let's get the seven lines. (bookshop) wrote,
let's get the seven lines.
bookshop

stuff and nonsense - nero wolfe, and ficlets: Merlin, White Collar, Hikago

hello!here are things i love about Nero Wolfe:

- he never makes clients pay for the food they eat while at his house.

- he is fond of bright yellow! seriously, who is fond of bright yellow. much less, who is so fond of bright yellow that they have a bright yellow COUCH.

- he thinks that one day archie will quit him for real. :(

- he thinks he's not as fat as he was five years ago and persists in the notion although archie disagrees.

- he calls his ability to get along with archie a constantly recurring miracle. :D

- he doesn't bother getting on his feet for a woman or for guests in general, but he will get on his feet to stand in respect for the accomplishments of archie and saul <3333333333333

- he loves to look at beautiful things.

- he prefers to keep archie close to him as much as he can. which is probably completely unrelated to the previous item. probably. maybe.

- HE EATS HIS MEALS WITH FRITZ AND ARCHIE :DDDDD

- Nero makes sure everyone has comfortable chairs to sit in even though he only ever uses the one!

- he and Archie say goodnight to each other <333333333333

- he makes things happen without even trying!

- he FORBIDS WORDS. He doesn't like the use of the word "contact" as a verb, so IT IS DENIED. There are other words but I have forgotten them. Still. HE REJECTS WORDS FROM HIS ENTIRE HOUSEHOULD :DDDD

- anything he doesn't understand he simply rejects. To me, he reads as not so much misogynistic as eternally confounded by the existence of women, which I find hilarious. I also think he is equally confounded by his relationship with Archie. He doesn't pretend to understand either one of them, he just muddles along. :D

- he thinks Archie has some kind of gift with women. ARCHIE IS SUCH A PUTZ :D

- his reliance on "pfui" to express any one of a half-dozen emotions. HOW DO YOU SAY PFUI, I am assuming it is "fooey!" with infinitely more contempt and possibly a fake french accent. :D

Things I love about Archie: about a gazillion and they all have to do with his gentle sarcasm and his complete adoration of Nero. also, i just have to say it, Archie is totally turned on by Nero's size, it's SO HOT. SO HOT. Also can i just mention that they are adorable. THEY ARE SO ADORABLE. I LOVE THEM, THEY ARE MARRIED FOR ETERNITY LIKE SALT AND PEPPER SHAKERS.

I am sure that I will think of many more things to add to this list but I have only read one and a half books so far - Champagne for One, which was excellent, and And Be a Villain, which is wonderful. How exciting!


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The other day myrafur drew Gwenevere as part of her daily drabbles, and then I insisted that all her fantastic portrait was missing was Morgana, and then glockgal filled in the gaps, and by that point I was in such rapture that I had to add a ficlet, because, well, obviously. And, well, here it is. Hurrah for femslash!

Gwen likes it when Morgana surprises her.

Sometimes she'll lie beneath Gwen for hours, silent and breathless, while Gwen holds her still, tracing her skin in long slow touches that last all day. Sometimes it's glorious the way Morgana will relax into her, let Gwen fold her arms around her and kiss her throat until she gasps.

Sometimes she'll only give Gwen a taste: a brush of lips over Gwen's collar bone when Gwen is busy sorting the linens, her fingernails digging crescents into Gwen's shoulder. Sometimes Gwen almost likes it better that way, when the anticipation tingles beneath her skin.

Sometimes, it's the days she doesn't give anything at all that burn the most: the days Morgana snaps, the days she spends turned toward Uther or Arthur with tight lips, willing them with all her might to see her even though Gwen knows she's the only one who ever will. Sometimes Morgana doesn't look at her at all, and sometimes she does. Sometimes she looks at Gwen and her eyes say, now, right now, Gwen could be having her, naked and needy and spread out on the rug in Morgana's chambers. Or clothed and rigid in a bodice that by itself is worth more than Gwen will look upon in a lifetime, slowly coming undone between Gwen's fingers --

Almost.

Sometimes, it's the almost-having that lingers like the aftertaste at the end of a heady round of mead. The almost-having Morgana just the way she wants.

The way that reminds her that she'll never have Morgana at all.


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I may have mentioned I have been hanging out on the white collar kink meme. i like it because it's small & cozy, and the characters of White Collar are one-size fits-all enough that they can be easily written without a lot of angst. And I am probably writing TERRIBLE porn, but that's sort of part of the fun, too. in any case here are the two prompts i've written so far:

1. in response to the prompt: Peter/Neal: "I own you for 4 years. You okay with that?" "Yeah."

Peter's got him spread-eagled over his own bed.

Neal isn't afraid, not exactly. But Peter gets so intense and sometimes, like now, Neal has no idea what he'll do next. It's crazy how that almost makes him feel... safe, in a way. Peter always just knows Neal. Better even than Kate. Still, it's ...unpredictable. Neal doesn't wind up thrown off his guard a lot. And certainly not like this: legs splayed, arms spread wide, one wrist clutching each bedpost.

And Peter's hand trailing slowly up and down his thigh until every stroke coaxes an audible shiver out of Neal.

"You think I don't know you wanted me to find you?" Peter murmurs, pressing a kiss to the curve of Neal's ass. "You think I don't know you waited for me there at that dingy apartment?"

Neal closes his eyes. He'd gone there for Kate, he thinks. He had. But Peter's hands are moving over him like they own him, like he's just some sort of fucking property, and that feels like Kate's never felt, firm and secure and steady. Neal's harder and harder with every new touch.

"You think I don't know you wanted me to find you?" Peter whispers. "To take you?" His hand lingers around the base of Neal's spine before finally pulling away, and Neal can't breathe. "To posess you?" and this time it's not his hand Neal feels pressed hard against his skin: it's cold, smooth glass.

"What is that?" he gasps.

"I think you know," Peter murmurs, voice dipping into that soft chuckle he gets sometimes, like he's trying to keep a straight face around Neal but can't quite manage it.

And Neal does. There's a part of him that's known what this was about since the moment Peter showed up tonight. He's so hard he's shuddering, trying his best not to rut up against the bed. "You're not going to--to put that where I think you are, are you?" he says, but he can already feel the bottle stroking along his back, cool and dangerous and weighted with a thousand things he hadn't said to Kate.

"What if I am?" Peter asks. "I can do whatever I want with you, Neal. You know that?"

Peter turns Neal's head to face him. His expression is calm, but his eyes are on fire and his forehead is creased with tension. Neal leans into him without thinking. They'd done this once, four years ago, not long after Peter had almost caught him the first time. Neal showed up one night, just to see if he could track Peter the way he'd been tracking Neal. Instead of getting pissed or scared or intimidated like anyone else normal would have done, Peter slammed Neal against the wall. To this day Neal doesn't know whose mouth met whose first, but he's never forgotten how hungry Peter was. Or how good the ache felt for days afterward, all through his system, like a hard-won fight or a bank he shouldn't have been able to break.

"I missed your mouth," he hears himself say. Only it's not him at all; his voice is deep, desperate, and Neal is never desperate. He'd never have said anything like that to Kate. He likes what it does to Peter, though, the way it makes his eyes darken, makes his brow furrow til he's almost frowning. They haven't kissed tonight. Not yet. Peter's going to make him wait for it.

Neal's okay with that.

Peter drags the bottle of Bordeaux up Neal's spine and over his cheek. "You didn't answer my question," he says. Neal keeps looking at him, and he drags the bottle up against Neal's neck, then slides it over his jawline. When he places it against Neal's lips Neal closes his mouth around it obediently. And it looks like it's Peter's turn to shudder.

"Good boy," he murmurs, and god, Neal's so hard his eyes are actually starting to water from the effort of holding himself in check. He focuses on the bottle, slightly musty from the two days it spent in that empty apartment. It doesn't smell like Kate. It doesn't smell much like fine wine. He can feel the mouth of it warming up beneath his lips. Peter's watching him as he rims it slowly with his tongue.

It isn't helping Neal one bit.

"You know," Peter says, cupping Neal's cheek with his hand, "I'm thinking if you follow orders this well for the next four years, we'll get along fine." Neal starts to protest, but he hasn't let go of the Bordeaux and it comes out like a faint moan instead, reverberating into the empty bottle. He arches into the caress of Peter's hand, desperate for more, for anything - but instead of giving it to him, Peter tugs the bottle away from him and sets it aside. Neal swallows down another noise of protest and turns to slip his lips over the underside of Peter's wrist. Peter starts and he almost jerks away, but Neil won't let him. He needs something in his mouth now. After a moment Peter lets go, lets that accidental chuckle slip from him again, and moves in again, one hand trailing over Neal's chest.

"Do you understand what it means?" he whispers. When he speaks, his lips brush Neal's forehead. "Four years." Neal nods. "You chose it." Neal nods again, desperate for anything. He tilts forward, lets his lips catch on the underside of Peter's jaw line. He's sweating. God, Neal's missed him. Missed this. Peter's breath hitches at the touch, but he leans back, just out of reach. "Tell me," he says. "Tell me what the next four years are going to be like."

Neal's mouth is so dry he needs a moment before he can speak. He leans his head against Peter's forearm, whatever contact Peter will let him have, trying to bring his breathing back under control.

"It means you touch me whenever you want," he says finally. "You tell me wherever you want me to go, whatever you want me to do." He looks up to see Peter watching him with something like grim approval. "Means you get my mouth whenever you want it," Neal says. God, Peter's never spooked easily, and Neal's never been so fucking grateful. "You get my cock whenever you want it." This time when he leans in Peter meets him, bare, hot skin against bare, hot skin, and they're all but shuddering together. "You get my brain and my time and my ass and my view of all Manhattan, whenever you want." Peter's eyes dip shut and Neal wonders if it'd be too much, too soon, to kiss him there, over his eyelids, like a lover. Instead he lingers against the corner of Peter's mouth, as close to begging as he'll ever let himself get.

"You know what's better than all that?" Peter mutters, and he drops his arms to pull Neal into them, lets one hand drape over Neal's ass like it fucking belongs there. Neal makes a hungry sound and Peter's face falls, and finally, finally Peter's mouth is on his, sure and solid and hot and firm.

Neal drinks it up for as long as Peter will let him, kissing him like he's been waiting for this for three years, and maybe he has. He feels light, like Peter is pouring him out a kiss at a time, like cheap wine in a dressed-up bottle. When he finally answers, "That you own me for the next four years?" he feels almost sated with the knowledge of it, even though they've barely even touched. He is owned. He belongs to Peter. He's safe. He belongs to Peter.

"Not quite." Peter separates from him long enough to give him a look, like he knows everything that Neal's thinking. "That I own you for the next four years."

And then he smiles, sheepish, and Neal feels warm all over; and he's kissing Peter again, pouring himself out, and reaching for the bottle of Bordeaux that doesn't mean goodbye at all.



2. in response to the prompt, "Neal/Elizabeth/Peter, featuring pregnant!Elizabeth. ESP. IF SHE'S NOT SURE WHICH OF THEM IS THE FATHER BUT NONE OF THEM CARE?!?!"

Elizabeth has one hand on the firm smooth swell of her abdomen and one hand gripping the edge of the counter, and her eyes are shut as Neal slicks in and out of her. He's glad they've expanded the kitchen as part of the pregnancy planning; not only because there's more room, but because the island in the center has proven perfect for this, for splaying Elizabeth open and getting her good and ready for him and Peter. She's at the right height for Neal to lean back and stretch and feed her his cock at any pace he wants, or any pace she wants. She's got her head tilted back and she looks totally relaxed, two fingers tracing her belly just above her naval, almost like she's trying to transmit some of her pleasure to the baby inside her. "God, that's hot," Neal mutters, not bothering to explain, just upping the pace, feeling her muscles adusting around him, the slick hot inner walls of her pussy folding and slipping around him in loud messy slurps, just the way he likes it.

Elizabeth smiles without opening her eyes, then grins, and both of her hands come down to clutch the sides of the counter as she braces, raises her thighs, curls around him for more. "God, I missed you," Neal says, and it's true. Even though he has Peter all to himself at work, there's nothing like Elizabeth's casual, open desire for him, the way she takes what she wants from them both without guilt or apology.

Neal's often wished Peter could work that trick out for himself, because there's nothing he wants more than for Peter to just take him any fucking way he wants, whenever he wants. Nothing. But Elizabeth has been working on Peter by degrees, getting him used to the idea that Neal belongs to both of them, that he has as much right to him as she does. Especially now that the baby's on the way, she's pushed for it. Neal knows it's hard on her, while they're at the office, to go the whole day without a cock inside her, knows how much she needs it by the time they're finally home. But they all know that a baby will eventually mean less time for this, and Neal reckons Elizabeth's just thinking ahead, training Peter to take what‬ he needs from Neal in moments when Elizabeth's too exhausted to take care of him. Neal will give Peter whatever he wants. Elizabeth knows that. He won't even have to come asking for it with that shy, cute little half-grin and all that fumbling hesitation. Peter should know that by now. Neal wonders if something's been holding him back, or if he just isn't sure what he wants from Neal.

"Mmm," Elizabeth says, still with her eyes closed. "I missed you, too. Peter come home with you?"

She stretches just so, and Neal slips all the way home inside her. It's perfect. He groans in appreciation and answers, "Thought he was right behind me. Maybe he wanted to let me get a head start for the three of us."

She giggles at that, a laugh he can feel all the way up to his fingertips. "And I guess you did."

His hands find Elizabeth's belly and strokes her there, feeling the warmth of life inside her, trying to picture a son or a daughter who looks like him. Would he be able to tell? Would any of them be able to tell? Hell, even if the baby came out wearing Peter's smirk Neal would adopt him--or her--right there on the spot. "Can't wait to see what you look like," he tells the baby softly.

And then Elizabeth opens her eyes at last and says, "The baby can't wait to see you, either," and she and Neal share a smile that Neal can feel like a hook behind his navel, right there, right there--

And then he's pulled gently but firmly back, his dick slipping loose, leaving a long wet sticky mess, and Peter's hands leave Neal's shoulders and he steps in to take Neal's place, trailing his finger through the mix of fluid and slipping it in his mouth. He's already got his fly open, and Neal doesn't even try to hold back the gutteral noise that escapes him when Peter grips Elizabeth's hips, yanks her toward him, and just shoves it in, and god, that may be the hottest thing Neal has ever seen. Elizabeth murmurs, "God, that's good, baby," and her whole body goes lax as she adjusts to the thicker fill of Peter's cock.

"Hey, sweetheart," Peter says, running his hand over her gleaming inner thigh and rocking into her. Neal watches, and he doesn't even mind that he was this close to coming - he could come just like this, watching Peter's dick fuck Elizabeth like it's just a part of his fucking daily routine. Peter's eyes flick over to Neal and he's wearing that small not-quite grin on his face, that grin that always makes Neal want to back him up against a wall and stroke him off until he can't form a real sentence that doesn't start and end with Neal's name. Neal steps into Peter's space before he's even been invited, because he wants Peter's tongue in his mouth right now, dammit, and Peter can balk some other time. But Peter curves one arm around him and licks him open, hard and demanding, like he's been waiting for this all day. Neal grips Peter's sides and after another moment regains enough functioning brain cells to shove Peter's pants down all the way, sending his trousers and boxers to the floor in a heap. Peter moans inside his mouth, breaking the kiss only to murmur, "I wanted to do this to you all day," before moving back in and fucking Neal's mouth with his tongue.

Neal could come just like this, he knows, but he wants - he wants to be connected to them both. Dizzy, he slides his hand down until it's covering the base of Peter's cock, his fingers scraping against the wiry hairs of his groin. He strokes, once, then grips it next to the wide lips of Elizabeth's pussy, feeling her labia pulse around Peter's cock, red and drenched as it slips back and forth against Neal's hand. Neal breaks away from Peter's gorgeous, swollen mouth and looks him in the eyes. "Tomorrow, you're *going* to do this to me all day," he tells him. He knows Peter knows he's serious.

Peter groans and says, "God, Neal," and slips his lips over Neal's throat, biting possessively, one hand cupping around Neal's hand where it holds him, the other around Elizabeth's hand on the desk. "Fuck."

"That's right, boys, god, I love you both," Elizabeth says, and comes all over Neal's hand and Peter's dick with hardly a hitch in breath. Neal drops to his knees and finishes the job for Peter by taking his tight ball sac between his lips, and Peter doesn't even last long enough to pull Neal's head out of the way before he's pumping jets into Elizabeth and leaking come all in Neal's hair, all over the counter and her dripping thighs. Peter's hand wipes come through Neal's hair like it belongs there, and Neal's still-hard cock twitches like it's being coaxed into a brand-new round. Since he's already down here he turns around and laps up the come from Elizabeth's pussy, tasting the salty, bitter, delicious stench of Peter on his tongue and sending Elizabeth into delightful little gasping aftershocks that jiggle her belly and make Neal grin as he cleans her clit. Neal's still hard as a rock but he doesn't mind, this is for both of them--but suddenly Peter is lifting him up to his feet, saying, "Come here, you punk, I'm not done with you yet," and flipping him around over the counter so he's eye-level with Elizabeth's breasts.

Neal looks at Elizabeth, startled, but she only grins at him and draws his mouth down to tongue her chest.

And then Peter rims him. Yanks down Neal's pants the way Neal did for him and then sticks his tongue right up along the crevice of Neal's ass and shoves.

Neal's so shocked he loses his grip on the counter and overbalances against Elizabeth, who only laughs and cups his head in her hands. "See, baby?" she whispers, "Peter'll always take care of you," but Neal can't see anything, can barely hear her, because right now his entire world is Peter's mouth, his extra-swollen, extra-hot lips mouthing the edge of Peter's hole, his tongue flicking over it, sucking it like a baby at a teat. Peter's hands are kneading Neal's ass and Neal is half-grinding the edge of the counter in need, half-thrusting back against Peter, desperate for more. He laps at Elizabeth's nipples as a mirror of what Peter is doing to him, to have something to do with himself that isn't flailing helplessly beneath Peter's mouth. Elizabeth touches him, long slow strokes over his spine and chest and throat, and Neal can hear someone choking out, "Peter, oh, god, Peter, Peter, yes, please, thank god, please, whatever you want, please," and knows on some level that it must be him, because whoever it is has come completely undone.

And then, as he lays flung across Elizabeth's stomach like a piece of clothing, like something Peter fucking owns, Neal feels the tiniest fluttering something against his chest, once, and then again, brief but firm.

A kick.

Oh, holy God, we're going to be fathers, is the last thing Neal registers, before he comes on a high, keening note that could be Peter's name or Elizabeth's name or all of their names together; and the only thing he really knows, then or for some time afterwards, is the warm clutch of Peter's hands, firm and steady against his hips, and the warm voice of Elizabeth, saying his name with a string of promises as she runs her fingers through his come-streaked hair.


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I wrote this for September's round of Blind Go. I am terribly unhappy with it, but it was nicely received and I appreciate that. Here it is.

Divination


Hikaru's eyes narrow when he sees Akira standing just outside the Room of Enlightenment, and Akira's stomach plunges. “Why are you here?” Hikaru says, voice laced with suspicion. "No, wait, nevermind. Come here."

It's shortly before nine, and Hikaru ought to be focusing on his match with Saeki-san. Instead he's grabbed Akira by the wrist and is tugging him into the antechamber. Akira wants to say that he thought Hikaru would be glad to see him, but if he's being completely honest, he knows that's a lie. “You didn't have to bring that reporter with you,” Hikaru hisses.

“He just showed up,” Akira mutters, retrieving his arm from Hikaru's grip and brushing himself off. “He's been following me around for some interview. I didn't think he'd be here today." Hikaru rolls his eyes as if he thinks it's Akira's fault that the reporters won't leave him alone even though he just lost his last tournament match. Akira's patience thins. "So sorry,” he adds. “Are we interrupting your serious pre-match preparation?”

Hikaru rolls his eyes again and ignores him. “I thought you weren't speaking to me," he says dryly.

“I never said anything of the sort.”

“You didn't have to,” Hikaru says. “You've been too busy avoiding me.”

“You're the one who stopped coming to the salon!" The words sting more than Akira wants them to.

“Because what's the point in coming when you can barely look at me? And you won't even replay our match——”

“I am not having this conversation with you in public,” Akira interrupts desperately, throwing a glance over to where the Go Weekly reporter is staring at them openly, scribbling notes like mad on his annoying omnipresent tablet. When he agreed to this interview, he had thought, naively enough, that it might divert attention away from the game he lost to Hikaru, which is all anyone's wanted to talk about for weeks. But the reporter has asked some pointed questions, and what with him showing up here now, Akira has probably made a serious error in judgment.

“Then I guess we just won't have it at all,” Hikaru says, crossing his arms. “Since I never actually see you outside of the Institute anymore.”

“It's only been a couple of weeks,” Akira blurts, then feels like an idiot for even admitting that he's been avoiding Hikaru since he lost to him, because when he hears it aloud, it sounds just as ridiculous as he always expected it would.

“So? You're the greatest Go pro in half a century or whatever," Hikaru answers with an equally ridiculous hand wave. "Get over it."

"It's not that easy," Akira mutters, feeling his cheeks turn red.

"Well, hurry up! You're crazy if you think I'm going to slow down and wait for you to stop moping around,” Hikaru says, and hurt flares up, bright and angry, in the center of Akira's chest.

“Right, because it's not like I've ever done that for you before,” he snaps.

Hikaru's eyes go wide. “That's different,” he says, and Akira notes with a dry kind of satisfaction that Hikaru's lowered his voice at last.

Touya just looks back at him. It's not different. It's not any different, and he's sick of pretending that he's okay with the imbalance of secrets between them. Maybe it didn't matter when Hikaru was still catching up. But after their last match, everything is different.

“At least recreate the game with me,” Hikaru says in an undertone. “Akira. We always——”

We don't always do anything,” Akira breaks in hastily, cold hot panic shooting through him the way it always does when Hikaru calls him by his name. “You and I have only played each other a handful of times in official matches.” He should be satisfied by the way Hikaru straightens and stares at him, the beginning of hurt starting to linger around the corners of his mouth. He isn't. “It's ridiculous to pretend we really know each other's game,” he continues. If he sounds bitter, it's only because it's nothing less than the truth.

There have been plenty of times in recent months, maybe even longer, when Akira has wondered if perhaps this thing growing around Hikaru, the thing that keeps waking him up breathless at night, has nothing to do with Hikaru's secret at all, and more to do with the determined look in Hikaru's eyes, the way Akira's skin turns hot whenever Hikaru touches him, the way Hikaru sometimes just rakes his eyes over Akira's face as though he's thinking of strategies that have nothing to do with Go. There have been times when Akira's been almost certain Hikaru wants to move closer to him, a lot closer, and times when Akira's been almost certain he wants him to.

Now, Hikaru just keeps looking at him with the same wobbly, sad expression, and whatever this feeling is, it no longer matters whether it comes from losing the match, or from all the things Hikaru's not telling him about their past, or from the look on Hikaru's face. All that matters is that it is the worst Akira's ever felt.

“You know how to fix this,” he whispers.

For a moment Hikaru doesn't respond, and Akira wonders if he's just going to go inside to play his match and leave Akira standing out here.

"So what you said in the press conference," Hikaru says finally, and Akira's stomach drops again. "That I'm keeping secrets from you. You really..." he sighs and his expression deepens into something even more lost, something bottomless. Akira wonders for the millionth time what kind of pain put this look on Hikaru's face, and what, if anything, he can do to ease it.

“Do you really want me to say it?" he says.

"I don't know," Hikaru answers softly. "Is that why you're here, to force some kind of confession out of me?"

"No," Akira says. "I came to watch you play."

Hikaru's far-away look clears. He cocks his head and eyes Akira steadily, and Akira feels wide open and vulnerable like new territory. “Hey,” Hikaru says. He reaches out and touches Akira's arm. Akira glares down, but he doesn't flinch away. “I have to go in soon, but we should at least make your reporter-guy think we kissed and made up.”

Akira meets his eyes. He could say any number of things he's thinking——that he means what he said, this isn't his problem to fix, no matter how much of an ass he's being to Hikaru about everything; that he wants to wait, he'd wait forever, but he can't anymore, he just can't——but instead he just says, “Yeah, okay,” and unfolds his arms.

Hikaru visibly relaxes. “So,” he says loudly, pasting a grin on his face. “You're here to watch me beat Saeki-san.”

It shouldn't feel comforting to trade insults as if nothing's wrong, Akira thinks. But he laughs right on cue anyway, and when he sees Hikaru's lips twist up at the sound, he's almost relieved.



It's nine am on a Thursday morning at the Go Institute, and Touya Akira and Shindou Hikaru are squabbling as usual.

Touya's appearance here today is an exception. As the youngest Japanese title contender in two centuries, Touya keeps to a study regimen that rarely allows him time to put in appearances at other people's matches. Still, Japan's rising star is frequently seen at Shindou Hikaru's games, regardless of his busy schedule, and vice versa.

Far from being impressed by Touya's willingness to make time for him, Shindou seems put out. Following his captivating and landmark defeat of Touya four weeks ago, he has been invited to play an exhibition match at the Institution today with Saeki Ouza. Despite the fact that the two rivals have regular weekly meetings to discuss their games, he seems to think Touya's attendance will be something of a distraction. His hands wave wildly as he talks, a trademark that regulars to the Institute have long since come to regard as just one in a long line of Shindou's odd habits.

In contrast, Touya's body language is a rigid line telegraphing impatience, annoyance, even displeasure. His responses to Shindou seem to vary between cold politeness and icy restraint. One might wonder, in fact, why the son of the late Touya Meijin is bothering to show support for someone who only a month ago handed him what many are regarding as the worst defeat of his career. The defeat itself was extraordinary; Touya's emotional response to it was almost unheard of in a player as composed and seasoned, even at the still-young age of sixteen, as Touya Akira. Even weeks later, it's evident that the sting of his loss—Touya's resignation before Yose was only his second in three years—has not faded.

But, as anyone who observes Shindou and Touya for any length of time quickly learns, theirs is a friendship that defies easy understanding. Just being around Shindou brings out an intensity in Touya that few other players ever see and even fewer are prepared to deal with. Shindou takes it in stride, as though the hostility is just another component of the strange mix of screaming, taunting, trading insults, and utter loyalty to one another that have come to comprise their rivalry.

And then there is their Go itself, the game of a rivalry years in the making. Rumor has it that as many as three thousand Go pros and amateurs as far away as America watched the game online last month. There was a time when the outcome would have been unthinkable, but there are many who, having had their own encounters with Shindou Hikaru over the board, have greeted his stunning victory with a calm that shows they have been watching him for a long time. “A tiger doesn't need to show his stripes until he's ready to strike,” Ogata Meijin reportedly said when he learned of the outcome of the match.

Right now, the tiger is preening. “So you're here to watch me beat Saeki-san,” Shindou says, all the tension of moments before replaced by an easy grin.

“I'm here to see if you'll try risking half your territory for the sake of experiment again,” Touya huffs. Teasing is yet another side of the famously polite Touya rarely on display for anyone else that Shindou seems to take for granted.

“What! No! That was just the one time!” he replies, hands moving again. It is hardly the retort of the four-dan who, after an inexplicable string of forfeits early in his career, has been quickly working his way through numerous title lineups, sending nearby heads spinning along the way.

But Touya Akira, whose head is obviously on straight, only laughs.




+




The news stand between his house and the train stop always displays the latest issue of Go Weekly on the top row, so Touya will see it. It's an old habit to look for it every time he passes, but even in the dirty rain that's been falling all over Tokyo for weeks, it's impossible to miss their faces on the cover——his own and Hikaru's.

The cover photo is a shot of Akira and Hikaru heading out the door of the Institute. It must have been taken the day of Hikaru's exhibition match, he realizes. Hikaru is grabbing him by the wrist, and Akira's heart swoops straight out of his chest before he realizes that they haven't, crazily, been caught holding hands like children. The camera angle is such that what should be completely innocent is suggestive. Hikaru's hand is obscured so that it looks like their fingers are entangled. The expression he wears as he looks back is one Akira sees out every day, but taken out of context it takes Akira's breath away. The curve of his lips; the way he's tugging hard on Akira's arm with easy familiarity, his eyes shining; the way he's looking straight at Akira. Who is looking straight back at him.

Knowing Hikaru, he was probably just hungry after his match, Akira thinks. But it doesn't matter. The thought of thousands of people all over Japan seeing the two of them looking at each other like this churns his stomach.

The headline on the cover reads: Touya Akira has a secret.

Akira buys a copy and heads home.

All eyes are on Shindou Hikaru since his defeat of legendary pro Touya Akira last month in the Honinbou tournament semifinals. But we here at Go Weekly have long suspected that any real discussion of Shindou Hikaru begins with a look at Touya Akira himself, and the extraordinary connection they share. Indeed, "rivalry" hardly seems to cover all that Shindou and Touya mean——to each other and, of course, to the rest of us.

The reporter is someone the magazine brought on staff recently to shake things up and overhaul their image for a new generation of players. Akira didn't know much about him when he agreed to the article, and he doesn't want know anything now. He's never giving him an interview again.

“They're both sixteen and neither of them has ever had a girlfriend,” someone whispers across the table where the Insei are gathered around the matchcast. “That's odd, right?”

He's not ashamed of the article. He's not ashamed of anything it might imply, or anything people might think of what he and Hikaru are to each other. There's nothing new inside it, not really, nothing he hasn't heard implied before in a hundred different ways. The reporters from Go Weekly follow him around frequently enough that Akira isn't self-conscious anymore. Even when he's around Hikaru, even when they listen in on conversations and scribble notes when he leans over and touches Hikaru's arm—even that Akira accepts as part of the small price to pay to be able to play Go.

But the article lingers on their last match, just as Akira had feared it would.

Touya has frequently gone on record as saying that Shindou is the player of his generation who poses the biggest challenge. For years, seasoned pros and casual observers alike have scoffed at Touya's confidence in Shindou's ability. But at the Honinbou semifinals in March, Shindou's white blew past Touya's opening dominance and overwhelmed his hands with a brilliance that took everyone by surprise, even Touya himself. At the post-game interview, when asked what he thought about the development of Shindou's Go, an unusually shaken Touya directed his response, not to the press, but to Shindou himself.

“Shindou has his secrets," he said. "I wish he'd share them with me——I'd like to know more about his strategy of winning games through blind surprise.”


It shouldn't have happened, Akira thinks, biting back a wave of self-loathing. He knows not to take defeat personally; he's never fallen into that trap before. But it was never Hikaru beating him before, at least not like this. Akira hadn't just lost; he'd been crushed. He'd felt just as if he'd been playing the Hikaru from their first two matches——the one he'd come to think of crazily as the player inside Hikaru.

The player who'd finally re-emerged.

Akira has always had faith in Hikaru's Go. He feels a strange mix of pride and helplessness when he thinks about that game. Hikaru, who knows Akira in and out, through and through, better than anyone else, had surpassed him completely in that match. And Akira is prouder of him than he'd ever admit. But what it means for Akira's game——Akira can't bear thinking about it. What it means for their rivalry. He can't bear it.

That game is proof that Hikaru knows everything there is to know about Akira's game, when Akira still knows nothing. Nothing at all.

Shindou has his secrets. I wish he'd share them with me.

He had intended it as a challenge, as something wry and a little vindictive. It had sounded, instead, like an accusation, lost, angry, and hurt. Hikaru had gone slack-jawed and stared at him for the rest of the interview.

Akira hadn't bothered looking at him again.

After his match with Saeki-san, Hikaru had resolutely dragged Touya out for lunch, where they'd sat and talked about everything except Go. Akira had been charmed and annoyed and angry and sorry, and Hikaru had blithely pretended like everything that was horribly awkward between them was actually just fine.

And now the Go Weekly article is shoving it in their faces again, the match, Akira's loss, the rivalry, everything.

He shouldn't have gotten angry, he thinks. He promised himself he would always wait for Hikaru. Nothing has changed.

Except there he is on the cover of the magazine, flushed and reaching out for Hikaru, and everyone can see, and Akira knows that he was right. Everything has changed, somehow.

He can't fix this. Only Hikaru can.


+




Hikaru doesn't avoid Akira after the magazine appears all over Tokyo, but he closes off, which is worse. Worse because he keeps trying to act as though everything is fine, and worse, too, because Hikaru is so open normally that when he tries to shut up, it just reminds Akira of all the other things he's not saying.

Akira does the only thing he knows how to do in these moments——namely treat Hikaru like dirt until he comes to his senses.

Except Hikaru doesn't. He just looks at Akira as though somehow Akira's the one who's hurt him. Which is stupid, since as far as Akira knows, waiting around for Hikaru, waiting for years, is not supposed to cause Hikaru more pain than it causes Akira. Waiting for Hikaru to stop declaring things to him on trains and over boards and on the covers of Go magazines that he can't seem to say himself is not supposed to put that ragged worn-out look on Hikaru's face. Except it does.

But Akira has been waiting for so long he doesn't think he knows how to do anything else.

April moves sluggishly along towards May, and Akira waits and watches as Hikaru, amazingly, closes off even more. Hikaru's resumed his visits to the salon, but nothing is the same anymore: they sit, they play, and then Hikaru leaves again. It's like Hikaru's too far away to even bother fighting with him, and Akira can barely get a decent game out of him when he's like this. Months of frustration and years of secrets have settled over each of them in a heavy cloud of gloom, and Akira can barely see through it.

The cloud bursts one afternoon in early May. "I can't do this anymore," Hikaru bursts out in the middle of a completely lacklustre game that they're both having trouble pretending not to be bored by. "I can't——I'm sorry." He scoots back from his chair.

"You're just going to go?" Akira says cooly. "We're still not even going to talk about it?"

Hikaru halts, one hand still by the goke. "You lost to me fair and square," he says, looking intently at Akira. "It wasn't because of anything I'm hiding from you."

Akira sighs. "I know," he says. "I know that. And——and fine, I'll replay the match with you. But Hikaru..." Hikaru glares at him, waiting for the rest. "It felt like——like the second time you played me. It felt like that."

Hikaru's face changes so swiftly Akira almost wishes he could take it back. "It did?" he asks innocently, and Akira can't bring himself to wonder why he suddenly sounds as if he could cry. It's part of the Secret, and it's how they got here, and Akira refuses to feel guilty for it.

Hikaru stares at him a moment longer, and then he laughs, a short, abrupt laugh. "It's just in your head."

"I don't think so. I remember how I felt then," Akira answers.

Hikaru's eyes look a little watery. "You're about a thousand years too early to start worrying," he says, but he scoots his chair back and stands up to leave.

"You're going?" Akira asks.

"Yeah," Hikaru says. "I should."

"You always leave," Akira says, and then, before he can stop himself, he hears himself blurt, "you saw the Go Weekly article, I know you're not stupid." He looks down at the board but he can still feel Hikaru freeze across from him.

"I saw it, yeah," Hikaru says finally. He sounds wary. Akira wants to kick himself bringing it up. "Anything you want to tell me?"

"You first," Akira snorts, staring resolutely at their terrible sets of forming territories, and when he looks up again, Hikaru is gone.





It's 11:45 am, and Touya is watching the final hands of the match between Saeki Ouza and Shindou, out of whom the Ouza barely managed to wrest a win. Shindou's play has been typically brilliant but distracted, and it's inevitable to wonder if his heated exchange beforehand with Touya was over something personal. Certainly, from the way Touya is concentrating on the board, it would seem that he is invested in Shindou's performance on a level that defies most common definitions of rivalry in the Go world. It's over ten minutes before Touya looks away from the television, and then only because Shindou himself waltzes in.

Even though Touya has been studying Shindou's moves intently, the first words out of his mouth are, “Idiot. You could have ended the game before yose if you'd pressed your advantage in the upper left.”

It's sound advice, and Shindou's only response is to stick out his tongue. “I was having fun,” he says. “I wanted to see what Saeki-san would do with the territory in the lower right.”

Touya snorts. “If I'd been playing you, I wouldn't have given you a chance to play around,” he says. The other players in the room begin hastily packing up to leave. This is a ritual they know all too well, the pre- and post-game fighting between Shindou and Touya. It leaves no room for spectators. This interviewer wonders if Touya would even hear him right now if he pursued his final few questions.

Instead the spectacular blow-up doesn't come. In the middle of pointing at the board, Shindou says, “Whatever, let's just replay it and I'll show you what I would have done if I'd been playing you instead.”

There's a moment where Touya looks almost hesitant, as if offended; then it spreads into a look of pleased surprise, and he blushes all the way up to his ears like a girl being asked on a date.

“Meet you at the salon after lunch,” Shindou says, with the assurance of someone who knows he will always have a partner. Then he stops, turns, looks back.

“I change my mind,” he says. “You're coming with me.” Just like that, Touya Akira is at his side, the Go Weekly interview all but forgotten. Shindou grins and holds the door open for them both, and in another moment the two strongest players of their generation are bickering about where to eat lunch.

Oblivious to all else, they look surprisingly at home together, these two players who could not be more different in style, but who emerge as unfailingly alike in so many other ways.





That night, Akira wakes, clutching at the remnant of a dream he's already lost but feels desperate to remember. His mouth is dry. In his sleep, he's clenched his hands into fists so tight that they are sore when he tries to open them. He wakes feeling like there's a hole in his chest, like there's something he needs to do, something he needs to say, but he doesn't know what. He lies there, listening to the spring rain on the roof and trying to recall fragments of absolutely nothing at all.

He wonders if he was dreaming the answer, the secret Hikaru won't tell him. He wonders if Hikaru will ever trust him enough. A life without trust from the one person whose trust you want the most: it strikes him all at once as an unbearably sad way to live.

He shifts the covers off restlessly and eyes the clock; it's 3:14 am on May 5. He has Shidougo later. Fabulous. He folds the sheets back over his futon and smooths them out uselessly, then lies gingerly on top of them. He thinks about going back to sleep. He thinks about going over Hikaru's latest game with Isumi for the fourth time. He thinks about a life where Hikaru isn't always here with him, wherever he goes.

Instead he gets up and goes to the window for no reason at all, and Hikaru is sitting on the curbside across the street from his house, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the rain.

Akira stares at him. He doesn't want to deal with this right now. Hikaru can't continue to be a dervish who spins chaos into the lives of everyone around him. Especially Akira's life. Maybe it's not worth it anymore.

It's the first time Akira has really had that thought since Hikaru returned to his matches.

He goes downstairs. He makes tea and fills two cups before he goes outside. He probably looks ridiculous, trundling tea and raincoats to the curb, but Hikaru doesn't say anything when he sits down next to him and wraps the coat around him. He's going to be sick later, Akira thinks, but doesn't say, because knowing Hikaru, this is all some giant act of misplaced guilt over things Akira still doesn't understand. He's proven right when Hikaru finally talks and there are sobs in the corners of his voice.

“I can't tell you,” he says.

Akira manages not to throw the hot tea in Hikaru's face and hands it to him instead. Hikaru takes it. Both of them have shaking hands.

“You won't believe me,” Hikaru says. “And then you won't believe in me anymore, and——and Akira, I can't——I don't want to lose you.”

You just did, Akira thinks. He only says, bitterly enough to let it sting, “Don't you think I've earned a little more faith from you than that? Don't you think I've waited for you long enough?”

Hikaru is silent. He sits there, hanging his head like he's just resigned. “I'm going inside,” Akira says, but when he gets up, Hikaru blurts, "Wait."

His hand darts out beneath the fringe of his misery and Akira's raincoat to grab Akira's wrist and clutch it tightly.

Akira's wrist-bones are stupidly thin, delicate like crepe-paper. They are warm with his pulse, and Akira's pulse races whenever Hikaru touches him. Akira is never so hyper-aware of wrist-bones and racing hearts as he is whenever he's around Hikaru.

He stands there for another moment, letting Hikaru touch him, thinking that this is crazy, that quite possibly Hikaru actually is crazy. Or schizophrenic. Or deeply traumatized at birth. Or something.

Akira is crazy for not wanting him to let go.

He finally tugs Hikaru to his feet. “You can change into some warm clothes inside so you don't get sick and die,” he says, rolling his eyes even though his voice lacks bite. Hikaru comes with him like a pet being led, his fingertips cold around Akira's wrist.

They're silent all the way up to Akira's room, Hikaru clutching his wrist until Akira finally shakes him off long enough to dig through his drawers for clothes and underthings. He can hear Hikaru peeling off rubbery clothing behind him, but it doesn't really register until he turns around and sees him stripped down to his boxers, water running down his chin and continuing in slow rivulets down his chest, pale from the cold.

Akira thinks about the Go article and chokes down a sudden, bitter urge to laugh. He shoves the clothes into Hikaru's arms, but Hikaru just looks at him with that sad, open look he's been showing Akira ever since their game and says, “I'm sorry, Akira, I'm sorry.”

He drops all the clothes in a pile and steps closer. He tugs Akira's palm up to the center of his chest. Akira draws in a gasp and curls his hand open against Hikaru's skin, clammy and freezing, but still somehow warm and touchable and everything Akira's been wanting for longer than he even knows. "I thought you were avoiding me because of this," he says.

"Uh uh," Hikaru says, tugging him all the way in. "I just didn't know how to do this. I didn't know how to say——"

"Shh," Akira says, smoothing his hair back from where it's plastered to his forehead. "You don't have to say anything."

"No," Hikaru murmurs, tilting his head against Akira's chin. Akira feels like his lungs are capsizing, it's so hard to remember to breathe. "I do. I need you to know——"

"So tell me," Akira whispers. "But this first. Us first."

Hikaru tastes like rainwater.

Akira can't stop shivering as they drop to the futon, scrambling under the covers and pressing urgently together, for warmth as much as anything. Hikaru's movements against him are long and powerful, and Touya wants to close his eyes but he can't stop looking at everything, and Hikaru keeps nudging him and running his hands all over, and Touya doesn't want to love him, he doesn't, but he does and he does so much.

He mouths the corner of Hikaru's ear as they peel back their clothes layer by sopping layer. Akira doesn't say, “I hate you,” or, “Why won't you,” or any of the things he's thought about saying over the years. He lets Hikaru rock into his thighs, gently at first, then more urgently, until suddenly he jerks forward against Akira, and Akira catches on fire in ways he'd thought could only happen over a goban.

Hikaru gasps his name and licks clumsily, wonderfully at Akira's throat. Akira arches into him, clutches Hikaru's hipbone. It's a good thing that reporter isn't still swinging by at all hours, he thinks abruptly, so he won't discover who's sleeping over. Then he thinks: what does it matter, they already know, everyone knows, Go Weekly knew it before we did, and he's laughing into the open warmth of Hikaru's mouth.

He hooks his legs over Hikaru's calves, strong and firm and damp, from sweat now as well as rain. "Tell me," he whispers.

Hikaru breathes in, leans his head against Akira's shoulder, and says, “He was——he was a ghost. His name was Fujiwara no Sai.”

Akira tilts Hikaru's face up to meet his eyes. “I believe you," he says, "I believe you——" And then a pleasure he didn't know he could even contain is rippling through him, like cascades of rainwater, or stones toppling onto a board, or Hikaru's hair spilling over Akira's skin as he shudders and pulses and says Akira's name.



+




Hikaru tells him the story, all of it, as morning breaks, as they slide careful fingers over each other's skin.

The wonder of it, Akira thinks, is not that a ghost taught Hikaru to play Go, or even that Hikaru trusts him enough to let him carry the secret of Honinbou Shuusaku himself. The wonder is that Hikaru tells him with the sun stippling his hair and his voice hoarse from having Akira's name on it all night. That he tells him with his chest pressed to Akira's side and his knees bumping against Akira's where they are tangled together. That he tells him holding Akira's hand.

And somewhere during the middle of Hikaru's fifth or sixth attempt to explain in halting, fumbling words why he had to take over from Sai, why he had to play Akira for himself, Akira realizes that if a Divine Move truly exists, then Hikaru has just made it——or that maybe they've been making it together, all along.

He reaches blindly and cuts Hikaru off with a kiss, shoving reassurance at him with his lips, his hands, his eyes, his game, his life, trying to imprint I love you, I love you, I love you on Hikaru with them all.





Touya is shoving Shindou out the door when it happens: Shindou reaches down and grabs Touya's wrist to pull him in the opposite direction. For just a moment, Touya freezes, and our photographer snaps the picture that will make the cover: Shindou, a whirl of color and motion and energy; Touya beside him, the fixed lodestone holding him to his course.

Only later, when the galleys for this article are assembled, is the full story evident: Touya's story, one that cannot unfold on its own without placing Shindou's beside it. Shindou may have taken the Go World by storm as all eyes were fixed on Touya, but here, at least, is one pair of eyes that have been focused on him since the beginning.

“Shindou has his secrets,” Touya may have said enigmatically, with a look meant only for Shindou himself. But studying the two of them together, and perhaps, more tellingly, Touya's inability to stop smiling, one thing becomes readily apparent.

Touya Akira has a secret of his own.



__________

so, uh, yeah. *shuffles feet*
Tags: books, fic, hikago, je suis loser
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