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Morning Light

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Akira swam back to consciousness more slowly than usual. His throat was dry, and he was too warm. Something was tickling his chin.

He opened his eyes with reluctance.

There was a lock of dyed golden hair splayed across his collarbone. He blinked, his thoughts still hazy, and managed to ascertain that it was attached to the rest of Shindou. Shindou's head was tucked into the crook of Akira's neck, his bangs fallen messily over his eyes. His arm was weighing down Akira's shoulder.

So soon after waking, at first the image tangled itself up with a number of fantasies from Akira's weaker moments. Shindou's mouth was slightly open, his breath a warm puff against Akira's skin, and his fingers were loosely curled in the sheet near Akira's chin. Akira blinked rapidly, forcing sleep a little further away, and reality asserted itself more strongly.

Shindou, he realised, was actually lying on the floor next to Akira's futon. Only his head and shoulders had ended up on the futon. Akira levered himself up a little with his free hand, his head only swimming a bit. Shindou was dressed in a rumpled t-shirt and jeans. He was lying on his stomach, his ankles crossed. There was a goban set up at Shindou's other elbow. Some of the stones had been knocked out of place, a couple spilled onto the floor, but the game still looked familiar to Akira. He rubbed his eyes, trying to make his thoughts work.

A moment later he remembered. Akira had played that game yesterday. He'd … oh, his Honinbo league match.

That revelation led hazily to another, which was that Akira was still wearing the button-down shirt and loosened tie from the match, and his trousers as well. Akira shook his head. His memories were still coming with confused slowness. He'd … that's right, he'd gone to the match straight from the airport, an unavoidable trip for an aunt's funeral. Akira had barely known her, but he'd been the only member of his family whose schedule even remotely allowed him to go, and his mother had insisted somebody needed to.

Had he …? No, he hadn't won, he remembered now. He gazed at the match, retracing the game. It had been close. He'd got no sleep on the flight, but he'd been able to pull himself together to play. His head hadn't started badly swimming until halfway home.

He'd been with Shindou, he realised, on the train home. Shindou had watched the match, and he'd hopped onto the same train as Akira to talk about it. Shindou had been arguing that Akira's midgame strategy had been too conservative, and Akira had been insisting that his fatal misstep had been much later. He'd been trying not to sway or lean on Shindou, talking through the confused heaviness of his head.

Akira didn't remember the end of the train ride, or getting up to his apartment. He supposed he must have fainted. Shindou must have got him home and then stayed with him to make sure he was all right. Akira squeezed his eyes shut, mortified.

Shindou shifted against his shoulder, and Akira's eyes sprang open again.

Shindou was yawning, rubbing sleep from his eyes with the back of his hand. He rolled over onto his back, stretching his arms. One of them flopped back onto the blanket, and it was suddenly perilously close to … things. Akira was abruptly glad that he was weak and run-down to the point of fainting, since it meant his body was unlikely to have the usual response.

Shindou sat up, scrubbing his hand over his mouth. He winced and cricked his shoulders. "Ugh, that wasn't very comfortable." His voice was rough with sleep.

Akira stared at him. "You fell asleep on my floor, of course it wasn't comfortable."

Shindou gave him a grin. "Yeah, yeah, I know." He looked utterly unembarrassed. Of course he did: he was Shindou. "Man, if I'd known I was going to fall asleep, I would at least have got a pillow or something."

Akira clamped his mouth shut over the observation that Shindou had used Akira's shoulder as a pillow. Maybe Shindou hadn't noticed.

"Oh!" Shindou said. "Are you feeling better?"

"I'm fine," Akira said automatically.

Shindou rolled his eyes. "You collapsed and you had a fever. I had to practically carry you up the stairs. I guess having to take a trip right before your game was pretty bad timing?"

Akira felt himself flushing. "I suppose so." He balled his hands by his sides and shuffled until his legs were under him, rising to his knees. He bowed, stiffly. "Thank you for caring for me."

"No, that's –" Shindou's hands were abruptly on his shoulders, pulling him back upright. "Is it okay for you to do that yet? You might faint again!"

He leaned forward, letting go of Akira's shoulders to press one hand against his forehead, piercing focus in his gaze. Akira was used to only seeing that during games; all of that focus being bent on Akira himself made his knees suddenly weak. He wobbled and started to pitch forwards.

Shindou exhaled a breath, catching him. "You are still weak, I knew it."

Somebody should be yelling at Shindou, Akira thought. He was pretty sure that if he'd been feeling better he would be yelling at Shindou about something by now. He pushed at Shindou's shoulder, getting himself straight again.

And then, for whatever reason passed for logic in Shindou's head, he seemed to become conscious of their position for the first time. Shindou was kneeling on Akira's futon, and the bedclothes were rucked up between them. When Akira met his eyes they had gone wide.

Shindou palmed the back of his neck, turning away. "Haha, um," he said. His eyes lit on something on the floor on the other side of the futon, and he dove for it. It was a glass of water, which he offered Akira. "I forgot!" Shindou said. "I filled it last night for when you woke up." He chewed on his bottom lip, pushing the glass at Akira.

It was either accept the glass or be knocked on the forehead with it, and Akira was thirsty, so he dragged his eyes away from Shindou's mouth and took the glass.

Shindou watched him as he drank, his fingers fidgeting in his lap as he waited to take the glass back. Akira was still light-headed and Shindou wasn't looking away and Akira had been tried beyond his limits this morning. He dropped the glass and twisted his fingers in the neck of Shindou's t-shirt, pulling him forwards. Shindou gave a ha of surprise and then Akira stopped any more sounds with his mouth.

Akira closed his eyes, his breath painful in his lungs, and pressed their mouths together for an endless second. Shindou's mouth was soft and shocked against his. He had the light-headed thought that if he needed to he could blame this on the fever. But he wouldn't, of course – he wouldn't do something he wasn't prepared to stand behind.

So it was more than a bit annoying when the first thing Shindou said after pulling back, his cheeks flushed and his eyes not meeting Akira's, was, "Haha, you're really loopy with fever, huh?"

"No," Akira said. He scowled at Shindou. "I don't k-kiss people because I'm confused."

Shindou's expression changed. Akira hadn't seen him look like this since they were children. He looked apprehensive, or maybe more than that – he looked afraid. His eyes were dark and he looked like somebody afraid of destroying something important. Akira hadn't even recognised that look for what it was the first time; he and Shindou had barely known each other then.

"I –" Shindou said. He swallowed.

"I'm sorry," Akira said, even though he wasn't sure if he was. He couldn't tell what that look meant. Hope and helpless wanting and annoyance were all tangled up and making it hard to breathe. "You don't have to –"

Shindou lunged forward. The kiss was off-centre and breathless and too hard. Akira grabbed at Shindou's shoulders and kissed back.

Between them they managed to make the kiss gentle and deepen, but Shindou still kissed like he never wanted to breathe again.