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It Had to Be You

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They luck into the sunny half of inclement Okinawan November afternoons, escaping rain by mere hours as the clouds part through First Dance. Overhead, it’s a fiery ultramarine, all the skylights uncovered, the crushed lapis lazuli brightness of it making Akihito’s head pound and lending a tinge of blue to their white tablecloths and white cake and white everything. He’s half listening to an old lady relate her family recipe for nimono and thinking about the hours it would take to white-balance all these shots, how the touch of blue feels as magically uncapturable an artifact as an endless horizon, when Haruka taps her on the shoulder.

Akihito doesn’t really mind — the woman’s recipe sounded like it had enough vinegar in to dissolve evidence.

“Mother’s privilege,” Haruka says, blithely ignoring the old women’s glare and sliding into her spot in a swish of blue tinted grey, all red lipstick and black cascading waves like a French stormcloud by the sea. “And I did promise you a secret.”

They glide right into the music at the next bar, but Akihito takes her through a turn right away, looking around for Suoh Takumi and finds him standing ramrod straight within a five metre radius, hands resting on his lapels. He probably can’t help the way he glares at anyone standing close enough to Haruka to be a threat, but it still makes Akihito want to end this conversation as quickly as possible.

“You’re not going to wait until after the cake cutting?” Akihito asks.

“My son doesn’t like you spending time with me, for whatever reason,” Haruka pouts, bats her eyelashes at him. “He’s rather protective.”

After the First Dance, Akihito’s been aware of Asami the way a lodestone is aware of the north, his body always tilted to keep him within range of his peripheral vision. Asami’s all the way on the other side of the dance floor with Akihito’s own mother, making her laugh at something — probably talking about Akihito — pretending the temperature doesn’t drop ten degrees every time they meet.

If she’s anything like him she’d like Asami just fine after two drinks. Any attempts on Akihito’s part to steer her towards the champagne tower is accidental.

“Maybe he caught wind of how you got me into that skirt,” Akihito says. How obviously afraid Asami is of his mother both sweet and terrifying; she’s quite possibly the only person he defers to, and Akihito can’t believe he ever thought her harmless, eating out of her hand, choosing to go into enclosed spaces with her voluntarily. “Or maybe he’s right to feel protective. You did kidnap me, after all.”

“It’s a train, darling,” she says with infinite patience, switching gears on a turn, “speaking of,” Haruka divulges, her mouth quirking and her smile uncannily hooked. “My son was planning on kidnapping you for a proposal —”

“No way,” Akihito says, betraying how hopelessly smitten he is with an unbidden grin to go with his wide eyes.

He’s been dreaming up corny possibilities since he heard about alternative plans from Asami months ago: thirteen dozen roses sent to the paper to crowd his second floor temp desk, a blimp with a giant banner, skywriting, anything to match the usual cheesy mess that comes out of his mouth. It’s not as though Asami’s ever had to woo anyone, so it would make sense that his frame of reference for what passes for romance to come from Haruka’s library. Akihito hasn’t counted on illegal, but how could he have counted on less? A giggle escapes him, effervescent like champagne bubbles. Haruka looks taken aback, and it’s unpracticed and new on her, like she’s unused to being surprised.

“— and that is not what I was expecting.” Haruka’s smile is quizzical, curious. “I’m beginning to think he could do no wrong in your eyes.”

“That’s not true,” Akihito refutes, averting his gaze with a pout. “I call him out all the time.”

“You still married him, though.” Her eyes are warm on him finally, that constant impish glint gone out of them. When her guard isn’t up her eyes are naturally downcast, and he thinks sad eyes, the truth of her uncomfortably honest. “I married my Asami before I knew the worst of him. There were rumours, of course, and there was my parents’ disapproval, but I had no idea.” She tips her chin to one side, and the optical illusion of sadness dissipates. “Do you think you walked into this with both eyes open?”

Across the room, Akihito’s mother leaves to mingle and Asami’s mask drops — it’s subtle, half covered up with a champagne glass, but she’s barely turned away before all traces of friendliness disappears from him like a curl of smoke. The first thought that comes to Akihito is he must be tired, and despite the hours of reception they’re obligated to attend, he wants to pull Asami to their changeroom, a shared space for costume changes they’re not having, into one of those oversized easy chairs, tuck a soft throw over his shoulders. He knows Asami’s a first rate actor, but he’s never tried to pull the wool over Akihito’s eyes; he was awful from the get-go and it didn’t make a dent of a difference in the long run.

“I don’t know,” Akihito admits, looking past her at Asami’s profile.

“You don’t know if you’ve seen him at his worst?”

Akihito takes a breath. This feels a lot like confessing an enormous, sparkling diamond of a secret, like pushing away dirt to show the veins of mineral in the rock — a facet, from which she could surmise the whole dimensions Asami takes up in his chest. He tears his eyes away from Asami to tell her, “I don’t think it matters.”

They take another turn around the dance floor before Haruka hmms at him and concludes, tapping him on the back with a hand that still bears a ring. “I guess not.”

“And it’s not like we started off with rainbows and unicorns,” Akihito adds, laughing nervously.

“I deduced that from his utterly harebrained idea,” Haruka says, a hint of mischief coming back but Akihito has a feeling it’s not for him. “And if he kidnapped you, took you to the roof of that Shinjuku building where you met, and proposed to you with no music and no dancing or romance whatsoever as you roll freshly out of a body bag like an angry, spitting cat, you still would have said yes.”

If Asami had reached across their breakfast nook and asked him if Akihito wouldn’t mind making miso soup for him for the rest of their lives, he would have said yes, and Akihito knows this with a certainty that borders on deterministic, knows the breadth of his feelings like knowing the sun hides behind heavy overcast skies. Their initial meeting was a rush and a half so he doesn’t really remember it, it’s fuzzy, indistinctly adrenaline fueled, but he has a flashbulb photo memory of Asami snapped and saved climbing down a sign on the side of that building, the glow of neon limning Asami’s hand against the night sky, his gaze interested and slightly defeated.

Akihito didn’t know this then, but it didn’t take him long to learn that it’s the look Asami has when he gets an idea into his head that he just won’t let go.

“Really? The building where we met?” Akihito says, grinning like an idiot, turning his face to blunt the sudden heat in his cheeks. “I was expecting … less sentimentality. I mean,” it’s insane that he’s even considering it romantic, and he knows explaining it is probably just making it worse, “I got away.” At her speculative look through the long fringe of her eyelashes, heavily implying Did you really? he adds, "Well, I got away that day, at least."

Haruka seems to agree somewhat, hmms at him again. They’re nearing the end of a song, woodwinds pulling into a long note and rhythm slowing to the last tap of a hi-hat. She drags herself closer, on tip-toes so she can whisper to him a secret, “Well, he didn’t.”

Despite the cake looking like an accident waiting to happen, they cut it without incident and Akihito says goodbye to his veil and his skirt after all the pictures are taken, pushing them into Haruka’s hands in a bundle like an unwanted child.

She takes the pin and clips it right back onto his lapel.

“It’s the symbol of my husband’s family.” Something has changed in her demeanor like a thawing plum branch, colours fading in genuine and sweet, and she kisses him on the cheek as she says, “It’s yours now, too.”

It’s not a posh wedding unless there’s an open bar, so it’s a bombed wedding, what with all of Akihito’s friends in their twenties and half the entertainment industry that Asami’s invited about the same. In the ensuring alcohol and sugar fueled aftermath of dinner, Akihito ends up all over the hall trying to keep his friends upright for the rest of free dance. He dances with Kou (clumsy), Takato (surprisingly clumsy), and delights his mom (as agile as a bird) by being a better dancer than his dad (letting Akihito back lead, the whole time) who sulks bitterly by the bar afterwards to drown his contradictory and unwarranted jealousy in awamori.

Akihito’s fear of offending their many and varying tiers of prestigious guests keeps his anxiety well fanned until the band goes on break, and a relatively young Diet member — outspoken Councillor Sasaki, of Osaka — with an eleven petal chrysanthemum pin sits down at the grand piano to start playing 90’s pop, elevator music edition, belting out something that sounds suspiciously like — no, it definitely is — an anime opening from Akihito’s best forgotten youth into a muted mic. Asami’s choosing to be utterly useless at keeping the crazy to a minimum and Akihito spots him trying to blend behind the remnants of the cake, a stack of crystal sugar pillars piled high, hiding his face behind a fist and his shoulder shaking from laughter. Three words into the first chorus, Kirishima’s idea of damage control is to turn on the microphone.

Looking at the guest list (he doesn’t know why he did it, maybe he’s just that kind of masochist) before the wedding, Akihito had spent minutes staring into the mirror in his tux trying to determine if he looked adult enough to stand in the same room with Asami, let alone these people. And now these same people — his own father included — are on a quest to convince him that adulthood isn’t actually a place you fall into once you reach a certain age, and we are all in our own way pretending. That we’re all just one drink away from risking life and limb, to sit down at an empty piano to start playing Hohoemi no Bakudan at Asami Ryuichi’s wedding.

His father’s plunking himself down next to Councillor Sasaki trying to tone correct him by singing along to delay his foray into an entirely different key, but Akihito doubts it’ll matter since Kirishima’s second attempt at damage control is to send out the servers to make a second champagne tower. Pretty soon no one’s going to notice such trivialities as discordant piano arrangements of hit theme songs.

Akihito’s high strung panic is dissolving into resignation just as he hears Ai saying next to him, “Do you think he knows Moonlight Densetsu?”

“Ai, no,” Akihito tells her, boggling, excessively empathetic on the no, but with the promise of no recording devices on site aside from one single private wedding video that Asami will guard like a national treasure comes the implied no consequences, so she’s skipping off to the piano before he can finish saying her single syllable name.

There’s going to be a clip of Momohara Ai singing Moonlight Densetsu on my wedding video — on Asami’s wedding video, and Akihito’s still trying to wrap his mind around that when he’s pulled backwards by someone tall and lithe and acting overly familiar, smelling heavily of fruity awamori and as suicidal as ever.

“Bun, this is clearly the worst idea you’ve ever had,” Akihito laughs as Bun pulls him into an insult to Foxtrot over badly played anime music.

“We are all clearly having the worst idea and executing it, so why the hell not,” Bun says while dipping him so low they nearly tumble. “You only live once.”

Akihito takes one look around and well, he can’t fault that logic.

Out by the stage, Momohara Ai has purloined the microphone from Councillor Sasaki of the LDP, and the big band’s piano player has finally come to defend the sanctity of the grand piano only to be pressed into the service of playing Moonlight Densetsu. There are supposed adults with professional pins worn like chest candy on their lapels dancing badly, and it’s beautiful, glorious chaos; Hasegawa sensei’s doing the cha-cha with Haruka, the two of them giggling all over each other while a terrifyingly sober Suoh Takumi looks on with what passes for a smile for a Suoh.

Not a shred of the high-brow, nose-in-the-air tightness from the wedding itself is left in the hall, and Akihito lets Bun pull him into haphazard spins, laughing so hard the pressure in his temples feels like a hangover.

“Come here often?” he asks Bun, because drunken stupidity is catching. “If you do, please tell me that my wedding is not especially disastrous.”

“All weddings devolve into a drinking party by the dessert course — don’t worry about it,” Bun says, pleasantly unconcerned, dipping Akihito inexpertly and then sweeping him up with, if not skill, then abundant dramatic flair. When they’re upright again, Bun’s looking at him in the way that drunk people do, haltingly serious. “I understand why you turned me down now though. Your husband is —”

“Ugh,” Akihito chokes, going red all over; he’s never going to get used to Asami being referred to as that.

“— madly in love with you,” Bun concludes with a nod of his head, so close his eyes cross. He says, “You look happy,” as if he can see Akihito at five centimetres.

The first half of that, he’s not even sure how to deal with, but Akihito feels the answer spill out of him for the latter half. “I am.”

“You got any terrible ideas?” Bun asks, he’s always been a seize the day kind of guy. “It’s your party. Everyone else seems to be overdoing it.”

Along the west side of the hall, across from the stage and the travesty of a wedding reception caught on indelible digital tape, a tropical sunset’s painting an impasto of fire across the horizon in streaks of saturated citrus. It’s as bright and thick as crushed mineral and oils refracting through stacks of clear sugar pillars, drawing lines of golden yellow and deep orange on canvases of white linen tablecloths, so vibrant Akihito can taste the sourness of the colours on his tongue. He spots a fragmented silhouette in the midst of that, fractured into hundreds, thousands of distinct puzzle pieces, edges jagged as broken mirrors, and if he follows the beautiful confusion of scattered light, he could put them all back together. Akihito does what he’s always done — he tracks the bits and pieces of darkness to piece whole the knife sharp lines of a familiar shadow.

“Why don’t you go belt out a song with Momohara Ai?” Akihito squeezes Bun’s hand, backleading himself into an off-rhythm spin before letting go. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Akihito had collected Asami from his perch next to a line of French windows — kidnapped him, for once, stealing him right out from beneath Kirishima’s watchful glasses — without something as grandiose as a plan, leaving the doors to the terrace wide open and their embossed napkins to soft November subtropical winds, flooding the hall with the crushed salt of Okinawan autumn. It’s a five minute walk down the white stone walkway that fades into white sand, and in the excitement of sneaking out the walk is shorter, feels like seconds, so they’re on the shore staring out at a wide expanse of the Sea of Japan before either of them notices that the path is gone.

The view is nothing like the contained ocean they’re used to in Tokyo, circumferenced by ferries and freighters and bridges like another city living on the water, banked in by skyscrapers and closed off overhead by claustrophobic light pollution. Naha glows dimly to the south, the blue of a distant star, and Akihito thinks this probably qualifies as his terrible idea, his answer to Bun’s ‘you only live once,’ to wander near a large body of water on the cusp of night, ensuring a stumbling walk in the dark later. But they’ve made it to the brokenly rhythmic lapping of the water’s edge, getting sand in all the patently perfect grooves of their white leather shoes and Akihito can’t think of it as being anything but wonderful watching Asami’s tux take on the colours of a bruised sky, his hairstyle loose from a long day, messy and run through with sea breeze.

“I thought you may need a smoke,” Akihito says, making up excuses for dragging them out here.

Asami looks surprised and maybe a bit caught, glancing away. In the blush of a sunset, his smile looks shy. “I didn’t bring them.”

At any other time, Akihito would have teased that Asami didn’t want to ruin the line of his tux with a cigarette packet, wonder aloud if he would forego addiction for vanity. He has his suspicions, he’s been collecting evidence in vacant ashtrays for months. “Are you okay?”

“I’m wearing a patch,” Asami shrugs, sliding his hands casually into his pockets.

“At least three people told me they were quitting just now,” Akihito says.

“Weddings do that to people.” Asami settles a hand on the small of Akihito’s back, rubbing his thumb over the fabric, and Akihito can feels the join of his shoulder beneath the well tailored lines just behind him, protective. “I didn’t want to run out to have a smoke today.”

It’s a serviceable excuse, and he’s heard this from smokers before: how smoking is about constantly missing moments, removing oneself from the immediacy of intimacies to cater to the immediacy of an addiction. He hasn’t asked because he figures Asami has his own reasons for doing what he does, or to stop doing what he does, and Akihito’s no stranger himself to hiding things, but. “You know, you may even be able to get away with that lie if you were still gone all the time. But when you’re home all the hours you’re not working, it’s kind of obvious.”

“I’m down to one a day,” Asami admits.

They’re polar opposites, even if he doesn’t think of them as diametrically opposed anymore; Akihito knows that as a nebulous fact, but it’s stuff like this that casts a spotlight on their differences. Akihito’s tried to smoke once and only once, because a cigarette is a vital prop for any self-respecting yankii. That single cigarette had sent him into a coughing fit and the nicotine had felt like chugging ten coffees, and it’d depressed him for ages until becoming an adult made him realise he’d dodged a bullet. If he’d had to quit, Akihito would have declared his intention and hung a resolution banner in his apartment, using that as strength, as accountability, but Asami would rather one day mention it over breakfast after he’s burned his last packet.

Asami doesn’t like all that many people, saves all his grand gestures for the few he cares about, and Akihito feels at the centre of it; he closes his eyes and turns his face into Asami’s shoulder to breathe in sea and champagne and cake, clean linen and the floral note of being surrounded by bouquets all day, thinking of how lucky he is to be here, have all that intoxicating, focused attention to himself, to feel greedy and indulged.

“So,” Akihito says, reaching up to play with Asami’s tie. “You just decided to quit one day?” And he watches Asami watch the sunset for half a minute in silence, the glorious deep richness of an egg yolk going under, like he’s trying to decide on the right words, which pisses Akihito off to no end. “Tell me.”

“I put on a patch to meet your parents back in May,” Asami says, kissing Akihito’s hairline probably to avoid meeting his eyes. “And I was once again reminded of how awfully young you were.”

Twenty-four is near a quarter of a century and hardly qualifies as awfully young, especially coming from a man who’s crushingly young for the life he leads, and Akihito wants to remind Asami that this entire year has been an unrelenting and continuous mid-twenties crisis, all his youthful hopes slipping away like the ocean at low-tide, leaving him parched and gasping. He’s about to complain about the uncalled for number of times Kirishima’s called him a brat today, but then Asami’s mumbling into Akihito’s hair, his hand just a fraction tighter, pulling him just a fraction closer, and he’s so wide with confessions and promises Akihito feels himself go weak — his feet rooted to the sand, clinging to Asami like wisteria to an oak tree.

"My parents were married only five years before my father fell ill. He spent the last year of his life hooked up to a machine that helped him breathe, and now my mother has had more than ten years on her own. She’ll live at least another forty. I promised you a lifetime," Asami says, pressing their sides together in a line so Akihito can feel the bulk of him, dependable and solid enough to lean on, grow old with.

“Me — me too,” Akihito says, having no idea at all how to answer the weight of those sentiments, struck dumb. “I’m —”

“I’ll always come home to you,” Asami says, reaching up to pinch Akihito lightly on the nose. “You too.”

Nowadays the sum total of risk in Akihito’s job is getting trampled in a crowded convention centre during the next inevitable Tokyo earthquake, maybe a model will one day go from prissy to homicidal and attempt strangulation with a pair of jeans, but Akihito’s hardly in the wall-climbing and prostitution ring busting phase of his career — he’s barely in the busting politicians for misusing public funds phase of his career. Asami probably hasn’t meant to remind him that being nearly a quarter of a century old also means, quite possibly, three whole quarters of a century left, too early to start feeling lost; he’s been lost for months though, at sea for a year — maybe longer, and he turns his face into Asami’s lapel, slotting himself into the space beneath Asami’s chin, where he instinctively searches for solace, now.

It takes him too long to remember Asami expects an answer, and he feels Asami’s hand on his cheek, featherlight with an aching tenderness. “What’s the matter?”

“I’m in no danger of hurting myself in my current line of work, don’t worry,” Akihito says, the spiteful resentment he’s buried deep sneaking into his words like a thief.

Asami seems to be holding back a laugh. “Do you enjoy being in danger?”

“Not exactly, no …” Akihito says, trailing off as he realises what an outright lie that is. He can’t really deny he loves the rush, but the vertigo of real and measurable danger, the sudden panic he gets in the face of guns and feeling his stomach drop out — that, he could do without. “I just … haven’t been able to figure out what I want to do with my life. Since we —” he shakes away his reluctance to bring them back to that time they had to part, “—I mean since ... since last Christmas.”

Now Asami really is laughing in the face of Akihito’s existential crisis, a soft staccato alighting in his chest that vibrates through them both, it’s contagious, makes Akihito look up — only to find Asami’s gaze on him, warm with easy confidence and thoroughly amused.

“When I was your — when I was twenty four,” Asami says, coughing into his fist, flattening out the near slip of the tongue. “I was doing my Master’s. I was literally still in school.”

“Say ‘when I was your age,’” Akihito pleads with wide eyes.

“No.” Asami shakes his head at him with only the barest hint of exasperation. “Look — I’m in my line of work because I inherited most of it. I don’t have life figured out,” he’s saying with an anchoring smile, as steadying as his hand at Akihito’s back. “Success is not at all the same as realising one’s dreams, or doing what one loves. A lot of the people you saw in there,” he gestures vaguely in the direction of the hotel, a beacon in the gathering darkness, “don’t have it figured out. Their lives were on train tracks. They became politicians or lawyers because that’s what their fathers were, and they keep doing it to maintain the lives they have — most people there will work to their last breath looking successful without figuring out what it is they love.”

“What did you love?” Akihito finds himself too curious to hold back, and he thinks he’s allowed now, privy to all of Asami’s secrets. “I mean, what were your dreams like?”

“Staggeringly unambitious,” Asami confides, savagely judgemental of his younger self. “I wanted my own bar.”

“You have your own bar. I’ve lost track of how many bars you own,” Akihito points out.

He does roll his eyes a little this time. Asami stage whispers, “I wanted to be a bartender.”

Akihito takes a moment to dream up a young Asami in the uniform, with the apron and bowtie and the waistcoat, and colours. “Um, do you still —”

“No, I don’t really know what I want to be anymore. I am the linchpin in a giant machine that’s run for centuries, and far too many people rely on me for their livelihoods for me to quit. Then along the way I met you,” Asami says, his voice taking a lift like his words are tied with balloons, the limned edges of him glimmering in the last rays of the sun. “And you ... you can do whatever you want. Take as long as you need to figure things out.”

“Is that okay?” He asks, small over the soft crash of waves.

Save for a few wisps of searing purple hanging on the offing, there’s hardly daylight left, and Akihito tries to make out Asami’s face by the gleam on the water, the burnished gold edges of him are beautiful coloured with the last of twilight.

“Of course. You have me,” Asami says, a glint of gold warm on Akihito’s face, and Akihito feels a lump catch in his throat at how easily he says it. “Rely on me.”

Akihito remembers standing on a beach just like this, staring into a distant horizon, trying to bracket the eternal line of it in a four by six frame. A nine hour flight and a lifetime from here, he’d stared into Asami’s inscrutable edges and thought he could never hope to have him — hope to keep him. He’d wanted him then with the curiosity of a satellite caught in a gravity well, with a possessive heat banked low, flaming bright at the merest provocation, with an utter lack of regard for self-preservation that in hindsight could only be love.

It fills him up like the ocean rushing in, dragged along by the moon. Akihito feels a sting in his eyes, burning up as he chokes out, “Okay. You have to too.”

The last of the sunset is supposedly the most spectacular but they’re missing all of it; Akihito’s half closing his eyes to Asami taking his face in his large, warm hands, kissing the corners of his brows, draws a line down to his mouth. The vows at the altar took a full twenty minutes, but it’s a blur compared to what Asami’s telling him now, kissing an answer into him as the moon calls out to the sea, the tides coming in leisurely, lapping softly at their feet.

Even in Okinawa it’s not scorching hot midday in November, so the earth gives off scant little heat at night. Akihito feels only a slight wind shift as the sun sinks and the skies darken overhead. The salt breeze exchanges itself for autumnal flowers, rich and sweet with cloying lemonade of tree blossoms. The wind also brings with it the endnotes of a song.

“Looks like Kirishima is done looking for us,” Asami says. “That’s our cue.”

The milky way’s a suggestion of a river overhead, its rift a crack along the firmament, and Akihito can hear the beginning clarinet trills of Moonlight Serenade they chose for a last song faintly above the sound of water, drifting between patches of darkness in their moonless night.

“We’re going to miss the last dance at our own wedding,” he tells Asami, and he should feel sorry about consistently marring the perfection Kirishima’s worked so hard to architect but he can’t help feeling glad to be free of it, that he could spend the last hours of today with just the two of them.

His eyes hasn’t adjusted to the dark yet, so Akihito doesn’t see what Asami is doing; first he feels a hand on his left shoulder blade, a palm clutching at his right hand — and his own fingers curling naturally around the warmth as he steps into the stance night blind. Asami has a note of roguish mischief in his voice as he says, “Who says we’re missing it?”

There's a thrum in Akihito’s veins like strings humming to a tuning fork, pulled just tight enough to vibrate at Asami’s exact frequency. The song is dazzling, it sets all his nerves tingling, and Akihito finds himself smiling wide, and he thinks this, impossibly, is what he’s wanted all along: he may have passing fantasies of attracting jealous looks as he hangs off Asami’s arm everywhere they go, but it’s never been their attention he wanted. There is nothing for which he has a craving for more than this, Asami close and coal black and sharp with starlight in the dark, his gaze his hands his mouth a jealous, possessing heat, as glad to be the only person watching Akihito as Akihito feels to have only this single pair of eyes on him.

“It’s too dark for us to find our way back,” Akihito says, sounding entirely unconcerned. “Kirishima will think we’ve run away.”

Asami hums at him, muttering, “Not a half bad idea.”

They kick up sand working through feathering steps, and Asami’s spinning him back in as the first firework lights up the sky. It obscures the music, suddenly blinding overhead and illuminating the water, the explosions making them lose the beat, but beneath the faint consecutive booms he can hear Asami humming slightly off-key, keeping time; in the flashes of blooming, electric blue flowers, Asami’s eyes are half-lidded, his mouth curling into a smile that matches the small creases by his eyes. The waterline creeps inward with Asami walking him back into shore in a slow promenade, the waves erasing their footprints. Akihito’s reminded of something his mother said to him once, before she left on her first business trip that turned into two, three, the indefinite time blocks of them stacking into months: life is about building castles in the sand, and I can’t let your father do it alone.

“You’ll take me with you?” Akihito says, so quietly he’s surprised Asami can hear him, but he feels Asami’s mouth curling into a sickle by his brow.

“Did you know,” Asami says offhandedly, “I ate melon bread for breakfast when we were apart. Instant coffee. Packaged ramen for lunch.”

These are all things Akihito keeps in the pantry. And these are all things half demolished the last time Asami went off on a business trip, needing comfort and finding it in his favourites in Asami’s absence. Akihito laughs at him, “The indignity.”

“Didn’t Sumie tell you about my father? Leave an Asami alone and we’ll drink ourselves to death by fifty,” he tells Akihito over the last notes as they spin to a stop, slanting down a embarrassingly fond look as his hand behind Akihito’s back slips down to his waist, letting their hands unclasp from their Foxtrot stance so he could stroke the back of his fingers over Akihito’s cheek. There’s only the sound of the waves to accompany his words, a sardonic smile to cut this overwhelming sweetness. “I’m never leaving you again. Who’d take care of me?”

Akihito feels his eyes burn; it’s such a silly thing to cry over after all the promises they’ve given each other today, but it’s strange how those are the lines that break the dam. Asami won’t be wearing it again anyway, so Akihito doesn’t really feel bad about balling his fists into the back of Asami’s bespoke tux, stretching out the weave and telling him off because it’s fucking true, “You’re awful. I have no idea why I love you.”

He’s not quite aware of what he’s said until Asami’s running both hands up his spine, clutching back just as tight, and half speaks into Akihito’s mouth, “That’s okay. Because I do,” with logical inevitability, leaving Akihito no room to have a meltdown. “You are absolutely adorable blushing like this,” Asami says, between kisses, between maddeningly slow nips at Akihito’s lower lip, “every time I think I know you inside and out you surprise me with something new, and —”

“But none of those things are about you,” Akihito interrupts, leaning back and away, too baffled to be embarrassed now even as Asami leans in on him, grinning, chasing his lips like it’s a game. “They’re about —” me, and his brain catches on before his mouth does and the flood of endorphins feels like an assault to his knees. If Asami wasn’t already holding him up he may end up on the sand, and he says, shocked to silence, breathily, letting Asami pull him back in, “— oh.”

“And the way you just said oh is pure poetry,” Asami teases. The smile he wears around Akihito is never one he selects out of a catalogue; it’s the smile of a man who can’t stop smiling. “I could go on.”

In between kissing Akihito breathless, he does; Asami names his favourite dishes, his least favourite horror movies, all the cute, sweet things Akihito says in his sleep. He marvels, with an awe that Akihito knows better now than to doubt, how Akihito fits into his life like a puzzle piece so long lost he’s only just now learning what it’s like to be with than to go without.

As the soft embers of fireworks float down to the water and the sting of sulfur and gunpowder hits his eyes, he closes them and lets Asami lead him, entirely blind and trusting, into a dance that has no form, just humming and swaying to an old melody in haphazard circles.

Akihito used to think himself greedy, used to think the shape of his yearning too wide, and he’s let it eat at him like a planetary shadow, trimming the moon to a crescent. But now he thinks Asami likes it, that he likes the messy, tangled heart of him; Asami tells him he’s interesting in a tone that says delightful, indulges his moods with slow kisses to his knuckles, and all his answers to Akihito’s greed is in their secret language, telegraphing want me even more. Love only me.

It's as impossible as the moon meeting the sea, clasping together in the offing for a dance, but Akihito knows with an ineffable clarity that all he wanted of Asami has always been his: for the moon is constant, its waxing and waning an illusion, and Akihito could only answer the same way; he would follow, as the ocean follows the moon — as certain and ceaseless as the tides.