Disclaimer: I don't own Hikaru No Go. This story is based on characters and situations owned by Hotta Yumi and Obata Takeshi and then some. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Warnings (read these!): This fic will contain spoilers till episode 63 in anime and chapter 124 in manga (volume 15) and beyond. If you have not seen/read that far, stop reading or you will get spoiled! Also, this fic is loyally slash/shounen-ai/yaoi/boys love/malexmale/what-ever-you-like-to-call-it meaning boys liking other boys. You have been warned.
Authoress' Notes: Please note in the story that when Touya alternates between calling his rival 'Shindou' and 'Hikaru' in his thoughts, it is intentional.
One Step Closer
Step two: And then there were only rivals
I placed another stone on to the board and reached for the second one in the goke.
I was slowly, but firmly recreating one of Kamimaezu Hiroshi nana-dan's games. The upcoming preliminary match with the man was crucial for me to get to fight for the Tengen title.
All pro's would agree that it was a good decision to explore a little of the man's game habits. To know a little of how aggressive of a player he was and where his strength lay; at the choban with certain jouseki, chuuban or yose? Or in an entirely different place?
My hand stopped over the goke and only one thought ran through my head: I wanted to play.
Yes, I was in a Go salon. Yes, I was currently recreating a game, if you could call that playing. Yes, there was practically a line waiting for Touya-sensei to teach. And yes, I had just finished with another ooteai-game two hours ago, but I wanted to play, and I wanted to play him.
Touya hadn't visited the hospital for two days now and hadn't seen Shindou in three. There was no point; he had been released from the hospital soon after waking up. And Touya was referring to going to the hospital as well as going to see Shindou; there just was no point.
He had learned of Shindou's amnesia fairly quickly as a nurse had come by and made Touya leave, utterly displeased with him for ignoring the sign on the door. Once outside, the young Go-pro had prevented the oncoming lecture starring the youths of today by asking what was going on. The nurse was shocked that he hadn't been informed, but before she had had time to explain Shindou's condition, Mrs. Shindou appeared in the hallway with a doctor, whom she was in a deep discussion with. Her face had been more alive than Touya had seen in three weeks, as if worry and sleepless nights were already long forgotten. She had been surprised to see Touya there.
Touya soon learned that Shindou had woken up a few hours ago and that everyone had been informed immediately. This information hadn't reached him though; he had been in the damn Ouza match.
There had been a flood of people coming to welcome Hikaru in to the world of the living; baffling him to no end as most (the majority) of them had been his acquaintances from the Go world. In fear that the overload of unfamiliar people claiming to be his close friends would damage his already fragile mind, the doctors had chased everyone out. They had left a message for Touya at the Go salon and his home, telling that there was no need to come by today.
Touya didn't own a mobile phone and he had come straight to the hospital; the messages had never reached him.
The nature of the amnesia was the problem at hand and Touya frowned at the goban when remembering what the doctor and Mrs. Shindou had told him.
Shindou Hikaru had forgotten everything about Go. Nothing more, nothing less. It had become obvious to the doctors in a quite early state, as they questioned the patient's mental health i.e. asked stupid questions; who are you, how old are you, do you know what happened etc. As for his profession, Shindou had answered "student". This had raised some questioning eyebrows, and the rest was history of today.
Touya frowned (deeper) as he remembered the look on Mrs. Shindou as they talked outside the ward. She had looked relieved and happy, not really worrying about the amnesia. The only time her brow had furrowed slightly in concern was when she told that Hikaru had completely forgotten anything related to Go. Including that his grandfather played. Shindou Hikaru didn't even know what Go was.
The san-dan fingered absentmindedly the black stones in the goke, slowly squeezing his hands into fists as the events repeated in his head, all over again.
'So what now?' he thought glumly. 'What happens now? In one day, I have lost a rival, a reason (a thrill) and... a friend. I lost Shindou. He doesn't even know who I am!' Anger started to boil somewhere deep in Touya and he lowered his head to shield his face with his hair so that no-one would get frightened by his expression, and he grabbed the fabric of his uniform trousers to ease his desire to lash out.
"Oh! Shindou-kun!" he suddenly heard Ichikawa-san exclaim merrily. "Long time no see! (I can take that bag for you... No? Well, okay.) Are you here to play a game?"
"Eh? Ah... No," was the slightly apprehensive reply. "Is Touya-san here? Touya Akira-san? I was told that he..."
"Ah, yes! I believe he's in the back, recreating some games." A moment of silence followed. "Ah! Right! You go through there and you should see him... Ah! Akira-kun! Shindou-kun here was just looking for you. Why don't you take him to the back and I'll fetch you two some tea, 'k?"
Touya tuned out the rest of whatever Ichikawa might have said and stared at the unsure sight of the person who had invaded his thoughts not two seconds ago. The boy looked just about the same as he had the times they had met - blond bangs framing a handsome, yet slightly childish face, wearing the usual yellow sweater and blue jeans over his lean form - but now Touya was sad to know that the usually challenging sea-coloured eyes now held no excitement, just a friendly warmth and some uncertainty in their depths.
Shindou scratched the back of his head and averted his eyes from Touya's intense stare. He really didn't know what to do in the silence that had fallen between them.
"Soo..." Shindou started, trying to think of something to say. "Does she always talk that much?" he settled for saying and glanced at Touya to see the other boy's reaction.
For a fleeting moment the dark-haired teen had hoped that he had woken up. That someone had finally taken the time and prodded him awake. But now the sweet hope was sliding away as he remembered that Hikaru didn't know who Ichikawa-san was, didn't know Go, didn't know him. Someone was closing a fist over his heart again.
Swallowing his disappointment Touya averted his eyes from the puzzled ones. "Yes. She has always been like that." Well, he was expected to answer. Then his gaze stopped at the crutch Shindou was using to ease the weight from his right leg.
"AH!" Shindou exclaimed as he noticed the look. "I'm okay, I'm okay! This thing is just with me for a week until they take off the cast." He waved the cane and tried to smile reassuringly. Then he happened to lean on the healing leg and winced.
Trust Shindou to mess with his own healing, Touya almost smiled at the thought. Almost.
"This way," Touya half turned to the direction of his table. "Let's go sit down before you get yourself back in to the hospital." Then he walked to the table and sat down, expecting the other to do the same. Which Shindou did, with some hesitation. The way he placed his knapsack beside the table and drew the chair to sit in, reminded Touya of their first game ever. Shindou definitely had the air of a person who wasn't entirely sure what he was doing and only mimicked others as far as he could get away with it.
Touya watched with a detached expression as the half-blond looked at the board with interest and skimmed through the shape of the stones. His brow furrowed as he tried to think some logical explanation for the game. Then he moved to take one of the gokes and looked at the stones, the other goke, then the goban again. And all that time Touya couldn't help but think that he wanted to be anywhere else but here, he wished that the other boy would just get up, apologize for the confusion and leave. Vanish. Something!
It just hurt too much!
Touya could almost hear as slowly but painfully tiny cracks began to spread through his heart as the once-pro continued to examine the game like he had never seen it before. 'At this point it may even be true,' Touya mused darkly. Then he cast his gaze to the board and started to clean the damn thing.
"Why are you here?" Touya asked, not meaning to sound so cold, but at the same time not wanting his voice to waver, so it was no wonder that Shindou looked decidedly uncomfortable and handed the stones back quickly.
"Look, if this is a bad time..." the former-rival started and reached for his bag. Touya's gaze immediately whipped up and pinned him to the chair. The dark-haired teen was sad to notice a slight panic in the others eyes. He sighed and resumed his cleaning.
"Just answer the question, Shindou."
After a moment's silence, Touya raised his eyes to see what was wrong. Shindou had his eyes squinted to almost slits, a hand on his chin and a pensive look that was directed to scrutinize him. Now that Touya had noticed it, Shindou seemed to be almost mockingly measuring him. Actually, now that he thought about it, he was sure Shindou was mockingly measuring him.
"What?" Touya asked slightly defensive. Gah. He hated being defensive. It made him look like he was pouting. (Ogata-san had kindly informed him of this.) And he was not pouting. But, unfortunately, Ogata-san was not the only one to think this as Shindou's eyes lit with mischief and his lips curled into a small, amused smile.
"Oh, nothing, Touya. I was just thinking that we must've been close, since you don't use any suffixes or anything. I was informed that you are a highly sophisticated and polite young man, who is always respectful with others, regardless of the person. Well, I guess that was just talk." Shindou's smile was even more devious if possible. Touya knew that he was being teased but couldn't help a small blush coming on his pale cheeks.
"It's just you," Touya murmured embarrassed, not knowing why he was telling this, to Shindou the least.
"Huh?" Shindou was cutely clueless. 'Wait. Cute? Well... I suppose you could say that he's cute when he has no idea what's going on. Heh.'
"You're the only one that I don't address with an honorific, Shindou," Touya answered with a clear voice, and then added teasingly, "You haven't earned that yet." At that the dual-colour-haired boy huffed, crossed his arms and looked pointedly away. Then he blinked, looked at his arms and then at Touya.
"Are we always like this?" he asked in an inquiring voice. This startled Touya. Then his expression went back to the normal blank-zone.
"No. We didn't meet that frequently. We aren't… friends." Touya couldn't look at Shindou as he said that. This all made them seem like complete strangers... and they were so much more. How was he ever going to explain the depth of their... relationship to the naïve boy?
"So I was told," Shindou said calmly. Touya blinked. Then looked at the boy on the other side of the table and blinked again. Then Ichikawa-san decided to make an appearance.
"Here you are, boys. I'm sorry but I couldn't find anything else except these cookies to go with your tea," she babbled happily as she laid the two mugs of green tea at the two boys' reach and a plate of cookies between them beside the goban.
"Would you like something else?" Ichikawa-san asked sweetly and batted her eyes at Touya. He didn't notice. Or at least chose not to.
"No, thank you. We're fine, Ichikawa-san. If we could get some privacy, I would appreciate it." Touya said calmly and politely.
"Of course, Akira-kun. I'll tell everyone who asks that you're too busy for shidougo at the moment, 'k? And always, if you decide to stay late, I'll be happy to give you a ride home, Akira-kun. Just say so, okay?"
"Thank you, Ichikawa-san," Touya said with a voice that clearly said that it was the end of the conversation. When the overly peppy woman had retreated behind the counter, Touya took his tea and sipped it. Perfect.
"So... Back to the first question: If you knew that we aren't friends then what are you doing here?" Touya asked the other. Shindou just tasted his tea and looked thoughtful.
"Well, that's the thing. I was totally surprised when Akari told me that we aren't friends and that I don't usually hang out with you. 'Coz... You remember what I said when you came to my room at the hospital, right?" At this, Touya nodded and as he took another sip of tea, absentmindedly thought that it was absolutely absurd that he was having a civil conversation with Shindou of all people. Usually at this point they were smirking, shouting, insulting, changing threats or walking away. Well, this gave him a slightly different point of view of the enigma known as Shindou Hikaru.
"Well, I told you the truth," the boy in his mind continued, shrugging. "Of all the people that visited me that day, you were the only one that somehow seemed familiar. Well, except Akari, sure, but she's my childhood friend and didn't have anything to do with that... that game everyone was talking about."
"Go," Touya inserted helpfully.
"Yeah, that. Go." Shindou took a sip. "Weird name," he added like an afterthought. Touya didn't have time to contemplate this as the other teen continued almost in the same breath.
"And then when I asked who you were... - I thought that you knew of the amnesia thingy - the look on your face was something I didn't like. It made me feel sad and upset, so I thought that we had been really good friends or something. That and the fact that you really seemed familiar, unlike all the others that claimed to be my friends but seemed like complete strangers. Akari, again, as the exception."
Touya mused over this as he helped himself to a cookie. (He didn't particularly like sweets but knew that Ichikawa-san was most likely going to have his head if he didn't eat some.) The dark-haired teen felt more at ease than all that evening. Shindou had thought that they were close friends. That thought made him want to smile. And then Shindou had said that he remembered him the best. This made his stomach flutter. Maybe this wasn't such a bad idea. Shindou visiting him, that is. Who knows? Now that they didn't have their rivalry between them, they could even become friends!
"But that still doesn't answer my question," Touya pointed out. Shindou looked embarrassed and squirmed in his chair.
"Umm... Yeah. Probably because I don't like to say the real reason..." Shindou confessed in his straightforward style. Touya raised one fine eyebrow.
"Oh, okay!" Shindou gave in. "I was worried about you. Happy now?" he asked accusingly and looked away, an embarrassed blush tinting his cheeks. Touya was speechless for a while.
"... Worried of me?"
"When I asked you who you were, you looked like you'd just had a fist to your stomach! And then, before I had time to ask what was wrong, that nurse came and you never came back! Yeah, I was worried." Shindou crossed his arms and looked pointedly elsewhere with a huff, his pose almost screaming 'Got a problem with that?!'
"Sure I was shocked... I lost my rival, after all..." Touya murmured, dazed of the dual-colour-haired boy's confession. Something flashed in Shindou's eyes at this, the boy looking startled for a minute, but then it was gone and Touya didn't have time to search for it. The ex-pro quickly smiled dazzlingly.
"So, you're fine now?" he inquired. This roused the dark-haired teen from his musing and he answered slightly apprehensively, "Y-yeah... I think so..." Shindou grinned at this.
"Then you can tell me how we met!" he exclaimed excitedly. Touya almost smiled. This was very 'Shindou'-like, if you could say that. And yet, it wasn't. It didn't do well to forget that this actually wasn't the Shindou he knew. Not anymore.
"Aah! Hikaru! There you are!"
Shindou stopped in his tracks and his facial expression froze at the voice. His smile faded slowly and a little bit of fear crossed his face. From the depths of his sea-green eyes surfaced a bit of panic, as if he was trying to make up an escape plan. All in all, Shindou looked a lot like he had been caught stealing with his hand still in the cookie jar.
"Akari! What are you doing here?" He was obviously feigning to be surprised as he smiled pleasantly at the girl, although seemed anything but happy. Akari wore an admittedly scary expression on her face and it seemed like she had come right after her school activities to search the boy. She was still clad in her uniform and was carrying her school-bag. Touya was secretly amused of Hikaru's panic but he watched their exchange with a detached expression.
"Don't give me that!" Akari almost yelled. "You were supposed to be home. On bed rest. By doctor's orders!"
"Okay, okay," Hikaru surrendered, raising his hands protectively between Akari and him. She stopped her ranting but glared at the bleached-blonde boy until he had collected his bag and was standing, leaning on his crutch.
"See you later, Touya! I, err…" he glanced at Akari and faltered. "I have to go! Ja, bye bye!" With that hasty good-bye, he was out of the parlour within seconds. Akari relaxed her pose and sighed. She then turned to Touya (who was pretty much ignored by her till now) and smiled a little, looking slightly apologetic. But for some reason, the Go-pro didn't believe her.
"I'm sorry, Touya-san, for interrupting the two of you like this," she apologized. "But Hikaru really shouldn't be here. He isn't fully recovered yet and has to rest."
"That's okay, Fujisaki-san. I understand," he replied with utmost courtesy.
"No, I don't think you do," Akari said quietly.
"What?" he asked, feeling stunned. Touya was supposed to say "pardon?" or "excuse me?" Really, he was. He was raised to handle any situation. That just slipped.
"Did you know that Hikaru didn't really believe he had amnesia?" Akari started lightly. Touya was startled at this new development, but only shook his head. "Until you came," she smiled at him but even a blind person could feel that it didn't have anything to do with humour, and certainly didn't reach her eyes. The dark-haired teen was speechless.
"It's been awhile since I saw him this happy," Akari confessed. Touya just became more and more lost. What was she saying? What was she trying to say?
"Do you know that if Hikaru remembers again, he might forget this time after the accident?" Touya only nodded numbly. He had read that, somewhere. "Well, we talked about it… and we came to the conclusion that we don't want that, I and the Shindou's. We like the Hikaru he is now and he's finally smiling. He actually laughed yesterday for the first time in a month. We don't know what was wrong with him but now he's okay."
Did she actually just say that it's fine if Shindou never again plays Go?
"That's why, Touya-san," Akari interrupted his jumbled thoughts, looking straight into his eyes, dead-serious; "we would like it if you wouldn't interact with Hikaru anymore."
"Please, don't talk to Hikaru, ever again."
goban: a go board
goke: the container of the go stones, the bowl
1-dan: shodan – Shindou Hikaru
3-dan: san-dan – Touya Akira
7-dan: nana-dan – Kamimaezu Hiroshi