Sai bend down and put a hand on the small boy's shoulder in an effort to comfort him, to stop the beginnings of tears from falling from the big, sad eyes. He wasn't succeeding very well. The small boy's lips trembled.
"I am so sorry…" he tried again. "…I know how much you were looking forward to today." He smiled sadly. The boy's teary features were doing a number on him. He almost felt like crying himself but managed to pull it together and try and console the boy instead. "I'll make it up to you…" The boy gripped at his arm with desperate fingers. "But you promised!" his tiny and broken voice accused. Sai sighed heavily, got down on his knees and wrapped the boy up in a tight embrace. "I know I did. I know." He whispered. The boy shook with uncontrollable tremors and started crying for real.
His baby brother had always been loud in every way whether happy or angry or like now, the saddest creature in existence. His wails filled the air and crashed against the walls inside their little house like waves from a broken dam. He praised himself lucky it was already half past eight and most of the neighbours were probably well away from home…probably. Their parents at least had already left for work. The boy should also have been to school by now if it hadn't been for their plans for the day. Plans there were now utterly destroyed.
"Hikaru…" Sai whispered with an inkling of an idea in mind. The boy quieted down a little, whether from his tone of voice or just to hear him more easily, Sai didn't know.
"I…what do you say I drop you off at school for a little while, while I solve this? It is probably just a mistake in the schedule. I'll fix it. I'll go there and figure it out, see? - and afterwards we can spend the rest of the day just like you want. How does that sound?" He pulled the boy out from him and searched his red blemished face for a positive. The boy hiccupped and rubbed his eyes with the back of his small hands.
"You promise?" asked his childish voice with a speck of hope after giving Sai a sceptical once-over. Sai grimaced. He wasn't entirely sure he could pull it off. The association didn't always look too kindly on last-minute changes but since he honestly didn't know how this had happened, he was pretty sure it was a mistake from their side. He was absolutely positive he had asked for this day off…almost.
He sighed as the light of hope faded from the boy's eyes. "I will honestly try, little one. I'm just not sure how well it will go, but I will try!" Sai said with conviction.
The boy looked away and pulled out of his grasp. "And you'll be back?" he asked dejected. The quiet of the voice unnerved Sai. It was sooo unnatural. "Yes! I'll pick you up again when everything is settled. I'll be back as soon as possible." He reassured and squished the boy's hand to make sure his point got through. The boy shot him a careful look and then smiled. It was a watery smile at best but a smile nonetheless.
"It'll work out somehow." Sai mumbled and he wasn't sure if he was reassuring himself or his little kid brother.
Hikaru was never sad for long, so then Sai led him to his classroom at the school and explained things to the teacher, he was all smiles and laughter and within the blink of an eye emerged in the other children's game. Sai smiled gratefully and left with a slightly easier heart. Now for the hard part: to try and move a mountain.
Sai looked up at the building in front of him and sighed.
According to the phone call earlier and the rechecking of his schedule afterwards he should have been here ten minutes ago. The only reason he wasn't panicked and rushing for the doors was that this shouldn't even have happened. So it was a slightly more subdued and determined Sai that entered the building and went for the reception in long graceful strides.
The receptionist smiled at him and started rambling: "Fujiwara-sensei! I'm so glad you could make it! We were just about to…" – "Why do I have a class today?" Sai interrupted with great effort and shuddered at himself for being rude. "I have specifically asked for this day off, so why is it not?"
The receptionist actually looked stunned. For one Sai didn't look happy at being there, which had never occurred in all the time the receptionist had seen him enter those doors. For another…
"But Fujiwara-sensei…" The receptionist hesitated. Sai's eyes shone with almost the same gleam as when he was playing. He felt like shivering under that gaze. "…Fujiwara-sensei didn't reject then we suggested to put the class up for today. We asked you last week." He consoled and breathed a bit easier then the gaze shifted to the floor instead.
"Is there any way to change it?" Fujiwara-sensei asked without looking up. "Any way at all? Some other Pro to take my place? – Cancellation?"
The receptionist could explicitly hear the barely hidden horror on the last word. It was indeed an unthinkable and never voiced before action for the young high-dan. "There is no other Pro we can summon on such a short notice and as for…cancellation…" The receptionist looked through some random papers to give Sai the chance to compose himself from a second mention of the word.
"…I simply can't see how we can tell all those people that they have come for naught."
The receptionist glanced up just in time to catch the anger? and determination deflate from the young man with a resigned sigh. "It's for two hours, right?" Sai asked instead and the receptionist nodded. Sai looked at the clock in the hall. It was a quarter past nine. "Could you call Hikaru's school for me and tell them I wont be able to be there until a little before twelve?" – "Will do." The receptionist replied happily and picked up the receiver. Anything to get the young Pro to his students without further delay.
He didn't catch the mumblings of the young Pro as he moved on to the class. "Just for two hours, Hikaru. We'll still have half a day…"
Then the receptionist two hours later took a look inside the room where the class was held, he couldn't help but smile.
Fujiwara Sai was obviously engrossed in an animated discussion of one of the games and enjoying it whole-heartedly. The surrounding students was a pleasant mixture of young and old, either following the antics of the Pro in quiet fondness or barely concealed awe. Neither seemed to remember that the class had already ended twenty minutes ago.
The receptionist shrugged his shoulders and left again unnoticed. He wasn't one to interrupt people's happiness, especially when it came to Pros and their games, and the association had ever since the first time made sure there was at least an hour to spare for everyone following Fujiwara-sensei's classes. His love and dedication for the game captivated people just so.
The receptionist went back to his desk and looked up a number in one of the personal files. He better straighten things out with the Pro's family and make sure that someone else could pick up the younger brother from school, and as far as he knew the mother should be off from work shortly. He was used to taking care of people's schedule and make sure no one was left behind when one of the more eccentric Pros forgot the time.
It was his job after all.
Sai looked at the time in passing going through the hall and froze in place.
It took all of five seconds for his mind to register why the innocent numbers sent such an unnerving sense of foreboding down his spine.
When the realisation hit him it took him less to reach over the counter at the reception and grab for the phone.
He scared several people out of their skin but at that particular moment it didn't matter. It would disturb him later on for sure but right then only one thought was in his mind. 'Hikaru'.
The phone rang all of three times on the other end, which was three times too many. When his mother's voice finally reached his ears he sighed with somewhat pleasant relief.
"The Shindou residence." – "Where is Hikaru?" He asked without introduction and unable to keep a worried tremor from his voice. "Is he alright? Did he get home from school alright? Is he angry with me?" – "Sai." His mother sighed out in a breath and he forced himself to calm down. "Hikaru is fine, Sai, and yes, he was angry with you…" He was about to interrupt with a string of apologies but his mother obviously sensed it. "…but I've finally managed to calm him down, so use that famous patience of yours and wait at least an hour before coming home and get him screaming again."
Sai gulped. However teasingly his mother had phrased it he didn't miss the displeasure in her tone. "Are you sure?" he asked nearly begging. "There is still time left. I could still take him to the park or something…" he trailed off knowing her silence for what it was, unyielding resolution. When their silence together had lasted long enough for the guilt to settle firmly in his stomach, she spoke again.
"I sent him to play with Akari. It will keep him occupied for the time being. I suggest you find out a way to make up for this."
Sai nodded even though the click from her dismissal had already sounded through the receiver. It took him half a minute more before he released the phone and slowly backed away from the counter.
He felt like crying again.
However, he couldn't do that here, just as less as he could have done it in front of Hikaru in the morning. Maybe, when he got to bed tonight he could let the tears fall for his own foolishness.
How did you make up for lost time?
Sai whined pitifully.
It was evening and Sai had now resorted to all out begging. The boy however, wasn't giving a butch. He sat stubbornly with square shoulders and stiff back in the middle of his room looking defiantly away from the older brother.
"Hikaru, please! Can't we at least play a game?"
People at the association would have made wide eyes at the usually composed Pro's crumbled form at a child's feet. It was hard to imagine that this was the well-mannered and slightly otherworldly being that haunted the inner halls of the association with his cutting and ruthless game. However, this total drop of shields and barriers was reserved only for the inner sanctum that was the Shindou household and no one would ever know any better.
"Please" Sai begged again a little more subdued and almost despondent. The boy huffed, still very successful in not looking at the downhearted Sai.
"Is there not anything I can do for you to forgive me? Anything." Sai chanced a look at the boy's face to see if the words would somehow make him give in. He thought he saw a small glimmer of…something in those green orbs but when they turned to evil calculation and he shuddered involuntarily. Children could be cruel at times and his kid brother had even happily proven it before. "Can we play?" He whispered and even allowed a little hope to shine through in an effort to stop the boy's plotting.
The green eyes fleeted shortly in his direction, a decision forming. "No." The child ground out.
Sai almost choked on thin air, his lungs refusing to cooperate in the face of the horror.
It was the most pitiful and defeated whine yet, the sound of a wounded animal.
"No!" the boy all but shouted this time and rose to his feet. "I won't play that game with you! It's an old man's game anyway and only fun for you!" He accused all worked up now.
Sai was shocked and stumbled to his feet trying to at least get the advantage of height before the glowering boy. The small boy pushed at him and Sai didn't resist in being moved out of the room. If he hadn't been so shocked he would actually have found it quite funny.
The boy disappeared shortly collecting something from the corner of his room. The second after Sai had been forced beyond the trespass of the room, a small foldable children's version of a board was shoved in his arm along with a bag of chinking stones. Some stones freed themselves from the not quite closed bag and fell to the floor with a rattle. The boy locked his burning green eyes with Sai's stunned ones.
"I'm not playing with you ever again!" Then the door slammed close, sending a roar through the house.
"Hikaru!" The voice of their mother sounded warningly from downstairs. She didn't have to second-guess who made that kind of noise. Somehow only the six-year-old was capable of slamming the doors in the house with a force that resounded so loud it was deafening. The boy didn't even hear her though. He had already buried himself in the covers of his bed with the clear intend of not going anywhere until the next day.
Sai stood before the closed door unmoving.
He was unable to wrap his mind around what had just happened.
'Hikaru won't play me..?'
The thought was incomprehensible.
In the end he just turned to his own room after carefully collecting the fallen stones. He put the board and bag away in the upper drawer in his desk with thoughts of keeping it safe till his kid brother wanted them back. When he crawled to bed himself, entirely crushed from the last straw of a very bad day. A day that never in a thousand years was supposed to have gone so horrible wrong.
Sai let his tears loose, quietly crying himself to sleep. Neither of the brothers were non the wiser that the other were doing the same.