When Yuuri opens his eyes, the full moon is shining into the room, washing the walls in silver light and dark shadows. The sharp tang of salt water is on the air and he breathes it in as he surfaces from sleep, until his lungs are full and stinging.
It takes a few moments for him to realize where he is: his bedroom in the inn, his dusty childhood all around him and the rest of his life still packed tight into his suitcase. Familiar but unwelcoming, like even the room knows Yuuri only came here because he had nowhere else to go.
He throws back his blanket and goes to the window, looking out at the sky. The air is thick, cool and liquid as he moves slowly through it, like he’s still inside a dream, and his skin comes up in gooseflesh. He’s expecting the usual swarm of two AM questions to bite at him. Why can’t I accomplish my goals? What am I doing with my life? Have I saved enough money? Why did I make that stupid remark eight years ago?
But there’s only one question aching in his bones: where do I belong?
Yuuri lays his hand on the pane, touching the moon with his fingertips. And there’s something he can feel, that the moon is pulling up in him — blood rising in his veins, longing welling in his chest — something out there he’s forgotten, something he’s lost.
He slips out of his room and through the hall, quiet as he can, past the sleeping doors of his family. Wide awake as he steps into his shoes, pulls on his jacket. Then down the streets he’s walked all his life, night wind catching at his hair and the chill creeping under his clothes like exploring hands.
Yuuri springs forward into a run, energy like he’s slept the clock around, not those few hours. Pumping blood warming him, moon drawing him along. He’s still restless, uncertain, even here. Maybe there’s nowhere he belongs now, nothing meant for him to do. But he can still follow this path, moving so he doesn’t have to think.
He can hear the waves on the sand, licking up to fill the tide pools with tiny creatures. And he keeps pelting through the night, lungs burning with the cold air, feet thudding on the ground, until he comes to the rocks.
The ache is stronger here, a physical pain, tugging at him like the undertow. And memories darting close like tiny green fish, slipping through his fingers when he tries to catch them.
He picks his way, fast as he dares in the slippery darkness, along the treacherous and familiar path until he’s standing on the outcropping, city lights behind him and the beating ocean before him.
Almost now, he almost knows why he’s here, in the middle of the night, following the moon. His body knows, even if his mind is still searching for the reason, and Yuuri lets it lead him, the way it leads him on the ice.
He pulls off his shoes and socks, bare feet gripping the damp rock, and the cold seeps upward through his soles, spreading out like the warmth from a shot of shochu. Then his jacket, glasses in the pocket, and his shirt, the ocean spray scalding his bare skin, the wind raking him now, no pretence at gentleness.
His hands are shaking, fingers numb. But he fumbles down his sleep pants and slips as he’s stepping out of them, barely catching himself before he tips over the edge.
He looks up at the moon, its blurred craters like smudges on a glowing windowpane. Maybe he’s a fool to be here, naked and freezing, swaying on a rock above the sea. He should dress again while he still can, get himself to someplace warm and dry.
Then he hears the waves part and looks down in time to see it, that pale bulk breaching, its mantle rippling silver in the moonlight.
There’s a leap inside of Yuuri, blood throbbing, gut tightening. All the memories surge up from deep within his core, rushing in to fill the empty places in his mind. “I’m back,” he calls out and his voice is clear and steady through his chattering teeth.
It sinks again, sea churning around it. It’s gone, just the moon and the foam on the waves and the cold wind left. Then a long arm snakes out of the water and coils around Yuuri’s ankle. The tip slides up his calf, his knee, his thigh, colder than the wind. Yuuri closes his eyes and reaches down to meet it.
Welcome home, the squid says and pulls him underneath the water.
The cold is shocking when Yuuri breaks the surface, salt stinging his eyes. His chest constricts like he’s being crushed and he starts to panic. Another arm wraps around him and he struggles against it before he can even think.
Breathe, the squid tells him. Breathe with me.
His body protests but Yuuri concentrates and sucks the water into him, through his nose, his mouth. And he starts to change.
Stops choking as his body takes oxygen from the water, stops blinking as his vision clears, the filtered moonlight as bright as beach day sunshine. He’s still cold, so cold, but it no longer hurts him. He heaves a sigh and turns in the squid’s arms.
Does it hurt? The squid cradles Yuuri as they drift. It’s not much longer than Yuuri is, maybe two and a half metres from the fins on top of its mantle to the end of its trailing arms.
“No.” Yuuri always forgets the pain, it only lasts a moment. He wraps his arms around the squid, sees its mantle ripple through the blues and greens that welcome him, feels the arms shift closer around him. His tension flows away and he feels the squid relax too.
“It’s hard for you too,” Yuuri says, or thinks, or changes the colour of his skin. “It’s so shallow here.”
When you’re with me, there’s no pain. The squid circles Yuuri with another arm. When you’re gone, I forget.
“Me too.” Yuuri runs his hands over the squid’s mantle, the changing texture alive under his palms. And the ache is too much for him, they’ve been so long apart this time, years instead of months or days. He rests his cheek against the squid as they float together naked in the sea. “I was away too long.”
There’s a rhythm — the beat of Yuuri’s heart, the squid’s hearts, the roll of the waves and the pull of the moon — and Yuuri feels it like it’s music. He lets himself drift back, hands sliding down one pair of the squid’s arms until he’s holding the tips.
“Dance with me,” he says and pulls the squid close again, pushing them into a slow tumble like they’re circling in a ballroom, swaying with the tempo.
The squid moves the wrong way and they bump, fling apart. It hauls them back together. It’s your fault for being away so long. I forgot the moves.
A laugh bubbles up through Yuuri’s chest, free after being trapped for so long. “No, you were always a bad dancer.”
You’re the one who taught me. The squid laughs too, shimmering through a pattern of light and shadow. It swings Yuuri around, sends out a jet of water that pushes him away, then catches him at the very limit of one long tentacle.
As it tightens around Yuuri’s waist, he sighs water from his lungs and lets go, not of the squid, but of everything else. He looks into those eyes that are looking only back at him, at the waving grace of the squid’s arms, the solid comfort of its mantle. And his chest aches with all the years they’ve been apart.
“Dance with me,” he says again and holds out his arms.
The squid pulls him in, the way it must reel in the fish it eats, but into an embrace, light and firm. Always.
Then he moves against the squid, they move together, embracing in the moonlight, desire buoying both of them. Yuuri turns himself so they’re facing opposite directions, his legs stretching back along the mantle.
The squid holds him with two arms, enough to keep them together. Remember this? And it twines more arms around Yuuri, sliding over his skin with a touch so light, Yuuri twists for more of it, trying to press against all the coils at once.
“I never forgot.” And that’s true, even if he didn’t know it. This is what he’s missed, this cold sliding embrace, this body that changes under his hands, shivering through all the colours of the sea as Yuuri’s hands stroke over the surface of its mantle, tease at the ridges of its siphon. This friend who takes as well as gives, who makes Yuuri want to reach out and touch.
The squid’s arms caress him, twining around his limbs and bringing him closer so his hips graze against it. Its arms stroke the backs of Yuuri’s knees, the creases of his elbows. One moves slowly up Yuuri’s throat and he catches the tip in his mouth, meets it with his tongue as it pushes deeper.
Remember, the squid says again and Yuuri does.
It was the promise of the cool water the first time, that first full moon, slipping out to walk in the hot summer night, out to the rocks. He’d been swimming for a while when he felt that curious touch on his calf.
A bolt of fright, both of them moving apart. But when the squid rose from the water, dipping up into the air for Yuuri to see, he felt something new, staring into those huge eyes, a click inside him of jumbled pieces coming together.
They looked at each other, both still for a long tense moment. Then the squid flicked one arm over the surface of the water, splashing Yuuri, cold drops like rain across his face.
Yuuri blinked. But he didn’t need time to judge the situation, no careful calculation of the squid’s intent, not like in the school hallways or on the playing fields. Just time to splash back and smile.
They only played together those first full moons, chasing and catching, leaping and diving. But one night as they skimmed along the surface of the water, their arms around each other shifted and the air and water around them filled with a new, breathtaking tension.
They stopped, both motionless. Then: “Yes,” Yuuri said and the squid pulled him down.
The change was frightening at first, that sudden transition from air to water in his lungs, unexpected and impossible. But the squid held him close until his shaking stopped.
Sorry, the squid told him. I’m sorry.
But Yuuri pressed closer, face, body, against the squid. “It’s fine, I’m fine.” He shivered, not with cold or pain, but the feeling of his friend’s body so close to his, exciting, terrifying, right.
The squid shivered too. One arm loosened around Yuuri’s shoulders and, slowly, moved down Yuuri’s back. And they both came alive, touching each other like Yuuri had only ever touched himself, finding their way together in the moonlit sea.
The squid wraps more arms around Yuuri, touching him so many places at once, the sensation is almost too much, overwhelming Yuuri in a way he avoids with anyone else.
He sucks on the arm that’s in his mouth still, licking at the ridge that’s at the very tip. The squid shudders, a wave down through every arm and tentacle.
So good, so good. And it’s not even a thought in Yuuri’s mind, just the feelings that shift back and forth between them. The squid’s suckers tighten, the ring teeth nipping gently at Yuuri’s skin, and Yuuri shudders too.
This is what he’s missed, whenever he’s been alone, whenever he’s been with another man. No words to choose, no resistance to break through, just understanding with no barriers.
Yuuri presses against the squid, he’s hard and starting to move, time for more. He slides his fingers up under the edge of the mantle and feels the squid shiver as he teases at the soft flesh there.
The squid teases Yuuri too, an arm trailing across the join of Yuuri’s thighs, sliding between his buttocks, creeping under his hips to touch him, more sure than any man. Yuuri gasps and the squid quivers with him, surging together, dizzy with pleasure and their tumble through sea.
It’s time, the squid says but Yuuri already knows and he’s turning his body so they are travelling the same direction, face to face, arms drawing each other close. I’m not sure, we haven’t done this before.
“I’m not sure either,” Yuuri says. They’ve touched and played and shuddered together, spending into the water around them. But now it’s time to share more deeply, past time, years late. “We’ll learn the steps together.”
The squid ripples against him, stroking one arm down Yuuri’s spine, then reaching the tip between Yuuri’s buttocks, pressing in just a fraction.
Yuuri resists at first although he doesn’t mean to. But then he relaxes around the arm and when the squid draws it back, he’s sorry. He presses his mouth against the squid, “I trust you.” Then a slow kiss, as he reaches further under the edge of the mantle.
There. The squid tightens its grip for a moment. Right there, now.
Yuuri pulls back and positions himself, rising higher up the squid’s body, fingers catching in the ridges the squid raises for him on its skin. This dance is new but he’ll lead anyhow. And he thrusts up under the squid’s mantle, into the soft resistance of its flesh.
The squid tenses, all its arms gripping tightly, then sighs into it, pulsing its welcome in colour and in thought. Are you ready too?
“Follow me,” Yuuri says and keeps moving his hips, pushing into the squid as he feels its first touch, the press inside him, narrower than an arm, sliding tentatively.
Yuuri has never done this before, giving or receiving, with the men he’s been with. It seemed too intimate, too deliberate, not something he could fall into, close his eyes, let happen, roll away. But this is right, he wants to open himself, fit as close as they can.
As the squid slips deeper, there’s no need for awkward conversation. They can both feel where they should touch, how they should move inside each other.
The squid jets water from its siphon and they cling together as they ride the green sea together, skimming the surface, the salt water and the fresh air surrounding them. Pleasure billowing like an arpeggio over the deep cadence of their bond.
The tension draws tighter, Yuuri thrusts harder, sighs with the squid’s deep touch, both of them moving with the rhythm that still pulses through them, climbing higher, diving deeper, losing everything but each other.
Then it happens together, a spasm of limbs around each other as they release, and in that crescendo, Yuuri can feel them both shifting, flickering, both men, both squid, so close they’re becoming one another, one current of joy carrying them both.
Then they’re drifting quietly, throbbing hearts slowing, holding on to each other lightly. Yuuri can just feel the warm tickle of the spermatophores settling inside him.
Keep them for when you need them, the squid says. I have yours safe.
“Safe,” Yuuri says. They are, he can tell, and that’s how he feels too, safe, settled, peaceful. Where he belongs. There are still questions, two am questions, mid-day questions, but this is where he can rest while he finds the answers.
Better now. The squid strokes Yuuri’s cheek with the tip of one looping arm. I was so restless, but now…
Yuuri turns into the tentacle, bushing it with a kiss, his heart so full for his friend he’s aching all over again. Giving and taking, holding and resting.
I felt you sometimes while you were away but I didn’t know it was you.
“I remember now,” Yuuri says. “I felt your call.” Moments looking down into the river in Detroit, a day trip to Belle Isle or up to Lake Erie. A tug inside of him he’d thought was just frustration, just homesickness. Stronger when he touched the water on a Maine beach, a longing he didn’t understand, and tried to push away.
A chilly day in Stanley Park with the full moon a pale white disc in the daytime sky, when he couldn’t keep himself from wading into the icy Pacific. He stood there, wet to his knees, and felt that deep vibration, the message he was receiving or was sending. Waiting for something that would come to him if he were just patient, until he was numb and had to turn away, take another hand that didn’t feel like quite enough anymore.
You called me. I tried to come to you but it was too far. The squid’s arms tighten. Don’t be so far away again.
“I won’t,” Yuuri says and he never wants to be further away than this. But he can tell this night is waning, the land is pulling at him again. “This time I’ll remember. You too, don’t forget me like the dance steps.”
The squid tickles Yuuri’s knee, the spot that always makes Yuuri squirm. I’ll remember, even when there’s no moon.
Yuuri laughs and his chest tightens. When he pulls in water, it’s heavy in his lungs. It’s time to go.
They surface, still tangled together, and the squid holds Yuuri as he coughs up water and gulps down air. “Next time,” Yuuri says, and his voice sounds loud and thin, “I’ll teach you how to tango.”
The squid hoists him and he clambers up the rocks, standing naked for a few moments while the wind dries his skin. They look at each other, the squid raises one arm, then sinks under the water.
Yuuri shakes out his wet hair and shivers into his clothes. The moon dips behind a cloud and he can hardly see to make his way off the rocks and onto the road.
He walks now instead of running, still settled and tranquil, glowing, happy. And this time, he won’t forget his friend, everything they share. With every step, he looks out at the ocean, wondering where the squid is now, how deep it’s diving, how fast it’s travelling under the curling waves.
He’s missed the beach here, the smell of the spray and the cry of the gulls. Even in the glare of the streetlights, he can see the surf, rolling up like a dark shadow on the shore. Too cold yet to swim but maybe it will be an early summer and he can come down soon to walk in the sand and wade out into the water.
And he’s missed these streets. He could be blindfolded and still know Hasetsu through the soles of his feet. He shivers with the chill and smiles at himself. Stupid to go running alone in the middle of the cold spring night when he should be in bed. And stupid to feel like an alien here when all he needed was to let the ocean wind blow away the strangeness.
Yuuri runs his hand through his hair, damp and salty with the sweat from his run. Harder than he meant to work but the solitary sprint has freed something inside of him, given him some ballast to steady him, an anchor to hold him while he figures out what’s next. Like a fishing boat, come back to his harbour.
He opens the door to the inn. “I’m home.”