title: Complex
fandom: Hikaru no Go
characters/pairings: Hikaru/OMC, Hikaru/Akira, Isumi/Waya
rating: Mature
warnings: sex, suicide, angst
summary: Hikaru is torn between the past and future
notes: written for blind go, Round 013

His fingers pushed through the inky black hair. So perfectly black, so lovely and smooth it was probably what silk felt like, though he'd never touched silk threads, so he wouldn't know.

He'd never touched Sai's hair, either, but. It was the same color, right down to the manner in which it played with the light. It was perfectly straight, just like Sai's.

Long, straight, the perfect color... He loved to watch the way the light danced across the strands. Ah, and he loved the smell. It had a nostalgic feel to it, so even if he didn't know what Sai's hair would smell like, he still felt like this would be about the same. Probably. Well, probably not, right, since the smell probably came from whatever shampoo he used? Something like that, but still. Since Sai's hair had no scent in his memory, this scent could fill in that spot.

"Sensei," he sighed, breathily. "You're getting lost in thought again," he teased in his so-called cute sing-song voice.

Hikaru frowned a tiny bit, and thrust, hard. His voice was nothing at all like Sai's. Well, that was practically to be expected, since Sai could be so childish. No, that wasn't quite right. Sai could also be serious and thoughtful, strict, or even virtuous. His voice changed a lot with his moods. But still, Sai was innocent, and that was reflected in each of his voices.

This kid...

"Sen~sei, open your eyes," he cajoled, practically purring.

Brat. Hikaru grabbed his neck and pulled him close to kiss him, long and hard and deep, and then he began to thrust harder, faster.

His lips were just like Sai's. Just. Thin, and almost feminine, but straight. Actually, Sai's lips always seemed rosy, like his, too. Even more than that, the soft curve of his cheek and cute, gentle point of his chin was exactly, exactly like Sai's. Hikaru noticed his face before he noticed his hair, after all. When he first saw him, it really gave Hikaru a fright. He had to be some kind of relation of Sai's, somehow, maybe, since their faces were the same. The noses, too. He had Sai's nose, long and straight, but really cute at the end. And their eyes, their eyes were the same, the same shape and the same color. So dark and lovely, Hikaru would swear the color almost seemed purple.

"Sen... sei... I... I can't hold out much..." he panted. His face really did look like he was about to come.

Hikaru grabbed the base of his cock and gave it a squeeze, leaning down to nip at his earlobe. "Hikaru. Hi~ka~ru. I won't let you come if you don't use my name," Hikaru teased. But.

Sai would never, ever call him sensei. Why would he? Even if he had ten thousand years, Hikaru could never teach Sai anything about go. No, Sai never called him anything but Hikaru. He didn't have much choice in most situations, but here, like this...

With Sai's eyes, his lips, his nose, his face, his hair... he wanted...

"Hi... Hikaru," he sighed, begging.

Hikaru ran his hand down his partner's body. He had no idea at all what kind of body Sai had, except that he seemed very tall when Hikaru was in middle school. Of course, Sai wore that tall hat, so even that was deceptive. His clothes totally disguised the shape of his body, and they didn't even move with the wind to give Hikaru some clue. However, just like the scent of his hair, Hikaru could fill in the gaps. This body was lean and smooth and totally, well, elegant. Hikaru loved to touch him, to see him. He moved his hips a bit, adding some rotation to his thrust.

Those hands... those utterly beautiful hands came up and grabbed onto Hikaru's neck. He was making some damned sexy noises, and those long, strong fingers were digging into him now. Hikaru pushed a bit harder, and kissed him. Those hands...

Sai's hands were so often hidden in his sleeves. Rather than lacking feet, it often felt like Sai, as a ghost, lacked hands. But, when he pushed his sleeves aside to sit before a goban, even unable to lift a single stone, those hands...

They were the same hands that touched Hikaru's body now. It wasn't as if he could resist those hands.

They only had water and some barley tea that Hikaru was sure was at least a few months old. Wait, this was his refrigerator, not theirs. Nevertheless, he needed to go shopping, it seemed. He grabbed a bottle of water and opened it, downing half of it quickly in huge gulps. His body was still hot enough that standing in front of the open refrigerator felt good, though he could hear his mother's voice nagging him in the back of his head.

Shigemi slipped his arms around Hikaru from behind, and pressed his body against Hikaru's. Hikaru dribbled some water as he started, but that was fine. He was now getting cooled and heated at the same time.

"Hey, hey. Back off. You're hot," he gently teased.

"Sensei, don't be mean," Shigemi complained, but he could feel the younger man's smile. Probably. Hikaru was still a bit dazed. Maybe he didn't have the stamina he had when he was young... though, when he was Shigemi's age, he was with Touya, and he didn't remember them being quite that... vigorous... or enthusiastic. He was pretty sure they never had multiple sessions in a day, much less a night. But then.

They were always playing go, so.

"Sensei, do you think about him when we're doing it?" Hikaru started a bit, confused as to why Shigemi would be thinking about Touya. "Your sensei, I mean. The one I resemble."

Hikaru winced a bit. That was a little too on-point. He didn't like that. Though, he wasn't sure on whose behalf he was upset. He should just be mad at himself for being so involved with this brat. "Get your mind out of the gutter. Sai never once laid a hand on me. I was still in middle school when he... passed!" He hated using euphemisms when talking about Sai. Actually, he hated talking about Sai at all. He should have lied, but when he first met Shigemi, he had to explain his bizarre reaction. And, after all, he just wasn't thinking straight.

Shigemi chuckled a bit, caressing his cheek against Hikaru's back. "You're a naughty boy, sen~sei. Thinking about your old teacher like that. You should think more about me when we're in the middle of it."

That was a biting comment, but Shigemi's tone was light and teasing. Hikaru wondered a little, what it was like... being with someone who was mainly interested in you because of someone else. It wasn't accurate to call Shigemi a replacement, though. His relationship with Sai could never and would never have been like this. But.

It wasn't inaccurate to call him a replacement, either.

"You should remember that I'm not your teacher now, or in bed. Cheeky brat," Hikaru sighed, feeling put upon. He put the water bottle back in the refrigerator, and closed the door. Shrugging, he managed to get some distance from Shigemi. He turned to face the brat, and he couldn't help reaching out to touch his hair. Such beautiful hair... "You're spending too much time here, anyway, aren't you? Don't you have a match tomorrow? You should get a good night's rest before playing," he said, sounding sage or something. He wasn't particularly good at being a teacher, not yet.

Another way in which Sai was better.

Shigemi just laughed, and popped himself up to sit on the counter. Some people would consider that to be unsanitary. Touya used to chide him when he did that. ...Shigemi was right, he needed to spend less time thinking about other men. "I find sex to be very relaxing. Don't you? Isn't it good to clear the mind and get the body focused? You have a match tomorrow, too, Sen~sei," the younger man teased.

Hikaru just shook his head. This brat. Sometimes, he felt like it was a huge, huge mistake to be in this... relationship. Sometimes, though, he felt like this brat might just be the best thing to happen to him in a while. Neither was true, likely.

"You know, Sensei, for such an old man, you're really sexy," Shigemi teased, running his big toe over Hikaru's abs. "I didn't think a man pushing 40 could have such a nice body."

Hikaru shook his head, and grabbed Shigemi's beautiful, beautiful hair, pulling him in for a bruising kiss. Brat. Definitely not the best thing to happen to him. "It's Hikaru, not Sensei. And 32 is not pushing 40!"

Shigemi just laughed. Of course, what he wanted was the kiss. What he wanted was to grab Hikaru's attention. "Oh, that's right, only 32. Well, I guess it's not so strange that you're so sexy, then. But you spend most of your time on your ass in front of a goban, so it's still a little strange."

"I get exercise," Hikaru rejoined, aggressively tickling Shigemi's sides. He was sensitive here. He squeezed Shigemi's hips, pleased that he didn't bother putting on any clothes to come out and tease his lover. Did Sai ever have a lover? It was hard to imagine, since Sai's entire being was focused on go, but it would have been surprising if he didn't, right? In the Heian era, weren't people married off young? And Sai was in an important family... "You're getting senile in your youth if you've already forgotten how serious I am about my exercise."

Shigemi beamed, and wrapped his arms around Hikaru's neck and his legs around Hikaru's waist, and kissed him, long and deep. Hikaru couldn't help but wrap his arms around Shigemi's slim body, either. They were surprisingly compatible, sexually. This kind of sweet intimacy after sex was positively delicious. Though, Shigemi might be angling for another round.

Whatever, Hikaru would continue to go with the flow.

"Mm, Hika~chan. Your hair is getting long again... Do you want me to cut it?" Shigemi asked, his fingers toying with Hikaru's hair. He liked this smile of Shigemi's, totally unlike any smile of Sai's. A complete cat that ate the canary look. This brat could get far, far too pleased with himself for anyone's good.

"Is it? Ah, whatever," Hikaru shrugged. He pulled Shigemi a bit closer, so he was just on the edge of the counter, and kissed him again. Shigemi was still playing with his hair, though.

"I saw a picture of you when you were younger, you had your bangs bleached," Shigemi commented, but it was a question, too.

"Yeah, I outgrew that look," Hikaru shrugged. It wasn't like he needed to say anything more than that.

"You looked cute, though," Shigemi grinned. "Maybe not the bangs, but I could dye your hair for you, too," Shigemi offered, hopeful.

Hikaru ran his fingers through Shigemi's hair. Shigemi's parents owned a salon, so it wasn't too surprising that the young man was interested in hair care. Or that his own hair was so gorgeous. Hikaru was grateful, though, that he hadn't experimented with dying this hair.

"I think I'm too... mature for blond anymore, but if you want to color it, well, whatever," Hikaru shrugged. His hair wasn't that special, anyway, and if it made Shigemi happy...

He chose not to follow that line of thought too much.

 

 

 

Waya came and sat down next to him. The study group was breaking up, but ever since Hikaru had started his own study group, there had always been a strong social aspect to it as well as the study aspect. The fact that most of Hikaru's students were young pretty much guaranteed that. Hikaru just continued to clean up the board he'd been working on, certain that if Waya had something to say, he'd say it.

Shigemi was in the center of a group of five, telling some story with particular enthusiasm. Hikaru wasn't sure what he was talking about, but from the threads he could pick up on, it sounded like he was talking about some concert or something. Hikaru hadn't been to any shows with Shigemi, though the younger man tried to get him to go to one or two since they'd... well, if what they were doing was called dating, then since they'd started to date.

As always, Hikaru couldn't help but think that this would be what Sai would be like, if he'd been born in this age instead of his own. Surrounded by people, looking beautiful, looking happy... though Sai would be talking about go, not some rock group. Well. Who knew? If Sai had been born in this era, maybe he wouldn't have been so myopic about go. That was impossible to imagine, though. And, after all, Touya's father was just like Sai, and he was born in this era, give or take. Thinking about Touya's father was not something Hikaru wanted to do, though.

"You spend too much time watching him," Waya stated quietly.

Well, it wasn't like Hikaru wasn't expecting that. "I know. I try to be more careful at the Institute and all," he said casually, smiling at Waya.

Waya didn't look comforted. "He's too young for you," he said, sounding like he didn't really want to be saying this. Did Isumi tell Waya he had to have 'this talk' with Hikaru? It was possible. Then again, maybe Morishita-sensei made him do it. Hikaru didn't like that thought at all. Whichever, Waya wasn't doing this of his own accord, and those two were the only ones who were capable of compelling him to speak, so. "Forget the fact that you're both guys, that's pretty much a non-issue here. He's your student, and he's underaged. And he's not at all discreet."

Hikaru sighed. Whoever put Waya up to this, he really wished they hadn't. "The old farts are just upset because I lost in the first round of the Meijin tournament, but held onto my Honinbou title. I don't need to bother myself about other people's jealousy. Sure, he's my student... in a way. But I didn't lay a finger on him until he was already a pro, and he'd graduated from high school. It's not really anyone else's business." When he first met Shigemi, he was still in high school, that was true. He was in the shop in the Go Institute, idly looking over fans while trying to decide whether or not to sign up to take the pro exam. He'd never been an insei, but he'd been the spectacular first chair of the Kaio High School go team, which won Nationals. Hikaru had already gone up and started to talk to him before he realized what he was doing, so he somehow ended up tutoring him through the pro exam, along with the students in his study group.

He was aware that to some people in the go community, their relationship looked bad, but at least he'd never had a screaming match with Shigemi in the middle of the Room of Deep Contemplation, and no one made a fuss when he was with Touya.

That he knew of.

Well, technically...

Waya sighed at him, which was a little bit annoying and a little bit cute. Waya just wasn't the sighing type, normally. "Shindou. Just. I mean. Sure, at first, anyone would just think... but it's been a while now, what, like... eight months or something and... what... what is this?"

Hikaru smiled kindly at Waya. He wasn't really making any sense, but then they both knew how this conversation would go before he started, so whoever put him up to this really owed Waya big. Hikaru just hoped like hell it wasn't Morishita-sensei. That would actually be a bit mortifying. "I don't know, Waya, but I doubt we're going to get married or anything, so. Why does it have to be something, anyway? It's just... it is what it is."

Waya grimaced, and Hikaru could understand why. He was being obtuse on this subject, but he didn't think he was wrong. "This isn't going to hurt you all that much, Shindou, because you're the reigning Honinbou, and you have been for enough years that no one can dispute your standing. But it's going to hurt him if people think he's just riding on his lover's coattails."

"How does that work, anyway? The riding on my coattails. Does... having sex with me somehow give him an edge when he plays? Does his opponent have to give him a few moku advantage because of me? He's made three-dan in pretty damned good time because he's a good player and he's got a good ability to read the board. That's true no matter who he's playing or where or when, and it's true no matter who he's sleeping with, too."

Waya just shook his head, huffing a bit. "Look, I know that, I've played him. But, c'mon. You know not everyone is as high-minded as you are."

Hikaru grinned a bit. High-minded? Really? Was he? He supposed he was, and that was because of Sai. Well, then it was fitting that he'd be high-minded with Shigemi, too. Though, that didn't seem right at all. "Instead of trying to drag me down to their level, let me raise everyone else up to my own high-minded standard, then," he cheerfully shot back.

Waya just rolled his eyes and groaned.

"Sensei!" Shigemi plopped down next to him. Close to him. Waya was right, Shigemi could be more discreet... "Everyone is thinking of going for a ramen run. You want to go, right?" Shigemi winked.

"Why don't you kids go on ahead, Fujii-kun?" Waya answered for him. "These old men are going to go out for a drink."

Hikaru raised an eyebrow at Waya, but he didn't contradict him. Going out drinking, huh? Since it was Waya's idea, Waya would pay, then, right?

Shigemi was watching him, though, waiting for Hikaru to answer, but after a moment, he faced Waya and smirked. "I'm going to be of drinking age soon, Waya-sensei, and then you old men won't be able to ditch me so easily."

"Go and eat some ramen," Hikaru sighed.

"I'll see you later? Sensei?" Shigemi asked quietly, leaning in closer to Hikaru.

He really, really wished that Shigemi wouldn't make Waya's points for him. "Just go," Hikaru ordered, and shifted away slightly.

Shigemi gave him a look, and then smiled brightly at Waya. "Later, then!"

Waya was smirking as they stood up. "I'm going to call Isumi-san. Since you're going to make me pay, he needs to pay for mine."

"Oh! That's a relief!" Hikaru laughed. "I was afraid it was Morishita-sensei who put you up to this!"

Sputtering with laughter, Waya raised the phone to his ear. "Oh, man, I don't ever want to talk to Morishita-sensei about your sex life, thankyouverymuch."

Hikaru got his jacket while Waya talked to Isumi. He really should get a house. Most go pros like him had a house. Touya had a house. He also had a wife, of course. Hikaru wasn't going to get one of those. He rented this place for study, but it always seemed like a waste.

A house felt very permanent, though.

"Are you living with that kid?" Waya asked abruptly. Hikaru turned to look and see if he was still on the phone with Isumi or not.

Seemed this was something he was just curious about himself. "Not really... he still lives with his family."

Waya looked at him curiously. "But...?"

"But..." Hikaru shrugged, looking away. "He's over a lot."

"Does he have a key?" Waya pressed.

Hikaru shook his head. Damn, Waya was persistent. "Ah, well, yeah, he does. That's just a convenience, though."

"Does he keep a toothbrush at your place?" Waya continued.

Hikaru gave Waya a look. "Well, sure, but again..."

"How much of his wardrobe is at your place?" Waya cut him off.

Damn, was he a frustrated prosecutor or something?! "I don't know, Waya, I never cataloged his wardrobe so I can't answer that!"

"Well, you could, if the answer was none. So, he has a key, a toothbrush, and clothes at your place. But you're sure you're not living together?"

"You're kind of an ass, you know that?" Hikaru grumbled.

He expected Waya to laugh. When he didn't, Hikaru turned to face him. "Ah... Touya's wife gave birth today. A little girl. They named her Kyouko."

Hikaru definitely, definitely did not react. "Ah. Lovely name." He turned and started out the door, turning the lights out. "C'mon, you gotta buy me drinks."

"I know, I know," Waya sighed, patting Hikaru on the back as he caught up to him.

 

 

 

It was well past two in the morning when Hikaru came home. He had trouble with the lock and key, but he was pretty sure that was the lock's fault. It kept moving or something. He managed to get inside, and get his shoes off, but he forgot to turn on the lights. Well, that was fine. It was his apartment. He knew his way around.

He got to the bedroom and only bumped into the counter, the end table, the couch, and the wall. Twice.

He didn't turn on the lights in the bedroom, either, because he was now used to it being dark. See, he knew right away that Shigemi was in bed. He half fell onto the bed, straddling Shigemi.

Shigemi opened one eye (and Shigemi had such beautiful eyes!) and smirked up at Hikaru. "So, you guys really did go out drinking, huh? I thought Waya-sensei just wanted to lecture you more about sleeping with me."

Shigemi overhead that? Well, that was fine. Probably. Or something. It was just. Hikaru touched Shigemi's cheek, and turned his face so he could touch his face with both hands. Beautiful face. Sai's face, but it was beautiful, not just because Sai was beautiful. Right. "Hey, Shi~gemi.

"You're the only one I can see."

He leaned down and kissed Shigemi, hard. Shigemi wasn't wearing a shirt, but he did have shorts on, and he didn't need those. Actually, Hikaru didn't need his clothes, either. They were somewhat in the way. Shigemi was working on that, though. That was good. That was just what Hikaru wanted him to do. He ran his hand down Shigemi's spine and his teeth over Shigemi's nipple. Shigemi made some nice noises.

"Sen... Sensei!" Shigemi groaned. See, that was nice. But, he shouldn't call him... "Sensei... I love you... Love you... Sensei..."

Hikaru paused for a moment. He might have heard that wrong... except Shigemi kept repeating it. He got his fingers slick with lube and pushed three straight in, moving them around. Now, the noises Shigemi was making were more insensible. That was better, somehow.

Probably, yeah.

 

 

 

When he was younger, he always thought that a deep desire for tea was a clear sign of age, but he'd had to revise that opinion slightly over the past few years, and not because he was getting old. He was getting old, but tea had nothing to do with it.

Maybe drinking did, he wasn't sure.

He'd been going out regularly with Waya, Isumi, Honda, even once with Ochi, though Ochi took them to a wine bar and it was a bit of a strange night. When he got home, Shigemi was always there, making Hikaru start to doubt if maybe they weren't living together after all. It wouldn't be the worst thing, though. He already knew it, but it was fun to play some speed go with your lover over breakfast, and it was more fun to share the chores.

There was limited time in the break in the match, and Hikaru wanted brewed tea, not canned tea, so he went to a lounge on one of the upper floors of the Institute. At least there wouldn't be too many people in there at this time.

He didn't expect there to be just one person, though.

Touya looked up when he entered, and he smiled at him, and then seemed to become self-conscious. Hikaru smiled back, though, and nodded to him. "Want some tea? I'm about to brew some," he offered. It would have been impolite not to do so, after all.

Right.

Touya shook his head, and then shrugged. "Ah... no, thanks. I've, um, I've already got some coffee." Weakly, he lifted his cup as evidence.

Hikaru nodded, feeling like the awkwardness between them was somehow his fault. It had to be Touya's fault, though, right? "Mm. I guess you need more caffeine lately, huh? Life with a baby..." Hikaru had never once given thought to what life with a baby would be like, so he wasn't sure, but he was fairly certain they didn't sleep or something. Maybe Touya's wife dealt with that stuff, though.

"Oh... she's actually pretty good, but yeah, it's. Well. Different." Touya shyly turned his coffee cup around and around.

Somehow, that irritated Hikaru. "Mm. Well. I haven't really seen you since she was born. Congratulations."

"Thank you. Ah, we did get the blankets you sent." Hikaru must have been staring at him blankly, because Touya then blushed. "Er, well, I think it was from you and your family..."

Ah, his mom sent them, hm? How nice of her. "Well. Ah. You're welcome. I'll, uh, tell my mom you like 'em."

Touya smiled at him a bit, and that irritated Hikaru, too. "It's been a long time since we actually, talked, though. Has to be a few years, at least."

"I don't think it's been that long," Hikaru contradicted, but he immediately wished he could have held his tongue. He just wanted to be difficult, and he knew from experience that Touya could be plenty difficult if he wanted to be, so. He turned to get the water for his tea going. "We've had several matches, after all."

"Not recently, and anyway, I meant a conversation without a goban between us. I think it's been about four years, actually," Touya firmly but quietly asserted. "The night before the wedding, right?"

Hikaru winced, grateful that he had his back to Touya. Damn it, damn it, damn it... "No, I saw you at your father's funeral, too. That wasn't too long ago."

"That was just about two years ago," Touya wearily corrected. "And you didn't talk to me. You talked to my mother for about two hours, but you only nodded at me and Ami."

Ami. Hikaru glared at the pot, willing it to boil faster. "Your mother is a better conversationalist," he countered, childishly.

Touya sighed. "I won't argue with you about that, but still. It's... it's good to see you."

"We used to see each other every day," Hikaru responded before he could stop himself. Damn it. He hated it when he got like this with Touya.

"Yes... well. So I suppose it's my fault, then?" Touya asked, challenging.

Damn it. It was disgusting how quickly they fell back into their old routines. "You were the one to get married. But you're right, that's not your fault. You're just such a damned good son. It's not your fault that your father asked you get married after his second heart attack. It's your father's fault, right? That's rude, Touya, blaming the dead." Damn it, damn it... he had to regain his composure. This was ridiculous. It wasn't like he'd spent the last four years pining for fucking Touya. He absolutely had not. Sai's face floated before his eyes.

No. Wait. That was supposed to be... Shigemi's face... wasn't it?

Touya was quiet for a minute, and that couldn't be good. Hikaru's water finally boiled, so he poured it over his tea and waited for it to steep. Akari had gotten him this tea stick for his birthday last year. It definitely was a sign of age when you got tea-related gifts, perhaps, but that wasn't his choice, so.

"Your young lover is rather the talk of the go world, mm? He seems like the type to enjoy that sort of attention. Where did you meet him, anyway? Some sort of... school cultural festival?" Touya asked coldly.

Hikaru narrowed his eyes, and turned to look at Touya. This little... "I met him here, actually. But you're right. He's exactly the type to flourish with attention."

"Oh, so he's needy?" Touya asked, raising an eyebrow.

Hikaru wouldn't get drawn into this. Mainly because they were talking about Shigemi, not him. "Don't underestimate him. That's a weakness of yours."

He picked up his mug of tea and started to leave. Peace and quiet wasn't really an option here, was it?

"Hikaru," Touya said, and his voice caused Hikaru to stop in his tracks. "Wait... I'm sorry, I. I didn't mean to. I didn't want. I am happy to be able to... just talk with you. Can't we..." He didn't seem to know what he wanted to say.

He should be nicer about this, but he was in danger of completely losing his cool instead. "Touya, I'm sorry, but if you're unhappy in any way with how your life has turned out, just remember. It was all your own choice. I'm not the one who wanted to break up in the first place. And right now... I have to say, I'm not at all unhappy with my life."

He walked out, wondering if he had lied to Touya or not, and feeling inappropriately guilty for being mean to Touya during their first real conversation in years.

 

 

 

He got home to find Shigemi in the kitchen, whistling to himself completely out of tune as he cooked. Hikaru didn't speak as he entered, just watching Shigemi for a bit. At moments like this, it was impossible to compare him to anyone, most especially Sai. Shigemi shook his bottom, dancing to some music that his whistling sure wasn't conveying. His hair moved in shaky waves, catching the light. It was down, completely messy and completely beautiful at the same time.

That was right... Sai was never quite like this. Hikaru heart started to beat a little faster.

He felt like there was something stirring in him, something he maybe understood but wouldn't identify. He moved closer, wanting to reach out and touch Shigemi, maybe put his hands on Shigemi's waist, kiss his cheek... He stood near the counter of the kitchen, as if on the threshold, but he didn't move closer. He shouldn't reach out. He shouldn't be doing this, probably. This was... this was a dangerous relationship, right? Waya tried to warn him. Instead of coming home, he should have made Waya buy him more drinks. He had to see Touya, after all. He wanted to touch Shigemi. He wanted to smell his hair. This was bad. Wasn't it? Why was it, though? It felt like something was changing. Because he talked to Touya? Was everything in his relationship with Shigemi about some other guy? He should end this, shouldn't he? Or maybe... He really did want to touch Shigemi...

"Ah! Sensei!" Hikaru started. He'd been staring at Shigemi's waist. "You startled me! You're supposed to call out when you come home. You know, I'm home!" Shigemi demonstrated.

Hikaru couldn't help smiling. "Well, I didn't think anyone would be here. Since, you know, you don't actually live here. I was enjoying your little dance, though," he commented, shaking his bottom in imitation.

Shigemi actually blushed, which was cute and sexy at the same time. Now, Hikaru wanted to kiss him. "Shut up, I thought I was alone. I'm making stir fry for dinner, so be nice to me! If it weren't for me, you'd only eat ramen!" Shigemi taunted, sticking out his tongue.

That didn't make Hikaru want to kiss him less. "That's not true. I've lived alone. I often got take out."

Shigemi laughed, and that was a beautiful sound. "You're so helpless, Sensei. You should be more grateful for me."

Shigemi turned back to his wok. Well, that was Hikaru's wok, but Hikaru sure as hell never used it. How did he even get a wok? He wanted to touch Shigemi's hair. And possibly wrap his arms around the other man. He wanted to push Shigemi away, too. This all felt dangerous. "I'm grateful for your stir fry," Hikaru said casually.

"Brat," Shigemi sighed. He took the wok off the heat. "Do you think you can manage to get a couple of bowls?"

Hikaru sighed heavily. "I have to get bowls, now?" he feigned annoyance. He wanted to brush his body against Shigemi's, but he didn't. He got the bowls, as asked, and watched while Shigemi scooped out some rice. His hands were so talented. Hikaru wondered if Shigemi ever played an instrument. He wanted to caress Shigemi's hand. This was wrong, somehow. Wasn't it? It was really like they were just comfortably living together. Somehow, that happened without Hikaru being aware of it. Though, wouldn't a relationship based entirely on sex be even more wrong? Their sex was good, of course, but...

Shigemi smirked at Hikaru and carried the bowls to the table. "I made the tea earlier. You can handle that, right?"

Rolling his eyes, Hikaru went to get the pot of tea, and two cups. Shigemi was good at making tea. Due to some kind of unknown magic, it was just different when he brewed it. Something about the temperature of the water or the amount or mixture of the tea leaves... Hikaru never paid attention while Shigemi made the tea, though. He should, so he could do it himself. This was crazy. Wasn't he getting too used to being with Shigemi? Waya was right, wasn't he just taking advantage of this... this kid? Shigemi wasn't a kid, but that wasn't the real point. The point was... he had to... think about Shigemi, what was best for him... Was that it?

"Are you paying attention to me, or are you staring at my ass again?" Shigemi teased him. Though, Hikaru wasn't aware that Shigemi had been talking. He wasn't staring at Shigemi's ass, though! Not this time.

Hikaru sat down at the table, and poured tea for them both. "You usually like it when I stare at your ass," he said conversationally.

"Well, sure," Shigemi shrugged. "But I'm hungry, too. So you can stare at my ass after we eat. I was saying, I heard your match today was pretty good. You were playing Kakazu-five-dan, right?"

"It was Tsuda-five-dan, but yes, it was a good match. Did you want me to recreate it for you after dinner?" Hikaru asked. This stir fry was good. He should watch while Shigemi cooked, too. Instead of watching Shigemi dancing, or whatever.

"Mm, yeah, or tomorrow, whenever," Shigemi said casually.

Hikaru smirked. Yeah, he knew what Shigemi was thinking. That was fine. The way Shigemi held his chopsticks was rather elegant, just like how he held his stones. Shigemi just seemed to be filled with beauty. That felt kind of odd to think, because he was also very masculine, but it was the only way to think of it.

"I also heard you had a chat with Touya-meijin."

Shigemi's voice was totally casual, but it instantly put Hikaru on edge. Just like seeing Touya did. Damn it. He didn't want to be controlled by Touya anymore. He looked at Shigemi, watching him carefully. "Really? It must have been a slow gossip day at the Institute today. We barely talked for five minutes. Just long enough for me to brew tea," he explained, calmly, raising his cup of tea as in demonstration.

Shigemi actually looked embarrassed for a moment. That wasn't a look he normally sported. "Kumiko-chan said someone in Touya-meijin's group was talking about it. They're, uh, kind of fans... of... the whole... Touya-Shindou... pairing." That was clearly painful for Shigemi to say.

Guilt had such a bitter, ugly taste. "Pairing, huh? I guess they're not aware that he's married with a child now?" Hikaru laughed it off.

He'd told Shigemi... more than he should have about Sai, but he always danced around this topic, and there was a reason for that. His relationship with Touya was... in the past. And it was personal.

This was the person he was sleeping with, though. And, basically, living with, and. This was exactly why he should put some distance between them. Exactly why Waya and Isumi and all those gossipy old farts were right about this. Because he was selfish, but he also didn't want to get too close, right? Because this was dangerous.

He hadn't even been thinking about Sai at all since he got home.

"I've... told you a little bit about my teacher, Sai," Hikaru started. What was he saying? Shigemi was listening to him eagerly. "After... Sai... passed," such a distasteful word, "I went through a bad time. Like I've said a million times, I was young when I knew Sai and our relationship was not like... this, but we were close. He was... important to me. So, it took me a long time to come to terms with him being gone. Once I did, though, I... I had Touya. We got closer, and closer, and things just... kept going from there. I was used to being close with someone and with sharing everything with someone, because that was something I learned from Sai.

"Touya's father had a second heart attack, and while he was in the hospital... one day, Touya came home and just announced, My father wants me to get married to continue to family line, so I'll be going on an omiai soon. But don't worry, nothing will really have to change between us." Hikaru couldn't help but laugh bitterly. It was good the stir fry was so delicious. Otherwise, he wouldn't be able to keep eating. "I can't really say that I know what he was thinking, but I'm assuming he was just in denial or something. He just refused to see... see what he was asking of me. Right up until his wedding day, I was sure it was just... some really bad joke or something." Hikaru shook his head.

Damn, he'd been stupid.

"The night before his wedding, I got him drunk and we fucked most of the night. When we went to sleep, I thought for sure that everything would be fine, but in the morning, he got dressed and went to get married. I didn't go to the ceremony, and I barely stayed at the reception long enough to finish one drink. I didn't really see him again until his father's funeral. I... went overseas for a bit after he married, I just. I guess I had another bad time." Though, it seemed wrong to compare Touya's marriage to Sai's leaving the world. At least Touya was still alive, after all.

It seemed wrong to be talking about this at all. It was as if he didn't really know what he was doing anymore at all, though maybe he knew perfectly well, instead.

"When I saw you at the Institute, it was like..." he swallowed hard. He'd spent most of the time since he'd met Shigemi carefully not thinking about any of this. Not putting it into words. He had been able to pretend that all he had to do was go with the flow. But. "It was like something that I'd lost and needed badly had been returned to me. Even though... you just look like Sai, you're not Sai. And even I know that." He looked Shigemi in the eye. The other man's eyes were wide, and his expression was some mixture of excitement and fear and... something else.

Hikaru still didn't want to read too much into it.

"It's been a while, though, now, and I think we know each other... maybe too well. My relationship with Touya is over. That's not something you need to... to think about." Was that why he started to tell Shigemi all of this? Or was there some other reason? He couldn't even remember anymore. He took a long sip of tea. Damn, he felt like he'd been talking forever...

He was pretty sure, now, that he'd lied to Touya earlier. But it didn't have to be a lie, did it? And Touya sure as hell didn't need to know.

"Sensei," Shigemi said, his voice breathy and nervous. That didn't sound like Shigemi at all. Shigemi put his chopsticks down, and they clattered a bit. That was uncharacteristic as well. "Th-thank you... for... for sharing that. I. I. Y-you know, when I first met you, too, I-I don't know. It's not like I felt some kind of instant, cosmic connection. I just thought you looked so cool, with your Oxford shirt all rumpled and only buttoned in the middle, and your jeans all frayed at the bottoms." Shigemi blushed. Again, right? Hikaru wanted to touch his cheek. It was so pretty like this... But seriously, Hikaru had no idea anyone paid that much attention to his clothes. He sure didn't. "You looked me right in the eye, and you looked so... so happy to see me... and I thought then, well. That. That I wanted to make you happy like that for real, not just because you mistook me for someone else." Shigemi looked at him hopefully, and Hikaru felt like the floor was vibrating beneath them, or maybe that the air had just gotten thick.

That was... that was far too... That was like some kind of serious confession. And.

Why was it that Shigemi always understood him so well?! Wasn't he supposed to be some kind of brat kid? But he could read a game as well as he could read Hikaru, so maybe it was just his skill.

Hikaru had to clear his throat before he could speak. "I... I don't think I've ever been entirely fair to you. And I'm pretty sure I've taken advantage of you. O-of your feelings. Are you really sure... I mean, why in the world are you satisfied with some old guy who's trapped in his past, anyway? What do your parents think of all this?" Hikaru asked, weary.

Shigemi just laughed, though. "Mm, well, my parents aren't thrilled with the age difference or how we met and all, I guess, but they're really open-minded people, and hopeless romantics, so. As long as I'm happy, they accept it. And. I am happy with you, Sensei, even if it doesn't make sense. I think... I think you're happier with me, too, than you give us credit for." He smiled in an altogether too smug and knowing way.

Brat.

Hikaru put his chin in his hand and just smirked. "Cocky little bastard," he muttered under his breath, eliciting more of Shigemi's musical laughter. "Ok, then. I guess a deal's in order. I'll do my best to live in the present whenever I'm with you. And you'll stop calling me Sensei when we're alone and start using my name."

Shigemi's eyes widened, and then he looked down at their half-eaten dinner. "Ah, the food's going to get cold..."

Raising his hands in surrender, Hikaru shrugged. "Hey, I'm not keeping you from eating. You said you were hungry and all..."

"No, no, that wasn't a complaint, it was just a statement of fact," Shigemi smirked, and then he stood up and pushed the entire table aside. Before Hikaru really even knew what was going on, he had a lapful of Shigemi. He had his arms around Shigemi, and he was kissing Shigemi.

There was nothing wrong with that, really.

 

 

 

He only took out his phone to call for a cab, and he was only calling for a cab because he felt like getting some time to himself. He had gotten used to giving lectures and doing exhibition-type events. This one was a small affair at a college campus, so it was interesting because Hikaru had, of course, never been to college. It was organized by the college's go society, but other students were there as well, and other go enthusiasts. It was pretty casual, so he was able to keep it fun, but even something fun could be tiring after a few hours.

It made him feel old.

Just like his phone... looking at the damned thing made him feel old. He was never good at computers to begin with, but Shigemi had insisted he upgrade to a smartphone. In theory, it was convenient for keeping track of his schedule and all, but that would imply that he knew how to use the damned thing. Why couldn't things just be simple?

Waya would laugh his ass off anytime he saw Hikaru trying to use his phone.

There was some kind of message or something, but he called for the cab first, and only after it arrived and he was comfortably on his way home did he start to fiddle with it to try to figure out what it was trying to tell him. Therefore, he was only five minutes from home when he realized that Shigemi had tried to tell him that they had guests. Probably, Shigemi was a bit nervous about the situation and all, but at this point, all Hikaru could do was get home. Well, he could send Shigemi a message that he was close, but in the amount of time he had left, it just didn't seem worth it.

He had to confess, though, it was pretty convenient to know that, when he arrived home, Akari and Mitani would be there. He made sure to call out nice and brightly when he came in, and tucked his shoes in neatly in the corner. Akari would still tease him about his sloppiness if he gave her the chance.

Being prepared was helpful, too, when he came into his apartment to find Shigemi and Akari sitting on the floor of their living room, poring over old photo albums and working their way through a wine bottle while Mitani watched them, amused, from the couch.

Smirking a bit, he patting Shigemi on the head. "He's underaged, you know," he said flippantly.

Akari actually chortled. Hikaru was sure he hadn't heard that many true chortles in his life. "Isn't that something you should think about first before warning others?" she counted, winking at him.

Hikaru just shook his head and grabbed a glass and the bottle. Everyone wanted him to drink these days. That was fine. He nodded at Mitani, who nodded back at him. "What the hell is all of this? Did you really cart all this crap over here?"

"It's not crap," Akari informed him huffily. "These are our precious memories! I was just showing Shigemi-kun how you used to be a huge, huge dork."

Hikaru glanced over at what they were looking at, and groaned a bit. He felt too old to be embarrassed, but still. All this was completely in the past! And looking at these pictures...

Well, he didn't need any more reasons to think about Sai around Shigemi.

He plopped down on the couch next to Mitani. "Can't you control your woman, there?" he sighed. At least the wine was good. Or, at least, drinkable and alcoholic. If he had to be drinking, he'd prefer some beer.

"About as well as you can control yours," Mitani nodded seriously. At least Shigemi found that amusing.

Hell, that brat was showing off his best cat-who-ate-the-canary look there next to Akari.

"I was thinking that I missed your blond bangs, but now that I see what Shigemi-kun had done with you..." She gave him an appreciative look and grinned, a bit too widely for Hikaru's tastes.

Nervously, he rubbed at his hair. It wasn't like he had beautiful hair, like Shigemi. Why would anyone want to talk about his hair?! "Eh, whatever. If you're carrying around a bunch of old junk like that, then you haven't come over to tell me that he's finally gotten you pregnant. I'm starting to worry. When are you going to give me a sweet little niece or nephew to spoil, anyway?" he complained.

"I've told you a million times, there's no way I'm letting you anywhere near my child," Akari sighed, but she was still grinning. "Actually, we're moving, so I've been cleaning up everything. I just came across these and I thought you'd both enjoy seeing them."

"We do appreciate it!" Shigemi piped up, looking smug.

Mitani was looking at him like he was the canary to Shigemi's cat.

"You're moving? You haven't been in that place long. What's going on?" he chose to ignore the fact that Shigemi answered for the two of them, and Akari and Mitani took it in stride. He would just have to admit it. They were living together. Everyone else seemed to know it.

"Yuki is taking a post at a hospital in San Diego. It's a research thing... We have to box up everything and figure out how to store or ship it all... It's a bit of a nuisance," she complained, sighing.

Hikaru froze.

"Sorry, darling," Mitani said under his breath, though he didn't sound sorry. She smiled and winked at him, like she wasn't really that put out.

Wait...

"It's supposed to be quite a prestigious opportunity, so... I guess it's worth it," Akari shrugged, smiling at Shigemi.

"Ah, congratulations," Shigemi said to Mitani, probably because he felt prompted.

Wait, wait... "San Diego?" Hikaru spat out, incredulous. "What's that all about? That's in America!" he informed them. They should know, but still!

Mitani smiled sheepishly at him. "Yup. It should only be for a few years," he added, trying to be helpful, possibly.

"But... what about your job?" he asked Akari. She'd been working for the same newspaper for a few years now, and she was a regular columnist. Well, it wasn't a newspaper anymore or her column was online or something, but it amounted to the same thing, as far as he could tell.

"It's as good a reason as any to think about starting a family," she shrugged. Mitani snorted a bit, but Akari was used to ignoring him. "Anyway, we discussed it. Sometimes, you have to make a leap together as a couple. It's just the way it is."

Hikaru frowned a bit. He liked the idea of that, in theory. Leaping together, as a couple. But this leap was all the way across an ocean! Didn't they do medical research in Japan? Why did Mitani need to go so far away? Hikaru gave him a suspicious look, but if Mitani picked up on it, he just ignored Hikaru.

The rest of the evening sort of blurred past Hikaru, but at the end of it, all those damned photo books were left behind, possibly because Akari thought they might comfort him. He didn't want them, though. He definitely didn't want Shigemi looking through them. It was just a damned nuisance. He also didn't want Shigemi looking at him sympathetically, though it did make the brat behave rather nicely.

Hikaru fell asleep with his arms tightly around Shigemi that night.

 

 

 

Waya rubbed the back of Hikaru's head - again - so Hikaru flinched away, giving Waya a look. "Seriously, can't you keep your hands to yourself?"

"I like your hair. It's all... stylish. You're becoming dapper in your old age," Waya smirked.

Little bastard. "You're older than I am," Hikaru mildly grumbled. And then he brushed Waya's hand away. Waya didn't even have to be waiting with him. They were both going to his study group after this, but Waya could go on ahead. Some people would probably already be waiting there. Hikaru had even offered him the key, so Waya could let them in, which would be nice after all.

Shigemi's match was running late, that was all. Hikaru didn't even have to wait for him, but he wasn't in a huge hurry to study group, even if it was his own. Probably because it was his own. If it was someone else's, it would be rude to be late. He chose to wait, then. Waya waiting with him was...

Touya was across the lobby, chatting with some of his students. Or, well, students. They looked like they might be insei, but there were some lower dans that seemed awfully young, too. That was part of the aging process, it seemed. Seeing the younger generation as children. It was a tad bit infuriating that Touya, well, looked damned good. Since he'd gotten married, there was clearly another woman picking out his clothes. He'd gone from having his mother dress him to having his wife dress him. Hikaru would never bother dressing another man. Undressing him, sure, he'd done that plenty of times. Touya was now wearing tailored suits in nice-looking materials and complementary colors. His hair looked good, too, though Hikaru still thought he looked strange and slightly more ordinary with short hair. He was... just like any other elite businessman out there, except he was an elite go player instead.

It was frustrating.

"You're not listening to me," Waya complained, messing up Hikaru's hair again.

"Hey," Hikaru grouched. He wasn't listening, sure, he wasn't even aware that Waya had been talking. How could he have missed that? He hadn't been staring at Touya, had he? He looked at Waya.

From the look on his friend's face, he most definitely had been staring at Touya. Damn it all.

The front door opened, and Yun-sensei came in, checking something on his phone. He was a teacher at a school and he was essentially a liaison with the Korean Go Association, so he was a busy guy, really. But, when Yun-sensei came in, Touya stood up and smiled. When Touya stood up, almost as if he were controlling it, the elevator dinged and the door slid open. When the elevator door opened, Shigemi cheerfully stepped out, still chatting with the man he'd been playing. But, when Shigemi noticed Yun-sensei, he happily called out from across the lobby, "Yun-sensei!"

Yun-sensei looked up and smiled brightly, and Shigemi hopped across at double-time to get to his former teacher. "Fujii-kun! It's good to see you. I heard you made three-dan, congratulations."

Shigemi beamed. "It's all a part of the plan, of course. How is Kaoi doing? Who's first board this year?"

Yun-sensei laughed and assured Shigemi that the team was still sorely missing his leadership. Hikaru noticed Touya sit down again slowly.

"You're doing it," Waya whispered into his ear.

"Everybody enjoys a bit of schadenfreude from time to time," Hikaru sighed.

"That's true and it's always the best when it's that Touya at the receiving end, but that's not what I meant," Waya explained. Hikaru looked at him quizzically. "You're giving that kid the lovey-dovey look again."

Despite himself, he blushed. Was... was he really? That was a bit embarrassing. Suddenly, the scuffed toes of his shoes looked really interesting.

"Damn. Are you falling in love with that kid?" Waya asked, hushed.

"Shut up," Hikaru grumbled.

That, of course, only amused Waya. "Well, I mean, it's not like I don't get it and all, but. You sure do things backwards, you know? I mean, you've been sleeping with him for months now, so falling in love at this point is kind of..."

"You know, I take back what I said about schadenfreude. It sucks. Stop enjoying this all so damned much!" Hikaru ordered Waya. Not like he really could. Unless he wanted to order Waya to giggle like a school girl, because he was doing that already.

"You guys are having fun," Shigemi commented.

Hikaru looked up, and was struck by how beautiful Shigemi looked when he was happy. He was a damned competitive brat, so it was always easy to tell when he won or lost, and nothing, well, nearly nothing made him as happy as winning. His eyes, in particular, sparkled especially brightly when he was happy. Hikaru was sure that wasn't factually true, but it was just Shigemi's personality.

Really, he didn't look that much like Sai at all.

So... why was Hikaru finding it harder to not reach out and comb his fingers through Shigemi's hair?

"Only one of us is having fun," Hikaru corrected him, weary. "C'mon, let's go to study group. You can regale us on the way with your outstanding victory."

"Oh, it wasn't that outstanding, but I did have a really good hand about two-thirds the way through that..."

 

 

 

"This is strange, isn't it?" Isumi 'whispered' to Waya, loudly enough for the people at the next table to hear.

Shigemi, looking brighter and more cheerful than normal, even, grinned from ear to ear, and leaned over the table. "What's so strange about this, Isumi-judan?"

Hikaru just smirked to himself as Isumi looked up at the ceiling for answers. He sipped his sake and rubbed his thumb over the small of Shigemi's back. Hikaru had promised to take Shigemi out drinking for his 20th birthday, but even he didn't really expect that to include Waya and Isumi. Shigemi innocently suggested he invite some of his friends because most of Shigemi's friends were still underaged. Hikaru didn't totally buy that, but he was glad that Shigemi didn't want to go to some loud dance club or something, so he called Waya, told him to bring Isumi, and brought Shigemi to their favorite watering hole.

Waya seemed resigned enough. "So you were 19 going on 40, huh? I guess that's why you'd end up with some old man. And before you ask... again... no one has any presents for you."

"Sensei has a present for me," Shigemi cheerfully corrected.

"I'm sure he's got one for you nearly every night," Waya quickly countered.

Isumi sputtered a bit.

Hikaru squeezed Shigemi's ass a little. He looked especially good today, dressed pretty much in black with his hair shining and straight. Hikaru had to keep his hand on Shigemi's ass in order to restrain himself from touching that hair. But, he didn't bother to restrain himself from looking, even though he could practically feel Waya's welled-up amusement about to burst. He really was some doddering old fool who'd fallen in love with a young kid, wasn't he?

Shigemi looked at him adoringly, though, too, so it was probably fine.

"Well, er, happy birthday... and congratulations on entering the Meijin League. You did that pretty quickly," Isumi commented, finishing off his drink.

Waya should be happy. Isumi drank more when he was nervous, and he was a cute drunk. Maybe after tonight, he would come to like Shigemi a bit more. That... somehow seemed like it would be a good thing.

"All according to plan," Shigemi breezily shrugged, rubbing his ass against Hikaru's hand.

Brat.

"You're quite the evil genius," Waya snorted. "This plan of yours must be damned interesting to look at."

Shigemi just laughed. "There's nothing evil about it!" he insisted, giving Hikaru a sidelong look. Was winning his teacher's heart a part of the plan? "It's important to have goals, though. It helps to keep you focused. That was something Yun-sensei always stressed, and it worked for me, so," he shrugged. "Maybe rather than plan, per se, I should say it's all part of my long-term goals."

"Right... wait, I've heard you talk about this at study group," Waya seemed genuinely interested. "Let's see... a title before you're 25..."

"Of course," Shigemi nodded, winking at Hikaru. Hikaru first won a title... when he was 26.

Brat!

"Winning an international tournament before you're 27..." Waya continued.

"I still regret not being able to participate in the Hokuto Cup," Shigemi sighed. "I would have done really well."

"Me, too! I mean, I don't know how well I would have done," Isumi blushed. He would have done well, considering he had experience with Chinese play, at least, but Isumi was always so modest. It was one of his annoying traits. "But I missed being able to participate, too!"

"Eighteen is too low for an age limit!" Shigemi groused. He really did regret it. "I mean, I guess I understand, given how the Korean and Chinese systems work, but still! Twenty! Twenty is the right age limit!"

The brat was damned cute when he pouted. And he could win over anyone. Hikaru squeezed his ass a little. He was definitely winning over Isumi.

"Naturally, your biggest goal is to beat Shindou there," Waya finished.

Shigemi laughed, and shook his head. "No, no, that's not a goal. It's not good to make your goals based on other people, you know? Too many variables! I would like to beat Sensei in a regulation match," which was a good qualifier, because Shigemi had beaten him or come close to some of their games at home. Strip go, though, didn't count. Hikaru didn't think that was a real thing, anyway. "I would also like to beat you, Waya-sensei. And you, too, Isumi-judan. Oh, and I'd like to beat Touya-meijin once, at least, too," he added, shrugging like it was a normal thing to say.

Well, it was, actually.

Waya just snorted. "I think it's safe to say you ha- ow!" he glared at Isumi.

Ok, that was funny. Hikaru poured some more sake for Shigemi. It occurred to him that he'd never seen Shigemi drunk before. Which made sense, though he drank at their place if Hikaru bought stuff. He was sure Shigemi was the type, too, who drank in high school and stuff. He just gave off that 'cool kid' vibe that Hikaru never really understood or cared about, but he started to notice it, with Shigemi.

Well, in that way, he was a bit like Sai, because Sai was the type to to draw people in, Hikaru was sure. But, Hikaru was realizing more and more, there really weren't that many ways in which Shigemi was like Sai at all. More and more, Hikaru wasn't even seeing the strong physical resemblance that once had him so enraptured.

"You must have goals, too, Waya-sensei," Shigemi prodded, sipping his sake elegantly.

"Sure, I do," Waya grumbled. Isumi must have really stomped his foot. "I want to beat this idiot in league play," he said, pointing his cup at Hikaru.

That was amusing. League play, huh? Did he mean...

"Are you going to be the one to knock Shindou out of the Meijin League this year?" Isumi asked, amused.

"Hey, hey, who says anyone is knocking me out?" Hikaru complained. Seriously, just because he lost in the first round last year... that was a fluke!

"Oh, are you going to take the title away from the Mighty Touya?" Waya snickered, as if it were impossible.

It was possible. "He's not unbeatable," Hikaru shrugged, pouring himself and Shigemi another.

"Ooh, so cool, Sensei!" Shigemi laughed. "But you've never beaten him in League play yet, right?"

Hikaru scowled a bit. "Yet being the operative word there. And I've only played him twice in League play, and the most recent time was like six years ago! I could beat him, easily."

"Easily?" Shigemi prodded, laughing. "So what's the great secret, then? Share with the class, please, Sensei!"

That got both Waya and Isumi laughing. Charming brat. Hikaru squeezed his ass. He started to think about when they got home. Mm. "Sure, beating Touya is easy... all you have to do is be me," Hikaru smugly finished.

Unfortunately, that also got Waya and Isumi laughing. "Your record against him is only about 50-50, right?" Isumi asked, looking like he was holding back.

He was surrounded by brats. "Eh, but don't you think his play hasn't really advanced that much? He spends too much time with old men and businessmen. I've definitely got an advantage. Anyway, there's no point to playing in a League if you aren't aiming to get a title. And title matches are the most fun a pro can have..."

Waya snorted, and Isumi sighed. "You can be so flippant about it. I'm already worried about defending my title," Isumi slumped a bit.

"That's no good, Isumi-judan," Shigemi laughed. "You only got your title a few months ago. You've got to enjoy your success more!"

"Hey, I'm the one who tells him that!" Waya complained, elbowing Isumi.

Shigemi was just one of their group now. Amazing. "Defending your title is a battle. Of course, I had an excellent teacher in that regard. No one defended a title like Kuwabara-honinbou." Hikaru swished his sake around in his glass. Ah, Kuwabara. He would have loved Shigemi.

What a strange thing to think, but it really was to Shigemi's detriment that he never got to meet Kuwabara in person.

He raised his glass, and made a toast. "To Kuwabara-honinbou. And to the bright new players ready to pick up his yoke." He winked at Shigemi as he said the last part, and squeezed his ass again.

Hadn't they been drinking long enough? He had to get Shigemi home...

 

 

 

Shigemi was doing the 'noodle' dance as he cleaned the table. Well, it wasn't really like he had different dances for different types of food, but he had different dances, and they were having udon tonight, so. It was a noodle dance. Shigemi had dragged him off to Kaoi High School's Go Club to give a talk, and they'd run really late. Shigemi had been encouraging the students, of course. Such a brat.

His butt looked really cute when he wiggled it like that, though.

They'd picked up dinner on the way home, so Shigemi was cleaning up and Hikaru was transferring the udon from the take-out containers to real bowls, which was something that was necessary for reasons that Hikaru assumed were intended to be mysterious. The phone rang, but Shigemi's butt looked too cute to make him stop, so he answered it.

"Shindou?"

"Waya? What's up?" he asked. Shigemi looked at him over his shoulder, but then he went back to work. Well, mostly he was just dancing now, right? The table had to be clean by now, right?

"Ah... you haven't heard, right?"

Hikaru furrowed his brow. That was annoying. "Haven't heard what, Waya?"

"...Touya's wife committed suicide this morning."

Hikaru dropped the take-out container he was holding. He nearly dropped the phone he was cradling against his neck. "Wh... What did you just say?" Shigemi turned to look at him, but Hikaru couldn't focus.

"I don't know any details. Morishita-sensei just told me. It happened this morning, it seems. At home. I... I thought you'd want to know."

Hikaru probably made a noise. He hung up the phone, and just... put it down somewhere. This didn't make any sense. They just had a baby! Well, they did a while ago, but still. Didn't babies make women happy? Oh... not all the time, right? Was that it? Hikaru couldn't remember what that was called, when women weren't happy after giving birth. He never thought about Ami at all. She was blandly beautiful in a Japanese kind of way, and she was a bitch. That was all he needed to know about her. More than he needed to know.

"Sensei?" Hikaru jumped when Shigemi touched his arm. Oh, right.

"I've got to go." That was right. Yes. He had to go. He knew where Touya's house was... well, he had the address somewhere. In his phone? Probably. Maybe. It didn't matter. He turned, and grabbed his keys and phone.

"Wait, what happened? What's going on?" Shigemi tugged on his arm.

He just... couldn't, not right now. He couldn't even say it out loud. It couldn't be a joke because Waya would never do something like that, but it wasn't real. It couldn't be. "I've got to go."

That was all he could say.

He should have called for a cab. Actually, he should have bought a car when his mother suggested it a few years back, as long as he was being retrospectively critical of himself. He should have been a better friend to Touya. Even if Touya was an ass, before they were lovers, they were friends, and they hadn't been friends in years. They should have been, even though it seemed impossible. They should have been, because something terrible just happened to Touya.

Shit.

Anyway, it was pointless to call a cab, because he didn't know the address and it probably wasn't in his phone because Shigemi had programmed his phone and Shigemi didn't know Touya's address, right? But Hikaru did know how to get there. Touya bought the house just before he got married. The night before Touya's wedding... that was where Hikaru had...

That was a long time ago. Touya's wedding. And now, his wife... That day, she had looked happy. Their house was nice. But, Hikaru didn't know Ami at all. That bitch. She probably wasn't, though, was she? Or, even if she was... she wasn't anymore.

Damn it.

Taking the train, and walking from the station, it took him nearly an hour. What time was it now? He had no way to know. Shigemi and he were going to eat dinner. But, he didn't feel hungry. He felt sick. Sick right down to his bones. Once he turned on Touya's street, he knew which house it was, because Ogata-sensei's flashy yellow sports car was in front. He recognized one of the other cars, too, so that had to be Ashiwara's car, right? He'd gotten a ride from him with Waya and Saeki once, right? Not that it really mattered now.

Suicide.

It was real, wasn't it?

It was just exactly when he pressed his finger to the doorbell that he realized how bizarre it was for him to show up at Touya's doorstop the day his wife died. Bizarre, but... what else was he supposed to do!? He had to be here, right?

Ogata-sensei opened the door, and scowled a bit. "What are you doing here?"

"I heard... I just." He wasn't going to force his way into Touya's house, but he wasn't going to be put off by Ogata-sensei either.

"Shindou-kun?" Ashiwara peeked around Ogata-sensei, and pushed him out of the way slightly. "Is that you? News travels, huh?"

Like some kind of revelation, Hikaru just understood it. Ashiwara told Saeki who told Morishita-sensei who told Waya. Hikaru's head started to pound. Since Ashiwara had given him an opening, he slipped inside to the genkan. "That it does," he said under his breath, toeing his shoes off.

"This isn't a tourist spot," Ogata-sensei growled.

Hikaru got that he was being protective, though it was a side of Ogata-sensei that only reared its ugly head at the most inconvenient moments. He glared at the older man, but before he said anything, someone else came to the door.

"Shindou-kun? Is that you?" He looked up, feeling a rush of cold water go right through him. Damn it all... Touya-san looked tired, and weak. That was right, her daughter-in-law died. The mother of her grandchild.

"T-Touya-san. I'm... I'm so sorry..." he fumbled for what to say. What did anyone say at a time like this? It was impossible.

"Oh, thank goodness," she said, reaching out for him. She took Hikaru by both arms and pulled him into the house proper, smiling at him. "I'm so glad to see you. Akira-san..." her voice seemed to leave her.

Hikaru's chest ached.

"Come, come," she pulled him along. "He's in the salon."

She pulled him to the house's main hall. He looked down one way...

There was still blood on the floor and wall. It was real. It had really happened.

She slid open a door, and pushed him inside. His legs were like rubber, so he just did as she directed. "Akira-san, look. Shindou-kun is here."

It felt beyond unreal. The room was traditional, bright, and mostly empty, except for one low couch, and a goban in the center of the room. It was starkly Japanese. Touya was sitting askew from the goban, looking...

Horrible.

The door slid closed behind him. Well. He came here because... because...

"Hikaru," Touya said, sounding like he was under water. Or under sand. Under feathers? He sounded unlike himself.

Hikaru sat down near Touya. Just. Ok. What the hell was he supposed to say? "I heard... so I came. Touya... what happened?"

Shit, he shouldn't have said that. Touya actually looked amused, though. Probably thinking something like... That idiot can never control his tongue. "I... I was in the shower. I'd gotten home late the night before, so. So I was in the shower. When I came out... she was." He swallowed hard. "She was slumped against the wall. She'd... she'd taken a knife from the kitchen. It was a wedding present. I don't remember who gave it to us, though. It was a gift. She cut up her arms, and then she slit her own throat."

He had to be in shock or something, because he managed to say it all fairly calmly. "Wow. I didn't even know a person could slit their own throat."

Damn it! There he went again.

Touya looked at him balefully. "Apparently," he said quietly. "She was... she was standing outside the baby's room. Kyouko might have seen it. I don't know... how far, how well she can see... but it was her own mother..."

"She couldn't have understood," Hikaru said, trying to be reassuring, but he really didn't know. How did baby's brains work, what they did and didn't understand. Touya's kid might end up with a complex or something someday. Well, she was Touya's kid.

Wait, that was mean. He shouldn't think mean things right now.

Touya looked at him, his eyes slightly unfocused and a little wet. It was such an unTouya way to look. Hikaru felt sicker and sicker. "There was a note. On. On the pillow. On her bed." Her bed? Hikaru guessed it wasn't too uncommon for married people to have separate beds. One bed was better, though. "She had a lover, it seems. I didn't know. I thought... I thought she... she understood, she was satisfied... Well. Anyway, she had a lover. She... she thought that Kyouko was his child. She wanted. She wanted to leave to be with him, but he... he wanted to be sure, he wanted a test, paternity test. I don't know when she got the results, but. Kyouko is my daughter, and when her lover found out, he. I don't know if he left her, or what, but he said he wouldn't take a man's child away from him. I don't know, maybe it was just an excuse for him, maybe he just wanted to get away, or maybe he's... some kind of nice guy or whatever. But. She decided... she couldn't live..." Touya's voice broke.

Hikaru reached out for Touya, but Touya flinched away from him. It was just an impulse, a reaction. Because Touya was hurting. Damn it all. It was too soon or something, right?

"You heard? What, is it... like...?" Touya asked him, looking fragile.

Needy.

Damn it. "Waya told me. I think he... he heard from Ashiwara's friend," he shortened the chain. Touya wouldn't want people talking about this. Of course not.

But they would.

"You have something on your pants," Touya said, pointing.

Hikaru looked down at his pants leg. Ah. "That's udon. I was... holding some udon when I heard, and... I dropped..."

That happened only a little while ago.

"You were at a restaurant?" Touya asked, frowning a little. Looking down.

Hm. "N-no..."

"Ah."

They were silent for a moment.

"This is stupid," Hikaru sighed. He moved closer, and once again reached out to pull Touya into his arms. Touya, though, pulled back. "What?" Hikaru asked, maybe a bit too aggressively.

"I don't want you touch me and then... then go home to..." Touya floundered.

Hikaru felt a small flare of anger burn through him, but then it was gone. He was just too cold and sick to burn, maybe. Something like that. "What are you saying, Touya? You want me to break up with Shigemi before I can touch you?"

"Yes," Touya replied, too quickly and too calmly. After he heard himself, he turned a bit red. "I want... I want you to call me Akira. I don't want you to be here and hold my hand while I cry and then... then once everything's calm, to just... just go again. I want..."

There was a word on the tip of Touya's tongue, but he wouldn't say it and Hikaru didn't want him to, either. "I've never heard you ask for something so selfish before," he commented. "You were a married man this morning, you know." Touya looked up, angry and flustered. Hikaru couldn't help smiling a bit. "Damn it..." He dug his phone out of his pocket and poked at it until he could figure out how to dial Shigemi. "I can't believe I'm doing this."

Touya stared at him. Maybe he was fighting the urge to tell Hikaru to 'Wait!' or maybe he just didn't believe that Hikaru would do it.

"Shigemi?" he said as Shigemi answered, though Shigemi knew it was him. He was worried.

Hikaru started to feel sicker. Like he might really throw up. He looked into Touya's eyes. He didn't think there was anything especially beautiful about Touya, but something about him had always had Hikaru transfixed. It was like some damned spell.

"Yeah, I'm sorry... I'm... I'm at Touya's. His wife... died today. It was suicide."

He couldn't believe he was doing this, either. He had a flash in his mind, some BL manga Akari had made him read once. The 'straight' guy made the guy who was in love with him break up with his boyfriend over the phone, or something. Shigemi sounded concerned. Hikaru didn't want to do this.

He looked into Touya's eyes.

"Look, I'm sorry this is so abrupt, but... I'm not coming home tonight. And. And I think it's... I think we should end this."

It was awful, awfully quiet for a moment, everywhere.

Shigemi started to say something, but Hikaru just couldn't focus on the words. Touya leaned closer to him.

"I'm really sorry. I really am. It has to be this way. It's... it's just got to end. I'm really sorry." He should say something else, but he didn't know what. He'd actually never dumped anyone before, naturally. He was usually the one left behind. And he hated, hated being left behind. So, why was he doing this to someone he... someone he...

He couldn't complete that thought.

"Shigemi. I'm sorry." He hung up. And. He silenced his phone. His head was pounding, he felt sick, and his heart was thudding painfully in his chest. This was the worst. The worst possible day, ever.

Touya scooted closer to him, and put his forehead down on Hikaru's shoulder. "I can't believe you did that," he said hollowly.

Hikaru wanted to laugh, or maybe hit him. "Yeah, me, neither. But you're not the one who should say so. Jerk."

It was quiet for another few moments, and then slowly, Touya's shoulders started to shake, and then wracking sobs started to tear out of him. Hikaru angled himself better, and slowly, carefully, wrapped his arms around Touya's body.

He didn't know how long it was, but after a bit, the door to the salon slid open again, and Touya-san peeked inside. She seemed to have a tray with tea, but rather than interrupt them, she just slipped it in, and closed the door again. The light in the room seemed unnaturally bright, and the darkness outside the window seemed abnormally deep. He held Touya for as long as Touya needed him, but by the time they sipped at the tea, Touya still leaning against him, the darkness outside wasn't quite so deep and the tea was cold.

 

 

 

It was late the next afternoon when Hikaru, still wearing pants decorated with udon returned to his apartment. He looked down as he slipped his shoes off, somewhat carelessly.

There was another pair of shoes still there.

He didn't call out that he was home, but that was only because he couldn't make his voice work at first. Still, it didn't matter much. Shigemi was sitting on the arm of the couch, just... waiting for him, it seemed. He looked awful, like Hikaru felt. Neither of them, clearly, had slept last night. For one absurd second, Hikaru considered just taking Shigemi into his arms, taking off his clothes, taking a bath with him, and then curling up together to sleep.

He looked away, because he had to; the kitchen was a damned mess. There were broken dishes and bottles all over the floor and counters. He almost smiled at the sight of it.

"That's... I had a bit of a temper tantrum last night. I'm sorry for that. I'll clean it up." Hikaru shook his head, but he still couldn't quite talk. "You have to talk to me. You can't possibly have meant that last night."

Hikaru's heart dropped.

He closed his eyes, and rubbed his face a bit. It was different than just being tired. It was like he didn't have enough blood pumping through his body. Or his blood pressure was too low. Something was wrong with his blood. He needed to hibernate. Except.

He promised Touya he would come back once he'd had a chance to shower and change his clothes. Touya had been interviewed by the police again that morning. And they had to talk to a funeral director. And. To Ami's family.

He had to talk to Shigemi. He had to say something.

"Look. I. This isn't. This isn't..." What he wanted? Something he planned? Expected? What difference did that make? "I... I never wanted to hurt you. I'm so sorry."

"If you don't want to hurt me then why are you doing this!?" Shigemi shouted, his voice getting louder with each word. He stood up, his hands balled into fists at his side. His whole body seemed to be vibrating.

Hikaru hoped Shigemi would hit him.

"Just because he said so? He breaks up with you on a whim of his father's, and now that he's single again, you just have to rush back to his side?!" Shigemi was building up quite a bit of steam. His arms were still as stone at his sides, though.

If Hikaru started to cry, though, Shigemi might hit him. He might not be able to stop himself. "I went there myself. I don't really know what will happen next. But I. I have to. He needs me, so." Hikaru helplessly shrugged.

"Why does he have to be so goddamned important anyway!?" Shigemi yelled. The neighbors could probably hear him, but Hikaru didn't care.

"I wonder that myself. I asked myself that a million times, after he got married. But I can't help it. Maybe it's in my DNA or something. I know this is cruel, and I hate it..." He bit his lip. Since he was the one doing the breaking up, he wasn't allowed to feel sorry for himself, was he? "But he needs me."

Shigemi snapped, but he just snatched Hikaru by the collar. "He doesn't deserve you! I love you! I would never, never hurt you! I'll be faithful to you until we're both dead! So choose me! Be with me!" Hot tears poured down Shigemi's cheeks.

Hikaru wanted to lick his cheeks clean. He wanted to hold this young man in his arms until all his pain vanished, and comfort him. He wanted to put his hands into that messy, beautiful hair and stroke it smooth again. He would never get to do any of those things again, it seemed. It was physically painful. It was the worst feeling, totally different than the numb, aching feeling of watching Touya at his wedding reception. This pain was bright and burning. He was causing this pain for Shigemi. It was a million times worse. He wanted to stop this.

"That would be the smart thing to do," Hikaru said, his voice breaking. He wanted to touch Shigemi. He wanted to feel Shigemi's skin. He wanted to hold him. "I agree with you, completely, on all counts. I really hate this. I'm sorry. I've hurt you. I... I should never have touched you. I'm so sorry.

"The thing is... I love him. And he needs me."

Shigemi stared at him, and Hikaru could see the strength draining from Shigemi's body, bit by bit. "But...But... Sensei... I... I need you, too..."

Hikaru smiled a bit, and selfishly raised his hand to touch Shigemi's cheek. "I know. But you're stronger than he is. You'll move on. You'll be ok without me. Maybe it's just my own delusion. But.

"I love him. And he needs me. So. I have no choice."

It felt that way, but that was unfair to all three of them. Touya's pride would cripple if he heard Hikaru say that. Probably. It wasn't right to feel the way he felt. None of it seemed right.

Shigemi's shoulders began to quiver, and his head slowly lowered, until all Hikaru could see was his dull, messy hair. It was still beautiful hair, though. Suddenly, Shigemi started to beat Hikaru's chest, but it was like the fight in him had been killed. Finally, Shigemi just leaned his head against Hikaru's chest.

"I hate him," Shigemi complained, his voice shaking.

"I hate myself," Hikaru muttered under his breath. He didn't even have the right to tell Shigemi not to feel the way he did. He had every right.

He resented Touya a bit himself, even as he loved him.

 

 

 

It was late, past dinner time when he slipped back into Touya's house. He had said he'd be back in time to eat, but he doubted anyone waited for him. He wasn't hungry, anyway. He'd helped Shigemi pack up his things, and clean up the kitchen. It was surprising how much Shigemi had at Hikaru's place, except that it wasn't. He ended up giving Shigemi his goban (though, not the one that had been his grandfather's) and a few of his shirts that Shigemi liked. He called a cab for Shigemi and rode with him home, so he could pay for the cab. Shigemi wouldn't let him help take his things up to his old room in his parents' house, though. Shigemi said it casually, like a joke, but Hikaru thought it might be true that Shigemi's father would beat the crap out of him once he found out that Hikaru had broken Shigemi's heart.

Though, he half-heartedly wished someone would beat the shit out of him.

The front door wasn't locked, but Ashiwara's and Ogata-sensei's cars were still in front of the house, so Hikaru knew that Touya-san had to still be there, too. That was why he tested the door first. There was no point in causing a fuss if he could just let himself in, after all. Most of the house was dark, like twilight had slipped into night without being noticed by those inside. When Hikaru stepped into the hall, he felt a dark chill sweep into him, biting all the way to his bones.

He looked down to where the blood still stained the floor and wall. That crazy bitch... she had sliced herself up pretty damned good, hadn't she? Hikaru wrapped his arms around himself, but for a moment, he just couldn't move. What had she been thinking, standing in front of her baby's room, her husband in the shower? Holding a knife that was a wedding present? Anyway, who gave knives as presents? That had to be bad luck. Ami certainly had nothing but bad luck. Hikaru suddenly felt it. What it was like to despair, to just want to die. To want anything to stop the pain, even death.

Shivering, he turned his back to that side of the hall, and walked the other way, hoping like hell that was where everyone was. He heard voices inside the master bedroom, so he tried in there.

Touya was sitting on the edge of the bed, clutching the edge like he might fall off. His mother was sitting next to him, and Ashiwara and Ogata-sensei were standing near. They all looked startled when he entered, but Touya-san warmly smiled at him. Even this room was dark, with only the beside lamp lit. Kyouko's crib had been moved into the master bedroom, to get it away from the... crime scene.

Hikaru leaned back against the wall near the door, not feeling like inserting himself any closer.

"You're late," Touya-san smiled at him encouragingly. "Have you eaten? If you're hungry..."

"Ah, I'm fine," Hikaru cut her off, forcing himself to smile a bit. "More than that, it's late for everyone here. What's the plan?"

Ogata-sensei, Ashiwara, and Touya-san all exchanged looks. Touya grunted. "My mother thinks I should move back home. To the family home."

Hikaru didn't want to look back at that damned hallway, but he could think of a million reasons why everyone but Touya would think that was a good idea. "Great. We can just grab what you and Kyouko need for a few days to start out."

Ogata-sensei actually smirked. Touya looked up at him, shocked. "What? But... but this is my house. I can't just..." He waved his arms about uselessly.

"Why not?" Hikaru shrugged.

"It doesn't have to be forever!" Ashiwara quickly interjected, clearly cast in the role of peacemaker. "But... this is a stressful time..."

"So why make things more stressful? Moving things around, going to a new place..." Touya started.

Hikaru could recognize when Touya was being stubborn just because he was too entrenched to stop being stubborn. "We're talking about going to your mom's house. The house you grew up in. Not some... business trip to Sapporo or something. Anyway, nothing good can come of sticking around here," Hikaru muttered, looking at the door he'd been careful to close behind him.

"Shindou-kun is right," Touya-san sighed. "This place is just... covered in death," she lowered her voice, looking away as if she were saying something shameful.

"Do you think after everything else, Ami is going to haunt me now?" Touya scoffed.

Scoffed at his own mother!

"I wouldn't put it past the bitch," Ogata-sensei grumbled.

"O-Ogata!" Ashiwara sputtered. "No, no, no one is saying anything like that, b-but...!"

"I'm not going to be chased out of my own home," Touya said coldly.

"You're an ass," Hikaru retorted, equally coldly.

At least that shocked Touya enough to make him shut up for a moment.

"It was a suicide. That's a perfect recipe for a haunting. The blood hasn't even been cleaned off yet, for fuck's sake," Hikaru shivered a bit. What the hell was Touya thinking?! Who wanted to stay in a place like this?

"Hikaru, language," Touya corrected him half-heartedly. Oh, damn, Touya-san was here! Hikaru blushed a bit. "Anyway, there's no such thing as ghosts. You can't honestly tell me you believe in things like that?" Touya challenged him.

Hikaru wanted to slap him across the face. "It would be impossible for me not to believe," he sighed.

"Huh? What does that mean?" Touya asked, confused.

He wasn't getting into this. He pushed away from the wall, but he didn't really move closer to Touya. "Anyway, you're still being an ass. Forget about your stupid pride and stubbornness for a second. This isn't about you. You're a single parent now, Touya. You have to start thinking about what's best for Kyouko, first and foremost. Is staying in the house where her mother killed herself best for Kyouko? Is living here, with you, best? Are you going to take a leave for a couple of years from the Institute so you can care for her everyday? Or are you going to force your mother to come all the way over here daily? She's willing to help out, so you're lucky. You don't have to do this alone. But it's not fair to your mother to treat her like the hired help. You brat. Isn't going to your mother's just going to be the easiest, best thing for your daughter?"

Touya stared at him, but slowly, his resolve started to waver, and then he looked down at the floor. "I feel like a failure," he muttered.

"Well, it would be hard to say you're a great success right now," Hikaru agreed.

A bit too quickly. Damn, his resentment was showing. Touya-san gave him a strange look, and Ashiwara whined at him.

Touya looked him in the eye.

"Will you come back with me?" he asked quietly.

Hikaru narrowed his eyes, and stared right back at Touya.

Damn it.

It really felt like he had no choice...

"I might as well," Hikaru agreed, looking away.

 

 

 

Waya had been giving him concerned looks for a few days now. He insisted on taking Hikaru out for dinner, and spent the whole time chattering until Hikaru was sure that Waya himself didn't know what he was saying. He just let his friend chatter, though. There was a certain kind of comfort to it. Even though he told Touya he would 'go back' home with him, he wasn't about to leave his apartment, which Touya seemed to resent. Hikaru had pleasant conversations with Touya-san, but things with her son seemed to get more challenging every day.

Hikaru... did not want to be thinking about Touya when they weren't together, though. It was enough that he had to think about him when they were.

It only occurred to him that Waya might have a specific reason that day for trying to be comforting as he was unlocking the door to the studio for his study group. Shigemi would definitely be there, right? Hikaru hadn't seen him since he dropped him off at his parents'. He unlocked the door, but he didn't open it right away. He had the bad feeling, too, that Waya knew why he was hesitating. He didn't want to turn and see Waya looking at him sympathetically, so he opened the door and switched the light on, forcing himself to pretend that nothing was unusual. Waya helped him set up, too, which he usually said was a job for the lower dans among them.

It was really starting to get on Hikaru's nerves.

The first people to come were his insei students. With just those three, the rooms suddenly seemed noisy and full of life, but that was to be expected as the pro exam was about to begin. He got chatting with Chika-chan about her bad habit of telegraphing her endgame, so he didn't even notice that they weren a full complement at first. He didn't notice when Shigemi came in at all. Of course, Shigemi usually never came in quietly. At least... well, lately, Shigemi arrived with Hikaru, but even before, when they hadn't been... living together, and Shigemi came on his own, he never entered quietly.

When he felt the light touch to his elbow, then, and heard Shigemi quietly say, "Sensei," he practically jumped in his skin. He wanted to be cool about it all, but he just hadn't been prepared.

He was even less prepared when he turned to face Shigemi.

"You cut your hair!" he cried out, his hand already reaching over to touch Shigemi's short hair, his fingers entangled before he realized...

Shit.

It wasn't like Shigemi looked bad, by any stretch of the imagination. His face looked more open, and his beautiful eyes were more exposed. He looked, honestly, like an idol or something. He also looked a bit more mature.

Shigemi just smiled softly, painfully at him. "Well... it seemed like it was a time of change." His voice wasn't accusatory, but Hikaru let his hand drop, feeling guilty none the less. Shigemi saw right through him, as always, so Hikaru could see that his guilt didn't displease Shigemi. "Sensei. I was wondering. Well. I don't know if you realized it, but I have my first official match against Touya-meijin this week..." His voice trailed off.

Hikaru's eyes widened a bit. He knew that Touya was resuming his matches this week - not that taking two weeks off for bereavement was much at all. Most people expected him to take much, much more time. Damned stubborn oaf...

"Well, let's sit down and talk about that, then," Hikaru nodded, gesturing over to the goban the furthest over. He sat down comfortably, completely aware of Shigemi's body as he placed himself opposite Hikaru. He had the strongest damned urge to reach across and touch Shigemi, somehow, take his hands or...

Whatever, it was his own damned choice, he had to swallow it.

"I know I don't have any chance, but I'd like to put up a good fight," Shigemi laughed softly. Waya was coming to sit near Hikaru, and a few others were sitting close enough to listen, too. This was a damned awkward way to have their first post-break-up conversation. It was damned awkward to just be post-break-up.

"Well, don't go in assuming you'll lose," Hikaru advised. That, at least, was easy. He could give advice still. "Don't go in with any assumptions, at all. He'll be the one making assumptions. He tends to underestimate players ranked lower than him. It won't be too obvious in his play, but it's there, anyway. Actually," Hikaru grinned. Touya only had one match next week. He'd been bitching about being only given one match, after all. It was while Hikaru had a match himself, and not even in the same location. It was a damned pity. "I wish I could watch the match. I look forward to seeing the kifu."

Shigemi gave him an odd look, which did nothing to help Hikaru with his desire to touch the other man.

"You and he have very similar strengths. You're both able to look deeply onto the board, and read hands far in advance. His experience will be a formidable opponent for you, but you tend to think a bit more creatively. He doesn't like to take risks, especially as the game goes on. That's something you can take advantage of, if you can prepare yourself properly. But, you also have to remember. He might not take many risks, but he also won't make any mistakes. You can't count on any opportune moments to occur, so you have to build your own moments." He started to lay out the stones, preparing to give Shigemi some problems from some of Touya's past games to practice.

This one... was particularly poignant, as Sai was Touya's opponent. But, it was a good teaching tool, too.

"It's probably a good time to be playing him, Shigemi-kun," Hiroto suggested, elbowing Shigemi in a friendly way. "He's probably shook up still from his wife's..."

"Hiroto!" More than one girl in the group chastised him immediately. Hikaru and Waya couldn't help laughing.

"What?!" Hiroto turned, looked sheepish. "I didn't mean it in, like, a bad way..."

"Of course not," Hikaru smiled. "You meant for Shigemi to take advantage of an opponent's grief in a good way..."

"Ah... I...!" Hiroto stammered.

"Eh," Shigemi leaned back, looking at straight at Hikaru. "Who knows what that guy is feeling, anyway."

Hikaru didn't give anyone else a chance to question Shigemi in what he might have meant. "In general, you should use whatever weapons your opponent will give you, even psychological ones. Any girl playing a guy who might be attracted to her who doesn't occasionally bat her eyes or smile at him during a game would be a fool, for example. But, in this case, it's useless to try to use something like that," he emphasized, looking Shigemi in the eye, "against an opponent like Touya. That guy is a champ at setting everything else aside and focusing on the board in front of him. You're all mostly too young to fully appreciate it, but his father, Touya Kouyo, was one of the greatest players ever for keeping calm and focused, after all. Touya is his father's son. Whatever he's feeling, at any time, you can't count on that helping you in the game. So, just focus on the stones."

Shigemi held his gaze for a moment longer before he directed his attention to the problem Hikaru set before him. What Hikaru just said was true, but it was also true that Shigemi probably had a few weapons for unbalancing Touya during a match. Still. In the long run, he'd be better served by focusing on his go, anyway.

They went through several problems. Each time, Hikaru did his best to show Shigemi, and everyone, really, how Touya typically reacted and built his hands. Their session went a bit long, since everyone seemed very interested in what Hikaru and Shigemi were discussing. Slowly, though, the group began to disperse on its own, as people broke off in twos and threes as the hour grew later and later. Eventually, it was only Hikaru, Waya, and Shigemi.

It made Hikaru's chest ache a bit. Sessions typically ended with the three of them being the only ones left...

Shigemi and Hikaru were still seated opposite one another, but when it was finally just the three of them, Shigemi smirked.

"Be honest. What are my chances of winning?" he asked.

"Mm," Hikaru pondered it. It wasn't as if he could give Shigemi a percentage or something. His mind just didn't work that way, even. But, Shigemi deserved an answer. "Well. Let's just say... if I find out that you've won, I won't be shocked, by a long shot. Though... you probably won't win."

Shigemi laughed, and leaned back on his hands. "It's a bit too soon. It seems a little unfair. I doubt there will ever be a time in my life when I'll want to beat him more," he sighed.

Damn it.

"Well, use that. But keep yourself sharp. Don't get distracted," Hikaru said, but he felt like he was just listing off platitudes at that point.

Shigemi winked at him. "Right, right, gotcha, sen~sei. I'll do my best. Thank you. I... wasn't sure you'd actually instruct me."

Hikaru blinked. "Well, you are my student. Nothing... nothing changes that."

"Are you going to give him pointers on me?" Shigemi asked sharply.

"Touya's way past the point of getting pointers from me," Hikaru laughed. "He's a fellow title-holder. He's my rival. I would not help my rival beat my student. That would make me a poor rival and teacher."

Shigemi tilted his head, regarding Hikaru carefully. "I wish... I could have been your rival," he said wistfully.

Turning bright red at his age was well beyond embarrassing, so Hikaru developed a sudden cough, and he shifted to get to his feet. "In any case... ah... I really do expect it to be an excellent match. I wish I didn't have to be somewhere else. I'd forfeit if I could to watch that match."

Waya snorted. "Seriously, we should charge admission," he scoffed.

At least that got Shigemi laughing. "Well, I'll be off. Don't wanna miss the last train. It's... it's good to... Well. Thank you, Sensei." Shigemi smiled sadly, and took his leave.

Hikaru watched his student go, and then flopped down on the tatami mat. Waya poked him a few times in the side with his foot, and then sat down heavily next to him.

"Actually... I was a bit surprised, too. You really didn't hold back, did you? If there was a way to just teach someone how to beat that damned Touya..." he trailed off.

Hikaru couldn't help smiling. That damned Touya. How long had Waya been calling him that? He tried to restrain himself back before... when Hikaru and Touya... Didn't seem like he felt the need to do that now. "Didn't I do the right thing? Isn't that my job as a teacher?"

"Sure, but you've never been the best teacher," Waya laughed.

"Hey!" Hikaru huffed.

"Eh, don't take it the wrong way. What guy our age really is good at that? But as a reigning Honinbou, there's some merit for students just to be close and absorb your play. But this time..."

Hikaru shifted uncomfortably. "Well, whatever. It'll be a good match for Shigemi to learn from," he sighed.

"Yeah," Waya agreed. After a pause, "I really like that kid."

"Damn it, Waya," Hikaru groaned, covering his face with his arm.

Waya laughed, but his heart wasn't in it. "You know... I'm not going to pry details out of you, but... it doesn't seem like you're at all happy."

"Should I be?" Hikaru asked, honestly wondering.

"Well. I guess it would be better if you were. What... what are you doing, Shindou? Are you living with Touya? Are you... are you sure you've... made the right choice?" Waya wasn't looking at him. He was probably damned uncomfortable asking questions like that. Hikaru could sure understand. In a similar situation... though, it was hard to imagine Waya in any kind of similar situation. He'd spent his whole life looking up to Isumi.

A handful of years ago, it was hard for Hikaru to imagine his life without Touya.

"You know... that's a question I really don't want to think about," Hikaru admitted quietly.

He felt like Waya was watching him, but he'd already turned his face away. He felt...

Damned tired.

"Are you going to his house tonight?" Waya asked quietly.

Hikaru hadn't decided. He left things with Touya as it would be a day-to-day thing. He wouldn't promise to move in, and he wasn't about to give up his apartment. He needed... an out, he supposed?

"Not tonight," he decided. He didn't think he could do it.

He'd decided while he was with Shigemi to stop being with one man while thinking of another.

 

 

 

He got 'home' early, though this was not his home. He had a key, for whatever that meant. He called out as he slipped off his shoes, checking. Touya wasn't home yet.

He heard Touya-san call back to him, though, so he headed off to the kitchen. Touya-san was at the table, gently rocking Kyouko in her arms. It looked like the baby fell asleep after her bottle. And Touya-san looked tired.

"Would you like me to brew you some tea, Touya-san?" he asked gently.

"Oh, I couldn't have you do something like that for me," she shook her head.

Hikaru didn't really get it. He didn't think he'd ever done anything like make tea for his mom in her own house, either, but still. "Well, in that case, why don't you let me take her?" He'd rather take away the dirty bottle and let Touya-san relax, but if she wouldn't let him, she wouldn't. He held out his arms, and let her carefully transfer the baby.

"Oh, be careful... Ah, I'm sorry. You're getting to be quite good at this, aren't you?" She smiled at him, and then gently placed her hand on his cheek.

It was a bit embarrassing, such a tender touch. He averted his eyes despite himself. He looked down at the sleeping baby. "I suppose. If I drop her, Touya can still get the deposit back, right?" he tried to joke.

She laughed, but her fist came down on his head lightly. "Don't even make jokes like that!" She shook her head at him. She was still looking at him in that affectionate way mothers did. "You've really grown up to be a handsome young man, haven't you?"

She was trying to make him blush, wasn't she? "If you're going to hit on me, Touya-san, I have to warn you, I've never been much good with girls."

"You're so naughty," she chuckled. She stood up, and put her hand on his head again, ruffling his hair lightly. "I've missed your sense of humor these past few years. I was so grateful when you showed up that night... I know Akira-san was, too, but that child... He can just be so..." she sighed heavily.

"You don't need to make apologies for him," Hikaru said quietly. Kyouko squirmed a bit in her sleep, so Hikaru bounced her a tiny bit. She seemed to resettle. "It's not like I didn't know how he would be, anyway. It's fine, Touya-san. I plan to keep giving him a hard time, still." He winked at her.

She smiled at him, but she looked haunted. "As long as you don't leave..." she sighed again, and then she headed to the sink, carrying the used bottle. As she set it in the sink, her shoulders slumped a bit. "Mm. I don't know quite how to say this... or even if I should. But I've wanted to say it for quite a while. I hope you don't bear any ill will toward Kouyo-san, either. Ah, that man... I tried to make him understand, but he really only saw the stones spread out on the goban. He was afraid, I think. He wanted to make sure that he had done everything he could to provide for Akira-san. It's just..."

Hikaru scowled a bit, and looked down at Kyouko. He brushed the back of his finger over her cheek. It really was amazingly soft. "You don't need to make apologies for him, either. I. I understand, I suppose, what he was thinking." He couldn't keep the bitterness out of his voice, though. Sure, he understood. It didn't make anything any easier, though. And, in a chain of events like a series of hands, Touya-sensei's actions led to Hikaru hurting Shigemi.

He must really have been in love with that brat, since that seemed to be the most important thing now.

The air felt unbearably heavy. He knew Touya-san was looking at him, but he couldn't make a joke, or think of anything to say. He wanted to just get up and flee. They'd agreed to wait for Touya to put Kyouko down in her crib. Hikaru felt trapped - by the child in his arms, the house they were in, Touya-san's kindness and concern, but most of all...

"I'm home," Touya called out.

Hikaru practically heaved a sigh of relief.

He stood up slowly, and when Touya came into the kitchen, he passed off the baby, and then scuttled off to the bathroom. He splashed water over his face and rubbed his eyes. He looked at himself in the mirror, and reminded his reflection that he made this choice himself. Talking to himself, though, made him think of Sai, which just made him laugh.

What in the world would Sai think of this situation? Somehow, Hikaru had to think that Sai would want him to support the friend who had been with him his entire go life, but then. What would Sai have thought of Shigemi? He really had to stop that train of thought. It couldn't lead anywhere good!

He came out and found that Touya was already in the salon, sitting in front of the goban. He winked at Touya-san, making sure to smile brightly, and then he followed Touya, and sat opposite him.

"So?" he prodded.

Touya gave him a look, which was somewhat funny. He just wasn't that good at looking menacing outside of a game situation. "Well, I won, of course."

"Of course," Hikaru echoed, smiling softly. He already knew it was a close game, so... "Can I see?"

Touya huffed a bit, though he'd clearly come into the salon to go over the game, but it wasn't hard to figure why he was reluctant, now that Hikaru was here. Unfortunately, Hikaru was curious, and anyway... wasn't Touya being a sore winner about all of this? "Would you normally be interested in my game with a three-dan?" Touya acidly asked.

"I would normally be interested in your game with one of my students, even if he or she was a one-dan," Hikaru retorted patiently.

Finally, Touya started to lay down stones, but he seemed awfully petulant about it. That was one of the things about being go pros. They could read emotions into how their opponents even handled their stones.

"I'm also interested in what you thought of him," Hikaru added quietly. Touya's hand stopped moving, and he was looking at Hikaru, deeply affronted. What an ass. "As a player, you idiot."

Touya flushed, and looked away. "See for yourself," he stubbornly insisted, and went back to laying down the stones.

Touya was practically throwing the stones down, so it was a somewhat interesting way to watch a game develop, as if it were being fast-forwarded. Their difference in strength was pretty obvious in the beginning, when Touya's confident hands overshadowed Shigemi's more cautious play. As the game developed, though, it became clear that Shigemi was using layered strategies to keep Touya guessing. As they entered the endgame, there was even a good chance that Shigemi could have won. Hikaru put his hand out to stop Touya from continuing.

"If you and I played from this point on, I could definitely win," Hikaru smiled.

Touya narrowed his eyes. "I wasn't playing you."

That made Hikaru chuckle. Touya was so damned defensive. "You underestimated him. I think I warned you about that once, mm?"

Touya took a deep breath, and looked away. "He made a slight mistake, a few hands after this. It wasn't a large mistake, something not at all uncommon for someone his age, I suppose. I only won by two moku, so if he hadn't made that error..."

Hikaru felt immensely proud of Shigemi, but he'd keep that sentiment to himself. "I guess the next time you play him, you won't hold back." That match, too, would be worth watching.

Grunting, Touya resumed putting down stones. "He had a great skill for reading the board. His moves have depth, but he doesn't give the impression he's too concerned. He has great instincts."

"Ha, sounds like you're talking about yourself!" Hikaru teased. Touya gave him a sharp look, so Hikaru winked. "Even the first time I played him, I thought he played a lot like you."

"Is that why you were so interested in him?" Touya asked, though he sounded like he didn't really want to hear the answer.

"No," Hikaru replied honestly. "I probably wouldn't have been so interested in him if he hadn't been a strong player, but I had already become interested before we played." That was... maybe too much honesty.

"So. It was because he's so beautiful," Touya replied resentfully.

"Mm, maybe," Hikaru shrugged. This conversation was going down an unpleasant path. "You seemed to lose some focus around the midgame?"

Touya just watched him for a moment, and then he snorted. "That's probably about when that brat was detailing the various sexual positions you favored."

Hikaru didn't react for a moment, and then he burst out laughing. Touya was just getting huffier, though, so he had to control himself. "Sorry, sorry... one of my younger students thought that Shigemi could take advantage of your... well, grief, but I told him not to bank on something cheap like that. I did think at the time, though, that he might have some other psychological weapons he could use... Crap, I hope no one could overhear him!"

Touya was definitely not enjoying this as much as Hikaru was. "No... they had some rescheduled matches, so they were pretty filled up. They, er, set up our match in a private room."

"Must be nice," Hikaru teased. Well, they would have done the same thing for him, in a similar circumstance. A title-holder, and major player, who was just coming off a too-short break for bereavement...

Touya just glared at him, and continued. "He was rather... graphic at points. Seems like the two of you were rather. Mm. Passionate."

"You and I were, at one time, too," Hikaru said quietly. Admittedly... he was probably more sexually adventurous with Shigemi. That brat seemed to be experienced, though Hikaru never pressed him too much for details. And. They had been rather compatible. But. He and Touya... had been, too. They'd just been younger, and maybe more innocent. They'd always been so focused on go, thinking they had all the time in the world.

They both sighed. They looked at each other, and Hikaru couldn't help grinning.

"Do you... prefer that, now? Someone... beautiful?" Touya asked, very quietly.

It was disturbing to see him behaving meekly. "I've made my choice," Hikaru stated, perhaps a bit too harshly. "It's not really a question of preference."

Touya tapped a white stone on the edge of the board, his brow furrowed. "Your choice, mm? But you don't seem too happy about it."

Damn it, it was bad enough to have Waya worrying about his happiness... This was going to start to annoy him, and then he might say something he didn't really mean. "You can't really say this situation is primed for happiness. You didn't choose me, after all. Your wife just chose to die."

...Something like that. He didn't mean to say something so cruel.

Touya flinched, and put his head in his hand. After a few awkward moments, he sighed again. "I really hate to admit it... but I ended up liking that damned brat."

Hikaru blinked. He... honestly hadn't expected Touya to say something so... pure. "Ah. I'm glad. You can both benefit from playing each other... I've thought so all along." He blushed. Damn it all.

He was thinking things he shouldn't.

"Boys! Dinner is ready!" Touya-san called out.

Hikaru grinned at Touya, and stood up, holding out a hand to help Touya up, too.

"You still call him by his given name," Touya said quietly, when they were standing nose to nose, and he had Touya's hand in his. "But you haven't called me by mine since..."

Hikaru turned and pulled Touya along with him. "C'mon. Let's not keep your mom waiting."

 

 

 

He was running late, so as soon as he entered the pub, he looked around, but the first person he saw wasn't Waya or Isumi. Just like, well, the old days, his eyes seemed to be drawn straight to Shigemi.

He had an odd sense of déjà vu as he approached their table. Isumi and Waya were sitting together, with Shigemi opposite, just like on Shigemi's birthday. So, Hikaru would have to sit next to him, just like then. Of course, that night, he had his hand on Shigemi's ass the whole night. And afterward...

"Sorry I'm late," he apologized as he sat down. Shigemi grinned up at him, and flushed a bit, too. Damn, he hated all this awkwardness...

"Hey. I tagged along," Shigemi explained. "I did warn Waya-sensei that he couldn't ditch me for much longer, after all..." He grinned at Waya.

"We're buying this kid all the drinks he can handle," Waya declared, beaming at Shigemi. "Did you hear? He only lost to that damned Touya by two moku! Isn't that amazing?!"

"I heard all about it," Hikaru nodded. He helped himself to the bottle of sake in the middle of the table. "I saw the game, even. Damned close. We'll go over it in detail soon, too. You nearly won."

Shigemi looked like he might burst from pride, and maybe something else. "Yeah, well... a loss is a loss, but I think I can learn a lot from that game."

"You can sometimes learn more from a loss than a win," Hikaru winked. It was a damned platitude again, but for someone as competitive and driven as Shigemi was, it was good for him to hear it, none the less. "So, what were your impressions?"

"Of Touya-meijin?" Shigemi laughed, and took a drink. "Well. I hate to admit it, but he was pretty damned impressive. There was an incredible pressure throughout the whole game. When it was finally over, I felt like collapsing!"

Hikaru could see it, too, but he also knew Shigemi well enough to know that the young man kept himself rock-steady until he was out of Touya's sight.

"Eh, what's so great about that damned Touya?" Waya grumbled, to Isumi's amusement. "You're used to playing this jerk," he motioned to Hikaru, "and he's been a title-holder for longer than that Touya!"

"Yeah, but playing Sensei is different somehow," Shigemi smiled shyly at Hikaru. "I guess I'm just used to it?"

"Well, and we've never played a regulation match, either," Hikaru took a drink. Ah, he remembered... "The first time I played Morishita-sensei in a real match, I was sweating bullets the whole damned time. It's just different." There were go pros, and there go pros, after all. Hikaru knew what Shigemi meant by pressure.

No match he'd ever seen or participated in could match the time he let Sai play Touya Kouyo, after all.

"That's true," Isumi nodded. "And, well, it can be intense, playing someone like Touya, after all. All the more reason you should be proud of having done so well."

"What did Touya-meijin say about it?" Shigemi asked, acting and sounding casual. But his body language was totally different.

Hikaru sort of hated all of this damned mess. "Mm. Let me think. He called you a brat," he laughed and winked, letting Shigemi know that Touya had told him enough about it.

"Someday, this brat is going to knock that stuck-up prince off his pedestal!" Waya declared happily.

"So, you've given up on doing that yourself?" Isumi asked Waya innocently.

"Sh-shut up!" Waya turned red.

The waitress came by, and they ordered more drinks, and some food. Hikaru wanted to drink a lot, suddenly. He also really wanted to touch Shigemi. He had the feeling that Shigemi wanted to touch him, too, so he was holding his body in check, making sure they didn't get close enough to accidentally brush against each other.

If they got drunk enough, would they make a mistake?

"I feel old," Isumi laughed a bit as he took another drink. "I keep thinking about the future of Japanese go. Is that what winning a title does to you?" he jokingly asked Hikaru.

"Maybe!" Hikaru shrugged. "It's something like what Kuwabara-sensei used to always say, huh. You know... um, you can't play go alone. Well, he used to say it better, but... Part of perfecting our own game is how we pass it on to the next generation. Though... we've still got a ways to go ourselves. I'm not ready to hand anything over, even if it is to this brat."

"Hey, hey, stop calling me a brat," Shigemi complained.

"I've always called you a brat," Hikaru replied logically. "A brat is a brat."

"Well, I may be a brat, but I'm not some child," Shigemi laughed. "I'm working hard to stand toe to toe with you giants, after all!"

"Don't try too hard. You're just making us all feel old," Isumi sighed.

"I think Waya's the one making you feel old," Hikaru suggested. "Give the old man a night off," he said to Waya. "He's tired."

"Nah, he only pretends to be tired. It's a game he plays. He's probably just trying to lull us into a false sense of confidence. He's been anxious to play the brat himself since we saw the game he played with that damned Touya," Waya grinned.

"Hey! I thought I already said, stop calling me a brat!" Shigemi pouted.

"A brat is a brat," Hikaru repeated. "It really is quite a milestone, though. When you win your first title, those damned old fogies will all say, Oh, yeah, remember his first match with Touya-sama? He nearly won that. Oh, we knew back then he'd be an amazing player," Hikaru said in his best old fogey voice.

Waya snorted. "Touya-sama my ass. Hey, you think Shigemi can go far in the Meijin league this year? At least a few rounds, right? Wouldn't it be awesome if he got to the quarterfinals?"

"Ah, you think so?" Shigemi bounced a little in his seat, he was so excited at the thought.

It was cute.

"Sure, it wouldn't be unheard of," Isumi agreed. "The more matches you have against better players, the better off you'll be."

"Sensei? What do you think?" Shigemi turned to him.

Damn it all. Hikaru wanted to make his brain stop thinking things. "I'd be disappointed if you didn't, you know. But. I don't plan on losing to you yet, either."

Shigemi's smile was just too damned bright and beautiful. And Waya was looking at him oddly. He suspected Waya wanted him to hook up with Shigemi again. He wasn't nearly drunk enough yet.

"So, um, was that all Touya-meijin said about the match? That I was a brat?" Shigemi blushed a bit, hiding behind his glass.

Hikaru smirked. "No, that wasn't all he said. He was impressed. But then, you had to know that, right? Did you see it? That you two have similar ways of playing?"

"Ah," Shigemi drew back a bit. "Mm. Well. Yeah, I suppose. Actually, I kept thinking back to Kaoi's Go Club. Yun-sensei would always talk about how Touya-meijin was when he was our age, and all that. I always resented it at the time, since, well, he was barely in the club for any time at all, and it's not like he won the school any impressive tournaments and stuff. But I thought back to a lot of the stuff Yun-sensei said then. I guess I had the sense... like, well, not exactly, but sort of like... This is like playing against myself from 15 years in the future. Which, really, was a bad way to think, all things considered, because... who would want to play against their future self?" Shigemi laughed self-depreciatingly.

So cute.

"But you nearly won!" Waya declared happily. "Oh, man. Fujii-meijin. When you win, you have to make that damned Touya call you that!"

"I don't think I could do that, Waya-sensei," Shigemi laughed. "What do you have against him, anyway? Haven't you all been colleagues for a long time?"

"We have, but do you think he thinks of us like that!" Waya huffed excitedly. "He can't even be bothered to remember my name!"

"He knows your name," Hikaru and Isumi said in chorus. They looked at each other and grinned.

"He didn't know your name back when you were an insei," Isumi went on wearily. "It's time to let it go."

"Well, it's not like that's the only thing," Waya said sharply, looking at Hikaru.

It was like an ice spear down his spine. Hikaru felt very alert and nervous all at once. It wasn't like he wasn't aware that Waya's current disgust with Touya was based on the way he perceived Touya had treated Hikaru, but it wasn't something they'd ever directly talked about, either. It was just... embarrassing.

Even as uncomfortable as Hikaru felt at the suggestion of Waya's defensiveness of him, he still felt something warm inside his belly. Waya was a better friend than he deserved.

"Mm. Despite myself, I ended up liking him," Shigemi declared glumly.

Shocked, Hikaru, Waya, and Isumi just stared at Shigemi for a moment, and then Hikaru burst out laughing.

"What?" Shigemi flushed.

"No, no, it's just... Touya said pretty much the same exact thing. Actually, he said... I ended up liking the damned brat. Something like that." Hikaru smiled brightly at Shigemi. He and Touya were nothing alike, and yet, under different circumstances...

Though, Hikaru thought it was better that someone who played go like Touya would learn from someone like Hikaru. It was better to have that different perspective, wasn't it?

"Oh, great, you three can get together and braid each other's hair," Waya suggested darkly.

"We can't," Hikaru sighed. "Shigemi cut his hair," he mourned.

That, at least, got everyone laughing, though Shigemi was looking at him shyly at the same time.

 

 

 

He was starting to think of this place as home. He realized that as he toed off his shoes and slipped inside. He realized, because he could tell that Touya-san was asleep, and Touya was awake and in the kitchen, just by the shadows in the hall. It made sense, really, after a few months going on like this. Most of his clothes were here now, and he probably only spent one night a week at his apartment. In fact, Touya's nagging about why he kept his apartment was pretty much the only reason he did anymore, because it didn't even make sense to him. He was paying for an apartment and a study space, and he spent more time in his study space than in his apartment.

He went to the kitchen, but pulled up to stand in the doorway. Touya was at the sink, which was always somewhat mysterious to Hikaru. When they were younger and sharing an apartment, Touya had always been meticulous and tidy, but whenever he was at home, it was like Touya shifted back into childhood. He looked as out of place at the sink, doing chores, as he would at a boy band concert. He tried to picture that, Touya at a boy band concert. It was an amusing thought.

"You seem to be in a good mood," Touya commented.

"You don't," Hikaru responded with a grin.

Touya glared at him from over his shoulder. "I figured that you wouldn't be coming home. It's so late, after all." There was a slight taunt to his voice. He was being challenging.

It was late, but not too late to return the challenge. "Well, it's true, it's late. But, amazingly, cabs were still running and all. You know, as long as you're willing to pay." He sauntered over to the sink. The kitchen was kind of pretty, with just the light over the sink on like it was. Oddly, or perhaps perversely, Hikaru found Touya's grumpy face to be rather attractive, too. That was the problem with starting a relationship based on rivalry. Weird things could be a turn-on.

"You've been drinking," Touya sulked.

"I have had a few drinks," Hikaru agreed. There was nothing wrong with that, but he wondered just what Touya thought was wrong with that. Didn't he ever go out for drinks with Ashiwara or something?

"I suppose you've been out with your friend who hates me and your ex-lover," Touya spat out vengefully.

Hikaru would laugh, because he was so cute, but Touya might actually hit him in the face if he did. "I went out with some people from my study group after our session. That would include Waya and Shigemi, but they weren't the only ones there. It was a pretty exciting session."

"Fujii-kun's been eliminated from the Meijin tournament," Touya declared, looking Hikaru in the eye.

He was being childish. Hikaru wanted to tuck his hair behind his ear or something. He had a feeling Touya might try to bite his fingers if he did. "Yes, well, I doubt he expected to challenge you for a title in his very first year in the league. He did well to go as far as he did, though, and losing to Yashiro is hardly anything to be ashamed of. He seems to have come back from Korea with a whole new toolbox. If I beat Ogata next week, I'm not sure I'll be able to beat Yashiro after that. At least this year, no one will be whining about how I lost so early in the Meijin league but held onto my Honinbou title," Hikaru chuckled a bit.

Touya wasn't going to be so easily put off. "If you're going to spend all night with him, you should just go to your home. It's late and you stink."

This time, Hikaru couldn't help but laugh a bit. Nor could he keep his hand from brushing against Touya's ear. "Jealousy doesn't suit you well. Next time, you should just come with me. Isumi met Waya at the pub," he helpfully added.

Touya batted his hand away and turned. "Whatever. I'm going to bed."

It took a minute for Touya to realize that Hikaru was following him. Hikaru had to catch Touya's door to keep him from slamming it in his face, but Touya didn't fight back as Hikaru slipped inside.

"You spend all night getting turned on by your sexy ex, and so you've come to bother me?" Touya sneered.

Hikaru just shrugged. "I just think you're being awfully cute."

"Cute?" Touya stared at him in disbelief. "Do you think that's funny?"

"Not really," Hikaru casually commented. "You don't think you can be cute?"

"Just go away," Touya sighed, sitting down heavily on his bed. "I don't want to play this game with you tonight."

"What game is that?" Hikaru asked, narrowing his eyes. He'd been maintaining his good mood, but he had the feeling that Touya was going to say something that would set him off. Damn it, it didn't used to be this hard...

"I don't know," Touya shook his head, unable to meet Hikaru's gaze. "I don't know what the game is, and I don't know what the rules are. I can accept that everything must be my fault, but I'm getting tired of this. I don't know what you're thinking anymore. Anytime I think I do, it's probably something I don't want to think about."

"Oh?" Hikaru prodded. There was a great distance between them, like a gulf of tatami. Touya was clutching the edge of his bed and Hikaru had his fists in his pockets. He felt all too aware of everything around them, and every gesture of Touya's. Even of his hair, which was getting shaggy and slightly unkempt looking. He both wanted to touch Touya and slap him. Everything felt charged, like it could all go one way or another, but there couldn't be any middle ground.

It was a tiny bit exciting.

Touya glanced at him, and then furrowed his brow, glaring at his feet. "If you didn't want to leave that brat, then you shouldn't have. If you don't want to be with me, then you shouldn't be. I don't really know why you have to make it all so damned complicated."

"I'm making it complicated!?" Hikaru burst out, laughing. He felt like he should walk away, like he might say or do something cruel. And really, hadn't they already done this round before? Wasn't it time for something new? "You just want to feel persecuted. Poor Touya, no one understands him or loves him. How sad. I'd like to say that it's time that you started to make some choices for yourself, but then again, maybe you have. Maybe all along, you have been doing just exactly what you want."

"You really think that," Touya replied flatly. "Everything is exactly the way I want it to be? I have a child who will never know her mother, and the only thing I'll be able to tell her is that her mother hated me too much to keep living, and I have a psuedolover who isn't much fonder of me than my dead wife."

Touya was damned good at using his guilt as a weapon. "I really don't want to have to think about your crazy wife, Touya," Hikaru replied coldly.

"Well, I don't want to think about your younger and sexier lover, either!" Touya burst out. Suddenly, he looked like he might start crying. "But you don't give me a choice! It's always there, between us, and you'd rather hang onto your blame than onto me! You always say you've made your choice, but you haven't even tried to touch me! So what am I supposed to think? You should just go back to him. Go back to Fujii-kun. He'll take you back, I'm sure. It hasn't been that long. Go back to him and be happy," Touya spat out, turning his face to hide his expression.

Hikaru felt like he'd been slapped with a bucket of cold water.

After a moment, he stepped closer, bridging the gap between them. "You're... right."

Touya started, looking up at Hikaru. His watery eyes were wide with shock. "Wh... What?"

Hikaru knelt down and pushed Touya's knees apart, slipping in between his legs.

"Wait... what are you...?" Touya brushed his hands over his cheeks.

He really was cute. "You're right. I've been punishing you. I've been punishing you, and blaming you... I never wanted to hurt Shigemi, and I never wanted to break up with you in the first place. I thought I deserved some satisfaction or something, but you know what? You've been punished enough." He reached up and touched Touya's cheek gently. "If I want to change how things are, I should just change it myself." He pulled open the button on Touya's pants, and unzipped him.

"Wa... Wait, wait, Hikaru, stop," Touya stammered, pushing at Hikaru's shoulders weakly.

Of course Touya was confused, but Hikaru wasn't going to stop. Naturally, Touya was still wearing briefs. Hikaru slipped his hand inside and found Touya's penis. Damn, it had been... way too long. He freed Touya's penis, and just ran his fingers over it, rubbing his thumb along the underside. He needed a moment to get reacquainted. "I don't think either one of us needs any more punishment. Akira."

Touya's eyes widened, and then Hikaru dipped down to swipe his tongue over the head of Touya's cock. Touya's whole body shook. Hikaru suddenly became consumed with need, but he had to take this slow. He kissed and licked his way down to the base of Touya's cock. He wanted to swallow this whole. He wanted to make Touya whimper and cry.

"Hi... Hikaru... s... stop, wait... I..." Touya's voice was ragged, and tears were streaming down his face. He looked beautiful.

"Why do you want me to stop? Id~iot," Hikaru teased.

Touya grabbed chunks of Hikaru's hair, fisting his hands tightly. "Wa... Wait... It's... it's been so long... I can't... I can't hold out..."

Hikaru felt his heart speed up. He leaned up and kissed Touya, hard enough to push him back down on the bed. He pushed his hands up Touya's shirt. "Akira. Don't hold back. I'm pretty sure you've got it in you to come more than once," he promised, and then he moved back down to take Touya's cock in his mouth. He pulled Touya's pants down a bit, enough, just so he get his hands into Touya's underwear, so he could work Touya from the front and back.

When Touya came, it hit the back of his throat hard enough to make him choke for a minute. It didn't even matter. He licked Touya clean, and then set to work to get Touya undressed.

"Wait. Hikaru. Wait..." Touya had his arm over his face, and his voice was breathless and needy. There was no way in hell Hikaru was waiting. He pushed Touya's arm away and kissed him, demanding and hard. When he broke off the kiss, Touya looked him right in the eye. "You just can't resist the unpredictable move, can you?"

That was damned funny. "Well, keeping you guessing is fun." He started to undo Touya's buttons.

"Uhn. I was going to ask you if you sure about all this, but who the hell cares," Touya muttered. He lifted his leg and pushed against Hikaru's shoulder until he could flip them, and then he shoved his hand in Hikaru's pants.

"Ca-careful, now, that's delicate," Hikaru teased. "Have you even been playing with your own?" He put his hands on Touya's face, trying to pull him closer.

"Shut up," Touya muttered, letting Hikaru kiss him. "We should turn off the light."

"Why bother?" Hikaru wanted to see. He got Touya's shirt pulled back, at least.

Touya was working hard on his pants, too. See, they remembered how to do this. "Have you been working out or something?" Touya asked, sounding annoyed. "I don't remember you being so... well defined."

"Huh?" Hikaru got Touya's pants down. That was good. "I dunno. You've got some cute pudge here." He squeezed Touya's stomach. And then flipped them over again. "You do have some lube, right?"

Touya groaned a bit, and turned his face. His cheeks were so pink. Pretty. "Yeah. Yeah, it's, uh, in the drawer." Touya squirmed a bit, but Hikaru had better leverage now. And a better view. He had been right, after all. Touya was already getting hard again. "What the hell, pudge? Just..." Touya was torn between being annoyed and being aroused.

It was pretty much how Hikaru liked him best.

Hikaru nipped a little at Touya's cute pudge, leaving small, white marks on Touya's tummy. Touya cried out and really grabbed Hikaru's hair.

"You're... just... You go months and won't touch me and now... you just want to... make fun of my pudge..." Touya complained, though his voice sounded damned sexy while he was doing it.

Hikaru had to laugh a bit. "I guess this is as good a time to point out as any that you could have tried to touch me, too. Princess." Hikaru nipped at Touya's hip, which was also cute. Damn, Hikaru was getting worked up.

"Ass," Touya whimpered. "Just be a little gentle, ok? I'm not... it's... you know..."

"I remember how long it's been since the last time we did this," Hikaru grinned. "Don't worry. I'll go nice and slow." He got the lube. This was excellent.

"Somehow, that makes me more worried," Touya sighed.

"A~ki~ra," Hikaru smirked. "You've forgotten all about how to set the mood, haven't you?"

"You're mean," Touya sighed. "I might not like you anymore." He pinched Hikaru's ass.

They wrestled a bit, but then Hikaru had Touya under him again, and everything was ready. That was good enough. He put the lube on his fingers and put them to Touya's entrance, just massaging a bit at first. He kissed Touya, hard, deep. "See? I can be gentle."

Touya whimpered, looking Hikaru in the eye. He looked like he wanted to say something, but Hikaru didn't give him a chance.

He thought about how they used to fuck, and occasionally, he had flashes where he thought about Shigemi. It felt like a first time. Their bodies had changed, time had passed, so it was a first time, really. Except it was like being at home, too. Every time he looked into Touya's eyes, he fell a bit more in love.

That was a familiar feeling.

When they were finished, and they could breathe again, Hikaru was still inside of Touya. He held him tightly, rubbing the back of Touya's neck. He... he didn't want to move, but it was probably going to get uncomfortable for Touya soon. Touya's arm and leg were still gripping onto him.

"I... I wish I had been strong enough to tell my father. About us," Touya began softly, his eyes closed. "My father... kept saying, I just want to be sure there will be someone to look after you when you're old. I wanted to tell him that I already had someone. I... I had assumed he knew. I thought everyone knew. We were two young men, of good means, living together in a nice apartment with only one bedroom. Shouldn't everyone have known?"

Hikaru had to smile at that. It was true, essentially. Even if they didn't tell everyone about it, people just knew. He rubbed his hand along Touya's spine. He was about to say something, but Touya continued.

"Even thinking about my daughter... I still wish I had told him. Mostly because... my father died, and he never knew something so important about me. I should have told him, and I should have introduced you to him as my lover. As my love. Well, an introduction... that's a bit late, but you know what I mean. I feel like... I'd been lying to him, for years, before he died. I feel even worse when I think about Ami. When you came to the house... that night. The only thing I could think was... Thank God. Thank God, it's finally over. I can be with him again. I'm so selfish. It's horrible."

Hikaru kissed him, and rubbed his nose against Touya's. "Well. It's not like you killed her. You didn't... even drive her to it. She agreed to a loveless marriage, after all. And, she was crazy. I mean, it's sad, I agree, but...

"The reason I literally dropped everything and rushed to be with you was because... you needed me. I was pretty much thinking the same thing. He needs me. He finally needs me again," Hikaru admitted, blushing. "We've both done and thought horrible things. But even if we hadn't, your wife would still have been... I mean, what she did, it wasn't because of what you thought. So. Why don't we make a pledge? From now on... let's live our lives without regrets." He held out his pinky finger for Touya.

After a second, Touya sighed, and grabbed Hikaru's pinky with his own. "I hope we can manage it. It sounds like something that's easier to say than to do. But. That's what I want, too. I want a life without regret. With you."

They further sealed their pledge with a kiss.

 

 

 

 

e•pºi•lºo•gºu•e

Shigemi felt a tiny bit like he was stepping backward in time. Did Sensei ever feel that way? It was beautiful, and the winding path through the traditional garden was lovely, but this old house felt frozen in time. He stopped to consider where he was for just a moment. This wasn't the first time he'd been to Sensei's house since he moved in here, but he could count on one hand the number of times it had been, and this was the first time he was coming here by himself. Lots of things were less scary with Waya-sensei around.

A small, grey cat jumped out into the path, and right behind her, a small girl jumped out, trying to grab the cat. The cat was quick, though, and was up in the tree before the girl's hands could close around her. The girl cried out, and called to the cat, "Nigiri!"

That was adorable. Sensei's cat was named Nigiri.

The little girl realized, with a gasp, that she and the cat were not alone. She jumped back half a step, and cocked her head to the side. "Who're you?"

Sensei would have to talk to his adopted daughter about stranger danger, Shigemi thought. "My name is Fujii. I'm here to see Sensei."

"My father's not here," she said slowly, half turning away from him. It was like he could see the wheels turning in her mind. Did she know all of her father's students?

"My sensei. Hikaru. Well, Shindou-sensei." He thought he just made an error, but she immediately brightened and stepped closer to him.

"You're here to see Hika-chan!" She giggled, and came closer to take his hand. "C'mon, c'mon!" He let her lead him along. She was terribly cute, very small, with messy hair falling to her shoulders. She, too, look like she was part of some not too distant past. She had on a brightly colored yukata and tiny little geta. How old was she now? About four? Was she small for her age, or were four year old girls normally this size?

Shigemi had a hard time thinking about Sensei as a parent. Then again, she called him Hika-chan, so it was probable that she had a hard time thinking of him as a parent, too.

She went up to the veranda and called into the house, "Hika-chan! Hika-chan!!"

"Kyou~ko," Hikaru called back, sighing. "Don't you remember your grandmother telling you that ladies don't shout?"

"I'm not a lady! I'm a little girl!" she shouted back, giggling.

Hikaru came out, sighing. "Oh, what are we going to do with you... Ah, looks like you caught something." Hikaru grinned at Shigemi, looking pointedly at their joined hands.

Sensei still made Shigemi's heart pound a bit. Like right now, in faded, beat up jeans and an Oxford shirt he only mostly buttoned, so much like when they first met. His hair was getting shaggy, but Shigemi was proud that Sensei had kept up the color that Shigemi had first chosen for him. Smiling, Shigemi winked at Sensei. "I make for a good substitute for the cat."

"Ah, is Nigiri in the tree again?" Hikaru frowned, trying to find the cat.

"He came to see you!" Kyouko beamed up at Shigemi. "See, I brought you to him."

"You did. You're such a good girl, Kyouko-chan," Shigemi told her.

"I know!" She dropped his hand and went scrambling off to the tree to chase the cat some more.

"We'll be in the salon!" Hikaru called after her. "Don't leave the yard!"

"I know!" she repeated.

Hikaru shook his head and then he winked at Shigemi. "Want to come in?"

"Thank you, Sensei," Shigemi slipped his shoes off and stepped up onto the veranda. Hikaru walked him down a few doors, and then opened the salon.

"I think I can guess why you're here," Hikaru said over his shoulder.

"I should hope so," Shigemi cheerfully replied. "I'd be really sad if my teacher didn't know I was going to be challenging for the Gosei title."

"And you're... still 24, right? Brat," Hikaru teased him. "Would you like some tea? I was about to brew some..."

"You're always about to brew some," Shigemi teased him right back. "Sure, I'd like tea."

"Ok, make yourself at home," Hikaru gestured to the goban in the middle of the room, and then he slipped out to get the tea.

Shigemi was pretty sure it was impossible for him to be completely at home in this place. Despite himself, he resented the fact that Sensei lived here. He sat down gingerly on the cushion and looked around. The room was very plain, but he had a feeling there were touches of Sensei in the room. Like, the cat toys in the corner. He doubted Touya-sensei would have allowed that, if it were all up to him. There was also a painting on the wall. Shigemi didn't recognize it, but he knew that it was the sort of thing that Sensei liked. A few years ago when they were in China, Sensei spent hours at an open-air market looking through various decor items like that. It was a calm, modern piece.

"Here we go," Hikaru returned with a tray. He set it down carefully, and then sat himself down. He poured out two cups, and then looked Shigemi over properly. "You'll be playing Kurata-sensei. That's a tricky one. I like your odds, though."

Shigemi flushed, but he mostly hid it as he took a sip of the tea, though it was still too hot. "Mm. I'm a bit nervous. Of course, there's the obvious, like I've never played a match over two days..." He sighed. Sensei could say he liked Shigemi's odds, but Shigemi was sure that no one else expected him to win.

"You'll find that once you get into the groove of the pace of the match, you'll like it. Especially given the way you play normally. You're well-suited to this type of match. The first game will be the hardest, so pace yourself and remember to take your time. Every now and again, remind yourself to enjoy it, too," Hikaru winked at him.

Shigemi took a deep breath. "I've played Kurata-sensei twice before. Once, in a Honinbou league match, and once in regulation play. I don't really feel like I have a good handle on him, though," he admitted.

"Well," Hikaru leaned back on his hands, "that's the great thing about Kurata-sensei. He's incredibly creative and spontaneous. So, it's always going to be hard to get a handle on him. You can't hold back at all, because he can make adjustments and see new paths even all the way into the endgame. Conversely, though, you can't make mistakes, because he'll pounce on even the slightest error you make. But, if you can just maintain your concentration and energy, you just need to remain patient and don't let him rattle you."

"I'm a little rattled," Shigemi joked. "But I'm already loading up on ginseng. And B vitamins."

Hikaru shook his head. "Ah, I remember your ginseng treatments. Well, I still do that myself before the Honinbou title match, so."

It was good to hear that Sensei still had some habits he learned from Shigemi.

"With Kurata, you've got to keep your mind flexible. So, we'll play one-color go to get you in the right frame of mind. Actually, the first time I played one-color go was against Kurata. To him, it was like there was no difference at all," Hikaru laughed at the reminiscence.

That wasn't helpful to Shigemi, but he enjoyed things like one-color go, or go on unusual gobans, so he welcomed the advice. They played four games, with Sensei suddenly moving stones around just to test him, or to set up problems for Shigemi. They finished the pot of tea, and Kyouko came in with the cat under her arm to watch her shows, but they still played on, which was a good trial for Shigemi's concentration. As they were clearing the board the fifth time, Kyouko came in to ask when her grandmother was coming to make dinner, but Hikaru told her that her father was bringing home sushi. She then demanded a treat, so Shigemi got a much needed break.

He flopped down on his back and stared at the ceiling. He tried to just blank out his mind, but it felt like something was buzzing behind his eyes. Since he'd qualified to challenge for the title, he'd been feeling this buzz. He knew it was a kind of happiness, but he kept trying to keep it bottled up. It was too soon to feel proud. He still had the toughest hurdle to go.

His boyfriend hadn't been totally thrilled when he told him that he was spending the day with Sensei, and hopefully he could spend as much time before the title match as Sensei would allow. Shigemi felt a bit guilty about that, because Takashi was sensitive and kind, but he wasn't a go player, so there was that small barrier of understanding. He squirmed around a bit and pulled his phone out of his pocket, and sent Takashi a message. He would probably be with a client now. Shigemi smiled to himself, watching to see if possibly Takashi would reply right away. Sometimes, he could. He'd been working at Shigemi's parents' salon for nearly three years now. He spent more time with Shigemi's family than Shigemi did, so it was...

Well. Somewhat perfect.

"Ah, so you're chatting with your boyfriend, mm?" Sensei had slipped back in, and was kneeling near Shigemi's shoulder, looking at his phone.

Shigemi made a face at him. "I was just sending him a note, since we were taking a break. Do you want to see him?" He quickly flicked through the phone's icons to get to his pictures. "Mm. Here's one at the salon. That's my sister in the background. She's the brat in the family. And here's one of the two of us at the beach."

"Oh, he's really good-looking, isn't he?" Hikaru grinned.

"Well, of course. He's my boyfriend," Shigemi boasted, still flicking through pictures. He really liked the one from last summer when they went to the festival together...

"Riiiight, because you're super superficial," Hikaru teased, tapping Shigemi on the nose. He shuffled over to his side of the goban. "C'mon, c'mon, you don't get breaks to lay down in title matches."

"Yes, yes," Shigemi yawned. He sat up. stretching out a bit as he did. "Well, I'm not superficial enough to sleep with someone just because they looked like my old teacher..." Shigemi teased.

He hoped Sensei would just see it as teasing...

"Oy, oy!" Hikaru laughed. He picked up some stones and threw them at Shigemi. Laughing, he leaned back on his hands. "How many times do I have to say it... It wasn't like that!"

Shigemi laughed, relieved that Sensei was laughing as he was correcting Shigemi. Though, Shigemi was totally right, after all. Sensei had some seriously unresolved feelings for his dead teacher that allowed Shigemi to worm his way into Sensei's heart. "Right, right, of course I know. Hey... you know, I once heard Waya-sensei and some others talking about some huge, mysterious legend of go... Sai. But. That was your teacher, right?"

Hikaru gave him a sort of strange look, and then, slowly, he nodded. "Mm. Yeah, it was."

"But. They didn't seem to know anything about him. And then Waya-sensei said people suspected that you were Sai for a while... That doesn't make any sense." He shouldn't have brought it up, but it had been bothering him for a while. Sensei seemed tense, but then he finally grinned.

"No, no it doesn't. Ah... that was all so long ago. I can't believe Waya is still talking about it." Hikaru had a faraway look in his eyes.

"Does that mean... you've never talked to Waya-sensei about your teacher?" Shigemi asked meekly. Hikaru shook his head and halfway shrugged. Shigemi decided to push his luck. "What about... Touya-sensei?"

Hikaru laughed a bit. "Oh... now that you mention it, I promised him a long, long, long time ago that I would tell him everything. But it's too late now. If I even tried to tell him, he wouldn't believe me."

"Why... wouldn't he believe you... about... your teacher?" Shigemi asked, confused. There was some big mystery surrounding Sensei's teacher, but. How strange could it be?

"Well, it's a bit complicated. I haven't even told you everything. But I guess I've told you more about him than anyone else," Hikaru smiled.

Shigemi felt something stirring in his belly, but he ignored it. He was really good at that now - ignoring his feelings for Sensei. "Well. If you ever want to talk about him... I suppose I could listen."

"Right now, you should be focused on this," Hikaru laughed, tapping the goban. "Or are you giving up already?"

Shigemi sat up straight and clapped his hands together. "Right! Let's do this!"

They played for another hour or so, and then Touya-sensei came home, calling out. Kyouko came running out from where she was watching tv to attack her father. Shigemi shook his head in amazement. Clearly, Sensei had a lot of influence on that girl, for her to be so rambunctious.

Touya-sensei looked into the salon. "Ah. Fujii-kun. Will you be staying for dinner? There should be enough..."

Whether he really wanted Shigemi to stay or not seemed to not matter. "No, I can't. I'm taking my boyfriend out for dinner tonight. It's a promise. I should get going. Sorry for intruding... Can I impose on you tomorrow, Sensei?"

"Shigemi's getting ready to take on Kurata for the Gosei title," Hikaru explained to Touya-sensei. "Sure. But I have a match the day after tomorrow, so."

"Give 'im hell," Touya-sensei told Shigemi, though his voice sounded dark. "It'd be nice if Kurata was well and exhausted before the Meijin league really gears up. Actually, it'd be good if you were both exhausted."

"Aw, he's so worked up about winning back that title," Hikaru teased. "It must be tough, losing a title you were so attached to..."

"Don't be so damned cocky," Touya-sensei warned Hikaru. "I think I might take both the Meijin and the Honinbou, just to prove myself."

"Go ahead and try," Hikaru shrugged. "'Cause I was thinking the same thing myself," he winked at Touya-sensei.

"Ohboy," Shigemi laughed, standing up. "See, this is exactly why I'm glad Takashi isn't a go player. Thank you, Sensei! And have a good night, both of you! Oh, and good night to Kyouko-chan, too!"

"Night!" Kyouko called out, confirming Shigemi's suspicions that she was just outside, listening.

As he walked to the train station, he read Takashi's reply. He was pretty glad that Sensei didn't see it, because Takashi always referred to him as that old man. Still, it made him feel good, albeit a bit selfish, that Takashi was a bit jealous of Sensei.

It was good to know that the person he was obsessed with felt the same way about him.








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