Summer Storm

 

There was a pounding noise from somewhere beyond the nice, comfortable cushion of sleep. Waya groaned under his breath, slid one hand under his pillow and flipped it over so it covered his head.

"Waya! Hey, Waya! You'd better still be awake! Open the door!"

Shindou… "Uuuuugh!" Waya growled into the mattress, flung off his pillow, and hauled himself upright so he could stumble to the door. "What?" he snapped, yanking his apartment door open and glaring at the late-night visitor - ignoring for the moment that he knew perfectly well what was the matter. "It's three in the morning!" Actually, he hadn't checked the time.

Shindou blinked, then checked his watch. "No it's not. It's one-forty-two."

"Close enough!" Waya stepped aside sharply, and then couldn't hold in a yawn. When Shindou moved inside, shifting his bag on his shoulder, he slammed the door shut behind him. "What the hell is the problem this time?"

It was hot. A lot of Waya's irritation was due to the heat, because he didn't have air conditioning, so the apartment felt like a bathhouse with the boiler on. It took forever to turn around into a cool enough position to sleep, and now that he'd finally managed to fall unconscious, he was awake again. Maybe he was used to Shindou storming into his house in a fit of childish rage and announcing that he was never going back to his own apartment and roommate, but this was lousy timing.

"That Touya…" Shindou growled, dropping his bag and glaring at nothing in particular. He said the words as if he honestly thought that Waya had no idea Touya was the reason for this.

"Yeah, whatever. What about Touya?" It wasn't worth saying 'I don't know how you put up with that guy'. The first couple of times, back when Shindou stomped over to spend the night once a week with a certain regularity, he'd snorted something along those lines; it didn't seem worth bothering with that time.

And how you manage to crawl into bed with him… Man, Shindou.

Waya frowned and shook his head. Those weren't the sort of images he wanted in his head at nearly two in the morning.

Or any other time, for that matter.

Shindou flopped down onto Waya's beat-up old couch, letting a long frustrated breath and burying both hands in his hair. "He's so… argh! What the hell is with him? What the hell?"

Waya rubbed a hand over his eyes and wandered back into the kitchen area - which was really just the other end of the room they were already in. He'd already made it to the part of the evening where he was questioning his sanity for letting Shindou in the door at all. "Sit there and rant if you want - I'm getting some water."

Shindou twisted in his seat - Waya wasn't looking his way, but he heard the creaking noises the couch made. "Can I stay here, Waya? There's no way I'm going back there tonight!" he added, darkly.

"Yeah, okay." The older boy rolled his eyes upward, muttering something along the lines of 'don't you always?' under his breath. "You know where the futon and blankets are."

"Yeah. Thanks."

Shindou wasn't being very talkative that night. Waya wasn't sure what that meant, but it was unusual. Normally, by this point, he would either sit on the couch or follow his friend around the apartment, raving about whatever Touya Akira had done to invoke his anger - which, Waya had to admit, wasn't always something that should invoke his anger.

More like they're both just idiots.

Because he was a good friend, Waya would listen to Shindou rant and try not to yawn for at least fifteen minutes before cutting him off to announce his own return to bed and leaving the younger boy with a futon, blanket, and pillow to sleep or fume or whatever.

The next day, they'd both head out on business as usual, Shindou would run into Touya - "accidentally" - and he'd inevitably be back where he always ended up by that same night.

Waya was not at all interested in finding out what went on during those meetings.

The silence was starting to stretch out to the point where it got awkward. Awkwardness in his own apartment was not something Waya would tolerate, especially when he was being kept awake when he wanted to be in bed. He set down the glass he'd just drained, and turned back to the rest of the apartment. "Oi, Shindou, what's with the silent treatment? You usually make more noise than this."

The younger boy looked up from where he'd been setting out the futon, clearly startled. The light in there was still dim, since bright lights didn't go well with a person half-asleep, and his eyes seemed oddly bright against the shadows on his face. "Ah… huh?"

"Normally by this point, you're blabbering on like crazy." Waya pitched his voice so that Shindou would know he was being imitated. "'Touya is a stupid control freak'. 'Touya never lets anyone else have a say in anything'. 'Touya can't take anything I do seriously'. 'Touya never lets me watch what I want on TV'."

Immediate response: Shindou's eyes flashed, and he retorted back with predictable indignation, "I never said that last one!"

"Yeah, you did." Waya snorted and buried a hand in his hair again, not irritated enough to drag this into an argument. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. What terrible thing did Touya do this time that got you on the subway and over here for an overnight visit?"

It was interesting to watch the annoyance fade off his friend's face; Shindou settled down with a look of discontent, leaning back on his heels precariously and looking anywhere but at Waya. "Nothing special."

I thought you could lie better than that, Shindou. "Hurry up and get if off your chest" - Waya found himself interrupted by a yawn - "so I can get back to bed."

"Go back to bed if you want." Shindou's tone was clearly unhappy; his considerably-more-serious gaze was directed at the blanket piled at his feet but it was obvious he wasn't paying it much attention. Then he sighed, shut his eyes, and added in a casual tone that wasn’t quite convincing, "But it'll probably be more than just overnight - if you'll let me stay that long."

Must've been a bad one, then. Waya wasn't quite sure what to make of this new development. Normally, Shindou spent the night and nothing else; he'd never asked to stay longer, even while declaring loudly that Touya was the most annoying person on the face of the planet and he couldn't stand living with him any more. His unusual behavior screamed 'serious' as far as the fight was concerned, and when it came to relationships, Waya didn't have a clue.

He could already tell that he didn't want to be within a ten-mile radius of this one.

But… there was the friendship to be considered. "You're not going to say what happened?" Waya asked, trying to keep his tone from giving away the fact that he'd rather listen to someone scraping a fork down a blackboard than hear about Shindou's problem with Touya.

Fortunately, Shindou's response was typically defensive. "I said it's nothing!" He still didn't meet Waya's gaze, but there was a stubborn twist to his expression that was easy to read even in the dark. "I don't want to talk about it, so leave me alone!"

Leave you alone? It's my apartment! Waya swallowed his irritation. "Okay, whatever," he said dismissively, turning on his heels and covering up another yawn. "You know where the bathroom and the fridge are. I'm going back to bed."

And with that, he took the opportunity to beat a hasty retreat - before Shindou decided he wanted to talk about his issues with Touya after all.

So, it was with some guilt that he found himself pausing just in front of the bed once he'd made it into his room and had the door firmly closed behind him. Should he have tried to help? Offered advice or something encouraging? Shindou was his friend, wasn't he? And he'd just had what was obviously a major argument, with someone he'd been living with for the past six months and who he obviously cared about…

It's not like it's any of my business - who cares what they fight about? Waya shoved his covers off the bed completely, feeling oddly agitated. He didn't want to get involved in Shindou's stupidity, and anyway, if they didn't get along, why didn't they break it off already? People broke up all the time, so what was the big deal? Shindou would get over it.

Waya set himself down hard on his side, and turned his attention back to the business of falling asleep again in the middle of that stifling heat.

It's not like I'd help anything by worrying about it anyway.

((()))

"I don't know why you're getting so - !"

"You don't know!? How stupid are you!? Can't you even bother to think before you make a decision!?"

"Don't call me stupid, stupid! Just look at how you're acting, it's like you don't trust me or something!"

Akira's eyes were bright with fury by that point; his muscles were tensed and his hair in an appealing show of what passed for disarray in his case. His lips were curled, his face flushed, and his eyebrows had come down as if trying to meet each other over the bridge of his nose.

Stupid…

And then he opened his mouth to reply, and what came out was…

Hikaru frowned down at his canned drink. It was open, but he'd bought it more to have something to hold than because he was all that thirsty. He could feel the sweat coating his skin and plastering his T-shirt to his body - it wasn't even mid-afternoon, and the sun was hot enough to fry things - and it felt better, holding something cold.

It wouldn't be cold for long, though. Hikaru sighed, and took an obligatory gulp. Better drink it before it got warm and disgusting.

"There you are, Shindou."

He cracked an eye, lowering the can when he saw who it was. "Isumi. Hey."

The older pro took the seat beside him, offering a smile. "I heard you invaded Waya's place again last night," he offered as a conversation opener. "Another fight with Touya?"

Are we really getting so predictable? At one point, Hikaru might've been annoyed; right then, he couldn't muster the energy. It felt like the sun was draining the strength out of him - that was one of the reasons he hated sitting still when it was so hot. "Yeah."

He'd been asking for it, picking the bus stop just outside the Go Institute as his relaxing spot, but it felt better to be close to somewhere familiar. Anyway, Aki - Touya didn't have a match that day either, so he wasn't in danger of running into him… But being within sight of anyone coming out, he was bound to see at least a couple of people he knew. And seeing people he knew meant answering questions - Waya didn't have a reason to keep his mouth shut, after all, so everyone he ran into would've heard about it.

Maybe he should move, after Isumi left. Hikaru swung the can a bit with his hand so that the liquid inside swirled and tried to push it out of his grip. He wasn't sure if he wanted to be alone or if he wanted to go out with a group of friends and forget about Touya and his stupid attitude.

Is it my fault he's so uptight?

It was easier to be annoyed. Hikaru frowned at his drink, bringing to the front of his mind all the reasons why living with Touya was such a pain and how much better things had been back when they were just furtively making out whenever they had a time and place to be alone together. This whole fight was Touya's fault anyway! He was the one getting upset for no reason. Hikaru had to fight back, or Touya would walk all over him and act like he had a right to be making all the decisions. It was because Touya kept putting all those restrictions on his freedom, making up those rules and demanding that Hikaru follow them that they'd started arguing in the first place.

And he didn't have to go and say that!

The aluminum can bent inward as his fingers pressed at it.

Stupid Touya!

"Shindou?"

"Ah… sorry!" Hikaru's gaze snapped back up as he broke out of that sort-of trance. "I was thinking about something else. I didn't hear what you said, sorry."

Isumi's answering smile was tolerant as always. Hikaru privately thought that air of complacency was a good weapon when it came to matches - it was one of the reasons people tended to think they could casually walk all over him. And it didn't match his Go in the slightest. "It's all right - you look like you didn't get much sleep last night. Because of Touya?"

And he won't miss any mistakes, either. "Eh, sort of." He covered the moment by draining the rest of his drink and tossing the can into the bin closest to them. "I'm thinking a lot about the Honinbou matches - it'll be tough, since I made it this far."

Thankfully, Isumi took up the new subject easily. "Think you can take a title this time around?" he asked, half-teasingly. "Or the challenger's spot, at least? You haven't made it that far yet."

"It always takes a few tries, doesn't it?" Hikaru frowned, glaring sideways at his friend. "I can get there eventually."

"That's true." The taller boy returned his gaze, a little more serious that time. "You still have to play me if you want to be the Jyudan challenger, and Waya's still in the running for Meijin. But you knocked Touya out of the Honinbou league - you've got a good chance there, haven't you?"

Touya again. Why did Touya keep coming up? Hikaru stood up abruptly, suddenly more than irritated with the conversation. His skin felt slick, and there wasn't even a breeze to cool it. "I'd still have a good chance even if I hadn't!"

Isumi blinked, obviously startled. "I didn't say you wouldn't," he began, taking on a mollifying tone. "But, it's a better chance now that Touya's out, isn't it?"

I guess that's true. "Yeah, maybe," he admitted grudgingly. It was always Touya! Why couldn't anyone ever talk to him about anything else? "It's too hot out," he complained, trying to wipe off his forehead with a hand that was already too damp to do much good.

Too late for the topic switch, apparently - Isumi was giving him one of those looks. It was easy to underestimate Isumi, but when he got that look on his face, it seemed like he could strip you down and analyze you with just his eyes. Hikaru was irrationally reminded of Isumi's face just after he'd returned from China and helped him see Sai in his Go back when -

Sai. Touya. UGH!

"Are you - ?"

Hikaru was not in the mood to let Isumi finish. He didn't want to be analyzed. He didn't want to be helped out. He wanted to be angry. "I don't care about Touya, all right!? You see me caring about that controlling bastard? I'm glad we fought! That's why I don't want to talk about it, and everyone should just leave me alone already!"

Isumi stared at him mutely, clearly surprised. "Shindou…"

"I'm going - somewhere else." Hikaru turned away from the bus stop before he had a chance to feel guilty about yelling at a friend who hadn't really done anything. "I'll probably see you later."

He got no response, but that just made it easier to keep on walking.

Stupid Akira! Touya. Damnit…

((()))

The second the words were out of his mouth, Akira regretted them.

He said a lot of things during arguments with Hikaru - mostly ill-thought-out, sometimes childish, and even stupid. But the second the issue of trust had come up, he just had to let out his thoughts on the issue, despite wanting to keep them from this… aggravating person who shared his apartment and somehow demanded his affections without meaning to.

I hadn't meant to say that. He wasn't supposed to know.

Hikaru's eyes were wide - mainly with shock, Akira guessed, but probably at least partly with hurt, and certainly with a lot of leftover anger. He was red in the face from shouting, and his hands were clenched into fists so tightly that they shook. Somehow, that seemed alarming right at that moment.

I won't back down! Even if he knows now - I…

"You don't think I'll keep my word! You don't think I'll tell you!" Hikaru's voice wasn't shaking as much as his hands, but there was a strange, almost desperate fury in there, as if he'd brought up a truly forbidden subject. Maybe he had. "Bastard! Don't you dare accuse me of not trusting you when you go around talking like that!"

Akira's anger flared up again in response. "You accused me of that same thing!"

"And you - you - !" If anything, Hikaru's face was getting even more red; the shaking had spread over his entire body. "I'm not staying around to hear you talk about things you don't even understand!"

That was when he'd left.

"Thank you for the game!"

Akira bowed his head. "Thank you for the game," he echoed, and managed a smile for his opponent.

"Just look at this!" Ichikawa said with her usual cheerfulness, pointing to the top right corner. "I still can't read very far, can I? I suppose I'll never be that good. I'd never have made it this far without your teaching, though, Akira," she added, beaming. "I'm just glad you can still make time for me, with your busy schedule."

"It's no problem." And it wasn't, really - Akira enjoyed Tutoring Go when his opponent was someone open to learning. It helped him to relax. "You're getting much better, you know - perhaps I won't be any use as a teacher if you keep it up."

"Don't say that!" She tilted her head to the side, still smiling brightly. "There isn't anyone better to teach me. And your lessons make everything so clear."

"I'm glad you think so." He felt like he was pushing the play button on an audio recording, but Akira was more than used to that. A thousand nicely-worded replies and phrases could be pulled from his memory and used at any appropriate moment. It was helpful when he was distracted.

Having Hika - Shindou as a roommate was a nearly-constant distraction.

Particularly when they fought.

There wouldn't have been a fight at all if he'd been willing to compromise… Akira swallowed against a wave of annoyance at that thought. Shindou was the most stubborn, most unreasonable person he could've chosen as a roommate and lover. Everything Akira did to impose some sense of order in their life was somehow interpreted by the other boy as a restriction on his freedom. And he never hesitated to protest loudly about it, either.

It wasn't a good idea to let him think he could get away with ignoring anything Akira said, but making a calm, rational argument against someone like Shindou was impossible. Just about every time Shindou complained about something Akira did, it ended up in a loud, completely out-of-control screaming match until one of them stormed out of the room and they both took some time to cool down.

Because it's him! He's so -

"You must have something important on your mind, Akira," Ichikawa observed, interrupting his thoughts. She leaned her elbow on the table and rested her chin on her hand. "How are things with you and Shindou?"

For a moment, Akira was startled. "How - did you - ?" And then…

Of course. Whenever I'm distracted, everyone assumes it's Shindou. Aside from a few of Shindou's friends, no one had been told yet that there was anything more between them than the rent for the apartment and some frequent arguments. But it seemed that whenever Akira was thoughtful, out of sorts, or unhappy, Shindou's name came up in the conversation as a probable cause.

Unfortunately, most of the time, they were right. Ichikawa shifted so that she was leaning forward a bit more. "Something happened?"

"Well… nothing, really. I mean, it's all right - it'll work out." Akira found himself waving a hand in front of him the way he did when he didn't want someone to discover that he was thinking seriously, and forced it back down. That was one of the things Shindou had pointed out to him - gleefully, actually, as if he were just too pleased with himself to have spotted one of Akira's unconscious habits.

He can be so - so…

Infuriating. Frustrating. Aggravating. Akira didn't have a word strong enough to express how his rival managed to somehow step on every trigger that could push him to his limit of tolerance, all at the same time and in the worst way - without even trying very hard. He was better at keeping his emotions in check than a lot of people - except when it came to Shindou. That carefully cultivated control failed him there.

The two of them were a volatile combination.

It was a tiring relationship, even with the adjustments they'd painstakingly built up in the - Almost a year? That's right, it was just after I lost in the Jyudan league - they'd been living together.

Honestly, Akira wasn't sure it was worth putting up with any more. If we're going to fight like that, it's only going to cause problems for both of us. After they'd cooled down, they'd eventually gravitate back to playing each other - that was one thing he could be certain of - but he was starting to seriously consider letting the relationship fall apart right then without a fight.

Is it worth saving? All we do is fight with each other.

"Well, if you say so." Ichikawa leaned back in her seat, willing to take him at his word but eyeing him worriedly at the same time. "You look tired - more so than when you usually fight with Shindou, I mean," she added, with a quick little smile.

"I was up late last night." Later than the fight had lasted. Akira could feel his skin goose-pimple slightly, and wished he'd brought a sweater with him rather than just the short-sleeved shirt. Someone had turned up the air conditioning in his father's Go Salon, and it was cold nearly to the point of discomfort.

It had taken him a long time to manage anything resembling sleep the previous night; the first few times he'd tried, he wound up having to get up and try to calm his nerves again. It had taken the better part of half an hour to completely still the angry shivers that came along with still-fresh memories of the fight.

That's Shindou, though - that's what he does to me. Why do I let him?

If he could figure out the answer to that one, the constant friction between them probably wouldn't be half as aggravating.

Akira felt himself tense up, but didn't feel like trying to relax in the face of his residual annoyance.

Shindou - you…

"It must have been a bad one, then."

That was a little too accurate. Akira pushed his chair back and stood. He was too cold anyway; a short walk in the heat outside the building should cure that. "I can handle things," he told her, smiling as a response for her concern. "Thank you for worrying, but it's really all right."

Ichikawa sighed, getting up to return to her post by the door - for an extended period this time, he expected, rather than just to greet a new customer as she had while they'd been playing. "Make sure you're taking care of yourself properly, Akira."

It's not that I don't appreciate it. "I will." Akira nodded to her as he left. "I'll be back in a little while. Excuse me."

There were just times when worry and concern seemed stifling rather than comforting.

((()))

"You call this food?" Waya looked up from Shindou's grocery bag to shoot his new temporary roommate an incredulous look. "Everything is instant, and three quarters of this is just ramen!"

"So don't eat it then." Shindou yanked the bag out of his grip, glaring back. "I'll just eat this stuff, and you don't have to worry about me touching your food."

Waya shook his head. "No wonder Touya threw you out, if this is how you shop."

Instant reaction. Shindou's eyes flared at the mention of the forbidden name. "Touya didn't throw me out - I left!"

"Whatever you say." Waya grinned to himself, leaning against the small, cheap refrigerator he'd bought a year ago when his father had issued the ultimatum of 'feed yourself or move back home'. A glance at Shindou caught the shorter boy angrily stuffing what he chose to call food into the mostly-bare cabinets, his face still twisted as if he were caught between a good sulk and a good cold fury.

He's still pissed.

Two nights, and a day and a half. It seemed like a long time, compared to the other fights. Waya wondered what was so different about this one. He wasn't about to ask, though - that would mean being given an answer, and then expected to say something about it.

He definitely wasn't interested in that. No way. Let Shindou sort his own crap out.

"So, how long are you planning on staying here?"

"Huh?" Shindou looked up from the cupboard, anger vanishing as he blinked. "Oh. I guess until I find another place. I shouldn't move my stuff out of Touya's until then," he added, scratching his head. "There's not enough room here for it anyway."

At least he wasn't planning on staying on a more permanent basis. Waya wasn't sure how long he could put up with Shindou as a roommate. "Need help?" he offered.

"Probably not. I'll ask around about apartments." Shindou scrunched up his bag and tossed it toward the trash - missing by quite a bit. He didn't bother to correct that. "I'll be better off living alone anyway. Not like with Touya…" His tone made a drastic change on the last word of that sentence, and Waya saw his expression twist a bit.

Was that anger, or is he just upset?

Their whole relationship was enough to give him a headache. Waya moved to pick up Shindou's discarded trash.

"Hey, Waya?"

He paused. "Yeah?"

Shindou had stopped too - with his back to the older boy, so his face wasn't anywhere in sight. "If I said I'd be home early, and came back late, would you want me to call?"

What a weird question. Waya stood up, tossing the bag into the garbage. "I don't care when you come in." He grinned, and added, "I'll probably forget if you tell me when you're getting back anyway."

"Oh."

And what kind of response is that? Waya stared at his friend's back in perplexity. "What was that about?"

"Nothing." Shindou shrugged, then glanced over his shoulder. His expression was subdued. "I'm going out for a bit."

"Sure." Waya leaned back against the wall for a minute, crossing his arms over his chest, and frowned.

Whatever was going on with Shindou - and it probably had something to do with Touya, too - it didn't look like he'd be sharing it.

And Waya wasn't sure any more if that was a good thing.

((()))

It was strange how he could always tell that he was dreaming. Somehow, Sai's face couldn't be mistaken for reality. Hikaru was glad for that, though - at least it meant less hurt when he woke up and found himself alone again.

"I don't trust you?"

The image was so clear, though. When he was awake, sometimes he found the memory of his closest friend and mentor fading, and it worried at him constantly. Did that mean one day he'd completely forget what Sai looked like? But in the end, it was okay, because in his dreams, Sai's face was as clear as if it were reality.

"How can you say that when you don't even trust me?"

Sai was smiling - serene, untroubled, with only that faint, wistful look in his eyes as he returned Hikaru's gaze. He never spoke, but that was all right. Somehow, it was okay just to have him there. It wasn't as if he could ask for more; this was all he had left.

"You've never trusted me with your secret!"

And that perfect image shattered into pieces, the calm of the moment exploding into that last, hurtful accusation.

"You never told me about Sai!"

Hikaru couldn't get his eyes open fast enough, although the shock of waking left him trembling for a moment, staring blankly up at Waya's ceiling and not quite registering his surroundings just yet. His clothing was sticking to his body uncomfortably in the places where sweat gathered on him the most, and his heart was racing like he'd just run a mile.

For a brief, completely irrational moment, he wondered if he'd woken Akira up - after all, he was such a light sleeper and -

Not here. Akira - Touya is home. And I'm at Waya's.

And that was the reason for the dream. At least part of it.

Hikaru sat up, rubbing a hand that was still shaking slightly over his face. He dreamed about Sai a lot, but they were never bad dreams. He didn't wake up feeling angry or hurt, just… sad. That one had been bad.

He pulled up his knees and rested his forehead on them. "Just a dream," he muttered, wishing it weren't still so damn hot and doubly wishing that he could calm himself down enough to stop that shaking. If it were cold, it wouldn't be so bad, but there was no reason he should still be trembling!

It was just a dream. Just a dream. Maybe he really did say it, but not -

Not with Sai's face right there.

"Just a dream," he repeated under his breath, voice shaking just like the rest of him. "Stupid dream."

Akira wouldn't have agreed. He thought dreams were an indication that something was bothering you. He would've been concerned - maybe even sat up with him and rubbed his back like he was a kid. Hikaru would've protested, but Akira would've known it was a lie and kept doing it just to be stubborn.

The good kind of stubborn, though.

Hikaru shuddered again. But what he said - that was just too much. What does he expect from me?

No one knew about Sai, except him. No one. And while it was true that he was going to tell Akira one day, it was still too soon for that. Telling the story meant drudging up memories that were still painful to think about, and then answering the questions that Akira would definitely have after it was over. He couldn't do it - he couldn't. Not yet. Maybe not for a long time.

I thought he trusted me. I didn't actually think he wouldn't.

Hikaru's throat felt sore; swallowing couldn't help it. Damn that bastard, he is not going to make me cry! I don't care if he said that, anyway - it's not like it matters what Akira thinks about it!

Who did he think he was? Sai was his secret. His! He could talk about it when he wanted to, and not before! And if Akira didn't like that, too bad. That wasn't Hikaru's problem.

Don’t cry, damnit!

Hikaru didn't know what to do when other people cried, and he knew that Waya would share that discomfort if he came out for a midnight snack and found him sobbing like a baby. Akira was exactly the same way, but if Hikaru had been sitting like this beside him in bed, hugging his stomach, with his forehead pressed against his knees and reluctant tears oozing out from his eyes and mingling with his sweat, he would've done something about it. No guesses on what, but he would've tried.

The ache in Hikaru's throat only got worse, and by that point his nose was running, too. He sniffed, and then it sounded like he was crying.

He pulled himself upright and wiped at his face stubbornly, angry with himself for feeling bad when this whole mess was Akira's fault in the first place. He should be back in his own bed, sleeping, instead of here in Waya's too-warm apartment trying not to wish that he could roll over and bother his lover with his problems.

There wouldn't even be a problem if it weren't for him!

Hikaru clenched his teeth and pressed his fists hard against his knees, making choking noises to avoid sobbing like a dumb kid. His throat wouldn't stop hurting, his nose wouldn't stop running, and he was sitting there bawling as if a fight and two days apart was too much for him to handle.

If Akira were there, he -

He's not here, so stop thinking that! Hikaru unclenched his fist and scrubbed at his nose and eyes again. His hands and arms were damp already with tears and sweat, and didn't do much besides smear everything so that his face felt wet, sore, and gross. It was too hot, he was alone, and Akira was not there.

It was all too much.

Hikaru gave up, propped his arms over his knees, and let his head flop down onto them as he cried without restraint.

((()))

It had been ten minutes before midnight.

"We'll be done by six or something - seven at the latest."

Akira had been tapping his finger against the mug he'd just filled up with tea. His hands had felt cold - he'd been standing close to the portable fan that kept the heat in their apartment from becoming overwhelming, and it had made him feel as if he were slowly freezing to death. That might explain why he'd been shivering so much.

"Yeah, I'll probably come right home - I'll be totally beat!"

Five minutes to midnight. At that point, Akira had turned the fan off, and took a sip. The tea had felt like liquid fire; it made him choke and cough a bit, setting the mug down as carefully as he could manage. He could remember feeling the tightness in his muscles indicating how tense he was.

"Not that beat, though. Don't make plans, huh?"

Every horrible vision Akira had dreamed up during the four and a half hours before then had taken that moment to flash back through his head, as if on automatic play. Hikaru had been mugged and beaten, left to bleed in a gutter somewhere. Hikaru had been hit by a car, and was lying in critical condition in a hospital somewhere. Hikaru had been -

That was when a key clicked in the lock, and abruptly, the scene changed. Akira was looking at the door, but what he heard was a pair of raised voices, one indignant and one furious. Residual worry and anger echoed in his head until he didn't think any more - just screamed out whatever he could to make his lover feel as bad as he did.

"It's like you don’t trust me or something!"

"Awfully quiet in here, isn't it?" Ashiwara's voice cut through Akira's concentration on the game he'd been playing out in front of him. "Ah! That's why!" When he looked up, the older pro was aiming a grin in his direction. "You're playing alone, Akira. Where's Shindou?"

"Ashiwara!" Ichikawa hissed warningly, shooting a quick, worried glance at Akira.

His head was throbbing. "He's not here," Akira replied shortly, focussing his attention on the board again. It was difficult to think straight - sleep had been impossible after the first unsuccessful attempt, and he wasn't sure he was entirely recovered from the bad memory that kept coming back to haunt him.

I was worried - he didn't have a right to worry me like that.

Somehow, he couldn't manage to summon up the necessary anger.

And his head was really hurting.

"Another fight?" Ashiwara leaned against the chair opposite him, offering a friendly smile. "You two must be getting close to some kind of record, aren't you?"

Akira stood. He wasn't in the mood for this at all. "It's possible. Excuse me."

"Ah - wait! Akira!"

There was no one in the bathroom - an occurrence for which Akira was more than thankful. He flipped the lock and leaned against the door for a moment, running a once-again-shaky hand through his hair and shutting his eyes.

I don't want to deal with this. Not today. Not here.

It was pointless to try and get Shindou Hikaru out of your head - Akira had tried it, and he knew just how futile his attempts were. He felt trapped sometimes, bound by his feelings for the aggravating rival he'd decided too early on to share his future with, and at times like this, it was just suffocating. He wanted to grab Hikaru and shake him - demand that he reciprocate and focus all of his attention on Akira as well. Sometimes it felt like his emotions were entirely one-sided.

I'm supposed to be angry.

Right then, he could only seem to manage a sick unhappiness. Akira let out a long breath and leaned his head back against the door, opening his eyes a fraction. Two days ago he'd been contemplating the end of their relationship, and now he was being plagued with a gnawing fear that Hikaru was thinking the same thing.

He probably is. Why wouldn't he be, after what I said?

An awful, choking hurt rose at the back of his throat, and Akira pressed one hand firmly over his mouth to keep any sound from escaping.

He felt terrible, and he wished fervently that it didn't show.

If they were competing to see who gave in and wanted the other back, then he'd managed to lose spectacularly. Right then, he couldn't understand why, but he was never going to be free from Hikaru. It didn't make sense, either. He was annoying and stubborn and completely unreasonable, and he grated on Akira's nerves continually. He left the bathroom in a mess and forgot to shop when it was his turn and never bothered to think of anyone but himself if he didn't have to.

He didn't call when he was going to be out late - he just left Akira to worry, without giving it a second's thought.

Akira moved away from the door to stand at the sink instead, regarding his reflection critically. He did not look well. There were bags under his eyes, and his face looked paler than usual. Anyone looking at him closely would be able to tell that he wasn't taking this well.

And Hikaru… Is he upset, or does this matter at all to him?

There was still a piece of Hikaru that he didn't know, which was a large part of the reason he was so obsessively preoccupied with Sai and his lover's connection to the mysterious figure. It made him insecure, which sometimes made him anxious, and he often felt the need to physically confirm that Hikaru's affections were where they should be. The first time they'd kissed, Akira had initiated it, and the shorter boy had responded. He'd done his best to seem sure of himself since then, but he wasn't certain how well that had succeeded. It still seemed like Hikaru had the upper hand, even if Akira had him gasping with helpless pleasure.

He shut his eyes again, and for a moment he could still see the complete embarrassment on Hikaru's face just before they'd had sex for the first time. They'd been fooling around, and he came in his pants - he'd been mortified. Akira had actually been relieved that he'd managed to mess up; it made his own actions seem less awkward.

It was nice, back then - at least we were both unsure and it wasn't just me.

Was it wrong of him to want to know everything about this person his life unwillingly revolved around?

Was it wrong to be angry when that person didn't even care enough to show him some consideration?

Akira's hands were shaking again; he gripped the edge of the sink, and leaned forward, resting the top of his head against the mirror. He felt slightly sick, as if he'd swallowed something his body wanted to reject - it made him wish he could throw up, but he wouldn't be able to manage that without forcing himself. Which wouldn't be good for him in any case.

He was still desperately, helplessly in love with Hikaru. And he wanted to be furious about it, but couldn't manage anything beyond the hurt building at the back of his throat.

I won't be the one to go crawling back!

His grip on the sink seemed to be the only thing holding him up any more. Akira stared at the dull white bowl through a narrowed gaze, refusing to allow his feelings an escape.

Just because Hikaru held the advantage, it didn't mean Akira would give him the opportunity to gloat over it.

If he wants this as badly as I do… then he can come to me, and prove it!

((()))

"Five days now, isn't it?" Waya looked up from the board at his opponent.

"Leave me alone."

He decided to ignore that. "This record's going to be hard for you two to beat later."

Shindou mumbled something under his breath and didn't look up. He looked like shit; his eyes were bloodshot, his expression was surly, and he scowled more often than not. This wasn't the first break-up Waya had seen, and he nodded mentally to himself every time Shindou displayed "typical" I-want-my-relationship-back-but-I'm-too-proud-to-do-anything-about-it behavior.

Give in and get it over with already, Shindou - it's not like you two are fooling anyone.

"What was that? I must not have heard you right."

"I said" - Shindou's voice raised with his irritation, and he brought his eyes up to glare at Waya - "we're not together, so we won't be beating any more records! And I said leave me alone before that, so shut up already!"

Waya grinned back at him, getting a sort of perverse amusement from the whole conversation. "When are you going to find another apartment?"

Shindou blinked, and his eyes widened. "Ah! I forgot!"

A classic example of selective memory - forgetting only what you want to. "So when are you moving your stuff in here?"

The shorter boy's expression turned grouchy again. "I told you, I'm not moving my stuff in here! There's not enough room!"

"Uh-huh." Waya leaned back, ignoring the half-played game in front of him - not that Shindou had been paying it much more attention - and smirked. "Then, when are you moving back in with Touya?"

Shindou pretty much exploded at that. "I'm not moving back in with Touya!" He shoved himself to his feet, so fast and so wildly that he knocked over the game and created a slight breeze that momentarily cooled Waya's too-warm skin. "We're over! I'm never moving back in there!"

"'Never' as in a week, or 'never' as in a month?" He was baiting Shindou now, but couldn't help himself. "If you held out for a month, that'd really be impressive! No Touya for a month - it's like trying to beat a bad addiction, isn't it?"

"You…" Shindou made a loud, frustrated noise and clutched at his hair. "If all you're going to talk about is Touya, I'm not sticking around!" he snarled, and stalked towards the front door.

"It's not like you have to, since you can mope somewhere else as much as you can mope here, can't you?" Waya called after him.

Shindou spun around, almost losing his balance, and turned furious green eyes on him. "I am not moping!"

Waya stood. "You are too," he argued, and was serious for a moment. "I should know. You've been driving me crazy." He tilted his head to the side and frowned a bit. There was something he wanted to get across to his friend, but he wasn't sure exactly what it was or how to put it. Going with whatever came to him seemed like the best way.

This needs to be sorted out somehow. He didn't really want to get involved, but he didn't want Shindou haunting his apartment with that choking air of depression around him any more, either. Maybe if he said something, they'd sort themselves out somehow.

He could hope. If nothing else, maybe he could guilt-trip Shindou into getting the hell out of his apartment.

"I don't - !"

"It's not like it's a big deal or anything," he interrupted, starting to get impatient. "Touya's doing it too - haven't you seen him?"

Shindou had been trying to leave again; at that, his hand stilled on the door handle.

Waya let out a long breath, like someone who'd been suffering needlessly. "Man, you two are thick. If you don't like being apart, go apologize for whatever you did and get it over with. Don't mess up my place and act like you're dying."

"I'm - not…" He felt a little guilty then, hearing the way Shindou's voice wavered. The shorter boy's hand tightened on the handle. "I'm not apologizing! He should say it first! Maybe… I messed up." That came out as a low mutter, and when Shindou looked back over his shoulder, his expression was sullen. "But he did something worse than I did - he should be apologizing before I do!"

Stubborn, huh? Waya snorted. Whatever. "If you're waiting for that, you'll be living here with me until I kick you out."

"Fine. I don't care." Somehow, Shindou's voice wasn't at all convincing, but he opened the door sharply as if to defy further conversation. "I'll see you later."

"Sure."

The door closed, and Waya had to resist the urge to bash his head against it.

Goddamn you, Shindou! Between you and Touya, I'm going to go totally crazy before this is over!

((()))

It was starting to get dark out, and the sun was making a spectacular sight out of the park in Hikaru's old neighborhood. The slide glinted, alternately reddish and orange as he kicked against the ground to make the swing he was sitting in move back and forth. It was too big for him; his knees were bent awkwardly so that he'd fit, and the seat didn't feel quite comfortable - but he didn't mind that much. It was getting slightly cooler - not enough to make him wish he'd worn something warmer than shorts, but it was considerably better than the sweltering heat of the daytime hours. There were shadows drifting lazily on the ground, and just past the jungle gym, a harried-looking mother dragged her protesting child off toward home.

The place always seemed so large and empty when it was deserted.

Hikaru never lingered in the park unless he was alone. It was his thinking spot, sort of. There was an air of nostalgia over the place that made him feel welcome and let his thoughts wander idly.

Lots of memories still hung around that place… Hikaru smiled a bit, letting his arms hang by his sides as he looked around. When he was four years old, he'd gotten in trouble on the jungle gym for pulling Akari's pigtails and making her cry. He'd fallen off the top of the slide when he was six - another kid had tried to sneak ahead of him to go down - and scored an ice cream cone in return for a set of scuffed hands and scraped knees. Sai had tried to teach him how to place a stone properly over by the bushes. Akari had goaded him into going to the festival where he'd met Tsutsui and Kaga on the same set of swings he was sitting on right then. Waya had cornered him and tried to make him play Go again in the middle of the playground, back when he'd quit.

He and Akira had kissed for the first time, just outside the bushes that marked the boundary of the park.

Akira…

Hikaru's swing stilled.

How did it go again?

He was walking his rival to the train station, from his house. They'd stopped because a couple of kids playing kickball had lost track of their ball and he'd picked it up to throw it back. It had been darker out than it was at the moment, but not dark enough to say it was late. He'd looked back at Akira, and there was a shadow over his face, like when he'd told Hikaru that he wouldn't appear in front of him again. But he was smiling - awkwardly, almost shyly, and trying not to let it show.

The thing Hikaru remembered the most was the way his heart had sped up. At the time, he hadn't known why, but Akira had leaned forward, and he'd realized - He's going to kiss me! - and there had been that strange, intoxicating mix of nervousness and excitement that boiled to the surface of him as an automatic response.

By the time Akira's mouth brushed over his, he couldn't even think of doing anything but kissing back.

I don't remember what we said. Hikaru kicked himself into motion again, watching his feet dig into the dirt. We must've said something. That was when we started going out, wasn't it?

He loved kissing Akira. He loved playing Go with Akira, and sleeping with Akira, and having Akira in his arms too, but the first thing he remembered about their secret "thing" was the kissing. It was this new fascinating thing they did together, and it felt so nice… Hikaru remembered making up excuses to kiss Akira, trying to find times when they were alone and he could indulge his new addiction. Any time Akira wanted to kiss him, he was up for it.

It was fun, back then.

He wished he could kiss Akira now.

Hikaru pulled up his knees so his feet weren't touching the ground and the swing moved on its own. It involved a certain amount of balancing, and distracted him just enough so that he could think of his failed relationship without his emotions getting the best of him.

He wanted to go home. Argue in the kitchen with Akira while they made completely separate dinners and got in each other's way because of the lack of space. Lie down on the couch and pretend to talk until one of them got mad at the other for not paying attention. He wanted to run his hands through Akira's hair and bug him about how many girls wanted to scalp him and steal it. He wanted to see Akira's smile, catch the emotion in his eyes, lose himself in the amazing amount of passion he had for this frustrating, obsessive, beautiful person who was in some weird way the center of his life.

I really am in love with the guy, aren't I?

It was funny how easy it was to forget something like that.

Hikaru let his feet fall back down, leaned his head against the chain holding the swing to the bar above him, and wondered what would have happened that night if he'd been smart enough to come home when he said he would.

And whether or not he'd be better off not knowing what Akira was thinking.

((()))

The silence in Akira's apartment seemed to have taken on a life, and was gleefully saturating the air around it, becoming heavier with every second.

He was used to silence. After all, Hikaru wasn't there every second, and even when he was, he wasn't always making noise. But silence that he knew would end at some point and silence that was likely to last were quite different.

Akira placed a stone on the board in front of him, and the sound seemed to echo for quite some time after. He was sitting beside their couch, in the small space between that second-hand piece of furniture and the small TV that neither of them actually used all that often, but it might as well have been in a huge, deserted arena. The apartment felt bigger, somehow, with Hikaru gone for so long.

I hadn't thought about much space one person could take up with just their presence.

Somehow, it made him feel smaller - more insignificant. Akira wasn't used to that feeling at all, and he didn't care for it in the slightest. It didn't help that he was sharply aware of being apart from Hikaru and it helped even less that he wasn't sleeping well. The latter was a result of the former, but the less sleep he got, the less resistance he was able to put up against the aching unhappiness that threatened to overwhelm him at the most inconvenient times.

He missed Hikaru, and there wasn't any point in denying it.

He won't be back. If he were coming back, he'd already be here.

His hand was still poised just above the bowl, with a stone between his fingers, ready to place the next move. Akira relaxed his hold and let it slide free, shutting his eyes for a moment. He was starting to get that odd dizzy feeling - as if he'd been spinning for a long time - that generally indicated he should go to bed and try to sleep. Not that there would be much point, considering how the last few nights had gone.

For a moment, Akira leaned back against the couch, arching his neck to rest his head against the cushion. His muscles were sore, and stretching them out that way felt good. Keeping his eyes shut, he let his head loll to the side. I'm so tired.

Having Hikaru there would not have helped that - at least not immediately. Hikaru wasn't good at being quiet, unless he was concentrating on something very hard. He was also terrible at giving back massages, although he insisted on attempting it and got irritable when Akira refused. The thing that would have been appealing about having him there was just that - having him there. He was the sort of person it felt good to hold and be held by - warm and affectionate, eager for close contact.

Akira slept better with Hikaru beside him - inside his personal space or not. Even when Hikaru snored - something he did infrequently - it was comforting. He was there. The thick reality of his presence drove away the oppression of the silence Akira was suffering now.

There was another headache creeping up on him - Akira felt it building at his temples, and briefly considered taking something for it. It hardly seemed worth the effort, though - if there was going to be something keeping him awake, he'd rather it was the headache than an endless series of mostly-painful thoughts about his absent lover.

I wanted to know he was mine. That's all.

Hikaru didn't mind those sort of possessive statements - if anything, he thought it was hilarious that Akira thought of it in those terms. "In that case, feed me," he said sometimes, usually with a hint of laughter in the words, even with his lips moving just inches from Akira's mouth. As far as sex went, Hikaru was the more easygoing - if he was getting it, he was happy, however things went. Akira was the one who felt the need to ask himself how they were going to go about it: whether or not he was on top, or what position was best; if oral sex would be involved, and if they were too far gone to move to the bedroom before getting under each other's clothing.

More than once, Hikaru had told him rather impatiently that he really didn't care how they did it, and Akira should just make up his mind already so they could get on with it. Hikaru liked being the ravisher and being ravished, at the same time if his lover really felt like it; he lost himself in sensation and did whatever felt good. He wasn't shy about begging if he thought it would get him more of what he liked, and he responded well to requests for more of this or that when he had the upper hand, because he enjoyed being enjoyed. He was the kind of lover you could count on, both to satisfy and be satisfied, and the amount of passion he threw into the business was enough to drive Akira wild.

It was as intoxicating as it was tiring, like an addiction he would never manage to kick.

I miss him so much.

And it just wasn't likely that he'd be able to get Hikaru back.

Akira stayed where he was, unmoving against the couch, until he felt his muscles protest against the position and got up to put himself to bed.

((()))

"So, if you played this one like - "

"There? Why there?"

"Isumi, you don't make any sense. What kind of move is that?"

"Hey, calm down with the questions," Waya cut in, leaning over from his own board to check out the finished game between Honda and Nase. "You didn't even give him a chance to explain." He blinked when he saw where Isumi's fingers rested. "Isumi, what the hell kind of move is that?"

Nase eyed him sideways, her expression lofty. "See?"

Isumi smiled a bit, and moved his hand to point to another section of the board. "Think about how the conflict on the top right corner was developing when you played. Wouldn't it be more effective if black played there?" His finger shifted back to its original spot.

"Oh." Nase blinked at the board. "Oh! I see it now."

Across from her, Honda frowned thoughtfully. "That would've been troublesome."

Waya leaned back on his hands and grinned ruefully. "I think I need more lessons, Mr. Isumi."

"Better ask how much he charges first," Saeki pointed out jokingly, clearing away the last of the stones from the game he and Waya had just played. "You might not be able to afford it."

Waya looked around at his less-than-expensive apartment, and shrugged. "I should start charging Shindou rent." He poured himself another glass of pop. It wouldn't be all that cool, after sitting in the middle of the room for the past half an hour, but his throat was dry enough so that it didn't really matter. "The way he's talking, he might be here for a while."

Nase tilted her head to the side. "Is the fight between him and Touya really that serious?"

Waya sat back again, this time with the pop in hand. "He says it is. And he's still here, isn't he?" He shook his head. "Funny thing about those guys is, you can't really tell when they're serious. Every time they argue, it sounds like they want to tear each other apart."

"Shindou's been pretty touchy lately," Isumi put in, thoughtfully.

"You can make him twitch just by sitting next to him," Saeki agreed, draining the last of his own glass. "Touya's even worse. They both look like death - even people who don't know they're roommates can pick up on it."

"Are the two of them really that close?" Honda asked curiously.

Waya carefully avoided looking at Isumi. He was one of the few people who actually knew about the whole 'gay and sleeping with the rival' thing - but it was hard to be sure how much of that was because Shindou had wanted him to know and how much was because he'd been unlucky enough to have to take care of his biological needs the one time they'd forgotten to lock the bathroom door at the Institute. It was an incident he was trying hard to forget completely.

Isumi had chosen not to talk about how he'd found out, and Waya really wasn't interested in hearing about it. The fact that his friend's face turned a really odd shade of red whenever the subject came up was enough to warn him off.

Those two are the horniest pair of crazies who could ever be matched up.

"They're rivals, aren't they?" Waya shrugged, as if it weren't important. "I guess that's close enough. What do I know about it, though? Ask Shindou."

The front door had already swung open before he'd finished. "Ask me what?"

Waya looked up. "Hey," he greeted his temporary roommate. Saeki was right - Shindou looked like death. His eyes had bags under that were so defined you could see them from a mile back, and he slumped around with his shoulders down and a scowl on his face, eyes alternately irritated and deeply unhappy - if he thought no one was paying attention to him. The mention of Touya's name made them go flat immediately.

Honda hadn't made a note of that yet, apparently. "Are you and Touya very good friends?"

Shindou actually flinched; his face twisted for a moment before settling into a dull glare. "It's… not really that," he denied, half-heartedly.

"So it's just the apartment you're mourning?" Saeki teased. Waya had a feeling he was trying to put Shindou in a better mood.

That's probably not the best way to do it.

"I guess." If anything, the dull look got worse. "I'm taking a shower," Shindou announced suddenly, stepping around Nase and Honda to make a beeline for the washroom.

An uncomfortable silence fell after he'd shut the door behind him.

"I guess I should go." Nase started gathering the stones off her board, quickly. "I still need to make dinner, and I promised a couple of my friends I'd go out with them tonight."

"Uh, yeah, I need to - " Honda tapped a finger over his left wrist. "Time to quit for the day, I guess."

"Whatever you want." Actually, Waya was just as glad - the conversation topic had taken a turn for the 'awkward', and Shindou's presence really didn't help. "I have a match tomorrow morning, but you guys can stop by after if you want."

"I have a tutoring game - how about later that night?" Saeki stood up as well, taking the opportunity to make a hasty retreat.

"Whenever - as long as I'm home. Or Shindou."

"Yeah… I guess." Saeki looked about as enthusiastic about talking to Shindou as Waya felt right then. But he at least didn't have to live with the guy. "See you."

"Bye."

Isumi hesitated in front of the door, giving Waya an apprehensive look. "You're all right with - " He inclined his head toward the bathroom instead of finishing the sentence.

At least someone is brave enough to ask. "Yeah, it's fine." He managed a rueful grin. "If he gets too depressing, I can always lock him in the bathroom or something."

"Let's hope it doesn't come to that," Isumi said, with a bit of a smile. "See you tomorrow."

"Yeah, see you."

The door shut, and the apartment was quiet again.

Too quiet, really.

How come the water's not running?

Waya had a brief argument with himself before reluctantly making his way to the bathroom door. "Hey, Shindou?" he called out, knocking.

No reply.

"Shindou! What the hell are you doing in there?"

There were a few muffled sounds of something moving around beyond the door. "I said nothing!" Shindou's voice snapped back at him. It lacked a lot of its usual force.

"Well, speak up when you're saying something!" Waya was suddenly annoyed - more with himself for worrying than with Shindou for being depressed enough to make him worry. "I thought you were about to off yourself because Saeki thought you loved your apartment more than Touya or something. Don't walk in here looking like your dog got run over and then lock yourself in the bathroom!"

"I told you, I'm having a shower!"

"I don't hear water running."

More silence.

"Shindou! Answer me already!"

In the next instant, he wished he hadn't insisted on that. Shindou's voice had a very different tone to it when he answered next, although it was obvious he was trying to keep up the irritated front. "I don't feel like talking, all right? Leave me alone!"

Waya stepped back, unprepared for the ragged emotion that suddenly seemed to be clogging the bathroom, oozing out through the cracks with the power of his friend's voice. "Shindou…"

"I said leave me alone! I don't want to talk about Touya any more either."

Two more steps back, and Waya almost tripped over the Go board Nase and Honda had been using. I don't want to be involved in this!

He sat down hard, and shut his eyes. It was probably too late not to get involved; after all, he was letting Shindou stay there, he'd started worrying about him, and now he was allowing his friend to drive him crazy with his misery. He was either going to have to step back and get uninvolved, or do something about this. Otherwise he wasn't going to get any sort of peace of mind until someone else did something about it.

Shindou sure isn't going to. And Touya -

Waya snorted to himself. Who knew what Touya was thinking? Did he even care that Shindou was a wreck? He was probably just upset about all the Go games he'd miss out on now that they weren't always around each other.

Selfish bastard.

That did it. Waya stood, snatching his wallet off the table. "I'm going out," he told the bathroom door, and didn't wait for a response before heading off.

It was late enough so that the air was bearable, but the subway was still stiflingly hot. Waya considered his opening remarks to try and take his mind off of his discomfort. He didn't actually know what he was going to say, but it was a good idea to get someone's attention before you started. Once he'd got going, he could just make it up as he went.

By the time he was back on the street and making his way through a reasonably familiar area, he'd thought up at least three or four good ones. By the time he was at the apartment and knocking on the door, he had five to choose from.

There was a long moment of silence.

Waya was not in the mood to wait around any more. "Touya! You'd better be home, and you'd better let me in, because if I have to spend one more day with Shindou, whatever I do when I snap won't be my fault!"

The following moment was not nearly so long. A pale, drawn-looking Touya Akira opened the door just enough to look out, and blinked at him. "You are - ?"

You irritating, condescending little -

Waya cut that thought off, and focussed his aggravation into the most hateful glare he could manage. "Never mind who I am!" he snapped, and jammed his foot firmly against the doorframe in case Touya tried to keep him out. "I'm here to find out something from you!"

Touya blinked some more, obviously taken aback. "Find out something?" he repeated, voice a bit fuzzy-sounding, as if he had just woken up or was lacking sleep.

"I'm about to ask you a question," Waya ground out, struggling to keep his temper under control. "And your answer's going to tell me if I need to kick your ass or tell you to take back your damn boyfriend and get him the hell out of my apartment!"

Touya must've been too startled for a cold reply, because he stepped back shakily, without another word, and allowed Waya entrance.

All right. Now we're getting somewhere!

Waya squared his shoulders, gathered his annoyance around him like a shield, and marched inside.

((()))

I'm moving up.

It was tempting to just hold his hands under the facet and let the cold water run over them. Hikaru cupped them instead so he could splash some on his face.

The Go Institute was air-conditioned, and there was no one else in the bathroom, but he still felt uncomfortably warm. And that last game had been tense.

Half a moku difference, but I still made it.

At least he could play well when it counted, even with his personal life messed up.

Hikaru frowned at the image of himself in the mirror. Unless he just got distracted because I look like I've been brought back from the dead or something.

Sai had never looked like this.

Or maybe he had, before he'd disappeared, and Hikaru hadn't noticed. Had Sai felt this miserable? He'd just lost a relationship - Sai had lost his existence.

Hikaru turned the facet off - his hands were getting too cold anyway.

The door swung open behind him, and Hikaru hastily grabbed a handful of paper towel to dry off his hands. It wasn't a good idea to think about Sai or Akira in public places; he'd end up making himself miserable and getting caught at it. I should get out of here anyway.

The sound of the lock sliding into place on the door made him freeze, and then spin around. "What - ?"

The words died somewhere between his mind and his mouth before they could make it out. Standing across the room looking like someone who'd just come out of a week-long bought of insomnia was Touya Akira.

"A - Touya!" Somehow, the name felt funny coming out of his mouth, as if his lips weren't shaped to form the syllables right. Hikaru felt his heart hammering, and swallowed, trying not to seem as nervous as he felt. Why is he here?

"Hikaru." The more familiar form of address didn't escape him. Akira's eyes were narrow, and he had that guarded look on his face that he got when he wasn't sure what sort of reaction whatever he planned to do would get. Hikaru recognized the stiff way he held himself, and for some reason felt startled by it.

He's nervous, too.

There was a long pause, and when Akira began again, it was in an almost defensive tone. "You don't come by to play me. Didn't we say we'd still play, even when we fought?"

Was that it? Hikaru swallowed again, trying to get rid of the disappointed lump that rose in his throat. "Fine, I'll come by later," he said, turning his head to the side so his emotions wouldn't be so obvious. "Is that all? Unlock the door - I want to leave."

Akira didn't move. This is stupid. If he's not going to say anything, I'm getting out of here. Hikaru walked past him purposefully, reaching for the lock.

"I'm sorry."

That was enough to stop him in his tracks - again. Hikaru turned to stare at the back of Akira's bowed head, not sure if he'd actually heard it or just wanted to hear it so badly that his mind made it up. "What?"

"I'm sorry." That came out more clearly; Akira turned to face him then, and his eyes were so fiercely determined they almost seemed desperate. "For what I said when we fought - I'm sorry."

A different kind of lump was rising up to take the place of his disappointment, and for some reason, Hikaru found himself blinking hard. It had been a long time since he'd let himself stare at Akira's face - actually stare, and take in all the features that were so familiar. Even as he was, with his skin too pale and cold-looking and dark circles under his eyes, he looked too beautiful to be real. "Me too," Hikaru heard himself say, as if he were listening on the outside. His voice sounded strange. "I mean, for coming back so late."

It was like water building up against a dam; they were just standing there, staring at each other, with all kinds of things whirling around inside Hikaru's head until he felt like he'd scream. He wanted to cross the distance between them, hold onto Akira forever, ask him what he was thinking, what he had been thinking while they were apart. But he wasn't sure if he should.

Were they making up?

Could they make up?

Hikaru swallowed hard, for the third time. He couldn't answer either question until he got another answer first - the answer he'd been killing himself trying to figure out for the past week. "Why - " His voice cracked painfully; he tried again. "Why did you say it?"

Some of the intensity left Akira's eyes then; when he broke off the gaze they'd been exchanging, there was a kind of uncertainty in the way he moved. "It makes me insecure," he admitted, slowly and awkwardly. There was the usual reluctance in his voice, like he got whenever he was forced into confessing about a weakness.

Well as he knew Akira, this time Hikaru was lost. "What does?"

Akira's shoulders drew up, and his gaze came back to meet Hikaru's again, as fierce as he'd ever seen it. "I don't know you," he said after a moment, his tone low and each word carefully spoken to illustrate the thought with which he chose them. "You know my past and my present, but there's a part of you that's still a mystery to me. I know exactly how strongly I feel for you, but I wonder if you return it with the same force. I wonder if the reason you haven't told me - " He stopped, and looked away again, as if embarrassed.

He thought that? He honestly thought… Hikaru held himself immobile, almost afraid to move. For some reason, the air felt too thick. "The reason I haven't told you - ?"

" - is because you don't feel strongly enough…" Akira was obviously struggling with the words; his face was pained and his eyes were desperate again. "You don't feel strongly enough to give me all of you."

Pinned by that intense gaze, feeling as if he'd been struck with someone heavy, Hikaru could only stare back dumbly for a minute, bereft of words.

((()))

Hikaru looked stunned. Akira wasn't sure if that were a good sign - there could be any number of reasons for the shorter boy to be stunned - but he felt oddly light. As hard as it had been to admit to his biggest fear, now that it was out he felt relieved. There was nothing left for him to say; it was someone else's turn now. He didn't have to struggle with the words or wonder about how to say it.

The only thing left was waiting for a reaction.

Is this what you wanted to hear? I'm trusting you - am I worthy of your trust in return?

Akira shut his eyes, and Hikaru vanished into blackness. It was too painful to look at him, until he got an answer, but it was hard to stop looking. It felt as if he hadn't seen him in years.

"You'd better apologize!"

It hadn't really taken much.

"Because maybe he's too stubborn, but you're supposed to be smarter than that!"

Two minutes, maybe? It had been a short, one-sided conversation, in any case. Akira knew his visitor, although it took him a minute to place his face - Waya Yoshitaka, Hikaru's friend, the third person who'd become a pro when Hikaru and Ochi had made it. He hadn't even said anything that would have moved him to relent on its own, but there was one thing…

"Anyway, how do you expect him to apologize if you won't bother with it!"

I wouldn't have done it, not for just that. Akira opened his eyes again, determined not to back away from Hikaru. It hadn't been exactly what had been said that struck him, but the outline of the statement had wrapped itself around his insecurity.

How do you expect him to trust you if you won't give him the same courtesy?

He had to be the one to do it. If he wanted Hikaru to return his emotions, he had to be sure that he understood their strength. And that meant not only swallowing his pride and apologizing, but also trusting him with his doubts.

"All right. I'll apologize."

In front of him, Hikaru let out a loud, shaky breath and ran a hand through his hair. "You think I don't love you because I won't tell you about Sai?"

Akira's mind was jerked back to the present. "There's more to it than that!"

"Well, no matter what you think about it, you're wrong!" Hikaru's eyes were suddenly almost angry. "The fact that I haven't said anything about Sai has nothing to do with you!"

He reeled back, caught off guard. "Wh-What? But - "

"I can't believe you've been worrying about this! Why didn't you say something before now?" Abruptly, Hikaru's whole posture changed; he slumped back against the door, smacking a hand against his face in a comic show of dismay. "I thought you didn't trust me to tell you about it!"

Akira stared at him, not sure if he should feel relieved or disappointed. "If it's not because of me, then why - ?"

"I'm not ready yet, all right?" Hikaru's hand dropped, and he met Akira's stare again, his eyes suddenly pleading - a contrast from his almost irritable tone of voice. "It's still hard for me to think about it, and - and I know you'll want to talk about it, so… I can't yet." He dropped his gaze. "It doesn't mean I don't want to be with you, as - as much as you do, maybe more."

From the expression on his face to the way his shoulders drooped, everything about the picture of Hikaru in front of him called out to Akira. He wanted to close the distance between them, wrap his lover in his arms and drive the unhappiness away. But he couldn't keep the uncertainty away completely, and it stilled him before he could move. "You want to be with me? Still?"

"Yeah." The sadness wasn't gone from Hikaru's eyes when he looked up again, but he was smiling slightly, and he looked at Akira directly as he spoke. "Weird as it seems, I love you."

Akira's instincts overrode his uncertainty; it took him one step to get close enough to Hikaru to wrap his arms around the shorter boy's shoulders. It was like a flood breaking loose; he could smell that familiar scent, feel the light firmness of Hikaru's muscles against him - the way they fit together, with the ease of having done this so many times before… Akira felt as if his emotions were choking him, and he tightened his hold, suddenly unable to get close enough.

I love you. The words held so much power at the moment, he didn't think he could manage to say them. Please understand how much.

Hikaru's arms slid up around his waist to hold him just as tightly, and he knew he didn't need to say it.

"Wait for me," Hikaru mumbled against his shoulder, just loud enough for him to catch the words. "I'll definitely tell you when I'm ready, so wait for me, okay?"

It wasn't the same as being told everything, but it was enough for the moment. "All right."

For a moment, Hikaru seemed as content as he was to stay just like that, and Akira found himself surrounded by silence again. It didn't seem nearly as bad as it had for the past week.

"Mm…" Typically, though, that didn't last long. Hikaru squirmed until he could bring his face to a level with Akira's and kissed him without hesitation, eagerly building from a firm pressing of his lips to something more intense. He parted Akira's mouth with his tongue and effortlessly seduced him out with the warm, wet heat of his own mouth.

When they broke apart, they were both breathing heavily, and Akira found he couldn't lift his eyelids more than a fraction to stare down at his lover. It was so intoxicating - the sight and the feel and the taste of Hikaru assaulted his senses to the point where it felt like he was drowning and just didn't want to save himself. He could feel Hikaru's breath tickling his lips, almost like a different sort of kiss. It made his head reel.

"Let's do it here."

A sharp sliver of clarity cracked through the haze around Akira's mind. "What?"

The corners of Hikaru's mouth were turning up, just a bit. "For old time's sake. Remember, back before we moved in together? We used to make out here all the time. Come on, let's do it!"

"Here? Now?" Akira pulled back his arms to push Hikaru's shoulders away and gain some distance between them. It had been a week since - well. The suggestion of it, Hikaru's closeness, and the overwhelming evidence of his presence were enough to excite him, and he couldn't do much about the way his body reacted. It didn't help, either, that he was still close enough to feel an answering reaction from Hikaru.

It was a terribly tempting offer, too.

"Yeah, well." For a moment, Hikaru looked embarrassed - then he closed up the distance Akira had been trying to put between them, tightening his hold on the taller boy's waist and pressing their foreheads together. "I don't feel like waiting, that's all."

And despite any protest, Akira knew the response to that. Neither do I.

It was that look on Hikaru's face that made him so irresistible - like he'd given himself completely to the moment. To Akira. There was no focus in those green eyes for anything but him.

It drove him crazy. He wanted to rip off their clothes and couple with him frantically right then and there. There was no way to hold on to any sort of restraint with Hikaru; he drew out Akira's passions as if it were as simple as unwinding a coil of rope.

Living with him meant losing control, one way or another.

I won't ever be able to give this up.

Akira leaned forward and reinitiated contact, parting Hikaru's lips and deepening the kiss without bothering to start things off slow.

There were times when it was better not to hold onto control anyway.

((()))

Isumi shut the door behind him as he came into Waya's apartment, running a hand through his hair to wring the water from it. "It's really coming down out there - I got caught in the storm," he remarked, sheepishly. "The weather's been pretty strange."

"It's still too hot, too," Waya complained, not bothering to get up and greet him. "Want to play? No one else is here yet."

Isumi took a short detour into the bathroom for a towel. "You're alone?"

Waya couldn't help grinning at that. "Shindou left."

There was only one board out; Isumi moved the portable fan he had going to the side and took its place opposite Waya, still dripping water all over the floor even as he dried himself off. "Where did he go?"

"No, I mean he left, Isumi." Waya reached into the bowl of black stones, pulling out two of them to set on the board as Isumi set down the towel and picked up a handful of white. "He's not living here any more."

Isumi stopped counting for a moment, blinking up at him. "So, he - "

"Yeah, he's back with Touya." He felt justifiably smug - after all, it was his visit that had prompted Touya's apology, and it was Touya's apology that had gotten them back together. At least, as far as he knew. But he wasn't about to tell Isumi that - not after the number of times he'd swore he wasn't going to get involved. "I guess they made up."

His own relief was being mirrored back at him from the older pro's face. "That's good," Isumi remarked, with feeling.

"Yeah." It was definitely good to see Shindou happy again. "So it won't be so depressing around here any more."

Isumi shook his head, smiling. "For how long, I wonder?"

"I've probably got a while this time." Waya watched him count out the stones, and then scooped up his two black and handed over the bowl, taking the white stones in return. "At least a week or two, anyway."

A chuckle answered him. "Aren't we optimistic?"

"We are." Waya pulled his legs up under him. "Onegai shimasu."

"Onegai shimasu."

There was a rolling growl in the background from the storm.

Isumi placed his first stone. "I wonder where this weather's coming from."

"Where any weather comes from, I guess." Waya shrugged. Despite the muggy feeling that still lingered in the air, he was glad for the break in the weather. There were only so many hot, sunny days a person could take in a row, especially if it was as sweltering as it had been.

Sometimes it was just better if it rained once in a while.

 

The End