The idea had first come up a few days after Bokuto’s eighteenth birthday, apparently out of the blue, way before their whole love confession blunder.
“Hey, Akaashi, let’s go on a road trip.”
“Neither of us own a driving license, Bokuto-san.”
“What? No, I mean a train trip. Whatever. Don’t be a smartass, Akaashi.”
“How do you propose we pay for the trip, even by train?”
“I came by some money recently. I’ll pay for everything. Say yes.”
“Where does the money come from?”
“What do you care? A modelling job. Say yes.”
“I’m not going on a trip god knows where and have you pay for everything when I don’t even know how much money we’ll need. These things need planning, Bokuto-san.”
“I’ll do all the planning as well. In fact it’s already done. You just have to say yes.”
“Hey, Akaashi... you know it’s my last year on the team with you... probably the last time I can ask you for anything too, as your senpai... Plus, I’m eighteen, I’m legally an adult now...”
Akaashi had opened his mouth to contradict him, but the law had indeed been modified recently. First the Japanese government had changed legal voting age from twenty-one to eighteen, and then it had only been a matter of logic and time before full legal adulthood followed: the right to property, inheritance, marriage and adoption; criminal responsibility, etc.
Akaashi hadn’t known if, applied to Bokuto, this early change of status was worrying or reassuring.
Definitely worrying, he’d decided.
“Anyway,” Bokuto had continued, “I kind of wanted to give my golden youth a proper send-off, you know...”
It had been obvious, what he had been doing: transparently trying to pull at Akaashi's strings, overdramatic and ridiculous as he ever was. And yet Akaashi had ended up replying:
“Yes!” Bokuto had erupted, and thrown his arms up in the air. “We’ll go in April next year, when school is over!”
At the time, Akaashi had only accepted to please a fellow teammate... a pushy, needy senpai... alright, actually his best friend, but now that they were boyfriends, he wondered whether Bokuto was planning something more than just a trip. Maybe... maybe a... “first time”.
He felt a hot flush all over his body to the root of his hair, then got annoyed at himself. What was he, some kind of blushing maiden? He sneaked a look at Bokuto, who had his face glued to the train window and wasn’t paying him any attention.
Still, the question had been gnawing at Akaashi, ever since their last party together as a team, on the evening of their defeat at Nationals.
They’d rented out a karaoke room to themselves for the whole night, and while Bokuto had been busy belting out the entire catalogue of NEWS songs and Aerosmith’s “I don’t wanna miss a thing” in very bad English with some invented words thrown in, Komi had slid near Akaashi on the leather seat and slipped in his hand a long strip of condoms.
As Akaashi had stared at him, then the dubious gift, then back at him in horror and incomprehension, Komi had merely shrugged and said:
“Look, you’re both going alone on a road trip...”
“Train trip, right. I’m just saying, things can happen between two young, handsome, healthy teenagers.”
“You sound like a perverted uncle.”
Komi had raised his glass of spiked oolong tea at him with a sarcastic half-smile.
“Knock yourself out, my oh-so pretty nephew.”
It had got Akaashi thinking, however, especially when he’d arrived home that night and discovered that Komi, or maybe someone else from the team, had also hidden a sizeable bottle of lubricant at the bottom of Akaashi’s backpack.
Theoretically, he’d had a vague idea as to the use of the lube, but the technical details had eluded him. So he’d turned to what he usually did when he felt stumped and out of his depth: he’d cracked down to some serious research.
As a matter of course, he’d started out with the scientific side, how the penile, prostate glans’ and other erogenous zones’ stimulation worked. Then he’d moved on to sexology articles online, accounts of personal experiences, sex tips and how-tos.
Finally, because Akaashi was nothing if not extremely thorough, he’d moved on to porn.
He’d been surprised at first at how much it had done nothing for him, almost causing him to rethink his relationship with Bokuto. What he had seen seemed fake, mechanical; cold, even, like a movie with nothing but green screen CGI; certainly impressive on the aspect of... special effects, but it had still lacked something. And he hadn’t been able to project himself in the role of the receiver, even though he was the more petite one in their couple, the more feminine-looking, and it seemed a common acceptance that it should be his affinity.
He’d continued watching a few more videos, when his attention had been caught a burly guy being fucked while filmed with a subjective camera view, apparently enjoying himself so much that he’d been drooling and fat drops of pre-come had been splattering his perfect abs.
This, at last, had induced an interesting little thrill, so Akaashi had attacked the problem from another angle (as the faceless actor fucking the burly guy had done as well: he’d lifted the burly guy’s ass almost to a vertical position, exposing his hole, and then he’d proceeded to pile-drive his cock into it, eliciting entirely new cries of delight from his partner).
What would Bokuto look like during sex? Akaashi had considered, eyes following detachedly the acrobatics on his computer screen.
He knew how Bokuto’s face and body expressed pleasure, giddiness, excitement, from their volleyball matches together, especially when they’d been victorious.
Akaashi had tried to transpose to a more intimate situation those expressions he knew very well and always made him secretly go weak in the knees and febrile of heart. The resulting mental image had finally been worthy of his time, and had made his prick slightly stir in his boxer shorts.
Yes, he wanted to see more of those on Bokuto’s face, and he wanted to be the cause of them. He wanted Bokuto flustered and blushing for all the good reasons, he wanted him even more adoring if that were even possible. He was not interested in being penetrated, but the thought of driving himself into Bokuto’s body, seizing handfuls, mouthfuls of him, spilling inside him or all over him, marking him... oh yes, these options Akaashi would definitely like to explore.
But maybe Bokuto wouldn’t be interested in being the receiver either. In which case, Akaashi decided he would try to put up with it. That was what he did for Bokuto anyway, most of the time, so he could probably make efforts in bed as well. All things considered, Akaashi's libido probably wasn’t too high. He was just interested in making Bokuto happy, really: there lied the prize, in and of itself. He could literally take it, and bear it, all for Bokuto’s sake.
Bokuto was done looking out the train window, now he had the whole mega-wattage of his attention directed at his travel companion, with the sort of restless edge Bokuto got when he was about to ask for something.
“Akaashi, I’m gonna take a little nap till the train arrives, can you hold my hand while I do?”
Akaashi spluttered, which he never did. Bokuto’s request had blind-sided him; ever since the confession and the unintentional hand-holding in front of the team, Bokuto hadn’t initiated any form of physical contact, beyond the default touchy-feely attitude he kept with all his friends. Plus, he’d asked it loud enough that the whole carriage would hear. Akaashi shot a nervous look around, but it seemed sudden collective deafness was one of the many advantages of Japanese politeness.
“Er, it’s fine, never mind,” Bokuto quickly amended when he saw Akaashi’s reaction. Akaashi could swear even Bokuto’s pointy hair seemed to droop when his dejection started to show. No one could incarnate defeat quite like Bokuto when the mood struck him: his face was always so expressive that when it fell, you could almost believe that the world had ended there and then. And his shoulders were so broad and thick that when they sagged, you could feel gravity taking its toll, and the earth itself heaving.
Bokuto used to be a titan in first-year Akaashi’s eyes, and his mood swings used to impress him and drive him wild with anxiety even though he tried not to let it show... until he realized that those mood swings were not some sort of natural disasters at all and could in fact be controlled, and Bokuto was human, very human, and sweet, and kind...
“Wait, Bokuto-san. Please take off your jacket.”
“Huh? What does it have to do with...”
“Your jacket, please, Bokuto-san,” Akaashi repeated patiently.
Bokuto executed himself, obedient if a bit puzzled, and handed over the jacket to Akaashi, who draped it between them, over their contiguous arms. Then, under this improvised shroud, he took Bokuto’s hand, although he firmly avoided his stare. He could feel Bokuto’s eyes burning at the side of his neck, but he kept looking away. Akaashi’s only concession was to fully commit to the hand-holding, fingers interlaced and palm intimately, too intimately set against palm, gripping so hard you could think he was on his deathbed and never wanted to let go. After a little while, he felt Bokuto’s intent gaze receding, his hand went a little more lax in Akaashi’s indefectible grip, and his body leaned away from Akaashi’s, much to Akaashi’s untold chagrin. Soon he heard a very faint, small snoring which he forbid himself to find endearing. He was far enough gone as it was, and with this little stunt, his embarrassment had just shot through the roof.
Still, he did not let go of Bokuto’s hand until they arrived at Hiroshima.
Hiroshima wasn’t even their final destination, Akaashi was surprised to discover when Bokuto hurried him so they could take a local train, and finally pushed him outside a station so that, in the rush, he didn’t quite have the time to place where they were.
“Quick, quick, we’re gonna miss it !”
He imagined himself as Alice, and Bokuto as a demented white rabbit late for tea with a blood-thirsty queen. Although exactly what kind of vortex of nonsense this white rabbit was leading him to, he still had no idea. But he followed, which said everything about how demented he was himself, despite the airs of reasonableness he projected. He shouldn’t have accepted, he shouldn’t have come, not if there was a drop of good sense left in him, but it was Bokuto’s last year, and they hadn’t won Nationals, and Bokuto wanted to give his youth a send-off, and, and...
There was no good reason for him to be here, chasing after this idiot whom he happened to love, who was running himself after god knew what, always forward, with a back that looked so dependable, the back of a man he’d watched match after match as it soared and shone more and more brightly; so much so that it was unnerving now not to see a number 4, black on white, emblazoned on it. There was a simple truth to it: Akaashi followed Bokuto, because he wanted to.
They were at the seaside, running towards a quay, Akaashi dazedly realized, and, with wild gestures Bokuto pointed at a ferry which was ready to depart; they barely made it in time. Once on board, it kept nagging at Akaashi, at the corners of his memory; Hiroshima, the coast, the ferry, it did remind him of something...
The weather had turned to rainy and foggy, which lent a peculiar atmosphere to the trip. The boat was cutting through still, grey waters that parted and rippled slowly, like oil, and even the noise of the ferry motors was muffled by the fog, reduced to barely a purr.
Akaashi could have kicked himself when, through the whiteness, he distinguished a bright red-orange symbol, like an eroded sygil mark on flimsy rice paper, towards which they seemed to be headed, and he understood at once what it was.
He remembered the assignment they’d had to do in groups, way back in primary school. A presentation of the main sanctuaries of Japan, with pictures so pretty they’d turned him a little obsessed for a while, peering at them on the boards they’d crafted in class for hours on end. Some words from the captions came back to him:
...Dedicated to one of Susano-O’s daughters...
...A jealous goddess, known for breaking up marriages...
...A floating torii...
...One of Japan’s three most beautiful sights...
He’d never been there before, but it was no excuse for forgetting a location so famous.
The sanctuary of Itsukushima.
That was where they were headed.
What on earth could Bokuto possibly mean by bringing him here?