title: beach, destiny, life
fandom: Hikaru no Go
characters/pairings: Kishimoto, Tezuka (from Prince of Tennis - also Yukimura and Sanada), family
rating: G
warnings: children, family vacations, tennis
summary: Kishimoto Kaoru's whole family goes to the beach for vacation.
notes: written for Round 011 of blind go

He sat in the corner of his room, between the bed and the wall, his little legs stuffed under him, petulantly picking at the ear of his little bear. Of course he was too old for bears, but the bear sometimes still needed him. Bears were silly, after all.

"Kaoru-chan? Oh, Kaoru... are you still in here?" his mother sighed. "You haven't even closed your suitcase! Oh, Kaoru..."

He didn't move very much, but he shoved his bear under the bed, where he lived, and he set his face into a stony expression. Just like his father did. He looked like his mother, but he could be just like his father when he needed to be.

"Kaoru-chan, come on!" his mother smiled, trying to be encouraging. "Help me out. We need to catch the train soon, ok, honey?"

He didn't like being called by pet names or nicknames, not at school or at home. Not ever. He stared straight ahead, even when his mother sighed again and he started to feel nervous because he knew he was being, well, difficult.

His mother put her hand on his head. "It's going to be fun, Kaoru-chan, I promise. We'll be near the beach, and there's going to be a festival, with lots of sweets and treats, and games and prizes, and your uncle has rented this really lovely house, and we'll be able to see the fireworks and barbecue right on the beach, and it's really going to be a lot of fun." She tousled his hair encouragingly.

"Dad doesn't have to go," he stubbornly pouted. He was a man, too, so if Dad didn't have to go, why should he?!

"Oh, Kaoru..." his mother sighed, and she sounded really... weary. Like she got when she had no patience left at all. "Your cousin is going to be there! Won't that be fun? Playing with someone just your age, all the time?"

Kaoru scowled hard, and crossed his arms over his chest. He knew his cousin was going! That was the reason he didn't want to go!

"Now, now, Kaoru, don't make that face," his mother laughed. "Honestly, you've got such a sour personality! Come on," she urged him, tugging at his arm. "We don't have much time!"

Sighing, he got up, but there was no way he was going to have fun on this stupid trip!





He and his mother were only two people, but there was also his aunt and uncle, his grandfather, and his cousin. Kaoru held his mother's hand, not because he was nervous, because he was practically a man now, he was eight years old, after all, but his mother was alone, really, since his dad wasn't there. His mom needed him.

There was a lot of luggage. Kaoru decided that he didn't like anything there, especially since it was such a long ride from the train station, and the house was small, at least for there being so many people, it smelled like ocean, and anyway...

Right in the middle of the couch, sitting like a proper little prince, was his cousin, reading some dumb-looking book.

His aunt came over to hug his mother, and his mother let go of his hand. He glared mightily at his suitcase. The adults kept talking to each other, but Kaoru just stared at his suitcase while his cousin read his stupid book. Stupid cousin.

"Oh, look, Kunimitsu, Kaoru-chan has glasses now, too. It looks similar to yours, too!" his aunt cheerfully declared.

Kaoru's head shot up, and he looked over at his cousin, who looked up from his book for a moment, glanced at him, and then went back to reading. His glasses were not like that stuck-up jerk's! His were much more mature-looking!!

He mother gave him a slight push, leading him closer to the couch. And his stupid cousin. "Look how big you've gotten, Kunimitsu-chan. Oh, you're both growing up to be such fine men," his mother gushed. His mother always gushed around his stupid cousin. Kaoru hated it. And he was going to be a much more fine gentleman than his stupid cousin!

"Kunimitsu, please, put down your book, and show Kaoru-chan the room you'll be sharing." Wait, what?! "Then the two of you should go out and play, right? There's still a bit of time before dinner, after all," his aunt cheerfully suggested.

Looking as solemn as a little monk, Kunimitsu picked up his bookmark, carefully closed his book and set it aside, and then got up. He looked at Kaoru and then he looked the suitcase Kaoru was lugging around. With a slight wrinkle to his lips, he reached out and grabbed Kaoru's suitcase and started to walk off, barely grunting out, "Follow me."

Kaoru looked up at his mother pleadingly, but she just gave him another gentle push. Why did he have to share a room with that person?! It was official! This was the worst vacation ever!

Like a good little soldier, though, he trudged after his cousin. He didn't know why Kunimitsu took his suitcase, though! He was older than Kunimitsu!

They went to a room at the very back of the house. It was pretty small, with very little decorations, but there was a bunk bed tucked into the corner of the room. Kunimitsu set Kaoru's suitcase down near one dresser, and then he turned to look at Kaoru.

The two boys just looked at each other for a moment.

"I've got the top bunk. There's a bathroom connected right through there. When you're ready to go out and play, I'll be on the porch," he said in his boring, monotone voice, and then he boringly left.

Kaoru hated him.





He didn't really feel like 'playing' with Kunimitsu, but he didn't feel like sitting in the tiny room, either, wishing he could have the top bunk, so he just went out. Kunimitsu was there, waiting, just like he said he would be. He had a tennis racquet in his hand, and he was bouncing a ball on it.

Weird.

"You play tennis now?" Kaoru asked, a bit surprised. He was sure Kunimitsu would, well, go into archery or some other Japanese martial art. He was kind of from the head family, not that there was really a 'head family' or 'branch family,' but Kunimitsu's father was following in their grandfather's footsteps, so Kunimitsu's life was going to be the same, right?

Kunimitsu sort of looked at him for a moment, but Kaoru felt like he was still concentrating on his stupid ball, which kept bouncing like it was on some machine. "Yes," he answered, and then he turned and started off down the sidewalk along the beach.

"Hey!" Kaoru called out after him, disliking how fast he had to walk just to keep up. It wasn't like Kunimitsu was that much bigger than him or anything! He just walked stupidly fast. Stupid Kunimitsu!

They walked along the beach for a while, but Kunimitsu seemed to know where he was going, and he didn't go down toward the water. Weird. They kept walking, though, Kunimitsu bouncing his stupid ball, until they came to a small lot. There was a building, Kaoru figured after a minute or so that there was a park here, and this building was where the park people kept all the park equipment. He looked around nervously, because there was a small road leading in, so in theory, a car could come by, but Kunimitsu clearly didn't care. He bounced his ball a few more times, and then he bounced it up extra hard, and then smashed it toward the wall. When the ball came back, he hit it again.

Ah, he was going to play tennis with himself.

How stupid and boring!

"I don't have a racquet," he reminded Kunimitsu harshly.

Kunimitsu didn't even look over at him. "I know."

What a jerk! Kaoru wanted to go back to the house and tell his mother how mean Kunimitsu was, but he... didn't really want to go back by himself. After a few minutes of watching Kunimitsu hit that stupid ball, he looked around, and... at a loss for what to do, he started to climb on some of the trees around the lot. They were pretty short, and good trees for climbing. Climbing trees was way better than hitting some stupid ball.

He was hanging upside down from a limb, watching his stupid cousin be all upside down, when he heard giggling. There were three girls coming up from the beach, and they looked like they were about his age, or maybe a little older. Kaoru liked it when girls liked him. Actually, girls were easier to hang out with than boys were, anyway. Kaoru wasn't really into stuff like bugs and sports and bikes and stuff. He had guy friends, but he spent a lot more time than his classmates thinking about girls. And these girls were pretty cute!

Especially the one in the middle. She had really pretty hair, tied up in pigtails, and a cute little two-piece swim suit. It had ruffles. Cute.

They stopped, and for a moment, Kaoru thought they were looking at him. And then...

"Wow, he's really awesome, huh? I wonder how long he's been up to it?" the girl on the right asked. All three of them were just staring at Kunimitsu in awe.

Disgusted, Kaoru let himself fall out of the tree, landing neatly on his feet. Really cool. "Hitting a ball isn't so hard," he huffed, straightening up.

The girls squealed, and ran off.

Kaoru scowled.

Kunimitsu looked over, catching the ball in the palm of his hand. Show off. "I guess we should head back. It's probably time for dinner."

Kaoru didn't say anything, and all the way back, he just glared at his stupid cousin's stupid shoes.





The next day, he was once again shepherded outside and told to 'play' with his cousin. Even though he told his mom that Kunimitsu just hit his stupid ball and ignored him the whole time! Even though he was willing to even go shopping with his mom and aunt! It wasn't like it was his idea to come to this stupid beach in the first place!

Nobody cared what he thought. Especially Kunimitsu. All he cared about was his stupid racquet and his ball. Kaoru even tried to ask his stupid cousin about his stupid new hobby, but Kunimitsu was like he always was, just giving one or two word answers. It's fun. This winter. At the gym. Kunimitsu was the most boring boy on the entire stupid planet, and Kaoru was stuck playing with him.

This time, at least, Kaoru made sure to bring something to entertain himself with, since Kunimitsu was so boring and stupid. Sitting under a tree reading comics was better than hitting a stupid ball. Kaoru could just go to the beach by himself, but... it wasn't any fun by himself, after all. Plus, he wasn't a great swimmer, and it was lame to play in the sand.

It was a good comic, though, so after a few minutes, the sound of Kunimitsu's stupid ball didn't even bother him that much, and he completely got engrossed. This one had some tough kanji in it, too, so he was learning at the same time. Way better than some stupid ball.

"Tezuka-kun."

Kaoru started. He hadn't even heard anyone approach, so the voice really cut through him. He got to his feet, stuffing his comic under his shirt. There was a tall, mean-looking kid there, with a baseball cap pulled down low on his face, and another... well... Kaoru was mostly sure it was another boy, but if it was, he was small and slim and way, way prettier than any girl around their age. Way prettier. Kaoru swallowed hard, feeling like his tongue was growing.

Kunimitsu caught his ball, and looked over his shoulder at the pair. But, he barely reacted at all. So boring. "Yukimura. Sanada."

Everyone was always talking about how well-mannered Kunimitsu was, but he wasn't even polite, sheesh!

It didn't seem to bother the pretty boy, though. He just grinned a bit. "I heard the sound of a tennis ball, so I thought I'd check it out, and here you are. Isn't it nice? But what are you doing down here? There's some courts up in the park, you know," the pretty one teased. Kaoru was fairly sure he was teasing Kunimitsu, just like he was fairly sure the pretty one was a boy. "Why don't you come up and play, or... do you prefer to be alone?"

That was definitely teasing. Kaoru edged a bit closer to the three of them. If it was just the pretty one, well, Kaoru would probably leave them alone. That kid was really pretty, though. Kunimitsu always got all the attention. But, there was also that scary-looking kid behind the pretty one. He was way too tall, plus he looked like a bully. Kaoru could always pick out the bully, in any group of kids. Maybe... stupid Kunimitsu was actually in trouble?

He got close enough, though, that the two kids actually saw him. Kaoru froze up when they looked at him, and anything he might have wanted to say just flew right out of him.

"Oh... I didn't know you had a younger brother, Tezuka-kun," the pretty one said, sounding puzzled. Like not knowing things about stuff was just... totally a weird thing for him. "Well, if he's your younger brother, I guess that means we can play double? Mm?" The pretty one beamed at all three of them.

Wow. But. Wait. He was older than stupid Kunimitsu! Just because he was a little shorter and a little smaller...!

"He's just my cousin. Kishimoto," Kunimitsu said, a bit too sharply. "He doesn't play sports." He put his stupid racquet on his shoulder and pocketed his ball. He started to walk over to the path that clearly led to the park up the way, and the courts that the pretty one mentioned.

Wait.

Kunimitsu was going to leave him!? And what the hell, he could play sports! When he wanted to!

"Oh. Ok, well... bye, Kishimoto-kun. I guess?" the pretty one laughed, waving to him.

Kaoru's jaw dropped, but despite himself, he didn't say a word as those two trailed after Kunimitsu. Stupid, stupid Kunimitsu! Well, it wasn't like Kaoru wanted to spend time with him anyway! Furious with his stupid cousin and with himself for not speaking up, Kaoru stomped back to the beach house. It was just so maddening! Younger brother! Just my cousin! Doesn't play sports! Like sports were all so important, anyway! Kaoru was a million times smarter than that stupid Kunimitsu! He was going to go to a way, way better school, and then to a way, way better college, and then he'd get a way, way better job, and he'd have a way, way better life! And his wife was going to be way, way prettier than anyone who would marry stupid Kunimitsu!

He kicked rocks all the way there, and as he got to the house, he kicked up sand. He was just so mad! He wasn't sure he'd ever been so mad in his life! And he wanted to stay mad and yell things and maybe cry and kick stuff and do mean things to Kunimitsu he just had to think of something maybe flush his stupid cousin's underwear down the toilet or...?

"My, my, aren't you all worked up?"

Kaoru stopped dead in his tracks, and looked up to see his grandfather on the porch, smiling broadly. He flushed, entirely embarrassed, because he was caught kicking up sand and being angry, because he hadn't noticed his grandfather there as he walked up, because he was alone, because he wanted to cry...

"Where's Kunimitsu?"

It wasn't like he decided. It was just, if he started shouting, he could get it all out, and then he wouldn't feel like crying so much. It just happened. "Kunimitsu's a jerk! He went off to play with two friends of his and completely ignored me! All he cares about is his stupid tennis, anyway! He's such a boring sports freak!"

Kaoru huffed a bit. That... yeah, that felt good. A lot of the bad feeling got out. Except.

Shoot, his grandfather...! He looked up at him sheepishly...

His grandfather looked like he was having trouble keeping from laughing out loud. He smiled at Kaoru, and waved him to come closer. "Well... that child. He's hardly a child at all, is he? Not much fun to be with. If you've got nothing else to do, Kaoru, why don't you play some go with me?"

Kaoru blinked, and tentatively walked closer. His grandfather did, indeed, have a small... table-like thing in front of him, clearly a board game. Kaoru had heard of go before, like on tv, but he'd never seen a real game, or a board, or whatever. "I don't know how to play."

"Oh, that's no problem at all!" his grandfather beamed. He motioned Kaoru to sit down opposite him, so Kaoru did. "I usually play shogi. I have a friend from the force I play with... usually, we're pretty evenly matched, but lately, he's been beating me every time. I've got to get my fighting spirit back!" His grandfather struck a pose, and Kaoru couldn't help grinning. He knew his grandfather was a master martial artist, but still. He was old! It was funny, to see him like that. "So I decided to play some go. But go, unlike shogi... you definitely need to play with someone else. So you could really help me out here!"

Kaoru straightened up. Well. If his grandfather needed him...

"Ok. Let's play!" he grinned. "How do we start?"

"Well, first. Let me show you how to hold a stone..."





The rest of the week was way better than the first few days. Kaoru played go with his grandfather on the porch, and in the afternoons, they took walks, and his grandfather showed him some basic martial arts forms and stuff, and all day long, his grandfather would tell him stories of being on the police force and fighting crime and stuff! He loved hearing all the different stories. He thought, maybe he'd become a lawyer, and prosecute criminals! That would be cool.

He also really, really loved playing go. He liked everything about it. It seemed really simple, but there was all sorts of cool complexity and nuances to it! Each game had its own character and its own twists and turns. He liked the way the stones sounded when they klacked on the board. He liked the lines on the board. The goban! He liked how there was a special way to hold the stones, like a secret club handshake, kinda. He'd never once in his life thought about go before now, but he even started having dreams about stones!

The first few days, his grandfather played just so they'd end up pretty even. Kaoru could tell. The hardest part was counting up the territory when they were done. It took him quite a few games to master that. After a few days, though, he could play his grandfather so his grandfather could just play normally! And he was only taking a three stone advantage! That seemed pretty good to him.

Maybe... he had a real gift for go, or something!

That Friday, though, was the day of the festival. Everyone was going, so he had no choice. His mother even made him wear a yukata, which he hated, because it made him look even smaller and younger! Plus, his yukata had a pattern on it, a boyish pattern, but still. And his obi was sky blue, too. Kunimitsu's was plain grey, just like an adult's. Kunimitsu was boring, but still... it made Kaoru look like his was younger when he was the older one!

But, it didn't really matter. Not like he knew anyone.

When they got to the festival, his mother gave him a small pouch with money, and patted him on the head. He wasn't a little kid anymore! He kinda hoped he could stick with his grandfather, though, but as soon as they got there, his grandfather met a friend of his. Maybe the shogi-winning one? Anyway, they went off with his uncle to get something to drink. Probably, beer, since they had to leave the kids. His mom and aunt went shopping.

He and Kunimitsu just stood there for a moment, not sure what to do. Kunimitsu was probably too boring to think of anything to do or say that didn't involve a stupid tennis ball. Kaoru tried to think of how to suggest that they split up... and never see each other again... when Kunimitsu's friends showed up.

"Hey, Tezuka-kun," the pretty one called out. Maybe... he was a girl. His yukata was red with a beautiful pattern on it, and it looked like it might even be silk. He was already eating something, and he carried a small, silk pouch, with gold tassels. If he was a girl, he was the prettiest girl at the festival. "Ah, and it's Kishimoto-kun, right? Nice to see you again!"

Kaoru blushed a bit. The pretty one was beaming at him. He wasn't sure of their names, though. Kunimitsu had said them, but he didn't introduce them all properly, so he wasn't sure who was who. The scary one was glaring, though. He didn't have his baseball cap on. His yukata looked really formal, and it had a family crest on the back. Sheesh.

"Er. Hi! Nice to... see you, too..." Kaoru sort of mumbled out.

It didn't seem to bother the pretty one, though. He took Kunimitsu's arm, and tugged. "C'mon. Sanada-kun's already bought me some food, but there's still lots left to try, plus all kinds of games!"

So, that had to be Yukimura, then, and he dragged Kunimitsu off from booth to booth, with Sanada glaring behind him, obviously bothered that Yukimura insisted on holding Kunimitsu's arm, and Kaoru was left to trail behind last. Every time he thought he'd just slip away and go off on his own, Yukimura would turn around and say something to him. It was kinda freaky. Also, whenever he did, Sanada would glare at him.

The funniest part, though, was that, despite having that pretty pouch, Yukimura never paid for anything. He always made Sanada, or twice, Kunimitsu, pay for things. Weird. He really had to be a girl, because Sanada was so jealous of Kunimitsu, but would a girl really play tennis with two boring, stupid boys like those?

It was starting to get dark, and he knew they'd made plans to meet somewhere for fireworks, so there wasn't much time left. The other three were occupied with a ring toss game, each competing to see who could get the highest-up toy. Kaoru wandered a bit. He'd used up nearly all of his money buying food and playing games, but the point of a festival was to use all the money you were given before it was time to go, and it was nearly time to go, so he had to find one last game to play! He didn't want to compete with Kunimitsu, though, so he looked around...

His heart nearly stopped. Two stalls down from the ring toss, there was some sort of complicated cup and ball game, but one of the prizes on the very top shelf was a small goban with two gokes, which had to be full of stones! A full go set! And it was a nice one, too! Not as nice as his grandfather's, but still!

Kaoru watched a few people play. He only had enough money for one game, which meant he had three chances. But, to win the goban, he'd have to get at least one ball into the small gold cup, and it was high up, and definitely a lot smaller. He licked his lips carefully, and shyly went up to play. He was given three balls, and a paddle. He took a deep breath...

He knew how to play ping pong, so... this was the same, right? He bounced the first ball and lightly tapped it. It hit the rim of the cup on the lowest level. The man running the booth said he was really close that time, but he wasn't. Not at all. The second time, he aimed much higher, but the ball just sailed over all the cups.

Down to his last ball.

His whole body felt tense. He turned the little ball around in his hand a few times, planning it out. It... it was truly impossible, but maybe the sheer force of his want would cause the ball to fall right where it was supposed to. Maybe. He kept his eye on that top, gold cup, and bounced the ball...

It hit the side of the cups on the second level, and bounced away.

He... he knew it wouldn't work from the start, so he wasn't sure why it was so crushingly disappointing, but it was. He felt like he couldn't even breathe. He wouldn't cry, because he wasn't a baby or a wuss or anything, but... longingly, he looked up at that goban...

He wanted it so much...

"Kishimoto-kun?" He turned to see Yukimura standing very close to him, tugging gently on his sleeve. He flushed, because, well... Yukimura might be a girl! "It's nearly time for the fireworks," Yukimura reminded him.

Oh! Right...!

He looked over at his cousin, unable to quite swallow the lump in his throat. For a moment, he and Kunimitsu just... well, looked at each other, and then Kunimitsu looked over Kaoru's shoulder to the pyramid display of prizes.

And he saw what was on the top shelf.

Kunimitsu then stepped forward, and put some money down on the counter. "One play, please."

Yukimura cocked his head to the side. "We're playing one more?" Kunimitsu didn't answer, but then Yukimura saw the small balls and paddle that Kunimitsu was given. His eyes went flinty. He didn't look anything like a girl just then. He poked Sanada in the side with his elbow. "Ok, we'll play one more."

Sanada dutifully went up and paid for two more games, one for him and one for Yukimura. All three boys then had balls and paddles. Yukimura grinned wickedly at Kunimitsu.

"Bet I get the gold cup first," he taunted.

"We'll see," Kunimitsu replied, totally flatly. Still... he didn't seem completely boring just then.

Kunimitsu shot first, and his ball landed neatly into a cup on the third level. One level short. The man in charge whooped, and he was about to take away Kunimitsu's paddle, but Kunimitsu just held firm. "I'd like to play to win, please."

The man in charge just shrugged his shoulders. "If you keep playin' kid, that's your call. But if you give up your prize, you can't get it back."

Kaoru nervously eyed the prizes on the second highest shelf. Maybe... they should just take one of those. It was probably a lucky shot...

Yukimura confidently declared, "I'm next." His first ball hit the edge of the gold cup, though. Sanada went next, and he landed in a second-tier cup. Kunimitsu lined up, then, and made his next shot. It went over the gold cup, but landed in a cup on the other side. The man shook his head at them, but Yukimura was already making his shot. It almost went in, but popped back out again. He was so frustrated, he took his final turn right away. This time, though, it bounced right off the edge of a cup on the second highest level. Pouting, he put his paddle down.

Sanada tried again, and got a cup on the third level, but he immediately tried again, just like Yukimura did. His last ball grazed the lip of the gold cup, but didn't go in.

It was all up to Kunimitsu.

Kaoru licked his lips, even more nervous than when he was shooting. He realized as he watched his cousin that Kunimitsu had been carefully studying how Yukimura and Sanada made their shots. He realigned his feet and shoulders, scrunched up a tiny bit, and adjusted his grip on his paddle. For his last shot, everything seemed to Kaoru to go in slow motion. He could tell that the paddle hit the ball totally differently than Kunimitsu had before. Kunimitsu's wrist was perfectly still and tightly locked, and the arc of the ball as it sailed up seemed much more controlled, more... graceful. Kaoru couldn't breathe as the ball started to fall down again.

It was just... all so perfect. Just like it was being controlled by a remote control or something. It just... plopped. Right into the gold cup. It didn't even spin or roll or bounce or move or anything.

He won!

Yukimura made a face and crossed his arms over his chest. The man at the booth just shook his head and laughed. "So whaddya want, kid?" Kunimitsu just pointed up. Right at the goban.

Kaoru thought his head might just explode!

The man found that even more amusing, but right away, he climbed up a small ladder he had back there, and got it down. Kaoru's heart was pumping so hard, he felt giddy. Once the man had it down, he took a large, festive-looking cloth and wrapped the whole set up. While he tied it, Yukimura sighed. "I won four games... now Tezuka-kun has won four. Sanada-kun, you only won two. Hm.

"I can't take my eyes off you, can I, Tezuka-kun?"

Kaoru was feeling giddy, but that time, it didn't sound like Yukimura was flirting or anything. He actually sounded really cold and dangerous. But still, Sanada glared at Kunimitsu.

Kunimitsu might as well have been deaf, though. He wasn't paying any attention at all. He took the parcel from the man, and turned to walk away. The whole thing was so big, it looked like Kunimitsu could tip right over. Elated, Kaoru jumped forward.

"I'll take that!" he offered gleefully.

Kunimitsu looked like he thought it was a bad idea, after all, Kaoru didn't even play sports, but he handed the parcel over anyway. It was really heavy, and awkward. It was also just... completely amazing. They actually won! Well, Kunimitsu did, but. It amounted to the same thing.

The four of them then headed to the bridge where they were going to meet their families. Yukimura was holding Sanada's arm now, and they were walking ahead. Kunimitsu was sort of walking next to Kaoru, which made Kaoru feel a lot better, actually. The fireworks began before they found their family, Yukimura and Sanada already all the way there, of course. Kunimitsu made sure there was room to move in the crowd so Kaoru could get through. Finally, they met up with their parents. Kaoru's mother immediately put her arms around her son, obviously a bit worried since he was late. She couldn't ask him about the big parcel in his arms, but she gave him an odd look. Kaoru tipped his head back, leaning against his mother, and watched colors burst across the sky. He was beaming, like he just couldn't stop smiling. It felt a tiny bit like he was making the fireworks pop, since he was just that happy. His own goban, in his arms, like... like destiny. Yeah, everything felt just perfect right then.

On the way back, he noticed that his grandfather was talking to a man who had his hand on Sanada's shoulder. If that was his friend from the force... was that how Tezuka knew those boys? He never got a chance to ask, but it was funny.

Destiny. He'd never believed before that destiny could be held in your arms.





Kaoru leaned against his mother on the train back home, feeling pleasantly lulled by the soft whirl of the train speeding over the tracks. He kept one hand on parcel next to him. He and his grandfather had opened up Kunimitsu's winnings, and inaugurated it with a game late last night, drinking cool, sweet lemonade and gazing at the stars between turns. He'd never been allowed to stay up so late before, but that was probably because his mom knew it was their last night. When they were done, his grandfather packed it all up again for him, just like the man at the booth had, so it could be carried home safely.

The last thing he said to his cousin was, well, just... "Er... thanks. You know." Technically, he was hours and hours late with that, and he turned and ran away right after saying it, but since Kunimitsu's face didn't change at all, he figured it was ok. It was just.

Well. He had to say it.

His mother kissed the top of his head, and Kaoru didn't even mind. "So, going to the beach for a week wasn't such a bad idea after all, mm? You got to get closer to your grandfather. And maybe even to your cousin, huh?"

Kaoru grinned a bit. "Well...

"He's still really boring, though."








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