For dorrie6, Even when you're gone, Hikago gen, PG Title: Even when you're gone Fandom: Hikaru no Go Characters: Shindou Mitsuko, Touya Akira Rating: PG Disclaimer: The characters and universe presented in this story belong to Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata Notes: Written with love and anxiety for dorrie6, who deserves epics, which this isn't. Title from this translation (accuracy unknown *g*) of Bump of Chicken's "Supernova". Beta by G.
The second morning of the Hokuto Cup, Mitsuko is nervous. Around her, the house is flimsy. Its walls might as well be paper, or the thin ice that forms over puddles just before a winter's dawn. That ice cracks under a fingertip.
When she gets like this, she usually puts on her favorite music -- American R&B, Anita Baker and Whitney Houston, beautiful black women with the voices of angels -- and gets to cleaning. If she succeeds in forgetting herself, she sings along, chirping like a hungry bird.
After rinsing clean Masao's breakfast things, she sets them in the drainer and rests against the kitchen counter. She does not want to clean, not this morning.
Akari's mother took a part-time position with the library last fall, so there is no one to visit and gossip with.
She just isn't used to such a quiet morning, that's all. Hikaru stayed at the hotel last night, so the usual morning clamor and chaos have been suspended.
He hates sleeping away from home; they share that, while Masao does not seem to mind missing the last train. Besides, with his picky habits, Hikaru probably can't stomach room service.
Mitsuko dresses carefully, heels to fancy blouse, even a pin in her hair, before departing for the Seven Stars Hotel. Her nerves still jangle as she travels.
Rather than wedge herself into the audience again, filled to the brim with angry old men and strangely tense boys, she decides to browse the temporary Go-themed gift shop across the lobby.
The office girl who'd handed out programs yesterday is doing the same thing. They nod and smile around the racks of postcards and paperback books, murmur "good morning" across the display of the trading cards game, Great Go Players, Then and NOW.
Mitsuko can do this. She can make small talk with the young office girl, Aikawa-san.
That confidence is a small anchor. This world of Go is nothing like her vague memories of her father's playing days. Then, all was sticky with nicotine'd tar and loud with voices like thunderclaps. This new world now is another dimension, empty save for gleaming surfaces and disembodied hands.
She cannot place Hikaru in this alien world. Her fussy, demanding baby, always eating, never shutting up, only rarely sleeping: the Hikaru she knew would scream and wriggle out of this world, shed his clothes as he went, knock down everything in his lurching path. By the age of three, he'd been asked to leave two preschools and three playgroups due to obstinacy, temper, and dedicated nudism.
"You must be so proud," Aikawa says. Somehow she knows who Mitsuko is; that level of market research is very disconcerting.
"I --" Mitsuko touches the edge of a board for sale. "I don't even know how to play, I'm too stupid."
This is a confession, but she trusts that its truth will remain hidden inside the formulaic expression. This is how you speak, how you erase yourself.
Giggling, Aikawa nods vigorously. "It looks so hard! Far past me!"
"Yes, yes." The goban's edge is sharp against Mitsuko's fingertips. "Not a world for me."
"But a great place to visit! Especially with the help of Hokuto telecom services!"
Mitsuko taps her first two fingers on the board. She is long overdue for a manicure. "Of course."
"Oh, oh, Touya-sensei, oh --" Aikawa's voice jumps in pitch and she bobs her head at the boy approaching.
So this is the Touya boy.
Given how he looms so large in Hikaru's outsized, life-and-death imagination, Mitsuko would have thought Touya was a misshapen giant, dripping ectoplasm and gnashing jagged fangs. She looks away, embarrassed in part by her silliness, but in much greater proportion by the fact that she has never seen the boy before. She should know what her son's friends and -- colleagues is really the best word here -- what they look like.
Even a ditsy, dippy little office girl knows Touya by sight. Mitsuko bites the inside of her cheek until the sharp pain shakes her back to herself.
"Thank you very much for the dinner you made." His voice is grave, his gaze steady and blank. It takes Mitsuko a moment to understand not only that he is addressing her, but referring to the food she sent along with Hikaru last week.
Hikaru never did manage to bring home those containers.
"You're welcome," she says, far too belatedly. "I'm very glad that you were able to enjoy it!" She has to work to make the statement sound bright and chipper. "You are very kind for saying so."
"I did not have the opportunity to enjoy your gyoza," he continues, "but I hear they are exquisite."
Mitsuko starts to thank him with as much flourish as she can muster, but the boy gently cuts her off. "Shindou-kun had eaten them all by the time he arrived, you see."
She does not know whether to apologize -- how could her son be so rude and thoughtless? What a terrible reflection on his parents! -- or commiserate with his exasperation. "I --"
"That's not a very good goban." He addresses Mitsuko, almost conversationally, though he's still using a formal second-person. "Though as a gift, perhaps...?"
Though her hand twitches, Mitsuko succeeds in not yanking it away from the board. Rather, she nods slowly as she withdraws her hand and slides it into her coat pocket. He speaks to her as if she knows what she's doing.
"For study, maybe?" Considering the goban, he cocks his head. his hair falls back, exposing a stalk-thin neck, skin pale as a mushroom. He looks back to her. "As a backup, I mean. You study?"
Mitsuko's tongue clicks uselessly against the back of her teeth. Finally, she manages to say, "No?"
Touya bows his head briefly, then sets out three stones at various points.
Somewhere to Mitsuko's right, Aikawa claps her hands.
"Touya-san, please --" Mitsuko sways on her heels. "I'm so stupid, I can't possibly --"
"Can you hold someone's hand?"
She is so surprised, she answers immediately. "Of course."
"And you could pull away, if you had to?"
"Yes..." She hears her voice trail off and wishes she could follow it away.
"Go is war." He sounds kind as he says something so horrible, as he hands her a black stone. "Go is conversation. A battle, a ball."
He speaks, Mitsuko thinks, like a character in those serialized dramas that her mother used to watch. No, like someone who learned to speak from those dramas. As if he rarely speaks at all.
The stone warms in her palm. His hand, fingers as thin as her own, touches hers. He turns her hand, moving the stone until she pinches it between her first two fingers and bending her palm until it cups the air beneath. She tests the hold, flexing her wrist up and down, and can't suppress a smile when Touya nods.
"Better than Shindou-kun, that's for sure," he says. His smile is small, almost sly. It vanishes as she blinks, startled, at him. "He took forever to hold a stone properly."
"He's very stubborn," she answers.
Touya does not smile this time, but he does nod, curtly, as if she gave the correct answer. Who spoke to him like that, taught him that there are only right and wrong answers while forgetting conversation, discussion, laughter?
Mitsuko turns her wrist and studies the stone in her fingers.
"Of course, he had to get it from somewhere," Touya adds. "The talent, not his stubbornness."
"His grandfather," Mitsuko says quickly. After a moment, she feels she must add, "Both, I mean. He gets both from grampa."
Her husband used to say, when he was courting her, that she had the smallest hands he'd ever seen. Too small to keep up with the piano she'd loved as a child, they were just the right size to work the stenograph machines and keep up with transcription when she enrolled in the court reporting program.
"Now let it go." Touya indicates the board. "It can dance, or flirt, or wage war."
Before her, there are three black stones and a blank board. Masao used to kiss her palms while gazing up at her, his eyes round and bottomless. After their dates, late at night in bed, when he'd seen her back to her parents' home and she was alone, she would cover her mouth and nose with her hand and inhale the scent of his mouth, tobacco and sweetness.