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The Christmas Incident

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The annual Christmas party put on by Waya was not where Akira would like to be on Christmas Eve. He supposed there were worse places. He could be at Ogata’s party with a middle aged man hanging off him drunkenly. Instead he was at Waya’s party with a drunken Shindou hanging off him, which was a bit of an improvement to an overweight, aging Go player who was only talking with him to see how his mind worked. After the last incident, Akira stopped going to Ogata’s parties. Ogata didn’t miss him much anyway.

Truthfully, the only reason Akira accepted was because Shindou invited him. Natsume was invited as well, but she had opted to spend the evening with her parents since they would spend New Year’s with his family.

Akira was beginning to regret coming. As much as he respected the other pros his age, being surrounded by a large group of drunken revelers was not his idea of a fun time. Next year Akira would invite Shindou, Koori—one of Natsume’s friends—and perhaps Yashiro, if he was in the area. A nice, quiet, Go filled evening with friends would be much more preferable to…this. The music was loud, the guests were loud, Waya was shouting to Isumi across the room and Isumi was laughing back, Shindou was giggling into Akira’s shoulder, and he was sure someone had spilled beer on his shoes earlier. The drink he was handed at the door remained untouched. How the noise level wasn’t siccing the building manager on them he had no idea. Surely they were over the fire safety limit with the number of people in Waya’s small apartment room.

“Shindou!” Akira said loudly. Shindou didn’t seem to notice. He was too intent on watching Waya trip on his way toward Isumi. Akira could feel his shoulder shake with Shindou’s laughter. He wondered if Shindou would remain standing if he moved out from under his hand. He didn’t. “Shindou, can we get some air?”

“What?” Shindou yelled back into his ear. Akira winced at the volume.

“Air! Outside!” Please! He added silently. If he had to spend another minute in the room he would scream.

“Oh! Sure!”

Shindou remained glued to his shoulder as Akira pushed through the crowd to the door. He’d started the night with Waya, but by his second beer, he’d stuck himself to Akira’s side, more often than not draped on him in some fashion. It didn’t help that Shindou was more affectionate when drunk. He kept making grabs for Akira’s hand.

The air outside was cold even for December. The weather called for snow, but it had been clouds with nothing to show for it all week. Shindou leaned harder, burrowing into Akira’s warmth. He grinned, crossing his eyes to watch his breath curl up from his lips in wisps.

“Shindou…” Akira really should lean him against the wall or fire escape or something. It wasn’t appropriate to have another man hanging off his arm, even if it was nice to have an excuse for it.

Shindou didn’t seem to notice. He gripped Akira’s shoulder and tugged. “Touya! Touya! If it snows we have to play a game.”

“Fine Shindou, can you—”

“A game outside. Using snowballs. One color Go with a grid made from sticks or something and Natsume can help since we’d use her garden and—” Shindou leaned closer. Akira leaned away. Loose gravel crunched under his boots as he took a step back, Shindou matching him. “And…” The brick walls of the apartment building felt colder than the air was Akira’s back hit them. Shindou leaned closer. His face was scrunched up like when he was thinking through a particularly tricky strategy. Akira knew he should shake him off before a line was crossed, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away as Shindou stopped close enough that their breath’s fog mingled and condensed in freezing droplets on each other’s skin. “You… I really like you.”

Akira let out a shaky breath. Shindou touched his face, running a lightly calloused forefinger from Akira’s temple to neck. Akira stopped breathing.

Shindou bridged the gap, eyes half closed, all warm and heavy and calm as if he wasn’t encouraging him to commit adultery.  

Akira’s head hit the bricks, but he barely noticed the pain. Everything was Shindou. Shindou’s hand, moving from his neck to tangle in his hair. Shindou’s chest pressing against his own. Shindou’s left hand braced against the wall next to Akira’s elbow. Shindou’s warm lips and tongue, interspersed with puffs of warm-wet air against his mouth. Akira’s brain shut down, his arms limp, eyes open wide. Shindou moved past his slack lips to lick in his mouth. Akira’s lungs screamed protest a few seconds later and he remembered to breathe. He pulled back, trying to think. “Shindou.” Shindou kissed him again, and it was too good. Too distracting. There were reasons why he shouldn’t be doing this.

Natsume. He was married. He had a wife who trusted him, and if Shindou were sober, they wouldn’t be doing this because Shindou cared about Natsume too. He cared about their relationship. Akira couldn’t do this without at least an open conversation with everyone involved. There was a difference between one conversation before bed with his wife and actually discussing the possibility of an open relationship. Akira pushed Shindou away. “Stop.”

Shindou swayed on his feet, looking confused. His lips were red and wet and he was shivering half from cold, half from need. It took all of Akira’s control to not kiss him again. “We can’t do this.”

“Do you not like it?” Shindou sounded crushed.

Akira reminded himself it was mostly the beer talking. He couldn’t resist putting a hand on Shindou’s shoulder in support and comfort. “We can’t do this because of Natsume.”

“Natsume? Natsume-san?” He frowned.

“My wife. Shindou, I’m married, remember? I can’t kiss you here and now, not when I’m going home to her. I can’t do that to her.” It wasn’t exactly a rejection. Well, it was, but Akira couldn’t deny that he was attracted to Shindou, and he did like the kiss. A bit too much. Logic was safer than discussing emotion at the moment.

“Married…” Akira watched confusion melt to understanding and upset. “Shit. Shit, I fucked up. I…I shouldn’t have done that.”

“It’s ok. You’re drunk, I understand.” It was an out, one that Akira would happily give him, but it only made him look more upset.

“I really shouldn’t’ve….” His legs wobbled, but he ducked away from Akira’s hand, almost falling flat on his face in the process.

“Do you need to talk about it?” It wasn’t a conversation Akira was sure he was up for at night, in the cold, with a drunken Shindou, but if it would help…

“…No. I dunno.” Shindou’s face scrunched up. “I don’t feel too good.”

Akira had a second to understand before Shindou lurched away and vomited next to a garbage bin. Akira closed his eyes, trying not to listen to the retching and gave a small prayer of thanks that this happened after Shindou kissed him. This was why he only drank in moderation. Shindou groaned. Akira sighed. “Are you ok?”

“Gaaaah. Maybe?” He had one hand on the fire escape, and one holding on to the edge of a trash bin, barely standing. Akira pulled him upright. “I don’t think I’m going to throw up again…”

“That’s good.” Akira used a corner of Shindou’s shirt to clean his mouth and led him back toward the building. “I think you have had enough to drink tonight.”

“Mm…” Shindou seemed torn between leaning into the arm around him and pulling away. He looked guilty and twitchy, and kept shooting Akira sideways looks. “I…I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok. It happens.” Usually not to him, but it happened, Akira thought. And it was not like he wasn’t guilty of considering it when Shindou did some brilliant move on the board that was also incredibly foolish but worked in a way only Shindou could make it work. And of course it would lead to an argument because if they didn’t argue, Akira would do something foolish, drunk off post-game adrenaline. Arguing was an excuse some days to get in each other’s faces. Or it was for Akira, anyway. He led Shindou up the stairs. “Let’s get our coats, and I’ll drive you home.”

“But the party’s still going…” Shindou whined.

He also listed to the right forcing Akira to tighten his grip lest they both fall down the stairs. “Shindou, you just vomited the contents of your stomach. You’re going home, drinking lots of water, and going to bed to sleep this off.”

Shindou made an unhappy sound into Akira’s shoulder before standing straighter. The music was still loud enough to make the floor vibrate as they squeezed back inside. Just in time for catcalls and whistles. For a moment, Akira felt scandalized, thinking they were aimed at him. Then he noticed Waya dragging a very drunk, very red-faced Isumi into the bathroom and decided he wasn’t going to think about it.

“Oh my god,” Shindou yelled into his ear. “Were they…?” No, definitely not thinking about it.

He dragged Shindou to the closet and pulled out their coats. Shindou didn’t seem to notice it shoved in his face, so he sighed and forced his friend into it. They shouldn’t have gone out without them. Shindou’s fingers looked blue where he gripped the fire escape railing.

“I gotta say goodbye!” Shindou complained when Akira tried to lead him to the door.

A girl, Nase, if he remembered correctly, gave them a weird look. Her arm was linked with a man Akira didn’t recognize who might not have been a go player at all. He gave her a strained smile. “Shindou needs to go home. He’s not feeling well!” He couldn’t tell if she heard over the music. Honestly he didn’t care.

Shindou waved like an idiot, draping himself against Akira’s shoulder when the movement unbalanced him. “Bye!!”

Nase waved back, then started talking to the guy she was with. Akira didn’t bother to stick around. With Shindou hanging off his arm, he headed back downstairs. With any luck he would make it home before daylight. As Shindou nearly tripped again, he doubted it.

It took one hour, three tearful apologies, two glasses of water, and a stop for Shindou to safely expel the remnants of the alcohol he consumed before Akira closed the apartment door behind him. It…hadn’t been the kind of evening he was expecting.

A drunken Shindou, yes. Loud music, pointless shouting and gratuitous alcohol, yes. Getting kissed by his best friend…no. He wondered if Shindou would even remember in the morning. Considering the lucidity of their parting, he had a feeling he would remember. Akira stood in the icy street and snow was starting to fall in big fat flakes that clumped together like fluff torn from pillow stuffing. What was the best way to handle this? To act like nothing happened?

But there was no taking that back. There was also no way to take back how good it felt… This was something he had to discuss with Natsume. It was a conversation they’d talked around, but he knew where the stood with each other. She wouldn’t laugh or get angry. She was attracted to Shindou as well, so there was no issue in emotional infidelity causing rifts. They were married, not lovers. There was a difference, and even if they didn’t have passion it didn’t mean there wasn’t love between them. Akira knew duty, though, and he couldn’t betray his duty as a husband to pursue his rival and friend.

He sighed, and snow drifted onto his hair and melted in the path of his breath. He would talk to Natsume and she would help define the boundaries they could explore in their marriage. Talking with Shindou would come later.