Water was lapping over the side of the boat, disfiguring the dirty surface with broken shards of light. Yuki trailed his fingers lazily through the small waves, making the light dance as it slipped through his fingers and hung in the air.
Enchanted, Yuki scooped up another handful of water and flung it into the air. At the top of its flight, the water froze suspended, glittering and throwing rainbows up into the sky. It was if Yuki had painted across the horizon. He dipped his fingers in water again and again, trailing them into patterns and swirls, faster, fast, faster. The boat rocked under his feet but he kept his footing, somehow not slipping in the puddles at his feet. He threw another handful of water into the air and laughed joyfully as it splashed out over nothing. Water was everywhere. In the sea, on the boat, hanging in the air around Yuki’s head. Soon he had nearly covered up the sun and the clouds with water. Rainbows and light patterns played on the water’s liquid surface, serving as Yuki’s sky.
Is this what it looks like being underwater? Yuki wondered.
Water beneath him, water on top of him. This was exactly what it would look like being underwater.
And just like that, Yuki began to panic. And once he began to panic, all the water came crashing down on top of his head.
He was drowning. His boat was sinking and him with it. Suddenly the beautiful, rainbow ridden water was dark and menacing, pressing down on him at all sides. Water was in his mouth, his ears, his eyes. He flailed desperately but there was no surface to be found. There was only water everywhere he looked.
This was it. This was the end. Yuki closed his eyes and breathed out slowly, ready to face his fate.
“Hey, are you asleep?”
A hand was shaking his shoulder gently. A hand? At the bottom of the ocean? There was a voice too, but the water was drowning it out. Nevertheless, Yuki let the hand pull him up, up, up through sea until he burst through the surface and he could breathe again. Gasping for breath, he finally opened his eyes.
A pair of amber eyes stared back at him through thickset glasses, eyelashes brushing their lenses with every blink. A pair of thin eyebrows was gathered in a look of quizzical concern, a rather serious expression. Filling the rest of Yuki’s vision was a mass of wild black hair.
My saviour is beautiful, Yuki thought, rubbing his heavy eyelids in order to focus better.
“Ah good, you’re awake.” Yuki’s saviour said in a voice that filled his every pore. It was mellow, smooth, low, and seemed to reach right inside him. “You wouldn’t want to miss your stop.”
Huh? My stop?
Yuki opened his eyes further and looked around him. Yes, there was no doubt about it, he was on a train. The train taking him home from school, to be precise. His saviour was nothing more than a beautiful boy sitting next to him.
“Anyway, this is where I get off.” The boy removed his hand from Yuki’s shoulder and gathered his belongings. He stood up, leaving Yuki to blink away his sleep and stare at his retreating form. His back was slight but the back of his neck was browned by the sun and his uniform was tight around his shoulders and upper arms. Did he spend a lot of time working outside? His hair suggested that he was quite a wild person.
And as soon as he met him, he was gone. Yuki’s saviour had stepped into the crush of people and exited through the train doors.
“The next stop is Gokurakuji station.”
Yuki froze at the sound of the announcement echoing throughout the train carriages. Gokurakuji station? His own station was five stops before Gokurakuji station! Yuki let his shoulders slump with the realisation that he had missed his stop by quite a distance.
Letting out a sigh, Yuki reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. He tried calling Kate first, but his grandmother almost always had her phone switched off much to his inconvenience. Then he tired calling Haru.
“Haru, hey.” Yuki spoke quickly and softly so as not to embarrass himself in front of the other passengers. “I missed my stop on the train; can you get Grandma to pick me up? Or find out which bus I can take home? Just don’t try to drive the car yourself please.”
Yuki could hear Haru laughing on the other end and he rolled his eyes, waiting for Haru to realise the gravity of the situation. “Haru, this isn’t funny.”
“Yes, sorry Yuki!” Haru said in his usual cheerful tone, the laughter still barely hidden in his voice. “I’ll go ask Kate now.”
There was a crackle of static and then a beep indicating that Haru had hung up, leaving Yuki to express his thanks to a dead receiver.
“Haru,” Yuki said sleepily, “Do you know the boy who catches out train? The one with a mess of black hair and glasses?”
They were lounging around in the living room watching TV and reading magazines, the rain pattering on the window outside. Haru paused in the act of singing along with the musical on TV and thought for a moment.
“Does he have a little sister?”
“I have no idea,” said Yuki, burying his face in the magazine. Any moment now Haru would ask him why he wanted to know and it would get really awkward. But Haru knew pretty much everyone in Enoshima, and he was his best friend, after all.
“Hmm…” Haru cupped his face in his hands, tipping his head backwards over the couch. “Does he go to our school?”
Yuki brought back a vague recollection of a teal blazer. “Yeah, he does. He has a really nice voice too,” he added.
Haru clapped his hands together, a large smile spreading across his face. “Ooh, I know! Natsuki Usami!”
“Natsuki…” Yuki tried the name out on his tongue, flipping a few pages of his magazine. “Natsuki Usami…”
Outside, the rain continued to fall.
He dreamed again that night.
He was on a boat again, dangling his feet over the side as it sped along through the waves. His toes made water spray upwards, filled with small fish and tiny dolphins playing in the bubbles. The boat kept moving forward, but there was no change in the scenery that was being left behind. All there was to see was water and the horizon.
“Don’t miss your stop.”
Yuki turned around at the sound of the voice. It was such a lovely voice. He wanted it to continue speaking, to fill his ears and his body forever.
Natsuki was standing at the ship’s wheel, steering it. His hair was being blown flat by the wind, but his face was glowing in the sunset, eyes locked on Yuki’s. “Don’t miss your stop.”
Natsuki nodded, looking back at the ocean in front of him. The moment he looked away from Yuki, Yuki felt cold and empty. He had to make Natsuki look at him again. It was urgent. He got up and started moving towards Natsuki, but the boat jerked with a sudden wave and Yuki lost his footing and slipped
And suddenly there was water.
Natsuki was on the train the next day.
The train was packed so they had both given their seats up to adults and were holding on to the handles hanging from the roof. There was one person between them, an Indian man with a turban and a duck who was talking earnestly to Natsuki. Yuki could see patches of Natsuki’s neck from where he was standing, browned from the sun and extremely soft, long and slender. His fingers were wrapped around the handle in a way that fascinated Yuki but he couldn’t quite explain why. His eyelashes were as long as ever.
Yuki wasn’t aware that he was staring until Natsuki shifted his gaze and accidentally met his own. For a moment, Yuki was frozen to the spot, feeling as red as his hair. Suddenly he was struggling to breathe. He was drowning again, he was drowning-
And Natsuki looked away.
Tonight, Natsuki was in the water with him.
It was dark, but Natsuki’s eyes were gleaming amber and gold, piercing straight through Yuki like an arrow. His arms were reaching out towards him, pale and unearthly in the depths of the ocean. Strange fish were swimming past them, illuminating Natsuki’s face with green light.
Yuki flinched when Natsuki’s hands touched him. They were cold and clammy but comforting as they caressed his upper arms before trailing down to his wrists. Their fingers entwined.
Yuki looked up into Natsuki’s face, ghostly green and distorted by the liquid separating them. Natsuki met his eyes with ease and mouthed “trust me”. Before Yuki had time to work out what that meant, Natsuki was swimming downwards, still holding onto Yuki’s hand.
Yuki was being pulled, being dragged. Suddenly the hand holding his was like iron, impossible to break free of. Natsuki was too strong, too powerful for Yuki to fight back and he kept dragging him deeper and deeper until there was no more light. The water pressed against Yuki from all sides again, crushing his lungs and kidneys and heart and brain. He tried to draw breath but the water just flooded into his mouth. His ears were in grave danger and his eyes were squeezed shut.
“Natsuki-“ he gasped out, letting more water into his mouth and down his throat. “Nastuki, help!”
Natsuki’s face was suddenly pressed up against Yuki’s, too close, far too close. His mouth twisted into a teasing smile, brushing Yuki’s lips as he did so.
“It’s okay Yuki,” he said, his voice filling Yuki’s mind and body, “I’ve got you.”
Yuki woke up gasping and sweating, wet sheets tangled around his legs.
The next day he wants to do nothing more than avoid Natsuki. It should’ve been easy, but for some reason Yuki kept seeing the boy around school – sitting at lunch, studying in the library, walking past him in the corridors, even catching a glimpse of him walking by when he was changing after PE. He had to hurriedly cover parts of himself with a towel after that encounter.
Strange things were happening to Yuki. Since the last dream he was scared of Natsuki, even though he knew his own nightmares had nothing to do with the beautiful angel he had meet on the train all those weeks ago. But he also couldn’t stop thinking about him, about the skin on his neck, his slender fingers, how it would feel to tangle his hands in that hair, how his name would sound being gasped in that smooth voice…
Anyway, Yuki Sanada had to avoid Natsuki Usami at all costs today.
That plan came crashing down after Yuki boarded the train home with Haru and unknowingly stood right next to the very boy who had been the object of his dreams for weeks.
“Ah, hello Natsuki!”
Shut up Haru… Yuki stared decidedly at the floor, feeling his body tense up as Natsuki turned to greet Haru the Traitor.
Oh no. Oh no, his voice was still just as beautiful and arousing as ever. Yuki wished he could plug his ears without looking rude and strange. He also wished this train wouldn’t keep rocking so much, he kept bumping arms with Natsuki more than what was comfortable.
Would he even remember me? That may be the case; they had only exchanged eye contact since Natsuki first shook Yuki awake. Those cases were entirely his fault of course; he probably stared at Natsuki too much to be considered normal, but sometimes he could feel eyes on him and when he looked up those eyes were amber and long lashed and looking straight at him.
“-and you know Yuki, right? He’s my best friend!”
Haru was still talking; of course Haru was still talking. Yuki unwisely looked up at the sound of his own name and was met with Natsuki’s gaze head on.
To his surprise, Natsuki was about five centimetres taller than Yuki. If Yuki lifted his chin slightly he would be in a perfect position to kiss him. They were almost close enough for Yuki to count every one of Natsuki’s long eyelashes.
“Yeah, I know Yuki.”
Time stopped. All Yuki could hear was his name being shaped by the sound of Natsuki’s voice, the soft caress on the ‘yu’ and the clicking hissing noise he makes with his tongue on the ‘ki’. The timbre mellowed it out and coated it with chocolate, which melted Yuki’s brain and dripped down all over his body, warming him from his head to his toes. Yeah, I know Yuki. I know Yuki. I know Yuki.
“We, um, met on the train home… Hey, did you get home okay?”
Yuki couldn’t react. He couldn’t speak. Water was filling his mouth again like it had in the dream, choking him. He could feel the sweat running down his screwed up face, but his hand was clenched too tightly on the handle to wipe it away. He couldn’t stop thinking about how much fear he had felt from the dream last night. It wasn’t Natsuki who drowned him, he knew, but his heart was pounding to the sound of the train hitting each track.
Natsuki was looking at him funny. What could he do, what could he do, what could he do….
“The doors are opening. Please stand clear.”
Yuki made up his mind. He let go of the handle and pushed his way through the crush to the doors, ignoring Haru’s calls and the protests from the other passengers. He just had to get out, to take a breath of fresh air and calm down. He didn’t care what stop it was, he just wanted to be outside.
He almost fell out of the doors and landed heavily on the pavement, slipping slightly on the wet ground. It was raining hard, and he had just got off the train at the wrong stop. Again.
The other passengers filed past him in order to get to shelter, but Yuki stayed standing where he was. Or at least, every passenger except one.
Yuki turned around. Standing behind him in the pouring rain was none other than Natsuki, eyebrows drawn together in the same expression he had when they had first met.
“Are you okay? You were making a pretty scary face back there.”
Yuki went red, suddenly very happy that he was breathing normally again.
“Hey. Do you have some kind of problem with me?”
His tone was so curt and direct, almost hostile. Yuki suddenly flashed back to the dream, and shivered. “N-No! No, of course I don’t…”
Natsuki raised one perfect eyebrow and stared at him again.
Finally, Yuki gave in. “I’ve… I’ve been having weird dreams. About you,” he clarified. “I’ve been dreaming about you.”
It was so wet. Yuki’s hair was plastered to his forehead and water was dripping off his eyelashes, making it look as if he was crying. His uniform clung to his skin, making him even colder. He could no longer make out Natsuki’s eyes; his glasses were so fogged up and covered with droplets.
Natsuki’s next words came on muttered, whispered breath, a secret only Yuki could hear.
“… Me too.”
Natsuki looked away.
“W-Wait.” Yuki shook his head slightly, trying to clear his brain. “I meant like, scary dreams. Where I’m drowning.”
“… Oh.” Natsuki went visibly red.
“Not like! Not like that!’ Yuki garbled, twisting his hands round and round. “Or, or…” he suddenly recalled the wetness of his sheets with horrifying clarity. “I don’t think… Well maybe…”
They stared at each other for a few seconds, neither of them wanting to break the tangible silence that hung in the air like the rainclouds emptying their bowls. The only sound was the pounding of the water on the pavement.
Did Natsuki have dreams about Yuki? In that way? Did he wake up in the middle of the night, sweating and grasping at the sheets because he had just had Yuki’s insubstantial hands running over his body? His lips pressed against Natsuki’s lips, his skin pressed against Natsuki’s skin? Just the thought of it made Yuki feel hot all over, so hot that he didn’t even feel the rain falling on his cheeks. Did… Did Natsuki jerk off to the thought of Yuki as well? No, he was just letting his imagination run away with him…
“I couldn’t stop thinking about you when I woke you up that day.” Natsuki said, breaking through Yuki’s graphic thoughts. “Your breathing was really uneven when you were sleeping so I shook you awake, but I wasn’t prepared to see you look straight at me. It was… kinda unnerving.”
Yuki went red again and went back to twisting his hands.
“After that, my eyes kept finding you in the crowd.” Natsuki ran a hand through his mane of hair, still not looking at Yuki. “I’m sorry, this is kinda weird… You’re just this stranger I met on the train.”
“It’s okay,” said Yuki quickly, waving his hands around. “It’s okay! I’ve been the same, actually…” He was blushing far too hard, he was so embarrassed. Here he was, confessing in the most confusing and awkward way possible to someone he had exchanged less than ten words with in the middle of a train station, wet from head to toe.
Natsuki smiled then, a sight that Yuki realised he had never properly seen before. It was like watching the sun come out in a place that had been devoid of all light for hundreds of years, softening the landscape and dying it with colour. “You don’t know how happy I am to hear that.”
Yuki buried his face in his hands.
Natsuki shuffled a little and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Hey, do you think we could exchange numbers?”
Yuki looked up, taking in the dusting of pink across Natsuki’s cheeks. This Natsuki, the real Natsuki, was so different from the ones in his dreams. He was a lot more unpredictable and real, and that made Yuki like him even more. “Why not?”
They gave each other their phones and keyed in their names and numbers with wet fingers slipping on the damp keypads. Yuki’s hands were shaking, he noticed. He thrust Natsuki’s phone back at him all too quickly.
“You got off at the wrong stop again, didn’t you?” Natsuki said, flipping his phone shut and putting it in his pocket. “Give me a text when you get home safely, okay?”
Yuki nodded, closing his eyes and breathing out deeply.
When he opened his eyes, Natsuki had moved in close, a lot closer than before. Once again, Yuki could count his eyelashes. Once again, Yuki was frozen, drowning. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t-
And just like that, Natsuki was kissing him. His strong hands were cradling Yuki’s screwed up face, cold wet skin on cold wet skin. His lips, soft and slightly chapped, moved cautiously on Yuki’s stationary ones, coaxing them open gently.
Yuki felt as if he was being pulled, pulled up and through the ocean by someone’s gentle hand. He screwed his eyes up and let out a gasp as he broke through the surface of the water, suddenly able to breathe. In that moment, he realised that Natsuki had saved him once again.
Cautiously, tentatively, Yuki slid his lips across Natsuki’s, making the other boy gasp slightly in surprise. He raised his hands past Natsuki’s shoulders and into his sodden hair, twisting the dripping strands in his fingers with a tender touch. The rain was falling onto Yuki’s uplifted face and dripping down Natsuki’s nose and onto Yuki’s cheeks. Natsuki’s glasses were knocking against Yuki and pressing into his own face. Everything was cold and damp. Everything was beautiful.
Natsuki drew back first, but left his hands cupping Yuki’s face. He gazed into Yuki’s face for a moment before releasing him. Yuki felt slightly breathless.
“Anyway, I’ll see you later.”
“Yeah,” said Yuki, touching his lips tenderly. “See you later.”
He watched silently as Natsuki walked off into the pouring rain, just as he had done when he first walked off the train all those weeks ago.