title: Brilliant Years
fandom: Hikaru no Go
characters/pairings: Kuwabara, OCs, Touya Kouyo
rating: G/Teen
warnings: death of a newborn
summary: Kuwabara's life.
notes: for Round 011 of blind go.

Kuwabara was on a trip when his daughter was born.

An important trip, he reminded his wife as he packed. It was a big deal for Japanese players to be able to go to Korea at all to play, so he couldn't turn down the chance, even if she was eight and a half months pregnant. Which she was. He didn't have any phone numbers for where he would be staying, but the Go Institute would, naturally, and it wasn't truly that far. It wasn't like going to Hawai'i, where he met his wife. He tried to make her think of happier times. She was younger than he was, and this was their first child. It was a mother's nature to worry, he gently chided her. It was the father's duty to provide.

So he went on his trip. And as soon as the stones were laid out, he forgot, essentially, all about them at home. The games were of a pace and a pressure he had never felt before, but he had a new, potent weapon. He was entirely unknown, and better yet, exotic. The other two Japanese pros who came suffered, but his personality caused him to flourish.

His mother-in-law called the Go Institute as soon as they were at the hospital, but he was in the bar with some Korean pros and a few fans. Korean food was spicy, and it required lots of libation! Korean people, too, were different from Japanese people in so many subtle ways. He had a duty to experience everything to the fullest, to leave behind the best impression of Japan as possible! He didn't get back to his hotel until very late, so late that the man at the front desk was lightly snoozing. He didn't turn on the lights in his room, having had too much trouble with the antique key and the jiggling it required to get the door to budge. He fell into bed and dreamed happily in black and white.

It was the next day, then, as he re-entered the go salon that the representative from the Go Institute happily slapped him on the back to congratulate him. For a moment, he thought he was being congratulated for his games the first day.

A girl, he kept thinking to himself. He was supposed to want a son, but he was... happy.

He left, of course, but waited to leave until his flight was arranged. No point sitting around in an airport when one could be happily occupied at a goban. It was nearly midnight when he arrived at the hospital in Tokyo, and his wife and daughter were fast asleep, of course. He looked at the little baby through the glass at the nursery until the nurse cleared her throat the third time. She was tiny and fragile. He slept in the chair in his wife's room. He wasn't sure if she was angry with him or not when she woke up, but at least she didn't say anything. Of course, her mother said plenty, so perhaps she didn't feel the need. He smiled from his chair, though, mostly ignoring the old bag, and watched his young wife with their baby. She looked a bit terrified, like a child holding a baby for the first time. Maybe it was her first time, he didn't know. It had never come up before.

She looked beautiful. They both did. He forgot about stones, and thought only of love.

 

His daughter loved to sit in his lap while he pondered his goban. To mentally prepare for the 10-dan tournament, he was replaying Honinbou Shusaku's games. He liked to think that she enjoyed the view of the game. Probably, she just liked to sneak stones to suck on, just as she was doing, her sweet little arm reaching out. He took her tiny hand, and pondered the hands before him.

His wife stood in the doorway, frowning slightly. She didn't approve of their daughter playing with stones. He knew it wasn't a good idea, it was just that it was cute. He smiled up at her benignly.

"Darling."

He bit back a sigh. She only used that tone with him when she was very annoyed. He smiled at his wife cheerfully. "Don't worry, I'm watching her carefully." She gave him a more pointed look, and he glanced down at his daughter, and swiped the stone away from her before she got it into her mouth. His wife just sighed heavily.

"It's time for her bath. I'll take her." She reached out a hand to their daughter, but he didn't quite feel like letting go.

"I'll give it to her." At his wife's astonished look, he just laughed. "The tournament is about to start. Pretty soon, I'll be as selfish as I can get away with. So for now..." He wiggled his daughter's hand.

"Fine," his wife agreed. Easily? "Don't forget to make her brush her teeth. She doesn't like it, but she has to do it. Right, daddy?"

"Of course," he replied, solemn, looking down at his daughter.

He didn't make her brush her teeth. She was so little! He didn't want her pouting before bed, anyway. They had fun splashing each other in the bath, and she was very good about letting him dry her hair and put on her pajamas. He read to her, three stories, because Mommy always read two, and well, he was Daddy, so there should be something special about that.

He wasn't surprised that his wife was in their bedroom when he was done, because it took longer than if she had been the one to get her ready for bed, but it was still early. Depending on his wife's mood, they could stay in bed, or he could go back and continue his studies. It depended on his wife's mood. His shirt was a bit wet, though...

When he entered, he found his wife on their bed, brushing her hair out. She was in a silky nightgown he didn't remember seeing before. It was a deep, rich color, with thin straps. It looked so good against her skin... Ah... He came up behind her, and ran his hands down her shoulders, down her arms... he kissed the nape of neck before him.

"I'm pregnant."

He went still. She was still.

Wait. But...

"That's wonderful!" he wrapped his arms around her, reaching down to caress her belly. "Isn't that wonderful!?"

"I think so... I found out yesterday. Well, I've suspected for a while now..." She took a deep breath. "I saw my aunt today, the fortuneteller. Of course you remember her, we saw her together before the wedding? She did a reading. Sh-she told me... a period of great, great upheaval was beginning. And... and I needed to be st-strong." She turned to look at him, questioning.

Needing something.

He needed to think.

He wanted to just dismiss the fortune, but he knew her aunt was quite good. He wasn't entirely sure what to believe, but he knew that he didn't know everything. Neither of them would be able to totally dismiss her aunt's words, so he couldn't suggest that.

He smiled at her, and caressed her face. "But you are strong. A new child... that can't be anything but a blessing, right?"

After moment of watching him carefully, she burst into a bright, dazzling smile, and turned to throw her arms around him. "Oh, I know it is. Whatever is to come... we can handle it together, right? I'm so happy!"

He held her tightly, close. He felt... surprisingly weak with happiness.

 
 
 

He won the 10-dan title.

He should have gone out to celebrate it. He discovered that he has a bit of a 'reputation' when it came to 'celebrating.' That was good, he liked it. He didn't ever want to be some old fuddy duddy who just looked serious all the time and never laughed and smiled. That just wasn't him. Still.

This time, he bowed out. His wife was suffering a bit more from this pregnancy than the first. She kept saying ominously how different everything was this time, but he'd keep reminding her that this time, the child was going to be a boy. They found that much out, with all the tests she had. A boy changed everything, right?

At any rate, he wanted to get home as quickly as he could, even if he did just win his first title. His only concession to celebration was to pick up some fried chicken on the way. That was the 'code' they'd decided on that morning. If he won... If he lost, there was no need to do anything special.

Still, the bucket of chicken earned him a big kiss right in the doorway. They ate dinner together, and he fed their daughter, making funny noises as he brought the spoon to her lips in big spirals. It was a noisy dinner, with lots of laughter, and a few spills, but he quickly told his wife not to worry about it, he would clean up. His wife smiled at him tiredly. He caressed her hand as he tried to feed their daughter some pudding.

"It's going to be twice as messy in here soon... hopefully..." she said in a hollow voice.

He wished she could say that without the hopefully.

Right after dinner, she locked herself away in their room. She'd been getting headaches, and sore ankles, so she was spending most evenings translating Russian poetry into Japanese. After dinner became daddy and daughter time.

They played together, and he got her bathed, ready for bed, and tucked in, and then he went back and cleaned up the kitchen. He was damned tired when he was done, but when he went to their bedroom, he just smiled at his wife, and massaged her ankles. She seemed to have been dozing over her work, anyway. She set aside her books and notebooks, and stretched out.

"I'm very happy for you, my dear," she sighed, closing her eyes.

"It's not just for me," he answered her softly. "It's for all of us.

"Be happy for all of us."

 
 
 

 
 
 

He was in the delivery room this time. It took over fourteen hours, and it was touch and go at times for both mother and son. His wife was drenched in sweat, still in the afterbirth, when they first told them there was a problem with their son's heart. His wife wanted to hold her baby, but they had to take him away, immediately, to infant ICU for treatment. Six hours later, they both got a chance to hold him for a few minutes. The next day, he died.

 
 
 

 
 
 

His wife stayed in the hospital for a week. He put in at the Institute for a short leave. He and his daughter went to the hospital every day to spend the visiting hours with his wife, and then they went home. His daughter was sensitive and sweet. Knowing that her little brother wasn't coming home, she was quiet and pensive. Together, they packed up all the baby things they had bought, and brought it to a charity depository.

He started to teach her to play go.

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

A month later, he and his wife had a fight. Terrible things were said. He never, never thought that her 'negative attitude' did anything bad to the baby, but he said it, anyway. The things she said were worse. He went out that night and didn't come home.

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

She went to go see her mother. I just can't stand being here right now. She said that, and he knew what she meant. She certainly packed up enough things.

For both herself... and their daughter.

Two weeks later, during the day, while he had matches, she must have come. Everything else that she owned and most of their daughter's things disappeared.

A month after that, her brother came with the divorce papers for him to sign. Her brother never looked him in the eye, but he never said anything like sorry, either.

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

He got married again two and half years later. His second wife was twice as beautiful as his first, but not as forceful and challenging. He won several more titles, and his wife always went out to celebrate with him. They tried, oh, they tried, but she never got pregnant.

They'd been married six years when he buried her. Ovarian cancer. They didn't have a clue until it was far too late.

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

He married a third time, four years after burying his second wife. He felt old, because she was far too young for him, which he knew meant she was mostly interested in money, but there were plenty of rich men around, and she chose him. That was good enough.

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

Nine years later, his daughter showed up at his front door.

He was in his salon, going over a game by that Touya. That kid had spark, he could tell. His wife stiffly informed him he had a visitor, but didn't elaborate, so he just told her to bring the visitor to him. He was engrossed!

"I shouldn't be surprised to see you in front of a goban, should I?"

He looked up, shocked. There she was! He was on his feet in a second! "Rina...! Look at you... Is everything all right? Is your mother all right?" He asked in a rush.

She looked... nervous? "I'm surprised you recognized me so quickly. Mother's fine, everything's... well, everything's fine, it's just. You know." She swallowed hard, looking down at the stones. "I've followed your career. You're... you're quite amazing, huh?"

"Oh, I'm just good at go," he replied, shrugging. Helpless. "I've followed you, too. Well, as much as I could. I... heard your concert last month. Your piano is... amazing. That's what's amazing."

She shook her head. "I... I didn't know. Why didn't you...?"

He waved off, unable to answer. "Why don't we sit down? Would you like some tea?"

Awkward, uncomfortable, he went into the kitchen to sit down with his daughter for the first time in twenty-one years. His wife refused to prepare the tea for them, flouncing off to 'shop,' so he took care of it. He got out some treats, too. Mostly because he wasn't sure how to behave. It wasn't like he ever stopped being a father, but his child had been taken from him. He was out of practice.

Through stuttering starts and nervous laughter, they began to converse. She loved to play, and to perform, but she really loved to teach. She was working at an exclusive music school. She met someone... She blushed slightly when she mentioned him. So he was special to her.

He sipped his tea, working hard to swallow down the bitter taste of regret of everything he'd lost with her. Here she was, on the precipice of a new life all her own, and his fondest memories of her were from when she could barely speak.

Eventually, the hard questions came out.

Didn't you miss me?

Did you ever try to see me again?

Did you stop loving mom?

He was forced to put into words things he tried for decades to never think about. About how much it hurt him to lose his daughter, of course, but of all the hurt that went with it. Of course he missed her. Of course he had wanted to be a part of her life. He didn't hate her mother. He still... loved her. They had lost a child together. They both shared more and lost more together than he'd ever have with anyone else in the world. Things like that, they either made a couple, a family, stronger or... well.

They broke.

He didn't hate her mother, but right after they lost their son, she took his daughter away. Even if he did still love her, he wasn't sure he could forgive her. Conversely, she knew he'd said, maybe even done things, things that couldn't be forgiven, either.

Sometimes, history could be oppressive.

The sun was starting to set, and Rina confessed to him that the only things she knew about her father were the things her mother told her, and she'd realized that her mother's point of view wasn't necessarily the truth. She wanted to get to know him herself.

He reached out across the table, and took her hands, and smiled.

 
 
 

His wife insisted that going to the wedding was inappropriate. Think about your ex-wife! What will she think? How will she feel? This is an important day for her, too! He just wouldn't listen to her. She refused to go, and he told her that was fine. He would be there, no matter what.

Rina was beautiful. And he did see his ex-wife. And they even spoke cordially to each other. She was now teaching Russian poetry in a small college. He didn't say so, because it sounded condescending, but he felt immensely proud of her. He told her that he bought the books of poetry she had translated. They even danced. He wasn't unhappy to leave her, though, and she never asked him about his wives.

It occurred to him that perhaps she might have wanted, at some point in the past, to reconcile with him, except that he had remarried. Something that Rina said to him when he had last taken her to lunch, something that his ex-wife said... Well, it was moot. Once a hand has been laid down, it has its own life. He had his own wounds, after all.

When he arrived home, well after midnight, and more than a little drunk, he had a little fight with his wife. He thought it was a little fight, but she still wasn't speaking to him the next day. A week later, she laid it out to him, and he understood, completely.

She was, after all, younger than he was. And now, he had an heir. One completely separate from her.

He explained to her, perhaps more coldly than he should have, that Rina was his daughter. He loved her. He would support her, and her children, in whatever form he was needed to do so, and Rina would definitely be a part of his will. In fact, she had been, before this, anyway.

A month later, his second divorce was final.

 
 
 

His tea was going to get cold. Also, the small Polaroid was going to age prematurely if he kept handling it like he was. He couldn't stop grinning, which probably made him look like some kind of dangerous old creep. His first wife had been teasing him that morning about his grey hairs and receding hairline. It wasn't like it mattered that much to him.

"Kuwabara-sensei?"

He looked up, distracted. Ah... that Touya punk, huh? "Touya-kun. Or, perhaps I should start calling you Touya-10-dan, mm?" he cackled a bit. Well, well. It wasn't at all surprising that this punk was earning titles. Talk was that he was doing well in the Meijin league, too.

The man looked mostly impassive, as always, though he did... was that a smile on his face? How strange! "Sensei, please. Do you mind if I join you?"

He waved his hand out, inviting Touya to sit. He looked around, realizing for the first time that it was getting busy in the cafe. It had been a strange night, after all.

Thinking of that... and Touya...

"Ah, I haven't had a chance to congratulate you, Touya-kun. I understand your wife recently gave birth to a son?" He ran his finger down the edge of the Polaroid.

Touya damned about beamed, as much as his wooden face would allow. "Yes. Akira. I haven't quite adjusted to his schedule yet..." he tried to joke. Joking wasn't Touya's strong suit. That was all right, he had enough strengths, the punk. "But it is still... well. Miraculous."

"That it is." Kuwabara took a sip of cold tea, and looked at his grandson's newborn face again. Heh, his grandson and this Touya's brat were just about the same age. His grandson would probably be a musician, not a go player, though Rina had started to learn again. "Well, congratulations. It's a wonderful thing, having children. Family." He looked across the table at the far too serious young man, and the far too serious manner in which he was drinking tea. He was... jealous. He'd never been particularly awed by Touya's skills. Surely, he would be one of the most revered players for generations. Maybe, someday, even in the same class as Shusaku. Probably not, though. He lacked any true rival.

However.

He did have this son, and it wasn't likely that things would go for him like they had for Kuwabara.

Jealousy tasted worse than cold tea, so he took another sip.

"Listen up, kid. Being a father is the most amazing thing in the world. Don't ever forget that. That wriggling little person... he'll give you more than any game ever will. So, make sure you tend to that child. Cherish him. Always put him first. Doesn't matter how many titles you pile up if at the end, you have regrets where he's concerned." Kuwabara nodded sagely. Hm, he was getting to the age where wisdom could become a weapon, wasn't he?

"Th-thank you, sensei. I will... remember that." Touya was giving him an odd look. And then... an unexpected twinkle entered his eye. "Though... you wouldn't just be trying to rattle my cage for league play, would you?"

It did sound like the sort of trick he'd pull, so Kuwabara laughed out loud. "Maybe I am! That doesn't make what I said untrue, though, Touya-kun! Didn't you know? The truth is always the best manipulator." He winked, and laughed some more.

Though... maybe he didn't need to play in so many leagues, anyway. He might not have a son at home, like Touya-kun. But now. He had a grandson to spoil, and to teach all his best pranks.

That was an important responsibility, too.








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