by Kubaru Suki (少年好き 配る)
Ishio didn’t dream (at least, he didn’t remember any) until he met Shouhei.
After that, he dreamed about flying.
The first thing Ishio noticed about Shouhei was his shoes. They were bright red canvas high tops and the only reason he noticed them was because they were at eye level, hanging just below the bottom branches of the maple tree by the shop at the corner of Ishio’s street.
“Hey,” said Ishio, peering up between the leaves.
Eyes so palely yellow that they appeared to be colorless and clear blinked back at him. “Hey,” returned the boy in the tree (whose name Ishio learned only later), turning away as a breeze made the glossy scarlet strands of his hair flutter around his face and shoulders.
Ishio knew that the boy probably wanted to be left alone. And really, he had no business talking with him anyway; they were strangers. He, Ishio, was a cram-school student working as a convenience store clerk while he took another year to study for university entrance exams and the other boy was….a stranger. A strange boy in a pair of bright blue denim jeans and a blue-and-yellow jacket over a candy-apple red shirt, sitting in an early spring tree.
But to Ishio he seemed quiet and gray, like a mourning dove despite his bright parrot-colors and without thinking he tugged on one of those swinging red shoes until the boy looked back at him. “Be careful,” he warned, “you wouldn’t want to fall.”
“Maybe if I fell,” said the boy, looking up to the sky, “my wings would emerge and I’d fly.”
Well, if you don’t, Ishio wanted to say. Wanted to wave a casual hand at his building and say, If you don’t, I’m Ishio and I live in number eighty-eight.
One day, studying beneath the tree as the early spring wore away into the late spring, he did say it.
“Maybe if I fall, I’ll find my wings and be able to fly,” said the boy in the tree.
“Maybe if you fall and hit the ground I’ll be home if you need help.” He picked up his books and pointed. “Ito Ishio, in eighty-eight.”
The boy in the tree smiled up at the clouds. “Okay.” Ishio wait for a moment for…something. For what he didn’t quite know. After a moment he shrugged to himself and headed for the crosswalk. “Hey,” said the boy leaning out of the tree and Ishio stopped and turned and looked at him. “If you ever want to learn to fly,” said the boy, “I’m Shouhei and I’ll be up here.” He nodded in the direction of the branches above him.
“Okay,” said Ishio. And he smiled at Shouhei.
“What are you studying for?”
Ishio marked his page and looked up at Shouhei, stretched out on a branch above him. From experience, he knew that Shouhei was not enquiring about his career choices. “What do you want to learn to fly for?” he asked.
“Birds are supposed to fly,” said Shouhei firmly.
“And ronin,” said Ishio, “are supposed to study so that they can pass and get into school.”
“Yeah, but,” Shouhei said and rolled over, miraculously finding a small brace of branches to cradle him instead of tumbling off his perch, “but people want to fly. Flying is fun. It’s likable. School makes you miserable.”
And bitter, thought Ishio. “No it doesn’t.”
Shouhei braced one foot against the tree trunk and rocked his makeshift cradle. “It doesn’t make you happy. And anyway, so what if you pass? Then what? Then you,” said Shouhei, rocking harder, “you go to school and you have to work hard all the time just to keep your place so that you can go out and get a job where you have to work hard all the time just to keep it. Flying, all you have to do is stay in the air and land when you’re tired.”
“Says the boy who can’t fly,” Ishio muttered, closing his books and getting up from his patch of grass at the base of the tree trunk. “Obviously you’ve never failed at your entrance exams.”
“Of course I did. Why do you think I’m here?” Shouhei sounded aggrieved.
“…” said Ishio. Then, “You do know that, to all appearances, you spend all day, every day, sitting in a maple tree, don’t you?”
“Exactly!” Shouhei agreed darkly. “I couldn’t fly so my mother dropped me off here and told me I’d have to make my own way home.”
Ishio blinked. “You have a mother?”
Shouhei sat up and gave him a patient look. “Of course I have a mother. Somebody had to lay the egg that I hatched out of.”
The image of a very feminine version Shouhei (who was already very slender and fine-boned as he was) sitting on a person-sized egg made Ishio grin. “Want to get something to eat?” he asked. Above him Shouhei went very still and nerves fluttered unexpectedly in Ishio’s stomach.
“Lunch,” Ishio said uneasily. “It’s about that time, so I thought…” he trailed off uncertainly. “Just a thought,” he muttered, grabbing his books.
Shouhei made an agitated gesture. “It’s only…well…walking isn’t flying.”
Ishio waved him off. “And climbing out of the tree isn’t falling, I know.”
He took the long way home from the ramenya and skipped cram school and studying the next day in order to stay home and give his apartment a full-out, dawn-to-dusk cleaning.
When he finally went back to the maple tree, Shouhei was more talkative than usual. He told a long, involved story about a researcher who went to the rainforest to study the macaws for three months. “Only he fell in love, so he stayed.” The man was now earning a living by doing the hands-on observation and tagging of the macaws and other rainforest life. “Not that he needs much,” said Shouhei intensely, “it’s the rainforest. Life there is simple. Like flying.”
On the first really hot day of the year, Ishio picked up zaru soba on his way home from classes.
“Hey,” he called to Shouhei as he neared the maple tree. “Come down.”
A flash of bold colors against the sky caught Ishio’s attention and his jaw dropped as he watched Shouhei climb down from the very top of the tree as though it was as easy as walking down a flight of stairs. “Yeah?” Shouhei asked once he reached the bottommost branches.
Ishio swallowed against the dryness in his throat and lifted the noodles. “Come down,” he repeated.
Shouhei beamed at him. “No, come up,” he said, reaching out for the food that Ishio automatically passed to him. “It’s nicer up here.” Climbing the tree was more work than he’d anticipated so Ishio just grunted at Shouhei as he scrambled his way up the trunk and onto a low branch. The moment he got his feet steady, however, Shouhei began moving up again. “Come on, there’s a better spot,” he said.
The ‘better spot’ was a five minute creep-and-struggle up from the bottom but it was a perfect place for lunch. Two stout branches formed a neat vee, wide enough at the trunk that both Ishio’s and Shouhei’s legs fit into it, their knees pressing together to form a makeshift table between them. The lower limbs blocked the sidewalk and the bulk of the city sounds while the leaves above them framed the clear blue sky and cast them in shade and dappled sunlight.
Dragging a noodle through the dipping sauce, Ishio said, “It’s nice up here. Peaceful.”
“Reminds me of home,” Shouhei agreed, drowning some noodles in sauce.
Shouhei dunked his noodles again. “The rainforest. I told you about it.”
“You told me about a researcher who…oh,” said Ishio as he made the connection. “That’s your father?”
“Uh-huh,” nodded Shouhei. “How else would I know the story?”
Ishio rescued Shouhei’s noodles and ate them himself. “And your mother is a macaw?” he asked with a grin.
Shouhei made a face at him, and then laughed. “She’s a member of the Macaw Tribe, but she’s not a bird. She’s just got the wings.”
“Right, right,” Ishio corrected himself. “And she flew you up here and dropped you off in this tree so that you could learn to fly.”
“So that I could finally go home,” Shouhei finished, dropping a noodle into his mouth. “You know, I could…” he paused and looked up at Ishio through his lashes. “I could probably take you with me. If you wanted to go.”
Ishio put an arm around the tree and leaned against it, the bark cool and rough against his cheek, thinking about the rainforest. “What would I do there?”
“Nothing,” Shouhei responded immediately, mirroring his position. Behind the curve of the trunk, their fingers brushed. “Everything. Eat fruit fresh from the trees and swim in the pools the waterfalls make. Taste the rain every day. Fly with the flock or sit on the ground with my father and watch. Finally be relaxed and happy—like you are now—all the time.”
It sounded like heaven. Ishio smiled. “That’s not exactly going to keep us in cages and birdseed.”
Across the tree, Shouhei made a frustrated noise. “It’s the rainforest. Life is simple. The houses are simple and there’s food and stuff everywhere. The only place you need money is the supply town two days flight upriver and Dad takes care of that.”
Ishio put one of his fingers over the top of one of Shouhei’s. “Mooching off your father isn’t exactly a great plan for endearing me to the folks back home.” He felt Shouhei tense up and moved so their fingers weren’t touching anymore. “Maybe I’ll write a book about a scientist who fell in love with a woman who could fly and make a fortune off of it. It’d be the greatest love story of all time.”
Shouhei didn’t say anything.
But he did kiss him. A gentle, earthy-sweet sauce flavored kiss with softly parted lips and shyly shut eyes. The world whirled around in blue-green rush and Ishio saw starbursts behind his eyes.
“Are you okay? Ishio?”
For a moment, when his eyes first opened, Ishio could have sworn that Shouhei had wings. Vivid red, bright blue and gold feathered wings spread out wide behind him, looking weirdly normal. He blinked and there was nothing, just Shouhei crouched over him looking worried. “Ow,” he said and Shouhei looked relieved.
“You worried me,” he said. “I almost didn’t catch you at all.”
“I fell out of the tree,” Ishio said slowly. You kissed me.
Shouhei’s head bobbed, “I managed to grab you right before you hit the ground. It slowed you up but you still…” He shrugged eloquently.
You kissed me and “I fell out of the tree.” He sat up. His head ached and his body reminded him, quite unpleasantly, that the ground was made out of rock. I think you had wings.
“Uh-huh,” Shouhei helped him up, his hand warm and calloused around Ishio’s own. “And so did lunch. You’re covered in noodles.”
The sauce bloomed in dark stains on his shirt and across his pants, like the heads of exotic flowers on soba noodle stems. “I should go home and” not push you up against the tree and kiss you until you make me fall again “clean up.”
Ishio hovered, shirtless and uncertain, by the door to his apartment’s tiny balcony. Shouhei didn’t have wings. He was just a crazy boy who sat in a tree all day and pretended that life was simple. Exams were coming up and Ishio needed to study, not go back to the ramenya and buy lunch again and hope that the insane tree-dweller invited him up to get kissed again. Exams and university were real. Flying was just a dream.
“Shouhei?” he slid the door open.
Mid-way up the maple tree, Shouhei’s red head pop out from the branches. “Yeah?”
There was no harm in offering him something clean to wear. There had been noodles everywhere, after all. “Did you need a shirt or anything? There were…” across the street Shouhei launched himself out of the tree, arms at his sides, his wings beating once against the air to carry him up. “Noodles everywhere,” Ishio said lamely as Shouhei’s red shoes touched down on his balcony railing.
Grabbing the rail with one hand, Shouhei leapt down to floor. “Shirt, please. I tore the hell out of this one,” he said shouldering his way past Ishio into the apartment to perch on the back of the sofa and peel out of his shirt. The back was completely shredded. Ishio knees felt weak.
Not all of it could be chalked up to the several meters of wingspan on display in front of him. “Everybody goes around shirtless back home, huh? Can I…” asked Ishio, reaching out tentatively, unsure of how rude it was to even ask such a thing.
Shouhei shrugged, the top curve of one wing butting up into Ishio’s outstretched hand. “No, there are shirts. They just have holes for the wings,” he explained, sounding winded.
The feathers were cool under Ishio palm, slick and soft beneath his fingers. “Wing holes.”
“Yeah.” Shouhei’s eyes fluttered to half mast. “You’d never notice if you didn’t know, though. The traditional style of dress sort of makes the holes look like part of the design and not something for function. That feels good,” he said breathlessly.
Ishio looked at his hand, stroking along the crest of the wing. He licked his lips. “Where do they go? When you landed they were out and then I couldn’t see them.” He stirred the small, delicate feathers on the wing’s leading edge with his fingers. Shouhei leaned into him with a cry, wings ruffling. “Sorry,” Ishio apologized, drawing his hand back.
Shouhei caught his arm and stopped him. “Pin feathers,” he explained, his eyes darkening. “They actually have feeling in them. A lot of feeling.”
“Oh.” He flatted his hand and ran it firmly over the pin feathers. Shouhei’s head dropped sharply onto his shoulder and he buried his face against Ishio’s neck with a low moan. Ishio turned his head; Shouhei’s hair was as soft as down against his lips. “Where do they go?” he asked again.
“They…” Shouhei broke off, breathing hard as Ishio followed the wing bones as far as he could reach. “There’s a joint that releases when I fold them back, so they fold up, too. It’s automatic. One of those survival things. Keeps the flight feathers from getting stepped on and ripped out in case of tripping and falling on my ass.”
“Makes sense,” Ishio agreed absently, his lips just barely touching the shell of Shouhei’s ear. “Show me?”
“No.” Shouhei lifted his head. His eyes had darkened into a clear, gleaming gold. “I want you to keep touching them.”
Ishio took a deep breath and felt dizzy as he realized that he was all but straddling Shouhei’s lap as he ran his hands over his wings. “Me too,” he said. “Can I see where they…” he didn’t know what to call it. He ran his fingers back up Shouhei’s flight edge until his wrist bumped up against his shoulder. “Can I see your back?” he asked instead.
“Yeah.” Shouhei got to his feet; the slide of his body made Ishio quit breathing all together. His wings folded as he turned. The underside showing for a moment before the trailing edges flicked up to cover them.
By accident or design the primary feathers swept over Ishio’s groin, brushing like fingers alongside the zipper that strained under the pressure from the most awesome erection Ishio had ever had the privilege of sporting. If the opening of Shouhei’s wings hadn’t knocked him back a step Ishio had the sneaking suspicion that he would have been rubbing himself shamelessly against him.
He wasn’t very certain that he wasn’t going to start, either. The portion of Shouhei’s back that wasn’t hidden by feathers was sleek with long, smooth cords of muscles. The wings attached at the inside edge of his shoulder blades, near the spine. Shouhei’s hair spilled brightly right between the jut of the wings; Ishio pushed it aside, his unsteady fingers ghosting over the warm, bare skin beneath it and Shouhei jolted forward with a startled gasp. “Okay?”
“Sensitive,” Shouhei gasped again as Ishio pressed his lips lightly against base of one wing.
“Very sensitive,” agreed Ishio while privately wishing his lungs would work well enough to gasp. Not breathing was making him dizzier than breathing had. “We should be careful,” he heard himself say. “Or we’re going to—”
“What? Fall?” Shouhei asked in with an amazing amount of incredulity for somebody who was arguably humping the back of Ishio’s sofa.
“Fuck,” Ishio corrected, vaguely wondering when both of his hands had disappeared beneath the cover of Shouhei’s wings and if they were responsible for making him shudder like that.
“I wanted to fall,” Shouhei reminded him. He looked over his shoulder as his pants dropped to the floor. “And you did.”
“There’s lube in the bedroom.”
Shouhei bent him over the foot of the bed and licked a long, slow trail up his spine. “You saw my back, I wanted to see yours,” he murmured when Ishio struggled under him.
“It’s nothing special,” said Ishio, even as his hips jerked in reaction to Shouhei’s sucking on an ordinary patch of skin just above the small of his back. Shouhei’s answer to that was to mouth a similarly mundane place in the middle of his back. “I need to get my pants off,” Ishio choked out.
“This,” declared Shouhei as he rolled off of him “is going to be as fast and graceless as falling out of the tree.”
“Oh, good, so we have experience,” Ishio replied, kicking out of his pants. “It’s on the bedside table,” he said as Shouhei’s eyes darted around the room.
Shouhei grabbed the bottle and upended it. “We have to travel light,” he said, slicking his fingers. “So we’re going to use it lavishly and…” he stopped, cocking his head and staring at his hand. “Fuck me. We’ll make an order before we go and have it waiting for us at the supply town.”
“Give me that,” Ishio reached for the bottle and wetted his own hand once Shouhei passed it to him. “Did you mean it?”
“What? ‘Fuck me’?” He got to his hands and knees, his wings flared straight up and Ishio squeezed the bottle hard enough that the cap popped. “Yes.”
“No.” Ishio slid his fingers up the back of Shouhei’s thigh. “The other thing.” He pressed gently at his opening and talked more or less to distract himself. “About the rainforest. About taking me with you.”
Shouhei rocked back hard against him, taking his finger in completely and hissing under his breath, “Yes.” He rocked again and Ishio threw caution to the wind and slid a second finger beside the first. “More than I mean the fuck-me thing.” He took the second finger as easily as the first and Ishio bit his hip because he absolutely had to. “And I really, really meant that.”
Ishio batted away the lube-covered hand that reached for his cock. “Move,” he said, swatting Shouhei’s ass when he didn’t.
“Like this,” Shouhei insisted, wriggling.
“Three months I’ve been staring up at you in that maple tree,” Ishio informed him. “I want you above me.” Shouhei moved and Ishio positioned himself under him. “Come down to me now,” he whispered and Shouhei did, taking him in with a rush of feelings that was exactly like falling. Ishio thrust up hard and kept his eyes open, riveted by the familiar view of Shouhei staring down at him. Mesmerized by his pale eyes gone dark and the way his wingers flipped and fluttered and created a breeze that made the brilliant strands of his hair dance in time with the surge of their bodies.
He didn’t close his eyes until Shouhei arched back, his own hands clutching the edges of his wings they same way that Ishio’s hands gripped his hips, and said “If you hadn’t fallen out of the tree, I’d have fucked your right there in midair instead of learning to fly. Fuck flying.”
“Oh, fuck. I’m gonna come,” Ishio warned as his eyes slammed shut. “Kiss me. Kiss me again.” Instead of leaning down, Shouhei curled his arms under his shoulders and pulled him up. Their mouths met in a messy mating dance as their rhythm stuttered wildly apart. Shouhei’s wings swept forward around him and Ishio’s last thought as he came was that they were already flying.
As it happened, Ishio wrote two books and he bought more lube than he ever did birdseed.