(En)Closure ficlet (2016-12-05)

Haru waits in the lobby of the Institute, sitting in the chair she’s claimed as hers and which no one has said otherwise. Despite the heating and her coat, she’s still cold–gusts of chilly air blasting every time the doors open.

The receptionist gives her commiserating glances whenever that happens, and gave her tea which she has long since drained.

She stares at the dregs, almost in a daze. What has her life come to that she willingly sits in the cold lobby of the Go Institute for over an hour? She used to do things, didn’t she? Surely her entire life hasn’t been this chair in this room in this building, an eternity of waiting surrounded by go paraphernalia interspersed with air blasting from the depths of the iciest of all hells.

Maybe she should move.

Haru stands to leave, startling the receptionist who had the glassy eyed look of someone contemplating the same monotonous, endless future of go that she had been.

The sky outside has long since gone dark, street lights and store signs bright and flashing up, pedestrians bundled up and walking, huddled, despite the lack of crowd.

It feels daunting, all of a sudden, frightening. Leave? Go outside? Where she’ll have to brave the cold all by herself?

The elevator doors open, the sound of chatter crescendoing, a group of teenagers sharing their passion.

Haru freezes, not from the temperature but from the sudden wave of embarrassment that washes over her. Lineage aside, this isn’t her space. This place isn’t for her. Their passion isn’t hers (does she even have a passion?) She is the intruder here. No, not even an intruder, a beggar loitering where she doesn’t belong.

“Kuwabara!” Hikaru calls out and another, stronger wave of shame pummels her–now she can’t even escape without notice.

Hikaru’s familiar two-toned head bobs weaves it’s way out of the group, Sai’s ghostly form following after. The other insei have paused, all of them staring at her then trying to pretend they aren’t. She’d hoped that the weird secondhand infamy from her grandfather would have worn off by now, but clearly she was underestimating the effect of the Honinbou title.

“Shindou,” she greets back, voice almost hollow. She nods a silent greeting to Sai who grins back–she’s explained that nonverbal communication is preferable to looking like a crazy person.

“What’s up? Why are you here?” Hikaru asks, “Oh, are you waiting for your gramps?” he adds, heedless of the way the other insei flinch at his irreverence.

“Ah, no,” Haru responds, almost shy, “I had a job in the area and remembered that the insei classes were letting out soon.”

The receptionist is clearly baffled at her lie.

Hikaru is more observant than people give him credit for outside of go, or perhaps she’s just being obvious, but he looks at her and nods, turns back to his insei friends and says, “Hey, maybe next time, okay guys?”

“You don’t have to-”

“Come on, Kuwabara, let’s get ramen,” Hikaru interrupts brightly, as if everything about this situation weren’t horrifically awkward; just a different flavor for this terrible day.

Sai, keen and kind in his own way, puts his spectral hands on her shoulders and guides her out the door.

With two people by her side, intangible though one of them may be, the night doesn’t seem so daunting anymore. Puffs of steam emanating from each exhale as they walk beside each other, huddled, to the ramen stand.

~

A/N: … in which a whole lot of nothing happens but at least it’s wintery.

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