(You, I ache for,
in every breath)
“Is the fall as frightening, as they warn it to be?”
Remembrance tingles at his fingertips, scalding warmth.
Melancholia seeps into the air between.
“Had you the chance to turn back the dial,
Would you perhaps-”
(A fond smile slips, and- “Never.”)
(There is a pale beach in this image; soft sand and gentle waves and a lone figure tethering at the precipice of a world unknown. A fine line between the comfort of raw sand and the struggle that the ocean promises.
About to fall, about to fall – He understands how some words can be haunting, some expressions are beyond terrifying, certain sounds are simply chilling.
And yet, it is this silent ocean, these beckoning waves, noiseless in their approach and deafening in their reign, that scare him most.
A fear of the unknown? Apprehensions of how much, how deep he can fall below? Or the knowledge of how much can be lost?
He is afraid it’s the worst reason of all- A fear of how much he wants this.)
If Koutarou were asked to describe it in a single phrase, he’d probably tilt his head in poorly-hidden confusion and mild shock, because how could one even expect words to be enough?
But, perhaps, ‘Overwhelming’ would be a good place to begin.
It starts with a gentle touch, nimble fingers wrapping hesitantly around a wrist hanging low and tired, and Koutarou can’t help but wonder quietly in his awe, how his own pale callouses contrast against tender touches that familiar sun-kissed skin often shower him with.
His breaths shudder at the silent realization that this affection is born out of a place of unrestrained love for him, bestowed upon his being endlessly and tirelessly with decisive abandon.
(He is, however, much too covetous to let go, either.)
The sensation is feather-light, barely grazing the hot skin, and it’s enough to set fire to the veins pounding loudly beneath. He hopes it’s not as audible as it is loud, ringing in his ears with an unforgiving ferocity.
It starts simple enough, with a simple caress.
(And yet, it is enough to send his heart falling over the edge.)
Koutarou’s body recognizes the touch with a sigh of relief. The mere knowledge of the person to whom the slender hand -and fluttering ministrations- belong sends a burst of sparks through his body, pleasantly warm under the attention.
The consideration hidden behind each trace of skin pressing against his own bears semblance to the kind paid to the divinities above, devotion and unbridled gratitude the only intention.
And Koutarou’s heart remembers.
The sensation of the same fingers that now gently hold his hand, often found running across his cheek, thumb stroking his chapped lips in anticipation and open adoration.
A small mouth, lips perky and pink (and smiling), falling lightly over each part of him, exploring all of him with unyielding want and patience, with a reverence that makes Koutarou go numb in the sheer brilliance of its gentle power, an invitation of safety.
Lips that meet his with an endearing timid-ness and equally lovable bold determination, a tongue that dances against his in tandem with their beating pulse, hearts thrashing against their chests in restless desire.
Skin against skin, it is never a fight for dominance, only perhaps the underlying instinct of wanting to hold and be held, close and tight and forever.
The soothing sensation of soft black locks nuzzling in the crook of his neck, nose pressed shyly against his bitten collarbone, and the calming scent that gently intrudes upon each of his senses, something spicy, earthy like musty oak or much the smoke emanating from a wildfire, with hints of cinnamon peeking at the edges, something so utterly unprecedented- Keiji.
Koutarou, in the wake of this comfort, breathes in more -long and deep and frantic like he is but a lone puny man lost in the vast seas, yearning to drown in all that screams and all that whispers quietly of a soul as lost- Keiji.
The reminiscence of deep emerald eyes, as they hold captive within their gaze the lustre of all fallen celestials, whisper of several melodies untold- of an existence, an enigma revered as Keiji.
(Koutarou takes a step into the shallows, the water calling out to him. The waves run desperate to touch his feet, only to retract their hasty steps a second later.
Koutarou thinks he can understand that.
But the waves are cold and calming, and clarity washes over all the seemingly impenetrable stains of misgivings as wetness slowly lays claim over him.
A strange sense of belonging resonates within.
It feels like returning home at the conclusion of a journey too long.)
(So, he only ventures further.)
Koutarou finds his own eyes drawn towards his in a quiet moment of want, beckoning twin emeralds reflecting an identical need, the same lust-filled haze mixed with an unrelenting desire to cherish, and Koutarou melts, under the undivided attention of fond eyes and the weight of this moment suspended in their tiny eternity.
It’s overwhelming in all the right ways.
(Of course, only when it’s Keiji.)
Every second, every breath, tells of a plethora of emotions he can only ever feel, never comprehend in the way they weave an intricate depth into something beyond the sum of their existences.
Splayed among the highs and the lows are moments spent in silence, between passionate whispers of ‘yes, you’, and breathes heavy with a strange desperation and caresses laced with fear as all layers are ripped off to be that much closer.
Every such moment bears a weight that grounds Koutarou -anchors him to all that he is, all that they are, and all that is promised to blossom in the song of the Universe.
Perhaps it is no atlas’s burden, compared to the vastness of the Cosmos that encompasses their insignificant existence, but what blooms and burns and grows between them, has more of a something, that nothing of anything could ever have, this Koutarou knows.
(When he told Keiji these exact words, Koutarou received an adorable giggle --failing to stay hidden behind slender fingers-- and a promise of forever in the squeeze of entwined fingers.
Koutarou could only grin to hide the warm clench of his own chest.)
It’s quite hard to explain, especially because articulate descriptions are more of Keiji’s Thing than his (pride has always felt absolutely fulfilling), but he can say it’s a bit like this:
Unconditional, Koutarou thinks, when he feels Keiji’s careful touch on days where Koutarou is a bit more fragile and brittle, hours spent hiding under blankets and worn desks.
(Unconditional, Keiji whispers, when he feels Koutarou’s tender prodding and firm words drag heavy feet out of bed, drag his heart out of the dark hole it’s tired of dwelling in.)
Unconditional, Koutarou reflects, when he sees Keiji’s unrestrained smile (‘Ethereal’ -- he hums at how well the word fits) on days where the sun is shining high and loud outside, Koutarou even brighter with mirth at the lightness of their steps and linked swinging hands amid fond ‘Bokuto-san’s, and then everything dissolves into fluid peals of shared laughter and unseen glances stolen.
(Unconditional, Keiji smiles, when the day is bright and the light is right, when he catches Koutarou’s amused grins and hysterical gestures because ‘Akaashi did you see that?!’, because ‘I got this for you since it makes you happy!’, because ‘You are the best!’)
Unconditional, Koutarou knows, when Keiji holds onto him as the sun peeks past the horizon, when this oddly distilled emotion floats between their chests and mess of tangled limbs under whispers of ‘It’s you’, when Koutarou embraces him back and never lets go because, oh, this is happiness.
(Unconditional, Keiji laughs, because it’s you, Koutarou)
Unconditional, Koutarou finally admits, because everything with Keiji means so, so much.
(And so, there is just as much to lose.)
The more importance someone has for you, the more weight you have the privilege to carry.
There is a meaning that is thus attached to every step forward, every beat his heart skips, every glance that slips against his will, every thought that invades his consciousness, every night spent dreaming of stunning midnight greens and the call of a voice that tastes of warmth and sings of a heart that has submitted its claim.
But Koutarou is different.
Koutarou spends all waking moments dipping in a pool newly discovered before quickly moving onto the next one- wetting his feet with one idea after another, never letting himself be soaked completely. It’s the way he has lived, from one place to the next. It’s fun, it is how things have ever been.
He only ever stops to look when his heart stutters at what he finds beneath the surface. His curiosity is piqued, and the decision is made. He goes all in, to explore every nook and cranny.
For him, diving beneath with his entire being is not some casual endeavor. It’s a one-way road, it’s frightening, and he gives the unknown depths all of his that is there to offer, and some more.
Needless to say, the triggers of such stupid bravery are few and far between in his life.
The last such pursuit was Volleyball, now seeming years and ages ago. His body molded over hours and years to suit the ways of this now familiar world —the courts, the tournaments, late evening practices, roaring cheers and exhilarating exertion-- and has thus forgotten how it ever dared to dive in the knowledge of uncharted depths and hidden pitfalls.
Now, years after what he thought to be his last ever adventure, he is already walking toward another pool, one he is ready to immerse himself in for a long – the longest, probably- time, and yet it is this strange sense of foreboding that halts his steps.
(It’s scary, Keiji.)
(Koutarou stops; he can’t do this.
It’s too heavy, too fragile, too important to risk it.
But before he can muster up the courage to pull back his steps, another pair of feet join him on the sandy landscape. They are tanned and beautiful, determined in their approach, resilience amidst the march of chaotic tides. The hand that grasps his is warm and firm in its hold, gently tugging him further in.
Koutarou looks up, confused, and finds beautiful emerald irises reflecting a quiet intensity and a smile that speaks of immeasurable strength and committed perseverance.
Koutarou senses the out these gentle hands offer him, and suddenly his chest is stuttering in pain at even considering the prospect of not going beyond.
An acute ache shoots unnervingly through his body at the distressed admission, and so a quietness washes over him as the realization dawns. And then, everything is simpler.
Breathing never came as easy.
So Koutarou allows himself to be drawn further in, and he imagines how Keiji has survived this game of push and pull for so long.
It’s a reminder. Keiji is ungiving strength and raw want.
Koutarou doesn’t fall to this power; he falls for it.)
He is suddenly pulled into a protective embrace, enveloped in stuttering breaths and reassuring whispers and fingers soothingly resting against his scalp, and Koutarou’s body relaxes in the familiar, safe space.
Koutarou thinks he now understands, how it is perhaps a heavy reality to grasp --what they mean to each another, all that is Koutarou and Keiji, the implications of what is expected to happen after this, it is all in the dark and yet, yet he is never alone in this --this duet they have decided to sing together in cosmic harmony.
The lean hands slowly sliding around his waist, tightening the hug, press the firm reminder of eternity into his back, a promise of company in each breath of theirs that becomes air.
They are close, so very close, the awareness of this intimacy washes over him in calming, gentle waves. Koutarou decides he will treasure this as much as he is allowed, for as long as his heart can beat in tandem with another just as lovesick.
There is an ache somewhere in his body, burning and spreading to everywhere else, his fingers aching to get Keiji as close to him as is possible, to love this man more than he already does, to give him more than he can hope to try, to forever listen to this symphony of mischievous green eyes and tender smiles because there is no place else he can feel as at ease, no place else where he feels it’s safe, that it’s okay, to want and demand more.
(No place else his heart aches to give, as much)
This feeling within his chest, that Koutarou has been harboring for so, so long (too long), overflows, and for once, Koutarou allows it to spill.
Allows the vulnerability to consume his form, the entirety of him, the Koutarou whose every cell screams ‘Meat!!’ in a never-ending loop, the Koutarou whose days begin and end with Volleyball, the Koutarou who has always believed in doing what is fun, and also the Koutarou who loves a Keiji who smiles tenderly at him when he thinks Koutarou isn’t looking, the two floating together in their own tiny corner of the infinite Universe.
(The ocean is vast and deep, filled with intersecting lives, the known and the unknown and Koutarou finds that the idea of exploring it with this hand in his own is both simultaneously petrifying and exhilarating. It’s heartening- this future.
A world built upon happy beginnings and happier endings.
He is finally in the right place.)
“I love you, too, Keiji. Happy birthday.”
A gentle touch of lip against lip, heart upon heart, an exhale of the easiest surrender, and- “Akaashi Keiji, Marry me?”
It is much like the last leg of the longest marathon, Koutarou ponders, this gap of a single breath between him and Keiji as they catch their breaths, emerald irises widening and soft lips falling open at the hushed words. Then-
(Happiness is you.)
-then, it’s all silent smiles and familiar warmth, fingers carding through his locks in unadulterated affection and the whisper of a soundless answer and –
(I am home.)
“Because, my beloved,
This love is the kindest exhale.”