Through the years, Hajime spends dozens of his summer weeks at Tooru’s grandmother’s house. She lives alone in an old minka style home in the hills near Osaki, some forty kilometers from Sendai. Tooru’s parents usually send him off to the mountains once the small apartment grows uncomfortably warm and suffocating in the height of August. Once, when Tooru was still losing his baby teeth and still got blueberry bruises up and down his shins and forearms from kneeing the coffee table and waving his long arms this way and that, he threw a momentous tantrum until Hajime’s parents let him go, too.
Since that day, Hajime has never misses a visit. Sometimes Tooru wonders if his grandmother favors his best friend over him, her own grandson. Then again, she probably has good reason to if she does. Hajime always speaks to her respectfully, helps her prepare dinners, and fixes the broken things around the house. Tooru spends more of his time running around the property to keep in shape, climbing the tall trees and swimming in the creek. He still helps out, too, on occasion, and he and Hajime have gotten into numerous arguments over who has to clean out the scary, dark, and creaky attic each year. Usually, they do it together. Hajime clings to Tooru’s t-shirt and stays within a few steps of the retractable ladder. At the end of the day, however, both boys sit out on the sprawling lawn, grasping at fireflies and staring up at the distant stars.
One night, when they’re both too young to kiss girls and mean it and too old to not feel like they should want too, Tooru points at a cluster of stars directly above his head, in the middle of the endless sky, holding his hand in the air until Hajime looks. “That’s Scorpius. The constellation.”
Hajime hums in acknowledgement, his eyebrows drawing up in concentration as he looks.
“That star there, in the middle, that’s Antares.”
Another noncommittal grunt from Hajime. As much as Tooru loves the stars, Hajime is somewhat nearsighted and can barely make out the craters on the moon on a clear night. Tooru, the lucky bastard, wears glasses for fun. ( They make me looks cool, Iwa-chan!) Hajime vows that one day, he’ll have proper contact lenses, and Tooru will have to wear actual glasses that will slide off his nose and get foggy when it rains. Everyone develops myopia at some point, right? And all that late-night game study with the television on minimum brightness can’t be good for his 20/20 vision.
“Everyone sees Antares, the bright red star, but it’s actually part of a binary star system. The other star, Antares B, is a pretty cool star. It’s called a main-sequence white-blue star, but it’s just below visible luminosity. The glare from Antares makes it impossible to see. Antares is a really big star, like, ten times larger than the sun or something. I’ve read that most binary stars were formed at the same time. They orbit each other. Kinda like us.”
“Did you just say that I’m a star? Fiery ball in the sky? Binary star system? What?”
“Stars aren’t actually on fire, silly Iwa-chan.”
Hajime ignore the playfully patronizing comment. “So I guess must be Antares B to you, yeah?”
“If you say so.”`
“No one can see me from behind you blinding glare, huh, Tooru?”
Soon, Torru is captivated by other things. He even sees a shooting star, whooping as it streaks across the inky summer sky, and makes a big show of it, giggling with excitement and dancing in the overgrown field, his bare feet occasionally kicking at Hajime, an invitation to join in the fun. Hajime throws a handful of grass at him when he refuses to tell what he wished for.
“It’s supposed ‘a be a secret , Iwa.”
The years pass. Hajime’s dad finally lets him wear contact lenses. After an eye exam in his second year of junior high, Tooru finds himself with a prescription for glasses stronger than the kind you can get at the drugstore. He refuses to wear them most days, says they fall off his face anyway.
A year later, in their last year of junior high, Tooru’s mother drives them back to grandmother’s house as mirage puddles appear on the dry roads.
Between his passionate outbursts about Tobio-chan this and Tobio-chan that, Tooru falls relatively quiet. Usually the moments of radio silence occur during nightly stargazing sessions. Having found something else to ramble on, Tooru takes no expense in filling Hajime’s ears with dynamic static once again.
“This is the best shower there’s been in 50 years! D’ya think we’re gonna see some?”
“You probably won’t if you keep running your mouth.”
That night, they fall asleep amongst the fireflies. Tooru’s grandmother wakes them hours later. Hajime carries a whining Tooru on his back as they trek slowly back home.
“I saw one, Hajime!”
“Hm? I didn’t.”
Because after growing bored of counting stars, Hajime had taken to counting the faint freckles ( don’t stare at my imperfections, Hajime!) that dusted his best friend’s cheeks, dark stars in the moonlight. He’d dozed off to the number 40 held in his mind.
Highschool passes by in a colorful blur.
Hajime still follows a step behind his best friend. A best friend who now insists he call him Oikawa (not Tooru). A new Oikawa who curls his eyelashes and dates cute girls and gets top marks in the classes that matter (to him) and still finds time to wreck himself practicing long after coach hands over the gym keys with a halfhearted, “don’t stay there too long.” An Oikawa who still insists on calling him Iwa-chan.
Hajime tries. He tries his hardest. At everything. At being a good friend.
Not spiking balls too hard at Oikawa’s head. Not mentioning how many girls have dumped in him in the past three years. Staying after school and making sure the idiot-- his idiot-- doesn’t kill himself seving balls ‘till past the point of total exhaustion.)
At being a good vice-captain.
Spiking every ball, no matter how fast or off course. Teaching the first years, being a good senpai while Oikawa simpers at his fans and insists on practicing his services alone.
Tooru reads astronomy textbooks, pours over scientific journals, supplements his English study with American documentaries about Stephen Hawking and the moon landings. He’s been told off by a total of 26 girls during his high school years. (Excluding his mother, including his elder sister.) He runs after Tobio-chan until the kid, that kid, is standing before him on the court. He watches as he loses to a grander King. He remains silent, surprising even himself, as he falls quietly out of love with volleyball. And farther into love with the stars.
Hajime, on the other hand, falls in love with something, someone , much closer. It’s a quiet, terribly (probably unhealthily) selfless love, resigned to a game of endless catch-up.
Antares B appears bluish-green to telescopes.
Antares B is only visible when the light of Antares A is blocked by the moon (the official term is occultation, apparently) for a very short amount of time.
Antares A is a type M1 star, a red supergiant at the end of its life. It is common knowledge that the morea massive and luminous a star, the shorter its life will be.
When Antares A inevitably explodes in a supernova within the next million years, it will most likely take B with it in its “dramatic swan song,” a burst of light visible in broad daylight on Earth.
Hajime figures that Oikawa won’t be exploding in an epic astronomical event anytime soon, but on some sleepless nights he finds himself contemplating where he fits in his unpredictable orbit with the one and only Oikawa Tooru.
At university, Tooru studies astronomy. The stars are a long shot, but he’s always been principally against doing things by halves, so he shoots for EGS-zs8-1 (a galaxy at the very edge of the observable universe), and hopes he’ll land somewhere in the Milky Way, at the rate he’s going. Of course, he’s no genius, and there certainly are an unfair amount of them ( geniuses ) in his line of study. He explains this all to Hajime one afternoon as they sit at a small internet café to stay out of the biting winter wind.
Hajime studies mechanical engineering. In high school, he briefly considered sports physical therapy, but that dream fell through upon the realization that Tooru had locked his sights on a research university in Tokyo proper that had no ties to any local hospitals or care centers. The place emphasized things like theoretical physics and pure mathematics, the stuff that a eighteen-year-old former volleyball players had nightmares about. Hajime had always done alright in his science classes, never lagged behind in math, even throughout tournament seasons, so engineering was still a feasible path. But genius school was hard to get into and hard to attend. By some miracle (Hajime still suspects an administrator's error) he’s made it to genius school. He takes his place as Tooru’s eternally suffering support system, picking up the pieces left behind as his idiot best friend shoots for the stars.
Over summer recess, second year, Tooru drags Hajime back to his late grandmother’s home in rural Miyagi. Hajime remembers the place well, his recollection lingering on the cool summer nights spent staring up at the tiny dots of light above the sharp silhouettes cut by the steep hills in the distance.
Hajime remembers Oikawa Akari as a slight, gentle woman. She gave them free roam of the old house and property. That year, Tooru turns twenty as the Perseid shower begins. According to the astronomy forums, it’ll be the best shower in nearly 100 years.
“ 100 years, now, is it?” Hajime raises an eyebrow.
He, of course, misses nearly all of the shooting stars. Again. Captured by the way that Tooru’s face lights up in a genuine smile as he goes on and on, pointing wildly. Hajime has always liked happy Tooru best. Genuine happy Tooru who calls him by his given name and smiles with his eyes and uses his hands when he speaks, letting the words fall free and fast. It’s simple and it’s clichéd, but he can’t help but stare.
Tooru pretends he doesn’t notice. He also pretends he doesn’t notice how pretty ( he just called Iwa pretty, didn’t he? shit) Hajime looks in the starlight, with his smooth skin and high cheekbones and expressive eyes and small, upturned nose. It really isn’t fair. ( Life isn’t fair, an irritatingly tinny voice that sounds a lot like the blue-eyed mathematics prodigy in his string theory lecture reminds.)
They fall asleep at 2:00. They wake up three hours later as the sky begins to bleed from black to navy to royal blue and every shade in between. The sun rises, and they watch in silence. Pressed up against each other in the cool dawn.
It is theorized that most, stars began their lives in binary system, however, some stars lose their partner or partners early in their lives. Our own sun may be one of these stars.
Antares (A) is the sixteenth brightest star in the sky, including our sun.
It should be noted that Antares B is still a luminous, massive star. It is more massive than the sun.