Somewhere out there, Fujisaki Akari (that was her name, then) was certain, was some God of Irony that was having a loud, long, satisfying laugh at her expense. His belly, she thought, must be aching from the effort, his breath must be heaving, the lack of oxygen making him delirious. Loosing his ability to breathe over the affairs of the mortals - yes, thought Fujisaki Akari (she kept using the wrong name), that must have been how her life was formed.
She had first spoken to Touya Akira, truly talked to him, really exchanged words with him, outside the building of the National Go Association where they had both watched Shindou Hikaru trash one veteran Go player whose name Akari didn't even know in the first place. She never quite knew what it was that Touya Akira had gotten out of the game, but Akari had realized two things: that she had been so terribly in love with Hikaru, and that he never would come to see her the same way.
Akari, who had felt like she had thrown away half her life after a boy who never even wanted it, had cried outside the building where so much of his life took place. Touya Akira, who had lost something of a different nature that Akari never quite had understood, had been hopelessly inept at offering any kind of comfort after asking if she was hurt and if there was anyone she could call. But he had noticed her running out of the room, and even if it was just courtesy, it was still more than Hikaru had ever given her. As Akari futilely wiped her eyes as the tears kept on coming, as she tried to tell him that this was a silly, feminine weakness around a mouth that would only let single syllables pass inbetween her sobs, Touya Akira had stood beside her with a paper napkin neatly folded in his hand, and he hadn't said a single word.
When she finally could speak in full sentences, her eyes red and the napking smeared black with her mascara, she told Touya Akira that she was so happy that he was there. She even smiled, deprecative and oddly amused over this odd point in her life that she was in, going to Go games that she wasn't good enough to fully appreciate all over a boy who cared more about other Go players being there to watch, than that his oldest friend was skipping out of cram school to be there.
"Do you know how I envy you, Touya-kun? If Hikaru would talk about me the way he talks about you, I would have been the happiest girl who ever lived."
But Fujisaki Akari (still her name at that point) did not have the making of a genius Go player, and the only thing she could offer to Shindou Hikaru was her life-long devotion to him. And what man would even slow his pace enough to look over his shoulder to listen to something as useless as that coming from a woman? Perhaps there was a breed of romantics out there, but certainly not Shindou Hikaru, who had thrown his entire life on track just to be seen by one single other boy.
Fujisaki Akari (but that was to change) had laughed through her tears and known that she had become an adult when she told Touya Akira that she had only come to realize how stupid her vision of her life had been, nothing more.
It was three years later when Akira-kun had taken her hand as she reached into the goke, and held her eyes when she looked up at him as if to ask why.
"Akari-san," he said to her, and his hand held hers firmly even as he stopped for a beat, searching for words as his thumb stroked her skin. "Forgive me if this question is inappropriate. Are you still in love with Shindou?"
"I don't know," she answered before she had the chance to even think about what he had just asked her. She startled in surprise over her words, even as he looked unaffected by the unqestionably inappropriate answer she had in fact given him, and tried to amend: "I mean, he still means a lot to me. We've known each other since before we started school. It would be hard to not - to just - "
Akira-kun smiled a little and tightened his hand around hers as she failed to come up with something to tell him. "I have to admit that I find that it matters to me, a little, if I should be wary for him off the Go board, too."
"Why would you be?" said Akari and knew that her smile was a bitter one, "Hikaru never wanted me. The only person who ever mattered to him is you."
She was caught off guard by the lightly hysterical chuckle that Akira-kun answered with after ten seconds of silence.
"Yes," he said, and smiled brilliantly as he reached out to brush her hair out of her face and hook it behind her ear, letting his fingers rest against her jaw for a second as he drew back, "yes, of course, Akari-san. I'm sorry for having to ask. I should warn you, I think, that my mother is quite convinced that I should bring you home so that you can meet my father and her."
And in that moment in her small flat, as their joined hands were resting on a bowl of Go stones in plastic, had been when she had realized that her name would not - would never be - Shindou Akari.
"Are you proposing to me?" she asked anyway, so that she was certain.
"Not yet," he said, "but you do have a very special place in my life, Akari-san. I thought it might be prudent to let you know beforehand, so that you can think about what you want to answer. I'm not as good a good match as some might try to tell you."
Akari remembered the day she had finally cried over Shindou Hikaru, and she thought that if she hadn't, she would never have been sitting here with Touya Akira holding her hand and saying that he would want to marry her someday. She was surprised by how it actually had surprised her that he brought it up, because Akira-kun had given her everything that Hikaru never did. He was polite and attentive, he cared about her feelings and she knew that she mattered to him, too, by how she sometimes would wake up to his hands in her hair and his face so different from how he looked when he sat down across the Go board. Hikaru had never given her naked skin and needy keening into her neck - the only thing she had left of Hikaru was a series of birthday presents and childhood fotos from her polaroid camera, a note scribbled in sixth grade and set of Go board and stones she had purchased for practicing for a tournament she had begged him to come watch.
She wondered what kind of magic it was that he had, which made it so that there still was a small crack in her heart that only he could fit.
"You're a better match than a man who still lives with his parents and never even had the good manners of at least pretending to be nice to me," she said after she had thought for a while, "and I wouldn't let him take me to bed."
"I would," said Akira-kun, and looked so sad through the smile, "if you can forgive me, I want you to know of that before you tell me what I am and am not. If Shindou Hikaru wanted to, I would let him take me to bed. What do you say to that?"
And whatever it said about Akari's life, her only answer to that was to ask him, "Are you sure he does not?"
"Absolutely. You know him as well as I do, and we both know that this sort of feeling is not something which Shindou concerns himself with - certainly not from men. So you see, Akari-san, I might be the only one who Shindou sees, but you are the one who could have the parts of him that he never even would have thought of giving me, if you thought it would be worth it to convince him."
"Are you trying to tell me that I am second best?"
"No," he said quietly, and pulled her hand as he lowered his face to press a kiss to her fingers, "Shindou changed my life. I would never have been who I am today, if he hadn't been a part of my world. I could never look at Go the same way, was he to leave it. But that's not the reason I feel for him as I do. And you are the one who return my feelings. You see me for something more than my Go."
"Shindou Akira," she said, tasting the name, "Shindou Akira. He would never take your name."
"What in the world makes you think I would ever take his?"
Akari giggled, and climbed to her feet to sit down next to Akira-kun and give him a kiss. "Does it matter? It isn't as if you ever will. Akira," she said to him when she pulled back, taking his hand and kissing it in turn, and she somehow felt that this, this was what had been lacking the entire time, "if I am in love with him, and you are in love with him, then I think we are equally hopeless. I'll take your name, Akira, if you still want to make the offer."
"Touya Akari," he said in a voice so quiet it was almost as whisper, and she smiled even as she blushed, and took his hand from where it was reaching for her hair once again.
"Just Akari," she corrected, because the only other person who called her that was Hikaru, and he had most certainly never done much to deserve all the love that he never had realized was his.
"Akari," he agreed, and kissed her mouth so that she didn't get to say out love what idiots they both were, and how utterly, fantastically ironic it was that even in these private rooms between them, it was Shindou Hikaru who opened the doors.