It had taken Waya two years to admit that he wasn't fit to live by himself, and even that had only been when Isumi had mentioned, in passing, that it was time for him to leave his parents' house and find a place of his own.
They didn't exactly discuss it. Only, after Isumi moved into a luminous flat of two rooms and a decent kitchen on the outskirts of Tokyo, everyone but Waya's own mother knew better than to look for him at his place.
Waya didn't so much move as slide slowly from one place to the other, first bringing changes of clothes for when he slept over, then his toothbrush and shampoo, and finally his goban, on the day he declared that his lease was over; and their cohabitation was as well as set in stone.
Isumi spent a week working on balancing their chores in the household according to their respective schedules; when that was done, it took Waya thirty seconds to decide that doing things that way was boring and that it would be much more profitable for both of them to play the chores at go. Isumi agreed with some reluctance, wondering, as he always did when Waya had a creative idea, what kind of mayhem it would lead to.
After a few days of this system, Isumi had to admit that it wasn't such a bad idea, and in the cosmic scheme of things it made sense with the fact that go was what ruled their lives. But mayhem inevitably came in that within a month, Waya, probably frustrated with shouldering ninety per cent of the housework, started to cheat.
It wasn't the kind of cheating they had been warned against as beginners and Inseis. It had, in fact, nothing to do with the game itself: Isumi only called it such because he was fairly certain that there was an unspoken rule that forbade players from making sexy noises at the limit of audibility, or sticking a finger between moist lips in fake contemplation of the next move. But he held on through the provocation, and his boyfriend's dirty trick failed.
Most of the time, at least.
On a Saturday dusk when they'd invited their loosely knit group of players to lunch, Waya decided to shirk doing the dishes by using the attack known as 'coming out of the shower half-naked'.
It was perfectly led, from the beads of water that dripped from his hair and ran all down his chest to make a darker trace on the green track pants hanging indecently low on his hips to the warm light of the setting sun that made his skin look golden and edible as he sat down in front of the goban, and it worked. Isumi managed not to look at him once in the first thirty moves, but the mental effort involved made him miss a few crucial hands, and by midgame his position was desperately weak.
Then Waya's cell phone emitted the shrill, unpleasant ring that he had associated to his mother's number, and he grimaced and crawled over to his bag to pick up.
That, Isumi felt, was the perfect occasion to bring his focus back onto the game. He had learned, he reminded himself with a deep breath. He hadn't spent all that time in China for nothing; he had learned there, slowly and patiently, how to control himself and resist anxiety and distractions. He was now able to lock the more emotional part of him in a tiny corner of his brain where it would not disturb him for the duration of the game. But this time...
He could have forced himself to look back at the board, use the interruption to concentrate and find the way out of the tight corner he'd led himself into, but he found he didn't want to. There was something in the way Waya was pacing in the decreasing light, playing with his hair and rolling his eyes regularly at whatever well-intentioned comment his mother was making, that called away from the goban and into what non go players called real life.
Waya finally hung up with an exaggerated sigh and put on an appropriately apologetic face as he sat back down and pulled a black stone from his goke Isumi didn't even look at the board when Waya placed it; instead he stared into his opponent's eyes and resigned, smiling fondly when Waya let out a small surprised "uh?"
"I'll do the dishes," he said as way of explanation, pushing himself up in one swift movement. "But later. Let's go get some sushi for dinner first."
And Waya sparkled at him and almost knocked the goban over in his rush to go get dressed, leaving Isumi to clean up and smile to himself.