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Reminiscence

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Title: Reminiscence
Author: Triste
Fandom: Hikaru no Go
Pairing: Akira/Hikaru, some Mitani/Akari
Rating: PG
Status: Complete
Disclaimer: Not mine

~~

Since it was Akari's first visit to the Japanese Go Institute, Hikaru had given her a quick tour of the building before taking her to the area open to the general public for a tutoring game. He'd bumped into one of his acquaintances on the way and Akari had waited patiently for Hikaru to finish up his brief conversation, but it wasn't without a certain amount of surprise.

"You're speaking properly now," she said in wonder when they found a free board and took their places opposite one another.

"What, you mean I only spoke in caveman grunts before?" said Hikaru, obviously offended, and Akari shook her head.

"It's not that. I'm just saying you're a lot more formal now. Respectful even."

"I have to be," Hikaru said. "My profession calls for it."

Akari nodded as she placed her handicap stones, but she didn't push the issue. She didn't like to dwell on the knowledge that the Hikaru sitting across from her bore little resemblance to the boy she'd grown up with. He hadn't just changed physically, but that was a part of it. Hikaru had always been shorter than she was but then his height had overtaken hers before Akari had noticed. Although Hikaru was still only sixteen years old, Akari sometimes felt as if he'd already grown up and left her far behind. He appeared in Weekly Go often enough and sometimes even on television, but this was the first time Akari had seen him in person since their junior high graduation ceremony. Hikaru had quit formal education right after that in order to concentrate on his profession, while Akari had entered high school.

One day when Akari had run into Hikaru's mother at their local shopping district, she'd learned that Hikaru had gotten his own apartment and moved out. His mother had sighed reproachfully but said Hikaru was living with that "well-mannered Touya-kun," which meant she wouldn't have too much to worry about. Hikaru called once a week to let her know how he was doing, but other than that, they didn't have much contact.

It was also through Hikaru's mother that Akari discovered the reason why Hikaru had left home. Akari had assumed it was because Hikaru wanted to be like his other pro friends by getting his own place and becoming independent or because he'd wanted to live somewhere closer to the Institute, but Hikaru's mother had given her a sad and apologetic look before leading Akari into the nearest coffee shop. There, she paid for Akari's drink and sat with her at one of the window seats, taking Akari's hands in hers and staring her straight in the eye. Akari had blushed upon hearing the words "you've always liked Hikaru, haven't you, dear?" but never could have predicted what came next.

Hikaru's mother had tactfully tried to tell Akari that she was a smart and pretty girl, a sweet girl, a kind girl, and that she was sure she would find a nice young man deserving of her affection. Then, quietly, she told Akari that Hikaru was a strange boy but a good one, and that it wasn't his fault for being different. Unusual though it may have been, Hikaru had found his life's calling through go, and with that calling had come an equally unusual choice of a partner.

Akari wasn't sure what kind of reaction Hikaru's mother had been expecting after saying that her son and Touya Akira were more than friends, more than rivals, and more than roommates. It could have been anything from tears to tantrums to denial, but Akari had only smiled because, if she was honest with herself, she'd always known deep inside that the only person Hikaru could ever devote his passion and his career to was Touya.

That same passion was there right now as Akari looked up from the board to see Hikaru staring down intently, holding his trademark fan comfortably in his left hand while reaching for the stones with his right. His expression was as serious as ever, and Akari's own face turned momentarily fond before she switched her focus back to the game and to what Hikaru was trying to teach her.

"You've improved," Hikaru said afterwards making Akari glow with pride at his praise. The old Hikaru would have taunted her for being so bad and yelled at her to just give up, but even with the significant gap between their skills, he'd been patient and considerate and had surprised her yet again by showing that he actually was a proficient instructor.

"I had the chance to practise a lot more than I usually would over the holidays," Akari confessed. "I've even been buying books, and that seems to have helped too. Are you going to write one of your own someday and dedicate it to me?"

"You wish," grumbled Hikaru, embarrassed, and Akari laughed good-naturedly.

"Just kidding. Like your handwriting would ever be legible enough for a publisher to make sense out of." Akari giggled again as Hikaru growled in warning, but decided to give him a peace offering as she reached into her bag. "Here, I brought you a boxed lunch. I figured you'd probably be hungry by now."

"Actually, I made my own," Hikaru announced.

"You did?" Akari said.

"Amazingly enough, I can actually cook," said Hikaru. "Well, after a fashion. One of the conditions my mom set before letting me move out was that I had to learn to make at least three decent meals first. Toast and cup ramen didn't count. If I couldn't manage that much at least, then she wouldn't have allowed me to live on my own."

"I see." Akari awkwardly placed the lunch she'd fetched back into her bag and then perked up as she prepared to pass her judgement. "All right, let me take a look. I'll tell you if it's edible or not with just a glance."

Hikaru smirked at the challenge and produced his boxed lunch with a flourish. "Oh, this?" he said, noticing Akari's scrutiny of the cloth wrapped around it. "My mom bought it. The black and white dots reminded her of go stones, apparently. You should see the one she got for Touya. His has little pink flowers."

He unwrapped the box and pulled back the lid to show Akari the contents. She was pleasantly surprised to see the grilled salmon, pickled vegetables and rice balls inside, and she gave a grudging nod.

"Not bad," she conceded. "It certainly isn't what I was expecting. It's a little frugal, definitely, but I wouldn't object to eating something like this myself."

"They're mostly just leftovers," Hikaru shrugged. "It's cheaper and healthier than always relying on stuff from the convenience store. That's what Touya thinks. Like he has the right to even criticise when *I'm* the one who gets stuck with these chores."

"Touya-kun isn't domestic? He sure looks like he would be."

"Oh, he looks it. After living with him, you find that it's a different story. Touya is a mommy's boy through and through. He never had to lift a finger when he was still living with his parents. Even when they moved to China temporarily, Ichikawa-san, the person who works at his father's go salon, always visited to bring him food and wash his clothes."

"So you're the one who does all the housework?"

"Heck no. I hate housework and Touya is just inept, so we try to split it between us. Mom had to inspect the apartment thoroughly before she gave it her approval. She even tacked a list of to-do's and not-to-do's to the kitchen wall." Hikaru cleared his throat and raised one hand as though swearing an oath as he began to recite them. "Thou shalt vacuum at least twice a week. Thou shalt not disturb thy neighbours. Thou shalt not mix whites with colours in the wash."

Akari pursed her lips. "That's just common sense, isn't it? Or did you really mess up the laundry?"

"Touya wears a lot of pink shirts," Hikaru snickered, unrepentant. "He never noticed when some of his white ones mysteriously changed colour the first time I used a washing machine."

"Honestly," Akari lamented. "It's a wonder your mother let you move out at all."

"Hey, it's a learning process," Hikaru objected. "Like when Touya and I figured out that we, you know, actually have to *communicate* in order to work out who should be doing what. One time, I thought it was Touya's turn to fetch the groceries but he thought it was my turn to go get them, so neither one of us bothered buying anything and we ended up going hungry. That sucked."

"There's a simple method of solving those kinds of problems," Akari informed him. "Simply do what your mother did and stick a list to the wall or something so you won't forget."

"Touya had the same idea," Hikaru said. "He bought one of those boards that you can write all over and then wipe clean and hung it on the refrigerator so that I'd couldn't miss it. That way, we can leave messages and reminders for both ourselves and each other, like 'buy milk' or 'put out the recycling' or even 'Hikaru was here' and 'Touya wears old man sweaters ha ha ha.'"

"Just as I'd expect from Touya-kun," Akari said, purposely ignoring the last two comments. "He always was a smart boy."

"Not smart enough to know how to make proper ramen," Hikaru grumbled. "But anyway, what about you? It's not like you came all this way just to hear me complain about chores. What's it like in high school? Did they have a go club already or did you have to set one up by yourself?"

"I set one up," replied Akari, pleased by Hikaru's questions. "Just like Tsutsui-san in junior high, only I wasn't on my own. Kumiko is still with me, and Yuki drops by sometimes, too."

"Yuki?" Hikaru echoed. "Who's that? Some new girl you managed to bully into joining?"

"Unlike you, Hikaru, I don't 'bully' anyone," Akari said haughtily. "And for your information, Yuki isn't a girl, he's a guy. What's more, you *know* him."

"No, I don't," Hikaru argued. "I've never met any guys by that name, at least not recently."

"It's Yuki as in Mitani," Akari huffed. "Mitani Yuki? Don't tell me you can't remember him."

"Sure I remember Mitani," said Hikaru, confused. "I just never knew you two were on a first name basis."

"Isn't it natural to call your boyfriend by name?" said Akari in exasperation.

"It is? I never do." Hikaru paused and his eyes widened. "Wait, boyfriend? You? And Mitani? But..."

Akari lowered her gaze shyly and studied her hands as she spoke in a voice that was quieter than the one she'd used before. "He asked me out at graduation. I told him that I needed time to think it over first. Eventually, I accepted."

"Oh." Hikaru looked stunned by the news, and the part of Akari that still held some affection towards him couldn't help the urge to tease him somewhat hopefully.

"What's this?" she said, acting sly and knowing. "Are you jealous?"

"Jealous? Me?" Hikaru sounded genuinely surprised by the insinuation, and that little spark of hope was quickly smothered. "I was just surprised, and maybe relieved. I always figured you'd be left on the shelf forever and then you'd turn into one of those lonely old ladies who live with about fifteen cats for company. Mitani, huh? That's great! It goes to show there's at least one guy in the whole world who sees you as a real girl!"

"Hikaru, that was mean!" Akari pouted. "Of course I'm a real girl! Maybe *you* don't find me attractive but Yuki definitely does."

"Of course you're not attractive! You're *Akari*!" said Hikaru, as if that explained everything.

"Are you trying to pick a fight?" Akari retorted, doing her best to remember that it wasn't ladylike to bash somebody over the head with a go board, that Hikaru had been born dense, and that it was only normal for a gay man to be oblivious to the allure of the female of the species, but all thoughts of violence left her head when Hikaru started to laugh. It made him look a lot younger all of a sudden more like the boy she'd once been able to call her best friend. This side of Hikaru, at least, was reassuringly familiar, and Akari's annoyance began to melt away. Hikaru didn't smile nearly enough anymore, so even if his humour had been gotten at her expense, she couldn't bring herself to yell at him for it.

"I'm kidding," he said finally, once his laughter had died down, and Akari gave him a tentative smile of her own. "Really, you are attractive. More so than Kaneko, anyway."

"But less so than Touya-kun, right?" said Akari winking when Hikaru went red and cleared his throat.

"Do you love him?" he asked, taking Akari by surprise with the unexpected inquiry. "Mitani, I mean."

"It's early days yet," Akari murmured, blushing just as Hikaru had done as she lifted a hand and touched the silver chain around her neck. "He treats me well. He's kind, and he buys me nice things. He tried to keep it a secret, but I found out that he's working part-time. I keep telling him that he doesn't have to buy presents when he needs the money for himself, but he gives me them anyway. That's the sort of guy he is. He makes me happy."

"That's good," Hikaru said, seemingly content with her answer. "I would've had to beat him up if he didn't."

He'd surprised Akari yet again, and while she didn't think she would ever need to ask for Hikaru's assistance someday (she could punch harder than he did, and anyway, playing fighting games on the PS did not automatically turn lazy human beings into martial arts experts), it was touching to know that he cared. They weren't in contact as much as Akari would have liked, but she wasn't about to begrudge Hikaru of his new life. She wasn't one of Hikaru's most precious people and that hurt, but he still cared about her and even made time to meet up with her like this despite being so busy. For Akari, that was enough.

"In that case, you'll have to let me know whenever Touya-kun upsets you so I can beat *him* up," Akari said, pulling back her sleeve and flexing her nonexistent muscles.

"A five year old could beat Touya up, so I doubt you'd have any trouble wiping the floor with him." Hikaru rolled his eyes. "As for upsetting me, well, he does that at least twelve times a week, but..."

"You love him regardless," Akari finished for him cheekily.

"I never said that!" Hikaru exclaimed, but he wasn't fooling anyone, least of all Akari, and her expression turned all the more impish as she attempted to do a little more prying.

"I want to know more! How did you and Touya-kun get together? I know you've been chasing each other for years now, but what changed? Tell me!"

"No way," Hikaru said, clearly uncomfortable. "I don't want to talk about it. I never even told my mom how it happened."

"But I told you about Yuki and me," Akari pouted. "Hikaru, you're selfish!"

Hikaru's face went pale, and Akari wished she'd never said anything when she saw his eyes cloud over with sadness and regret. She had only been teasing, and although she didn't quite understand it herself, she'd apparently said something hurtful to Hikaru without realising. Hurting Hikaru, however unintentionally, made Akari hurt too, mostly because she hated to see him in pain but also because it brought home the fact that she didn't know him as well as she thought.

"You're right," Hikaru said softly, stroking a thumb over the side of his fan without looking at her. "I really am selfish. I'm sorry."

Now that she took the time to contemplate it, Akari wondered if maybe Hikaru's reason for leaving home hadn't been because of his need for independence or his desire to be closer to Touya but something else entirely. Akari knew Hikaru's mother as a kindly and loving person who stood by her son in spite of the oddness she perceived about him, but while she saw his mother regularly enough, Akari could count on one hand the number of times she'd seen Hikaru's father. He worked a lot and Hikaru had never spoken much about him, but even his mother could admit to the distance between father and son. If he hadn't been as accepting as Hikaru's mother...

"I'm the one who should be sorry," Akari blurted, shaking her head vigorously. "It's not your fault, Hikaru, so don't feel sad. You don't have to tell me. It's just between you and Touya-kun, and it isn't any of my business, but if your dad happened to get mad at you or even disown you for your relationship with him... well I'm going to march right over there and give him a piece of my mind!"

"It's not that," Hikaru assured her, and Akari allowed herself to calm back down. "Dad didn't exactly approve or anything, but he wasn't angry either. Honestly, I think he was more disappointed, but it isn't that. And you do have a right to know. We're friends, aren't we?"

"Of course!" Akari said earnestly. "You can tell me anything, but only if you want to. I was just having fun before. I didn't mean to make you sad."

Hikaru fidgeted and shifted his gaze from side to side, apparently searching for the right words. He'd never been particularly eloquent nor was he the type to be honest with his feelings, and it was something else Akari found comforting and familiar, but while Hikaru could happily talk for hours about go, he could be incredibly touchy and reticent about other subjects.

"It just kind of... happened," Hikaru said at last. "Touya and I had a fight... well, one that was worse than usual," he amended wryly. "He said stuff he didn't mean, I said stuff I didn't mean, and I stormed out and refused to speak to him again. He was the one to apologise in the end, although I had my fair share of the blame. I was still pretty mad and I wanted to know why the heck he was being so harsh and demanding in the first place, and you know what he said? He told me it because he had higher expectations of me than anyone else, and that he wouldn't forgive me for giving him anything less than my best. I probably would have socked him if he hadn't gone on to finish the rest of his little speech."

"What else did he say?" urged Akari, impatient to hear the rest.

"'You're the most important thing to me,'" Hikaru replied, taking on Touya's manner of speaking and letting Akari know that he was quoting him directly. "'You're all that matters. You're all I need.' Then he... sort of... toldmethathelovedme." The last part came out in a mumbled rush and Akari leaned forward eagerly.

"You responded to him, right? You obviously accepted his confession, otherwise you wouldn't be together."

"Well... no," Hikaru admitted.

"No?" Akari said disbelievingly. "What do you mean *no*?"

"I was in shock!" Hikaru protested. "The only thing I could do was stand there and gawk, which he took as a rejection, so he went all cold and told me to forget he'd said anything. He tried to leave but I held him back and got my voice working properly and told him it was the same for me, that he was everything that mattered to me. I think it was his turn to be a little shocked after that, but then he kissed me. It wasn't even a good first kiss, but it was Touya, and it just felt right."

"I'm glad," said Akari sincerely, "that you were able to find him. That you're able to be with him like this."

"It's not that big a deal," Hikaru muttered. "People get together all the time. It's not like we're any different."

"But I'm still glad," Akari insisted. "I like it when you're happy. Sure, you've changed over the years, but you're still the same Hikaru. We probably won't get to see each other all that much anymore, but I'll always be your friend. I'll always be supporting you, even if it's from a distance."

Hikaru didn't say anything but Akari's heart skipped a beat when he suddenly gave her one of the most beautiful smiles she'd ever seen. He had changed, it was true, but that wasn't a bad thing. She could still see traces of the wide-eyed and loud-mouthed young boy who used to be the centre of her world, but that same boy had matured into a passionate and dedicated young man. His face was older now, features sharper and almost delicate, but still as expressive as ever.

While Akari was very fond of Mitani and cared about him a great deal a piece of her heart would always remain with Hikaru, whether he was aware of it or not, while Hikaru's heart belonged firmly and fully to Touya, and that was how it should be.

Her spirits lighter than they had been for a long time, Akari gave Hikaru a nudge. "Say, do you remember the play we put on when we were in middle school? The one with you, me, Yuki, Tsutsui-san and Kaga-san?"

"'Assassination at Honnoji Temple' you mean?" Hikaru grinned. "Where Kaga and Mitani were duking it out as to who was rightfully the main character of the story?"

"Where you kept forgetting all your lines?"

"Where you nearly knocked me out with your wooden sword?"

"Where you broke the bow we borrowed from the archery club?"

Hikaru shook his head. "Jeez, reminiscing about the past is for old people. We're still teenagers, you know."

"I know," said Akari. "But it was fun, wasn't it? We should do another play sometime. Our class was thinking about putting one on for the culture festival, so if you're free..."

"I'm a sucky actor," Hikaru reminded her ruefully. "I'm not even a high school student."

"You should come anyway!" Akari said, determined. "There'll be drama and cute costumes and cool weapons. Depending on which play we pick, you might not even have any lines to memorise. You could just stand on the stage and look pretty and attract all the customers!"

"What am I, an advertising tool?" groused Hikaru, but he wasn't really offended. "I'll go if I'm free. Is that good enough?"

Akari nodded happily. "I'll talk it over with the rest of the class next week and we'll see if we can arrange something. Even if you don't end up being in the play, you should drop by anyway. I'll buy you some takoyaki!"

"I want ramen!" Hikaru enthused. "Ramen is definitely better. It'll be your treat."

"Sure, sure," Akari relented. "Since you're giving me lessons for free, the least I can do is give you your favourite food in return. Not that you don't eat enough of it anyway, but still."

"I'll hold you to that," Hikaru said solemnly and Akari held up her little finger for a pinkie swear.

"Okay, it's a promise."

 

End.