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… What vary'd being peoples ev'ry star,
May tell why Heav'n has made us as we are.
But of this frame the bearings, and the ties,
The strong connections, nice dependencies,
Gradations just, has thy pervading soul… See Note at bottom
What is the meaning of connect? Does it mean know someone? No. It has to be deeper. Much deeper.
...To be connected…
That must mean to know someone well—not just casually. To know their thoughts. To know their emotions. To know their intentions. To know all about one person.
Not just to know, but to understand them. To accept them. To cherish them as they are.
Am I connected?
"Ritsuka…Ritsuka…" a soft voice called from behind. Immediately, 'Ritsuka' shifted into focus, slammed his book shut and placed it firmly on his desk. It was almost winter time and the sun had set hours ago. The cool autumn breeze sifted through the gap where the balcony door was slightly open. 'Ritsuka', or Aoyagi Ritsuka, was a young boy with messy black hair and equally dark eyes. Bandages were patched over his face and limbs to cover the scars and wounds that resulted from his mother's violent outbursts. Even for his age, Ritsuka was small—almost fragile. The bandages patched over his body only reaffirmed that he was indeed delicate.
The person who called his name was Agatsuma Soubi. Unlike Ritsuka, Soubi was a tall mature man already studying in the fine arts program at the local university. His long sandy hair was usually let down, but today he had it tied up. His bluish eyes were hidden behind round trimmed glasses. Unlike Ritsuka, Soubi was taller than most his age. While he looked slender, he was certainly well-built and strong.
The two were in Ritsuka's bedroom. Ritsuka was at his desk studying English for the upcoming entrance exams for middle school while Soubi was reading a book on the art from the romantic period. Soubi had moved from the place where he sat on the floor next to Ritsuka's desk to behind his chair. He had one hand on Ritsuka's shoulder and the other clinging firmly onto the book.
"Ritsuka, what's wrong? You looked extremely dazed just a moment ago," Soubi asked his eyes fixed on Ritsuka's expression.
"It's nothing," Ritsuka replied briefly although his voice sounded unconvincing.
"Ah. Is that's so…" Soubi turned away and returned to his seat on the floor and resumed his reading.
Ritsuka stared blankly at the wall plastered with pictures in front of him. They were pictures he had taken with friends on their weekends when they went around town touring and sight-seeing. Despite Ritsuka's attempt to balance out the photos, somehow, most of the ones he had chosen featured Soubi. Again, Ritsuka's mind began to drift and returned to the word "connect". Was Soubi the person who Ritsuka cherished above all others?
"Soubi…are we connected?" Ritsuka tempted after a few minutes of uncomfortable silence.
"Of course," Soubi replied as if by reflex. He did not even look up to meet Ritsuka's eyes. "Of course we are connected. That is the meaning of fighter and sacrifice. They are connected,"
Somewhere a nagging voice in Ritsuka's head already answered that question for him even before Soubi even said a word. For one, Ritsuka barely knew any personal details about Soubi. He had no idea what Soubi's intentions were, nor did he understand Soubi's feelings. Other than the fact that Soubi was 20, studied in a university, had a friend named Kio, and lived in an apartment by himself; Ritsuka had no further insight.
They were not connected. Definitely not.
Ritsuka shut his eyes and exhaled slowly. He was used to the lies now. Soubi was always secretive and evasive when it came to answering his questions. Soubi was the type of person who would lie just to appease Ritsuka.
"Right…" Ritsuka mumbled under his breath with a hint of annoyance, and stood up to turn off his desk lamp. "I've had enough for one day. I'm going to bed" he said as he plopped onto his bed and covered himself with his blanket.
Soubi raised his eyebrow suspiciously at Ritsuka. "It's only 8:30. It's much too early, even for little school kids, to sleep"
"I'm tired!" Ritsuka retorted angrily. "Shut the door before you leave" he added as he turned his back away from Soubi and pulled his blanket over his head to block the disappointment clearly on his face.
Soubi sighed heavily. "Then, good night. I'll see you tomorrow," he resolved. He pulled on his jacket, flicked the room lights off and slid out into the cool night.
Then in the dark, Ritsuka poked his head out from beneath his blanket as tears of desolation began to flood his eyes.
Ritsuka suddenly snapped awake when Hiwatari Yuiko, the energetic girl who sat next to him in class, nudged him violently.
"Hey! Ritsuka-kun! Class is over!" She called. Ritsuka looked up to see her arms were crossed disapprovingly across her red t-shirt and her light hair was tied in their usual pig tails. Yuiko was the only one in the class who Ritsuka really enjoyed spending time with. Though she was clumsy and clingy, she was also generous, sincere, and kind.
Ritsuka groaned as he stretched in his seat. Several students walked past him as they filed out of the classroom. Ritsuka rubbed his eyes absently and stared blankly at the blackboard at the front of the class. Had he slept through the entire lesson again?
"Ritsuka-kun, did you not sleep well last night?" Yuiko asked, this time, gentler. She sank back into her seat next to Ritsuka's desk and poked her face towards his so she could meet his eyes.
"Yeah…I went to bed early, but I couldn't sleep…" Ritsuka replied. Despite heading to bed at 8:30 the night before, all Ritsuka did was toss and turn. He could not lull himself into a deep comforting sleep. That one word kept popping into his mind—kept reminding him why he felt so bothered—that word, connect.
Yuiko studied Ritsuka for a moment. "Did you have a fight with Soubi-san again?" she asked.
"No!" Ritsuka shouted a little more harshly than he intended. "No, we did not."
"Hmmmm?" Yuiko obviously did not believe Ritsuka's answer. Though Yuiko may act a bit immature, she was definitely one of the most sensitive people Ritsuka had ever known. Yuiko plopped her elbows onto her desk to support her head. She was ready to listen to whatever story Ritsuka was about to divulge.
Ritsuka stared at Yuiko for a moment. Yuiko certainly spent quite a lot of time with him. She seemed to have an extra sense about his feelings, and they practically think alike when it came down to after-class relaxation activities. Could it be that he was not connected with Soubi but with Yuiko? With courage and determination, he asked "Yuiko, do you know what I'm thinking right now?"
"Hmmm…you are thinking about whatever it is that is bothering you. Even if you say it doesn't concern Soubi-san, I think it does," Yuiko responded without turning to Ritsuka.
"Do you know how I feel?"
"You feel angry?" Yuiko paused. "No, no…not as much angry as frustrated,"
"Do you know me? I don't mean just as a friend. Do you really know me—as a person?"
"What's with these questions, Ritsuka-kun? Of course I know you as a person! We always talk and hang out after class! At first, I didn't know you at all, but with every day, I feel like I know Ritsuka-kun a bit better!" Yuiko insisted her eyes narrowed clearly focused on Ritsuka.
"Then…then…are we connected?" Ritsuka proposed.
"Connected?" A sudden blush washed over Yuiko's face. Her eyes immediately darted away from Ritsuka, suddenly finding interest in the scratch at the top of her desk. "Well…I gue—"
"NO! Yuiko-san and you are not connected!"
The two turned to see Yayoi panting at the door. He marched over to where Ritsuka and Yuiko were sitting and stood between them. "Aoyagi-kun and Yuiko-san cannot be connected!" he repeated flapping his arms in frustration. "That's because Yuiko-san and I are meant for each oth—"
"Let's go, Yuiko," Ritsuka's voice cut through Yayoi's as he slung his bag over his shoulder and headed towards the door. Without hesitation, Yuiko followed.
Despite promising to see Ritsuka the next day, Soubi had made no contact. He did not leave a message on the phone as usual, nor did he wait at the school gates to walk Ritsuka home. He did not even appear behind Ritsuka's glass balcony door. By 10:00, Ritsuka was pacing uncomfortably around his room waiting for some sign of Soubi, but there was none.
'Liar!' a voice in Ritsuka's head shouted. Exhausted, Ritsuka dropped onto his bead and stared the ceiling. Somehow, Ritsuka had known Soubi would not show up.
Why did that bother him so much?
'It doesn't!' that same voice insisted.
Then why so angry?
'I'm not!' the voice answered. 'I hate people who break their promises! He said he's see me today!' the voice rationalized.
Ritsuka rolled over onto his side and reached for his cell phone on the bedside table. He flipped it open and searched for Soubi's number. Stubbornly, shaking his head, he flipped the phone shut and shoved it back onto the nightstand. The phone would not satisfy him. Soubi would likely smirk on the other side anyways. He wanted to show Soubi how angry he was. That was the only way Soubi would ever realize that he could not toy Ritsuka around.
Ritsuka pushed himself off the bed and grabbed his jacket. If head left his home through the front door, his mother would notice and would be angry. Therefore, Ritsuka chose a more indiscrete route—the same balcony that Soubi slipped into his room almost on a nightly basis. The bricks at the side of the house provided a ledge for him to climb up and down. He would be able to return later, provided that his mother did not find out about his little night stroll.
Dashing through the streets with the chilly winds brushing his face, Ritsuka rushed along the dim path illuminated by the occasional street lamp. There was a good twenty minute distance between Ritsuka's residence and Soubi's apartment. Just as Ritsuka expected, the windows of Soubi's apartment were lit. He was inside, doing something, obviously neglecting his promise to Ritsuka.
Without hesitation, Ritsuka marched up the steps to the front door of Soubi's flat. Pulling out the key Soubi had provided him just in case Ritsuka needed a place to hide, he opened the door.
"Soubi! You! You said you'd come see me today! You liar! I waited!" Ritsuka yelled feeling each word drain every ounce of breath from his lungs. His eyes locked in a glare at the corner of the room where Soubi stood, painting. "I…I waited so long…" Ritsuka said more quietly turning his face away from Soubi who had stopped to put down his brush and pallet, and was walking towards him.
"I thought you were angry with me," Soubi explained. "But isn't it all the same? You are seeing me now," he was standing in front of Ritsuka. He pulled Ritsuka close to him placing hands, dabbed with dried paint, on the small of Ritsuka's back.
"It's different!" Ritsuka insisted in a shakier voice. His face buried in Soubi's shirt with the mixed smell of paint, tobacco, and alcohol. "It's different…because I came to see you instead…" by unknown reasons, Ritsuka felt tears began to fill his eyes.
Soubi always had that effect on Ritsuka every time they touched—whether Soubi simply held Ritsuka's hand or locked in a tight embrace. Whenever Ritsuka had close physical contact with the man, an awkward stream of mixed emotions flooded his body. On one hand, he welcomed the warmth, the comfort, and the security of being near Soubi. On the other hand, it felt almost sinful. After all, Soubi had treasured Ritsuka's brother above all else. It was only because of his brother's orders that Soubi had come to him and loved him. Yet, the moments they shared, like a forbidden fruit, always tempted and linked them back together.
"Ritsuka…" Soubi placed a hand under Ritsuka's chin and lifted his face. Without another word, Soubi bent down and their lips brushed. "I'm sorry,"
"You don't…have to apologize…" Ritsuka managed, his face flushed bright red as he buried his face back into Soubi's shirt his fists clutching bundles of the garment refusing to let go.
"But it is my fault…" Soubi insisted. His hands were stroking Ritsuka's back calming him. "I always make Ritsuka sad,"
"You don't…" Ritsuka's voice was muffled in Soubi's shirt.
"Then how do I avoid making Ritsuka sad?" Soubi asked looking down at Rirtsuka.
"Don't you already know? You said we were connected," Ritsuka reminded him.
Soubi remained silent as Ritsuka listened to the steady beat of his heart under his shift. "Then it was a lie, wasn't it…we aren't really connected!" Ritsuka yelled finally pulling himself away from Soubi. His eyes were filled to capacity with tears and his hands were still nervously clutching Soubi's shirt. He was barely composed.
Soubi placed his hands on Ritsuka's cheeks lifting his face so he could meet his eyes. "No, it's the truth. We are connected…but in a difference sense. You will understand in time,"
"But I want to be connected to Soubi!" the words spilled out before Ritsuka could stop himself. "I want to know everything about you! I want to feel what Soubi feels! I don't know anything. I don't understand anything…."
Soubi gazed deeply into Ritsuka. For a moment, they stood silent—Ritsuka's face cupped in Soubi's hands. "You want to feel how I feel…?" Soubi asked silently but gravely. "You want to feel how I feel because then we would be connected the way you want us to be?"
"Yes…" Ritsuka replied without breaking his gaze. "I need to, because I'm your sacrifice,"
"My sacrifice…?" Soubi repeated the words like a mantra to himself. With a tremendous tug, he pulled Ritsuka close to him again.
Once again feeling Soubi's warmth around him, Ritsuka pushed himself up and reached for Soub's shirt collar to force Soubi to face him. With a blush, Ritsuka planted an airy kiss on Soubi's lips. Instead of lightly pulling away, he found Soubi using his strength to keep Ritsuka's face close to his. In return, Soubi's lips worked against Ritsuka's. Ritsuka found himself locked in the tightest kiss they ever shared.
Yet, it was not just the kiss. It was the emotions that flowed from Soubi's lips into Ritsuka's and surged throughout his body. There was torment, kindness, love, and determination. Ritsuka could feel desperation—the type of obsessive unrequited love, that pained the heart and wounded the soul. Yet, he also felt comfort—as though a deep wound was finally closing and mending itself. Ritsuka closed his eyes to process the new emotions—Soubi's emotions. Without thinking, or hesitation, Ritsuka returned the favour. Forcing his lips against Soubi's, Ritsuka yearned to reach out and absorb more of Soubi's hidden self.
Pushing towards the end of the room, Ritsuka found himself on top of Soubi on his bed. Ritsuka's hands pinned Soubi's wrists on both sides and Soubi's torso between his legs. Embarrassingly, Ritsuka jumped off and took a seat at the edge of the bed, a safe distance away from Soubi. Sitting up and taking off his glasses, Soubi climbed across the mattress and knelt behind Ritsuka. Wrapping his arms across Ritsuka's chest, Soubi buried his face into the nape of Ritsuka's neck. "Have you had enough?" Soubi asked enticingly.
Ritsuka opened his mouth to say 'yes', but the word never materialized. Instead, he felt a sudden rush of electricity emanating from the spot where Soubi's face was. It pulsed through his body sending tingles down his spine. Instead, he heard his own voice saying the very word he had no intention to say, "No,"
"Is that so?" Soubi remarked amused. He worked his lips from the nape of Ritsuka's neck up to his ears. Soubi cupped his mouth around Ritsuka's ear and worked his tongue around the lobe.
A part of Ritsuka was struggling away. Yet, a part of him, and he hated to admit it was the greater part of him, wanted to stay. He was finally beginning to understand Soubi's feelings. He was finally becoming close to Soubi. Even without words, Ritsuka could tell what Soubi was thinking. He knew exactly what Soubi was feeling. He could feel Soubi's eternal torment, and the alleviation he felt with every kiss they shared. Ritsuka was finally connecting to Soubi.
Standing up from the edge of the bed, Ritsuk turned around to meet Soubi's eyes. They were different than before. They had always been difficult to read and decipher, but right now, they seem to be radiating Soubi's thoughts—he needed Ritsuka. Ritsuka responded his plea with his own actions. Leaning forward, Ritsuka's lips again met Soubi's. This time, Ritsuka's hands slipped under Soubi's shirt to feel the warmth of his torso. Ritsuka's hands roamed explore this newfound flesh. The cloth of the shirt was becoming more and more restrictive to his touch. Unconsciously, Ritsuka found his hands working away at the buttons of Soubi's shirt trying to free him from it. It was as if the shirt had been the barrier between them all along.
Soubi did not resist Ritsuka's attempts. Instead, he found himself focused on nibbling Ritsuka's kitten ears. Though less sensitive than his regular ears, they were nonetheless soft to his touch. His hands fixed on Ritsuka's hip intending to keep him where he was, afraid that if he ever let go, even for a second, Ritsuka would disappear. Soubi felt cool air wash over his chest followed by the warmth of Ritsuka's hands exploring upwards to his shoulders to slide the garment off. Soubi readjusted his position to lie flat on his bed and lifted Ritsuka on top of him, snuggling him close. They were far more comfortable this way.
Resting on top of Soubi, their arms wrapped around each other, Ritsuka still felt distant. Surely they were closer than they had ever been, yet there still seemed to be a barrier—an invisible wall keeping their desires from colliding. Soubi was not close enough. Ritsuka could not feel Soubi's heart synchronizing with his own. Ritsuka reached to tug his sweater off when he felt Soubi's hands resisting him. Ritsuka lifted his eyes to meet Soubi's stern expression. They were not getting any closer than this.
"Soubi…" Ritsuka pleaded.
"Too young…" Soubi muttered in response.
"I want to feel you…" Ritsuka begged. Tears began to flow in his eyes again. It was not fair. Just when he had begun to unwrap the mystery that was Soubi, he was stopped.
"I can't let you…" Soubi insisted. There was a hint of loneliness in his voice.
"It's not a matter of whether or not you will let me. I am deciding for myself," Ritsuka explained. Then with a little more confidence "It is because I need to be connected to you—I need to feel you. Otherwise...otherwise…" Ritsuka's voice trailed for an instance, "I won't be able to be with you!"
Soubi was taken aback by Ritsuka's sudden confession. Placing one hand on Ritsuka's cheek, Soubi guided Ritsuka back towards him and kissed him lightly on the lips. Taking it as a silent consent, without hesitation, Ritsuka tugged his own sweater and freed himself from it. Discarding it to the floor, he returned to his position on top of Soubi, feeling their heartbeats pulse as one.
Ritsuka closed his eyes savouring the moment as his hands resumed their exploration of Soubi's body. His fingers outlined every muscle, every line, every curve finally dipping to the buckle of his pants. Again, his hands were resisted Soubi's. This time, with a little more force Ritsuka lifted them and placed them behind his back.
"Ritsuka…" Soubi mumbled.
Ritsuka did not answer. Instead, he focused on his current task—the full exploration and experience of Soubi's body. This was how he could get to know Soubi better than anyone else. This was how they were to be connected. Even if Soubi resisted, Ritsuka would persist.
The buckle was undone and last of Soubi's garments were easily pushed down below his knees. Ritsuka never felt as nervous and excited in his life. He was aware what would happen next—what he needed to do. He was scared. Yet, the prospect seemed dangerously exciting, and the reward was far greater than the risk. Ritsuka dipped his hands lower and lower until he reached Soubi's erect member. Curious, Ritsuka gave it a light squeeze and began to stroke it gently. As a response, Soubi moaned softly into his ear.
Ritsuka experimented with Soubi's member for a bit—sometimes softly stroking it, other times, rubbing it. He was even curious enough to lick it just for a taste. Soubi's body would shiver with pleasure and low moans would escape from his lips. Soubi's hand had abandoned their place on Ritsuka's back. Instead, they were now clutching onto his bed sheets, his eyes screwed tight, concentrating on how to contain the waves of sensations.
As Ritsuka's head dipped to taste Soubi's member again, he was surprised to find Soubi's hands catching him and bringing him to face Soubi. Their lips met for a brief moment before Soubi guided Ritsuka's hands to his shoulders. Just as Ritsuka's hands explored Soubi's body earlier, Soubi's hand was now exploring his. Reaching for the rim of Ritsuka's jeans, Soubi skilfully slid it off, along with whatever remaining garment Ritsuka had worn. It glided down his thigh and caught on his knee. Ritsuka lay down and kicked it to the end of the bed.
Ritsuka was surprised and embarrassed to find his own member erected. Knowing Ritsuka would feel uncomfortable if Soubi looked at his naked form, Soubi resisted the urge. Instead, he dipped his hands down to find it and stroke Ritsuka's member sending ripples of pleasure through his body. Ritsuka's small frame quivered under the quake of fresh sensations awakening the primal feelings within him. Soubi worked again, and Ritsuka was paralyzed with another wave of sensations. He could barely contain himself. If Soubi continued, surely the sensations filling Ritsuka would overflow causing him to explode. Ritsuka's back was arched, his eyes were closed, his body hanging limb to allow Soubi to send whatever new pleasures he could muster.
Ritsuka could feel it. Like a point just out of reach where all tension would be released and he would have achieved perfect happiness. If Soubi worked just a little longer, he would be there. His body was drenched in sweat now. The new sensations have taken a toll and his mind could no longer concentrate on etching each of them into memory. All he knew was Soubi—Soubi underneath him. Soubi expressing himself to him. Soubi…
Ritsuka's eyes blinked open when the sensation suddenly stopped. He was immediately met by Soubi's eyes which were glazed with desire. The two were sitting up now, facing one another on the bed. Ritsuka suddenly felt exposed as his arms instinctively wrapped around his front and his tail curved around his body. Soubi let out an amused giggle seeing Ritsuka's reaction, but made no comment. Instead, he moved forward wrapping his arms around Ritsuka, using his own body to shield Ritsuka's nakedness. He felt Soubi's finger playing with the tip just under his tail—rubbing it gently and softly. Confused, Ritsuka peered up to find Soubi carrying a gentle knowing smile. At that moment, Ritsuka, again, knew what Soubi was thinking. What he was feeling. Soubi wanted Ritsuka to feel him, and in return, he felt completely devoted to Ritsuka. Ritsuka buried himself into Soubi closing his eyes to savour the moment.
It was not long before Ritsuka felt that point again. Soubi had somehow entered the crevasse, under his tail and began gently swaying back and forth. Similarly, somehow, with the guide of one of Soubi's hands, Ritsuka, too, had entered Soubi. Ritsuka could feel Soubi's temperature rising. His skin was already covered in a light coating of sweat. With great force, Soubi clung onto him as if Ritsuka was his only means of salvation. Ritsuka let his body experience and memorize the sensations—the sound of Soubi's panting in his ear, the smell of their perspiration mixing together, the taste of Soubi's skin, the sensation underneath his tail. Each of these senses slowly built up and intensified into a mountain of emotional marvel that could no longer be contained. At that point, Ritsuka felt it—epiphany—insurmountable pleasure coursed through his body as he let out a violent cry. Within seconds, he heard Soubi's cry echo through the room. He too, must have found his utopia.
Panting, the two lay down on the bed. Soubi turned to face Rituska and gently flicked a strand of hair glued to his face from the sweat. Soubi had an odd expression of ease and contentment. Bending forwards, Soubi delivered a kiss to Ritsuka's forehead.
"What am I thinking?" Ritsuka managed at last when his voice returned to him.
"You are thinking how tired and exhausted you are," Soubi answered gently with a smile.
"What am I feeling?" Ritsuka asked sleepily?
"Happy, I suppose," Soubi replied. One of his elbows plopped against his pillow supporting his head as he gazed down at Ritsuka. "You look so blissful. I wish I could draw your expression,"
Ritsuka let out a slight laugh and turned to face Soubi. His face was still flushed.
"Are we connected in the way you wished, Ritsuka?" Soubi asked at last.
"Ah," Ritsuka replied sleepily. "We are," he closed his eyes as his body began to feel limb and his consciousness fade into a deep slumber. After all, even without looking, he knew what Soubi was feeling. Soubi was perfectly content, and that was the first time in many years, he felt this light-hearted.
Passage from "Essay on Man", Alexander Pope (1688-1744)