Disclaimer: Liar Game is the property of a very smart Japanese man named Shinobu Kaitani. Thus, I make no money from in.
Author's Notes: Well...this practically cried to be written after Chapter 83. Using 'she' for Fukunaga is simply a matter of personal preference. Reviews (good and bad) are welcome, as always.
When it happens, they're both about three quarters of the way drunk.
Kanzaki Nao fell asleep hours ago. Two measly sips of sake and whatever stupid boring life she leads are enough to turn her into a snoring, drooling log on Akiyama's bed. Fukunaga and Akiyama sit across from each other at Akiyama's table, and the bottle containing the remnants of sake sits on the floor between them. The cake Nao made for his birthday, surprisingly edible, remains half-eaten on the table, and plates scattered with crumbs lie on the floor next to the sake bottle.
A game of shogi sits between them, almost-finished, Fukunaga almost certain of her win if only because, for all Akiyama's superior strategy, she holds her liquor much better than he does. But even then, a few of his moves show flashes of his usual brilliance and Fukunaga fears her defeat.
No...the game will end in a stalemate. Not even Akiyama's mind can break through the trap now.
Tonight...well, she has to thank Nao for dragging her along, despite the rain so relentless that Fukunaga wishes she had waterproofed her suede boots before leaving, and despite the fact that she's giving up a night's worth of wages and tips just to..just to...
Spend some time with Akiyama.
Seeing him like this, outside of a controlled environment, has the effect of somehow taking Akiyama down from his pedestal. His apartment is in the bad part of town --she would half-suspect that Nao brought her partially as protection from muggers, if Nao actually had a strategic hair on her head--and while it's not half as disgusting as some men's apartments that she's seen, there's still a few days worth of dishes in the sink and undone laundry piled up in the corner.
Yet, here, in this shabby apartment, Fukunaga notices that the painted finish on the walls has started peeling and cracking, opportunity awaits.
They've hardly said anything at all together. Conversation flowed more easily when Nao was awake, trying her best to bring up topics of conversation that had nothing to do with the Liar Game, massive amounts of debts, or scams, a huge order when that remained the only common thread between them.
All in all, Fukunaga couldn't imagine a more horrible way to spend a birthday. If it was her...she'd be at an expensive club, with fifteen or twenty of her closest friends buying her drinks, and looking for guys to flirt with, or at least dancing until she forgot that she was yet another year older.
Yet, Akiyama sits across from her, sleepy head resting in his hand, and a faint smile across his face. Is he happy? Is this what a pleased Akiyama looks like, as his free hand moves another shogi piece forward?
Fukunaga considers her next move. Maybe she should rethink the assumption that she thinks more clearly than he in an alcoholic haze. She makes a hopeless move.
Akiyama looks up at her, suddenly awake. "Check." His voice is so quiet that Fukunaga has to lean in to hear him.
Fukunaga, hemmed in by the constraint of trying to avoid a loss, steps back and pretends to consider her move. She will probably break out of her breached defenses, counting on the open ground to keep Akiyama's pieces away from her king.
He seems to consider this, his eyes drooping back to half-mast, and a lock of his hair, more disheveled than usual falls into his face. Does he have any clue how...appealing he is? Silly Nao...just sleeping there on Akiyama's bed--her snores are the only sound in the apartment--does she have any clue that her rival is now spending alone time with Akiyama, any clue that she has a rival at all?
"Your move." Akiyama says.
She scowls. "You don't have to tell me." Fukunaga brings her attention back to the board. Her situation becomes more knotted. Did she know that he still had a bishop in play? Perhaps an open strategy is not the best.
Yet, she cannot retreat. Fukunaga continues her strategy, running away, and setting up an attack.
The move passes to Akiyama, and Fukunaga continues gazing at him. He's got a bit of stubble, it's late tonight, after all.
There it is. Fukunaga's king could be captured no matter what move she makes. How did Akiyama manage to have yet another ranged piece that Fukunaga managed to overlook. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. But he's smiling, that one she's never actually seen before.
"Akiyama..." She takes one last sip of sake, liquid courage. In the morning, she'll blame the alcohol for what happens next. "Do you...you know, have a girlfriend?"
"You know..." He sounds so...so weirdly boyish...so unexpectedly open that Fukunaga's traitorous heart speeds up. Yeah, it's probably his own copious drinking that's making him look so wistful, but she lets herself imagine. "I never planned on it. But sometimes...you have to improvise. You have to think: maybe it's okay to take a risk on someone."
Fukunaga closes in, and tips the empty bottle over in her approach. Her hand goes to Akiyama's cheek, forcing him to look at her, not as an enemy or an ally, but as a person--a woman. The moment their lips touch, she knows how stupid this move is. It's not the smell of alcohol that permeates their kiss, or the stubble, or the beat-up apartment, or even the girl across the room who remains mercifully oblivious but present in both their thoughts that tells her.
It's his lips, surprisingly soft and warm in contrast to his face. He doesn't jerk away, but he doesn't move forward either. Fukunaga does the pressing, the advance, and all Akiyama has to do is simply remain immobile.
Together, they remain silent, suddenly so very much strangers. "I'm sorry..." Akiyama says at last, with a flickering glance at Nao. "I can't...I don't...you know..." The look in his eyes when he finally meets hers is raw, pain-filled, as though he knows exactly how much his rejection hurts her.
This is Akiyama! Fukunaga's mind screams at her. He should know what to say, what to do! He's always so calm, so cool and collected and reliable. So intelligent.
"Hmmph." Fukunaga says. "I just did in the spirit of helping you take a risk." Perhaps it's time to try and salvage this night. She stands up and brushes some imaginary (and probably some real dirt, considering how Akiyama appears to be about cleaning) off her dress.
"Nao told me." Akiyama says, "That you had a crush on me."
That stupid-- of all the silly, idiotic, numbskulled things for Nao to say, why'd the truth have to be it? How'd the airhead even figure out--? Why the hell would she tell--? She's got to get out of this place, even the relentless drizzle has to be better than this stuffy dump. "I should go."
"Take Nao with you." The masks slip back on so easily, as though nothing ever happened between them.
Fukunaga shakes her head. "Just let her sleep it off here. She's the one who dragged me here. I'm not responsible for what happens to her." She's not afraid that either of them will try anything, not that it's her business. Nao didn't unwittingly drag a rival to ruin what would be a romantic moment for her and Akiyama if she had two brain cells to rub together. She knew Fukunaga's feelings, knew and invited her along anyway.
After all, it wasn't like the moron had any rival to worry about. Fukunaga shoves her feet into those waterlogged suede boots, and grabs her coat and her purse.
"Happy birthday." She says reluctantly. She can't show how upset she is. Keep it together; be better than him.
"Thanks." Akiyama says, "You know...I really enjoyed your company tonight...as a friend..." He looks down at her. "I'll walk you to the station."
"No need." Fukunaga dismisses him. "I can more than take care of myself."
Does he look relieved? Like she cares. She'll call Hitomi--Queen of Broken Hearts herself--and they'll go somewhere until Akiyama is all but forgotten. It's only midnight after all. The night's still young, and she's only three-quarters of the way to being drunk. Plus she hasn't danced all night. Such a waste of a birthday.
"See you." Akiyama says, but he doesn't linger in the doorway.
As soon as he's gone, Fukunaga whips her cell phone out and calls Hitomi. "Yeah...it was a total waste of time. Completely boring. You want to meet up somewhere?" When she hangs up, a much better night waits for her.
Rule Number One: Man or woman, never cry. Or at least, never let them see you cry.
But Fukunaga doesn't understand how the rain can permeate her umbrella tonight.