When I posted Tedomari back in December, I mentioned that it was an off-shoot of another fic that I’d begun first. Both were written in response to quaedam’s amazing Hikaru no Go fanart that she drew for me. She is amazing and talented and if I could, I’d follow her around and fangirl her constantly.
This is the other of the pair of fics that I wrote based on that piece of art. This is the one I started writing first. Hey, it only took four months. D: I don’t know that I pulled off what I was trying to do – actually I’m not sure I even knew what I was trying to do. But I’m really glad that I finished it. This pairing makes me really, really happy whenever I write them, and that’s more important than getting it right every time.
Thanks much to zoesque whose commentary helped me shape the rewrite into something much more cohesive and focused than before. Be grateful for that. Also, this isn't beta'd because I asked Sam and she tried to make me write Touya into a vampiric punk rocker. Not that this is a bad thing. But please, if you spot typos, wayward commas, unacceptable grammar and/or bastardizations of the English language, please feel free to let me know. :D
For Quaedam, and for all of you who love Hikaru no Go.
I was defeated, you won the war
Promise to love you for ever more
Couldn’t escape if I wanted to
Knowing my fate is to be with you
And how could I ever refuse?
I feel like I win when I lose
- Abba, “Waterloo”
And just like that Hikaru understands why it's called the Room of Profound Darkness.
The board has become a battlefield – intense and dizzying, comprised of rapid invasions and expansions, precipitous formations held together only by the sheer will of the players. Touya is magnificent in this match - Hikaru can see his awareness shifting with every hand, can see him attaining a whole new level of play right before Hikaru’s eyes. Touya has always been able to take risks, but Hikaru knows Touya's game as well as his own, and this is something different: this is not the Go of an apprentice, this unflinching aggression, but the Go of a master coming into his own.
Hikaru is so busy focusing on Touya's confidence - on the level of reading and planning behind every fresh assault, on his own mix of pride in Touya and exhilaration at how quickly everything is coming together - that he almost misses the way Touya's shoulders clench on the last hane. The game is progressing at such a fast pace that he has barely had time to register the shift or realize what it means when the next hand comes, and Hikaru can only think Akira Akira Akira Akira Akira and yes before the swing of Touya's hair over his shoulders hits him like the slap of a stone against the goban.
"I resign," Touya says, and his voice disrupts the movement of the game and the tension in the room, as brittle and harsh as the shocked silence that follows it. Hikaru stares at him, uncomprehending for a moment, brought to the truth only by the jarring expression on Touya's face. It isn't disbelief or anger or shame that grounds him - he has seen all of those things in Touya before. None of them look quite like this awful surety. His lips are parted in what could almost be a grim smile, and his eyes... Hikaru is half out of his seat before Touya's hand has had time to return to the goban, before his hair has had time to obscure the horrible look on his face.
To have read the game so deeply, that quickly, from the midpoint, at the peak of the battle - to understand in just that way that the battle had been lost before it had scarcely begun....
Akira, he thinks. Akira, Akira, Akira.
He wants to tell Touya that this is one of the most beautiful games he has ever witnessed. He wants to tell him that his Go is unmatched, that his ability to read the board now surpasses that of anyone he knows, that it will one day surpass Sai's; he wants to tell him that his Go is beautiful, that he is beautiful, that it's like watching the hand of God unfold and stretch out to clasp Hikaru's own.
His heart feels clouded, as if what is in Touya's heart is in his as well - and Hikaru doesn't even question that such a thing could be because he knows a thing or two about sharing souls. He knows in the back of his mind that no one else is approaching the goban, and that this is highly unorthodox, what he is doing. He leans forward anyway, clutching Touya's shoulder, whispering he scarcely knows what and thinking of all the times Touya has seen him this way, with his head bowed in defeat.
He thinks all at once of Sai, claiming his seat here so long ago. This is what Sai had known then: that the room of darkness and light is the truest home of the player who sits at the board.
Perhaps it is also the loneliest.
Touya’s jaw clenches and his eyes squint shut.
Hikaru reaches for his hand without another thought.
Hikaru has never been more grateful that Touya has his own place. In addition to the fact that it prevents Touya from having to sleep at his parents’ residence on the most awkward night of his life, the fact that they live in the same district of Shibuya now instead of on opposite sides of the city means that no one at the institute thinks anything of it when they board the train together. Or at least, if they do, he thinks wryly, they have kept it to themselves the way they kept their remarks to themselves after the game.
Since the Young Lions tournament - it seems so long ago now - Hikaru and Akira have never missed each other's games.
Hikaru isn't exactly sure when he let go of Touya's hand. He thinks it might have been somewhere between the moment he noticed that he was sitting on his fan and the moment Touya Sensei threw him a look Hikaru could only read as meaning: You will help him overcome it.
On the train, Touya sits stiffly, his legs primly tucked together at the knees and his hands folded carefully in his lap. He looks twelve years old again, and lost, and Hikaru sits half a person away and tries not to look at him and thinks at him, you're beautiful, you're beautiful, you're beautiful, I love you, I love you, I love you, until he hears it in the rhythm of the train grating against the tracks.
Touya doesn't speak to him on the way back to his apartment. He doesn't even speak when they both stand up at his stop, just throws him a sidelong glance and gets off at the landing without a word. Hikaru follows him. At other times he would make Touya stop, make him talk about the game, drag him off to forcibly shove ramen down his throat until he relented and screamed at Hikaru and Hikaru screamed back and everything was fine.
Touya's walk isn't any slower, but his eyes are downcast as he leads Hikaru up the steps and into his apartment. He doesn't glance at the goban once they're inside, just hangs his coat up without looking at Hikaru.
Hikaru sits down in front of Touya's goban, placed ceremonially in the middle of his living room, a mirror image of the one Hikaru has in his.
Then he recreates Touya's game.
Touya silently picks Hikaru's coat up from the floor and hangs it stiffly over his own on the coat rack by the door. When he comes back he pauses in the middle of the living room, warily eying the goban. Hikaru can see his shoulders tense even without looking up. He doesn't say anything, just keeps placing stones. Touya lets out something that could be a sigh or a scoff and disappears into the kitchen without a word.
The silence builds; Hikaru concentrates on the game and not the unease uncurling slowly behind his ribs. In the kitchen Touya is tromping around, pots and pans and cupboard doors clattering angrily against the tension, and it all would seem overdramatic if Hikaru didn't know that this is Touya's way of trying to remain calm.
Hikaru finishes recreating the game. He folds his hands in his lap and waits.
A few moments later Touya comes padding into the room, dragging his feet on the carpet and carrying two cans of soda. Hikaru accepts one and waits. Touya looks uncertainly down at Hikaru and the goban for a moment before his knees bend and he sort of crumples to the floor beside Hikaru. He looks exhausted, and there are still red rims around his eyes.
The two of them sit side by side for a moment. Hikaru pops open the coke and listens to the harsh edge of the fizz against the silence. He drinks it without looking at Touya, and he tells himself he’s not going to look at Touya, when Touya blurts out suddenly, not looking at him either –
“Did it feel like this when you stopped coming to your matches?”
Hikaru sets down his drink and looks down at the goban – at the game laid out in play, still alive, still brilliant, still waiting to burst open into new formations, into stars and supernovas and galaxies. He has to blink sharply before he can answer.
“Like there’s a game you’ll never be able to finish?” he replies, and then his eyes and his nose sting and he has to look away, because it’s just that close. Five years feel like only five days, and this time isn’t supposed to be about him, about his loss, but he thinks of it anyway, holds on to Sai for a lingering moment as he tugs his fan out of his back pocket. Touya is watching all this from beside him, not saying a word, and Hikaru isn’t sure whether to be embarrassed or grateful or both.
What he feels most is jealousy, sliding to the front of his mind now that Touya had to make the obvious connection without even knowing what he was talking about. Hikaru could never be bitter, not at Touya – but if it had been him… if Sai could come back…
“But you could have finished it,” he says roughly, more to force his mind back to the issue at hand than to jar Touya. “You just chose not to.”
Touya stiffens. “I lost,” he says.
“No, you quit,” Hikaru snaps. There’s something comforting about this, the predictable way Hikaru reacts to this, the way they interact through challenges instead of whatever it is normal people do.
When Touya doesn’t respond right away, Hikaru looks over at him. His head is bowed next to him and he’s deliberately not looking at the goban. His cheeks are pale and the line of his jaw is taut, as if he’s holding himself in check.
Hikaru remembers then that Touya is fragile, too, in some ways he still hasn’t figured out. He’s used to the Touya who attacks his opponents like a lion and brooks no weakness in Hikaru without holding it up to inspection and ruthless improvement, the Touya who expects him to do the same because that’s what rivals are for.
The Touya who has become his best friend, who brings him ramen when he’s sick and lets Hikaru’s cat crawl all over their game without getting mad, and who occasionally lets down his guard and lets Hikaru talk him through his fear – that Touya, Akira, is always taking him by surprise.
“You were amazing,” he says, a little more gently. “I wanted to be the one playing you.”
Touya snorts and looks away, his hair falling around his eyes like a curtain. Hikaru wonders what would happen if he reached up and drew the curtain back, touched Touya’s hair with his fingers. Hikaru doesn’t need to see his expression, though, to know that it’s a lost one.
He straightens. “For a minute or two I wasn’t even sure I’d still have a rival after you got done,” he says, a little too boisterously. “You were that good. But if you’re just going to quit halfway through your games now – “
“Shut up, Shindou.”
“No, seriously, it’s phenomenal, you’ve gotten so good you even scare yourself.”
“Hikaru.” Touya shoots him a glare from beneath his bangs, and the sound of Hikaru’s name in Touya’s voice shuts Hikaru up fast. He pulls his knees up and rests his chin against them.
“You’ve been lucky.” Touya starts to roll his eyes but Hikaru punches him lightly in the arm and says seriously, “No, I mean it. You’ve never had a gut-check. You’ve never backed down from anything before.”
Touya does snort at that, a little desperately. “How could I? I was taught never to retreat from a fight.”
Hikaru thinks of the tip of Sai’s outstretched sword, thinks, So was I.
Touya sits up a little straighter. When he looks at Hikaru, really for the first time since the exhibition game, Hikaru is surprised to read something that looks like envy lingering on his face.
“You wouldn’t have resigned,” he says.
“It wasn’t my hurdle to jump,” Hikaru answers.
Touya lets out a brittle laugh. “I sure jumped high.”
“Swan dove,” Hikaru agrees.
“My father knew,” Touya says, studying Hikaru for his reaction. Hikaru tries to keep his face blank.
“He didn’t say a word,” Touya says. “And neither did you.”
“Touya,” Hikaru says, unable to help himself, “The way you were playing, every person watching had to have known. You were…”
You were amazing, he thinks. Brilliant. Hot. You were the sexiest thing I have ever seen.
“It wasn’t a certain outcome,” Touya says, thankfully oblivious to Hikaru’s momentary distraction. “I mean, anything could have happened, you know no game is a sure thing – “
“Bullshit,” Hikaru says. “You were going to win.”
And once it’s out there, finally, he finds he can’t stop talking about it. “You would have completely overpowered him. Your formation through the center was unbreakable, there was no way he could have regained the upper hand after a strategy like that. It was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen. Like watching some kind of battle reenactment, like you were Napoleon or something.”
Touya laughs at that, a genuine laugh, and the tension in the room lifts a bit. “Except that Napoleon lost, moron.”
“Yeah, well, at least he fought through til the end,” Hikaru says. Touya winces and looks away, and Hikaru scoots closer, close enough to nudge him in the ribs with his elbow. Touya in his stupid purple suit only shoots him a wary look, but then he settles against Hikaru’s side. “Besides, he was, what, like four feet tall? No wonder he lost. I bet he had to have help just to climb on his horse.”
Touya smiles at him, and Hikaru is suddenly keenly aware of how comfortable this feels. “I think he did, as a matter of fact,” Touya says, and relaxes against him a little more. It almost feels as if Hikaru could stretch out, wind his arm around Touya, pull him in closer, and rest his head against Touya’s shoulder. It almost feels as if the whole world could begin all over again, right now.
Except this is Touya, and Touya’s friendship is not something Hikaru will ever take advantage of, so he says briskly, “So what’s your excuse? You sure don’t look like you shrunk overnight.”
Touya throws him an over-the-shoulder glare and refuses to answer. Hikaru elbows him ungently. “You were winning right up until the moment you resigned, you had to have known what was going to–“
“Knowing had nothing to do with it,” Touya snaps. “Maybe I just wasn’t ready to win.“
“Touya, that makes no sense.”
“If I defeated my father, what would be left for me?” Touya says. “My father once said some players just stop growing because they have nothing left to push them further. I thought – if I win like this, what will I have left to push me further?”
Hikaru stares at Touya, who is looking obliviously down at the carpet.
“You jerk,” he hears himself say, and when Touya looks up, blinking in surprise, Hikaru shoves him hard enough to send him sprawling onto his back. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard you say.”
Touya scowls and opens his mouth to reply. Hikaru shoves him again to distract himself from his sudden anger. “Even stupider than the time you asked what the difference was as long as the clothes fit. And that time you said Saeki and Ashiwara were really close for roommates.”
Touya splutters, “I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about – and those were both perfectly reasonable assumptions!”
“Yeah, if you’re from Mars!” Hikaru dodges Touya’s amateur attempt to shove him back. “Are you out of your mind? Did you actually think that because you were about to win one game that was it? Hand of God, game over, go home?”
“No,” Touya insists. His face has gone pale. “I know you think I’m arrogant, but I’m not so – “
“I don’t think you’re arrogant, I think you’re a freak, big difference!”
“Beating my father wasn’t supposed to be easy,” Touya says. “He was on top of his game and his game just wasn’t good enough. That’s not supposed to happen!”
“So? Who cares if you beat him once, you think he won’t ever beat you again?” Touya clenches his fists and looks down at the board in what could be anger, guilt, or both. Hikaru’s stomach flip-flops. “You think I won’t ever beat you again?” It comes out sounding accusatory, which is about right, Hikaru thinks.
Touya looks up, eyes flashing. “Why’d you follow me home, Shindou, was it just to let me know that I screwed up?”
“Oh, so you’re dodging conversations now, too?” Hikaru retorts, trying to figure out when this became a real fight.
“Look, if you can do better why don’t you tell me why I quit, then?”
“I think you just told me why, Mr. I’m-Too-Young-To-Be-This-Special!”
“Look, I wasn’t thinking about anything but my father,” Touya says shrilly. “I saw the board and I knew I was going to win and I – I don’t know, I panicked, okay? I’m not supposed to beat my dad! I’m only seventeen!”
“If you really think students aren’t supposed to surpass their masters then it’s more like you’ve regressed to age five.”
“Easy enough for you to say,” Touya snaps, his eyes flashing with deliberate scrutiny. “For all I know, you never had a master.”
He takes in Hikaru’s wince and his face contorts in shock, like he can’t believe what he’s just said.
Hikaru can’t believe it either.
“Right,” he responds slowly, trying to make sense of what has just happened. “Apparently I never had a real rival either."
He manages to get to his feet before he does something really stupid like hitting Touya for real, or crying like an actual five-year-old.
“Wait,” Touya says, voice laden with apology. “Hikaru, you know I’d never – “
Hikaru cuts him off. “Sounds like neither of us knows anything after today,” he says, fumbling for his coat in the foyer. His voice is cold. It sounds older than he’s used to.
Touya’s, on the other hand, sounds very young.
Hikaru gets on the train and realizes he’s left his fan lying on Touya’s goban. He feels symbolically abandoned and rides the train for an hour because he can’t think of anywhere else to go. Waya’s place is too loud, Isumi’s place is too likely to have Waya over and again too loud, Akari is practically married to Mitani, and Kawai-san would be too likely to demand to know where that friend of his was when he walked in the door.
So he rides around town, and then he walks around town. The air is starting to turn colder, winter evening-style, and he shoves his hands in his pockets because he forgot to bring gloves like an idiot. He can’t believe Touya said that. Their one unspoken agreement is that they never talk about it, because Touya is supposed to trust him and Touya is supposed to believe in him and Touya, no matter what, is never ever supposed to throw away games on purpose and act like he isn’t sure he has a rival and mock him about Sai or Shuusaku even if he doesn’t know what it means to Hikaru exactly. It’s enough that he knows it means something, and if Sai were here Hikaru would let him play and remind Touya that he still has a long way to go if he thinks he’s going to be the king of the Go pros now or something –
His eyes are stinging him in a way that hasn’t happened since he was fifteen. The thought of Sai is always close, always enough to choke him up if he thinks about it too hard, but he left his fan at Touya’s place and Touya may have surpassed him for good this time, and Sai isn’t here, and Hikaru knows exactly when he last felt this much alone. He doesn’t want his heart to break that way again. He can’t imagine what Go would be like if he didn’t have Touya – if Touya didn’t have him. For years he has operated on the belief that they understand each other on this point: their Go is a part of each other’s.
A part of him knows Touya didn’t mean it, Touya couldn’t have meant it, and it’s because he’s so shaken up by the game that he even thought about moving beyond Hikaru.
The rest of him just wants to hit Touya, really hard.
And then he stops and Touya’s dad is opening the door and staring at him, and Hikaru realizes that his feet have carried him to Touya’s house. His parents’ house. He stares up at Touya’s dad, who stares back at him.
He says, eloquently under the circumstances, “Hey.”
Touya’s dad gives him a once-over and looks down the street, presumably to see if his son is maybe lagging behind.
“Well,” he says at last, holding open the door. “It’s been a stressful day for everyone.”
Touya’s mom takes one look at Hikaru and says, “Oh, Shindou-kun.” Then she runs her fingers soothingly over the back of his head and serves him hot tea, while Hikaru stands awkwardly in the middle of the living room wondering if he really looks that pathetic.
Then Touya’s dad says, “Your friendship with my son is a complicated one,” and sits down on the couch.
Hikaru has a freak panic attack at the thought that Touya’s dad has just outed him, so he sits down on the opposite side of the room and nearly spills his tea. Then Touya’s mom adds, “Even during the troubling moments, we are both so glad you are in each other’s lives. Days like today would be much harder for him if he didn’t have you to look after him.”
Hikaru scowls, in what he hopes is a non-pathetic kind of scowl. “Yeah, well,” he mutters, “he’s doing just fine without me.”
Touya’s mom and dad exchange glances, and it doesn’t really reassure Hikaru that he’s doing well on the whole not-being-totally-obvious-to-parents front. It would be just his luck to accidentally come out to the Touyas on the day their son pushes him away.
He sinks lower in his chair. Touya will never like Hikaru if he doesn’t even like Hikaru’s Go.
“Shindou-kun,” Touya’s mother says, “Akira is reaching the age where many Go players have a crisis of faith. You may know a bit about what that feels like.”
Touya doesn’t have crises, Hikaru wants to retort. Do you even know your son? he thinks. The way he looks when someone challenges him? The way his eyes go all green and intense, and -
He backs away from that line of thought. “He hasn’t said anything about feeling any different lately,” he answers.
“Akira keeps much to himself,” Touya’s dad answers. He gives Hikaru a shrewd glance. “You probably know a bit about that too.”
Hikaru tenses, then forces himself to relax. Touya’s dad doesn’t have the moratorium on Sai that Touya does – when his dad alludes to Sai, it’s sort of reassuring, like he’s asking about an old friend. When Touya alludes to Sai, it’s terrifying.
Hikaru sips his tea and tries not to fidget. He doesn’t know what he’s doing here. His eyes light on the goban in the center of the room.
It’s set up, mid-game, exactly like Touya’s was. Hikaru looks up at Touya’s dad. His face is as impassive as ever.
“You should let me finish his game,” Hikaru says. It comes out of nowhere. The Touyas both look at him in surprise, and Touya’s dad throws him a look that says: behind my son’s back?
In the middle of feeling guilty and shocked at himself, Hikaru remembers Touya’s voice, the way he hadn’t been able to meet Hikaru’s eyes. What will I have left to push me further?
Touya is a self-centered idiot who thinks Hikaru has nothing left to teach him, and if Hikaru really has to prove himself to Touya right now, because of that stupid game in front of him, then he will.
“Yes,” he says, in answer to Touya’s dad’s unspoken question. “Yeah, you should let me play because I’m not a coward. I won’t walk away from the game no matter what.”
Touya Kouyou says, very carefully: “You think my son is a coward.”
Hikaru meets his gaze. “Today I do, yeah.”
Touya’s dad places his hands on his lap. “Very well,” he says. “If you believe you are capable of picking up where he left off.”
“I don’t think anyone can do that,” Hikaru responds. “But I can see how far my own Go will take me.”
They arrange themselves on either side of the Goban. Touya’s mom says, “I think I’ll go brew more tea,” and excuses herself. One day Hikaru is going to ask her whether she even likes Go.
“I find it interesting,” Touya’s dad says, “that a match which began as a test between me and my son seems to have turned into something between my son and you.”
Hikaru looks at him. “It’s always about me and your son,” he says.
“Ah,” says Touya’s dad. “So it’s like that.”
“Yeah,” Hikaru answers, meeting Touya Kouyou’s eyes. “It is.”
At least, I hope it is, he thinks, and looks at the board.
Hikaru’s reflexes sharpen and he switches into competition mode immediately; but when he looks down at the board, he almost loses his nerve. Sitting there where Touya sat, all he can do is marvel. This is the best game Touya has ever played. Nothing else has ever come close.
He follows the growth of Touya’s formation, replaying the game with his memory and his fingers. He can feel the rush of the game, the exhilaration and the confidence Touya must have felt, up until the moment everything spiraled out of control. He wonders if Sai ever felt the way Touya felt today. He wonders if it’s the kind of rush that you’d wait a thousand years to feel again.
Touya’s dad watches him.
In his head he can hear Sai’s voice: Look at the upper left, Hikaru – look at the way the placement around the hoshii strengthens the formation throughout the middle - Touya’s gotten so strong, Hikaru!
Yeah, he has, Sai, Hikaru thinks, and feels something like a burst of pride tightening his throat and warming him all over. I hope, wherever you are, you were watching him today.
It would be a challenge to enter into such a complicated game. It would take an incredible knowledge of the person who had played those hands – knowledge of the way they thought and acted.
Not just that, Hikaru thinks. It will take an incredible strength to continue those hands.
Sai… wherever you are, I hope you’re watching right now.
Touya had been poised on the brink of a treacherous and brilliant attack through the center just before his resignation. It’s like standing on a hill, looming over a hard-fought battlefield - Hikaru feels the way he felt the first time he realized a goban could hold entire worlds, entire galaxies that would unfold beneath his fingertips. It’s like having an entire army at his command. His stones are warriors.
He attacks through the middle. Touya’s father does not linger; he, too, has had all day to contemplate the way this game would have gone, and he is ready. He places his first stones without apparently needing to think, his eyebrows narrow trenches across his forehead as he stares at the board. Hikaru can feel the intensity of his game in a way he has only felt twice before, but this is the first time he has ever been the direct recipient of it. In younger moments, he thinks, he would be afraid of it, maybe even paralyzed by it. But he has faced Touya too many times to be afraid of his father now.
Hikaru knows, as only he can, exactly where Touya would move, the way he would close off the upper right and finish strengthening the attack by going for a hane on the left side. But he isn’t playing Touya’s game. He’s never striven to be Touya’s clone, only his equal – and he knows better than even Touya just how inadequate he is to take the place of a true master.
But he can play his own Go; and so he does, with a split right down the middle that turns what would have been an empty sankaku into a guzumi. Touya’s father pauses in the middle of drawing a stone out of the goban, and looks up at Hikaru for the first time since the game resumed. It catches Hikaru off-guard. His opponents don’t generally look at him during the match – not even Touya, who doesn’t really need to see his face to know what’s going on in it. The board is everything, the only communication he needs. He’s seen Kuwabara look at opponents before, even make comments during the match to throw them off. Touya’s dad isn’t that kind of player, though. So Hikaru steadies his breath and looks back at him.
That’s all that happens. Touya’s dad just looks at him. Sizes him up in a way he’s never done before. His eyes narrow into the same gaze of challenge Touya wears whenever he looks at Hikaru. Hikaru has faced that stare across the board nearly every day for years; faced, followed, and fallen in love with.
Hikaru wonders what would happen if he just blurted it out: I’m his and he’s mine. Maybe there’s a way he can spell it out in stones and shapes. Maybe there’s a way he can spell it out for Touya’s dad, even if he can’t spell it out for Touya himself yet.
Touya’s dad looks at him for a long time. Then, just as abruptly as he looked up, he plunges his hand back inside the goke.
When Touya’s father plays, he plays a sharp and unexpected de giri that all but demolishes the lower right corner, capitalizing on the risk Hikaru took with the guzumi to weaken the center from the outside. It’s taken him less than five minutes to undermine Touya’s game in Hikaru’s hands – to throw it back into the realm of the uncertain. There’s a chance Hikaru could still lose the incredible advantage of Touya’s fuseki.
Hikaru knows a moment of sheer panic, feels the precipice giving way beneath him – and then he sees it: the path across the trap Touya’s father has laid. It is tricky, but the line of his stones stands out, as clear to Hikaru as the first hoshii. He knows Touya’s strategy as if it were his own. And he knows his own – which is something else altogether.
He slams his next stone down, and doesn’t bother returning Touya Kouyou’s stare.
When the game is done, white has won by three moku. Touya’s father doesn’t count it. He just gives the board the courtesy of his fullest, most reflective gaze, bows his head in defeat, and says: “You played an excellent game.”
Hikaru thanks him. He feels breathless and exhausted, and he’s not sure what else to say.
Then Touya’s dad says: “I think you two ought to talk,” and gets up slowly from the goban.
Which is when Hikaru realizes that Touya is sitting seiza beside them.
He has no idea how long Touya has been sitting there. He’s staring at the board with a grim expression, and the magnitude of what he’s done, what sort of message it must be sending to Touya right now, sinks in upon Hikaru at last.
He opens his mouth, half in protest, half in surprise- but Touya Kouyou is already moving out of the room, which suddenly feels a lot larger. Hikaru scrambles to his feet, unsure what to do or what to say. He waffles, standing over Touya, who’s still not looking at him, torn between apologizing and arguing, or maybe just running away.
He settles on sinking back onto his knees with a sigh. He could never, ever pass up the chance of a post-game discussion with Touya. Even one that could potentially result in murder.
It feels like years until something happens, until one of them shifts and Touya finally looks up at him. Hikaru lets himself breathe at last, relieved. Touya isn’t murderous. But what Touya is – that’s harder to know. He looks as exhausted as Hikaru feels, and the sparks inside Hikaru’s stomach sharpen into worry and concern and adoration and guilt and about twenty other completely confusing emotions Hikaru has to shove aside before he can even try to speak.
Touya looks down at his hands, then back at the board, then back at Hikaru. Then he leans forward and slides something onto the goban. Hikaru’s fan.
Touya sits back again, and they are about to lapse into the same unsteady silence when Hikaru blurts, “Touya, I only – “
“I can’t believe you did that,” Touya cuts in. “I can’t believe you thought you had to do that – that you had to prove something to – to me, to – ”
“I didn’t – I was just – “
“I can’t believe you made my game about you!”
“You made it about me when you said you didn’t know if you’d have anything left!” Hikaru snaps, despite his guilt and embarrassment, despite his knowledge that Touya has every right to be mad. “You made it about us. I can’t believe you’d think I could react any other way.”
“You – I didn’t – “ Touya grits his teeth and picks Hikaru’s fan off the goban again, apparently just to have something to clench his fist around. He takes it and unfolds it and snaps it against the air a few times with a glare, as if to remind Hikaru that if he can steal Touya’s game, Touya can steal his magical Go totem. Then, after a moment of fanning and glaring, he lets out an irritated sigh and says, “Yes, I did. I know. I know I did. I’m sorry.”
“You’re what?” Hikaru blinks at him, thrown off by Touya apologizing for anything ever. “You are?”
Touya folds the fan back up and sighs again before holding it out to Hikaru this time. Hikaru doesn’t take it right away. Touya keeps his arm extended, the fan a peace offering hovering between them.
“It never even – I wasn’t implying that I’d moved beyond you,” Touya insists. “How could you even think that?”
“Well, how could you even say it?”
They stare at each other. Hikaru’s insides are whirlpooling out of control, and suddenly the whole thing seems ridiculously simple and silly and stupid. He reaches up and takes his fan from Touya.
Touya lets him take it – then at the last second, he reaches for Hikaru’s hand. Hikaru freezes in shock. Touya slides his fingers around Hikaru’s wrist. The clutch is warm, but loose – delicate. Hikaru thinks: like the way he holds a stone, and all the things Touya makes him feel sort of wrench loose from his chest at once.
“Touya,” he says, and can’t get any further for a moment. He tries not to move, tries not to breathe too hard, lest Touya stop touching him, and finally manages: “Did you come because you knew I was here? To bring me my fan?”
Touya’s mouth twists in confusion, as if he can’t explain to himself what he was doing carrying Hikaru’s fan around in his pocket. In the end he doesn’t bother trying. “I just wanted to get out of my place for a while. It figures you’d be here.” He rolls his eyes. “You’re like a stray puppy, I can’t get rid of you.”
He sighs once again and sinks down into the rug, relaxing for the first time since the game ended. Since he’s still holding on to Hikaru’s wrist, Hikaru figures he’d better come with him. The rug is thick and warm, but not as warm as Touya’s fingers around his wrist.
“I’m sorry,” Touya says again before he finally glances down at the clutch he has on Hikaru, gives Hikaru a quick appraising glance, and lets go. He starts to speak, then stops, recovers, tries again. “I never even thought you’d do all this just to – just because of some stupid thing I said.” He spreads out his hand and slides his fingers over the fabric of the rug.
Hikaru says, “I’m sorry I yelled at you. And called you a freak. And made your dad finish your game.”
Touya shrugs, playing with the weave under his fingers. “You were right to yell at me,” he said. “I’m glad you yelled at me. I was a disaster.”
“…Well, yeah,” Hikaru says, only to add hastily when Touya glares at him in indignation, “But you were brilliant, you played an amazing game! You were just shaken up by it, anyone would be.”
Touya says, “You wouldn’t be,” and laughs dryly, drawing out a move on the carpet that only Hikaru would ever understand for the Go move it is. “You aren’t now.”
Touya gives him a long, level look. “You just played an amazing game,” he says. And then he deliberately returns his gaze back to the rug.
“Oh,” Hikaru says. “I was just finishing what you started.”
Touya hums in acknowledgement without looking back up, and they fall into silence. Hikaru watches him tracing patterns, remembering the first time Touya’s hands had ever touched his – how shocked he had been at the way Touya had read him like some kind of fortune-teller, just from touching him, from running his fingers over Hikaru’s palm. It’s been five years since that moment. Hikaru knows just where the calluses are on the blunt ends of Touya’s fingers; he knows which nail gets bitten down to the quick when Touya is nervous or upset; he knows about the manicure that inevitably follows the nail-biting because Touya can’t stand any kind of glaring imperfection, especially not in himself. He knows how smooth Touya’s palms are, how long and delicate his fingers are when he reaches inside a goke.
He knows what it feels like when his fingers brush the back of Touya’s hand.
When he looks down, Hikaru realizes he’s gripping his fan hard enough to leave an indenture against his palm.
It takes him a moment, but Hikaru locates his courage, somewhere poised between the tips of Touya’s fingers as he starts his next invisible circle.
“You’ve got me,” he says.
Touya stills, eyes widening. “What?” His hands stop moving. He doesn’t look at Hikaru – not right away – but somehow his expression brings Hikaru closer than he has ever been to spilling the truth he has been pushing away for years.
He fights to ignore the strange waves of unease and anticipation washing over him. “You said,” he scrapes out, “you wondered – what you’d have left if you beat him. Your dad.”
“Forget that,” Touya says softly. “It was stupid.”
“No,” Hikaru says. “It’s okay. We won’t always be on the same level at the same time.”
“We’ll still be in the same place, though.” Touya shakes his head, insistent. “We’ll still be together. You know that, right?”
Hikaru breathes, “Yeah,” and it feels like all the air leaves his lungs at once. “I know.”
Touya’s eyes, when they pin Hikaru in place, are bright and a little sad. The look in them reminds Hikaru abruptly of the way Sai smiles at him sometimes in his dreams. “What I said – about – “
“Forget it,” Hikaru says.
“No, I need you – “ Touya clears his throat. “I need you to trust me to never say anything like that again.”
Hikaru braces himself, looks down at the floor, and nods.
“Hikaru,” Touya says, voice dropping to the level of a low, quiet murmur. “Who and what Sai is – what they mean to you –“ He breaks off as Hikaru tenses. “No, you don’t have to tell me, I don’t want you to tell me,“ he adds hastily. “I don’t need to know.” He takes a deep breath. “I just need to know that we haven’t – broken this.”
“I stole your game,” Hikaru says, his voice wobbly from the effort to put enough reassurance in it. “I think we’re even.”
Touya sighs. “We’re even,” he agrees softly. Something unsettled and desolate flickers on his face, like a frozen winter that’s stripped the landscape of everything but cold – and Hikaru’s not responsible for his actions when Touya looks like that, he’s really, really not.
He reaches out for Touya’s hand, covering it with his own the way he did at the match that morning – except it’s different, because they’re alone now, and it’s not the same, and he almost expects Touya to flinch away. Touya doesn’t. His hand beneath Hikaru’s is warm.
He runs his thumb over Touya’s, down to the underside of his wrist. It’s supposed to be soothing, but it just makes Hikaru feel strange and overheated. Touya shivers and flips his palm over in Hikaru’s hand for better access. He does it like it’s the most natural thing since their Go.
Hikaru’s fingers clench, along with his heart. It takes another moment for the pounding in his ears to recede, for the electricity in the air to subside, and another moment longer before the echoes of discomfort have faded from Touya’s eyes.
“I never really thought today would come,” Touya says softly. “The moment I felt I would win… I couldn’t do it. I was never supposed to.“
“You didn’t think you’d ever surpass him.” Hikaru says gently. “But you must have known. Somewhere something inside you must know the students always surpass the masters.”
Well – not always, he adds silently. Not for another thousand years, perhaps.
He doesn’t add, aloud, that Touya has grown so much he’s become the player of a new generation and more; that he’s going to outstrip all of his masters, not just his father; that to play Touya constantly, to know Touya’s Go through and through, is like staying close to Sai in a whole new way, because it’s staying close to pure genius, and unrivaled passion for the game.
Hikaru’s chest tightens even more at that thought, and at the way Touya is looking at him right now, like he’s reading Hikaru’s mind again.
Touya rolls over onto his side, his face searching Hikaru’s.
“Then you, too,” he says. “It’s the same for you.” His voice is urgent and close. There’s something behind it that gives Hikaru shivers, and when he’s lying stretched out like this, totally focused, eyes glittering with the intensity that is pure Touya Akira, all Hikaru can do is cling desperately to logic.
Hikaru breathes in, once, then again.
“It’s not why I play,” he says, his voice shaking a little. “It’s okay if I don’t. As long as I can play in a way that makes him proud – as long as I can always hold my own against you I...” he can’t actually bring himself to finish that sentence, to state out loud what they both know – that his Go belongs to Touya.
Tension stretches around them. “But you will surpass him, one day,” Touya says after the silence has crept back inside Hikaru’s bones. “If I’ve done it, then so will you.” ”
He gives Hikaru’s hand a squeeze and releases it. Hikaru flushes beneath his touch and Touya smiles a tiny smile that makes Hikaru’s chest squeeze tight. “We’re side by side,” Touya says, with the soft tone that Hikaru has long since learned to take for resolve.
“I know that,” Hikaru says. “I’m sorry I forgot.”
It doesn’t change the way Touya is looking at him. “Don’t,” is all he says.
Hikaru manages, “Okay,” and tries to calm his nerves and his limbs as he sits back up.
An uneasy calm stretches between them both for a moment, until finally Touya stretches and turns his attention to the board. Hikaru is relieved; if Touya’s looking at the board he won’t notice that Hikaru can’t stop looking at him.
"I thought you were supposed to be me," Touya huffs, extending a languid hand over the corner where Hikaru had so totally extended Touya’s intended strike into his dad’s territory. "I'd never play that hand."
“What? That’s such a lie, you were going to go for the extension here and come across into his territory using a geima.”
Touya pales a little. “I would never do anything so simplistic.”
“Yeah, well, you didn’t see me trying to copy you, did you?”
“You should have stuck to simple and gone for the nobi, if you had, maybe you’d avoid this monstrosity in the lower right!”
“That monstrosity kept black from a kakae where you failed to protect earlier in the game.”
“I did not,” Touya says, sitting all the way up and glaring, “fail to protect.”
Hikaru snorts. "You keep whining like a girl and you're going to get screwed like one."
Touya rolls his eyes and snaps back, "I really hope that's not the best pick-up line you have."
Hikaru starts to retort, then realizes what Touya has just said, manages to stammer, “Uh- that’s – I – “ realizes he has gone flag-red, and then gives himself over to his fate and a ridiculously dramatic silence.
Touya looks up from the board with a slow, incredulous look.
“Want to play?” says Hikaru desperately.
Touya says, “No,” with a stare like a lion about to pounce.
Hikaru has been avoiding this moment for years.
And it’s here, and the look in Touya’s eyes is a mirror of his own thoughts, and it’s so obvious, so utterly ridiculously blatant.
Hikaru lives a year’s worth of kicking himself in the head for being so stupid in the time it takes for Touya to blink, open his mouth, and say: “Hikaru – “
Then he leans – bolts – forward, tugs Touya towards him, and kisses him full on the mouth, his lips tingling from the shock of what he is doing even before they have actually met Touya’s own.
And Touya reaches up and clutches Hikaru’s shoulders and presses back, his mouth open, his lips soft and narrow and sharp and possessive all at once, exactly like Touya himself. He kisses Hikaru like this is just them, just natural, and that’s all after years and years of wanting and fearing and yearning and Hikaru’s going to kill him because now he can actually hold him, can actually touch him. He presses his hand into Touya’s hair. Touya makes a startled noise and then hums against Hikaru’s mouth, a soft little encouraging sound, and Hikaru clutches Touya harder to keep from melting into the rug. It feels as if he’s reached the final hand of a game that has been in play for years, like he’s been in atari the whole time without knowing, and Hikaru is relieved and exhausted, and his spine and his toes and his mouth and his fingertips are buzzing with something that could be panic, or joy, or both.
When they finally break away, Touya’s face is calm, even serene – except for the fact that he is bright pink. His hair is splayed in all directions and Hikaru can’t stop touching it, he wants to cup his hand behind Touya’s head and take whole handfuls of it and –
“I’m glad,” Touya says, feigning supreme indifference to Hikaru’s hands in his hair, “that it won’t take more matches like this one to get you to finally touch me.”
“Only you would resign on purpose and then call it part of an elaborate seduction attempt.”
“Seduction?” Touya snorts and rolls his eyes. “You held my hand for half an hour on the train ride this morning.”
“I – “ Hikaru flushes. “That was different.”
“I’m not complaining,” Touya relents, and then he turns even pinker, and Hikaru presses him into the rug while he is still blushing.
This is how Touya Kouyou and his wife find them later, when they cautiously step back into the parlor: the two of them, tucked up on the same side of the goban, Hikaru arguing feverishly that Akira’s foray into the center too early was the reason he almost lost control of his territory sixteen hands later, Akira arguing just as fervently that if Hikaru didn’t attack every hand like a kamikaze, maybe he wouldn’t throw perfectly stable territories into jeopardy.
They look up, embarrassed, when Touya Kouyou clears his throat, but it’s not quickly enough to hide the state of their hair and their clothes, or their hands: laced tightly together, settled in the middle of the goban, Hikaru’s fan clutched between their fingers.
“Ah,” says Touya’s dad. “So it’s like that.”
And he takes a calm sip of his tea before asking them for a rematch.