The first time it happened, it came out of nowhere.
Touya and Shindou were on the train together, en route to an afternoon of teaching Go at a salon in Asakusa. It was a rather lovely Saturday afternoon, so the Chuo Line was decently busy - children and teenagers and adults, all jumbled together. Touya liked Saturdays on the train, because people were generally on it because they wanted to be, not because they had to be.
Shindou was sitting right beside him, showing Touya his new cell phone. Shindou had broken the last one while stomping out of Touya's father's Go salon, gesticulating so furiously over his half a moku loss to Touya that his cell phone went sailing out of his hands and hit the wall with an audible crack. Even Shindou had the good grace to be a little embarrassed by that, for all that the salon regulars were well-used to the sight of Shindou storming out after a match with Touya.
The new cell phone looked much like the old one, but Shindou was busy extolling its virtues.
"How is it," Touya interrupted, "that you can operate a cell phone, but are hopelessly inept with computers?"
"I am not inept," Shindou shot back. "I can use them just fine."
"But you made me look up those match results online last week," Touya said, narrowing his eyes. It was true - Shindou had all but shoved him in front of the keyboard.
"You type faster than I do," Shindou muttered, his bleached bangs hiding his eyes for a moment. "Anyway, Touya, look at this - I think we could play Go over our cell phones!"
Touya was sufficiently intrigued by the idea that he leaned into Shindou's shoulder to look down at the cell phone in Shindou's hand. They were already sitting quite close together, thanks to the larger man sitting right next to Touya, and the hungover university student next to Shindou.
And then it just happened.
Shindou just grabbed his hand and held on, all the while nattering on about how he could play Go with Touya while on the way to matches, or while standing in line for movie tickets.
Shindou's hand was warm. It wasn't the smooth hand that Touya had grabbed years ago, looking for evidence of Shindou's experience with Go - now it was callused in the proper places, and the nails were trimmed short.
Shindou was still talking, but Touya had tuned him out. Because while it wasn't unusual for boys to hold hands, it was certainly the first time any boy his age had held Touya's hand. Touya had grown up among adults, and had never called anyone his own age his friend.
That is, before Shindou. Although he and Shindou framed their relationship as a rivalry, Touya could admit that rivals usually didn't go to lunch together or consider their free time as already spoken for. Or at least, not any rivals that Touya had ever seen.
Shindou had lapsed into silence after sending off a rude c-mail to Waya, flipping the phone shut and shoving it back in the pocket of what were apparently highly fashionable trousers. Touya thought that they must make an odd-looking pair - Touya in his perfectly pressed suit, and Shindou looking like something off a teen magazine cover.
Shindou was still holding his hand when the train slowed down to a stop at Asakusa. It was a warm and gentle sort of clasp, and Touya missed it the second that Shindou stood up and let go.
Touya returned home later that night, toeing off his shoes at the door and neatly turning them around against the wall before stepping in to his worn house slippers. He called out, "I'm home" to the house, and his mother answered him from the kitchen. She was in the middle of making tea, her eyes fixed on an Edo-period drama on the small television set.
"Akira-san, did you eat dinner?" his mother asked.
He was tired and thought about saying yes, and just having a cup of tea and one of the red bean paste buns sitting in the middle of the table.
But while his mother didn't play Go, it didn't make her any less observant than his father. "Akira-san, you're sixteen! You can't skip dinner like that. I thought you'd eat with that Shindou-kun, or else I would have made you up a plate. Here, we still have some of that curry you like so much leftover from lunch..."
She fussed with the microwave and the rice warmer, and he stared blankly at the tea cup in front of him. When she set a plate in front of him, she squeezed his shoulder with one hand, and he remembered the feel of Shindou's hand around his all over again.
"How was your day?" his mother asked at the commercial break.
He thought about asking her about this business with Shindou, and whether it was strange that today marked a first for him. And then he decided against it, because while his mother was supportive of her husband and her son's careers as professional Go players, sometimes she seemed sad that he was so completely unlike his peers, always distant and never connecting unless a Go board was involved.
"Fine," he said finally, and ate his curry.
It happened again the next day.
Shindou dragged him to the bookstore in pursuit of a newly-reprinted series of kifu. Touya knew his father possessed the original edition, but since he privately admitted that a book didn't do him much good if he was afraid to touch it, he gamely accompanied Shindou to the huge Kinokuniya bookstore in Shinjuku.
"We could have just gone to the bookstore near the Go Institute," Touya said, eying the crush of people in the store.
"Yeah, but then you wouldn't be able to get that book you have to read for English class," Shindou said. He peered at Touya. "You still need that, right?"
Touya blinked. He did recall mentioning it to Shindou, now that he thought about it, but that didn't mean that he had actually thought that Shindou would remember. "Yes, that's right," he said.
Shindou grabbed his hand and pulled him off in the direction of the elevator. "Okay, so we'll get that first, and then we can look at the Go section," he said decisively. They were crammed on to the elevator, Shindou's fingers still tight around his own, and listening to the elevator girl count off floors until they got to the seventh. Shindou led them out on the floor, and then looked around in puzzlement. "Where do you think it will be?" he asked.
Touya could have slipped his hand from Shindou's and gone off to find the book on his own. Shindou looked so completely at ease, the hand that wasn't holding Touya's tucked casually in the pocket of his pants. He looked like he'd been holding Touya's hand forever, as though it were completely and utterly unremarkable.
Touya tightened his fingers around Shindou's, and led them off toward the fiction section.
It just kept happening, and sometimes Touya had the urge to just stop Shindou in his tracks and demand to be told what it all meant. Because there was the normal best friends holding hands thing, and then there was the fact that this was the most complicated friendship of Touya's life, and then there was the way that he was increasingly unable to ignore the way Shindou looked in some of those oh-so-trendy clothes. To his embarrassment, the other day during a game, he'd found himself fixating on the way Shindou's sleeves framed his hands, the edges of the cuff flirting with the bones of Shindou's wrist.
Shindou's hand just seemed to keep finding Touya's, and he had yet to protest. By now, he was fairly certain that he didn't even want to, and had no intention of doing so in the near future.
They were walking into the Go Institute, and Touya thought nothing of it when Shindou's fingers tangled with his own, so that they were waiting for the elevator hand-in-hand. A group of Insei got off, as well as Shindou's friend, Waya.
"Waya!" Shindou said. Waya stopped and stared, and it took Touya a moment to figure out why. Shindou dropped his hand as he reached into his pocket. "I forgot to give this to you the other day - it's a map to that place in Akihabara."
"Thanks," Waya said, sounding both puzzled and faintly hostile. He was looking at Touya somewhat accusingly, and it occurred to Touya suddenly that he'd never seen Shindou hold hands with anyone else.
So he took Shindou's hand with his own for the first time since it had all started, and pulled him into the waiting elevator.
Shindou thumped the button in the elevator and they watched the numbers light up as the elevator rose. Any hope of the incident passing unremarked upon was shattered when Shindou said, "Took you long enough."
Touya turned his head in surprise. Shindou was grinning, like he'd just made the decisive move toward winning a match.
From somewhere inside, Touya dredged up some of his familiar asperity, and said, "If you think I'm going to hold hands with you under the goban, you're out of your mind."
Shindou cracked up, laughing so hard that his forehead came to rest on Touya's shoulder while he tried to catch his breath. And because the warmth of Shindou practically in his arms was something Touya wanted to encourage, he permitted himself a small smile, and let Shindou stay just as he was.