Touya gets a gift.
by Mina Lightstar
Touya Akira doesn't make a fuss about his own birthday even if others do. It isn't that he doesn't appreciate the congratulations or well-wishes of those who know when it is. It's simply that all too often, his day becomes very busy and he forgets what day it happens to be. His family always remembers, Ichikawa-san always remembers, but Akira himself tends to overlook it, or let it fall to the wayside, until it's brought to his attention once again.
His mother congratulates him at breakfast, and hugs him, kisses his forehead. His father congratulates him before their morning game. At an interview for Weekly Go the reporter offers him polite well-wishes, which Akira accepts modestly but, he hopes, not uncomfortably. Since becoming a pro, he's had to suffer reporters -- and sometimes fans -- knowing little details about him. In the beginning it was disconcerting, but now he thinks he is well able to deal with publicity.
Overall, it is like any other day.
Akira and Shindou pass the afternoon in the Touya Go Salon much how they usually do. First they play a game, then they discuss it, and then they argue about it. Today each finds he has patience for the other, and so they even repeat the cycle before truly losing their tempers.
Inevitably, the argument ends with Shindou standing from his chair, slamming his hands on the table for emphasis. "That's it!" he shouts. "I'm leaving!"
"It's not my fault you played your last game like you couldn't see the board!" Akira retorts angrily. Not to be outdone, he stands, too -- and glares, at that.
Shindou is anything but intimidated. "Just wait until we play each other in an official game again, then!" he barks, and grabs his bag and jacket. "I'm outta' here!"
"Fine!" Akira snaps. In the background, other patrons of the Go salon are grumbling. These fights are routine, but some are much louder than others. Everyone knows that tomorrow, or whenever they next arrange to meet, Akira and Shindou will be civil, maybe even friendly, until the game ends and the discussion begins.
With Shindou gone, Akira sees little point in staying. It has been a long day, and his schedule is a little hectic this week. So he gathers his things and wishes Ichikawa-san a good evening. She giggles and sneaks him a wrapped cake, wishing him happy birthday for the second time. He puts the cake in a pocket of his jacket and thanks her once more.
He is halfway down the street when he hears the footsteps. There are not many people out and about, so the sound of sneakers pounding against the sidewalk -- someone running toward him -- makes Akira edge to the side so the runner can continue on by.
The stranger says nothing before seizing his shoulder and spinning him around, so Akira is startled and gasps, not knowing what to expect. When he sees Shindou, hunched over and panting, he frowns.
"What's wrong, Shindou?" Dryly, he adds, "You could have called me. I would have stopped."
"I totally forgot," Shindou says breathlessly. He straightens, lets his bag slide off his shoulders so he can start searching inside it.
"What do you mean, what?" Shindou sounds as though he thinks Akira is an idiot for not intuitively knowing what he's talking about. "It's your birthday, isn't it?"
Akira is taken aback. "I -- yes, it is, but--"
"Well, I totally forgot to give you your present."
"Present?" Akira blinks. He feels... surprised, grateful, maybe something else he can't identify. "...From you?"
"Of course!" Shindou sounds annoyed. "Why wouldn't I? Especially after what you did for my birthday?"
"Oh, but I didn't do much," Akira insists. Now he feels a little awkward. All he did for Shindou's birthday was take him out for dinner -- ramen, of course. "Really, Shindou, you shouldn't have."
"Oh, just shut up and take it." Triumphantly, Shindou pulls out a plain black bag. "Here you go," he says, holding it out so that Akira can reach inside. "It isn't wrapped because you'll need 'em right away."
Akira hesitates. He can't believe Shindou has bothered to get him a present, but he doesn't want to appear rude and ungrateful. So he reaches into the bag and pulls out the gift. As it turns out, there are two: pairs of warm, fuzzy mittens. One pair is black, the other is white. Without thinking, Akira rubs the white pair against his cheek, feeling the softness.
"Go mittens!" Shindou snickers. "I would have given you a black-and-white set, but I wasn't sure you'd want to, uh, mismatch like that." He grins. "If you get the urge, you can just wear one white mitten and one black one."
Akira studies both pairs for a long moment, and then pulls on the black pair. The other pair goes into his other coat pocket. He gives his rival a smile. "Thank you, Shindou."
Shindou waves the thanks away. "You can thank me by keeping your fingers warm so you can really handle the Go stones."
Akira resists the urge to roll his eyes -- an expression of exasperation he only feels like doing when he's around Shindou. "Fine, then." He claps his hands together, hearing the soft thump of the mittens. "See you tomorrow?"
"At three o'clock," Shindou agrees, and then they part for the night.