1. It is possible to be naked with another person without suffering horrific embarrassment.
Though he is unusual in many respects, Touya is a teenage boy, and therefore has a list of things he does not like about his body. When he looks at himself in the mirror, he feels trapped by his weak, slender frame. His hips are too pointy, almost like a girls'. His mother had to take in the only pair of jeans in his entire wardrobe because he has no ass. His wrists are so bony that they're sharp, and he can't quite stop himself from wishing they were stronger. He can't spend any time in the sun without getting burned, burns which show up in ugly red patches on his mushroom-pale skin. In Touya Akira's mind, these things are as vivid and obvious to everyone else as they are to him. He is secretly terrified that one day he will want to have sex with someone badly enough to attempt it, and then they will see him naked, and it will all be over.
One day though, Shindou Hikaru moans into Touya's mouth, and rocks his hips upward, and uses his beautiful fingers to unbutton Touya's shirt just under the collar.
"Touya," Hikaru says with lust and adventure in his voice.
Touya forgets to think anything and focuses on getting both of their clothes off as fast as humanly possible.
2. People who are loud in everyday life are not always loud in bed.
The first time they go all the way, Shindou, who is on the bottom, is surprisingly non-verbal. He pants. He moans. Saliva runs in a silvery trail down the side of his face. He does not say anything salacious or incendiary or call out any names. This is the exact opposite of the shrieking, verbose Shindou that Touya knows from the other side of the goban, and it is a little unnerving. But then, it occurs to Akira a few minutes in that Shindou's eyes have stayed locked on his the entire time, even when it looks like he's fighting to keep them open against the sensations that are consuming his body. He keeps a firm hand in Touya's hair, makes a mess of the sheets when they stick to the sweat on his back, and does this completely gorgeous thing with his hips that Touya doesn't have words for.
Hikaru doesn't talk, and Akira doesn't mind.
3. There is something in the universe as addictively enjoyable as Go.
The first time Akira makes Hikaru come, the only thought in his head that translates into words is that he wants to see Hikaru make that face as often as possible, every day for the rest of their lives. They separate, panting.
"Oh wow. Can I try that on you?" Hikaru asks before either of them has a chance to breathe.
4. As soon as girls with whom you are acquainted find out that you're having sex with another male, they automatically begin to treat you like you're one of their best girlfriends.
"We'll ask Touya!"
"Don't, please, you'll embarrass him! Nase!"
Touya looks up from his kifu to find that Nase and Isumi standing above him.
"Touya-kun, Isumi doesn't believe me that he needs to keep his bangs long in the front. I say he does!"
"Nase, I told you not to ask Touya! It doesn't matter what anyone thinks of my hair, honest!" Isumi is blushing and backpedaling, and Touya knows he would apologize right then and there if it wouldn't insult Nase to do so.
"Touya-kun, what do you think? I told him it makes him look so mature."
Touya gulps. Isumi-san is, in fact, very nice looking, and Touya does like men well enough to have noticed this in the past. It's just that he only thinks of Hikaru as sexy these days, and he does that often enough not to need to think about whether or not it's a term that applies to other people. He supposes though, from the way that Nase has been blushing and giggling, and from the very particular way she's holding Isumi-san's arm, that the answer to this question must matter to someone. Not wanting to insult either of them with his silence, he's almost about to speak when he's rescued by the most unlikely of saviors.
"He looks mature because he is mature," Waya says, unpacking a bento from his bag onto the table. "His hair's got nothing to do with it."
"Th-thank you, Waya." Isumi says, and Touya thinks that perhaps Isumi-san is blushing harder than he was a moment before.
Nase seems satisfied, and hauls away Isumi, who glances over his shoulder at them as he follows her to her table. Touya stares at Waya in disbelief before breathlessly declaring, "Thank you," since he can think of nothing else to say. Waya shrugs at him.
"Yeah, like I did it for you," says Waya, who is still sort of a jerk after all.
5. Avoiding getting arrested for public indecency requires a lot more effort than it did when you were only imagining sex instead of remembering it.
"Shindou, be quiet!"
"There's n-never anybody here except us. Ohhh, like that."
"That is NOT the point."
"Touya, your dad owns the place. Do you really think he's…mmm, sorry, do you really think he's going to do anything if someone catches us?"
"He wouldn't, but I will," says the firm and unwelcoming voice of Ichikawa-san, "If you're not both out of that stall, properly dressed in the next three minutes, I'll have to tell the elderly patrons exactly who it was they heard making a racket in the bathroom."
Her high heels click as she walks out the door. Touya's face is as red as the disgustingly bright Chinese wallpaper. Shindou grins like an idiot.
"Come on, let's go to your place so we can move this into yose."
6. Some things are more easily said with words after you've said them with your actions.
The day of Touya's twentieth birthday, he has to fly off to Beijing for the second round of an international competition. Hikaru is determined that they celebrate together before Touya leaves.
"I'm just going to China, Shindou! The flight is only an hour, and I can call you when I get there."
"You're gonna be gone on your birthday, you idiot!" says Shindou, as though this explains everything. They are on the train together, and Shindou is holding his hand, totally unaffected by the stares several high school girls are throwing at them.
"But we were gone on your birthday this year too, remember? We had the Samsung Preliminaries."
"But we were gone together, Touya. Besides, it wasn't like my birthday was that big a deal." Hikaru conveniently left out the fact that he'd gotten horribly drunk on his birthday with Waya, Isumi, Ashiwara, and Ogata at the bar, and Nase had lent Hikaru some bobby pins to help keep him from getting vomit in his hair afterwards. To Touya's knowledge, Hikaru had never really thanked her properly, but Touya supposed Hikaru didn't remember the incident very well.
The ride on the train is smooth, their hand-holding only interrupted when an elderly man with a bad limp boards and Hikaru stands to give up his seat. It's a Friday night, and the Tokyo subway is busy as they exit the train, alive with the hustle and bustle of tourists and thrillseekers going out for the night. Not for the first time, it strikes Touya that his tall, gorgeous companion would easily blend in with the crowd around them, if not for the fact that they are holding hands. This alone, he thinks to himself, marks Hikaru as as being his in the eyes of the outside world, not that the opinion of the outside world matters at all.
It is only after they have exited the station and walked out into the squalid air of Shinjuku does it occur to Touya where Shindou might be dragging him to.
"Shindou, are you taking me to a love hotel?"
Shindou blushes instantly, but he doesn't let go of Touya's hand.
"It was supposed to be a surprise! But, um, yeah, I thought that way, we can go enjoy ourselves for a few hours, but neither of us has to spend the night, and I can walk you home after, and you can still get up in time for your flight tomorrow morning."
Touya blushes, and notices that the tips of Hikaru's ears have gone a little pink.
"Do you want to?" Hikaru asks sheepishly, scratching the back of his head nervously.
There are a thousand things Touya wants to say in response that he's not sure if he can explain to Shindou. He wants to explain that until he and Hikaru began this strange little courtship of theirs, nobody had ever made him blush so often, or feel so wanted, so much of the time. Shindou gets excited about Touya's birthday, holds his hand in public all the time, and makes Touya, who wears argyle sweater and expensive khaki pants, look and feel like he fits in with a bunch of trendy Tokyo jetsetters heading out for a night on the town. Touya belongs here because he belongs with Shindou. Always.
Before Hikaru has a chance to ask what's wrong with him, Akira makes use of their intertwined fingers and pulls them together so that he can crush their mouths into a kiss. Hikaru squeaks, because they never kiss each other like this in public, but doesn't protest, and wraps his arm around Touya's neck. They stand there, five feet outside the entrance to the subway, kissing each other with slow, steady vigor, until they have to pull back for breath.
"I love you," The words tumble out of Touya's mouth unbidden, which is really the only way he can say them. Hikaru looks at him with the most beautiful green eyes Touya has ever seen, and his chest aches from the sensation of this moment with its pure, unbroken edges, that he will remember forever.
"I love you too," Hikaru says earnestly, and his eyes are wet with tears that Touya wants to catch in his mouth with more kisses.
Everything adorning their room in the love hotel is half black, half white, split straight down the middle. Both of them take a moment to laugh at this before Hikaru takes a fistful of the complimentary chocolates from a bowl near the door and asks Touya to nigiri for the black half of the bed.
7. Your sex life will always, always have a lot to do with your parents, even though just putting the two concepts in the same sentence gives you the heebie-jeebies.
One Saturday, when Touya doesn't have a match scheduled and his parents are in Japan for the rest of the month, his mother decides to keep him in for the evening so that they can make dinner together. Shindou is in Beijing for a competition until Tuesday anyway, so it's not as if Akira has anything better to do. The Touya family is wealthy enough at this point to never need to prepare their own meals, but Akiko has always taken pride in her ability to do it anyway.
"It's a shame we don't get to do this very often anymore, Akira," says Akiko sweetly, drying her hands on her apron. "Whenever your father and I are home, you're always so busy!"
Akiko never had any daughters, and Touya Kouyo has always been far too sensible a man to resist the idea of his only son learning how to cook.
"I regret it too," Akira says truthfully as he slices the aburaage into halves. He hasn't had inarizushi in awhile, and he always enjoyed it as a child. It seems appropriate that they are here, on the verge of his twenty first birthday, making it together. His mother smiles gently as she adds dashi to the pan of ingredients.
"How have you been doing lately? Are you taking pleasure in your work?"
"Of course mother," Akira says, "I always have."
"Your father tells me that you and Shindou are expected to face each other next month. He sounds as if the Go world is very excited at the prospect."
It's an innocent remark, but something about it makes Akira take pause. Rather understandably, he and his mother do not often discuss the details of his life involving Go. Through no fault or volition of her own, Akiko's life has been surrounded by people who talk of nothing but Go for the better part of the last thirty years. For this reason alone, she has always tried to share as many different things as she could with her son. For a split second, Akira feels a stabbing surge of fear spread through his chest at the possibility that Ichikawa-san told her about the incident a year and a half ago in the Go salon bathroom, and it makes him drop the knife he was cutting with into the sink. His mother stares a him.
"Akira, are you alright?"
And the thing is, it's not as if she's looking at him with suspicion or accusation in her eyes. He could earnestly tell her that he's fine, that his hand slipped, and she would believe him, at least outwardly. But Akira realizes with a sudden sinking feeling that to do this would be a lie, and he's suddenly very tired of lying by omission to his mother. They are alone in the kitchen together, his father sequestered away in his study, and there are no matches to prepare for, or bags to pack, or planes to catch the next morning. Suddenly, now seems like the moment he has to tell her.
"Mother," he says slowly, and he's surprised to find that he needs to lean against the counter in order to form the words, "there's something I have to tell you about me and Shindou."
Akiko turns to face him, switching off the burner as she does so.
"Akira-kun, are you alright?"
"Mother," his voice catches in his throat, and he has to will himself to breathe again, "Shindou and I…we aren't just friends. Or Rivals, either. We're…" he doesn't know which word is the right one, because really, it's not as if he and Shindou have ever felt the need to explain themselves to anybody else. People are generally not rude enough to ask outright, and people who know them well have always seemed to understand. He doesn't want to say "lovers", because on some level he's sure the word implies that his relationship with Shindou is purely about sex. He doesn't want to say "partners" either, though that seems more accurate, because partners usually live together, and even though it's been two years and both of them live away from their childhood homes, they haven't taken that step yet. He realizes he's been pausing for rather longer than necessary, and that his mother is probably getting worried, so he tries to explain it as best he knows how.
"Mother, Shindou and I are in love. With each other. We…" and he's surprised to feel a warm, steady hand on his shoulder.
"Akira." Akiko says, and she touches her son's chin to make him meet her eyes. When he does, he finds them warm and full of comforting, maternal affection.
"Do you think I don't know my own son?"
Akira doesn't have a response to that, so he gasps instead. Akiko continues, smiling.
"Akira, you were always very mature for a teenager, and you never really needed me to help you sort out your affairs. But you never really went out on dates like a regular teenager, and when you did spend the evening elsewhere, you would usually tell me it was with Shindou."
"I wasn't…I wasn't trying to lie to you," he says sadly, guilt washing over him. His mother pulls him into a hug. The last time she hugged him this tightly was the day of his father's heart attack.
"You are my son, and I love you. Your father and I know what it means when you and Shindou look at each other the way that you do, or when you stay late at the Go salon for hours so you can play games and argue with him. It's alright."
"I…" He feels guilty and relieved all at once, "I'm sorry I never told you."
"I never thought that there was anything to tell," Akiko says laughingly, releasing her son from their embrace, "You were old enough to make your own decisions about your friends and your relationships a long time ago. We, as your parents, have to respect your choices."
"Does father really understand?" Akira feels his face heat with shame for having to ask such a question when he's been met with nothing but warmth and acceptance since the beginning of this conversation. Akiko laughs.
"We had dinner with Seiji-san last month, and your father told Seiji-san that he was very proud that you were bringing another Go player into the family. Especially one with, oh, what was the phrase he used…ah, 'such an eclectic style'. That's what he said."
Akira feels an odd combination of pride and embarrassment spiral through him.
"Ogata-san knows that Shindou and I are-"
"Dear, Ogata-san sees you and Shindou more often than we do these days. He's been friends with the family for a very long time. Besides, we both know it's not as if he has any room to comment on the romantic indiscretions of others."
"And he doesn't…gossip…about it?"
"Akira! To say such a thing! No, I'm sure that he doesn't. And Go Weekly doesn't write about it, I'm sure, in an effort to be polite. Also because they know that your father would never give them an interview again if they went digging through your personal life."
"You have nothing to worry about. Shindou is very dear to you, and will therefore always be welcome in our home. Now," she said, snatching the bottle of mirin off of the counter, "let's finish making dinner before your father starts to worry."
8. Just because you've had sex with someone doesn't mean you know everything about them.
"I promise it's all true. Do you believe me, Akira?" Hikaru's face is wet with tears, and there's a desperate, lost quality to his voice that makes Touya want to shiver.
When Shindou leaves, closing the door behind him, it occurs to Touya that silence was probably just as hurtful as any angry thing he could have said.
9. Missing sex when you've never had it before isn't the same as missing it once you have.
It's the second round of the Oza tournament, and Touya is in hell. He's tied moku for moku with Ochi Kousuke, and he's trying his best not to look up from the board because if he does, he'll see Shindou.
Shindou, who he hasn't spoken to in just under three weeks. Shindou, who smelled like hair gel and soap mixed with a sweet smell all his own as they got out of the elevator. Shindou, who might never forgive him for reacting so badly to the truth he'd waited so long to hear.
I'm in hell, Touya tells himself miserably, and lays down a checking extension. Ochi scowls at him as Touya punches the clock.
Lunch is long and torturous. Touya can't help but note that Shindou and Yashiro, who haven't seen each other much since the Hokuto cup, leave for lunch together. As they step into the elevator, Yashiro smiles and says something funny, and Shindou laughs in response as the doors slide shut. The ache in his chest is suddenly so real and so sharp that Touya wants to die. He's about halfway finished with his thermos of tea when Ochi sits down across from him, glaring daggers.
"You," he says as though the word were an affront to his very nature, "You aren't playing me seriously."
"I am," Touya snaps back, really not wanting to have this conversation. Ochi meets his eyes, sizing him up for a moment before gritting his teeth.
"You're not. If you were, I wouldn't be beating you."
It takes Touya a moment to register that Ochi just basically admitted that Touya is a better Go player than he is. It's not something that anyone who has met Ochi would expect him to be capable of stating out loud. Touya shakes his head.
"You're not going to win."
"Yes, I am. But I don't want to."
That catches Touya off guard. "Excuse me?"
"Do you think I'm stupid? Do you think we're all stupid? That there's anyone in this room who hasn't noticed you've broken up with Shindou?"
Oh god, I hope I haven't, is the best Touya's inner-monologue can supply in response. He tries not to let the tension rising inside him show on his face, but he senses from Ochi's bitter expression that he's failing miserably.
"Don't waste my time. I don't want to beat you when you're distracted because of him. I want to beat you when you're playing me all out with everything you've got."
For the first time in several years, it occurs to Touya how much of an insult to someone it really is when you're only using their Go to get to somebody else's.
"I don't know what the two of you did to each other. And I don't care. But don't fuck around with me," Ochi says flatly as he stands up to leave.
Touya looks at his watch. There are only thirteen minutes left of the lunch break. With halting, heavy steps, he stands, turns, and walks across the hall to the tournament room. Shindou's goban is there in a corner, waiting for him.
The board is a mess of complex spirals and patterns that to Touya alone, are as distinctive as fingerprints. There's an interesting invasion going on in the lower left where Shindou's opponent attempted a four-four point invasion, but Touya knows from experience that Shindou's too smart to get dragged into a serious fight over it. Within three moves he'll hane, followed by a kikashi that will destroy the middle of his opponent's framework entirely, and will put him ahead in territory. If Shindou continues to play this well throughout, he will most certainly win, and by at least three moku. Touya's pulse starts to race.
If he wins his match today against Ochi, he and Shindou will be facing each other, as predicted, in the third round of eliminations.
If I can't have Shindou Hikaru, perhaps I can at least have his Go, Touya tells himself, trying to ignore the desperate pang of rage and loneliness that washes over him with the thought.
When he settles down to resume his match, Touya prepares himself to walk all over Ochi. He doesn't read deeply enough outside of Go to recognize the pattern in his behavior, and wouldn't care if he did.
10. Make up sex is almost as good as make up Go.
The day of the third round of the Oza matches is the longest day of Touya Akira's life.
"That," says Akira, finally collapsing back on the bed, "was incredible."
"The game earlier, or the sex?" Hikaru is still panting from the aftermath of his orgasm. Instinctively, they crawl close to each other, sticky and warm all over. Only when they wind themselves together from head to foot does Akira feels like there's enough contact between them.
"I missed you so much," Hikaru says for the tenth time, "I wasn't sure you'd ever forgive me."
"You were the only person playing me today," Akira says, stroking the side of Hikaru's face, "Nobody else could have played me like that."
It's only half of what he wants to say, but Hikaru kisses him because he understands. That this thing between them has only ever been about the two of them, and there is no room for the ghost of another in between. Sai will always have an important place in Hikaru's heart, but Akira has Hikaru, and that's the only thing he's ever wanted.