“Are you going to tell me where we’re going?” Sougo said, as the tangle of Hakata station disappeared into the rearview mirror. The fact that he’d voluntarily agreed to spend more time in Kyushu than strictly necessary for the Canal Procession and ensuing handful of performances was possibly the most selfless act of love in all of human history. Fukuoka on the cusp of June was like living in a dog’s mouth--wet, hot, and smelling vaguely like a clogged sink.
“It’s a surprise!” Even under his hideous sunglasses Gensuke’s smile was bright enough to burn through all three layers of Sougo’s UV protection scarves. His arm rested casually on the open window, showing off his biceps, which, combined with the wind-ruffled hair, was upsettingly handsome. Sougo was going to strangle him, as soon as his skin stopped sticking to every surface he touched. How was this allowed? Truly, life was endless suffering.
“It’s a kidnapping! Why are you wearing those anyway? You look like a gangster. Worse! You look like an American!”
“Don’t pout,” Gensuke flicked his hand away from the sunglasses. “I can’t kiss you while I’m driving.”
Sougo pouted. He was, at heart, a man of spite. He managed to coax two kisses out of Gensuke before the green-gold of the pine groves gave way to a long, golden crescent of coast. Just looking at it now overwhelmed him--all that blue, as far as the eye could see, melted into the horizon so that Sougo found it impossible to tell where one started and the other stopped.
"We're here," Gensuke said, and pulled the car onto a dirt road (urgh) surrounded by a small ocean of thick, waving grass that vanished into the sand the closer Sougo walked to the water. The sand shifted awkwardly under his feet as he walked, until he gave in and took off his shoes.
"Well?" Gensuke pushed his sunglasses up into his hair and squinted at Sougo, like he needed to be doubly certain of his reaction. The glasses had left little pink marks against his nose, and it was a herculean feat to focus anywhere else.
"I...don't hate it," Sougo admitted. The sun was briefly blocked out by the light of Gensuke's smile. He hooked an arm around Sougo's waist and drew him close, Sougo squirming in protest until he realized that they were alone, the only noise the distant crash of waves breaking on the shore.
"We should come back next year, do a whole proper beach trip. We'll get a watermelon, and some fireworks, it'll be great!" Gensuke said, oblivious to the absolute havoc his words wreaked in Sougo's brain, a bright spiral of next year next year next year.
"Playboy," Sougo huffed, and tried desperately to regroup his thoughts. It wasn't working. They had a bad habit of scattering every time Gensuke looked at him like that, fond and bemused, willing to roll along with whatever nonsense was falling out of Sougo's mouth at that particular moment. "You say these things too easily."
"Only you could inspire them," Gensuke grinned, and pulled him into the water.
Call it narcissism, call it awareness, call it paranoia, but Sougo had always been aware that he was special. From the first minute he stepped on stage at the age of ten, Sougo had had an audience. His name was in papers and fanboards and magazines. People took note of what he was doing, who he was with, how he was behaving. Not on the level of movie stars or athletes, sure, but Sougo didn't see any point in pretending he wasn't watched off the stage just as much as he was on it.
Even on their seemingly deserted beach, Sougo didn't relax properly until Gensuke led them to a screen of rocks, where he promptly caged Sougo between his stupidly big arms.
"I still can't believe I get to touch you," Gensuke murmured, as he backed Sougou against the rocks, and his hands were so gentle, so careful and caring that Sougou let himself be maneuvered, splayed out against the warm stone for Gensuke’s perusal.
It was still a lot, to have Gensuke see him like this. There were no barriers left for him to hide behind, nothing to shield him from Gensuke's hungry gaze. It scared him, but Sougo was coming to believe that it was worth opening his heart up again for this, that if the risks seemed overwhelming, they had since yielded an embarrassment of riches in the way Gensuke looked after Sougo kissed him, dazed and leaning closer into his orbit like Sougo was something as necessary as gravity.
The waves lapped around his thighs, and Gensuke’s hands cupped his face, his mouth hot, tasting like salt. Sougo’s hands keep slipping across Gensuke’s skin, fingers digging into the wet curve of his shoulders. He used the leverage of the rock at his back to pull Gensuke flush against his body, eager for the more of the overwhelming heat that bloomed everywhere Gensuke touched. Gensuke made a soft noise into Sougo's mouth as Sougo rose onto his toes for a better angle, the waves pushing them together in a gentle rhythm.
All that rigorous training was good for something, Sougo thought dimly as he rubbed himself against Gensuke's huge thighs. He couldn’t help a rasping, shuddering breath as one of Gensuke’s hands came to rest hot and huge against the dip of his spine. Gensuke groaned as they rocked together, and Sougou twined his arms around Gensuke's neck, buried his fingers in his hair. He felt molten, something slow and liquid at the core of himself, shaped into being by the press of Gensuke's hands. He wanted to be pinned here in this moment in time, anchored only by Gensuke’s body against his for as long as they were allowed.
They'd been in the car less than ten minutes when Gensuke pulled over again.
"Pit stop!" Gensuke said, and was out of the car before Sougo could launch himself across the console and drive them back to Hakata himself. He scrambled out of the driver's side door, and had his mouth open to say something no doubt witty and hilarious when he saw just what it was that Gensuke had stopped for and his mouth snapped shut.
The torii gate rose up out of the ocean, towering and bleached white by the sun. It looked like a ruin from another world, some ancient monument that had slipped through a crack in time. The pillars framed a pair of rocks in the distance, linked together by a thick shimenawa rope like two hands tied by the same red thread.
Sougo blinked. “A shrine?”
That was unexpected. As far as theater types went, Gensuke wasn’t even particularly superstitious. Sougo, who had an entire stable of stuffed marine mammals ranked on a complex and largely ineffable system of luckiness, found Gensuke’s lack of faith disturbing.
And Gensuke, who Sougo knew to be shameless to the core, shrugged, like this wasn't something vitally important for him to have made it an obstacle between here and the private hotel room waiting for them in the city. Like he was, possibly, potentially, maybe...embarrassed.
“Sort of,” Gensuke managed eventually. “It’s more like a Power Spot. Or, that’s what I read, anyway. You go visit, and the love or energy or whatever from the Wedded Rocks kind of just--pours into you."
Sougo looked away from Gensuke, whose whole neck had was now brilliantly pink, and stared at the scattered groups of other visitors, all of them couples with their arms linked together in a way that mirrored the rocks before them.
“I see,” Sougo said. It was so...Gensuke. He’d probably brought them to the beach just for this, marked it in his day planner, like he was still trying so earnestly to prove to Sougo that he was serious about him as more than an acting partner. Sougo, who, contrary to family lore, was not entirely oblivious all of the time. At least, not about this. He curled their pinkies together where nobody but them could see, happiness swelling in him like a rising tide.
“You want to go and pray?” Sougo asked, and tipped over just a bit so his head rested comfortably on Gensuke’s shoulder. Really, how could he be expected to resist. It was the perfect height.
Gensuke leaned back into his weight. “Nah, I think it’s working just fine from here.”
The procession lined up at the docks outside of Canal City, with troops of musicians and performers dragged from the bowels of the Hakata-za practice rooms and into the bright May sunshine. Already crowds were thick across the bridges, a steady hum of noise that made Sougo smile almost as much as the number of uchiwa with his face on them.
They were performing a selection from the Tales of the Heike, with Sougo once again in the role of Chidori. Somehow, Sougo suspected Grandfather’s hand in all of this--the old man had plans inside plans--which he tried not to think about too hard, or he suspected he wouldn’t be able to look the man in the eye.
“This is nice,” Gensuke said, as they sat to apply their makeup. “Nostalgic, even! It was our very first role together.”
“It is nice to have a second chance,” Sougo conceded. There was significantly less anxiety over getting ripped apart by the media, for one. Less panicked crying in bathroom stalls. Sougo enjoyed not crying in bathrooms. He was thinking of making it a hobby. “I want to keep challenging myself with new characters, but there are good points to revisiting roles you’ve done before, too. Exploring different sides of characters you’ve come to know can be cool right? It makes them more nuanced.”
“Sougorou, you sounded so smart just then!” Gensuke laughed. “I think I fell for you a little more!”
Sougo blushed. The beleaguered assistant bullied into trying to hide the hideous sunburn and not-inconsequential number of hickeys on the back of Sougo’s neck just sighed. “Matsukawa-san, please, you’re making it more red.”
This is your fault! Sougou mouthed, furious.
Are you asking me to take responsibility, Gensuke mouthed back, and leaned in to brush the back of his hand against Sougo’s cheek. It was a ghost of a touch--Gensuke wouldn’t dare disturb his makeup--so light it could barely be felt. And yet, Sougo couldn’t help the full-body shiver that ran through him, something liquid and hot.
"You always touch his face, and get real close," a classmate had told them once, laughing at how intimate it looked. "And the wildest part is Sougo just lets you touch him!" And Sougo had thought he might just be the best actor in the world, if people who looked at his face couldn’t see it. He'd thought he'd adjust, that things would settle, but it'd been years now and looking at Gensuke still felt like too much sometimes. His feelings were always in danger of overflow. Hearts practically shot out of his eyes like fucking laser beams. How was it possible for his fragile meatsuit to contain all these emotions for just one person? How did normal people walk through life feeling like this, every single day, without years of intensive theater training to keep them from devolving into a useless puddle?
“Matsukawa-san, I’m begging you,” the assistant pleaded.
Gensuke laughed, and escaped into the costume tent. That motherfucker. Sougo was going to dump him in the river.
The procession launched at noon with the usual wave of old men in their dark formal hakama waving flags printed with the theater’s sponsors. Grandfather sailed past in one such boat, his face unbearably smug when he noticed Sougo and Gensuke had been given their own boat by a production team eager to capitalize on their popularity with The Youth. They were followed by the promoters with their megaphones, twirling bright paper umbrellas thick with calligraphy.
The hair on Sougo’s arms went up as the boat of flute players next to them started, their music cutting sharply through the dull chatter of the launch team. A cry went up from the assembled players. Sougo grinned, and found it was the same grin reflected in the sea of men around him; it was showtime, and they were ready to perform.
The energy only intensified as the drums took up behind them, six large shime-daiko all pounding in time like a thunderstorm. The crowd was roaring, piling themselves along the banks, hanging over the criss-crossing bridges all the way down to Hakata Riverain. Sougo wasn’t a stranger to playing a sold-out house, but this was an unprecedented scale of loving chaos. Sougo fed on it, let it grow under his skin as they approached the first bridge until he couldn’t bear it any longer and reached for Gensuke’s hand.
The crowd stomped and cheered, throwing pale pink petals out into the canal by the fistful. Gensuke turned from them to look at Sogou, petals stuck in his wig and peeking out of his collar. He was still looking at Sougo as they passed into the shadows, and Sougo could see the whispered words on his lips that could not be said on any other stage, let them pour into him and fill him up as they carried on into the sunlight.