<i>According to authorities around the world, there are five different kinds of health that human beings strive for: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual and Social. A healthy, happy life results from keeping all these elements in balance.</i>

A Hikaru no Go Sekkushiaru Roman Series
By Sailor Mac


Akira was trying not to look impatient.

He sat at the usual table in the Go salon, waiting for Hikaru to get there, quietly laying out stones. The pattern was a game they had played against each other a long, long time ago . . . at the junior high school Go Club tournament.

Only the first part of the game hadn’t been Hikaru. It had been Fujiwara no Sai, a ghost. He’d been playing a Go master from the Heian period.

Akira paused and studied the stones. Yes, he could see where the transition from Sai to Shindou had taken place. The archaic patterns disappeared, the playing became more disorganized, more careless . . . but also, in a way, more fearless.

“If I knew then what I knew now,” Akira murmured out loud to himself as he stared at the patterns thoughtfully, one hand against his chin.

So much had changed between himself and Shindou in a short period of time. He had found out the secret the other boy had been promising to tell him for so long . . .

“Touya! I’m here!” Akira looked up to see the familiar form rushing past Ichikawa’s desk toward him, backpack slung over one shoulder. He was wearing his usual casual attire, blue jeans and an unbuttoned brown and tan flannel shirt, under which was a green T-shirt bearing the number 5.

Akira found himself looking back at the stones again, not wanting his eyes -- the eyes he usually had such perfect control over -- to betray what he was feeling. All it would take would be for the wrong person to see him gazing at Hikaru a second too long, studying him a bit too intently . . .

He glanced back up at the boy who was now more than a friend to him and said, cooly, “You’re 10 minutes late.”

“Hey, I would have been even later if Morishita-sensei had his way!” Hikaru said, sitting down with a thud. “Geez, that was the longest lecture on a single hand I ever . . .” His eyes traveled over the board, reading the game that was there . . . and he abruptly stopped talking. His expression changed, became tinged with melancholy.

*Sai*, Hikaru thought. *I stole this game from you. I wanted to play so badly, I was so selfish that day . . .*

And he looked up and saw the expression on Akira’s face. There was concern there . . . . because Akira *understood* now. Akira knew about Sai. . . the only person who knew, who ever would know.

Their eyes locked and held for a moment that seemed like eternity, communicating without words, seeming to fall into each other.

Then, Hikaru abruptly looked away. Must break the eye contact, must not let anyone else see . . .

“Let’s play,” he said, quietly.

Akira nodded, and began to clear away the old game.

* * *

From her post at the front of the Go salon, Ichikawa observed what was going on toward the back.

It was rather quiet. In fact, it had been quiet for the past couple of weeks. They hadn’t had a major fight since the one that had ended with Akira yelling, “Who are you, anyway?” and Hikaru storming out of the salon.

She was glad of it, really. As much as the fights between Hikaru and Akira drew attention to the Go salon -- it was good for business to have it out on the street that the Go world’s two young geniuses came there on a regular basis to play and squabble -- they made her feel rather like a kindergarten teacher sometimes.

* * *

Over at the board, Hikaru was running through possible moves in his head.

Akira had launched an aggressive attack against his stones at the upper right -- but he had also left a grouping of his own stones just left of center with one opening that Hikaru could move in on easily.

Attack or defend, attack or defend . . .

*Or completely psych him out,* Hikaru thought, *and get him to chase me to the left, so he’ll neglect both of those groups . .*

He watched his rival reach into the go ke with his long, slender fingers, withdrawing a stone and holding it in the air for a split second before bringing it down with a resounding *pachi*.

*Those fingers,* Hikaru thought. *They seem made to hold a stone. They’re so beautfully shaped . . .*

And then, suddenly, a picture flooded his head of what those selfsame fingers had been doing a couple of nights ago, and it did *not* involve Go stones.

Hikaru remembered the feel of cotton on his naked skin as he writhed on the futon, the heat and wetness of Akira’s lips and tongue caressing his neck, and the stroking, stroking, up and down his erection, lingering on the head of it, sending a deep shudder through Hikaru’s entire . . .

He shook his head rapidly, trying to drive the heated images out. No, he couldn’t be thinking this way in the middle of a game! He had a shot at actually beating Touya for once! He looked at the boad, at where Akira’s stone had landed . . . yes, he had discovered the vulnerability to the left, he was trying to close it before it was too late, if he didn’t move now he’d lose his chance.

Akira studied Hikaru’s expression as the boy reached into the Go ke. His face was its usual stony mid-game mask. Quite a contrast to a moment ago, when he had looked . . well, that had definitely not been his game face. Hikaru’s expression had been soft, his lips moist and parted, a slight flush in his cheeks.

A lovely picture flashed through the boy’s head of those lips opening wider under Akira’s thrusting tongue, letting him in to explore as Hikaru’s fingers found the buttons of his shirt, unfastening them one by one, slow enough to drive Akira mad . . .

Akira blinked, rapidly. Where did those thoughts come from? *This isn’t like me!* he thought. *I never lose focus during a game! I can’t afford to! Especially against Shindou!* He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and tilted his head down to the board, willing himself to think of nothing else.

* * *

Back at the counter, as Ichikawa pulled out a small teapot and began to fill it with hot water, she gazed over at Akira again. He had come such a long way from the little boy who came here with his father when he could barely walk.

*He’s almost an adult now,* she thought. *He’s going through so many changes. And with the spotlight of the Go world on him . . . it can’t be easy.*

That may have explained the odd period of behavior he’d gone through about a month ago, when he seemed to be *not him*. He’d brooded all the time, seemed preoccupied, and then there had been that fight with Shindou.

*Something has definitely changed in that relationship*, she thought as she put the teapot and a cup on a tray, then put a bottle of Mountain Dew Code Red beside it -- Shindou’s beverage of choice. *And I can’t put my finger on it.*

She carried the tray over. The boys were intently studying their game, both heads bent over the board. Neither looked up when she laid their drinks beside them, then walked away.

It was only when she was back to her desk that she realized what seemed odd about the way they were sitting. They had their heads close to each other. *Very* close -- with mere inches separating them. Go players usually did *not* sit like that.

*Maybe it’s because they’re too into their game to notice*, she thought. *Or maybe they’re just comfortable with each other -- they spend a lot of time together away from the goban, don’t they? Akira-kun said something about Shindou making him play video games to relax.*

But still, neither seemed a plausible explanation, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something *odd* about them.

“Teenage boys,” she sighed out loud, and began to wipe off the counter.

* * *

It was early evening as the boys left the salon together. Hikaru watched a group of schoolkids race each other to the nearby arcade, a young woman walking three dauchsunds at once, a woman trying to balance a large bag of grocieries in one hand and a briefcase in the other.

He felt strangely content, despite the fact that Akira had beat him yet again. He thought he had him -- thought he had that grouping of stones just left of center surrounded and dead -- and then Akira had found the one escape route, one Hikaru himself had overlooked. It had proved to be the turning point of the game.

“Shindou,” Akira said as they walked, “do you have any plans for Friday night?”

Hikaru shook his head. “I’m teaching two lessons in the afternoon, that’s it.”

“My parents are going away overnight again.”

Hikaru’s heart sped up. Touya Koyou’s schedule in retirement often seemed more active than it did when he had been playing -- frequent trips to China, plus occasional appearances in seniors Go tournaments in different parts of the country. It was the best thing that could happen to two boys with a rapidly budding sexual relationship.

“What time should I come over?” he said, quietly.

The boys turned a corner, Hikaru admiring the graceful way Akira’s hair bannered out around his face as he moved. It sometimes seemed that nature itself was conspiring to make him even more beautiful.

“Around seven,” Akira replied. “I have a game tomorrow, it should be finished by then.

*I wonder,* Hikaru thought, *if we’ll go all the way this time.* Their experiences so far had been confined to pleasuring each other with mouths and hands. Not that Hikaru exactly minded that -- it was just that he was curious. And a bit scared, he had to admit to himself.

“Touya,” he said, as he shifted his backpack to his other shoulder. “Is there anything . . . um . . . special I should bring?”

Akira sighed. *I wish I knew,* he thought. *There’s still so much I don’t know, don’t understand, about homosexuality -- about sexuality in general.*

It bothered him that he had no idea whether what they were doing was *right*, if there were something he could be doing to improve Hikaru’s experience, and his own . . . and just how one went about performing anal sex.

This was most defnitely not something he could ask his father about, or any of the adults in his father’s study group. He could just imagine what their reaction would be .

Hikaru had stopped, and was frowning at Akira, waving his hand in front of his face. “Touya! Hey! Are you in there?”

“I’m thinking!” Akira replied, starting to walk again twice as fast, as if to make up for lost time.

“You think too much,” Hikaru replied, shoving his hands in his pockets.

“One of us has to,” Akira replied, a bit haughtily.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Hikaru snapped.

Oh, this had impending fight written all over it. Akira restrained himself from going into a lecture about Hikaru’s frequent carelessness, his live-for-the-moment-except-when-it-comes-to-Go attitude.

Instead, he kept quiet and said nothing. He was in no mood for a fight now. He knew he had to go home and do research.

* * *

A few hours later, Akira found himself sitting at his desk, staring at an empty search engine screen.

Usually, Akira was very good at finding things on the Internet -- one had to be, when one was juggling writing school papers with a professional Go career. But now, what he needed was eluding him.

*How does one go about this?* he thought. *If I just type in “anal sex,” I’m probably going to get a thousand ads for hentai videos. If I type in “homosexuality,” I’m going to get all kinds of gay rights pages.*

Looking down the page, he found a “health” category heading and clicked on it. Surfing from there to a sub-sub category on “sexuality” borught up everything from “adult products and services” to “legal issues” to “purity tests.” (He wondered how he’d score on the latter. His relationship with Shindou had downgraded the purity of his mind and actions quite a bit).

He went to the page that said “Activities and Practices” and scanned the list. Yes, here was a subcategory on anal sex, and another on homosexuality, and . . .

“Fisting?” Akira said out loud. “Enemas? Beastiality?” He turned pale, his eyes growing wide . . . and clicked the mouse as quickly as his fingers could move.

He turned away from the screen for a moment, one hand clenched in a fist at his chest, as if to block out what he’d just seen. He knew human sexuality could take some odd directions, but they were directions he would have rather not known about.

Determined to complete his mission, he turned back around and clicked on the “anal sex” cateogory -- that was bound to have more solid, medical information. Scanning the list of links, he decided anything sporting multiple exclaimation points -- as in “!!!100% Anal Sex!!!” -- was probably a must to avoid.

He finally settled on a page called “Getting Over Fear of Anal Sex.” The browser displayed a plain page with grey frames surrounding a white background, a series of links in a deep purple going down the left side -- maybe *too* many links, since they seemed clustered very close together. *It seems serious-looking enough*, he thought, and began to read.

Half an hour later, he sat back in his chair, his brow slightly furrowed as his hand reached up and gently tugged at his collar. It all actually seemed a lot simpler than he thought it was going to be. The most important things were for the receiving partner to relax, and to use a lot of lubrication.

*The relaxation is going to be the hard part,* Akira thought. *We’re both going to be nervous. Maybe we should take a bath together first, that’ll relax us and put us in the mood.*

Lubrication, the page had said, could come from a drugstore. But he figured that was definitely one topic they should know more about. If it was the main thing that kept a couple from getting injured . . . He scanned the links to the left. Sure enough, there was one that said “All About Lubricant.”

He reached out for it and clicked -- and then realized he’d hit the one below it instead. He sighed -- those links really *did* need more space between them. The other page popped up in a separate window and began to load . . . this one had a black background with yellow type, and picture boxes. A *lot* of picture boxes.

Akira was about to click the button to make the page go away when he saw the type of photos that were loading. Here was a willowy blond man on his knees in front of an guy with close-cropped black hair and an athletic build, his mouth wrapped around the other man’s erection. In the next picture, the blond was lying on his side with the brunet behind him, their bodies curved together spoon-fashion, the seme’s hand wrapped around his partner’s body to grasp and stroke his erection.

There were captions under each photo explaining the how-to of each position and act, but Akira paid no attention to them. His eyes were rivited to the images.

*So this is what it looks like,* he thought, scrolling down a bit further to see more images -- the blond on his hands and knees with the brunet behind him, entering him doggie-style, then a missionary-style position, the uke with his arms and legs wrapped around the seme, his mouth open in a gasp of bliss.

*Is that what my face looks like when Hikaru and I are making love to each other?* Akira thought. He leaned over a bit, studying the last picture intently, the way he’d study the pattern of stones on the board while figuring out his next move.

Go was no mystery to him, however. And this was. He felt like a crack in the earth had opened up under his feet and given him a glimpse of some subterranean society that had remained hidden for thousands of years.

He scrolled back up to the first pictures, his eyes traveling over the bodies of the two men. They were beautiful . . . flawless skin, smooth muscles, flat stomachs . . . He felt a tightening in his groin, the same sensation he felt when kissing Hikaru, touching him.

*What does Hikaru see when he looks at me?* he thought.

Slowly, he rose and walked toward his closet door, which had a full-length mirror. Reaching up, he unbuttoned his shirt, methodically, and flung it on the floor, followed by his pants, underwear and socks.

He looked at the boy reflected back at him as if he’d never seen him before. His eyes traveled upward, gradually, over the longish legs, the slender hips and chest, to the heart-shaped face framed by glossy, dark hair.

Turning around, he glanced over his shoulder at the graceful sweep of his back, the slight dip before it flared out again into his gently rounded bottom. He was startled at how good the latter looked. Hikaru had told him he had a “hot ass,” but he hadn’t taken it very seriously -- they were words coming from a lover, after all, and didn’t everyone think their lover had a “hot ass”?

Turning forward again, he looked at his own face. When did his eyes become cat-shaped like that? He couldn’t remember them looking that way -- or maybe he’d just never noticed it. Just like he’d never really noticed the slender, arched brows. And his lips were fuller than he thought they’d be.

He let his eyes trail over his body again. He most definitely wasn’t muscular -- a life spent in Go salons had assured that. But his body was all in proportion, and there was nothing scrawny about him -- there was just enough fat, just enough muscle, to fill him out and hide his bones.

He looked pale, smooth and slender, like a Greek statue of a barely-adolescent youth carved out of marble.

And it suddenly occured to Touya Akira, with a shattering jolt, that he was a beautiful boy.

He remained that way for a long moment, gazing at himself, reaching out to place one palm against the mirror, as if to connect with the boy within, to verify that yes, *this is me*.

Slowly, he turned and walked back to his computer chair, still naked. His screensaver had come up, a slideshow of culturally and historically important sites throughout Japan.

He moved his mouse, and the image of a huge temple bell vanished, to be replaced by the images of the two men coupling.

*Now I know what Hikaru and I would look like,* he thought. Because he was becoming very, very familiar with his lover’s naked body, and Hikaru was *definitely* beautiful.

Akira closed his eyes, envisioning a naked Hikaru. His build was more muscular than Akira’s, since he had played sports before taking up Go, and it had been maintained by a lot of time walking to and from subways and going up and down steps -- Go players got more exercise than most people thought. His arms and legs had been kind of stubby when he was 12, but now . . . oh, yes, they had gotten longer, come into proportion with the rest of him, and filled out. His chest was strong, broader than Akira’s, as was his back . . .

And his bottom. Shindou Hikaru most definitely had a “hot ass.” Those round, firm cheeks seemed made for Akira’s hands to grasp and caress.

Akira’s eyes fell on a picture of the blond standing, bent over and holding on to the bedpost, with the brunette behind him, pushing into him.

What would it be like to have Hikaru bent over like that, his gorgeous bottom upturned and ready for him? What would it be like to push his erection between the cheeks, to feel Hikaru’s inner muscles grip him, to be buried within his lover’s body . . .

Akira’s right hand began to slide slowly down his chest, stroking the skin, caressing in small circles. He let out a soft moan of pleasure as he felt his own nipple hardening beneath his fingers.

“Hikaru,” he gasped as he rubbed the nipple back and forth, then swirling in circles, imagining it was his lover’s fingers. He could see him in his mind’s eye, his head bending to Akira’s chest, the blond bangs softly brushing his skin as his tongue lapped out at the hardening bud.

Akira moaned louder, his body arching up gracefully from the seat, his hair spilling over its back as the palms of both hands moved slowly over his stomach, then further down.

He writhed a bit in the seat, feeling the upholstery rub against his bottom, which seemed twice as sensitive as usual. He imagined Hikaru’s hands grabbing at the cheeks, squeezing and massaging them as he kissed along his lover’s erection.

“Ohhhh . . .” Akira groaned, brushing the fingers of one hand over his aching length, envisioning Hikaru’s tongue tracing a line up and down the side of his manhood. He could see the way the boy’s back curved as he bent over, the way the lashes of his closed eyes fanned out over his cheek.

His fingers wrapped around himself as the picture in his mind shifted. Now Hikaru was leaning over, like the blond on the Web page, and he was lubed and open and ready to receive him.

Akira imagined bending over for a kiss, his tongue plunging in and out of the boy’s mouth. He raised an index finger to his own lips and pushed it in, sucking on it a bit, thrusting it in and out.

He could hear Hikaru’s soft moans of anticipation, feel the boy’s hot breath mingling with his. He imagined parting his bottom, positioning himself . . .

The fingers that so deftly and confidently placed stones on the board were now enclosing his erection, sliding back by degrees from the head down to the base as he imagined pushing in . . . just a little, had to let him get used to the sensation, couldn’t hurt him . . .

His head fell back, his eyes tightly closed, his lips parted as his breath came in short gasps. He licked his lips as his hand moved again, sliding back some more . . . now he was almost fully encased in Hikaru, and he was being gripped tightly, flooded with luscious sensations.

The other hand flew to his mouth, and he kissed the back of it, imagining he was leaning over and kissing Hikaru’s neck, and then down to his back. The tip of his index finger slipped between his lips again, and he nipped at it lightly, then started to suck, envisioning himself nibbling and sucking on his lover’s earlobe.

Keeping the hand gripping his erection still, he began to raise his hips in thrusting motions, moving himself in and out of his fist, literally making love to his own hand. In his mind, he could hear Hikaru’s moans growing louder as he thrust in and out of his body, feel the tight heat as his lover encased him again and again.

Akira leaned forward, gasping, his hair falling over his flushed face as his hand started to pump rapidly.His other hand moved down to his chest, finding a nipple and starting to gently knead it, only heightening the hot sensations that were building and building in the core of his being, threatening to explode at any moment.

He could feel it almost as if it were really happening . . . the sensation of his nipples brushing Hikaru’s back, his legs rubbing on the other boy’s, the feel of Hikaru’s hips pushing back to meet Akira’s thrusts, the dampness of his lover’s skin.

He imagined reaching around and stroking Hikaru, the way he was now stroking himself, wanting to make him moan and cry out and shudder and then collapse in a satisfied heap.

His hand moved faster as he leaned back in the chair, writhing, a pink flush and a sheen of perspiration spreading over his ivory skin. His breath was coming in rapid pants now, his mind fuzzy with erotic delerium . . . the fantasy of Hikaru was his reality now, and he could feel the boy tensing and tightening around him as he prepared to climax.

Suddely, Akira felt the entire world stand still for a second . . . and then the dammed-up pleasure within him exploded in a fury of heat, and he let out a long, low cry as his body shook, relaxed, then shook again, his hips rising off the chair over and over, until he collapsed back into the seat, totally limp.

Akira just sat there for a moment, panting and dazed. Then, he looked up, one slightly trembling hand reaching up to push his hair out of his eyes.

It was then when he saw the results of his self-induced pleasure splattered on his desk and keyboard, and the full reality of what he had just done hit him.

“Gods!” he cried, leaping to his feet, scrambling for his box of tissues to clean up the mess. He had been sitting there, naked, looking at erotic images, fantasizing about Hikaru and masturbating . . .

And his *parents were in the house*.

He could just imagine his father coming into the bedroom and seeing the gay sex pictures and what his son was doing, hearing him moaning Hikaru’s name.

Akira rushed to his closet and took out his around-the-house yukata, slipping it on. He took the soiled tissues, wrapped them in another tissue, and wrapped that in another tissue still.

Opening the door, he crept out into the hall, afraid he’d find at least one parent there, demanding an explaination for what they’d just heard.

To his relief, not only was nobody there, but he could hear the sounds of the television from the living room. It was one of the very few nights that the set got used for something besides the evening news in the Touya household -- a documentary on Go tournaments over the past 12 months. He should have remembered -- he’d originally planned to watch it himself, then decided his research was more important.

He rushed into the bathroom, threw the bundle of tissues into the toilet and flushed. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror -- his face was still slightly flushed. He decided it probably was best that he not let his parents see him for awhile.

Returning to his bedroom, he saw his screen saver was back. He jiggled the mouse to make it go away, and the pictures came into view again. He didn’t even look at them -- he clicked the button to close the window.

He decided that he most definitely was not going to tell Hikaru about *this* part of his research.

* * *

“You did RESEARCH?”

Akira winced and ducked down a bit. The ramen shop they were in was crowded, and the table they were sitting at was not exactly private. He wondered if it had been a bad idea to mention this now, but he didn’t know when they’d get any time alone later. He certainly couldn’t talk to him about this at the Go Institute, or on the subway, or at his father’s Go salon.

“Yes,” he said, in a voice barely above a whisper. “I used a search engine and looked up some medical sites, and they had some very useful information.”

Hikaru leaned across the table, eyes glittering mischievously. “Did you go to any *porn* sites?”

Akira choked on his mouthful of noodles, stifling the loud coughing noises as best he could. His cheeks were blazing. If Shindou only knew about the pictures, and what he did when he was looking at them . . . He grabbed for his glass of water and took a huge gulp, then a deep breath, closing his eyes. When they snapped open again, they were ablaze with his usual game-face glare.

“Of course I didn’t!” he snapped. “I said *medical* sites! There’s a big difference between that and . . .” He felt himself turning crimson again. “What you said.”

“Okay,” Hikaru said, still with a look of mischief on his face. “If you say they were *medical* . . .”

“You’re not taking this seriously!” Akira said, grabbing his chopsticks and stabbing furiously at a piece of meat in his bowl. “Just like you don’t take the game seriously!”

“I take my game very seriously!” Hikaru replied, using his own chopsticks to point at Akira. “And I take this seriously, too! What makes you think I don’t?”

“You’re accusing me of . . .” He couldn’t get the words out. He bent over his bowl to slurp up noodles, giving him an excuse not to make eye contact with the other boy.

“So I made a joke! Big deal! You need to lighten up, Touya!”

Akira slammed his hand down on the table. “And you need to recognize a serious matter when you see one! This isn’t like playing ball with someone, Shindou! There’s risks invovled!”

“I know that!” Hikaru said, swirling his chopsticks around in his own soup.

“No, you don’t!” Akira replied, leaning over the table, his bowl of ramen now forgotten. “I did the research, and you’re not listening to me!”

“You didn’t talk about your research,” Hikaru said cooly, scooping up noodles and meat. “You flew off the handle before you could talk about it.” He slurped up the food.

“That’s because *you* made fun of what I was talking about!” Akira remained leaning over the table, eyes ablaze, gaze fixed firmly on the blond.

“I asked one question,” Hikaru said.

“And it was a very mocking question!”

“*You* were the one who saw it that way!”

There was a long moment of silence as Hikaru went back to his food, and Akira just stared into his. Normally, the last thing in the world he’d do would be to concede defeat to Shindou, but . . .

*Maybe I was a bit too sensitive,* he thought. *Maybe remembering what I did is getting to me.*

He went back to his bowl, picking up noodles, pushing them past his lips. He didn’t look at Shindou, and he was sure Shindou wasn’t looking at him, either.

Finally, Hikaru said, “So what did you learn?”

Akira’s first instinct was to snap, “So you’re finally willing to listen now?” But he bit it back. He didn’t want them to go back to square one.

Instead, he said, “We are going to *need* lubricant. That is a *must*.”

Hikaru frowned. “Lubricant? You mean, like WD-40?”

“NO.” Akira took a deep breath, fighting back another sharp retort. “I mean, like K-Y. You can find it in the drugstore -- it’s usually sold next to the hygiene items.”

“Hygiene?” Hikaru frowned for a moment -- and then he realized what Akira meant. “You mean . . . *woman stuff*?”

“That’s what the site said,” Akira replied, calmly. “And they also recommended you use condoms.”

“Why?” Hikaru picked up a crab leg and squeezed it between the chopsticks to crack the shell. “It’s not like either of us has been with someone before. We don’t have diseases.”

“It’s not a matter of *those kind* of diseases,” Akira said, picking up his teacup and bringing it halfway to his mouth. “There’s a lot of naturally occurring bacteria in there. You could come down with a urinary tract infection.”

“GHAAA!” Hikaru nearly spilled his remaining soup. He didn’t need any detail to know how painful *that* would be . . . not to mention having to explain to his family why he was groaning in pain every time he went to the bathroom. Or to a doctor how he happened to get such a thing.

“Fortunately, the condoms are easily found in the drugstore as well,” Akira said before taking a sip and putting his cup back down. “And they have another advantage . . . let’s just say they smooth things out and make entry easier.”

Hikaru gulped. He knew that *he* was going to be the one making the run to the drugstore. After all, it was only fair -- Akira did the research, so he had to hold up his own end of it.

Buying the condoms was going to be the easy part -- nobody looked twice at a teenage boy planning a big night with a girlfriend. But the other stuff . . . having to fetch it off the same shelf that held the women’s needs, taking it up to the cash register -- and those places always seemed to be staffed by old ladies with badly dyed hair and cat-eye glasses, the last kind of people you wanted to see you with personal lubricant in your hand.

Hikaru knew he wanted to go all the way with Akira, though -- what they had done so far had only made him curious about what was beyond that. And he certainly didn’t want either of them to get sick or hurt.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll go for stuff tomorrow, after my lessons. Think 500 yen from each of us will cover it all?”

“I don’t know,” Akira said, pulling out his wallet. “I’ve never bought the stuff before.” He pulled out the requested amount of money and handed it to his lover.

“If it’s more, I’ll let you know.” *Good Gods,* Hikaru thought, *what am I getting myself into? What would Sai think of all this if he were still here? I’ll bet he’d be horrified. But then again, would I even be *doing* this with Akira if Sai were still around? I doubt it.*

As Hikaru slid out of the booth, he accidentally knocked his jacket to the floor and bent to pick it up -- giving Akira a splendid look at his upturned bottom.

Oh, yes, Shindou Hikaru had a “hot ass.” And Akira’s head was suddely filled with visions of that lovely rump naked and open to him. He imagined how it would feel to plunge inside, to feel Hikaru all around him, tight around his manhood . . .

He shuddered with anticipation. Suddenly, tomorrow night seemed years away.

* * *

Hikaru stood outside the drugstore, looking through the front window. Just as he’d feared, all three cash registers were manned by old ladies.

*I can’t chicken out,* he thought. *Not if I want it to happen tonight. Not if I want . . .*

An image filled his mind of Akira lying on top of him, pushing into tim, filling him . . .

*What will it feel like?* Hikaru thought. *Is it going to hurt? Touya said the lube was to keep me from getting injured and to make it easier for him to get in. How are we going to know if we have enough? And what about the condom? How are we going to know if he has it on right? What if it slips off in the middle, and gets stuck inside, and . . .*

“Are you going inside?”

The voice behind him made Hikaru jump and give a yelp. He wheeled around to see an impatient-looking, rather bulky woman holding an equally bulky-looking toddler by the hand. It was only then that he realized he’d been blocking the doorway.

“Um, sure!” Hikaru said, blushing and screwing his eyes shut as he rubbed the back of his head. “I was just . . . trying to remember what I needed to get! And I know now, so I’ll just . . .” He turned back around and rushed into the store, ducking into the aisle that held batteries and flashlights as if the shelves could conceal him.

He peeked around the corner until he saw the woman head down the cold medicines and antacids aisle. He rushed off in the opposite direction, heading past the greeting cards, making a right at the envelopes and notebooks, until he was at the far end of the aisle where baby and feminine products were.

*It figures,* he thought. *The diapers are at this end, and what I need is all the way at the *other* end.*

Trying to appear casual and nonchalant, in case anyone in any other part of the store was peeking over in his direction, he sauntered up the aisle, flicking his eyes this way and that like he did when he wanted to survey the whole board quickly without letting his opponent know what he was was doing.

Diapers gave way to baby oils and powders, then adult diapers (something that nearly sent Hikaru running in the other direction -- he couldn’t think of anything that could be *less* sexy), and then a baffling array of boxes and bags containing every kind of feminine supply imaginable. Hikaru frowned -- how did women differentiate between “long maxi,” “thin long maxi,” “maxi with wings” and “ultra long thin maxi with wings?” He was never so glad he was born male in his life.

And finally, at the very, very end was a shelf of various tubes in boxes. Anti-yeast creams (the very idea made Hikaru shudder), topical pain relief creams, and . . .”

“Finally,” he said under his breath, as he scooped up a box labeled K-Y. *Now,* he thought, *all I need is the condoms. I know where they are, with the guy stuff . . .*

He turned the corner and began heading up the toothpaste and mouthwash asile --the razors and after-shave lotions and stuff were at the other end -- when he froze in his tracks.

Looking over a rack of toothpaste was a boy his own age, a bit short in stature, with unruly red hair, wearing the uniform of the same high school Akari attended.

Hikaru gulped. It was the worst possible person he could have run into at a moment like this. No, second worst. Kaga would have been the *absolute* worst.

*Maybe,* he thought, *if I back out of the aisle quietly, Mitani won’t notice me . . .*

But before he could take a single step, the other boy looked up and just said, “Shindou.”

Hikaru froze like a deer caught in the headlights. He felt as if a spotlight was focused on the tube he was holding in his hand, that the next day all his old Go Club friends would know he was in the drugstore buying something that straight guys *just didn’t buy*

He flicked his eyes to the left . . . he was standing by a rack of bottles of mouthwash. *Maybe,* he thought, *I could just hide it*.

“Mitani!” Hikaru said, trying to sound as calm as possible. “I haven’t seen you in . . . well, eternity! How are you doing?”

The redhead looked back at the shelf, giving Hikaru an opportunity to quickly put down the tube and shove it between two big bottles of green stuff.

“Are you still a pro?” he said, his voice even.

Hikaru winced. He knew Mitani never quite got over his leaving the Go Club to become an insei, after convincing Mitani to join.

“Um, sure!” Hikaru said. “I just got into the Honinbou League, in fact.” He began walking slowly away from where he’d hidden the tube, toward Mitani.

The other boy was silent at that, just reaching back to the shelf to make his selection from among the tubes. That bothered Hikaru. He said, quickly, “Akari-chan tells me that all of our old Haze Go Club members are together in the high school club now.”

“Most of us,” Mitani replied, walking down toward the other end of the aisle. Hikaru followed.

*I can’t grab the condoms now,* he thought. *Mitani will ask questions. He may think I want them for Akari -- I know they like each other. I’ll just have to grab shaving stuff or something like that.*

“Most of us?” Hikaru said, catching a glimpse of the condoms out of the corner of his eye and realizing, with a momentary flash of panic, that there were almost as many varieties of them as there were feminine hygiene products. How on earth was he going to find the right ones? It wasn’t as if they’d have labels on them that said, “Made expressly for anal sex!”

“Well, you’re not with us anymore,” Mitani replied, stopping by the shaving creams. “And we hardly see Kaga.”

“Is he still with the shougi club?” Hikaru said, pretending to be interested in the disposible razors.

“He’s trying to become a shougi pro,” Mitani replied, turning to look at Hikaru . . . just as a screech erupted from the other end of the aisle. Both boys turned their heads, to see one of the smock-clad old ladies, a cart of mouthwash bottles in front of her, pointing at the exact spot where Hikaru had put the K-Y, a look of horror on her face.

“Kazeki-san!” she cried. “Look at what someone put in the mouthwash asile!”

Another old lady, stooped and gnarled to the point where she looked like a walking mushroom (albiet one covered with a shock of overly dyed red hair), wobbled over to the shelf and said in a gravelly voice, “Eh, it’s just rude kids again. Stop overreacting!”

Hikaru just stood with his teeth clenched together, trying not to let his face betray any emotion at all, making a mental vow to make *very very sure* not to go to either woman’s checkout counter. To his relief, Mitani just shrugged and went back to the shaving creams.

“Um, so you said Kaga was trying to become a pro?” Hikaru said, quickly.

“He said that if Shindou could do it, anyone could,” Mitani said, picking up a can. “So he’s going to classes like you did.”

“That’s . . . great!” Of course, Hikaru had to admit a bit of disappointment as well -- he had always held out a secret hope that Kaga would rediscover how much he really loved Go.

“You done in here?” Mitani said, starting to walk toward the cash register. “I have to go.”

“No, I’m . . . waiting to pick up a prescription for my mother, and it isn’t ready yet,” Hikaru said, patting himself on the back for coming up with an excuse so quickly.

“Okay. I’ll see you.”

Hikaru watched the other boy pay for his goods and leave. He realized he was going to have to act before he ran into someone *else* that he knew. He rushed over to the condoms and scanned the packages quickly -- “ribbed for extra pleasure” was out, he knew, because Akira had said half the reason they’d be using them was to create a smooth surface to make entry easier.

He finally ended up grabbing the most basic type he saw and rushing around the corner, back to the diaper aisle again, nearly sprinting up to the feminine supplies and snatching another tube of K-Y up without hardly looking.

Hikaru headed for the cash registers, looked at the old ladies behind them, and stopped. There was the human mushroom, cackling over something a customer was saying . . . the screecher, primly pushing her cat-eye glasses back up her beaklike nose . . . and a third woman, whose tiny face was nearly hidden beneath a mop of steel-grey curls, squinting at the register she was hunched over as if she could barely see the numbers.

He wasn’t looking forward to having to face any of them. Not with these purchases.

Hikaru gulped, thinking that he wanted to turn and run away. But, no, he couldn’t. He’d come this far, and if he chickened out --

He was going to have to go through with it. He wanted tonight to happen. He wanted the answers to all his questions.

Rushing back to the aisle where he’d grabbed the condoms, he snatched up a two-pack of disposible razors. On the way to the register, he stopped at the magazine rack to pick up a sports publication, and he added a pack of gum for good measure.

Fortunately, the screecher and the mushroom both had customers. He rushed over to the blind woman, slapped his purchases down and looked out the window, pretending to be acutely interested in a woman juggling three huge grocery bags as she walked down the street.

He could hear the beeping of the cash register as she rang up his purchases. Dear gods, it was taking forever! Was she reading the labels? Was she wondering what kind of person would buy those things? Was she . . .

“That will be 2700 yen,” the woman said in a whispery voice.

Hikaru restrained himelf from breathing a sigh of relief as he took out his wallet. When she handed him back his change, he snatched up the bag and hightailed it for the door.

But just as the automatic doors opened, he heard the mushroom say behind him, “If I get my hands on whatever punk kid has been puttin’ that sex stuff out on the shelves . . .”

He rushed away from the store as fast as his feet could take him.


Hikaru no Go is property of Yumi Hotta, Takeshi Obata and Shueisha. No profit is being made from this fanfic.

* * *

Akira looked out the front window of the Touya home for what felt like the umpteenth ttime.

*He’s late,* he thought. *Well, what else is new? He’s late all the time!*

He walked over to the couch and sat down gently, picking up a copy of Weekly Go that was on the coffee table. He flipped through it idly, but couldn’t really focus.

His stomach was churning with a curious mixture of emotions. Excitement, anticipation, fear -- the same way he had felt a seeming eternity ago when he was about to face Shindou in the junior high Go tournament.

*Is this really all that different?* he thought as he folded the newspaper up and tossed it back on the table. *I really want this to happen, and yet . . .*

Akira took a deep breath to calm himself, telling himself that they didn’t *have* to have sex that night, they could just make out and pleasure each other in the same ways that they’d been doing.

But everything within him was saying that it was time. They both wanted it so badly that it literally hurt -- a dull ache in the very pit of his stomach.

When the knock came on his door, he jumped a bit, then took another long breath, willing his nerves to calm. He stood up and crossed the room, then threw the door open.

There on the doorstep was Shindou, looking a bit frazzled. “Hi!” he said, walking into the living room, his backpack slung over his shoulder as usual. “Sorry, the trip to the drugstore took longer than I thought. And then I checked my cell phone, and there was a message from Waya, so I had to call him back before I came over here. They’re giving me a party, can you believe it? All my friends from when I was an insei . . . to celebrate my making the Honinbou League.”

“I know,” Akira said, wishing those butterflies in his stomach would just go away. He wondered what Shindou was feeling at that moment. That look on his face was probably from his experience at the drugstore, whatever it had been.

Hikaru frowned a bit. “You do?”

“Yes. Ochi called me and invited me to come.” Akira reached up and began to fiddle with his collar -- even faster than he normally would.

“Ochi did?” Hikaru’s face bore a look of pure surprise. Akira wondered again what was going on behind that surface.

Akira decided to change the subject -- he didn’t feel like discussing Shindou’s friends, who he knew didn’t think that highly of him. Not that it really bothered him -- he was used to that kind of thing by now.

“Well, that party’s still a few days away -- what do you want to do tonight?”

“Um, well . . . “ Hikaru reached down and began to twist the strap of his backpack around his finger. “We could always play . . . or watch a movie, I brought some DVDs with me . . . or . . .”

An uncomfortable silence hung in the air between the two of them, neither one of them wanting to finish that sentence. Saying it out loud would make it concrete, make it a definite, instead of the *possibility* it was right now. And once it was definite, there was no backing out, no turning back.

Akira said, quickly, “Or, why don’t you we look at that Web site you said Waya found, that kifu archive . . .”

“Oh, yeah!” Hikaru said, leaping to his feet, his face bearing a look of relief. “I’ve got the address somewhere . . .” He bent over to fumble in one of the pockets of his backpack, and Akira looked away, not wanting to be caught staring at his “hot ass.”

It wasn’t so much he didn’t want to be caught by Hikaru is he didn’t want his head to fill with fantasies at the sight of it. He was afraid that if he did, he wouldn’t be able to control himself, and . . . no, he didn’t want to think of it.

As the boys entered Akira’s bedroom, he suddenly regretted his suggestion. Why didn’t he remember that they’d been surfing the net together the first night they had ended up on his futon? Not that ending up on the futon would be a *bad* thing, just . . .

*Gods,* he thought, *why can’t sex be easier? Why does it have to be such a *major* thing?** * *

Hikaru watched Akira type in the Web address and bring up the kifu archive. Oh, he’d wanted to see this site -- Waya had said it was a record of all tournament games played under the aegis of the Go Institute in the years following World War II, plus a separate archive of columns and commentaries on all the major title matches during that time. But he knew it was just an excuse to fill time, to put off the inevitable.

*What was I supposed to say when he asked me what I wanted to do tonight?* Hikaru thought. *Tell him the truth? Say, “I want to go upstairs, tear off your clothes, push you down on the futon and make you moan every way I know how, and then have you make love to me?”*

His eyes traveled from the screen to his unzipped backpack, where a bit of the drugstore bag was peeking out. He thought about its contents, the K-Y tube and the condom package. What had seemed like an embarassment in the store was now transfomed into a bag of raw sex, of hot potential.

He forced himself to look back at the kifu. *I can’t let myself get too worked up,* he thought. *What if he’s not in the mood tonight? What if he’s really not ready to go all the way? But he is, isn’t he? Why else would he do research?*


Hikaru jumped a bit at the sound of Akira’s voice. “Yes, yes, I heard you.”

“No, you didn’t. I just asked you if there was anything in particular you wanted to see.”

“Um, well . . .” He tried to think fast. “Can we look at some of the tournaments Kuwabara played in when he was younger?”

Akira frowned a bit. “You never seemed particularly interested in his games before.”

“I know, but . . . hey, I’m in the Honinbou League now, right? And he’s the Honinbou. If I make it all the way to the title round . . .”

Akira leaned over. “You? Make the title round?”

“It could happen, right? Anything could happen!” Hikaru found himself reaching down and fiddling with the zipper on his backpack, pulling it back a bit -- exposing more of the bag -- and pushing it closed again, then repeating the process.

Akira turned to face him, his eyes narrowing -- not quite the full game-face glare, but an early stages version of it. “Shindou, people usually don’t make title rounds until they’ve been in tournament play for *years*! My father had been a pro for nearly a decade before he got past the preliminary rounds!”

*Oh, crap,* Hikaru thought. *He’s on his history-of-Go high horse, and that usually means a fight. Can’t let that happen tonight, can’t let that happen tonight, can’t let that happen tonight . . .*

He said quickly, “Why don’t we look at your father’s games instead? I haven’t seen any of his kifu from before I got into Go.”

Akira shrugged a bit, then called up the kifu from the first tournament his father won, the Tengen. Hikaru feigned interest in it, leaning toward the screen.

*Gods, why did I suggest this?* he thought. *Now we’ll probably be doing this for hours. Why didn’t I just say, “Look, Akira, I don’t want to look at kifu anymore. Just get out your futon and take off your clothes.” That’s what I really want to do. I want to touch him . . . I want him to touch me . . . I want to feel him inside me . . .*

Almost involuntarily, his hand moved past his chair toward Akira’s, snaking slowly toward his leg.

* * *

Akira was glad to have a kifu to explain in detail. It kept him from *thinking*.

All this time, he had been aware of the *nearness* of Hikaru . . . especially when the boy had leaned over to get a closer look at the screen. Just a few more inches, and their lips would have met . . .

And if their lips had met, it was almost guaranteed that a whole lot else would soon be meeting as well.

“This is really the hand that won it for him,” Akira said, pointing to the screen. “He cut his opponent off and backed him into a corner, forced him to try to shore up the weak stones over there -- but it was too little, too late. He then tried to attack this group, over . . .”

There was a hand brushing Akira’s thigh. First the back of the fingers, rubbing back and forth slowly over the side of it . . . and then slipping up and over, toward the more sensitive area.

Akira swallowed hard and tried to talk normally. “Over here . . . there were still some vulnerabitilites, but my father figured out what was going on, and . . .”

The hand had reached his inner thigh, gently kneading the sensitve flesh, begining to move in circles. Akira closed his eyes, gasping a bit . . . then he turned his head and opened them.

Blue eyes met green in a moment that seemed suspended in eternity, both boys gazing at each other as if hypnotized.

Then, suddenly, Akira leaned over, and his lips claimed Hikaru’s with ferocity.

Hikaru wasted no time -- his lips parted, his tongue darting into Akira’s mouth as his arms wrapped around his lover. They tilted backward, Akira tipping the chair almost back to the fall-over point, Hikaru leaning forward eagerly.

Hikaru’s lips left Akira’s only long enough for him to sweep his tongue up and down the other boy’s neck, then plunge it between his lips again, one hand reaching up for the buttons of his shirt. *One of these days, I have to talk him into wearing pullovers,* Hikaru thought as he struggled to force the round of plastic through a hole that seemed half its size.

Akira gently pushed him away. “Let me . . .” He unbuttoned the shirt and tossed it on the floor, then got up out of his seat, moving rapidly to the closet, pulling out his futon. Hikaru stripped off his own shirt as he watched the other boy hastily make up the bed -- and then, after a moment’s pause, unzipped his jeans as well. It wasn’t as if they weren’t coming off anyway.

When Akira was done, he looked up and saw an exquisite vision -- Hikaru, completely naked and erect, moving slowly toward him. A shudder of desire passed through him -- the reality of his lover surpassed even the fantasies he’d had the night before.

“You’re so beautiful,” he said, a slight huskiness in his voice.

Hikaru folded his arms, a sly smile stealing across his face. “I’d say the same thing about you,” he said, “but I need to see *all* of you first.”

Akira quickly dropped the remainder of his clothing to the floor. “Is this what you wanted to see?”

“Oh, gods, yes,” Hikaru said, pulling Akira into his arms again. They kissed hungrily, mouths opening almost instantly, Hikaru’s tongue finding and stroking Akira’s.

Akira slid his hands down the other boy’s back, until he encountered what he had been thinking about the night before -- that fabulous bottom. Gently rounded, firm, yielding as he squeezed, then released, then squeezed again.

Hikaru leaned his head back, his eyes closed, letting out a long, low moan. He wrapped a leg around Akira’s hip, begining a slight thrust that brought their erections in contact with each other.

“Good,” Hikaru moaned. “So good . . .”

Akira leaned over so his lips were right against the other boy’s ear. “So sexy,” he breathed, kissing hotly around the little hole. “You’re so delicious . . .” He began to nibble on the lobe, as he’d imagined doing before, and was rewarded with a louder moan.

“Yes,” Hikaru gasped as his own hands grasped Akira’s bottom, rubbing it with an up-and-down motion, then squeezing the right cheek, then the left, then both together. Their hips thrust faster, their erections brushing together, sending hot, tingling sensations through both boys.

They groaned and panted, their cheeks flushing with passion as their lips came together for small, eager kisses, touching just enough for both to feel it, followed by a deep, hungry one, tongues teasing and brushing.

Hikaru eased away, sinking down to the futon, holding his hand out to Akira. When the other boy lay next to him, Hikaru grasped him by the shoulders, pinning him to the mattress like a child wrestling a schoolmate. He lowered his head, wrapping his lips around a nipple, and started to suck, hard.

Akira let out a small cry, arching upward. Yes, Hikaru had figured out by now what he liked, what felt good to him. This part of sex came naturally to them now.

He cried out louder when his lover reached down with a single finger, stroking it up and down his shaft . . . oh, gods, it felt so different than when Akira had done it to himself, so much nicer . . . and began circling slowly around the head. His mouth shifted to the other nipple, his tongue coming out to lick at it, running in slow circles around the pink surrounding the bud.

“Suck it,” Akira gasped, his hips thrusting forward into Hikaru’s touch. When Hikaru obeyed, his mouth tugging on him in long, slow draws, Akira’s insides turned to rapidly melting butter, and he started to writhe, his hand clutching at the bedding.

Hikaru’s finger trailed down to the sac beneath his erection as his mouth continued to work on his nipple . . . sucking hard, then taking it out and licking, then sucking again. As he stroked, he felt his lover shudder beneath him, and that brought on a shiver of heat deep within himslef.

He knew he couldn’t get Akira *too* worked up, or his lover would come before he got a chance to get inside Hikaru. And that was the last thing the boy wanted. He was starting to feel a deep, longing ache to be filled . . . combined with a bit of fear, because he didn’t know what said filling would *feel* like.

Hikaru eased back . . . only to find himself flipped over so he was lying flat-out on the futon. And the next thing he felt was a luscious, hot wetness wrapped around his manhood, a gentle, firm suction, a hand sliding up over his stomach, seeking a nipple. When it connected, Hikaru leaned back, gasping, his blond bangs falling softly over his closed eyes.

Akira moved his head back and forth faster, taking Hikaru in as deep as he comfortably could. He knew it was important to have the boy as aroused and relaxed as possible.

And this wasn’t exactly a hardship for him. He loved the solid feel of the boy’s maleness against his lips and tongue, the texture as it slid back and forth, the way his nipple hardened under his stroking.

*Now,* he thought. *I should start putting my fingers in him now, when he’s hot and relaxed and moaning.*

There was one small problem. He had no idea where the lube was.

He raised his head. “Um . . . Hikaru . . . where’s the lubricant?”

Hikaru blinked. “Why did you stop?”

“I stopped because I need the lube.”

“Geez! I didn’t know we were ready for that yet!” He got off the futon and walked to the computer, grabbing the condoms and K-Y out of the drugstore bad and bringing them back to Akira.

“You don’t want me to put a finger in there without lube, do you?” Akira said, opening the outer cardboard box and removing the tube.

Hikaru shuddered -- he remembered the first time they made love, how he’d tried to penetrate Akira with an unlubed finger, how Akira had reacted with a yelp of pain. That definitely wasn’t anything he wanted to happen to him.

“You could have asked for it before,” Hikaru said, lying flat on his stomach.

Akira was going to tell him that he didn’t need to do that, that they could go back to the position they were just in -- except Hikaru’s bottom was presenting him with a tantalizing possibility.

He’d fantasized about making love to that “hot ass” all this time. He might as well make love to it fully.

He began to stroke the gentle curve, rubbing back and forth a bit, then massaging, his fingers kneading circles in the skin. He heard Hikaru give a small “mmm” noise.

Akira took the cheeks in both hands, squeezing firmly as he did before, then releasing, then sqeezing again. He rubbed both thumbs up and down over both sides a few times, then firmly massaged the whole thing again.

*I wonder when I’m going to know that he’s ready*, he thought. *The site said your partner has to be completely relaxed. He seems relaxed now, but . . . is it enough?*

He leaned over and began to lay soft kisses over the right cheek, feeling Hikaru arch up against him . . . oh, yes, Hikaru liked what he was doing. Encouraged, he started to nibble, leaving little bites, his teeth barely touching the skin.

Hikaru moaned in pleasure, both hands gripping the bedding, his head buried in the pillow. He pushed up against Akira’s mouth, groaning louder as he felt little tongue-swirls over the areas Akira had just been biting . . . and then his lips were on the other cheek, kissing hard, then nibbling, and then *sucking* on one spot, making the boy throw back his head and let out a long, low, throaty sound.

His erection was throbbing and feeling like it was going to burst. His whole body felt like tense piano wires, every part of his being thrumming with exquisite sensation.

Then, Akira lifted his head, and Hikaru groaned in disappointment. There was a soft, squishing sound . . .

And suddenly, something cold and hard was thrust into the crack between his cheeks, battering against his opening like a tree trunk being pounded into the gates of a fortress. He sprang away like a frog hopping away from a predator, landing at the very top of the futon.

Akira was mortified. “Sorry!” he stammered.

“What was that?” Hikaru said, his hands grabbing his bottom defensively. “It felt like you were trying to shove a telephone pole up there!”

“I was trying to be careful!” Akira replied, picking up the tube again.

“You weren’t succeeding!” Hikaru said, rubbing his bottom a bit.

“Look, maybe the position wasn’t good,” said Akira, unscrewing the cap. “Maybe you should try lying on your back, with your legs up.”

Hikaru lay back, raising his legs until they were almost all the way over his head. “This isn’t very comfortable,” he grumbled.

“You’re not supposed to be a contortionist!” Akira said. “Look, just raise them a little.”

Hikaru lowered his legs, until they were just high enough to expose Akira’s goal. *Now I have to get him excited again*, Akira thought. *I can’t just pick up where we left off.*

He leaned over and began to lay kisses along Hikaru’s inner thigh, nibbling at the skin a little like he’d done with his bottom. As he moved his head down, bit by bit, he opened the tube again, lubing his right index finger.

His left hand reached up and wrapped around Hikaru’s erection, starting a rapid stroke as his tongue swept up and down his thigh. When he fluttered his fingers over the head and was rewarded with a deep groan, he knew the time was right to try again.

*Go slower this time,* he told himself.

Very gently, he pushed his finger up between the cheeks and found the opening. Instead of pressing against it, he tried massaging it a little, rubbing his finger in tiny circles. He was rewarded when it opened a bit, just enough to slide in, oh-so-carefully, by degrees.

He felt the muscles tense a bit, and he paused until they relaxed, when he began the slow pushing again. So far, so good . . .

Hikaru tried to concentrate on what he was feeling, but he couldn’t put a word to it. It just felt *odd*. It felt *full*, like he was being stretched -- not painful, not really pleasurable, either.

And then, pain *did* hit, and he jumped and yelped. Akira’s finger stopped, but didn’t pull out. “Hikaru?”

“That hurt!”

“Do you want me to stop?”

Did he? He didnt really know. He didn’t want it to *hurt* anymore . . . but if he stopped now, he’s never know what all-the-way sex was like.

Hikaru took a deep breath. *This has gotta be part of it,* he thought. *People do this all the time, right? Why would people do something that’s going to hurt? The pain has to go away.*

“Keep going,” he said.

“Are you sure?” Akira’s face bore a look of genuine concern.

“Yes. Go on.”

Akira pushed forward a bit more, and Hikaru gritted his teeth when more pain came . .. and sudenly, the pain was fading, and another sensation was taking its place, warm and sweet, flooding his entire body. He found himself letting out a deep moan.

“Keep going,” Hikaru wispered. “Please . . . it’s so good . . .”

A deep sense of relief flooded Akira. He was sure he’d done something wrong, that the whole attempt was ruined. He began to thrust his finger in and out, gently and slowly. He couldn’t help but notice it felt nice in there, soft and hot and tight.

And Akira couldn’t wait to find out how that would feel around him.

He slid the finger out and reached for the towel he’d remembered to put in with his bedding, wiping it off and relubing it, along with a second. Gently, he began to push them inside Hikaru again.

Hikaru winced -- the pain from before was back, stronger than before. He was being filled to the point where he thought something in there was going to split open. But he gritted his teeth again and held on, telling himself it had to get better.

And then, the pleasure was washing over him, more intense than earlier, pouring through him like heated maple syrup. When Akira started to thrust the fingers, Hikaru pumped his hips, wanting more, wanting this sensation to go on and on . . .

The fingers pulled away, and Hikaru knew what was coming. He swallowed hard as he heard the tube squish again.

*This is it*, he thought. *It’s going to happen, I’m going to lose my virginity . . . if I didn’t lose it before. I don’t know what counts as losing your virginity for guys who do it with guys.*

Meanwhile, Akira was looking at the rolled up condom in his hand. *This is it?* he thought. *I just roll it on like a sock? Why did I think one of these would be bigger? I hope it’s not *too* tight, to the point where it hurts.*

He tentatively put it over the head of his manhood and started to unroll it downward. So far, so good. *What’s going to keep it from slipping off?* he thought. *How do I get it off afterward? No, I’ll have shrunk by that point . . . then how do I keep it from getting left in there? Maybe I should hold onto the bottom of it.*

He lubed the condom, lubed it some more, then lubed it again, before putting a generous amount on Hikaru’s opening. He lay atop his lover, who wrapped arms and legs around him, then raised his head for a kiss. Akira obliged, their lips caressing each other tenderly, tongues barely flicking at each other.

Then, Akira pulled his head back. “Ready?”

Hikaru gave him a sweet smile -- Akira could see a bit of fear in those eyes, and a lot of eagerness. “Ready.”

Akira pushed forward, remembering to take it slowly, as slowly as he possibly could. There was resistance at first, and he wondered if he was going to be able to do it, if maybe Hikaru wasn’t built to take a full erection.

And then, it opened a bit, and he started to ease in. As the tight heat started to envelop him, he let out a gasp. It was delicious, even more than he imagined.

A sharp cry from Hikaru made him stop. His eyes flew open, and he saw a pained expression on the other boy’s face.

“Hikaru!” Akira cried.

Hikaru opened his own eyes, slowly. “I’m all right. Don’t stop.”

“Did I hurt you?”

“Yes, but . . . “ He reached up and stroked Akira’s face. “Keep going anyway. It’s not that bad, not really.”

Akira was about to pull out, to tell Hikaru forget it, that it wasn’t worth him getting hurt. But then, he looked into his lover’s eyes.

Hikaru wanted it. He could see it. He really wanted to keep going.

Akira pushed forward again, carefully . . . and once more, the lovely sensation enveloped him as he was encased in tight heat, so tight that it was right at the border between pleasure and pain -- which made it all the more delicious.

Hikaru’s fingers dug into Akira’s back as he rode out the pain -- oh, it was intense, all right, but it had to go away, it just had to . . . and sure enough, it started to fade, and something hot and delicious began to bloom at the core of his being, making him give a small moan.

Akira paused, leaning over to kiss Hikaru’s lips again. “You okay?”

Hikaru reached up and brushed Akira’s hair out of his eyes. “Yes . . . don’t stop.”

Akira pulled his hips back, bit by bit, and then forward, by degrees. Oh, how he *really* wanted to pump his hips as fast as he could, to drive himself hard into this boy again and again -- but he had to be careful, had to think of his lover . . .

Another moan of pleasure from Hikaru told him he was doing something right. He decided that maybe now he could get a little bolder. He started to move his hips faster, each thrust bringing another wave of exquisite sensation washing over his entire body.

Somewhere in the corner of his pleasure-fogged mind, he remembered that Hikaru was probably going to need help reaching climax, and he reached between their bodies, grasping the other boy’s erection and starting to stroke it.

The feel of Akira’s fingers sliding over his most sensitive skin made Hikaru give a small cry . . . oh, gods, this was too much, added to the delicious sensations coming from his bottom, oh, he was being so *filled*, filled to the bursting point, but it was so good, and it was sending unbelievable tingles rushing up and down his spine and through his entire body, making him feel enveloped in a thick, warm sweetness.

More, he had to have more . . . he gasped and panted, his head writhing on the pillow, blond bangs falling into his eyes, unnoticed. His fingers gripped Akira’s back as he moaned, his hips moving back onto his lover’s erection, forward into his hand.

“So good,” Akira groaned as he thrust faster still, half-crazed with erotic pleasure, wanting to bury himself in the boy, to lose himself in that heat forever, and yet to drive himself over the edge. It was beautiful madness, exquisite torture. “Oh, Hikaru, you feel so good . . . I can’t believe it . . .”

“Don’t stop!” Hikaru cried before he buried his face in the juncture of his lover’s head and shouler, nibbling at the skin, his own hips matching Akira’s rhythms . . . . the heat within him was building and building, untill he thought he was going to explode, and he gladly would, just to feel this ecstasy.

It would not be long now .. . not long . . . not long . . .

And then, Hikaru felt the entire world freeze in place, a split second of nothingness . . . right before there was an enormous burst of electricity at the core of his soul, sending shockwaves over his entire body, making him nearly scream Akira’s name as he was wracked with one luscious spasm after another.

Akira felt the throbbing inside Hikaru . . . the tugging of his sheath. . . and it touched off his own explosion, rolling over him in waves of lava, making his entire body tremble as he was flooded with heat.

He collapsed atop the other boy, both of them gasping, their hearts pounding. Then, finally, Akira raised his head, and they gazed into each other’s eyes for a long moment before sharing a last, sweet kiss.

“How are you doing?” Akira whispered.

“I’ll tell you when the room stops spinning,” Hikaru replied, kissing Akira’s chin. “Which means you did good.”

They shifted so they were lying side-by-side. Akira tangled his fingers in his lover’s hair, pulling his head to his chest. “Did I hurt you at all?”

“Some, but . . . it was just at first.” Hikaru started to snuggle against Akira . . . and then realized something was wrong. There was a *strange* feeling in his bottom. He lifted his head and looked over his shoulder.

“What’s wrong?” Akira said, sitting up partway.

Hikaru twisted his head some more. “Did you . . . leave something in there?”

“Leave something?” Akira frowned, trying to figure out what Hikaru was talking about . . . and then it hit him. “Oh, GODS! The condom!” He reached for his box of tissues, pulled one out and brought it to Hikaru’s entrance. Sure enough, the rubber was hanging partly out of him, the tip still inside, like a sock stuck in the dryer door.

He pulled it out gently, wrapping it in the tissues. “I forgot to hold on to it,” he said a bit sheepishly, a slight blush staining his cheeks.

Hikaru saw what he was doing, and found himself starting to laugh -- a slight chuckle which rapidly grew louder and harder. “You *did* leave a piece inside!”

“It could happen to anyone,” Akira said, primly, heading for the bathroom. He was blushing harder, and feeling a bit annoyed -- after all, he’d tried to make this as problem-free as possible.

Well, it *had* been . . . until then.

He returned to the bedroom with wet washcloths and towels. Hikaru’s laughter had died down to mild giggles by now.

“Stay like that,” Akira said. “I’m going to clean you off.”

As he worked at wiping off both of them, he began wondering if he should purchase a package of baby wipes. That would certainly do the trick, and they’d be able to keep them by the bedside whenever they needed them.

*Gods, I’m thinking in terms of sex, all-the-way sex, being a regular part of my life from now on,* he thought as he picked up the towel and began to dry Hikaru. *And with Shindou Hikaru, of all people! Back when I was 12, 13, 14, if someone had told me I was going to lose my virginity to him, I’d have told them they were crazy.*

He finished the job, put the rags aside and pulled Hikaru into his arms, kissing him tenderly. *But I can’t imagine it having been with anyone else,* he thought.

Hikaru wrapped his arms around Akira’s neck, looked up at him with sleepy, half-lidded eyes, and said, “I wanna play a game.”

Akira blinked twice. That was’t exactly what he was expecting to hear in the way of pillow talk! “Now?”

“Why not?” Hikaru ran a finger along Akira’s chest. “Unless you’re too tired . . .”

Akira had almost hoped they’d cuddle and whisper and fall asleep in each other’s arms. But somehow, this seemed to be a fitting conclusion to the evening’s events.

*We’ve always communicated with each other as much with our stones as with our words,* Akira thought. *Now that we’re more inimate with each other than ever before, how will it affect that communication? What will our game be like?*

“All right,” he said. “And winner gets to pick who’ll be on top next time.”

Hikaru smiled slyly as he got out of bed, reaching for his clothes. Akira shook his head -- that wouldn’t be necessary -- and reached into his closet, pulling out two yukatas, one of which he handed to Hikaru. “You’d better get used to being under me, then,” Hikaru said as he started to put on the robe.

Akira smiled to himself as well as he slipped on his own. Actually, he had every intention of being on the bottom next time. He wanted to know what Hikaru had just felt and experienced.

But he wasn’t going to let his rival know that.

“We’ll see about that,” he said as they moved toward the goban on the other side of the room.

* * *

Ashiwara was looking over the results of the previous week’s games as he sat in the break room, waiting for his own game to begin.

*Touya has now won six straight,* he thought. *So has Shindou.* He’d seen a kifu of Akira’s last win online, and knew it had been no squeaked-out victory -- he had devastated his oponent, a 7-dan.

“I see you are interested in Touya’s games,” said a voice above him. Ashiwara looked up to see a perpetually cool blond, dressed as always in a white suit. He sat opposite Ashiwara and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.

“Ogata-san!” He finished folding up the paper and pushed it away. “I was just reading the results -- it seems he’s doing quite well.”

The older player took a deep drag on his cigarette, fixing Ashiwara with his usual intense, penetrating stare -- something the younger pro found far more unnerving that the icy glares some players liked to give their oppoents when they neared the end of the game.

“Akira-kun’s full talents will always come out when the circumstances are right.”

Ashiwara tried to discreetly wave the smoke away. “If this is his full talent, I’m glad I’m not playing him today.”

“You were worried about him a few weeks ago, weren’t you?” Ogata said, reaching for an ashtray.

“Yes,” Ashiwara admitted. “He seemed so . . . not him. Like something was bothering him.”

Ogata took a long drag on his cigarette and blew it out slowly. “Akira-kun has had enough on his plate to deal with. Remember, people have expected big things from him from the moment he was born. He has always handled it very well.”

“Maybe it just got to him,” Ashiwara said. “You know, hit him all at once.”

Ogata tapped his cigarette on the side of the ashtray. “I have known Akira-kun all his life. He usually does not let problems just sit there. He works on solving them. Except for one thing.”

Ashiwara frowned. The only thing that had ever thrown Akira off-balance at all had been --

“Shindou Hkaru? You think it had something to do with him?”

Ogata watched the smoke streams rising up from his cigarette, as if contemplating them. “He nearly lost a game two days after Shindou made the Honinbou League, didn’t he?”

“You’re saying he was jealous?”

“No.” Ogata took another drag. “He heard the footsteps of his rival at his heels, finally -- and he stumbled.”

Ashiwara picked up the paper and looked at the results again. “So what he’s trying to do now is make sure he stays ahead of Shindou?”

“And Shindou is making sure he catches up,” Ogata said, tapping the paper. “It’s the dynamic that keeps both of them going. Akira has to lead, and Shindou has to chase. If Shindou catches up, it throws both of them off.”

Ashiwara thought about this for a moment. Oh, it was definitely Akira’s relationship with Shindou Hikaru that had driven him for the past four years. He remembered some of Akira’s more extreme reactions to things Shindou had done and to the victories in his career.

Ashiwara knew he had never had anybody like that, no true rival -- just another bunch of players, day in and day out. There was nobody he was . . . *bound* to. It seemed an odd choice of words, but there was a definite *bond* between Shindou and Touya.

He noticed it when the boys ate lunch together, and seemed utterly absorbed in each other’s conversation. He noticed it when they were in the break room, discussing their previous games, Shindou’s enthusiasm contrasting with Touya’s coolness.

*It’s unlike any relationship I’ve ever seen between two Go players before,* he thought. *Maybe, that means that they . . .*

“Ogata-san,” he said aloud, “do you think Shindou and Touya are destined to reach the Hand of God?”

There was a long moment as the other pro thought this over, crushing out his cigarette.

“Destined, I don’t know. They have the potential. But we *all* have the potential, don’t you think?” He got up and started to head into the game room.

Ashiwara watched him go, thinking over what he had said . . . and then saw two other figures outside the break room. Shindou was leaning against the wall, and Touya was standing in front of him, arms folded. Shindou was talking very quickly about something, occasionally punctuating what he was saying with gestures. Touya was listening quietly, interjecting a comment here and there.

He looked at their body language. They were standing a mere few feet from each other, each seeming to know the rules very well about violating each other’s personal space. Clearly, they were comfortable with one another.

He then looked around at the players around them, how they were interacting with each other. Further down the table, two young men were sipping coffee and having a lazy conversation, leaning back from each other. Just inside the door, a woman and a man were smoking and talking, both of them at a respectable distance, the arms not holding the cigarettes folded over their bodies.

*There is definitely something different about Shindou and Touya,* he thought. *There’s never been two players who look so . . . *together* before.*

He wondered if he would ever find out what the secret behind them was.

* * *

Akira knelt on the cushion across from the goban, focusing his thoughts as he always did before a game.

Or at least he was trying to. Today, his thoughts were just a wee bit out of focus -- and he didn’t mind it one bit.

He felt a strange serenity, different than his usual pre-game meditative state -- it was as if his whole world had shifted into perfect balance, as if his planets were in perfect alignment and nothing could go wrong with the rest of the day.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Shindou, two rows across from him, kneeling at his own goban for the day, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. Akira had to smile a bit. His lover just looked so beautiful right now, so calm and composed.

Of course, he knew from firsthand experience that when those eyes snapped open, they’d have a look of fierce competitiveness, and the boy would go from angel to tiger.

Akira’s own eyes closed, and he recalled the warmth of Hikaru’s skin against his, the boy’s scent, the sound of his moans -- and, oh gods, the delicious feel of his sheath tightening all around him . . .

Up until this point, all the emotional highs of Touya Akira’s life had been Go-related. Hearing words of praise from his father, defeating opponents much older and higher-ranked than himself, scoring against the Koreans and Chinese during the Hokuto Cup . . .

He never thought that anything else would ever make him feel so good. Especially something involving Shindou, the source of so many of the emotional *lows* of his life.

Akira took the lid off the go ke in front of him and dipped his hand in, picking up some of the cold, smooth stones, letting them slip through. *How totally opposite,* he thought, *to his hot skin last night.*

At the thought of Shindou -- not just their lovemaking, but every moment they spent together, yes, even their fights -- the strange serenity came upon him again, accompanied by a warmth that seemed to seep from his heart over his entire body.

As he put the lid back on the go ke, he wondered, *Is this love? Is that what I’m feeling? I’ve never loved anyone before -- never even thought I would -- so I have no idea.*

He saw his opponent approaching the goban, a 6-dan named Kawasaki, a reedy twentysomething man in oversized professorial glasses and a grey suit. *They say he can be tricky in the endgame,* Akira thought. *I have to be on my guard.*

Thoughts of love had to be pushed aside for the time being. Touya Akira was going into warrior mode. He closed his eyes again, breathing deeply.

When those eyes snapped open, Kawasaki would be looking at the glare of a dragon.

* * *

“Man, that was no easy win!” Hikaru said, stretching his arms above his head as he and Akira headed down the steps of the Go Institute. “I thought he had me at a couple of points.”

“I’ve played him before,” Akira said, calmly. “He’s strong in the middle game, but he tends to fall apart at the end.”

“You were done way before me,” Hikaru said, rubbing the back of his head as they turned the corner, headed for the subway.

“I knew what I was dealing with,” Akira said as he fumbled in his pocket for the tickets he’d bought earlier that day. “He’s an endgame specialist. So my strategy was to make him resign before he could *get* to the endgame.”

They headed down the steps. “I’ll show you which train we’re taking,” Hikaru said. “The party’s at Morishita’s house -- you’ve never been there, have you?”’

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Hikaru knew he’d asked a dumb question. Morishita’s group had always considered themselves bitter rivals to Touya Koyou’s study group. Hikaru wondered if Ochi had done the right thing by inviting Akira to this party -- after all, there were a lot of people there who felt outright hostile to him.

Akira just shook his head. Hikaru decided to just leave it at that.

When the train arrived, the car was rather crowded. Hikaru was able to find a seat at the very end of a bench, but Akira remained standing, holding onto a strap, a thoughtful expression on his face.

Looking at him, Hikaru couldn’t help but remember *another* subway ride, a seeming eternity ago, when Akira had all but ambushed him after the children’s Go tournament, examined his hands for signs he was a regular player, and then literally dragged him to the subway to go to his father’s salon for a rematch against Sai.

*Gods,* Hikaru thought, *if I knew then that I’d end up sleeping with him . . .*

He wondered what Sai would have thought of the night before. He couldn’t imagine what his first time would have been like with Sai there. A picture began filling his mind of Sai standing on the sidelines of their lovemaking, shouting out comments and advice -- “HIKARUUUUU! That’s a mistake! You’re supposed to be sucking on his *neck,* and have your fingers on his nipples!”

Hikaru shook his head vigorously, as if to rid himself of the ridiculous image. Sai wouldn’t have known about sex. He knew nothing but his game.

*So how did it happen to me?* Hikaru thought, gazing at Akira again. He knew that all of a sudden, he wanted Akira more than almost anything. His life had shifted from “wanting to do nothing but play Go” to “wanting to do nothing but play Go and make love to Akira.”

*But other than the sex, our relationship hasn’t changed much, has it? * he thought. *He still gets me so mad sometimes . . . well, in a funny way, I don’t think I’d want it any other way. If we didn’t fight like that, we wouldn’t be *us*.

It was all far more confusing than he thought a relationship would be.

He suddenly found himself wishing very deeply that Sai was back with him, that he could ask him about his feelings, about what was happening to him. True, Sai probably hadn’t experienced this firsthand, but . . .

*He’d be able to say *something* to help me,* Hikaru thought. *He always did.*

The train came to a stop. Hikaru knew this was their station. He gathered up his backpack and motioned to Akira to follow him.

*I have to stop wishing Sai were here,* he thought. Except for the appearances he’d made in Akira’s dreams, Sai was gone for good. Hikaru had to face his emotions, his problems, on his own.

* * *

Waya brought a tray of sushi appetizers out of the kitchen and placed it on the dining room table. Most of the guests were already there. Isumi was playing a game with Honda on a portable goban set up on the living room table. Nase and Fuku were sitting in a circle with some of the guys from the study group, chatting about how things were going in the insei class.

And Ochi was walking into the kitchen, the usual scowl on his face. Sometimes, Waya wanted to make a gag T-shirt that said “The Many Moods of Ochi” that had the names of different emotions -- happy, sad, angry, thoughtful, sleepy, etc. -- all with the same scowling face above them.

“Shindou’s not here yet,” he said. “He’s late to his own party.”

“He had a game today,” Waya said, pulling the plastic cover off the platter. “It might have gone late.”

“He was playing Kubota today,” Ochi said, adjusting his glasses. “He’s even more of a speed Go specialist than Shindou. I don’t think that game would take *this* long.”

If it had been anyone else, Waya would have just shrugged. But this was Shindou . . . who always seemed to do the unexpected. Who the hell knew why he was late?

*He won’t give us a reason,* Waya thought, laying out the plastic containers of pickled ginger, soy sauce and wasabi that had come with the platter. *He never does.*

Pushing his glasses up again, Ochi said, casually, “Touya isn’t here yet either.”

“Feh,” Waya said, carefully pulling the lid off the sauce. “I don’t care if he comes or not.”

“You know . . . he *has* been spending a lot of time with Shindou lately.”

Waya frowned. That he most definitely could not deny. It used to be that he and Isumi would always go out with Hikaru after games -- to grab something to drink at the coffeehouse, or to McDonald’s, or even to play a game or two in one of the old Go parlors they used to go to.

Now, Hikaru was always going to the Touya Go salon. Oh, he didn’t advertise it . . . he didn’t want Morishita to find out. He’d say he was meeting with a student, or with his old Go Club friends.

But Waya and Isumi knew where he was going. They’d heard the scuttlebutt from pros who dropped in at the Touya salon from time to time. Morishita had, too, and he wasn’t happy about it -- but he didn’t say anything. Having the young genius who’d rocketed from 1-dan with a string of forfeits to the Honinbou League in less than two years in his study group was very prestigious, and he didn’t want to jeopardize that.

*They eat lunch together a lot, too,* Waya thought. *Especially on days when they have games, and Isumi and I don’t.* He’d heard scuttlebutt about that, too.

“That’s up to him,” Waya said, pulling off the other two lids and setting them off to the side. “Personally, *I* don’t know why he’d want to hang around with a guy like that, unless it’s to try to figure out his playing strategy.”

“Touya was always trying to figure Shindou out, too,” Ochi said, scowling more than ever as he and Waya headed out toward the living room. “When I had my lessons with him, Shindou was all he ever talked about.”

As they entered the room, Fuku ran up to them. “Shindou’s coming up the walk,” he said. “And he has Touya with him.”

Waya found himself blinking at that. They were arriving together? That clinched it -- the two arch-rivals who had spent so much time obsessing over beating each other were now buddy-buddy.

*I never thought anything could be more baffling than Shindou*, Waya thought as the knock came on the door. *Now I know it’s Shindou and Touya *together*.

* * *

“You’ve come a long way, Shindou, haven’t you?”

Hikaru leaned back on the couch, taking a drink from his soda, feeling full and content. After all, they’d been fed very well -- the sushi appetizer had been followed by a huge kettle of ramen, then green tea ice cream with red bean paste for all. Now he was sitting on the couch, talking to Shirakawa.

“I think so,” Hikaru said. “I worked hard at it.”

“I remember when you first came to my class,” the older man said, sitting back and taking a sip from his teacup. “You knew nothing about Go at all. And I had to throw you out one day for acting up.”

“You mean that guy whose wig I pulled off?” Hikaru rolled the bottle of Code Red between his hands a bit. “Well . . . you have to admit, he *did* deserve it.”

Hikaru remembered the incident very clearly. It was within a week of Sai’s arrival, a day or so after the first game with Akira -- the first time his mentor had gotten angry at a Go player who was cheating players weaker than him. But Hikaru had decided to handle the problem his own way.

Shirakawa chuckled. “Well, he did need to be disciplined, the way he was acting. Although I’m not sure if that was the way I would have chosen.”

Hikaru leaned forward. “Hey, he never did it again, did he?”

“You’re right, he didn’t.” The former teacher put his cup and saucer down and leanded back, hands folded on his lap. “I have to admit, Hikaru, back then I would have never dreamed you’d even think of becoming an insei, much less make the Honinbou League.”

“Neither would I,” Hikaru said, draining the last of his soda. He instantly knew he was going to want more. The meal had left him thirsty -- maybe it was all the soy on the sushi he’d eaten.

“Hikaru . . . what *was* it that made you *serious* about Go?”

What, indeed. Hikaru couldn’t quite pinpoint the single moment when he knew that Go had become the center of his life. Maybe it was when he had played his first solo hand, without Sai’s guidance, against Touya Koyou . . . or when he participated in that first junior high Go tournament, before he officially entered Haze . . .

But he knew why he had becme a pro. *That* was all about Akira -- the *other* center of his life.

He just shrugged and said, “I’m really not sure.”

Across the room, Akira was sitting in the midst of a group consisting of Isumi, Honda, Ochi, Nase and Fuku. Conversation, of course, was about the game.

“I’ve played Murasaki twice,” Honda said, cracking open a can of Pepsi. “I haven’t beaten him yet.”

“My sensei used to be in a study group with him,” said Nase, one hand pushing a piece of her shoulder-length brown hair out of her eyes. “He said that when Murasaki first came to the group, he was such a bad player, nobody knew how he’d managed to pass the insei exam. And then, he started hanging out at this one Go salon, and poof -- he got better, just like that.”

“You have to watch him,” Isumi said, leaning forward in his chair. “He’s a slow starter. Kind of weak in joseki, but once he gets to mid-game . . .”

“He’s the kind of player who substitutes tricks for real skill,” Ochi said in a cool tone, pushing his glasses back up on his face. “I didn’t fall for anything he tried to pull on me.”

“What did he do?” Nase said.

“He tried to lure me to the middle of the board to distract me from a mistake he’d made in the corner. A very sloppy one, too. But I just held my ground, and . . .”

Akira held on to his cup of tea, with it poised halfway between his saucer and his mouth. He’d played Murasaki once or twice, when he first became a pro.

But Murasaki was a mere 3-dan, and he didn’t play people at that level anymore. He played higher dans, contenders for major titles.

Nobody seemed to be paying particular attention to him -- it was as if he wasn’t there. Of course, he often didn’t pay particular attention to them, either. He spoke when someone engaged him in coversation, but he didn’t particularly seek to start them.

It was a normal thing for Akira to not feel quite in touch with his Go-playing peers. He’d always been at a higher level than them. He’d always just quietly accepted this as a fact of life, although he *had* longed for a rival of his own age -- which is why the arrival of Shindou had suck an explosive effect on him.

But now, the fact that he was not *quite* part of Hikaru’s group of friends -- that they’d never *quite* accept him just because he was *Touya Akira* -- was starting to bother him a bit.

*Am I starting to think of Shindou Hikaru and I as one unit?* Akira thought. *As a *we* rather than as a *me*?*

The idea hit him like a ton of bricks, making his head spin. It was terrifying and wonderful at the same time -- the idea of the two of them as one, almost like a married couple . . .

It was something he’d never dared dreamed of before, something he wouldn’t have even considered. But now, it seemed natural and inevitable -- which he found a bit startling.

A slight smile began to creep across his face, which he quickly raised his teacup to conceal.

Meanwhile, Hikaru was heading to the kitchen to get another soda. He glanced over and saw Akira sitting in the midst of his friends, just sipping his tea while they talked.

*I wonder why he was invited?* Hikaru thought. *I knew none of them would want to talk to him. Sometimes I think they consider Touya a thing from another world -- they’re fascinated by him and scared of him at the same time.*

He had to admit that this disturbed him. He wanted his friends to see Akira in the same light he did -- well, maybe not *exactly* the same light, but . . . to like him a little.

He passed through the dining room on the way to the kitchen. Morishita and his group were still sitting around the table, talking and laughing. Across from the teacher sat Waya with Morishita’s daughter, Shigeko.

Just about everyone in Hikaru’s group of friends knew they were dating, although they wasn’t sure for how long. Waya had never come out and officially announced it. It was just something that had gradually become common knowledge, seeping slowly through the Go player grapevine like sap making its way down the bark of a maple tree.

Waya was sitting with his hand on the girl’s shoulder -- just casually laid there. Both of them were looking relaxed and comfortable -- her father even seemed to be looking at them with pride.

Hikaru swallowed hard. He knew that if he went over to Akira and just laid his hand on his shoulder like that, the others would react with shock and bewilderment.

Oh, how he wanted to do that, to let his friends see that they were *together*, that Akira deserved better treatment than they’d given him in the past because he wasn’t some thing from another world, he was *Hikaru’s boyfriend*. But . . . he couldn’t.

There was no way that *their* relationship would be allowed to slowly make its way through the gossip mill. No, Hikaru and Akira were going to have to be on their guard to make sure that *no* scuttlebutt about them got out.

And here was Morishita, acting so proud of his daughter for being in a relationship. If Touya Koyou found out about Hikaru and Akira . . .

Suddenly, the unfairness of it all hit Hikaru like a cannonball to the stomach. He didn’t want the soda anymore. He just wanted to be alone for a few minutes.

He slipped into the kitchen and out the back door, onto the Morishita’s back porch, a long, wide platform of wood with a railing and a round table surrounded by chairs at one end.

The night was a bit on the cool side. Hikaru crossed his arms over his body as he leaned over the railing, looking at the rippling reflection of the moon in the familly’s above-ground swimming pool.

He heard the door squeak behind him. He whirled around, prepared to tell whoever it was that he just wanted to be alone for awhile.

It was Akira.

“I saw you heading for the kitchen in a hurry,” his lover said, walking overtoward him. “I thought you might be out here.”

“You didn’t have to come here,” Hikaru said, looking toward the pool again.

“I wanted to,” Akira said quietly, his fingers trailing over the railing. “You looked like something was bothering you.”

“Nothing, really,” Hikaru grumbled, turning around, resting his elbows on the railing and leaning back. “Just kinda wishing we didn’t have to hide.”

Akira looked over at the other boy. “That’s a necessary evil, unfortunately.”

“Well, it sucks. I look at you, and I want to tell all my friends how special you are to me, and I *can’t*, and yet Waya can be open with Shigeko all he wants, because they’re a guy and a girl . . . it just sucks, that’s all.”

Akira leaned over toward Hikaru. He wanted to take the boy’s hand in both of his, gaze into his eyes -- but their position was in clear sight of the dining room window.

He just said, quietly, “It’s not pleasant, but . . . we can’t jeopardize our careers, Shindou. Not when they’re going so well. Remember, we’re going to reach the Hand of God together someday.”

“I want to reach the Hand of God *and* be able to let people know how I feel about you!” Hikaru said -- and then stopped, suddenly. How *did* he feel about Akira? Was this love, the Real Deal? Was Akira the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with? His head was spinning, confused . . . he always thought love would make him stumble around feeling goofy and lighthheaded. This wasn’t anything like that. This was a constant *hunger*, and a strong feeling of affection, of attachment . . .

*Like we really are two halves of the same person,* he thought. He remembered the feeling he’d had all too often, of being *less than whole* when he and Akira couldn’t be together.

Akira turned and looked at the pool, leaning over so his crossed arms were on the railing. “Maybe someday,” he said. “Maybe someday, people will be a bit more open-minded about this kind of thing. But for now, we’ll just have to keep it secret like we’ve been doing.” He looked up at Hikaru. “At least we can get plenty of time to spend together.”

“I want more,” Hikaru said. “I want . . .”

The rest of the statement hung in the air. I want you with me all the time . . . I want us to live together . . . I want to never feel like less than a whole person because we’re apart again . . .

Akira reached over and let the tips of his fingertips lightly brush Hikaru’s . . . a feathery touch that wouldn’t be able to be seen by anyone looking out the window. The boys’ eyes caught and held.

“I know,” Akira said, quietly.

And in that split second, in that touch, that look, Hikaru realized that maybe Akira *did* know . . . maybe he was feeling the exact same things Hikaru was. And that caused a fluttery feeling of excitement in his stomach, like the moment before a rollercoaster drop.

Suddenly, Hikaru’s entire evening had been made.

Akira turned away and headed for the door. “Let’s go back . . . they’re going to be looking for you.”

Hikaru nodded and followed, thinking that maybe Akira was right -- maybe it was enough that they could at least spend some time together, even if they couldn’t be open about it.

It still wasn’t enough for him. But for now, it would do.

* * *
Akira walked away from the subway station, headed toward home.

The evening had turned out pretty much the way he’d expected it had. He’d only been at that party for Hikaru, anyway.

Except the part on the back porch. *That* hadn’t been part of his plan.

The fingers of his left hand came up and brushed over the very fingertips of the right -- the hand that had brushed against Hikaru’s. He recalled that moment that seemed frozen in time -- and more intimate than anything they had ever done together in bed.

*It was almost like we could read each other’s minds,* he thought. Not that Akira believed in such a thing. Normally, that is.

A light breeze kicked up, ruffling his shoulder-length, dark hair as he strode purposely down the sidewalk, passing one dwelling after another that was build in a traditional style, like the Touyas’ own home. This had been his world since childhood, safe, timeless and predictable.

There was nothing safe or predictable about what he was feeling right now. He no longer had any doubts. He knew he loved Shindou Hikaru.

Ever since that moment outside the Morishita house, that feeling of warmth, of peace inside him was stronger than ever before. So was a flutter of worry. Did Hikaru *really* feel the same way he did? Did he want to take it past friendship-with-sex?

*I still can’t believe it,* he thought. *The boy who walked into my father’s Go salon and turned my life upside down . . . the last person in the world I thought would be my true love. My true rival, maybe, but . . .*

He turned up the drive to his house. The living room had just a single light burning in it -- his parents had turned in a bit early. Understandable, because they were going to be traveling again in a couple of days -- they would leave on the second day of the Young Lions Tournament.

Akira had defeated Hikaru the previous year in the second round of the tournament. It had been a close game, one of their closest -- Akira had ended up winning by three moku.

*We’ll probably be facing each other again,* he thought. *Either in the second round, or at the end.*

And he realized it was going to be the first time they’d be facing each other in a tournament situation since their relationship had taken the turn from friends to lovers.They’d played in the Go salon, and at each other’s houses, but this was different. This had a lot more at stake.

*What is it like to have to face the person you’re in love with in a tournament Go situation?* he thought as he let himself into the house. *I’m sure nobody I know has been through that. Most Go players do not date other Go players, male or female.*

He passed through the living room, turning out the light as he did so, and made his way to his bedroom. Turning on the light, he headed right for his closet, opening it and pulling out his futon.

The futon they’d made love on. As he rolled it out and shook it a bit, a scent wafted up to him -- mostly his own slightly spicy aroma, but also a bit of Hikaru’s clean, woodsy scent as well. The smell of *them*.

He slowly passed his hand over the surface of the fabric, remembering Hikaru lying naked there, eyes glazed with passion. His body responded to the memory, and he became aware of a growing swelling below his belt.

*My lover, and my rival,* he thought. *Can I separate the two?*

And suddenly he remembered a conversation he had with his father years ago, when he was very small, about the “true rival” he was destined to meet someday.

“When you meet your true rival, you’ll know,” Touya Koyou had told his son. “It will be like finding your true love.”

*Shindou is definitely my true rival,* he thought. *Is he my real, true love as well? Could I deal with that?*

Akira began to make up the bed, quickly. That damn scent was wafting up to him again. His head was filled with visions of Shindou Hikaru lying under him, moaning softly as he ran his tongue over his nipples, his hips moving upward, mutely begging Akira to take him.

As if to get away from the sensual imagery, he jumped up, opened his bureau drawer and snatched out a pair of pajamas, then rushed to the bathroom to prepare for bed. He decided against a full bath, he’d take a shower in the morning -- perhaps because he was thinking in the back of his head that if he soaked in a nice, warm tub of water, he’d be unable to keep the sexy thoughts at bay.

Hikaru in a tub of steamy water, lying back with his head against an inflatable bath pillow, his arms on either side of the rim, as if he were holding them open to embrace Akira . . .

He slammed the bathroom door behind him as if to shut out the thought. What was happening to him? Love was supposed to be a pure, spiritual thing, not turn someone into an animal in heat! Especially someone used to mental discipline.

Akira finished his business and brushed his teeth as quickly as possible, changed into his pajamas and headed back to his bedroom. He snapped off the light, crawled under the covers and closed his eyes.

And saw the image of Hikaru naked in the bathtub behind his closed eyelids. It wasn’t going away, just like those dreams of Fujiwara no Sai a few weeks ago just wouldn’t go away.

He tried to think about Go, to concentrate on the Young Lions tournament, to think about who his possible opponents in the second round and beyond would be. *Let’s see, there’s Waya, and Isumi, and Honda, and Ochi, and . . .*

*And Shindou.*

*Shindou . . . Hikaru . . . naked in that tub . . . his chest rising out of the water . . . so tempting . . .*

He imagined himself kneeling next to that tub, equally naked, the palms of his hands running over the smooth, wet, warm skin, feeling the delicate play of muscles beneath . . .

And his nipples . . . oh, the feel of his nipples getting hard under Akira’s fingers . . . He flexed them a bit, imagining himself caressing the buds in tight little circles, hearing Hikaru’s deep moan of pleasure . . .

He reached for the buttons of his pajamas, unbuttoning the top swiftly, tossing it aside. He slid his hands up his own stomach, imagining Hikaru doing it back to him, grasping his own nipples between thumb and forefinger and giving a small squeeze.

“Hikaru!” he gasped as he released them, then squeezed again, his hips begining to writhe, grinding his bottom against the mattress. He began to rub with quick back-and-forth motions of his thumbs, trying to hold back a very loud moan.

Oh, he wanted his lover there. He wanted him to nibble his stomach and suck his nipples and lick up and down his neck. He wanted Hikaru’s manhood pressing against his, the two of them rocking their hips, feeling the frictiion, the rush of pleasure. He wanted to hear low, throaty groans and feel hot breath on his equally hot skin and taste the saltiness as he ran his tongue along Hikaru’s thighs, belly, chest . . .

*I’m on fire,* he thought, as he shed his pants as well. *Just burning up.* He grabbed a pillow and shoved it under his naked bottom and began to writhe against it, grinding his hips, imagining he and Hikaru were lying back-to-back, rubbing their bottoms togehter. He could feel the firm curve slide against his own, the heated skin-on-skin friction.

Parting his legs a bit, he pushed his hips backward, imagining he was pushing against Hikaru’s erection, that his lover was filling him, stretching him, making them *one*, the way he’d done to Hikaru last time. One hand came up to his mouth to stifle a loud cry as his head rolled gently to the side, his cheek brushing the silky mass of hair on the pillow.

The other hand was reaching down, down over his stomach, further still.

As he grasped himself and began to stroke, his whole body arched, his mouth open in a gasp, his eyes tightly shut. He imagined his lover’s hand caressing him as his manhood began to thrust into and out of Akira’s bottom . . . Hikaru’s lips and tongue caressing his ear, his voice murmuring to Akira softly. . .

“Hikaru!” Akira moaned, his hips begining to thrust, pushing his erection into and out of his hand. “Yes . . . oh, yes, take me . . .”

He could feel the heat of the other boy’s body, the sensation of his legs wrapped around Hikaru’s hips, the tingling in his nipples as their chests rubbed together . . . His hand moved faster as the other one moved up to stroke his nipples again, wanting more sensation, more . . .

He was close, he knew it. There was a swelling of heat deep within the center of his being that grew bigger and bigger and . . .

Akira froze, then his whole body arched upward with a jerk as he let out a cry. Liquid heat slammed through every bit of him, ebbing and flowing, then slamming through him again, harder, sweeter, making him cry out a second time, before finally collapsing to the futon, limp and panting.

He just lay there for a long moment, dazed, breathing heavily, his whole body bathed in a sheen of sweat.

Slowly, his senses came back to him. He sat up a bit, blinking, and noticed the results of what had just happened on his stomach. He reached for the tissues.

It had happened again. But this time, he didn’t feel the rush of negative emotions, the horror and fear. This time, it seemed more natural.

*Is it because I did it before?* he thought. *Or because of my feelings for him?*

He rose from the bed, reaching for his discarded pajamas. He put them on, hastily, then headed for the bathroom with the tissues.

It was such a nice feeling he had right now, warm and dreamy. It was intoxicting. He didn’t want to think about anything right now, just go back to bed, enjoy the sensation and go to sleep.

He’d think about the Young Lions Tournament in the morning.

* * *

Hikaru stepped through the subway doors and found himself a seat easily. It was that blissful hour of the day when the Tokyo public transportation system got a break, between the time when the commuters rushed off to work and the housewives went out to do their shopping.

He breathed deeply and closed his eyes, trying to focus his thoughts. The Young Lions Tournament was a lot bigger deal for the insei partcipating than the pros -- it wasn’t as if it were one of the *major* tournaments.

But to Hikaru, it was a big deal. He knew he’d narrowly lost to Touya last year in the second round. He didn’t want that to happen again.

*I’m thinking of him as *Touya* when it comes to Go*, he thought, *like I always do. But when it comes to *other things* . . . I think of him as Akira.*

This didn’t strike him as strangely as it should have. After all, *Touya* had been a part of his life literally since the first time he touched a Go stone. It was only recently that he’d gotten to know *Akira*.

*When did I start thinking about him like that, anyway?* Hikaru thought. *Was it when he kissed me, the day I told him about Sai? Maybe even before?*

He shook his head a bit, as if to clear it. *And why am I thinking about this anyway?* he thought. *I should be concentrating on the tournament! Geez, all I need is to lose it completely and get beaten by some insei in the first round.*

No. That was *not* going to happen. He was going to get past the first round, and the second. And then he was going to face Touya in the finals.

*Touya,* he thought. *Not Akira.*

* * *

Waya was sitting in the break room, drinking a can of coffee and trying not to think too much about his loss, because he’d just get frustrated.

It had come down to the final four. Himself and Shindou. Ochi and Touya. He’d never gotten that far in the tournament before. He did well in joseki, too, building solid territory, blocking Shindou’s attempts to invade it . . .

And then Shindou had pulled one of his damn trick moves, the ones that looked like mistakes at first, but revealed themselves later to be pure genius.

He heard the sound of something being set down on the table in front of him. He looked up to see Isumi, who had given him another can.

“Thought you’d be wanting that,” his friend said, sitting opposite him.

“Thanks,” Waya said, finishing off the can he had and opening the other one. He figured he’d welcome the caffeine rush -- it might take the edge off his rather bitter emotions. “Did you see any of it?”

“Just the end,” Isumi replied, opening his own can of coffee. “I went out for a few minutes after I lost to Touya. Shindou was in control by that point.”

“I thought I had him, at first,” Waya said, picking up his own can. “And then, somewhere in the mid-game . . .”

“The usual?” Isumi said, leaning back in his chair.

“He made this move that I thought was a major screw-up -- I thought he was losing it completely -- and then, ten or twelve hands later . . .”

“He was suddenly all over your territory,” Isumi replied, in a tone of voice that indicated this was just par for the course.

“How does he *do* it?” Waya said, his brow furrowing. “It looked so random, but . . . when it was all over, I realized he must have planned that move from the very begining of the game.”

“If we could figure it out, we’d be one step ahead of everyone else,” said Isumi, bringing his can to his mouth. “Except Touya.”

“What is it with Touya and Shindou, anyway?” said Waya, leaning over on his crossed arms, which were resting on the table.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” said Waya, leaning over a bit more, “that they’ve become friends. Shindou goes to his Go salon . . .”

“He’s been doing that for awhile, though,” Isumi said. “At least a year. And they *were* in the Hokuto Cup together.”

“But he’s doing it *all the time* now! Instead of hanging out with us, he’s been playing with him!”

“Well, neither of us has the time to spend with him that we used to, Waya,” Isumi said matter-of-factly. “Remember, you *do* have a girlfriend now, and I’ve been running the teaching program at the Nine Stars Club.”

“Yeah, but still . . .” Waya put his can down and stood up. “I’ll be right back, I’m going to the men’s room.”

He left the room and turned left, heading for the bathroom, which was right next to the tournament room. *Wonder if I should look in there after,* he thought as he opened the door, *and see what’s going on.*

But as soon as he was in the restroom, he knew there’d be no need for that. The air was filled with a steady, methodical tapping noise, coming from the wall of the nearest stall.

*Ochi lost,* Waya thought. *That clinches it. The championship match is between Touya and Shindou.*

* * *

Akira wasn’t particularly fond of playing Go on folding chairs.

He preferred the traditional method, kneeling on cushions on either side of the goban. Or, failing that, a nice, comfortable office chair that swiveled. Folding chairs just seemed so . . . makeshift, so amateurish, so disrespectful of the game. It was like serving a fine champagne in a jelly glass.

Folding chairs were all that were used for the Young Lions Tournament, from first match to last. And Akira was trying to convince himself that this was what was *really* bothering him about his last match.

He was sitting on one of the benches that lined the walls of the room, eyes closed, breathing deeply, trying to focus.

*It’s not as if I haven’t played Shindou before,* he thought. *I won’t let him beat me! I can’t!*

And with a sickening feeling of dread, he realized those thoughts didn’t have the same *fire* behind them that they usually did. Before, it always felt like defeating Shindou was a matter of life or death. He carried the memory of those first couple of games within him always, and even though he now knew the truth of who had played them, he knew that Hikaru would always have at least *some* of Sai in his Go.

Plus, his own, dangerous style that was no Sai and all *Shindou.*

He could hear people filing into the room around him, coming in to watch the finals. He could hear the mumuring -- of course people were going to talk about this match! Shindou and Touya were considered *the* names to watch in the Go world, and the prospect of a match generated excitement among other players.

Why wasn’t it generating the excitment it usually did in *him*?

“Touya! Hey, Touya . . . are you ready?”

Akira’s eyes opened. There, standing over him, was his opponent. The only player his own age he feared. The boy who had been in his overheated fantasies the other night.

“Yes,” he said, standing up and following Hikaru to the one remaining table . . . and those damn folding chairs.

*Can I do this?* he thought. *Can I defeat my lover in a tournament?*

And then, suddenly, a bigger question, out of the blue -- *Is it possible for two people in love to reach the Hand of God?*

* * *

Ashiwara walked off the elevator and onto the floor where the tournament was being held. His own commitments had kept him away from today’s tournament until now, but at least he would be there for the final match.

He had no doubt at all who he would find playing in it. He had been there the day before and watched the preliminary rounds. There was no doubt about it -- Shindou and Touya were both absolutely on fire.

*It’s like something jump-started both of them,* he thought. *I haven’t seen them take down opponents like that in a long time. Nobody else stood a chance.*

He wondered if that was a result of them playing each other so much. True, he still found the whole concept of that to be a bit odd, but . . . it was obviously working.

*It’s so good to see Akira-kun playing like himself again,* he thought.

One of the boys who had been an insei at the same time as Shindou was coming out of the tournament room. *Waya, I think his name is,* Ashiwara thought. He figured he might as well find out if he was right about the matchup.

“Excuse me,” he said, “can you tell me who’s playing in there right now?”

Waya stopped, rubbing his nose a bit. “Shindou and Touya. It’s the final. But Touya’s not even trying.”

The older pro frowned. “What do you mean, he’s not even trying?”

“He’s hanging back. Not attacking.” Waya frowned. “It’s got to be some kind of strategy. I’ve never seen Touya play this weakly before. Especially not against Shindou.”

“Well . . . thanks.”

Ashiwara watched the boy head down to the break room with a blank expression on his face.

*What is going on?* he thought. *He comes out of the gate like a champion, and then gets to the last round and folds. Against Shindou, of all people!*

He remembered when Akira had almost lost to a player much weaker than him, and seemed rather upset over something. This was reminiscent of that time.

*What is it with Akira-kun lately?* he thought.

* * *

Hikaru studied the board, a frown on his face. The game was *not* going like he’d expected.

And it *wasn’t* because he was losing. Quite the contrary. He’d never been this close to beating Touya in his life. He’d built strong territories all over the board. He’d thwarted Akira’s attempts to capture his stones and invade his forts.

*So why don’t I feel better about this?* Hikaru thought. *I always thought if I were to defeat Touya, it would be the happiest day of my life.*

He looked down at the game again, running through it move by move from the time the first stone was laid. He saw the point where he began to fill in his territory -- where Akira would usually swoop down like a bird of prey and begin blocking him, and the two would engage in a tight fight for control of the board.

There had been no fighting. Akira had held back, delaying getting into a fight over territory, then delaying it some more. He just kept sketching his own territory in the corners.

*There is something *wrong*, Hikaru thought. *This is *not* a Touya Akira game.*

He studied the face of the boy across from him. He was also looking at the board, seemingly deep in thought, but there was something *different* about him. Something Hikaru couldn’t quite put his finger on.

And then, he knew what it was. The *eyes*. Usually, when Akira was in the middle of a game, his eyes burned like fire, seemingly boring into the very soul of his opponent, challenging whoever *dared* make a move into his territory. Those eyes had intimidated more than a few opponents into resigning from a game, even if they weren’t in that bad a shape.

*Now,* Hikaru thought, *they just look . . . normal. Like they do when he’s on the subway, or eating, or when we’re alone together.*

He could hear the other players around him whispering and buzzing. He knew he was taking forever to make his move. He didn’t care. Suddenly, the game wasn’t important. Whatever the hell was wrong with Akira was.

*Now I know how he felt at the junior high Go tournament, when I took over the game from Sai,* he thought. *He jumped out of his seat, and yelled at me to quit fooling around. Gods, I wish he’d do something like that now, or yell at me that I’m taking too long, or that I’m not taking the game seriously enough . . . what am I saying, right now *he’s* the one not taking it serously!*

Hikaru reached into the go ke, grabbed a stone and slammed it down on the board -- right in the middle of Akira’s territory, openly telling him to come after him.

*And he’d better,* Hikaru thought, *or I may have to hit him.*

A pause. Akira studied the board, dipped his hand in the Go ke . . . Hikaru was just waiting for the stone to come down in a position to answer his challenge, to cut him off, to let him know who was boss.

Instead, Akira placed it in a different group of stones, shoring them up.

*What the HELL?* Hikaru thought. *Who are you? You’re not Touya Akira! What have you done with him?*

And at that moment, the buzzer signalling a break went off. Akira rose to his feet and moved swiftly toward the exit, pushing aside other players.

*Oh, no,* Hikaru thought. *You’re not going to get away from me that easily. We’re going to have a talk about this.* He started to rush for the exit himself, only to get stopped by Waya and Isumi.

“Shindou, what’s going on with this game?” Isumi said. “Touya doesn’t seem like . . .”

“Sorry,” Hikaru said, brushing past them as quickly as he could. “I’ll talk to you about it later!”

He knew Akira wouldn’t be in the break room -- that’s where everyone else would be. Probably not in the lobby, either -- anyone who wasn’t in the break room would be down there.

*He couldn’t have gone off-premises,* Hikaru thought. *He doesn’t do that at break time, unless I’m with him.* He looked up and down the hall, frantically, hoping to catch a glimpse of his rival -- but no luck.

*Where the hell would someone go in this building if they wanted to be alone?* he thought.

And then, the answer came to him. More like hit him in the face.

He rounded the corner and headed down the hall, to a wing of playing rooms that weren’t being used that day. And in the middle of that hall was the most unique playing room of them all.

Hikaru peeked in the door. Sure enough, he was right. Akira was sitting on one of the two players’ cushions in the Room of Profound Darkness.

He slipped in quietly and shut the door behind him. At least the setting would give them some privacy. He’d probably have to talk about things that he did not want the whole Go community knowing about in the next few minutes .

Hikaru walked to the other side of the board. Akira was staring downward at the empty wood, as if mesmerized, and didn’t see him.

Then, he said, sharply, “Touya!”

Akira’s head snapped up. His eyes narrowed a bit. “What are you doing here?”

“We have to talk,” Hikaru said, sitting on the opposite cushion.

“About what?” Akira replied in a cool tone of voice, his eyes not leaving Hikaru’s.

“About what’s going on in *there*!” Hikaru pointed toward the door. “What’s wrong with you today?”

Akira looked away. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong.”

“Oh, yes, there is!” Hikaru leaned over the goban. “That group of stones I have in the lower right corner -- normally, you’d have been all over them like a dog on fresh meat! You barely touched them! I out-and-out invaded your territory, and you didn’t blink an eye! And yet, when you played everyone else, you *destroyed* them!”

“If you’re trying to get me to reveal my strategy for this game, Shindou,” Akira said, leaning over the board as well, “you’re mistaken.”

“What strategy?” Hikaru leapt to his feet. “That’s just it! You *have* no strategy! If I had played like this, you would be yelling at me to take the game more seriously!”

“I have my reasons!” Akira shouted, leaping to his feet as well. He turned and walked toward the corner, facing it with one arm folded across his chest, the other grasping his chin.

There was a pause. Then, Hikaru said, quietly, “It’s me, isn’t it? It’s us.”

Akira whirled around so fast that his shoulder-length hair bannered out around his face. “What are you talking about?”

“You can’t play me because of what’s been happening between us,” Hikaru said, walking slowly toward the other boy. “You can’t bring yourself to defeat your lover or your boyfriend or whatever the hell we are now in a tournament!”

Akira just stood there, thunderstruck. Shindou knew. He had figured it out. He had to throw him off the track. He clenched his fists and snapped, “You’re crazy!”

“And you’re not yourself! I don’t want this person you are today as my rival *or* my lover!”

“Fine!” Akira started to stalk to the door -- but Hikaru rushed over and blocked his path. “Move, Shindou.”

“This conversation isn’t over,” Hikaru said, spreading out his arms and legs to block the door entirely.

“Oh, yes, it is,” Akira said, starting to shove him aside.

“Not until I say this,” Hikaru said. He fixed Akira with an icy glare, and said, “I thought I saw the Hand of God in you.”

Akira felt like he’d been hit over the head with a blunt object. The very words he’d said to Shindou, after that junior high Go tournament, a seeming eternity ago. The day his hopes had been crushed, his illusion of finally having a true rival his own age shattered.

At that moment, the buzzer sounded again to end the break.

This time, he succeeded in pushing Shindou aside and stalked toward the game room, fists clenched, eyes burning, the words that had just been uttered rolling around in his brain.

*I’ll show him,* he thought. *He thinks I’m not capable of finding the Hand of God? I’m more capable than he’ll ever be!*

He ran through the game in his head -- he was coming back from a huge deficit, but he could make it up. He’d invade his territories ruthlessly. He’d crush the fortresses Shindou had built and take as many prisoners as he possibly could.

Behind him, Hikaru followed at a much more leisurely pace. He knew that the second half of the game was going to be way different than the first. He was going to have to be on his guard. And he welcomed it like nothing else.

* * *

“Man,” Waya said as he and Isumi headed down the elevator, “that was one *strange* game.”

“That was the narrowest margin Touya’s won by in a long time,” Isumi said. “One moku.”

“Well, did you see what he was coming back from?” Waya said, leaning against the elevator wall with his arms crossed. “It’s a miracle he won at all!”

“It’s like he was a different person in the first half and the second,” Isumi said as the doors pinged open and they headed toward the main entrance. “The first part, it was like something was bugging him.”

“Cheh, what could bother Touya Akira?” Waya said, shoving his hands in his pockets as they walked outside. “I don’t think you have much to worry about when you’re the stuck-up son of a rich Meijin and everybody thinks you’re the second coming of Shuusaku.”

“I wonder,” Isumi said quietly, as they headed off in the direction of the subway.

“About what?”

“About whether he feels he deserves that attention,” Isumi said, a thoughtful expression on his face.

“What are you talking about?” Waya said, fishing around in his pocket for the subway fare. “He knows just how good he is, and he lets everyone know it.”

“I’ve never heard him brag,” said Isumi as they rounded the corner and walked toward the steps.

“He doesn’t have to. It’s in his whole attitude.”

“Maybe that attitude is a coverup,” Isumi said, pulling out his money for the subway and pushing it through the window of the ticket booth.

“For what?” said Waya, shoving in his own money.

“Shindou. I think he senses Shindou catching up to him. That’s why he couldn’t play at first today.”

“They play together all the time!” Waya said as he put his ticket thorugh the slot in the turnstile. “At that Go salon his father owns.”

“And that’s why he’s afraid,” Isumi said, putting through his own ticket. “He sees what Shindou is becoming when he plays him at the Go salon.”

Waya frowned as they walked toward the tracks. Somehow, this explanation didn’t add up. It was *too* cut and dried. Especially with what usually went on between them, the seemingly deep friendship behind the rivalry.

*Wish I could figure all this out soon,* Waya thought, *or my head’s going to explode.*

* * *

The boys walked back together to the subway in silence.

They had originally planned to go back to Akira’s house after the tournament, since Touya and Akiko Koyou were out of town again. Hikaru wondered if they were still going, or if he should stay on the subway until his own stop.

He got his answer when the train rolled arrived at the station near the Koyou’s. Akira stood up, walked toward the door, and then turned and looked at Hikaru, narrowing his eyes just a bit. Hikaru nodded, stood up and followed.

Only when they had gotten to the Koyou house, and Hikaru had settled himself into a living room easy chair, did Akira speak.

“We didn’t discuss the game well enough.”

Hikaru leaned forward. “I know why we didn’t,” he said. “Let’s discuss it now.”

Akira sat in the other easy chair, across from Hikaru, fiddling with his cuff. He wasn’t sure how to phrase what was in his head. There were times when words failed him, usually with other people his own age -- but that rarely happened with Shindou.

“You said you couldn’t see the Hand of God in me anymore. At the begining of the game, I couldn’t see the Hand of God in myself.”

Hikaru nodded. “I’d figured that. What happened?”

What *had* happened? Akira didn’t even know himself. He just shook his head a bit.

“Come on, something *had* to have happened to cause that. I have *never* seen you like that. You weren’t even *playing*, you were just shoving stones anywhere.”

Akira stiffened. “I *was* playing!”

“Sure. So why, when I left you a *blatant opening* to capture two of my stones, did you play on the other side of the board instead?”

Akira sat back in his chair, gazing at the ceiling. He tried to calm himself, to turn his thought inward, the way he did when he was about to play.

*Searching for the perfect game within myself is easy,* he thought. *Searching for *feelings* isn’t easy at all.*

He suddenly realized why so many Go players lived lives of emotional sterility, avoiding contact with anyone who was not a fellow player, having arranged marriages or not getting married at all. Because playing Go was a hell of a lot easier than *life.*

But he didn’t want that emotional sterility. Not anymore. And that’s why coming up with an answer to Hikaru’s question was vital. They had to get past this if they were going to have a *relationship.*

And then the answer came to him in a flash, like those moments when he suddenly saw the one way out for a group of stones that seemed certain to be taken prisoner.

“I’d forgotten that the person in front of me was *Shindou*, not Hikaru,” he said.

Hikaru frowned. “What the hell does that mean?”

“Shindou is my rival, and Hikaru is my lover,” Akira said. “And I need them both. Very much.”

Hikaru swallowed hard. This was the closest to a confession of *love* Akira had made throughout the course of their relationship. He felt butterflies fluttering in his stomach.

“Hey, I need you, too,” he said. “How the hell am I going to get where I’m going if I don’t have *you* to chase after?”

Akira frowned. “You’ll never catch up to me.”

Hikaru smiled inwardly. He was starting to sound like *Touya* again. Thank the gods.

Akira sighed and looked away. “Do you think we’ll be able to *do* this, Shindou? Do you think we’ll be able to keep who we are at and away from the Goban separate?”

Hikaru leaned back, crossing his legs and smiling a bit. “You just did.”

Akira looked back at him. “Hmm?”

“You called me ‘Shindou’ when you were talking about Go.”

Akira just sat for a moment, frowning a little, one hand touching his chin and the other crossed over his body. He analyzed what Hikaru had just said as if it were the pattern of stones on a board.

*Is it possible a division between the two is already forming in my mind?* he thought. *I *have* to have that division. I have no true rival other than Shindou. And Hikaru . . .*

He knew very well how he felt about *Hikaru*. He loved him.

*I have to have both*, he thought, *or I’ll stagnate, and suffocate. I have to make sure that division is clear, right now.*

He suddenly looked up at Hikaru, eyes burning, his “game face.” “Let’s play. Right now.”

Hikaru blinked. He was *not* expecting to hear that. “Touya?”

*Oh, yes, this is *Touya*, Akira thought. “We’ll replay that game. The first couple of hands will be the same. From there, it will be different.”

Hikaru jumped to his feet. He was pumped. He knew he was going to be facing the *real* Touya Akira now. And oh, was he ready for him. If Akira was going to pull out the big guns, so was he. He not only was going to win this time, he was going to *crush* him.

* * *

“I resign,” Hikaru said. No, more like grumbled.

“Thank you for the game,” Akira replied in a formal tone of voice, bowing.

“Thank you for the game,” Hikaru repeated, bowing as well. He sat up, rubbing the side of his head as he stared at the stones.

“Oh, man! I really slipped up here. I didn’t guard those stones *there* close enough.* He pointed at an area at the left of the board, three-quarters of the way down.

“Your attack over *there* was too little, too late, also,” Akira said, pointing to a spot toward the top of the board, just right of center. “But over *here,* you showed good form when . . .”

Hikaru settled back into a sitting position, one leg bent in front of him with his folded hands resting on the knee. He thought he’d *had* him this time! Really *had* him! But as Akira’s game explanation proceeded, he knew the other boy was right -- he’d been too overconfident *here*, not confident enough *there* . . .

But all things considered, he’d rather have this loss than his near-win of before. Because he had his *rival* back now. And without that rivalry, his Go would be empty, meaningless.

The game had been played in Akira’s bedroom, even though the main goban downstairs had been available to them. There had been no question about where they were going to play. This setting was uniquely *theirs.* Akira played his father on the main goban, and other pros who came to the house.

This particular goban had seen no opponent but Shindou Hikaru.

Finally, Akira finished speaking and relaxed, sitting back further on his haunches. *Now I can be at peace about this whole thing,* he thought, *because I played the game I *should* have played.

“Any questions?” he said.

Hikaru stood up and yawned. “Nope. Not unless you have any you want to ask me.”

Akira shook his head. He began to stand up as well.

“Well, in that case, I’ll be right back.” Hikaru left the bedroom, headed for the bathroom.

Akira looked down, studying the board. Shindou actually *had* given him a good run, despite the mistakes. There were a few places where he had really challenged him, dared him to keep up. And Akira had thrown his own challenges right back at him.

He got to his feet and walked around the board, studying it from different angles. *In its own way, a game like this is as intimate as sex,* Akira thought. *Sex is a coming together and intermingling of bodies. This is a coming together and intermingling of *minds.*

And just like he wouldn’t let anybody into his body but Hikaru, he wouldn’t let anyone this *deeply* into his mind but Shindou. Oh, yes, games with him felt different than games with anyone else. He knew he had to be faster on his mental feet with Shindou, because he had a better chance of figuring him out than anyone else.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sensation of a pair of arms wrapping around his waist from behind and pulling him close.

“Hey,” Hikaru said. “Wanna play another game?”

Akira shook his head. “Not right now. Later.”

“What do you want to do, then?”

Akira was becoming very aware of the other boy’s closeness, his warmth, his scent. And a definite urge to do *something*, all right, began to rise within him.

*Gods, it’s incedible how fast these feelings come on!* he thought. *Is it like this for everyone?*

He found himself leaning back, almost subconsciously, rubbing his body a bit against Hikaru’s. “We’ll think of something.”

“I’m thinking of something right now,” said Hikaru. He leaned over and flicked his tongue against Akira’s neck, the tiniest little touch. It was all the communication they needed.

Akira relaxed back into Hikaru’s embrace, tilting his head a bit to the left, leaving the right side of his neck open to the boy. It was an invitation Hikaru was all too eager to take up. He began laying kisses along the flesh, pausing to suck a bit on one spot, then kissing again.

The palm of one hand began to move along Akira’s chest, rubbing it in slow circles. Akira found himself letting out low purring sounds, leaning back against his lover.

“I think you’d better get out that futon,” Hikaru said, his voice a sexy whisper.

Akira needed no more provocation. He slipped away from the other boy and went to the closet, pulling out the bedding -- and thinking how inconvenient the traditional Japanese way of sleeping was when it came to love.

Hikaru watched impatiently as Akira finished the job . . . it seemed to be taking an eternity. It was like being starving and waiting outside the doors of a restaurant that hadn’t opened yet, smelling all the delicious food cooking inside.

He dropped his shirt to the floor, followed by his T-shirt. He couldn’t get naked fast enough. He wanted to feel Akira’s skin against his, *now*.

When Akira finally tugged the last piece of bedding into place, he turned around to see a gorgeous sight -- Hikaru already fully naked and erect, leaning casually against the desk, a sly smile on his face.

“Well?” Hikaru said in a teasing voice. “Are you going to take yours off as well?”

Akira nearly tore off his buttons in his haste to get them unfastened. His clothing felt like a prison right now, and he couldn’t wait to be rid of it. When the last garment was on the floor, he opened his arms to Hikaru.

“All right,” he said. “I did what you asked. Now what?”

“This.” And Hikaru closed the distance between them swiftly, capturing Akira in his arms and kissing him hard, their mouths opening almost instantly. Akira moaned as he felt his lover’s tongue probing into his mouth, and moaned louder as Hikaru reached down and found his manhood, wrapping his fingers around it and begining to stroke.

“Hikaru!” Akira gasped, reaching down and doing the same, grasping Hikaru’s erection, brushing his fingers back and forth over the head before starting a rapid up-and-down motion.

Their lips came together again, Akira pushing his tongue into Hikaru’s mouth this time, pumping it in and out in an imitation of what he wanted Hikaru to do to his bottom. Their hands moved faster, causing both boys to shudder with pleasure.

Hikaru’s mouth broke away from Akira’s, and he leaned his head back, letting out a deep, throaty moan, his eyes closed tightly, his mouth open in a gasp.

Akira leaned over, kissing his ear, nibbling the lobe, flicking his tongue along it. “Hikaru,” he whispered, “remember when we played that game the last time, and we decided the winner would choose who was on top next time?”

“Uhhhh,” Hikaru moaned, only half-hearing Akira through the haze of pleasure flooding his brain.

“I won that game,” Akira continued, easing his hand away from the other boy’s erection. “And I want you to be on top.”

Hikaru dropped his own hand, his eyes snapping open in surprise. This was *not* what he was expecting to hear! “You . . . you do?”

“Yes.” Akira eased away from him and lay down on the futon. “I know what it’s like to take you already. Now I want to know what it’s like to be taken.” He propped himself up on his elbows and smiled a bit. “It’s like Go. You wouldn’t want to play just black or just white every game, would you?”

Hikaru paused, letting this sink in. Then, he suddenly flung himself on the futon next to his lover, wrapping his arms around him, lowering his head to his chest and capturing a nipple in his mouth. Akira leaned his head back and tangled his fingers in Hikaru’s hair as the boy sucked . . . oh, yes, Hikaru knew just the right way to do this now, knew when Akira wanted pressure and when he wanted light sucks, tongue dartings or kisses.

Hikaru sucked, then licked, then sucked again, his fingers teasing the other nipple, brushing over it lightly, then squeezing it a little, then brushing again. He could feel Akira writhe in pleasure beneath him, smell his spicy scent, hear his moans . . . it was like a rich, heady wine, rushing right to his head and making him feel dizzy in a wonderful way.

Oh, yes, he wanted to take him. He wanted to thrust himself deep into the other boy’s body, feel himself be enveloped. He wanted to do it right now . . . but he had to be careful, take it slow, like Akira had done for him.

Even if he felt like he was going to explode in a million pieces if he didn’t do it this moment.

He raised his head and looked around. “Where’s the stuff?”

Akira pointed to a small chest of drawers near where his futon was laid out. “Second from the top, all the way at the back.”

Hikaru nearly yanked the drawer all the way out in his haste to get to it. When he came back to bed, Akira was on all fours. He frowned -- he didn’t want to do it like that. It was like animals rutting. He wanted to take Akira in a way where he could see his face.

“Lie on your back,” he told Akira, “the way I did.”

“I thought this would be easier for you to . . . well, do this part,” Akira said.

Hikaru was going to just push him over -- when a wicked idea occurred to him. He put the lube and condoms down, kneeled on the bed with his back to Akira, and leaned back until his bottom was touching Akira’s.

Akira let out a gasp. He’d fantasized about this when he was caressing himself, feeling Hikaru’s bottom rubbing against his -- and now it was happening. He began to pump his hips a bit, feeling their skin slde together. Oh, and it was good . . . Hikaru was so firm, yet there was a definite rounded curve, which slid against Akira’s own bottton in a sensual way.

Hikaru leaned forward, pushing his bottom harder against Akira’s, rubbing his hips faster. He found himself panting, each brush of skin on skin bringing a wave of slow warmth rolling over him.

*Oh, gods, I wish we could penetrate each other at the same time,* he thought. *I wish I could take him and be taken at once.” He began to push back hard, moving his hips in a slow grind, and both boys let out long, low sounds of pleasure.

Hikaru grabbed for the tube and squeezed lube onto a finger. Now would be the perfect time to do this, when Akira was relaxed and in pleasure. He turned around, quickly, and parted Akira’s bottom with his unlubed hand, probing for his goal.

When he found it, he massaged the little hole gently, the way Akira had done for him. Bit by bit, it started to open and let him in.

Once Hikaru had his finger in a bit, his first impression was he was surprised how soft it was. He wasn’t quite sure of what to expect, but he didn’t think it would be quite like this. And it was tight, very tight -- that he *was* expecting.

He pushed in, slowly, leaning over and running his tongue along the length of Akira’s spine, starting at his hips and ending at his neck. He nibbled at the nape as his finger probed further, then began a gentle thrust.

*He’s not yelling out or pulling away from me, so I must be doing something right,* Hikaru thought. And a loud moan confirmed that he was, indeed, succeeding.

He pulled his finger out and looked around frantically -- oh, gods, what could he wipe it off with? He spotted a box of tissues and grabbed at them like a life preserver, then reached for the tube of lubricant again.

Akira gasped as he felt two fingers start to slide into him. He’d concealed the fact that he’d felt pain at first when the first finger went in, and it was a bit harder to conceal it now. But he didn’t want Hikaru to stop. Because the pain was going to be followed by --

When the wave of pleasure broke over him, he clutched the sheets, groaning, his whole body shuddering. For a moment, he thought that he had come before Hikaru even had a chance to get inside him.

He felt Hikaru pause in his thrusting. “Akira? Are you all right?”

Akira raised his head and looked behind him. “I’m fine. I think I’m ready.”

Hikaru slid out his fingers and started to wipe them off. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, definitely.” Akira rolled on his back and spread his legs, lifting his hips a bit, his heart hammering in anticipation.

Hikaru ripped the condom package open, pulling out its contents and frowning at them -- how the hell was he supposed to get this thing on? It looked like it was designed to fit over a pencil! He stretched it over the head, gingerly, hoping the damn thing wouldn’t constrict and squeeze the life out of him -- that would put an end to their passion pretty quickly!

Slowly, he rolled it down his erection, amazed at how easy it was. He grabbed for the tube and lubed himself, then lubed himself again, before putting some at Akira’s opening.

He lay over his lover and positioned himself. Akira lifted his hips more, wiggling around, helping him find the right angle.

“You really sure?” he said.

Akira just nodded.

Hikaru bent and kissed his lips, then began to push forward . . . this wasn’t as easy as getting his fingers in. Something seemed to be resisting him. He pushed some more, harder . . .

And then, Akira’s sheath was enveloping him, bit by bit, and he fought the urge to just thrust in, deep and hard and fast.

It was incredible. It was beyond his wildest dreams. It was tight and hot and just pure pleasure.

He opened his eyes and looked at Akira’s face. His lover had his eyes tightly closed, his jaw set.

*It’s probably hurting him right now,* Hikaru thought, *like it hurt me at first.* He pushed it with the utmost of care, as if he were moving through a narrow aisle of shelves lined with fine china.

He paused when he got in so far, looking for a change in his lover’s expression. “You okay?” he said.

Akira opened his eyes and looked up at him. “Yes. Don’t stop.”

So Hikaru pulled his hips back, slowly, slowly, then pushed in, just as slowly. Had to show restraint, had to be careful, had to . . .


Hikaru’s eyes snapped open again. “Yeah?”

“You can *make love to me* now.”

“Oh.” Hikaru began to thrust his hips faster, and almost instantly, he was throwing back his head, letting out a low, throaty groan . . . oh, yes, this is what he wanted, every plunge into Akira’s depths was brining another shudder of luscious sensation through every bit of him.

Akira wrapped his arms and legs around Hikaru, raising his hips a bit more . . . he wanted Hikaru to hit his sweet spot with his manhood, the way he’d hit it with his fingers a few moments before. He moved a bit to the right, a bit to the left, as little ripples of pleasure began running through his body.

He wanted more than little ripples. He wanted a tsunami.

Hikaru thrust faster, harder, deeper, wanting to fill Akira completely, possess him totally, lose himself in that tight heat. He felt himself getting close, a hot pressure was starting to build in his core and get bigger and bigger, threatening to envelop him, to drive him mad in a gorgeous way.

He heard Akira’s moans, felt his hot breath as his lover buried his face in the juncture of his neck and shoulder, felt his hips churn and writhe. Hikaru churned and writhed with him, changing the angle of his thrust a bit --

And then, Akira felt it. Like before, but stronger, harder. The first contact with his sweet spot shot through him like lighting. The second made him tense up and moan, and the third . . .

Akira let out a loud yell as his whole body shook, as that tsunami broke over him in pulse after pulse of electric heat, as his hips rose off the bed again and again.

Hikaru felt Akira start to throb all around him, squeezing him, and it set off an explosion deep within his soul, and he cried out Akira’s name as one delicioius spasm after another wracked him in waves of ecstacy.

Finally, he collapsed atop Akira, both boys panting and trembling.

Hikaru raised his head and brushed the hair out of Akira’s eyes. He was so beautiful, his face still flushed with their passion, his lips slightly parted and moist.

Akira opened his eyes and looked at him. They just gazed at each other for a moment, then kissed, softly.

“You felt incredible,” Hikaru said.

“You feel incredible, too,” Akira said, as he shifted a bit. “Hikaru . . . did you bring something to clean up with?”

“GHAAA! I knew I forgot something!” Hikaru started to rush off to the bathroom, then came back, then headed for the bathroom again, tissue-wrapped used condom in hand.

The washcloths he came back with weren’t quite wrung out enough, and they dripped a little water onto Akira’s futon, but he didn’t mind. It was well worth a couple of water spots in his bedding.

Once he was done, the boys lay side by side, wrapping their arms around each other. Akira felt a bit dazed, sleepy, and content. More content, he realized, than he’d ever felt in his life.

And before he knew it, words were tumbling out of his mouth, almost by their own accord. “I love you, Shindou Hikaru.”

Hikaru lifted his head, blinking. “What did you say?”

*Oh, gods,* Akira thought. *I didn’t mean to do that! No, I meant it, but I didn’t mean to *say* it!*

“I . . . I . . .”

“You said you love me, didn’t you?”

Now Akira felt like a deer caught in the headlights, an emotion he wasn’t very used to. Words were *definitely* failing him now. All he could do was look away.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Hikaru said. “Because I love you, too.” He hadn’t known he was going to say the words before he did, but now that they were out, he knew that every monosyllable of them was true.

Akira turned his head, quickly, hair swishing on the pillow. “You do?”

“Yes.” Hikaru bent over and kissed Akira’s lips, tenderly.

Akira wrapped his arms around him and pulled him close, thinking that he was the happiest person in the world right now. And he’d always thought the greatest joy in his life would be finding the Hand of God.

Well, he could still have that joy, as well, someday. And he’d experirence *that* joy with Shindou, as well.

They stayed that way for a moment that seemed timeless, just holding each other, listening to the other’s breathing, feeling his heartbeat.

Then, Hikaru eased away and propped himself up on his hand, resting his elbow on the pillow. “You said earlier you wanted to play another game.”

Akira sat up. “We haven’t cleared the last one away yet.”

“Well, we’d better do it now.” Hikaru got out of bed and got to his feet. “Because the way I’m feeling right now, I know I can beat you!”

Akira leapt out of bed. “You’re not going to beat me! I won’t allow it!”

“We’ll see about that,” Hikaru said, reaching for his underwear. He pulled that on and his T-shirt -- all he felt he needed right now. He had a hunch they’d be coming off again after the game, anyway.

“I won’t lose to you, Shindou!” Akira grabbed for his yukata, tying it over his body and busying himself picking up the stones and putting them back in their go kes.

*From lover to rival again within minutes,* Akira thought. He remembered that long-ago conversation, when his father told him that finding the rival of his life would be like finding the love of his life.

*My father never dreamed*, he thought, *that my lover and my rival would be one and the same person.*


The sites that Akira found while doing his research are pretty much what I found when I followed links on sexuality in Yahoo -- I used that particular site for my research because I know they have a Yahoo!Japan, and I figured it would work pretty much like our own Yahoo! And my own reaction was pretty much the same as Akira’s -- in other words, O_O.

Many, many thanks to Steve Savage and Aishuu for their invaluable input. Thanks also to my Go Go Neko friends and to everyone who commented on Balance Part 1 -- the response to that ic overwhelmed me! There’s more “Balance” to come after this!

Hikaru no Go is property of Yumi Hotta, Takeshi Obata and Shueisha. These characters ain't mine, I'm just borrowing them for a little while.