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Small Talk

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Go pros, Hikaru reflected, became disturbingly good at meaningless small talk.

For example, he knew for a fact that Touya disliked -- despised, really -- the prefectural official he was exchanging pleasantries with. But there he was, looking polite and even interested in the obnoxious babble the official was spouting.

Hikaru yawned. Just because Touya was good at not indicating to people that he'd rather break their nose than nod agreeably to whatever they were saying, didn't mean that it wasn't time for a strategic rescue.

The fact that Touya was wearing formal wear had nothing to do with Hikaru's timing, really.

"Tou-ya," Hikaru sing-songed, wrapping one arm around his shoulders. "I found you!"

"Are you drunk?" Touya muttered in Hikaru's ear.

"So sorry," Hikaru said to the official, who looked slightly taken-aback. He also looked like he was wearing a very bad wig, but that was neither here not there. "I need to borrow Touya. He hasn't had nearly enough to drink."

The official actually laughed, and looked indulgent. "By all means, enjoy your youth."

Hikaru steered Touya off toward the bartender.

"Couldn't you have thought of something else?" Touya said. "Now I actually have to get something to drink."

Hikaru rolled his eyes. "It's beer, it won't kill you. Just ask for some Asahi -- it's like water, really," he lied.

Touya huffed and ordered it from the bartender.

They were sitting back and watching the party when Hikaru said, "What's with the clothes, anyway?"

Touya looked down at his formal wear, the pleats of his hakama still crisp. "It felt like the right time to wear it," he said softly. Hikaru knew that Touya had gotten them for his twentieth birthday -- he'd spent three weeks complaining about his mother nagging him to pick something out, and another three weeks saying that he wouldn't wear them because he didn't want to be confused with his father.

But they were twenty-one now, and Touya Kouyo was gone.

Hikaru knew about right times. He brushed the fan in his pocket with gentle fingers. They drank in silence, and Hikaru finally offered, "They look nice on you." He brushed the sleeve of Touya's kimono with the same fingertips that touched the fan.

Somehow, their hands tangled briefly, a quick press of warmth and skin before separating.

Touya nibbled on some of the food arranged in artful platters on the table, and Hikaru refilled their drinks.

"We're going to get drunk," Touya observed dispassionately, as if he could not care one way or another.

"Probably," Hikaru agreed easily. Because mourning came before letting go, and Hikaru wasn't sure that either of them would ever make the transition fully. Maybe it was impossible, and they'd both spend the rest of their lives grieving somewhere inside for the men who had left them behind.

"Let's get out of here," Touya said eventually, which was pretty outrageous for Touya. He usually never left until it was socially appropriate to do so -- never mind ditching a work-related party early.

"Ogata-sensei will be pissed," Hikaru said.

"He's not my father," Touya said darkly, and Hikaru knew he'd better distract him, soon. Ogata had taken the Meijin title in the year following Touya Kouyo's death -- and Touya had been absolutely livid. As far as Hikaru was concerned, Ogata had better enjoy it while he could, because Touya was going to rip it away from him next year or die trying.

They stumble to Hikaru's apartment, and the light inside seemed too bright when Hikaru flicked it on. So he turned it off, and they made their way through the shadows of the apartment, the streetlights illuminating it enough to get by.

"I think I'm drunk," Touya said, and there was an edge of distress to his voice.

"I know," Hikaru said. He pulled Touya into his bedroom, and his fingers found the knot of Touya's hakama.

"Shindou," Touya protested hoarsely. "Not tonight --"

"Don't be an idiot," Hikaru said, making short work of the knot. Instead of letting the hakama crumple on the floor, he folded it carefully over the back of a chair, and did the same for the expensive kimono, handling it with as much tenderness as he would handle Sai's fan.

Touya stood silently before Hikaru in his underwear, and Hikaru stripped before he pulled Touya into bed. Touya's skin was warm and soft against his own, and Hikaru held him close, amid the dark quiet of the room.

"At least we can sleep in," Hikaru said, breaking the silence.

Touya shifted slightly in his arms, but did not respond.

"Probably won't have a hangover," Hikaru said after a few moments.

Touya sighed softly.

"We can probably get in a game or two tomorrow," Hikaru spoke up again.

Touya's fingers brushed his lips. "Shindou, hush."

And because they needed no empty words in between them, Hikaru did.