Akira has been steaming hot tea for them both. He brings two cups over, hands one to Hikaru, and sits gracefully down across from him over the goban, perfectly balanced and never spilling so much as a drop from the other one. Hikaru has his legs bent underneath him to one side, half-turned to face the street outside Akira's apartment. He supposes it shouldn't feel so much like Akira's apartment anymore, since Hikaru's basically been living there for five, maybe six months; but he still gives his old place as his address because he and Akira haven't exactly talked about this. There's a lot of things they haven't exactly talked about. He wonders if any of it bothers Akira. Actually, he sometimes wonders if anything bothers Akira that doesn't have to do with Go.
Akira is giving him a curious look, one hand holding his mug, one hand tracing a nonsense pattern on the goban. He's been cutting his hair shorter in the back lately, and slowly letting his pageboy fringe grow longer and shift away from the front. He looks like a pixie. But it's gorgeous on him. Hikaru likes looking at him just long enough sometimes for Akira to know exactly what he's thinking about. Usually Akira will blush and turn pink at the edges, but sometimes he'll just narrow his eyes and look right back.
Now he's just watching Hikaru patiently. They haven't lit the lamps in the living room; the light around them is starting to turn dingy with the faintly stale quality of all light in winter. Hikaru realizes suddenly that he doesn't know if Akira prefers the lights lowered or bright. It seems a strange thing not to know about Akira, considering all the things he does know.
"What is it?" Akira says. He sips his tea as though it's not sending steam floating up over his cheeks. Hikaru's never figured out how he does that, how he can drink tea as though it's perfectly fine and not scalding hot. Maybe he's permanently scorched his tongue or something. "You've been quiet all afternoon."
Hikaru isn't sure what he wants to say. He tugs the throw that Akira's mother knitted for him last Christmas around his knees and tries not to shiver. "Do you ever think about what we'll be in a thousand years?" he says.
"What?" says Akira. "What do you mean?"
"I don't know," says Hikaru. "Will we still be here, d'you think? Or will we be...somewhere else? Will we even exist at all?"
Akira gives him a long, searching look. "Is this about Sai?" he doesn't say. It would be a stupid question anyway, since they both know all of Hikaru's weird moods are about Sai, like the one note on a violin that just keeps going out of tune no matter how many times you replace the string.
Instead Akira just takes a long sip of his tea, and looks at Hikaru as though he wants to be the resin and the bow and the violinist, too. Hikaru thinks that actually he probably is all those things, and almost laughs.
"I think that no matter where we are," Akira says at last, "in a thousand years, or two thousand years, or even ten or twenty years, Hikaru--" he uses Hikaru's first name, that's what he does when he wants something to mean more to Hikaru than ever, because he has yet to figure out, or Hikaru has yet to show him, that everything means more to Hikaru when it comes from him--"if we live every day with our whole hearts, here and now, we'll continue to exist."
"That doesn't make any sense," Hikaru says sourly.
Akira gives him a small, sad smile and reaches over to the window to turn on a lamp. Bright, Hikaru thinks. Akira likes it bright. And that does makes sense. He waits for Akira to bring up Go as a metaphor for life or something, because that would make sense, too. But Akira just returns to tracing the pattern on the board and sipping his tea.
"My grandmother died when I was young," Akira says. "After the funeral, I asked my mother where my grandmother had gone, because I was too young then to understand." Hikaru watches his fingers, slim and effortless in the way they move over the board, the way they curl around the mug. "My mother answered that she hadn't gone anywhere. She told me I could find my grandmother every time I looked in the mirror, and every time I went to the park where we used to walk together."
He takes another sip of tea, swallows without really parting his lips. Hikaru could watch Akira sit and do nothing for forever.
"I believe," Akira says, "that our spirits linger in the traces of what we have loved."
"Sai's spirit lingers in you, even after a thousand years," Akira says calmly.
Hikaru looks up, feeling the twist of pain he can never ever seem to let go of, the icicle of it lodging deep in his chest.
Akira's eyes are lowered. He takes another sip of tea. Then he says, "So in twenty minutes, or twenty years, or twenty thousand, I will linger inside of your spirit, and you will linger in mine."
He looks up, his eyes suddenly brilliant and sharp in the white lamplight that floods over them. He holds his hand out to Hikaru over the goban.
Hikaru takes it, and their fingers tangle.
He looks at Akira, who doesn't look away.