God's Reward: Chapter 6- The Final Scene
Akira heaved, and leaned forward, too far.
Hikaru immediately put his arm around Akira and half-carried his limp-bodied, red-faced friend into his house. Hikaru's mother was waiting in the hall, and put her hand over her mouth with a tiny gasp when she saw them come in.
"I'll tell you later, mom." Hikaru proceeded to help Akira up the stairs.
"Um, actually, Mom, could you bring some water up for Akira, please?"
"O- of course," she said.
Hikaru set Akira on his bed and, sitting next to him, rubbed his hand on his back, comfortingly. Akira hiccuped and sobbed with fluctuating intensity, as many minutes passed in what was otherwise silence.
After about ten minutes, Hikaru said, "Shouldn't you be with your family, Akira?"
Akira. Every since he got here, Hikaru called him that every time.
"I was just going to tell you...and go, but..." he choked on a sob again.
"Lay down, Akira," Hikaru said.
Touya started sobbing louder. Not because of grief over his father, but because of the little explosions of joy he got every time Hikaru called him by his first name. He put his face in his elbow to hide it. He was so embarassed, but so, so happy.
"You stay as long as you need to, okay?" he said.
Akira nodded, his sobs unbreaking. Hikaru gave him time to cry it out. He probably didn't allow himself to cry in front of his mother.
After a few minutes, Hikaru's mom brought water, and Hikaru made him drink. Hikaru walked his mother back to the hall, and whispered, "His dad died. I'm taking care of him," and shut the door on her.
He sat down next to Akira, and noticed that taking a drink seemed to have calmed him, just a little bit.
"Can you tell me about it?" Hikaru asked, his voice high, as if to ask if Akira could handle it.
"Yeah," Akira said. He felt so exposed there, crying in front of Hikaru. Akira had seen Hikaru cry loads of times, but this was the first time for the other way around.
"Yesterday morning, mom found him. He was sitting at the goban. He had a heart attack."
Hikaru awkwardly stroked Akira's hair as Akira sobbed, very quietly.
"They were replaying our game," he continued.
"On the goban. He reconstructed our Meijin game."
"A...ah." Hikaru shook his head. He wasn't sure why he had hoped there would be a message left behind, or an amazing final game or something.
Akira was steady now. He couldn't believe that his father was dead, of course, but he felt better now that he was with Hikaru.
"Hikaru," Akira said wiping his swollen eyes, "I....don't want to make it hard on you, but, I don't want to be selfish, either..."
Hikaru shook his head and said "It's okay."
"B...but you expected another ten months. For...again..."
Hikaru shook his head again. "I'm sorry, Akira. I got a privilege when you didn't."
"I got to say goodbye."
Akira was still, frozen in his spot. He said goodbye? Did he know...did he know that they were leaving the next day? He knew and didn't say anything? Anger rose to the top of his guts.
"You! You KNEW?" he finally shouted.
Hikaru jumped up. "NO! No, I promise. I didn't know they were going to go. I swear I didn't, Akira, please believe me."
He was earnest. Akira could see it. He exhaled sharply, and his fury left with his breath.
"I didn't know. But Sai... before I left, he made me say goodbye. But he... he made me say good bye a year ago."
Crap, this sounded strange.
"When he left the first time. He wanted us to say goodbye, then. In that time."
Akira sighed. Sai had mentioned that they didn't get to say goodbye that first time, and that Hikaru had never really recovered. Sai had also said that maybe his mission had to do with resolving that.
Could that have been...the truth?
Hikaru suddenly leaned over and lay down next to Akira, resting his chin on Akira's head. He put his arm over Akira's shoulder, hugging him, and closed his eyes.
Akira could tell that Hikaru was feeling the pain, despite the fact that he had gotten to 'say goodbye.' It still hurt. He had finally stopped being too concerned about Akira to feel that ache of his own loss.
Hikaru was close. Akira was face to face with Hikaru's chest, and he could see it rise and fall gently, and jerk with hitching, silent sobs.
Akira raised his arm and put it around Hikaru's waist.
"I'm sorry," Akira whispered.
"I'm sorry too," Hikaru answered.
Akira's hair was soft on Hikaru's cheek. It was dark and silky, and smelled clean. Hikaru had never been so near to someone. But he had never felt so safe.
"I think my father said goodbye, too," Akira said. "In a way."
Hikaru still trembled, silently.
"He said, before he left my room, that he was proud of my game." Akira paused. "But it felt as if he was saying 'I will always be proud of all of your games.'"
Akira's tears continued to fall. Despite trying to comfort himself, he would still never see his father again. He was too young to never see his father again.
Hikaru gave him a squeeze around the waist. Akira responded with a tight, quick hug back.
"But the game..." Akira whispered. "If they knew it was coming, why play that game last?"
And then it hit Hikaru.
He and Akira were responsible for taking over where Sai and Kouyo had left off.
Akira felt Hikaru's body tighten all at once.
"A...akira!" he said.
"I'm so sorry!" he replied, letting tears flow and pulling Akira into him in a tight embrace.
Akira sighed, though a little smothered, and patted his friend's back. "It's okay. You can cry. You lost somone too."
"No, no," Hikaru went on, "I'm sorry for everything. For not telling you the truth about Sai. For ignoring you when Sai came back. For not chasing you when I knew something was wrong" He heaved. "So many things happened to you and I wasn't even paying attention!"
"Hikaru, calm down! It's okay. I forgive you! I'll always forgive you. Always." Akira closed his eyes and hugged Hikaru with all the strength he could muster.
Hikaru responded with a squeeze.
"Hikaru, even though we both called one another rivals, I was afraid I would always be second to Sai. But, I wanted to tell you... even before this..." he trailed off, and they pulled back so Akira could look him in the eyes.
"Even if Sai comes and goes for the rest of your life, I will be here. I'm always right in front of you. I want you to see me. Only me."
Hikaru blinked tears out of his eyes.
"Chase only me, and we will never be alone."
With that, Hikaru's heart skipped a beat, and he connected everything Sai had said the other night.
Akira was that person with whom he would reach the hand of God.
Hikaru reached down and took Akira's hand firmly in his own.
Akira turned redder, because for some reason, this tiny gesture felt very intimate, despite the fact that their faces and bodies were only a couple inches away from one another. But he could tell that Hikaru's spirits had rebounded. He was relieved.
"When's the funeral?" Hikaru asked.
"All that stuff starts in four days."
Hikaru sat up, hand still gripping Akira's, and said, "Let's go tell my mom that I'll be gone for a while, okay?" and he stood up, pulling a wobbly Akira with him. He wasn't sure if he wanted his hand back or not.
"What?" Akira asked.
"I'm coming with you. I'm going to support you while you go through this," he said, and he began yanking Akira through the door and down the stairs.
"Hikaru! You can let go of my hand now, I'm okay," Akira said.
Hikaru stopped, and turned to his friend. "No, I can't. I promised." He paused, having consciously omitted 'Sai.' "I promised, that once I found you again, I would never, ever let you go."
Akira wondered, for a fleeting moment, if, instead of Sai and and his father, God was actually rewarding him.
Weeks later, Akira 5-dan won the challenger spot for the Meijin title. And then he won the title itself.
Many months later, Hikaru, in an unheard of feat for a 3-dan, somehow managed to barely win the Honinbou title.
Waya and Isumi stopped trying to figure out if Touya Mejin II and Shindou Honinbou were gay. It didn't matter, because whatever they were, they were inseparable. Totally wierd. But inseparable.
However, in a bizarre twist of fate, Waya and Isumi did admit their feelings for one another about eight months later.
Thank you for reading through until this point.
Please send me comments and critiques so that I might bring you more well written fanfiction in the future.
There will be a sequal, so if you're interested in reading on, please follow me or check back soon for "Growing Together."