournament—you had no idea how large the gap between our skill was. But still, you chased after me, never realizing how impossible your task looked."

"But I made it, though," Hikaru said, grinning now. He slid a little closer to his rival and put his arm on the bench behind Akira's shoulders. "You've gotta admit, as clueless as I was back then, I wasn't wrong in thinking I could catch up to you."

Akira gave him a playfully offended smile. "That's arrogant of you."

"I was a kid," Hikaru said, his grin becoming more teasing. "And it wasn't that I thought I had some kind of magical, hidden talent or something. I just…" His face became serious, though still somewhat mild as he locked his gaze with Akira, who was giving him much the same look. It was what Waya had secretly dubbed the "Rival Gaze"— the long, deep looks that Hikaru and Akira shared when they were thinking about Go or the Hand of God or their rivalry. Hikaru's friends noticed how they never failed to find one another's eyes when they were accessing the deep, significant stirrings that the thought of their greater goals and purposes in life brought them. There was no one there to see them now, but as Waya had correctly surmised, they really didn't see anyone else when they were like that anyway.

"I wanted you to look at me that way again," Hikaru said at last. "Like you did when you came after me for our first rematch. No one had ever looked at me that way before—like I was worth something. No, not just something—like I was worth a lot, like I was worth—"

"Everything," Akira said softly.

"Like that," Hikaru whispered, realizing that they were so close that their foreheads nearly touched. "I knew that was where I belonged." He shrugged a bit and glanced down, breaking the intense connection. "Or, at least, that's where I wanted to belong."

"You do."

Hikaru looked up, his eyes searching. "What?"

"You do, Shindou!" And before either of them really knew what was happening, Akira had thrown his arms around Hikaru's neck and pulled them together to kiss him. It was the sort of thing Hikaru would never have expected from, well, anyone not in the movies—but especially not from the composed, steely-calm 4-dan Go pro that Akira had grown into, the one he had gotten to know and like very deeply over the past year and a half. But, surprised and unprepared as he was, the sheer emotion, the warmth and strength of Akira's embrace came through as no words ever could have and Hikaru wondered at how much emotion his rival felt for him. It was overwhelming and flattering and…

"…just like back then," Hikaru gasped as they broke the kiss.

"What?"

With a smile as full as his heart felt, Hikaru reached up to brush a thumb gently across Akira's cheek and into his soft hair. "Just like that look you gave me back then. It overwhelmed me, it was so intense. And now again," Hikaru said, his mouth grinning that uncontrollably big, sincere smile that Akira loved, "you just blew me away. That had to have been our first real kiss."

"It does take us a few tries to get to our first real anything, huh?" Akira said, his eyes fond.

Hikaru laughed, understanding what he meant. "Well, at least it didn't take us two years and four months to get this right." Then, a mischievous glint in his eyes, he added, "I would've died if we would have had to wait that long again."

Akira gave him a grin that had just an edge of shyness to it. "Actually… me, too."

"Touya!"

They had to let go of each other as they burst out laughing, finally collapsing back against the bench.

"Well," Hikaru said after catching his breath, "it's been a pretty nice day, after all."

"Oh, that's right!" Akira said, reaching into his shoulder bag. "I forgot about this."

"What?" Hikaru asked leaning his head out to try and see what Akira was fiddling with.

"Um, Happy White Day, Shindou," Akira said, holding out a small, sealed gift to his rival.

Hikaru raised his eyebrows in surprise. "You…" he began, his mouth beginning to spread in a smile again. "You got me a White Day gift?"

Akira shrugged a bit, relieved that Shindou didn't seem offended. "My mother said that if I got a valentine I liked, I should say thank you with a White Day gift."

"But I'm not a girl, Touya," Hikaru said, eagerly taking the gift, nonetheless.

"You gave me a valentine."

"But that wasn't—" Hikaru cut off, suddenly looking thoughtful. "Actually, the way things turned out, maybe it was for real…unconsciously," he added at Akira's raised eyebrow. He looked back at his present keenly. "Anyway, can I open it now?"

"Uh, if you want," Akira said, feeling nervous again.

Hikaru tore through the decorated tape that held the paper bag's flap shut, suddenly powerfully curious about what Akira would have gotten as his first present to him.

"Um, I h-hope you like it…" Akira murmured, blushing vividly.

"I'm sure I will, Touya!" Hikaru said as he pulled out a flat, tissue paper-wrapped object out of the colorful bag. He seems really out-of-touch with pop culture and stuff, Hikaru thought, but those types always come up with something really thoughtful and romantic when it comes to things like this! He quelled his inner glee and prepared himself to be blown away as he unwrapped the last layer of paper—and nearly fell off the bench.

"Ramen?" he squawked. "You got me a gift certificate for a free bowl of ramen?"

"W-well," a mortified Akira said hurriedly, trying to explain away what he now realized was the stupidest gift anyone could possibly give anyone he loved, "I heard it was a really nice, new ramen restaurant near the Go Institute that had gourmet ramen from Sapporo and I was thinking you liked ramen and the ramen there is better for you than the ramen they sell in the stalls and so—"

Hikaru burst out laughing. "Touya," he said, shocking his rival with the genuinely-amused smile playing on his lips as he put his arms around his neck, "You're so awesome."

"Wh-what?"

Hikaru shook his head, looking satisfied about something. "It's just… you know how I was trying to figure out what kind of White Day gift I could give all those girls that would let them know I wasn't interested?"

Akira's eyes widened. "Oh, no! No, you… you didn't," Akira cringed as realization set in, "you didn't... give them the same thing…?"

Hikaru nodded, not looking at all as furious as Akira thought he should have been, considering the inadverdant message he had been given. But Shindou had his own weird way of thinking.

"Shouldn't… shouldn't you be mad at me, then?" Akira ventured, wondering if he shouldn't just let sleeping dogs lie. But he wanted to know what Hikaru was thinking; he wanted, really, to know everything about him these days.

Hikaru turned a sweet smile at him and held up the hand holding the gift. "Well, at first I wondered if you were trying to tell me something with this, but…" He twitched his fingers a bit, revealing that there were actually two gift certificates in his hand. "You got me two. And that makes all the difference."

Akira's eyes softened. "You didn't think I'd let you go alone, did you?"

"I thought you hated ramen," Hikaru teased.

"I wouldn't care what I was eating as long as I was eating it with you."

It was a silly line, and one that Hikaru had heard some derivation of a million times in sappy movies. But the way it came so earnestly from Akira's mouth, and the way those turqoise-blue eyes looked so serious and so tender at the same time, Hikaru felt a tingling around his eyes and a tightness in his chest that no teenage film actress could ever inspire or portray.

"Touya," he murmured, reaching out his hand to his lover's neck and drawing him slowly, deliberately, towards him.

A smile lighting his eyes just before he closed them to be drawn into Hikaru's kiss, Akira whispered, "Happy White Day, Shindou."

The corners of Hikaru's mouth quirked up without breaking the kiss.

You too, Touya.

Owari


Thank you to everyone who waited so patiently for this! (almost two years? Eh heheh...) Please forgive me for taking forever--err, we'll say it was a New Year's present? Anyway, I really hope you enjoyed it and will have a wonderful and Hikaru no Go-filled New Year!

Ah... and please review! (Should I have put Ogata in there somewhere? j/k! Maybe you'll get him in a bonus chapter)