i c e b e r g s

When Ritsuka is fifteen years old he gets drunk for the first time, in a park with sake stolen from Yayoi’s father’s bar. It’s just the two of them, sitting on the swings with their blue plastic drink bottles. Ritsuka doesn’t like the taste. He takes big gulps to get it down faster. It makes him dizzy and warm, helpless to the slow rocking of the swing. Sometimes it seems like the ground is really close to his face, and he puts out his arms to stop himself from falling but only touches air. He winds his tail around the chain of the swing for balance. Yayoi-san’s laughing seems incredibly loud.

Ritsuka feels very young and very stupid. It’s nice.

They lie on their backs on damp grass and Yayoi points out patterns in the stars. He says they’re constellations, but Ritsuka just sees tiny senseless clusters. When he stares for too long they start moving, like thousands of shooting stars.

He walks home, somehow.

In bed his sheets feel too warm and scratchy against his skin. He feels grubby and grass-stained, all sweat and clogged pores. His joints ache. He misses Soubi. The inside of his stomach feels cold like the sake has settled there and is turning into icebergs, floating and crashing against his internal organs.

He texts Soubi: I lovr yuo, it says. If Soubi were here right now he’d brush Ritsuka’s hair back from his head and scratch behind his ears. Maybe he’d get a wash cloth and rub the dirt away from Ritsuka’s cheeks. He imagines Soubi pressing kisses in weird places, melting the icebergs in his tummy.

“Soubi,” he whines, and his phone rings.

“Are you alright, Ritsuka?” Soubi asks immediately.

“Where are you?” Ritsuka demands. “Come over.”

“What’s wrong?” His voice seems to fill Ritsuka’s whole universe. The phone is pressed between his ear and the pillow because he can’t seem to hold it up right. Something buzzes in the background and it sounds like it is right behind him. When he closes his eyes, everything spins and pulses with the rhythm of Soubi’s voice. “I’m on my way, Ritsuka. What happened?”

“I don’t feel well,” Ritsuka says. “Everything is moving.”

“Have you been drinking?” Soubi asks.

Ritsuka remembers the park and Yayoi’s father’s sake, how it was sweet and thick and funny at first. He shifts a little and his tummy rolls over. It isn’t funny anymore. “Yes,” he says. “I don’t like it anymore, Soubi.”

“Ritsuka is too small to drink,” Soubi says. It sounds like he’s being made fun of, which is annoying. He’s not that small. He’s still taller than Yayoi, even if Youji and Natsuo tower over him now.

“Shut up,” Ritsuka scowls. “It’s not funny.”

“I’m sorry Ritsuka,” Soubi says. “I love you.”

“Shut up,” he says again, but he doesn’t really want him to. It’s dark in his room but he can still see the stars that Yayoi pointed out, still hear him drunkenly mispronouncing their latin names, their English names, their Japanese names. Sometimes when they’re fighting Soubi will turn the stars into tiny bullets that dig mines through their opponent’s skin. Damage, Ritsuka thinks. Soubi can make everything that is beautiful seem deadly, but he can also make Ritsuka feel safe.

“Where are you,” Ritsuka whines. His voice doesn’t sound right, vowels dragged out too long like his voicebox is melting. Wheeeeeeere aaaaaaaaare youuuuuuu.

“I’ll be there soon,” Soubi says. “Try to go to sleep.”

Somehow, he does.

--

When Ritsuka wakes, he’s wearing fresh pyjamas and his face has been washed and Soubi is asleep above the covers, his big hand spread out on Ritsuka’s stomach. He remembers it, vaguely, Soubi coming through the window and waking him with lips pressed gently to his brow, Soubi teasing him about being drunk and rubbing the grass stains from his elbows.

Ritsuka looks at Soubi’s sleeping features and remembers, vaguely, the text message he sent. He presses his nose against Soubi’s cheek and thinks, One day I’ll tell you when I’m sober.



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