Rating/Warnings: PG for Shindou being the other woman.
Summary: Even now that Touya sees Shindou all he wants and more, he and Akari still keep their regular tutoring sessions up.
AN: Written for LacyGrey for the 2011 Remix Redux 9 exchange. A remix of her story Strangers. Shiriai is Japanese for 'acquaintance.'
Shiriai (The Other Woman Remix)
Fujisaki Akari is a terrible player but a perfectly pleasant student, and Touya wishes he could say the same for a lot of the adults he tutors regularly.
"Would you teach me again?" she asks as they're packing up the stones, the late afternoon sun slanting warmly in through the chemistry room's wide windows, highlighting the dust motes as they land gently on the board between them. Touya finds himself agreeing, even though after an awkward pause he suggests that maybe they shouldn't meet at Akari and Shindou's school, if she really wants it to be a secret and all.
The whole thing is awkward honestly, but not enough to make it unpleasant. Touya is too polite to bring it up, and anyway, he privately thinks that most of the awkwardness is due to him not having any idea how to interact with even boys of his own age, much less girls. Akari brings him charmingly imperfect baked goods in lieu of paying him and spends most of their lessons chattering about Shindou.
Which, if Touya is being honest with himself, is what he's after most of all.
"You know," Ishikawa says after Akari leaves one afternoon, calling a pleasant goodbye to some of the regulars, "I thought you had a little girlfriend at first, but you're just pumping her for information about that Shindou kid who beat you, huh?"
"No," Touya says, far too quickly, and then glares at the board, cheeks burning. Ishikawa waits him out until he adds a grumpy, "Shut up and take some cookies."
"Don't be that kind of guy," Ishikawa scolds gently. She squeezes Touya's shoulder before taking a cookie after all. "It's cruel to do that sort of thing to nice girls."
It really just leads to a lot of confusion and irritation twisting in Touya's stomach. By their next session, he makes it a whole fifteen minutes before he blurts out, "I'm pumping you for information about Shindou-kun."
Akari just blinks at him, her black stone hovering just above the board between her fingertips.
"Ishikawa-san says I shouldn't do it because you're a nice girl," he adds after a second. "Also I think she wants to hook us up." Then he shuts his mouth because he hadn't exactly meant to add that last part.
Akari bursts out laughing, which makes Touya jump three centimeters off his chair.
"It's fine, Touya-kun," she says, and her smile is kind and cheerful. She really is a nice girl, Touya thinks. "I talk about him kind of a lot, right? My other friends are always telling me to shut up about him. You really don't mind?"
Touya shakes his head. He wonders if it's not normal, this thing they're doing, but he doesn't want to ask. In fact, he wants to stop talking about it as soon as possible. Thankfully, Akari seems perfectly willing to drop it and go back to Go like usual.
"Touya-kun doesn't have a lot of friends, huh?" Akari asks a handful of sessions later. She's turning out to be more observant than Touya would have expected, to his chagrin. "You're always here, right? All old men, ne."
"It's…" Touya tries to think how to explain, the way the other students part to let him through like water going around a stone, without even noticing. The way Keio's Go club members do their best to pretend he isn't even there. "I don't fit in very well."
"Mm." Akari nods, like she understands. Touya wonders really how cheerful, pretty, chatty Akari can really understand that at all. "Is that what you want from Hikaru? To be friends?"
Touya opens his mouth and then closes it. Is that what he wants? He thinks about how after spending two minutes with each other they usually end up shouting at the top of their lungs, about how when Shindou pops up suddenly, as he does, it's hard for Touya to even get words out, how he wants to fist hands in Shindou's shirt and shake him until his teeth rattle. He thinks about Shindou holding a stone like he's never touched one in his whole life and saying he doesn't need a handicap since they're the same age and all, is Touya crazy?
Touya doesn't have the faintest idea what's going on here.
"What about you?" he finally asks. "What do you want from him?"
"We're just friends," Akari says quickly, but her eyes drop to the stone she's twiddling between her fingers. "We've been neighbors our whole lives. But lately…he's weird lately. It seems like he's getting farther and farther away, and I just want…I don't know. It started when the Go did."
"Oh," Touya says, getting it, or at least part of it. "So..Go?"
"Yeah, I thought," Akari's cheeks turn pink, but her mouth sets in a determined line, "maybe I could hold on a little, if I understood what he was talking about all the time. I like it, though," she rushes to add. "Touya-kun's a good teacher, after all."
"Thank you," Touya answers, unused to compliments from year-mates. "Should we play, then?"
Akari seems happy for the change in subject and the game, and Touya is just fine with that.
Six years later and Touya sees all he wants of Shindou these days, and more than he wants to every now and then.
"Pants!" he hollers as he chases a laughing Shindou out of the room. "The rule is pants in the kitchen!"
"I just wanted a good morning kiss, geez," Shindou shoots over his shoulder as he saunters off to the shower. He gives his bare ass an extra wiggle for Touya's sake. "See if you get what you want later."
Touya just rolls his eyes, thinking that any normal person would learn their lesson after the soy sauce splattering incident.
It's nice to have Shindou staying with him while his parents are on one of their trips, nice enough that Touya's been wondering whether Shindou would want to live in an apartment where he doesn’t have to get sent home to his mother's at the end of the week. He's not ready to talk about it yet, but there's no harm in thinking about it.
"What are you smiling about?" Shindou wants to know when he returns, hair damp and eyes still sleepy. He's got a nice shirt on for his match but none of the buttons are done up yet. Touya leaves the omelet to its own devices for a minute while he turns to get his hands on Shindou instead. He laughs when Shindou dodges his attempt at a kiss. "Oh, now you see something you want?"
"Ass." Touya pushes Shindou back against the door frame and uses his extra inch of height to take exactly what he wants. Shindou doesn't fight that hard, and his skin is warm under Touya's hands. He waits until Shindou's hands are in his hair before he pulls back, satisfied. "Plans after your match?"
"Going out with Waya, maybe Ochi if we can't shake him. They have matches too. Want to come?"
"No, thank you." Touya slips Shindou's grip and turns back to the omelet, which is just a little burnt on the bottom now. Oops. "I've got plans, actually."
Shindou snorts and drops into one of the kitchen chairs. "You do not. With who?"
"An old friend," Touya says, using the spatula to break the omelet neatly in half and pushing the halves onto the two plates he's got sitting on the counter. "I won't be late, though, if you're worried about spending the night."
"Don't try to make it like I'm the one desperate for your body instead of the other way around," Shindou retorts as Touya puts the plates down on the table and sits in the chair opposite him. "This the same friend as before? Why won't you just tell me who it is?"
Letting the crack about just who is desperate for who pass with only a roll of his eyes, Touya answers, "Yes, it's the same friend. It's just someone from junior high, she's no one special. Hurry up and eat, you'll miss the train."
"She?" Shindou demands, then glances at the clock and curses. Conversation cuts off as he shovels his breakfast into his mouth and then has a frantic hunt for his keys.
Touya gets up from his own half-finished breakfast to see him off, not really thinking anything of their banter until Shindou stops with one shoe on and looks up from the genkan, brow furrowed.
"I'm not the other woman, right?" he asks.
"No, Shindou," Touya assures, because something in Shindou's face tells him he shouldn't tease. He comes down the two small steps to take Shindou's face between his hands. "You aren't even the woman, there's no women involved in any way."
"Okay." Shindou nods once, trusting Touya's say-so. Touya leans in for a last kiss and feels one of Shindou's hands cover one of his own and squeeze. Then they both remember the time and Shindou bolts out the door, calling over his shoulder that Touya had better not be late.
Touya tries to go back to his breakfast, but it's lost its appeal.
He's still thinking about Shindou's face between his hands, the trust that he'd looked up at Touya with, when Touya shows up for his appointment later that afternoon. He isn't the first one there, and his date spots him right away, waving him over with a smile.
"I think I have to tell him," Touya says without preamble. Akari raises an eyebrow, but doesn't ask any questions until Touya's in his chair and they've both ordered a coffee.
"So what's this about, then?" Akari asks once they're setting up the magnetic goban she brings along in her apparently bottomless bag. "He'll be furious, you know. He hates it when people keep secrets from him."
Touya knows; he shifts in his chair just thinking about the year with the disastrous surprise birthday party. "I didn't mean to be keeping anything secret. It just seems like it's way too late to admit I've been seeing his childhood friend on the sly all this time. And now that we've been, er…" Touya stumbles over the words, blushing when Akari smiles knowingly, "…he's been staying over a lot, he can tell I'm not telling him something."
"It's my fault," Akari shrugs, laying her seven stones in their usual spots. "I'm the one who told you not to tell in the first place. We could just stop, if you like."
"Stop?" Touya blinks, wondering why he didn't think of that as option.
"I don't want to come between you two, after all," Akari adds, and Touya wants to argue, but realizes that she's probably right. Girls understand a little too much about everything, like Waya-kun likes to say.
"It would probably be best," Touya says, apologetic. "I'm sorry for the trouble."
"I'm sorry I won't be able to pump you for information about him," she says, and they both laugh because it's funny, how their relationship has reversed polarity.
They put their attention into the game, trying to make it a good once since it'll be their last. They're engrossed enough that they don't pay any attention to the other patrons, to the waitress refilling their coffees, to the slam of the café door until suddenly a familiar voice cuts through their concentration and makes them both snap their heads up.
"Aw, geez, Waya, this place is for little old la—"
"Shit," Touya and Akari both curse as Shindou spots them, cutting off mid-sentence and jaw dropping.
"Touya-kun?" Waya leans around Shindou one way and Ochi is leaning around him the other. Ochi is beady-eyed as always, but Waya's sharp grin is not entirely friendly. "Fancy meeting you here. Who's the little lady?"
"Akari!" Shindou snaps out of his daze and stomps over to the table to loom over them. "You're the other woman?!"
"Shindou!" Touya hisses. Everybody's staring at them, of course.
"The other woman?" Akari asks, crossing her arms and glaring right back.
"There's no other woman!" Touya interrupts them as they both open their mouths to let loose on each other. "There's no other woman and no the woman, there's no women of any kind!"
"You said it was a friend from junior high!" Shindou accuses, turning his attention to Touya.
"That's when we met," Touya explains, with the sinking feeling that lies of omission are just as damning in Shindou's opinion. "Remember I came to your school looking for you? Fujisaki-san was there, that's how we met."
"He taught me Go," Akari speaks up. "He's been tutoring me all this time."
Shindou eyes the pair of them for another long second, and then turns and walks out of the café without another word, shoulders stiff as he brushes by Waya and Ochi.
"That's the worst thing I could have said, huh?" Akari asks, and Touya puts his head in his hands.
When he does slink home a little while later, Touya fully expects to be spending the night alone. Instead he finds Shindou on his front step, waiting for him, looking even more irritated than before, if possible. Touya doesn’t have any idea what to say to him, so he simply stops in front of Shindou and waits.
"You said you weren't gonna be late," Shindou says, voice gruff. "And are you ever gonna give me a key or what? Your neighbor keeps looking out her window at me like I'm breaking and entering."
"Let's get an apartment," Touya says, and it's a toss-up which one of them is more surprised when his words hit the air. "Let's move in together. You can have a million keys."
"What?" Shindou is looking up at him in confusion and wonder and some anger still too, like he can't at all figure out which thing to focus on. "Dammit, Touya—"
"I hate it when you leave," Touya interrupts, reaching down to offer Shindou a hand up. "So don't do it anymore."
Shindou grins wildly and grabs Touya's hand; he doesn't let go even when he's on his feet and then Touya has to scramble to get his front door open before they really do give Touya's neighbor something to phone the police about.
"Excuse me," she says when he pulls the door open. "I'm looking for Shindou Hikaru."
"Cute," Shindou calls from across the room, where he's hopelessly tangled in a nest of wires that are somehow supposed to connect the cable to the television to the Playstation. "Just keep your little date quiet, I'm concentrating over here."
"Welcome to our apartment," Touya greets with a long-suffering roll of his eyes. Akari laughs and hands him the plant she's brought as a house-warming gift so that she can line up her shoes neatly next to theirs.
They don't have any furniture yet, but the goban's already set up in one corner of the living room. A game from that morning is still on it when they sit down, close enough that Akari has to ask who won.
"Shindou," Touya admits, just a touch grumpy about it still. "Because he's a dirty, trick-play cheater."
"That's dirty, trick-play Honinbou semi-finalist to you," Shindou calls over.
For another few seconds, Akari looks over the board, her expression wistful. Then she shakes it off with a rueful smile, and they begin to clear the board.
They're halfway through when Hikaru gives up on the wires and comes over to watch. He stretches out alongside the board once he's been assured that he can play winner, Touya within easy reach of his restless fingers, Akari kickably close.
"Ahh," Shindou sighs, "too bad, you could've had him in that corner."
"Quit it," Akari orders. "No commentary during a game."
"I'm just saying, any time you want a real tutor to show you how to do it…"
"Stop nettling my student." Touya plays his response and slaps Shindou's hand away from his side. "She only started learning so she could surprise an old friend, you know."
"Oh yeah?" Shindou looks across the board to Akari, and Touya follows his gaze. Akari is looking back at them, amused and fond, grown up and confident and beautiful, and still somehow exactly the same as the hopeful, friendly girl in the chemistry lab. "Who?"
"I promised I wouldn't tell." Touya winks, and Akari laughs.
"You two are terrible with secrets," Hikaru informs them, which is clearly why he loves them both, and then he demands that they hurry it up so he can see for himself exactly what Touya's been teaching Akari all this time.