Waya had never been fond of Touya Akira, but he didn’t think he had ever hated him quite as much as he did right at that moment.
“Ask her father, he says,” he grumbled, dragging his feet to prolong the walk from the train station. “It won’t be that bad, he says.” A couple of kids across the street stopped to look at him curiously. Waya glared at them. “Ha!” he said loudly. “Ha ha! Fat lot he knows about it, the pompous bastard. I bet he never had to do it!”
“Ojisan, you’re weird,” proclaimed one of the little boys on the opposite sidewalk. His friend cackled. Waya glared again and wondered why the world hated him.
He could just go home, he reasoned. After all, it wasn’t like he really needed to keep living or anything. Or he could run away, maybe to Mongolia. He could grow a beard and herd goats and teach the village children to play go. Morishita-sensei would never find him.
“I hate my life,” Waya said aloud. “Why couldn’t I have been gay like Shindou? It’s got to be easier than this.”
The kids gave him a wary look and hurried off. Waya kicked a rock down the road after them, which didn’t make him feel better.
In retrospect, he really shouldn’t have asked Shindou for advice. Shindou had even said so himself – “Why are you asking me?” he had demanded – but Waya had been pretty desperate and Saeki-san was off someplace with Ashiwara, which left Shindou.
“Well, I mean, you’re basically married,” he had said by way of explanation.
“Okay, first of all, no,” Shindou had told him even as he dragged him out of the Go Institute lobby. “And second, I am not going to let you drag me into this. You are twenty-five years old, and you absolutely do not need to hide behind me from Sensei again. It’s bad enough I have to pretend to go on vacation with you twice a year so he won’t suspect you’re banging his daughter-”
“Not so loud!” Waya had hissed frantically, trying to cover Shindou’s mouth with his hand. Shindou had tried to bite him and they had been well on the way to a really spectacular fistfight, when Touya had pulled them apart. He had had the bad taste to do it before Waya had had a chance to properly pound Shindou into the ground, too – another strike against Touya in the long litany of charges against him, but then, Waya had given up counting years ago – and asked what, exactly, they thought they were doing.
“This idiot is hoping I’ll cover his back when Sensei finds out he intends to marry his daughter, which by the way is insane as far as I’m concerned, and I want nothing to do with it.” Shindou had shaken his head ruefully. “Sorry, man. Best of luck and whatever, but I think I might go on vacation. Without you.”
Touya had blinked and said, “Shindou, you’re being ridiculous.”
“You don’t know Sensei,” Waya and Shindou had replied in unison. Waya had shuddered.
“You are blowing this out of proportion,” Touya had said crisply.
“I don’t know what to do,” Waya had whimpered pathetically.
“If you want my advice,” Touya had said.
“Not really,” Waya had muttered under his breath, but Touya didn’t seem to have heard.
“Why don’t you brush your hair-”
“Hey!” Waya had objected. Shindou had snickered.
“-Put on a nice shirt-”
“That isn’t camo,” interjected Shindou.
“-And go and ask him politely?” Touya had finished, looking peeved. “This isn’t Meijin finals, Waya-san; how hard can it be?”
No matter how hard he had tried, Waya hadn’t been able to get any better advice than that. Not that he hadn’t given his all to finding someone who could provide the miracle cure, but all he had gotten was well-meaning advice like Touya’s and insane fits of laughter from those who actually knew Sensei. He had gotten so desperate, he had broached the subject to Kuwabara-sensei when he happened to run into him at a bar; the ancient man had cackled long and hard before suggesting that he was willing to do it in Waya’s place – “Although I can’t promise I won’t marry her myself, you know; I’m still quite spry, ohohohohoho!” – and at that point Waya had decided that as much as he despised Touya, anything was better than the mental images brought on by that suggestion.
However, now that he was approaching the moment of truth, all he really wanted to do was run someplace far, far away and hide. He didn’t think he was a coward in the general scheme of things, but he also realized that even if he by some miracle managed to survive this conversation and they got married next week, Sensei could still count, and seven or so months down the line he was going to be toast. Burnt toast.
Shigeko was taking it all in stride, of course. Over the years he had known her Waya had come to realize that her cheerful façade concealed a fiendish adaptability, as well as a surprising way of getting everyone to do exactly as she liked. “Well, I would hate to be an old mother anyway,” she had said placidly, looking very satisfied with herself; Waya had then been plagued by the sneaky suspicion that she had planned this, that last time in Okinawa . He had assumed they’d end up married eventually, but he had put off the actual asking for several years until she had effectively taken the choice out of his hands.
“Your father is going to kill me,” he had said. “You do realize he’s going to kill me. You’re going to be a young widow.”
“Don’t be silly,” she had said, blithely. “Daddy loves children.”
“That isn’t the point,” Waya had argued, but he had ended up capitulating, as he always did, and now here he was.
“I hate Shindou,” he said aloud, and it made him feel a little better. “I hate Touya. I really hate old man Kuwabara. God. I’m going to die.” He offered up a prayer to God or Buddha or whoever was listening; while he was hardly the superstitious type, it couldn’t hurt and anything that might help was in short supply.
Morishita-san opened the door and gave him a kindly smile; he bowed ceremoniously to her and made her laugh. “What a nice surprise. My, Waya-kun, don’t you look serious today. That is a lovely shade of cream.”
It was as close to his favored camouflage as he had dared to get. Hopefully cream would blend into the walls. Maybe Sensei wouldn’t see him. “Thank you very much for your hospitality, Morishita-san,” he said, and bowed again for good measure.
She ushered him inside. “Aren’t you polite! No need to be so formal, dear, you’re practically family.”
He gave her a hunted look – did she know? – and took his time untying his dress shoes, which were pinching his feet desperately. He never wore the torture devices except to televised matches – and he had precious few of those – but he had thought they might score him brownie points. “Is Sensei,” he began. “That is… I’m, uh… I’m hoping to… is he… in?”
“Oh yes,” she told him, unfazed by his stuttering. “He’s in the study with Touya-sensei’s new kifu book.”
Waya had to work hard not to whimper. “Of course he is. I forgot that came out today.” It just figured. Now Sensei would be in a horrible mood to start with.
“I'm sure he’ll be very glad to see you,” Morishita-san chirped. Her cheerfully unruffled air reminded him of Shigeko and that served to make him even more nervous. She was safely out of harm’s way, of course, shopping with friends. She had told him it wouldn’t be appropriate for her to be present, but personally he thought she just wanted to be a safe distance away in case the house blew up, or something.
True to his worst fears, Sensei was sitting at the goban and looking like a thundercloud. “Good afternoon, Sensei,” Waya said cautiously.
“Yes, it’s good that you came around,” Sensei barked. “Get over here, Waya-kun.”
Waya was across the room so fast he thought he could see motion lines. He needed to stop borrowing Shindou’s manga, he thought with an edge of hysteria. He was a grown man. He was getting married. He was going to be a father. He looked at Sensei, whose brows were knitted over his eyes, and gulped audibly. He was going to die.
“Now tell me,” Sensei said, “what do you think of this?”
Waya looked at the arrangement of stones on the board. The lower left was nothing short of brilliant, though he couldn’t understand how it had gotten that way. “It’s very...”
“It’s insane, that’s what it is,” Morishita-sensei huffed, and set down the kifu book. “That man has no shame, playing go like a teenager-”
Waya personally had never seen a teenager play like that, except maybe Shindou, who didn’t count. He wisely kept his mouth shut.
“Well,” Sensei said with a distinctly grumpy sigh. “I’m sure you didn’t come to listen to your old teacher ramble.”
“You’re not-” Waya tried valiantly, but Sensei ignored him.
“Why did you come? I don’t think you have a major match coming up, and I know it’s not study group night.” He gave Waya a stern look. “I’m not that decrepit yet, you know.”
“Oh no,” Waya blanched, “I never meant to imply you-”
“Not to say you’re not welcome, but you clearly have something on your mind. Come on, out with it.”
“I,” Waya said, and took a deep breath. He wondered if it was too late to run, since his blending-into-the-wall strategy wasn’t working. “I wanted to ask you if… I was wondering if I could have your permission to…” He took another deep breath. All at once now, like ripping off a band-aid. It would only hurt for a moment (then he’d be dead, probably, but he tried not to think about it). “I’dliketoaskyourpermissiontomarryyourdaughter,” he rattled off, looking at his hands which were gripping his slacks in a way reminiscent of Touya whenever he lost a game – once in a blue moon. “Sensei,” he added timidly when there was no response.
Just as he was wondering whether time had conveniently stopped, Sensei said, “I see. So you think you’re worthy of my little girl, do you?”
Waya’s heart was going a thousand kilometers a second. He gulped down the bile in his throat and reminded himself that at least he was still breathing. “Well, I… I love her and… and I will take care of her and… and…”
“She’s like her mother; I’m sure she’ll take care of you,” Sensei said. “Though you may not always like it. It’s about damn time.”
Waya’s head shot up. “Sensei?”
“I’ve always wanted one of my children to play go beyond an elementary level; I was beginning to wonder if we should accept Kuwabara-sensei’s suit, since you were dragging your feet.”
“Oh God,” Waya said despite himself.
“Although he was at least a little drunk at the time,” Morishita-sensei continued thoughtfully. “Well, anyway, he’d be unlikely to change his name at this point, he’s too well-established, and it would be presumptuous of me to ask. You’ll do better as my successor.”
“...Sensei?” said Waya, feeling the color bleeding from his face. He had thought the worst was over; apparently he had been wrong.
Sensei regarded him shrewdly over the goban. “Is it a problem?” he rumbled.
Waya said a quick, sad farewell to his masculinity. Clearly he wasn’t using it anyway. The choice between painful death and emasculation wasn’t that hard, really. “No, Sensei,” he said. “No problem. It’s, um, an honor.”
“Of course it’s an honor,” Morishita-sensei boomed. “Reika, what does a man have to do to get some sake around here? We have to toast our new son-in-law!”
Morishita-san appeared in the doorway as if by magic, holding a tray and wearing a beatific little smile. Waya realized that she must have known – either that, or she had some sort of superpowers, which he wouldn’t put past her – to get everything so quickly. “How nice! Congratulations, Waya-kun! Welcome to the family.”
“He’s going to be Morishita-kun,” Sensei announced.
Waya tried not to look pathetic. “You can call me Yoshitaka,” he suggested, because the idea of anyone ever calling him Morishita was a bit beyond his capacity to handle at the moment. He assumed he would get used to it. Probably. Eventually. If he survived the birth of his child, anyway.
“Yoshitaka-kun, then,” his future mother-in-law said. Waya realized that he was never going to get an adult honorific out of either of them and tried not to sigh, again. Shindou didn’t know how good he had it.
Morishita-san sat neatly between them and offered him a cup of sake. “Here you go, Yoshitaka-kun,” she said. He did his best not to drain it too eagerly, but his best wasn’t very good at this point. “You know,” Morishita-san said with a crafty look on her face, “we would just love some grandchildren.”
“Yes. I will teach them to play go,” Morishita-sensei said with finality.
Waya tried not to laugh hysterically. “We’ll do our best,” he said weakly.
Morishita-san gave him an unreadable look and he wondered, not for the first time, how much Shigeko shared with her. “I’m sure you will.”