So Hikaru has this problem, and it starts and ends with Touya.
When he tries to talk to Waya about it, Waya naturally gets it all wrong.
"So you like him."
"No," says Hikaru firmly. "I don't like him, like him!" Waya is looking confused, so Hikaru tries to explain again; only he gets tangled up somewhere between "Touya" and "touching" and it comes out like a spectacularly clumsy error on a goban.
"Only I'm not gay so it's not like that," he ends awkwardly.
Waya is trying to be gentle, Hikaru can tell, the way you might with a mental patient. "But Touya thinks you are."
"No. Maybe. He might."
"Because you can't stop touching him."
"But only accidentally!"
"Accidentally all the time."
"But not like that!"
"Except that he thinks it's like that."
"Yes!" says Hikaru triumphantly, relieved to be understood at last.
"Well," says Waya reflectively, "forgive me for making assumptions, but if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck—"
"But I'm not that duck," insists Hikaru. "And anyway, Touya's Touya, he wouldn't care. I mean. Not about the gay thing. If I were gay. Which I'm not."
"Then why are we talking about this?"
"BECAUSE I'M NOT," says Hikaru, wondering how anybody above a four-dan can be this dense. "And Touya might think I am and I don't know how to tell him—"
"But you just said he won't care."
"Yeah, but—but he might get hurt or something," flails Hikaru.
"Oh," says Waya. "So Touya has a crush."
"What? No! Touya wouldn't know a crush if someone hit him over the head with a can of orange soda."
"But you just said—"
"I know but Touya's not like that!" Hikaru angrily attacks his French fries. "I just meant, what if he thinks I've been deceiving him or something?"
"By touching him accidentally and not being gay?"
"YES," says Hikaru. "What if he's thinking all the touching means something? What if he's been really freaking out about it all this time and then I tell him it's not really intentional and he thinks I've been doing it just to mess with his head?"
Waya stares at Hikaru for so long Hikaru begins to wonder if he's lost a few brain cells.
"But you said Touya would be fine with it if you were gay," Waya says blankly. "Why wouldn't he be fine with it if you weren't?"
"Because of all the touching," Hikaru sighs wearily.
"Because he's fine with the gay but not fine with the touching?"
"No, because I'm not gay, and he's fine with the touching!"
"Then what's the problem?"
"The problem," says Hikaru through clenched teeth, "is that I can't stop touching Touya, and sooner or later he's going to want to know why I can't stop touching him if I'm not really gay, and how am I supposed to know what to tell him?!"
Waya tilts his head. "Well, what would you do if another guy tried to touch you all the time?"
"Ew," says Hikaru reflexively. "Another guy? That'd just be weird."
Waya looks as if his only options are to beat his head on the table as hard as he can or focus on his big mac. He opts for the hamburger.
"But you're touching Touya all the time," he says through a mouthful. "And he's touching you all the time. There's nothing weird about any of that?"
"That's different," Hikaru sighs. "It's Touya, it doesn't count."
"Except that you don't want him to think you're gay, so it sort of does count," says Waya.
Hikaru slumps down in his seat in total defeat. "I just don't want him to get the wrong idea or something."
"What if he gets the right idea?" Waya offers unhelpfully. Hikaru rolls his eyes, but Waya waves a hand and continues, "Look, if you keep touching him you must enjoy it, right?"
"I told you," Hikaru says. "It's not like that. I just—"
But he never gets to say what it is like because at that moment Isumi and Touya walk in. Isumi is the one Go player their own age other than Hikaru that Touya actually voluntarily talks to, and although Hikaru knows that this is probably because Isumi gets that whole mini-adult thing Touya does, it still gives him a shock to see them together as though they were friends.
Not that Touya can't have friends. It's just that he doesn't, except for Shindou, really, and then it's not as if they're friends so much as people-who-haven't-managed-to-kill-each-other-yet-over-Go, and also, more recently, people-who-keep-touching-a-lot-for-some-reason, though that's mostly Hikaru's fault and he hasn't figured out why yet.
Waya kicks Shindou under the table and says in an amused voice, "Hey, look, Shindou—Touya's here!"
Hikaru feels his cheeks start to burn and he claps his hands over them and looks sullenly at the table. Touya comes over and eyes him curiously.
"Were you waiting on me for something?" he says by way of greeting. He sounds so damn formal. Hikaru has trouble sometimes talking to Touya in public because it's when Touya's in public that he actually has some sort of manners around Hikaru, and it always throws Hikaru off.
He says, "Nah," to Touya, who appears to be satisfied and puts his bookbag down in the seat next to him. His shoulder brushes Hikaru's as he straightens, just briefly, but it jolts Hikaru, who looks up at Waya automatically to find Waya watching the two of them like a scientist observing lab rats.
Isumi wants to wait out the line, so he sits down and thankfully distracts Waya for a bit. Hikaru watches them in something like envy. Waya and Isumi are best friends just like Touya and he: they can touch each other all the time. They do touch each other all the time—they muss each other's hair and punch each other's arms and grab each other around the neck in fake strangleholds. Hikaru tries to imagine doing any of those things to Touya but his mental picture can't get past the squawk of surprise Touya would let out if he tried. It's just that Touya is so… Touya. They don't get physical over anything except Go.
Though sometimes, their Go can get really physical.
Shindou feels himself flushing.
Touya comes back and Isumi goes. Touya always orders the same thing, a tiny side salad, because he's afraid the food at McDonald's will somehow make him fat or give him a stroke or something, and even then he really won't do anything but sit and eye his salad as if it might attack him. He sits down now beside Hikaru and proceeds to open the plastic fork by daintily ripping one end of the wrapper, which always drives Hikaru slightly nuts and today is driving him major nuts. Touya is from Planet of the Bizarro Freaks or something, or maybe Planet of the Adults—but Hikaru can't imagine himself ever acting like Touya even when he's Kuwabura's age, so it must just be Touya who's weird and strange.
The table is suddenly silent, with Waya just sort of staring at the two of them intently, and even if Touya hasn't noticed it yet, he will. Waya never talks much to Touya anyway, and today he looks content just to watch the two of them together instead of actually talking. If Touya figures this out it might make him nervous and awkward and shy, and Hikaru hates it when Touya is nervous and awkward and shy because it's like the anti-Touya, so Hikaru knows it's up to him to keep the table conversation flowing.
But if he talks to Waya, Waya might drop stupid hints about him and Touya as if there's something to hint about. And talking to Touya means, er, talking to Touya: having to listen to Touya answer him in that voice that reminds him of oolong and chocolate and things that are dark and smooth and really really good.
"Are you okay?" says Touya, looking at Hikaru as if he's just placed five stones for nigiri.
"See if he has a fever," Waya says.
"I'm fine," Hikaru yelps, because Touya's about to put his hand on Hikaru's forehead, and Hikaru will be damned if he's going to let himself enjoy something like that in public. "I think my hamburger was undercooked."
Touya frowns. "You shouldn't eat beef anyway," he says, which Hikaru knows is his way of expressing concern. "I'll get you some tea or milk or something."
Touya is wearing a boring and tidy button-up dress shirt of cobalt that's turned his eyes to the exact same color, and when Hikaru looks up, grateful to Touya for the offer, he's sort of struck speechless.
He nods instead, and probably looks a little sicker as well, because Touya almost hurries back into the line for him.
Waya tilts his head and waits until Touya is out of earshot before declaring, "So when's the wedding?"
Hikaru suddenly recalls that outside of Go, normal teenagers are disgusting, cannibalistic freaks. No wonder Touya doesn't want to be one of them.
"You should face it, Hikaru," Waya continues. "He's got it bad and so do you."
Hikaru wants to make some sort of retort, but Touya might hear, and his stomach is curling every which way for some reason, and really he just wants to skip out of Go with Touya today and go hide under his bedcovers. He settles for glaring at Waya and sinking down into his chair.
Isumi comes back (with diet coke, a concept Hikaru finds irrational) and slaps Waya on the back as he sits down. Hikaru hates Waya for having the best of both worlds. "I've just been learning the most interesting things about Shindou-kun," says Waya. "I'll have to tell you all about it later."
"Why not now?"
"Not now," Waya replies smoothly. "I don't want to embarrass Shindou."
Hikaru glares at the table and refuses to look at them until Touya returns.
Touya brings him tea and milk and somehow in the act of taking it Hikaru's fingers touch Touya's briefly. As small as the touch is, it still feels like something Hikaru's been waiting for all day. He looks up, flushes, and says thanks. Really, more like squeaks thanks.
Isumi pokes Waya and tells him to eat his French fries before they get cold.
Touya seems to be oblivious to all this, but then he always seems to be oblivious. Hikaru knows Touya feels out of place coming here. He watches Touya daintily dipping his lettuce into the salad dressing on the side and thinks maybe he shouldn't invite Touya out so much. He only does it because… well, because he likes spending time with Touya. Touya doesn't have to come if Touya doesn't enjoy himself around other people. But for some reason he always comes. And now Hikaru's wondering if maybe that's because he just wants to spend time around Hikaru.
The idea of Touya actually wanting to spend as much time as possible with Hikaru has never really occurred to him before. That they do spend time together he takes for granted, because, well, being professional Go rivals is work, see.
Then he tries to picture Touya spending that much time with Isumi or Ochi or Ogata-san just because of Go.
He doesn't realize he's scowling until Touya elbows him in the side.
"What's with you?" he says, his voice sharp.
"Maybe it's his stomach," says Waya. "Too many butterflies."
Hikaru shoves his tray away and covers his face with his arms. He's weighing his options, and whether going for a stranglehold at the table would be better than waiting til they're on the street and pushing Waya in front of a convenient bus, when Touya puts his hand on Hikaru's arm.
"Shindou," he says softly. "We can go if you want. You obviously don't feel well."
Hikaru's brain is too busy going 'HAND. ARM. ASDFKLAJKFL.' to process for a moment that Touya is offering him an escape route. He sits up and looks over at Waya and Isumi who are both studying the two of them with looks of amusement, and Hikaru actually thinks 'SCORE!' when Touya adds in his low purring murmur that he'll be happy to call a cab back to his place.
Hikaru grins. It feels like the kind of wide silly grin he associates with the criminally insane or the stupidly infatuated, and for a moment it's tough to remember that he's neither of the above. "I'm fine, really," he says to Touya, and he suddenly feels fine, really. "I'll show you, later. Er, when we play," he adds.
Touya looks back at him curiously. "Then show me," he says, and his voice goes low and challenging and dark. It's that voice, the voice that could bring other Go players to their knees and possibly defrock members of the clergy. Hikaru wonders absently if he can find a way to keep Touya talking forever. Except then Touya says, "Shindou," pointedly, and looks down at the space between them, and Hikaru realizes that somehow he's put his other hand on the arm Touya has placed on his arm, so they're like one big arm-sandwich and he hasn't even noticed because it just feels like one of those things you do without thinking.
"Uh," he says, and pushes his chair back. "Refill." He grabs his tea and Touya's and hightails it to the drink stand.
"Ah," says Isumi behind him faintly. "So that's why you wanted to talk about it later."
"I feel a friendly bet coming on," remarks Waya.
"A thousand yen?"
"Make it double."
Hikaru wants to die.
Lately Hikaru hasn't been playing very well against Touya, which is to say he's still been winning games, more or less, but he hasn't been playing well, and he knows Touya has noticed this; but since the reasons have nothing to do with Go, and everything to do with Hikaru being slightly paranoid that if he lets himself bend over the Go board too far he might find himself doing something rabid and freakish like touching Touya's cheek, he hasn't bothered explaining to Touya why he's not playing well. Which apparently is a huge mistake, because Touya is currently being an absolute monster about it all of a sudden, as if it's somehow a personal insult to him that Hikaru can't stop thinking about Touya's hands on the Go stones, and how he absolutely can't touch them.
"Shindou," Touya is yelling. "What the hell are you doing?" The yelling is a bad move on his part because when he's angry like this the veins of his neck stand out and his eyes flash and whatever concentration Hikaru has relocates somewhere in the vicinity of Touya's collarbone.
"I'm playing Go, you idiot!" he snaps, glaring at the ridge of Touya's Adam's apple because staring at it is unacceptable.
"This isn't playing Go!" Touya screams, his tone so emotional it snaps Hikaru's gaze back to his face, which is purplish and blotchy with rage, and really, what kind of idiot would ever find that attractive? "You're playing like a child, you're completely ignoring my attacks, you're just moving pieces around. What is this, am I not good enough for you to play seriously or something?"
"I am playing seriously, you jackass," retorts Hikaru, feeling his face heat up. "Just because you can't recognize a genius strategy when you see one—"
"Stop bullshitting me, Shindou, this isn't the Junior High Tournament!" Touya shrieks, and he actually slams his final stone down on the Go board so hard that the goban tips over. The pieces scatter, and he instantly looks mortified and rights the board, but his anger is still there. Hikaru has only ever seen Touya this upset once, and it's not a time he wants to think about, so he retreats from it the only way he knows how: through a counterattack.
"What the fuck is your problem?" he yells. "Since when did losing make you such a klutz?"
He realizes that may not have been the smartest of tactics when he notices Touya's hands are shaking. An instant later, a handful of Go stones are flung at his face.
Hikaru blocks them as best he can, which is difficult considering they were aimed at close range. They rattle around at his feet, and he stares stupidly as Touya gets up and stares down at him, his expression full of cold fury. "Since when did winning make you unable to treat me as an equal?"
Hikaru gawks. "Touya, what are you talking about?"
"You don't play me seriously, Shindou," Touya replies. There is an urgency in his voice that makes something in Hikaru's gut twist miserably. "You haven't for days. You've either moved beyond me or you've completely lost your mind because the way you're playing you can't be serious. And you won't admit that you're not playing me seriously so I can only assume you no longer see me as your competition."
"But you're my rival," says Hikaru in utter confusion, as if that word explains everything. It always has for Hikaru; since when has Touya been on some other wavelength?
"Am I?" Touya asks, still looking down at him with that hard, agonizing stare.
Hikaru blinks up at him. "Yes," he pleads. "Now sit back down."
Touya hesitates. "Shindou, you're playing like a twelve-year old."
Hikaru looks down at the goban. He suddenly feels twelve, and very lost and alone. The absence of Sai rushes over him all at once, and his eyes sting.
A rustle of fabric is all the noise Touya makes as he sits down again, directly beside Hikaru this time. When he puts his hand over Hikaru's arm it doesn't feel awkward at all.
"I'm not doing it on purpose," Hikaru mutters into the goban.
"But your official matches have been fine," says Touya, and his voice is constricted. He sounds the way Hikaru feels. "You're only playing like this against me."
Hikaru wants to answer but everything he wants to say is getting stuck in his throat.
"If…if you've passed me," says Touya, and his voice is a shaky, hoarse whisper; Hikaru suspects if he looks up he would see that Touya's face is white as well. "Then—then wait for me to catch you again." His voice drops even lower. "Don't leave me behind."
There's a part of Hikaru that's aware that something earth-shattering is happening here and that if he could just stop his heart pounding long enough he might be able to figure out why it feels so important and so necessary, all of it. Touya's fingers are clenching his wrist, so tightly they will almost certainly leave a bruise, and Hikaru doubts Touya even realizes it.
"Touya," he says uncertainly, and then stops, because telling somebody how you never ever want them to leave you, ever, ever, ever, just when they need to hear it most, isn't something he's good at. I'm sorry, Sai, he thinks, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, and he stammers, "Don't be stupid."
Touya bows his head very low, and clutches onto Hikaru even harder. Hikaru blurts out, "It's not you. I haven't passed you and I'm not going to pass you. It wouldn't be fun anymore if it wasn't with you." He isn't even sure what he means by that but Touya isn't shaking so much and his grip has loosened a fraction, so Hikaru keeps talking. "It's my problem, not yours, and I'm working on it but it's not you, honest, so don't be such an idiot. I'd never leave you behind, Touya, geez, who do you think I am, anyway?"
And then, because Touya is right there, and because he wants to, Hikaru leans over and runs his hand through Touya's hair. It's silky and soft and sleek and just like he's always thought it would be, which is a surprise in and of itself. Touya's muscles relax and he sits up slowly before letting go of Hikaru's arm with a slightly mortified look on his face.
Hikaru lowers his hand and wishes he could have had a few more moments to keep stroking Touya's hair.
"I'm being irrational," Touya says softly. "I apologize."
It's such a strange thing to hear from him that Hikaru turns his head and gazes at him and sees Touya wearing a stricken, sad expression that makes his heart turn over several times in his chest.
"Touya," he says, and suddenly a lot of things that seemed dreadfully confusing before aren't confusing at all.
Touya's face clears as though he's remembered that adults don't let other people see their unhappiness. Which is funny considering that Hikaru is fighting the urge to lean his head on Touya's shoulder and cry.
"Would you still…" he says. "If something happened and I couldn't play Go anymore, would you still…" And he doesn't even know how to finish that thought so he doesn't.
Touya looks at him and his eyes darken. "Yes," he says.
"Oh," says Hikaru. "Me too."
They look at each other, and then Hikaru picks up his fan and Touya moves back around to the other side of the goban, and they nigiri without a word.
With his head down over the board, and his hair catching the twilight through the parlor windows, Touya is stunning, and Shindou thinks that whatever the Hand of God is, it probably looks and feels a lot like this.
Hikaru learns by watching, now as always. Except now, instead of watching the stones, he watches Touya.
Hikaru is leaning against the registration table for the Osaka Go festival watching Touya attempt to mingle. He's wearing a black suit with a screaming pink tie that Hikaru bought for him once just to annoy him, knowing he'd never actually wear it out in public. But now he has, and he keeps getting complimented on it, too, which Hikaru can tell is driving him nuts. At the moment, however, Ochi has cornered him and is talking to him about his next title match. If he wins he will be the first pro since his father to hold three titles simultaneously. It's the talk of the tournament, along with that tie.
Touya's doing that thing he does where he's trying to be polite even though he clearly has no interest in the person who's talking to him. "If I were playing," Ochi is saying, "I'd stay on the offensive. Yamabura's weak point is stamina in a long attack game."
"But you're not going to be playing," Touya replies, in a perfect imitation of Ochi himself. Ochi looks flabbergasted for a moment, then narrows his eyes in irritation, and meanwhile Touya's standing there, straight and thin and confident with his eyes already moving on to Hikaru. "Please excuse me," he says with a quick bow, and then he's coming over, leaving Ochi gaping like a fish.
It's then that Hikaru feels himself shiver. Because Touya is such an ass sometimes, he thinks, but not to him. Everyone wants a piece of him, but Touya blows them off like they're nothing. And they are nothing to him, just opponents in a whole life of opponents—but Hikaru, Hikaru matters to Touya, knows now that he always has and always will.
And then it's like a thousand Go stones landing in his stomach at once, and Hikaru wants to keep Touya like that forever. Not just as a rival thing but as a you-and-me thing. He wants to make it official.
He wants to do something crazy, like run his hand down Touya's perfectly straight back and keep it at his waist, right now, in public, so everybody can see it. So that everybody can see Shindou Hikaru's hand on Touya Akira's waist and know that this is how they are, the two of them, how they always will be.
He has to clench his hands into fists instead, 'cause they're sort of shaky.
Holy shit, he thinks. Holy shit, I kind of love him.
Touya is looking at him with a narrow-eyed scrutiny. "You look like you've been hit with back-to-back tsuke," he says.
Hikaru takes a deep breath. "How much time do we have before the first match?"
Touya glances at his watch. "Twenty-eight minutes."
Hikaru doesn't know whether that's enough time, or not enough, or anything, but he says, "Come on," and grabs Touya's hand.
Touya balks. "Where are we going?"
Since Hikaru can't exactly say he just tugs harder on Touya's hand. "Shindou, I'm not going to a ramen stand with you," says Touya warily.
"Touyaaaa," says Hikaru in exasperation. Touya is ruining the moment and he hasn't even blinked at Hikaru holding his hand. In desperation he turns and laces his fingers through Touya's.
Touya's eyes go very wide. This time when Hikaru tugs he follows without a word.
Hikaru sort of hopes no one is watching them because Touya is red-faced and he's sure he probably is too and it probably looks like they're going off to find a deserted place to shag or something. There's a classroom with the lights off just off the main hallway. Hikaru drags Touya inside it and shuts the door. He could let go of Touya's hand now, but for some reason, he hasn't.
"I—" he says. "I just—"
He stands there helplessly for a moment longer, with Touya looking at him in growing bewilderment, before deciding recklessly that if he's going to be gay, then dammit, he's going to be gay with Touya, because it's no fun doing things without him. If he wants to kiss Touya then it means Touya probably wants to kiss him too, because any other way wouldn't make sense, so he tugs Touya's hand and the rest of him closer, wraps his free hand around Touya's waist, and kisses him.
He gets as far as brushing his lips across Touya's when Touya jerks back and says in a shrill voice, "Shindou, what—is this some kind of joke?"
"No," says Hikaru stupidly, blinking at him, feeling his face turning what feels like the reddest he's ever been in his life.
"You're not—Waya didn't put you up to this on a dare?" Touya's eyes are wide and his expression is uncertain, and Hikaru didn't know anything in the world could feel this awful.
"No," he says. "I just—thought you'd—oh god, Touya, I'm sorry."
"You idiot," says Touya. "You idiot."
"I'm not even gay," says Hikaru wildly. "I don't know why I even—"
"Shindou," Touya says, and he sounds like he might actually hit Hikaru. Hikaru backs away from him just in case. "You can't just kiss somebody like that."
"No!" says Touya, who has clenched his fists, which lends nothing to Hikaru's sense of safety. "You have to let them know first or, or something. You have to make sure they know you're serious! You have to make sure they want to kiss you back!"
"Oh," replies Hikaru, who sort of thought you just kissed first and worked out the details afterwards. But Touya is, after all, from the land of the adults, and perhaps they have some kind of procedure for things like this. "Well. Do you want to kiss me back?"
Touya blinks at him, and Hikaru remembers that he's not gay. He's going to mention this again when Touya takes a deep breath and says, "Yes." Then he takes another breath and says, "Of course I do. I mean." Another breath, and then his voice drops to a near-whisper. "You idiot."
"Oh," says Hikaru again. And then they stare at each other.
Touya steps in and says, "I really liked it the other day. When you were touching my hair." And god, something like that shouldn't make the blood run backwards all through Hikaru's body, but it does, and he steps in, too, so Touya can hold him up if his knees give out.
"Me too," he says. His voice is all wobbly.
"Was this why you couldn't play?" Touya murmurs. His eyes are narrow and intense and vivid bright blue, and Hikaru sort of rasps out, "Yeah," and leans in, because Touya is harsh and brilliant and perfect and if he doesn't kiss him something truly awful might happen like the world ending, and when Touya leans in and meets his lips Hikaru thinks for one beautiful moment that it is the end of the world, because Touya is kissing him, Touya loves him and is kissing him and nothing will ever, can ever top this, ever.
Or so he thinks until Touya says, "Shindou…" like that and slips his tongue in between Hikaru's teeth, and then it's a whole new apocalypse.
The next twenty-five minutes are a blur of teeth and tongues and groping and Touya's fingernails digging into his back and Touya's collarbone tasting just as good as Hikaru's been imagining it would for the past two weeks, and Touya's voice going all throaty and purry and doing more for Hikaru's sex drive than years of adolescent fantasies about girls in bikinis have ever managed to accomplish. Hikaru has his hand on the waistband of Touya's trousers when Touya gasps, "Wait—Shindou—we have a match, you can't."
"Forfeit," Hikaru gasps, because dammit, there is something in life more important than Go, and anyone else about to give Touya Akira a blowjob would agree with him.
"You're not going to stay at three-dan because of me, you ass," hisses Touya, which, unfortunately for Hikaru's very aching erection, reminds him that Touya has to secure a win today in order to compete for next week's title, and if he lost because of Hikaru, Hikaru might never get to have sex, like, ever.
With the biggest effort of his life he manages to drag himself away from Touya and stuff his shirt back inside his pants. Touya does likewise, while staring at him with a look Hikaru is certain is calculated to make him as horny and miserably turned on as possible. He's suddenly very grateful today's tournament isn't televised, because he is quite certain he is going to be sporting a hard-on for the rest of the day, or at the very least, til he can drag Touya away somewhere for a proper ravishment.
Before he can lose himself in thoughts of what a properly ravished Touya will look like, there is a knock at the door, and Waya pokes his head inside.
"It's time to start the match," he says. "The others are all ready."
"Geez, you could have told us sooner," says Hikaru, heading out the door, not waiting for Touya to follow.
"I thought you were busy," says Waya dryly.
"We were," says Touya pointedly, grasping Hikaru's shoulder. His voice is dark and possessive, and when Hikaru turns to gawk Touya's chin is lifted and his eyes are sharp.
"By the way, Waya-san," he says, ignoring Waya's narrow look. "Isumi-san owes you 2,000 yen."
And he runs his hand down Hikaru's back and rests it just above Hikaru's waist.