title: Diverting Fortunes
fandom: Hikaru no Go
characters/pairings: Tsutsui/Kaga
rating: G/Teen
warnings: pachinko, hooliganism, drinking
summary: Tsutsui meets an old friend at an odd time.
notes: for Mina the amazing, for fifthmus.

It was louder than he expected. He stood just inside the place, out of the way of the door, watching. Already, his head was beginning to swim, and he started to second-guess himself. He tried to think of the clacking of the balls falling as a rather a clamorous crush of go stones being placed, but the tone was all wrong, and there was too much music and bells.

He didn't know what he was doing.

His fingers tightened around the handle of the small pail he had obtained at the door. From the balls disappearing down into the slots to the lights around the machines, everything seemed to glisten too cheaply; a more obvious sign of his mistake, he could not hope for, but having come so far, there was no turning back. Gathering up his courage, he stepped out gingerly, keeping an eye out for traffic, until he found a row of machines that was relatively empty. He tried to think of strategy. Games without strategy were like meals without food. He'd read a book about gamblers in Vegas once that said that one should go to a slot machine that was just being vacated by some elderly person who had given up, because it increased the odds of a payoff during play. Tsutsui wasn't sure, though, if that applied to pachinko machines. Also, it was ten in the morning, and none of the grizzled, smoky, grubby men were getting up.

The only thing certain about his luck was that it was all bad. He didn't know how to pick a machine, so he just sat down in front of one. He put his bucket neatly in his lap, and surreptitiously watched the man at the end of the row put his balls in and start up the game. Everything was so loud and bright, and... Tsutsui didn't really understand it at all, but he only watched for a bit, afraid of holding up a machine he wasn't playing. He started it up, but it went really fast. From the four balls he started with, he only got back one, because he hadn't been looking in the right place at the right time. He tried again, watching more carefully. The problem was, he didn't really fully understand what he was supposed to do.

His sixth turn, he thought he had it figured out. He got back ten, which put him almost to even. He got a bit bolder. Even now that he understood, though, he was still facing the challenge of actually physically doing what needed to be done.

His bucket was getting emptier rapidly. He looked down and swallowed hard. No one could have bad luck all the time, right?

He took up a big handful, and inserted them, and then started the next round. If he put all of his feelings into it, mightn't it help a bit? He rubbed his hand on his pant leg, and then grasped the level firmly. He bit his lower lip unconsciously, and watched as the slots started to spin.

"Loosen your grip."

He started at the sound of the voice behind him, which had the same effect as following the command. He didn't have time to think about the invasion.

"Try not to think. Just react. Now!"

Frantically, he pulled, but he was just a bit slow.

Kaga plopped down in the chair next to him. "Ah, bad luck, bad luck. Is this your first time playing? It's like watching someone throw his money at pigeons!"

Tsutsui narrowed his eyes, and grabbed another handful, preparing for another round.

"So, how long, huh?" Kaga leaned forward, his bright head between Tsutsui and his machine. Tsutsui nervously adjusted his glasses and straightened up.

"How long? Well, it'd be about two and half years, right? Since graduation?" If he'd seen Kaga somewhere in the interim, he supposed Kaga would have forgotten, so. It shouldn't have been a surprising question. Shouldn't have been.

Kaga straightened up, looking genuinely confused. "Eh? Oh... no... I knew that, yeah." Kaga looked a little embarrassed, which made Tsutsui embarrassed. "No, I mean... how long have you been pretending to be a delinquent?"

Tsutsui blinked, and then turned his face away from Kaga a bit. There was something endlessly infuriating about the way that 'bad' students treated 'good' students as if they were made of glass. Tsutsui scooped up a handful of balls and dropped them into the machine. "I don't know what you mean."

Kaga just watched him play, silently. He managed to make it last a bit this time, at least, winning a few more, possibly. Since he didn't really keep count, he couldn't be sure. Kaga was silent until his round was up.

"If you're going to play hooky... at least take off your school jacket. You'll get way too much attention this way," Kaga suggested to him, his tone like that of a teacher.

Tsutsui looked down at himself, and he blushed. How... how stupid of him, seriously. He had gotten a few looks already. It was, after all, school hours. He was an exam student, too. He didn't have time for this. Slowly, he took off his jacket, and folded it up neatly, slipping it into his bag. He thought he still looked foolish...

Kaga grunted, and turned to his own machine, grinning. "Are you trying to make money or something? Or just heartbroken by some cute, shy girl?"

Unexpectedly, he found that he hated anyone making assumptions about him, so he chose not to answer. He saw Kaga giving him a few looks, but he didn't bother to return the favor. The pool in his bucket kept getting smaller and smaller... It was useless, of course, even before he began, but such tangible proof of failure was galling.

Kaga leaned back, putting his hands behind his head in broad gesture, his elbows out. He was watching Tsutsui lose, game after game. It only took one big win, right? But that was a dream, wasn't it?

Tsutsui was more accustomed to hard work than dreaming.

Kaga yawned widely, and put his arm behind Tsutsui, resting on the back of his chair. Tsutsui stiffened. The heat of Kaga's arm and the casual intimacy of the gesture were neither welcomed nor unwelcomed, but it was unusual, and as such, Tsutsui felt irrationally self-conscious. "I'm hungry. Wanna come back with me? To my place. We can be proper delinquents and drink during school hours."

He honestly never expected Kaga to say something like that, so he started to laugh a bit, which just enough to shatter his tension. The subsequent relief caused him to laugh even more, but he forced himself to swallow it down so he didn't seem scary. He looked down at his meager bucket.

"Yeah, ok, let's go." He looked up, and ended up laughing some more. "Was I not supposed to accept?"

Kaga shook his head fast, but he was still gaping. "Nah... Nah, it was a genuine offer. Just. Well. ...You've changed, huh?"

Tsutsui blinked. His glasses were slipping down his nose. "Haven't we both?" He wasn't sure, though. Had he changed?

Kaga grinned at him. "Well. I dunno... I guess we have. Ok. Yeah." He got up, and motioned to Tsutsui to follow.

They cashed out, and went outside. It was a dingy old parlor, near the station... It just occurred to Tsutsui that it was about halfway between their high schools. Just luck, then, maybe. His only real luck.

He followed Kaga, then, over to Kaga's bike. Kaga got right on, and handed Tsutsui his extra helmet. Tsutsui looked at the bike and he looked at Kaga, and then he looked down at his helmet, and his bag. It seemed there were too many parts. Kaga gave him an odd look, though, so he started to put on the helmet. He wondered if anyone else had worn it. Wasn't it something that Kaga would have in case he was driving a girl around?

Kaga nodded to him when he was done. "Tighten your bag," he said simply. Tsutsui complied, and then lifted his leg over the bike. He felt awkward, but Kaga started the bike. He got on more quickly, then, and fumbled a bit. His first instinct was to put his arms around Kaga, but then he grabbed onto the bar behind his ass. Kaga looked behind at him, and then took off.

The wind was strong, the air cold and fresh, and sun around them very bright. His voice was carried away, so Kaga probably didn't hear him cry out. He tipped his head back after a minute. Kaga wasn't driving recklessly, but he wasn't used to being on a motorcycle at all. He wasn't used to his heart pounding like this. He grinned...

He was really taking to be a delinquent well, huh?

They pulled up to a narrow, dirty looking apartment building, and Kaga turned to him. "Home sweet home."

Bewildered, it took a moment for Tsutsui to realize that they were really getting off there. He stumbled off of the bike, and then he clumsily tore at the snap for the helmet. "Kaga...?" He wasn't sure what to ask, though. He'd never been to Kaga's home before, of course, and still...

"Oh, yeah, I'm on my own now, forgot to mention that," Kaga breezily said. He slapped Tsutsui on the back. "You wanna get something to eat from the convenience store? I think I have some cold noodles..."

Tsutsui shook his head, not really sure what he meant by it. Kaga nodded, and headed for the store. It was a tiny shop, really, but very convenient for Kaga. They got some buns and some dried meat, and Kaga got cigarettes.

Tsutsui had the sensation of being left behind. Like he really hadn't moved at all from middle school, and Kaga was already way ahead of him.

They carried the food back and Tsutsui followed Kaga up three flights of stairs. The building looked like the sort of place that college students and foreigners lived in, but Kaga was whistling like there was nothing unusual going on, so Tsutsui said nothing. Kaga held the door open for him, and he walked in respectfully, toeing his shoes off. Once they were both inside, Kaga turned to him and grinned.

"So, what do you think?"

"It's a shithole," Tsutsui answered honestly. Fortunately, Kaga just laughed.

"Yeah, but it's my shithole. And watch your language! Impressionable young minds could be lurking around corners, waiting to look up to you!" Kaga kept laughing as he went into the tiny kitchen. He could just barely stand in there. Other than that, there was a messy room with a futon still laid out, and a bathroom off to the side.

It really was a shithole. "Give me a break. I'm way past the role model stage, aren't I?"

"Doubt it," Kaga called out cheerfully. "You are who you are." He opened the refrigerator, and pulled out several cans.

Beer. So they were really going to drink...?

Kaga handed him one, and then put the rest on the ground. "It's not like it's a bad thing," Kaga said frankly.

Tsutsui blushed and looked away. He popped open his can, immediately slurping up the foam that fizzed out. He wasn't quite expecting the taste, though. He coughed a bit, and Kaga laughed, pounding his back.

"C'mon, forget about it. Here. Sit." He motioned vaguely to the floor, and then he turned to his closet, rooting around, looking for something. Tsutsui sat down, lifting his bag over his head to set it aside next to the wall. He folded his legs under him, trying to take up as little space as possible, since it was all at a premium. Also, he wasn't sure how clean it was... "Here!" Kaga lifted his head out of the closet, triumphant. "Let's play some."

He put down a battered travel go set, and reclined next to it, grabbing for the bags from the convenience store. He took out a cigarette first, lighting up.

Tsutsui had a travel go set with him, too, but he didn't mention it, instead opening up Kaga's far more weathered set. "I'm surprised you still have something like this. I would have put money on you tossing everything go-related long ago," Tsutsui teased lightly.

"Yeah, but we've firmly established your lack of skill as a gambler, right?" Kaga grinned. He took a drag from his cigarette, and then flicked off the excess ass onto a plate with an unidentifiable smear.

Tsutsui blushed a bit, but he gave Kaga a defiant look. "If you think that, are you going to be putting money on this game, then?"

"Well, I try not to steal from friends," Kaga said with mock generosity. "I mean, I try, but hey. If you want to just give me money, I'm ok with that, too."

"Try and take it," Tsutsui laughed, pulling out some cash. Kaga matched him, and so they laid down their stones. As they played, they ate and drank, too. Tsutsui started out slow, just sipping at the beer. He didn't really want to drink, but then, he didn't want to not drink in this moment, either. Kaga turned on some music at one point, and Tsutsui made a joke about the pachinko parlor.

He finished his beer during the second game. By the start of the fourth game, he was starting his third beer. Kaga suggested speed go, and Tsutsui made him change the music. He thought Kaga was going soft on him because he was winning a few, but then he realized he was losing more.

They came to the last beer, and Kaga suggested sharing it. Tsutsui thought he was going to get glasses, but he just handed Tsutsui the can after taking a big gulp. Tsutsui tried to drink without touching the inside of his lips to the can, but that just lead to spillage, which got him teased. So he laid down on Kaga's pillow.

Kaga stretched out on his futon, laughing. "You want to try this, too?" he asked, offering Tsutsui his cigarette. Tsutsui took it delicately, not sure how to hold it. "Here, here," Kaga rolled to his side, reaching out to put his hand on Tsutsui's, to show him how. And then he brought it up to Tsutsui's lips.

Tsutsui looked down at Kaga, their hands hiding most of his face. Kaga was just laughing, smiling... he looked bright. He'd always looked so bright to Tsutsui.

"Just inhale. Take it slow. Take in a deep breath, and just hold it for a minute... that's ok, let it out..." He patted Tsutsui's shoulder as Tsutsui coughed.

He was so bright....

Tsutsui handed him back his cigarette. "Why're'ya livin' here?" he asked quickly, his words tripping on each other. It was a rude question, but he felt like there had been some intimacy or something between them. He felt like there had been something between them besides just a beer and a cigarette.

Kaga shrugged. "Aw, you know. My old man and me. He kept givin' me a hard time, so I started mouthin' off to him more 'n' more. This was his idea, but I told him to keep his fuckin' money and I'd pay for it. So. Here I am.

"It's better like this, really. I know it's a shitty little hole, and stuff, but. I'd've moved out next year, anyway. And this really is my shitty little hole. And... I can maybe have a civil conv'sation with the guy someday if we're not steppin' all over each other all the time. Right?" He winked at Tsutsui.

Tsutsui sank back into Kaga's pillow. "Oh..." He took back Kaga's cigarette, and took another drag. It still burned, and he was still sure he hadn't done it right, but.

Kaga poked him in the side. "What about you? Huh? What the hell, you're takin' up pachinko?" Kaga was grinning, teasing.

And Kaga had opened up to him. Sort of. Kaga maybe didn't really have secrets. Maybe he would have told anyone. Tsutsui was the one who was there, though. "It's... it's childish. And stupid."

He leaned all the way back, laying uncomfortably draped over the pillow. His head came to a rest on the floor on the other side. He looked up at the ceiling.

"It was during Christmas. New Year. Like, right around then. My mom got pregnant. Well. I think she got pregnant... way before that. But that's when she told everyone. She described it as a... a change of life baby.

"I wasn't all that happy about it. I dunno if it was selfish or not... I thought they were too old. I thought I was too old to be someone's big brother. Anyway... I never really told her... you know. Congratulations, never said anything like that."

He took a breath, and closed his eyes. He didn't hear the music anymore. It seemed like Kaga was really close to him. It seemed like they were both really close.

"She lost the baby. It was kinda scary for a bit... she had to go to the hospital and everything. But she came back, and I thought... I thought things could go back to way they should be, go back to normal, you know? I think my father thought the same thing. Or maybe he was troubled, too. He's been working constantly.

"But mom's been... well. She can't go back to normal." He took a deep breath. He was a bad son, probably. But. "It's been a while now. I think she's upset, too, because... well. She had to... there's no chance of having a baby now. She's been so depressed... well. There was this lady with a box of kittens at the grocery store. This is the really stupid part... she stopped to play with the kittens, I was with her, we stopped... she was smiling. Because of the kittens. It's the first time I saw her smile in... in months, feels like. So.

"My father's allergic to cats. We had to leave without a kitten. But they can breed cats, you know? Cats that don't... don't set off people's allergies. Hypoallergenic cats. They're really expensive..." His voice trailed off.

It was silent for a moment. Ah... had Kaga really turned the music off? And then, Kaga started to laugh. He laughed really long and hard, and then flopped on top of Tsutsui's stomach. His head was on Tsutsui's stomach.

"You're a really bad delinquent you know? Tryin' to find your mother's smile again. I mean... that's the worst delinquent behavior I've ever seen. But you know... you can't win a cat playing pachinko, man!" Kaga dug his chin into Tsutsui's gut. Tsutsui smirked, and reached out, winding his fingers in Kaga's hair...

"I've just got bad luck," he said, half to himself.

The next morning, he trudged to school, his bag feeling a million times heavier than normal, the sun a million times brighter, the morning a million times earlier. He'd fallen asleep at Kaga's, and then Kaga gave him a ride home. His father was still at work, and his mother had gone to bed early. No one noticed that he'd been gone. No one noticed that he skipped school. He bathed and went to bed early, and he thought he would be fine, but it caught up with him.

That was his first time getting drunk, after all! He just needed a few more hours sleep...

When he finally got to school, he got stopped a dozen times before he got to his classroom. Underclassmen needing advice or help, with club activities, with student council. Kaga's voice floated back to him. You are who you are.

Wasn't a bad thing, huh?

He was just about to go in to class just in time for the bell when his phone beeped. He'd forgotten to slip it into his bag. He went around the corner, flipping it open quickly.

It was mail. From Kaga.

Get her a hothouse flower. Cheaper than cats. Hard to care for.

Tsutsui just stared for a moment, and then he smiled back, typing fast. When he was done, he turned his phone off.

Owe you.