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in love with distraction

Chapter Text

“And this is what commoners do?”

Leo laughed, bright and loud and obnoxious. “That’s such a princely way of saying things? Wahahaha, Suo, are you sure you’re not meant to be the royal here?! You have the ego for it – you’re so high up, so high! You could reach the stars!”

Tsukasa looked at him in disbelief, shaking his head even as the other members of Knights began to wander off. Each dressed finely in a summer yukata, holding jars and trailing into the sea of flashing little lights, they were the poster boys of youth.

Perhaps even literally. They all had their faces on posters by now, after all.

It had been Arashi’s idea to go in search of fireflies during the festival, having heard of a congregation of them nearby.

“We’ll be back for you soon, Tsukasa-chan!” the blonde had waved happily as the rest of them wandered off –

An unfortunate slip had left Tsukasa with a broken sandal and a minor injury. Thusly, he was left waiting on a bench with none other than their leader, who would take breaks from composing - he was using parchment paper and a brush pen that he’d gotten from the festival stalls, was it to fit the mood? - only to lift his head and gently poke at his youngest knight.

Tsukasa held onto the empty jar of his own, pouting.

“It would be nice if the stars would come to me,” he sighed.

“That’s what I keep saying about the aliens! Maybe we’ll have more luck if you greet them? Uchuu~!”

Please stop.

“Wahahaha!”

And with that, the other went back to his composing, brushing dark ink against pages wildly yet elegantly. Leo was infuriating, but he was also amazing –

It was not the first time that Tsukasa had that thought.

So instead of saying anything about it, he looked away. Although they were not in the thick of the fireflies, not lost in that sea of lights, there would still be the occasional light wandering toward them, twinkling softly.

If he had to put a word to it:

Ephemeral.”

The sounds of brush strokes on paper paused. Leo had been tasked with ‘making sure that our youngest child is safe’ in the words of Arashi and apparently he was taking that at least moderately seriously, as if Tsukasa hadn’t just managed to embarrassingly sprain his ankle.

“Mm? What is?” Leo chirped up from next to him.

Tsukasa paused, watching a few more fireflies drift closer to them. When they’d arrived, the bench was empty – the fireflies likely not bothering to get too close to just any people who would take their rest there. Yet the longer they stayed, the more of them came.

Inexplicably, they floated and flitted by the two of them, providing gentle light for Leo’s composing and – in turn, for Tsukasa to look upon Leo.

The other’s eyes drifted from the page to Tsukasa, taking a moment to pause, and then breaking out into a bright smile.

If you asked Tsukasa, he was pretty sure that Leo was made out of the same stuff as fireflies.

Ephemeral.

The sounds of the rest of Knights teasing one another as they collected the fireflies. The fresh gleam of Leo’s ink against the paper. The break from school that they were all able to spend together.

This little found family that had come together.

It was all destined to end and yet Tsukasa wanted it to last forever.

“… I think I’m feeling dizzy, Leader,” Tsukasa lied instead, shaking his head softly.

“Huh? Are you not taking care of your health? Here—”

And without a hint of hesitation, Leo’s arm looped around Tsukasa, pulling him in and letting the other come to rest against him. It occurred to Tsukasa to be embarrassed for a moment.

(But the rest of the Knights were gone for now and in the end it was just left between him and his Leader, his King, his—)

But that too was fleeting.

‘It’s only temporary,’ Tsukasa had thought, shifting to lean his head against Leo’s chest, the warmth a contrast to the chill that was startling to settle into the air with the setting sun. ‘This won’t last.’

“Mm? What’s this? You’re like a cat, Suo! Wahahaha, are you going to start purring? What if I do this?” Leo’s voice drifted in, just as his fingers started to comb through Tsukasa’s hair gently.

Who knew that Leo could do anything gently?

“I’m not going to purr. Do not be so impossible, Leader,” Tsukasa sighed as he opened one eye, already knowing that he was asking for too much. What was Leo if not perpetually impossible? Still, he didn’t lift his head from Leo’s chest.

The other looked down at him with a smile, like he was petting an actual kitten, and tilted his head.

Around them, the fireflies continued to dance. The voices of the others had drifted away, though if Tsukasa focused he was sure he could hear Izumi’s complaints or Arashi’s doting. For now, he did not focus. He stayed where he was, looking at Leo who was looking at him.

This was finite.

In months, Leo would graduate and move on – either as a composer or an idol or a student. Tsukasa was never actually meant to have him for that long.

‘You are so temporary,’ Tsukasa thought as he closed his eyes again and settled for resting against Leo. In his world, there were polished marble statues that would be praised for decades. In his world, there were paintings that dated back centuries, simply part of his learning curriculum. In his world, there were long lineages that were esteemed, dignified, and quite possibly immortal.

In comparison, even the disastrous Leader who would claim to be loved by the gods and the child of miracles looked so terribly mortal. Leo was temporary.

‘And perhaps, in my rebellious years, that is why I want you so badly.’

Tsukasa sighed, shifted when he felt lips pressed to his forehead and the rise and fall of Leo’s chest as he laughed afterward.

That managed to get the young heir to open an eye, though only after he made sure to school his expression into one of irritation and not embarrassment.

Yes, it was just a phase.

That’s what he told himself.

(But could this too last forever?)

Chapter Text

 

Ever since Chiaki was small, he knew the tale of Beauty and the Beast.

Before he’d known the extent of his transformation, Chiaki had hope. A bright-eyed 12-year-old, humming love songs even though the other kids would make fun of him for being such a sap, sat on a bench and watched the pretty people go by. Boys, girls, everyone was so lovely and also worthy of love.

‘Me too,’ he’d thought back then, black sclera flashing for a moment in the mirror before he focused again, controlling it.

‘Me too,’ he’d repeated when changes to his body brought along changes to his transformation too, even as his fingers shook a bit when they reached up to touch the horns sprouting out of his head, confirming them for his. Even as red covered his arms not in his heroic colors but in the scales that protruded from his skin.

‘Me too,’ he’d repeated as his arms curled around himself the first time that he reached another stage of transformation, his own claws scratching at his skin and scales. He huddled into himself, feeling his appearance change and wondering why it didn’t reflect his warm heart, his burning spirit, his loving soul.

How could anyone love—

‘Me too?’ he’d questioned, gasped to himself as he felt his wings unfold from his back, the same dark red as everything else. So ghoulish, so ghastly, so very –

Beastly.

 


 

He learned to control it, of course.

Nothing could manage to conquer Chiaki Morisawa’s burning heart, his devoted self-restraint, and his unyielding heroism!

Not even his own monstrous form.

Looking down at his claws, finding it easier and easier to control the shift between forms, Chiaki’s gaze grew judgmental.

No one else would ever see this look, of course. Chiaki was an expert at shifting to what was needed of him, both in terms of his magic and his life. It just so happened that most of the time people needed a hero. That much he could do.

But what if they needed a hero and also required his demonic strength? Would they not run and hide instead of hope?

Clenching his hand, dispersing his claws and regaining his normal, human fingers, Chiaki sighed and then ran a hand through his hair.

‘I’ll work around it.’

 


 

Chiaki watched as Izumi harnessed his control over the ice, elegant waves of hands and confident beckoning of fingers shaping the very air around him into slabs of solid sleet. His blue eyes glowed bluer, his lips curved into a wicked smile, and Chiaki was rather sure that the shiver that ran down his spine was not from the burst of cold.

By the time that Izumi was done, he stood in the center of an ice lotus. The cuts of the ice were sharp, leaving him practically standing in the middle of a dozen frigid mirrors. Each one reflected his cool, confident expression, as he knew that he’d passed the aptitude test with flying colors.

From where the spectators were sitting, Chiaki felt chills.

He’d never seen anything more beautiful in his life.

 


 

“You’re a demon, aren’t you, Chia-kun?” Izumi asked even as they laid on the couch together, his back to Chiaki’s chest as he flipped the pages of his notes idly.

“Mm?” Chiaki answered absent-mindedly, as if he didn’t know what he was, pausing his doodling of another hero comic storyboard in his own notebook.

(They were studying. Really.)

“That’s what I’d heard – you’ve never actually confirmed it, you know.” Izumi let his notebook fall into his lap as he tilted his head back, looking up at his boyfriend with a mix of curiosity and suspicion.

The brunette merely laughed, pressing a kiss to Izumi’s forehead while the opportunity presented itself. “If that’s what they say, that must be what I am?”

“Do you let others define you often?”

Chiaki paused.

It was okay if people called him a demon sometimes, only as long as they called him a hero more often than that.

It was okay if people knew that in theory, Chiaki was a creature of nightmares, of disaster and ugliness. It was okay. He could live with that.

As long as people knew in practice that Chiaki was kind-hearted and meant to be a hero.

Let them think that this soft, human form is all there was to him. It was strong enough on its own, able to pick people up and carry them to safety. It was healthy enough, able to recover from illness and operate alongside everyone else. It was handsome enough –

Handsome enough that he didn’t feel bad, holding this impossibly beautiful boy in his arms, even as this impossibly beautiful boy would stare at him with all too piercing eyes and wonder if he was seeing everything.

Did Chiaki let others define him often?

He smiled Izumi’s favorite charming smile.

“I’m always myself, Izumi!”

A hero. His heart throbbed against his chest. Let me be your hero.

 


  

Fingertips traced against his jawline.

For someone with such a sharp tongue, Izumi’s touches were always unbearably gentle. For an ice witch, Izumi’s kisses always left Chiaki feeling scorched to the bone. For two people so independent, Chiaki and Izumi’s moments where they got caught up in each other always left them clinging, clutching, needing for more.

It was moments like this that never gave Chiaki a moment to question if Izumi wanted him.

The marks of possession, icy burns on Chiaki’s skin when the pleasure had run all the way up Izumi’s spine and through his fingertips, made that all too clear.

But Izumi wasn’t the only one who would slip.

Black sclera flashed between them when Chiaki’s hold on his powers loosened just as his arms around Izumi tightened. He felt the way that Izumi tensed in his arms for half a second. He saw the way that Izumi’s dazed blue eyes would shift into perfect clarity – seeing Chiaki for what he truly was.

He saw the hunger in Izumi’s gaze.

God, what?

Izumi surged up, kissing Chiaki harder, stealing whatever words Chiaki had right from the tip of his tongue.

It was official –

Even in a school of monsters and magic, of darkness and disaster, there was nothing that confused and terrified Chiaki more than Izumi Sena.

Most likely because nothing and no one could ever make Chiaki think ‘you could save me’ like Izumi Sena did.

 


 

“Hey, I’m right here.”

Chiaki opened his eyes, staring directly into Izumi’s cool blue ones as his gaze refocused. The other’s forehead rested against his and in that moment, Chiaki could see nothing but Izumi.

His heartbeat calmed.

“Don’t be stupid – don’t push yourself,” Izumi told him, not moving an inch back as his gaze locked with Chiaki’s.

Chiaki shivered involuntarily.

He felt it – the shift to his demon form. His wings continued to unfold behind him, his clawed hands struggled to not reach for Izumi automatically, and the only thing keeping him from that was the awareness that even as he started into Izumi’s beautiful blue eyes, jet black sclera were the only things staring at the other.

Yet Izumi faced this black void without flinching, he faced Chiaki without flinching.

“I… This is it,” Chiaki struggled to say.

‘This is it.’ Almost a ‘That’s all.’ As if this transformation didn’t haunt Chiaki in his dreams, didn’t haunt Chiaki now as he waited for the other shoe to drop, waited to be told that fairytales don’t come true.

‘Beautiful boys don’t fall in love with monsters like me.’

Izumi hummed noncommittally.

Chiaki swallowed.

He knew – this wasn’t the form of a hero. This was the form of the villain, the monster vanquished at the end of the episode, one of the many that would be thrown away for the sake of the plot because there was something that had already been decided long ago that they weren’t meant to be the star. Yet all this time, Izumi had known him as the hero, whether he scoffed at it or not.

All this time, Chiaki wore a disguise so he could be what he’d always dreamed of – instead facing his nightmare of a reality.

Soon, he’d have to wake up.

“… What depressing thing are you thinking of?” Izumi sighed, his hands coming up to cup Chiaki’s face. His hands were so, so warm, and Chiaki leaned into the touch without thinking.

“I… I’m not,” Chiaki stuttered weakly.

“You are.” Izumi was certain, but his gaze did not grow any colder. Rather, they remained impassive, perhaps even a tinge fond. “And for no reason. So stop wasting your time thinking about something like that, moron.”

“But I’m—”

“A demon,” Izumi finished.

Chiaki nearly flinched away, but Izumi’s hands held him still as the other appraised him.

“And you are Chiaki.”

Was it possible for demons to cry?

“And… for whatever reason, you’re a hero – because you decided to be one.”

Chiaki would very soon be finding out.

Years of self-loathing were persistent. They whispered to him, assuring him that this wouldn’t last. Izumi would most certainly change his mind because he would realize that demons can’t be heroes – that heroes can’t be demons, too. His insecurities continued to pull at Chiaki, uncertainty seeping into his skin for half a second.

But it was impossible.

It was impossible to believe in this moment, when Chiaki had found someone as worthy of love as Izumi Sena. Someone as unbearably broken and yet persistent as the ice witch in front of him. Someone so unbelievably talented and breathtakingly gorgeous. Someone who could look upon even the twisted creature that was Chiaki and still remain, certain that he could love this beast.

And that’s what this was.

Somewhere in Izumi’s eyes, looking at him clearly and aware of absolutely everything that Chiaki was, there was an ‘I love you.’

‘Me too,’ Chiaki thought as he let his arms circle around Izumi, pulling the other flush against him even as his wings came around to encircle them both as if he couldn’t bear the thought of them being apart. ‘Me too.’

Chapter Text

“I’m sure you’ll know him when you see him. He’s that kind of person.”

“Yes, young master.”

Eichi’s brow furrowed, not even looking up at his driver’s words, instead continuing to stare down at the message that he’d received at no earlier than 11 PM at night.

pLease help.

Followed by a pin where the sender had shared their location.

Where Chiaki Morisawa had shared his location, not even two blocks away from the hospital.

Cool blue eyes looked down at the text message. It was rather callous, considering the fact that Chiaki apparently needed someone, was quite desperate if he admitted that he needed Eichi, but Eichi still couldn’t help but wonder.

‘I didn’t delete his number? He didn’t delete mine?’

“Is… Is that the person that you’re looking for, Eichi-sama?”

“Is he not doing hero poses along the side of the road with a box of orphan kittens that he probably saved?” Eichi sighed. If not, then that probably wasn’t the person they were looking for. Still, he moved closer to the limousine window, tilting his head to check.

What he saw instead was an anxious, nervous pile of a man.

Chiaki Morisawa sat stooped on the curbside, red hoodie pulled over his hair, arms around his legs. His gaze stuck to the black of the pavement until something – the sound of a car, the headlights, Eichi wasn’t sure – made him look up.

When his eyes locked on Eichi’s, some light returned to his expression.

When was the last time he looked at Eichi like that?

Like he saw hope, instead of disaster?

 


 

“We’ll be okay, Eichi!”

A bright, young, round face with brown eyes that burned with the hope of the sun stared at him, held onto his hands. Even though Eichi was the one elevated, resting in the hospital bed whereas Chiaki had scrambled out of his own to stand next to him, something about Chiaki felt so big back then.

Like his love was big enough to envelop Eichi whole.

“I… I know that,” Eichi sniffed, turning his nose up as if tears hadn’t pricked at his eyes at the idea of yet another set of medical tests.

They were endless, you know. The nurses would come in, saying that there would be good news – don’t worry, you don’t have horrible side effect X, Y, or Z – but then move right on to say that tests were needed to ensure that Q, R, and S didn’t loom in the horizon.

It grew so tiring.

“Oohh, do you? Good, good!” Chiaki laughed, bright enough to fill up the whole room. He squeezed Eichi’s hands reassuringly, “This can’t last forever, you know? We’ll grow up big and strong and never have to worry about another test again! This is just another episode in our show!”

Just another episode in their show.

Even young, Eichi wondered what kind of show it was. Was it a hospital drama, where the two of them were recurring children who had to undergo a slew of tests, experience being prodded with needles, were used to garner sympathy and pull at the heartstrings of viewers?

Or was it a comedy, filled with the days when Chiaki would want to get up to mischief and bring Eichi in tow, like when they stole all the pudding cups from the cafeteria and built a fortress out of them in their hospital room? As if sunshine hadn't forsaken them?

Or was it a love story – something impossibly cliche, where they would fall for one another now, two kindred spirits, only to be torn away by none other than the embrace of death or - even worse - falling out of love?

“Don’t be scared, okay?” Chiaki continued on, inviting himself to sit right onto Eichi’s hospital bed, his arms wrapping around the other’s neck. He smelled like hospital food, medicine, and a breath of fresh air. “I’ll be right here when you get back.”

“I’m not scared,” Eichi replied petulantly even as he let Chiaki keep hugging him. “… but if you’re ever anywhere else, I’ll never forgive you.”

What a demanding young master.

Chiaki just laughed.

“Silly! I’ll always wanna be with you!”

Well.

To Chiaki’s credit, he hadn’t known he was lying at the time.

 


  

“Sorry,” Chiaki said.

Or rather, that’s what he probably said. It grew muffled in the way that he pressed his face against the shoulder of Eichi’s coat, caught in the wind as he threw himself against Eichi for a hug that he barely knew how to accept, much less return.

Sorry?

Sorry for what?

Questions rested precariously on Eichi’s tongue, dangerously close to being said.

Sorry for leaving me? Sorry for pretending that our acquaintanceship was merely that – acquaintances – for the sake of protecting your reputation as a hero and not wanting anyone to know about your stay at a hospital next to someone like me? Sorry for lying?

Sorry for being every bit the sun that you say you are and then taking your warmth away, leaving while I was in a hospital bed and couldn’t follow?

But instead what left his lips was: “You’re a fool, Chiaki.”

The other shivered against him. It must’ve been cold, waiting here while Eichi had to convince his parents that really – he wasn’t making trouble by requesting a ride out at 11 PM.

(“Someone important needs me,” he’d said to his driver to get him to stop asking questions that would be reported back to Mr. and Mrs. Tenshouin in the morning.

Eichi had wished that were a lie.

It would've been easier if he was just making trouble.)

“I know,” Chiaki spoke again, still not quite lifting his head. “I needed someone and… you were the only one that I thought of.”

Profiles flashed through Eichi’s mind. Three out of four members of Chiaki’s unit were underclassmen, weren’t they? Of course Chiaki wouldn’t call for them. The last was an Oddball and though he’d heard rumors of Shinkai and Morisawa’s closeness, rivaling that of a marriage, perhaps that’s why it would be too close to home to invite him in. It could become smothering. Perhaps that’s why Kiryu wasn’t called either—

They were still two blocks away from a hospital.

Chiaki, headstrong, stubborn, loving fool that he was, probably didn’t want anyone to see this part of his world.

Part of his and Eichi’s world.

“What happened?” Eichi sighed as he reached up, gloves brushing imaginary dirt off Chiaki’s jacket.

‘What’s so wrong with you that you needed to call me? What part of you is so twisted that I’m the only one who could understand?'

“I had… an episode.” Chiaki’s fingers shook. He didn’t peel himself off Eichi. “I had a scare and…”

“And what did the doctors say?”

“They haven’t yet.”

Eichi paused.

“You mean you haven’t—”

“I… I couldn’t…” Chiaki’s voice shook, his head bowed.

Eichi glanced down the street. Two blocks away from the hospital. It never occurred to him that Chiaki would have been stopped, his feet so weighted down that he couldn’t take another step, before he even reached his destination.

Not for the first time, Eichi thought that Chiaki was too weak to be a hero.

Before it had been a thought when Chiaki was too small, had no muscle to speak of, couldn’t even open his own applesauce and would instead be stuck pouting petulantly as a nurse opened it for him.

Before it had been when he’d heard that Chiaki was taking the mantle of Ryusei Red, Eichi laughing in the privacy of the Student Council Room because – how had that bright-eyed crybaby managed to become a leader of a unit?

Now it was in this moment, when Chiaki had called him in the middle of the night because he was afraid to go back to the place that they’d met without Eichi at his side. When Chiaki was so afraid that the past he’d tried so hard to bury was finally catching up to him –

Afraid that even after all these years of hard work, of posturing, of transforming himself into the heroes that he’d always so admired, he’d be forced to realize that in the end, he would always be the same, sickly, soft little boy.

‘But didn’t you realize, Chiaki? That’s the sort of game that life plays with us. Not all of these games are fun. Not all of them are fair. Not all of us come out of them as winners.’

“… You’re like a child, you know,” Eichi sighed as he gently pushed Chiaki off of him. “Well, I suppose it would make your parents cry if I left you here… so.”

He extended his hand out to the bewildered Ryusei Red, the self-proclaimed Hero of Yumenosaki Academy. He tried not to sneer.

“Let’s go, Chiaki. What would you always say? ‘Don’t be scared’? Hmm, I think that’s fair advice. Though you’ve always needed it more than I did.”

It was taunting, teasing, a full on mockery of Chiaki’s insecurity and fear.

Yet it wasn’t even a second later that Chiaki took hold of Eichi’s hand.

Despite everything, he did not look annoyed. He did not take Eichi’s bait. Inexplicably, he looked terribly fond.

This shameless idiot.

“Right…” he started quietly, the word practically lost in his sigh even as he held onto Eichi’s hand. How foolish, Eichi thought. They were high school students and yet Chiaki was so happy for them to become grade school children all over again.

(Eichi’s heart ached – maybe I want that too – but he paid it no mind.)

“Right,” Chiaki repeated, nodding this time. A smile curled around his lips, sheepish and shy, like the sun hiding behind the clouds. “I… I was scared – but I’m not anymore. H-How silly, huh? For a hero like myself to be so caught up like that…!”

The first steps made toward the hospital were taken by Chiaki. Led along by their fragile connection, Eichi walked next to him.

“For your anxiety to be dispelled so quickly, what am I? Your good luck charm?” Eichi continued to prod, herding Chiaki away from the depths of his own curling wisps of depression. “Or perhaps a spell ward or a scarecrow would be more accurate…”

“I think… a good luck charm would be accurate!” Chiaki spoke up, his bravado returning to him. Eichi watched the pieces of the hero mask realign into place, the little sick boy retreating from Chiaki’s expression. “I really…” He took a moment to look hesitant, contemplative, like he was about to utter something better left unsaid.

Eichi wanted to steal whatever unspoken words rested there from Chiaki’s mouth.

“I really… owe you, Tenshouin.”

The final piece of Chiaki’s hero narrative clicked into place – even now, he held Eichi at an arm’s length.

Though at least he held him by the hand.

Was that kind or cruel?

“What kind of President would I be if I were to allow one of my academy’s leaders to skip out on a doctor’s appointment?” Eichi followed the script that Chiaki had provided. At least for now.

It was worth it to see the flash of regret in Chiaki’s eyes.

Even so, he did not let go of Eichi’s hand.

One block left until the hospital.

“I mean…” Chiaki tripped up, caught off-guard by Eichi’s reinforcement of the space between them. “I mean – you’re a good friend, Ei—” His own eyes widened. “Tenshouin.”

Eichi glanced over to him, feeling Chiaki’s hand tense even against his gloved fingers. Yet despite the nervousness in Chiaki’s body language, the other’s gaze was direct and unwavering. Warm against the chill of the night air.

Chiaki’s lips curved into a smile, a real smile. Not the sheepish one that he’d offered earlier even in the face of his own uncertainty. This was more natural, a smile that was well-loved and worn, fitting around Eichi like a familiar old cloak. Maybe even a cape.

“You always have been,” Chiaki finished.

His heart was still as loud as a lion’s roar.

Eichi took a breath.

There were still so many things that had to be said –

(“Do you still always want to be with me?

“Is this your way of saying you miss me?

“Where have you been?”)

– but they’d made it to their destination and Chiaki’s fingers left Eichi’s for half a second, only long enough to intertwine them properly.

Eichi paused, sighed, and squeezed back.

This forward, shameless, fool.

He told himself that it wasn't out of any sort of love - perhaps it was closer to some sort of black comedy - that he just couldn't allow Chiaki to walk alone.

Chapter Text

 

It’s the light of the stars and the whisper of the ocean waves that welcome them.

To be honest, this wasn’t one of their better decisions – though depending on who you ask, some may say that those unreasonable third-years of Ryuseitai never have any good decisions.

Though in response to that , it would oftentimes take only a glance to catch the bright, infinite smiles on their faces at any given moment to realize that Chiaki and Kanata never particularly cared about what anyone else thought.

It was those smiles that carried them forward now on fast feet, their shoes left where the sidewalk met sand.

Chiaki was always full of energy and tonight was no different, his Ryusei Blue at his side as they met the incoming tide of the ocean. He laughed in surprise, his feet meeting the cold bite of the ocean but dauntless as he ran out further and farther, as if nothing could stop him from meeting that horizon.

Kanata moved slower, normally, always like a sea creature that had been brought to land and was still learning to move with gravity, but something about being so close to the ocean ignited something in his veins. The sea breeze beckoned him closer and closer and he felt revitalized, alive in a way that he only otherwise felt on stage, standing next to—

“Kanata!” Chiaki called, his pants rolled up to his knees and yet still getting damp with salt water as he waded out too far. Not that he, the warm light of Yumenosaki, seemed to even care. “Are you following? Are you okay? I’m right here…!”

As if Kanata could ever manage to lose sight of Chiaki.

His gaze softened, his lips pulled into a smile as soft as clouds, and he couldn’t help a small laugh that escaped him. Then, syrupy slow and full of peace: “Mm, do not ‘worry’, Chiaki. I am also ‘here’.”

Where he was meant to be, he thought, surrounded by his sea and sun.

Chiaki’s laugh outmatched the soft roar of the ocean, the sound of waves folding themselves over and over again before they crashed softly onto the shore. He walked forward, closer to where Kanata stood and held out his hand.

“Good, good! But ah – here! This way I’ll know exactly where you are, even though it’s dark. While we decided to go to the beach at night, it’s better to not be completely irresponsible?” the brunette smiled, his hand outstretched to Kanata. “Let’s go together!”

It was hard to say no to Chiaki – plenty of underclassmen knew that. When Ryusei Red got an idea planted into his head, he would often charge forward without any regard for the people with him.

But as Kanata wordlessly and automatically placed his hand into Chiaki’s warm hold, even interlacing their fingers immediately, he couldn’t help but wonder why anyone wouldn’t want to be running next to him in the first place.

“You’re still ‘warm’, Chiaki…” Kanata hummed, pleased and walking out further to meet him. “Even though the wind is ‘cold’ and the water is ‘cold’ and I am ‘cold’, you are not…”

Well, the sun did tend to exist in its own orbit, didn’t it?

But Chiaki looked confused, tilting his head. His eyes reflected the twinkle of the stars above.

“Mm? I’d never call you cold, Kanata… Even your hand is warm! Oh – but do you feel cold? Here…!”

Then like the hero that he was, always ready to save the day, he took Kanata’s hand in both of his and leaned down, blowing out a warm puff of breath.

Kanata blinked slowly, surprised. It was almost a delayed reaction.

He couldn’t help but manage his happy little sway, moving to and fro with the ocean that continued to lap at their legs. Unlike Chiaki, Kanata hadn’t bothered to roll up his uniform pants. He felt the chilly water brush against him but-

It was hard to notice, his hand in Chiaki’s, the other’s expression so pleased and proud of himself as if he had done such a great service for his fellow unit member and second in command.

Kanata nodded, a bob of his head before he met Chiaki’s gaze, something unbearably fond in his eyes. Well, given that display of kindness, what else could he say but—

“Thank you, ‘Chiaki’. For your ‘warmth’. I feel it, even in my ‘chest’.”

Right. His heart was beating a little bit faster, wasn’t it?

Chiaki didn’t understand – Kanata could tell, he could read the little lines of confusion that would appear around Chiaki’s eyes when he didn’t comprehend what Kanata said, but accepted it regardless.

The odd thing was that Kanata couldn’t quite understand it either.

As one of the Three Oddballs, Kanata didn’t belong among normal people – certainly not among heroes. Nothing calmed him more than the feeling of being immersed in water, no place felt more like home than the sea foam, and he’d thought that the only creatures who would truly accept him were those ocean dwellers. Even though he could never be among them, could never belong to the ocean enough to get lost in her waves.

But coming to Ryuseitai to help Chiaki accomplish his goals, finding young underclassmen who looked up to him almost as much as they looked to their sunny leader, he thought that it gave him a new place to belong – something he never thought that he could have.

Looking up at Chiaki, his features illuminated by the softness of the moonlight, contrasting with his natural red flare of his soul, Kanata had a thought that crossed his mind more and more often these days.

Finally, he found words for it.

“Chiaki…. If I am with ‘you’, it feels as though all my ‘dreams’ will come ‘true’.”

The confused lines around Chiaki’s eyes increased – to the point that he looked like he was surprised. Surprised enough that he could cry. Yet even as his eyes expressed his flash of vulnerability, his lips curled into a smile.

In the middle of the ocean, a place where Kanata would not have dared to go alone, they stood joined by their hands.

“Mm…!” Chiaki laughed, boyishly sweet and so full of light that he could rival even the brightest of stars. “You can count on me! I’ll always do what I can to be here for you – and…!”

Brown eyes, sweet as chocolate, crinkled at the edges as Chiaki looked at Kanata with so much warmth that he wondered if he could get burned.

“And I’ve needed you too. I didn’t realize that I did until I had you… so please accept this humble Ryusei Red and all his mistakes and – stay with me, okay?”

How typical of Chiaki – to always think of how he could improve, to only show this side of hesitation when no one else was around to see for the sake of his own foolish pride…

But that part of him shined too, Kanata thought.

If these were the parts of Chiaki that he would show only to Kanata, then he would intend to carefully keep them forever.

So his confession was met with a small, affirming noise and a quick, impulsive decision – the same kind that brought them to the moonlit beach in the first place.

Without warning, Kanata leaned forward, pressing his lips to Chiaki’s cheek.

“Ah?” he stuttered, a blush coloring his cheeks almost immediately, obvious even underneath the pale moonlight. Red was truly Chiaki’s color, wasn’t it?

Yet Kanata did not care to answer, instead stepping further out toward the ocean, as if they would make it to the horizon if they but only tried. “Chiaki, let us go ‘this way’? We will go ‘together’, yes?”

“Y… Yes!” Chiaki eventually found his voice, an octave too high and a decibel too loud, but at the very least, no one else was around to hear it but Kanata. Then, softly: “… I’ll never understand you, will I?”

To which Kanata looked back to him, a smile playing across his lips. Even with the brush of pink painted across his cheeks, Chiaki managed a smile back, bemused yet gentle. Confusion could not take away the sun’s natural shine, and Chiaki’s light was blinding.

He had found words for his gratitude but Kanata couldn’t.

Chiaki was so infinite.

Kanata would spend the rest of his days thanking the universe for the chance to be at his side.

‘Stay with me’, Chiaki had said.

But in this moment – in this endlessly stretching moment where they stood just at the coastline, warm hand in warm hand, underneath a blanket of stars – Kanata knew.

He had fallen in love with the sun.

And there was no place else he’d rather be than lost in his light.

Chapter Text

 

“How did you trick me into this?”

Tsukasa Suou had thought that it was a completely fair question as he stood in the center of his personal bedchamber, donut-shaped pillow in hand. Before him was a far more majestic array of pillows, a verifiable fortress of plush and cotton. Somewhere in there, Leo was laughing.

Muffled laughing, but laughing nonetheless.

“No tricks, no magic! Who do you think I am?” Leo peeked around the pillow fort, a wild grin on his face as his eyes lit up the room, rivaling the setting sun that cast long shadows from the window.

In all honesty, Tsukasa wasn’t sure how to find words to explain that there were plenty of times that Leo reminded him of magic. Of wizardry and sorcery, that little space between madness and insanity that he called his home. Like the fantasy books that his mother used to read him before bedtime, Leo would remind Tsukasa of something that could only come only in gusts of inspiration and—

Tsukasa didn’t think that he had the imagination to dream Leo up.

“My incomprehensible Leader,” Tsukasa finally answered Leo’s question before stepping forward, depositing the donut at the very head of the plush castle, as if it was the decoration at the bow of a ship or the flag high above a kingdom’s capitol. “I can think of no other who would be able to convince me to partake in this nonsense….”

“Wahahaha!! I’ll take that as a compliment!” Leo cackled before slipping in past the hanging drapes like some sort of weasel.

Since no one was there to see him, Tsukasa rolled his eyes.

It had been an hour and a half now since Leo had begun to make himself at home, taking the pillows that were on Tsukasa’s couches and rolling around in them on the floor before crying out ‘Inspiration!’ and stacking them. Of course, wild as Leo was and easily distracted as he was wont to be, his towers kept falling and—

If such a thing were to be forced into Tsukasa’s presence, at the very least it would be done right .

Which is perhaps what encouraged him to move forward, taking the pillows from Leo and applying his studies of physics and knowledge of balance and patience – the latter two being things that Leo certainly had no experience with at all – in order to stack them expertly, like a house of soft, soft cards.

“Amazing, Suo!” Leo had laughed, clapping his hands as he invited himself to run over and pull the sheets right off Tsukasa’s bed.

“Who said you could—Leader..!!”

And yet, despite the myriad of complaints that Tsukasa had about the entire situation, here they were now.

Crossing his arms as he looked upon it – certainly no other pillow fort was constructed of such fine, silken sheets and embroidered pillowcases – Tsukasa shook his head. It was juvenile and ridiculous. He hadn’t even built one of these when he was young, too quickly scolded by butlers and maids if he even considered the notion.

Not to mention the idea of being the lone inhabitant of a castle, no matter how soft the materials, had been a rather sad one even to Tsukasa at age seven.

Perhaps he was simply always too smart for his age.

“Suo!! Come inside!” Leo’s voice shattered his thoughts, followed by his head popping right out between the sheets that marked the entrance of their haphazard creation. “It’s super spacious! And pretty!! The light is reflecting off all the blankets like shing and shimmer and shaaaaaa !”

“I don’t know what that means.”

Wordlessly, as if he could not explain it any better than that, Leo’s hands also peeked through the fabric and his fingers waved and wiggled in the air. His eyes crinkled up in the edges with the intensity of his smile.

“I do not know what that means either,” Tsukasa sighed as he ran a hand through his hair. Still, he supposed that if he put this much work into it, he might as well witness the fruits of his labor. It was a little annoying, but he moved to his knees so that he could crawl in.

“Wahaha!! You’ll see! You’ll understand…!” Leo cackled before disappearing back into the great unknown of the pillow fort.

Tsukasa frowned even as he began to move forward. “Somehow, I doubt that.”

“Have a little bit more faith!” Leo called back and Tsukasa was admittedly a little started. He didn’t think that his leader would’ve managed to hear him…

Still, he pushed aside the soft sheets of the entrance to peek his head in, then the rest of his body. Leo had grabbed one of Tsukasa’s ornate lamps off a table and it was deposited in the center of the pillow fortress, but it took Tsukasa a moment to realize that it was still left off.

There were small cracks in their pillow fort, the little parts where the shapes did not completely match up and their lines did not entirely fold into one another. However this turned out to be a blessing.

Sitting in the center of the plush castle, the sun’s last rays managed to squeeze in through the slivers of space between blanket and pillow, coming inside the pillow fort and reflecting of the fine materials. A warm glow glimmered off the silk, casting everything inside their little hideaway with an ethereal gleam.

Just a few inches away, sitting so comfortably that Tsukasa could have called him the King of this domain, Leo was smiling faintly as his delighted gaze danced all across the spots of sunlight reflecting from the blankets.

“See?” Leo hummed softly. “ Shaaaaaaaa. ♪”

Tsukasa didn’t want to admit it out loud but – yes, he supposed he understood that now.

“It’s… prettier than I expected,” Tsukasa intoned even as the moment proved fleeting, the sun beginning to set past the horizon and therefore away from his window, taking the golden glow with it.

Leo reached over, flicking the lamp on and filling their space with the artificial light. It wasn’t the same natural glitter that filled their space, but it was enough.

“Mm, I know! You didn’t expect a lot, did you?” Leo laughed, canting his head to the side with an easy-going grin. Tsukasa always found it remarkable how Leo never seemed to be offended, no matter how little Tsukasa appeared to think of him.

Maybe it’s because he knew that Tsukasa thought far, far more of him than that.

Ah, what a dangerous thought.

“Well, it’s rather immature, you know,” Tsukasa huffed, puffing up in his defense. “Pillow forts are games played by grade schoolers, Leader. We’re far too old for this type of thing.”

“No way! Pillow forts are immortal, just like a youthful spirit,” Leo waved away that concern quickly, laughing. “Besides, you like it right? So don’t talk down on it – it’s okay to like immature things too, you know?”

“I disagree—”

“I knew you would,” Leo reached out, his pointer finger bopping Tsukasa’s nose to interrupt him. The young heir sputtered, unsure what to do with the gesture, but the noise of it made Leo laugh. “Wahahaha…!! You’re really fun sometimes, Suo! Mm, stubborn a lot but… well, that part of you is fine too. I like you! I love you!”

Even though he couldn’t help the pout that pulled at his lips, Tsukasa hesitated.

Given his upbringing – his tendency to err on the side of maturity and overcompensation – he couldn’t say that he’d heard anyone call him ‘fun’ before.

But Leo’s smile was so bright, his eyes possessing a glimmer and gleam of their own, that Tsukasa couldn’t find it in himself to doubt him.

Like the warm golden glow of the setting sun, he wondered if the feeling that filled this small space was love.

“I suppose if you’re really having fun, Leader…” Tsukasa sighed, moving to gently uncurl himself. Not too much, not too fast, else they suffer from a collapsing castle.

“Hmm? What’s that? It still sounds like a question,” Leo snorted softly as he leaned forward now, closer to Tsukasa. “Of course I am! I’m always having fun with you, Suo. Because you’re – different?”

“Different?” the redhead echoed, a hand coming up to his chin as he rolled the word around in his mouth.

What did that mean?

“Yeah!” Leo insisted, so full of energy that at the very least it didn’t seem like he thought Tsukasa being different was a bad thing. His mouth curled into a smile, excited. “No matter how you turn it, twist it, or tweak it, you’re nothing that I never expected…!

“Mm, I had a lot of expectations of Yumenosaki when I came back, you know? Toppled Emperors are fun and all, but you know what’s most important to me is Knights. I knew I’d come back to them, of course – Sena, Rittsu, Naru – but you were never in any version of the script.”

A little hum left Leo as he drew out phantom notes and staffs into the air.

“You know what they say. ‘Man plans, God laughs.’ And I’m sure he had a good time cracking up when I met you.”

“Especially when you met your defeat, no?” Tsukasa offered, a little bit of mischief of his own.

“Ooh, that was mean,” Leo cooed, eyebrows raising as his grin only grew sharper.

Tsukasa laughed faintly on his own, “All I mean to say is that there’s no way that anyone could have laughed harder than you did that day, Leader.”

When the points ended up being in Knights favor, when the internal rebellion was marked in victory of the defenders of the castle, when all the lights illuminated to say that the young prince had been named victorious against their renegade king.

That night Leo had thrown his head back in laughter, cackled until his lungs gave out and tears sprang to his eyes.

The memory of it danced between them, Leo smirking to himself as he shrugged. “I became a willing prisoner to my own castle that night,” he explained before gesturing to the sheets that hung precariously around them. “But that’s okaaaay, because I have you in mine.”

“These are my sheets?” Tsukasa sighed. “You know they cannot stay forever.”

“That’s the fun of it!” Leo chirped, scooting closer and closer still to Tsukasa. “It’s a sanctuary of a night only. A temporary cove. A fleeting safe house… So hey, Suo, do you feel safe?”

“No, not really, the structural integrity of this fortress is—”

“Suuuoooo!”

Obscuring a smile behind his hand, Tsukasa did his best to obscure his chuckle despite the amusement that lit up his expression.

“Yes, Leader. I feel safe.”

“Good! That’s important,” Leo hummed, though his tone implied that that was merely the first step to something. “I can’t expect to share secrets with you if you don’t feel safe, right?”

“Share secrets?”

“Yep! It’s not a pillow fort if we don’t share secrets in them,” Leo explained, despite having probably made up the rule right on the spot. “Because these are little spots that won’t exist anymore after we tear it down! And there’ll never be another place like it, you know? So it’s like we’re altering reality itself when we have little places like this….”

“You’re going too far with your metaphors again,” Tsukasa sighed, even if he couldn’t help but feel his heart flutter in response. Sure, Leo went off the rails with his tangents, but it’s not like he could deny that they were empowering. “Fine, Leader, what’s your secret?”

“Nope, you gotta tell me one first.”

“What?”

“You heard me! Well, probably, unless you’ve gone deaf,” Leo laughed to himself, now close enough to bump shoulders with Tsukasa. “You tell me a secret first. It’s gotta be a good one, though – because I’ve got a reeeaaaally good secret to share.”

“Something tells me you’re exaggerating,” Tsukasa pointed out even as he sighed, taking a moment to consider his options.

Also taking a moment to think that in this small space, there was still more room where Leo had been sitting before. Why had he come all the way over here? If it had been anyone else, Tsukasa would have felt suffocated.

… As is, perhaps it was fine.

“Very well, I have my secret.”

That was all it took to get Leo to lean in, enraptured.

Tsukasa wondered if this same trick would work in the club room when Leo wandered into one of his dizzying storms of inspiration – would he be able to rein his leader back in so quickly if he but only offered a secret?

“My secret…” Tsukasa sighed, violet eyes darting to the glow of the lamp. “My secret is that I –

“I have truly enjoyed this.”

A small, bashful smile crossed his lips as he hummed to himself. “It is juvenile and incomprehensible. My pillows and sheets are indubitably messy. I have no idea where you think you possess the right to decide to take actions like this in a room that isn’t yours—

“But regardless, it’s… peaceful. And even if this is a temporary, fleeting moment, I have no doubt in my mind that it shall be one that I remember.

“In truth I am not often allowed to indulge in things like this – when they’re so childish and silly – but… I am grateful for the excuse of your presence, Leader – and for the joys that come with it.”

The hum that resonated from Leo’s throat was sweet, approving.

“Okay,” he said into the silent space between them after a moment. “My turn.”

Tsukasa glanced over only to find Leo’s gaze already pinned on him, his look nothing short of adoring.

It was a surprise when Leo leaned in so suddenly and so closely that their noses brushed, his eyes becoming half-lidded in the short span of time, and his words were simple:

“I never planned to fall in love with an upstart – but I hope God laughs at this too.”

The space between their lips closed, Leo’s hand coming to rest over Tsukasa’s, and the young heir was sure that the rush of warmth that radiated through him was something blessed by the heavens above.

‘Ah.’ Tsukasa’s eyes slid shut as he breathed out an exhale, leaned up automatically to claim another kiss from Leo’s lips. ‘Leader’s love is warm, too.’

It was their secret.

It was their light.

Sealed inside a castle that was never meant to last forever, a King exchanged secrets with his Knight, and Tsukasa could not help but feel like there was no way that either of them could ever have planned for this.

 

Chapter Text

 

“I think our ‘seats’ are ‘this way’,” Kanata said softly, grabbing ahold of Chiaki’s hand. All around them was a sea of waving glowsticks and homemade banners. “Please don’t get ‘lost’, Chiaki.”

“Ahaha, I think that’d be a bit hard,” Chiaki responded, hand squeezing Kanata’s reassuringly. “After all… we’re home, aren’t we, Kanata?”

A soft laugh escaped the other, like rippling water, “In a way… But your hand is ‘shaking’, Chiaki. Are you ‘nervous’?”

Amber eyes burning even in the darkness of the evening, Chiaki raised a brow and gave a smile.

“I’d call it a feeling closer to excitement.”

 


 

The day that we reach our peak cannot come soon enough—

 


 

“I think we got what we needed on the first try! Nice job, Takamine-kun!”

Midori blinked, easing out of the pose that he held with hesitance, confusion because certainly the words that he’d heard were some sort of mistake. Rather, wouldn’t he have botched the first go at things like always, clumsy and useless and unenthusiastic?

Yet the crew continued to chatter on, preparing for the next model they would need to capture.

“Aahhh, amazing, Midori…!” Shinobu chirped excitedly from the sidelines, hopping deftly over a floor light to race up to him. “Your devastating face strikes again – I’m amazed! Enraptured! Inspired…!”

“Man, that just fires me right up!” Tetora clenched his fist, grin sharp as a sword. “Alright, I can’t do any less than that – you’ve really set the bar for us seniors, Midori…!”

Despite what people said about his height, Midori had never stood above anyone before. Swirling in his stomach, for once shouting louder and brighter than the anxiety, something else began to brew. Something like… pride? Or perhaps just unabashed affection—

A shy laugh bubbled forth, his eyes crinkling at the edges even as he sighed, “Ah, thank you…” and he wasn’t sure how to add ‘for everything’, didn’t possess the confidence for that yet, but he hoped they heard it.

 


 

—for I wait with bated breath for when you will ask—

 


 

“Okay how about this one, does this look manly enou—hey… who do you two think you are?”

Tetora’s bravado that had been there just a second ago deflated as he walked out into his living room in the fifth gi-headband combo he’d tried on that night, finding his two unit mates already fast asleep on the couch against each other. “Did I really take that long?”

“I guess I should wake them up…” he sighed, stepping forward and lifting a hand—

Hesitating.

Shinobu used to be so jumpy, small body so full of anxiety, in their first year that he struggled to sleep for long in the presence of others unless Kanata was present. (Something about their Ryusei Blue could calm them all.) And Midori’s sleep would often be fitful, interrupted in bursts and followed by apologies as if letting himself rest was a mistake.

Now the two of them slumbered in the comfort of Tetora’s home, radiating comfort and safety.

Grabbing his phone off the coffee table to check the time, Tetora shook his head fondly. It was a quiet night. To join the soft sighs of sleep, his voice spoke to no one in particular, “We’ve really come a long way, haven’t we…?”

(It would be the snap of Tetora’s phone camera that would jolt Shinobu and Midori awake, though they weren’t fast enough to keep him from uploading the photo to Instagram.)

 


 

—can you believe we made it? what was your biggest motivation? what are you most thankful for—

 


 

Niche lives and dream festivals had only grown more ridiculous under Emperor Tori’s guidance.

When he announced that the next competition that all units would partake in would be something called Yumenosaki Ninja Warrior, Shinobu admittedly thought it a gauntlet thrown at his feet.

The last obstacle was none other than a jump from the very top of the school (“There’s no way that’s safe!” Tomoya cried when he found out) and Shinobu was in the lead, but he could hear the clambering of Mitsuru and Tsukasa racing, hoping to overtake him at the finish line—

At the bottom, Tetora and Midori waited, arms outstretched.

“Hey, Shinobu! You are the Ninja Warrior! You can do this…!!” Tetora shouted, fiery and certain.

“He’s right!” Midori raised his hands higher, beckoning, “This is all you…!”

Tears sparking to his eyes, Shinobu felt the storm in his heart quiet. If it was those two waiting for him at the end, there was no way that he could ever fail.

With a yell, bright and confident – “for Ryuseitai…!!” – he jumped.

 


 

—and my answer will come like a tempest and shine like the stars—

 


  

It was like déjà vu.

The plot of the original Supernova was a classic – strong, veteran members of a justice-defending force fighting for what they believed in and turning monsters into greenhorn but excited allies – and so they kept it show after show that year.

But this time, it would be Red, Green, and Yellow lighting up the stage first.

“Ryu! Sei! Tai!” the audience clamored for them, glowsticks waving and voices like a tidal wave.

Backstage, the heroes stood hunched in a huddle, foreheads touching and hearts racing.

“Th-That’s it..!” Shinobu’s shook almost as much as his small frame. “They’re calling for us!”

“It’ll…” Midori gulped quietly. “It’ll be fine, right? We’ve done this a ton of times by now but even so I… I kinda feel like I want the ground to open up right underneath me…”

“Hey!” Tetora snapped, commanding the attention of golden and aquamarine eyes, “We’ve got this in the bag…!  You said it yourself, Takamine, this is another show for us… and we’ll do what we’ve always done – light up that stage, ignite the hearts of the people watching us, and make dreams come true!”

“Ahaha…!” Shinobu’s laugh rippled forth, refusing to allow there to be a second of silence. “Tetora has gotten good at the speeches… That’s our Red for you!”

Midori’s gaze softened. “I think you’ve finally grown into that jacket, Tetora. That guy would be proud…”

“He’d be proud of all of us,” Tetora snorted softly, shaking his head. “It’s not just me, you know? That’s the whole point of Ryuseitai—”

Midori and Shinobu nodded in agreement, spoke in unison with their leader to answer:

“All for one and one for all…!”

 


  

—you. Oh gods , it’s always been you.

 


 

Watching a familiar plot unfold on the stage, Chiaki bumped shoulders with his blue-haired companion, laughing merrily. “Familiar, isn’t it? But they might even be doing better than we did…!”

“I thought we were ‘very good’…” Kanata started slowly before letting his gaze fall back onto the stage, humming softly. “But they really are doing even ‘more’, aren’t they? The ‘children’ are all grown, Chiaki…”

The lights of the stage illuminated Chiaki’s gaze, cast lights upon the tears shimmering in the corners of his eyes as his heart swelled with pride. “Yeah… yeah, they are… but we’ll keep cheering for them anyway, won’t we? Because they’ll keep growing and growing, still.”

“Mm…” Kanata nodded in agreement before cupping his hands around his mouth, calling out. “Go, go! Ryuseitai…!”

Chiaki threw his head back in laughter, clapping his hands as he was beaten to the punch. Looking back to the stage, eyes sparkling, he called out so loud that he was sure the heavens themselves would be able to hear:

“That’s my team…! Don’t give up – you’re making all my dreams come true!”

 

Chapter Text

 

“Hello.”

Leo looked up and immediately wished that he hadn’t.

The single, solitary word came from a young man, hair as red as apples and eyes that glittered like galaxies - the kind that Leo saw in pictures from the Hubble telescope, all purple and full of unfathomable light. He was well-dressed, a fine leather tote with gold clasps settled on his shoulder on top of a well-fitted, tailored blazer, black slacks, and shoes that didn’t have even so much of a scuff on them. (Did he buy them for the first day of university? Freshmen .) The expression that he wore was open as a horizon, his smile relaxed and eyes fond even as he inclined his head toward Leo, who sat on the ground and peered up at him through bedhead and glasses.

‘Hey,’ he wanted to say, ‘I’ve got a bone to pick with whoever took the stars out of the sky and put them in your eyes.’

Instead, he blinked once owlishly, letting the silence between them stretch a beat too long before answering: “Yo.”

 


 

It’s not as if Leo cared about first impressions.

After all, Izumi never let him live down the fact that on the day they met, Leo carelessly flung a spoonful of tomato soup on the model’s vest.

So it wasn’t as if he couldn’t recover from a bad one.

But there’s something in a greeting. Something in that first ‘hello’ to break the silence that feels like cracking open a new book, like playing the first chord of a song, like the first step of a long, long journey.

For Leo Tsukinaga, he was sure that ‘hello’ from Tsukasa Suou was it.

The beginning of... everything.

 


 

It was a moonlight sonata.

But if anyone had said that to Leo’s face he would’ve laughed out loud.

Instead, his fingers danced along the ivories of the piano in the music room, door flung wide open, his personal set of keys still dangling from the lock. The little gold rocket ship keychain that his beloved little sister gave him for Christmas gleamed against the moonlight, rattling on occasion with the passing wind as Leo had flung every single window open as soon as he’d entered in, like a hurricane heralding the agents of Sylph to lend him a hand.

Ah, how badly he wanted to play.

It began softly, the tickling of the keys with his right hand alone as Leo closed his eyes and let the upper range of the piano sing softly to him.

(“Oh, it’s you again,” the boy with stars in his eyes recognized him as he’d stepped into the music room a week after they first met. “I was wondering if that first day was just a fluke.”

Leo hopped between different music rooms as he needed for his composing, choosing a new one each day based on the position of the sun, the speed of the wind, what he’d had for lunch -

Still, he grinned, “Were you looking for me?”)

A second hand joined its companion, providing counterpoint, a steady balance as the upper notes began to fly, to twirl around in the higher register recklessly like dancers with nothing to lose.

(“You’re nothing like I imagined,” Tsukasa commented one day, not even away from the various phrases in French that he was scribbling across the whiteboard.

Wrinkling his nose, Leo glanced over to him and frowned, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re the rumored pride and joy of the music department. They mention you on tours for prospective students - ‘did you know that the illustrious composing prodigy can be found at all hours in our music building?’ Tales of grandeur such as that,” Tsukasa explained, pausing a beat before adding. “So I thought that you would be someone who… I don’t know. Used a hairbrush?”

“You sound like you’re complaining, freshman..! Are you really in any place to criticize musical genius?!”

That’s when Tsukasa finally pulled his eyes away from the chalkboard, glancing over to Leo and his lips curled into smile that did unfortunate things to Leo’s heart. “Well… it suits you, I suppose.”

He was like a flower in full bloom.)

Then the harmonies began to dance together like two souls drawn to each other from across the universe, to mirror each other as one hand built up a staircase of notes that would lead to the next. Every piece came together seamlessly as if they were meant to fit, as if they were coming home.

(When the door opened, Tsukasa startled awake.

Lead marks stained his cheek and Leo wanted to brush them away - or smudge them and make it worse, he wasn’t quite sure - but it was a slow, excruciatingly wonderful thing as Tsukasa’s face grew red enough to match his hair.

The sun was setting on their little meeting place.

“Don’t tell me you were waiting on me…” Leo teased, his grin already curling into something amused to cover up the way that his fingers tightened around the doorknob in his grip.

Like the little posh boy he was, Tsukasa wrinkled his nose as his lips tipped into something dangerously close to a pout.

“Y… You can’t mock someone for habit!”)

Something distant pulled Leo’s hands off briefly, let his furious fingers quiet into a diminuendo. Like the softness of the breeze that blew into the open room, the intensity of the piece fell apart like shards of Leo’s heart at his feet.

( My mother and father are away often, it’s just how it is. But it’s easy to forget how big a house is until you’re the only one in it, you know? was the text that flickered on Leo’s screen even as he laid in bed, reading over the lonely words from a lonely boy that he wanted to tuck into his arms.

Ellipses appeared on his screen to imply that Tsukasa wasn’t done.

But you know the funny thing is that I’ve been laughing so much at the terrible alien doodles that you’ve been sending to me that the silence doesn’t even register. Isn’t that just nonsense?

I think you make me feel less alone. )

Strings….! The piece needed strings! Leo leapt away from the piano to grab for a pen, scrawling on the poor abandoned sheets that had been left on the stand before letting the notes crawl onto his own hands, marked into his own skin as he fell into the chaos of creation.

(His heartbeat raged in his chest like a tiger in a cage. He barely remembered to grab his keys to stash into his pocket, his hoodie haphazardly pulled over his pajama shirt, legs carrying him out of his apartment as fast as they could manage.

He could see his breath in the cold of the evening - the middle of the night actually, but didn’t you know that time was relative? - but he couldn’t feel anything aside from the fire in veins.

The tips of his fingers itched, his brain was writing a score even as he skipped three steps at a time down the staircase to the bottom floor of the music building, and nothing registered but an ache in his soul.

Distantly, he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, like an accompanying rhythm.)

Two hands stained in ink, dozens of scrawls of notes against a staff, and a full spontaneous piano recital later, Leo let his eyes rake over the mess he’d made.

Even as the chords and harmonies played out in his head as his eyes scanned the sheet music, he held his breath.

Was it really enough?

To the empty room drenched in starlight, he admitted the secret that he’d kept to himself since the first day of university that year:

“I... want to make music for the way you make me feel.”

Less alone. Less distant. Less cold.

More kind. More sweet. More alive.

More more more .

“Whoever that person is - they’re very lucky.”

Leo whirled around on his heel, his lion’s mane nearly hitting him in the face with how swiftly he’d spun. His eyes were so wide that he wondered if the sockets didn’t have room, if they’d come flying out of his head and then roll to Tsukasa’s feet from where he stood in the doorway.

In comparison, the redhead didn’t look like he’d even changed into pajamas. His dress shirt was faintly wrinkled as if he was lounging, but his appearance was otherwise immaculate.

Leo became starkly aware in that moment that his pajama pants had cat faces.

“You’re - here?” Leo questioned, his lips not quite ready able to form a response to Tsukasa’s statement even as his heart screamed, ‘It’s you, it’s you, it’s been you for seven months, two weeks, and six days. It’s been you for that many sunsets.’

That’s a lot of sunsets to spend thinking that someone drenched in golden light is worth putting in every art gallery, museum, and opera house.

(“I hope that you never fall in love,” Izumi said to him once. When further probed as to why with whining noises and incessant poking, he continued. “You just seem like the kind of idiot who doesn’t know when to stop.”)

“Ah, I am…” Tsukasa admittedly slowly, embarrassed as pink began to flush his cheeks. “You stopped responding to my texts… so I grew restless. My feet took me to campus before I noticed and - when I heard the music, I followed it.”

His expression warmed to something fond, something that made Leo’s stomach warm like he’d had a full cup of hot chocolate. “I’m glad I did.”

Taking the steps forward to close some of the distance between them, Leo felt himself smiling before he even realized how happy he was. “I’m glad you did too.”

The wind picked up some of the sheet music from the floor where they’d fallen in Leo’s recklessness. Leo grinned. The music was still dancing.

“The person that caused…. this,” Leo gestured to the mess of the room, to the scrawlings of staffs on his own arms, to the mess that he was with his blue hoodie and silly pajamas, “I don’t think you know them very well.”

He watched the wall fall in front of Tsukasa’s eyes, like palace gates shutting to hide away the fragile little prince. “I… don’t?”

“Not very well, nope!” The composer was relentless - he had to be. His words had purpose, meaning, and Tsukasa would never hear them if he didn’t finish what he was saying. Every journey had its end. “It’s not like I’d be running around and leave the comfort of my waaaaarm warm bed for just anyone, you know?

“This person - they’re explosive. Like a volcano! But one that we always thought was dormant, because they look so calm. Then the next second, it’s like - kablam! There it goes. Like Pompeii, everything in their path is changed forever. My plans, my expectations, everything that I put together… none of it stays standing.”

Leo stepped forward, watching the curiosity return to Tsukasa’s eyes, but not without sprinkles of apprehension.

“But I’m glad…! Ah - looking back on it, my plans were boring. And this person, he’s the furthest thing from boring! Everything he does, it’s like fireworks. Even when he wants to do something responsible, it ends up being something reckless. Like his heart beats for rebellion.”

A flush crawled up Tsukasa’s neck and Leo watched it with immense satisfaction.

His crescent moon smile hooked at the corner. “You wouldn’t know anything about someone like that, would you, Young Master Suou?”

“I…” Tsukasa started, stopped. His expression grew frustrated before he looked away, red coloring his cheeks. “.... It might sound familiar.”

“Wahahaha! And that’s what I mean!” Leo announced, starbursts in his eyes as he closed the last of the space between them. They stood toe to toe, almost nose to nose if Leo just leaned up. Ah, he could do so many things if he leaned up but he wasn’t done—

“Prince Tsukasa wouldn’t know about the person who makes me feel like this - because the person who makes me feel like this isn’t self-aware at all. He hides behind silk curtains and French accents to look like royalty but….”

Letting gravity pull him, Leo fell back, step by lumbering stop as he opened his arms.

The music room was cold. It was in disarray as the wind picked up music as it pleased. Two young men stood in its heart in the middle of the night, delivered there by swift feet and what they could call only a feeling .

“But only a dirty rebel that can fight with the best of them can make me feel like this .”

Steadying his gaze back on Tsukasa, Leo bared his soul in his own meandering vagabond way.

I fell in love with the way that you start fires.

And a flame flickered in the reflection of Tsukasa’s eyes, the light of burning stars and constellations of heat, everything that Leo wanted to engulf him.

“So it’s… me.”

Leo’s heart screamed in his chest, the same words still on repeat.

It’s you, it’s you, it’s been you since—

He nodded.

“It’s always been you.”

Chapter Text

“No, no, no, Adonis-chan!” Arashi tittered immediately, laughter like bells as the other fumbled with the assortment of softly colored, pastel trays in front of him. “For crepes, you simply must add a little bit more embellishment, you know?”

The fellow track runner looked up at Arashi with curious eyes, coupled with a tilt of his head. His eyes darted back down to the plates, the sweets that lay atop the fancy dishware, and then back up. “Embellishment… Isn’t it already plenty?”

Well, maybe he had a point.

They’d ordered a variety of sweets – but what else could Adonis have expected when he’d invited Arashi of all people to help expand his dining palette? A chocolate-drizzled parfait sat to their left, some slices of a delectable strawberry-topped cheesecake to their right, and their individual crepes sat in front of them. Arashi’s was a smattering of pink pink pink, marshmallows, whipped cream, strawberry slices, and cherry drizzle doodled in the shape of a heart. Adonis’s was hearty as well, blueberries rolling down the whipped cream mountain that already had little chocolate chips lodged inside of it.  Arashi wasn’t sure but based on previous visits, the chocolate chips probably looked like a bear?

Still, another light, echoing laugh escaped smiling lips as Arashi pointed out the powdered sugar in a small container. “Just a liiittle bit more. The chocolate might make that a smidgen bitter? Be a good boy and listen, okay? Don’t you trust me?”

Although he’d already been reaching for the powdered sugar as instructed, Adonis let his eyes fall back on Arashi and when he smiled, it was as if the sun was breaking through the clouds, warm and soft to touch.

“Of course I do, Narukami. I would not have asked for help from someone I didn’t trust.”

And with that, he proceeded to powder on that sugar.

Watching the white dust fall onto the crepe, Arashi felt a similar shaken, falling feeling in the general ribcage area.

“Oh dear…”

“Ah.” Adonis paused, brows furrowing as he looked down at the powdered sugar pile where his crepe was now buried. “Perhaps that is… too much embellishment.”

“Maybe just a bit,” Arashi teased before reaching over with the provided fork and dusting about the crepe, making little paths in the sugar before pulling back. In the remaining dust was the sweet, succinct: ‘Enjoy! ♥’

“You’re making fun of me now…” Adonis huffed faintly before shaking his head and proceeded to sever off a small portion of the crepe that had been uncovered in Arashi’s dusting, bringing the piece up to his mouth and humming in pleasure.

“Good?” Arashi smiled, knowing full well what the answer would be.

“Delicious,” was Adonis’s simple answer as he then proceeded to look at the other items on their table. “May I move on…?”

“Mm, you can start on your cake slice,” Arashi instructed easily after swallowing down the rest of the scrumptious strawberry. “The parfait is for us to share, so let’s save that for last!”

“Share?” Adonis blinked, tilting his head. “You’re certain?”

Though there was still something in his voice that sounded… apprehensive. Uncertain.

Which Arashi picked up on easily, brows furrowing in mild disappointment. “Hmm.. You don’t want to?” Though as there was no change in Adonis’s expression, Arashi moved on, small smile forming. “Or… you’re afraid I’ll have a little too much so it’s not even?”

Shifting uncomfortably, Adonis gave it away very, very easily that Arashi had hit the nail on the head. “Well, it’s just—my sisters… when they set their sights on something and would say we’d share, it wasn’t always…”

“Oohh, am I like your glamorous sisters?” Arashi gasped happily, pleased to be compared to what was undoubtedly an absolutely gorgeous family. After all, just look at that fine specimen across the table. “What a compliment!”

Adonis paused for a moment, as if wrestling with a few other choice words that he had for his sisters, before relaxing and offering a smile. “I don’t know if you remind me exactly of them… Ah, well, sometimes you do—when you instruct me, you sound very much like them.”

Humming happily as another strawberry fell past glossed lips, Arashi shrugged. “You’re just very good at taking suggestions.”

“Like that,” Adonis nodded. “But more than that…

“All of this,” he gestured to the table all around them, the assortment of foods and the sweet atmosphere of the café that Arashi had suggested, “it’s nothing that I really experienced back home… which is perhaps another reason why I asked you to join me.”

“Mm?” Arashi paused. There was a good chance that this would go where expected, but… “Really? You thought that far ahead?”

With a firm nod, Adonis offered a smile.

“You remind me of home. Even when I go somewhere new, I don’t feel like I’ve strayed that far at all, as long as you’re close by.”

Again.

Again, Arashi felt a sensation similar to that of falling and the thought passed by briefly: when will the impact come?

Adonis had resumed eating, little noises of awe and contentment escaping him, but Arashi remained stricken with—something? That fluttering feeling, could it be… butterflies?

“Ah, your last order is here…!” Their waiter arrived, bringing along a small, delicate bowl that contained a few oddly-shaped snacks that looked like they were… steaming? “Dragon’s Breath!”

Adonis’s attention was snagged immediately, his eyes darting to the odd plate. “The breath of a dragon? Japanese dragons? No, that can’t be, they shouldn’t—”

“Shh, don’t ruin the fantasy of it, Adonis-chan!” Arashi interrupted with a wave of a hand, then reaching over to pick up one of the offered toothpicks, then impaling one of the snack shapes with a firm sounding crunch . “Here, watch!”

Then, always one to put on a show, Arashi twirled the toothpick in nimble fingers before letting the snack itself fall past opens lips. With one firm snap of teeth, the snack broke apart and released a flood of cold. In the final step, lips parted ever so slightly, releasing a stream of cold air with every additional munch. Smoke swirled overhead, just as if Arashi was a dragon.

“Amazing…!” Adonis’s eyes widened before moving to mimic the same movements – though with just a little less finesse. With the first bite into the snack, the cold took him by surprise, leading to his eyebrows shooting up into his hairline as the cold smoke escaped his lips, even as he exclaimed, “A pale fire…!”

Meanwhile Arashi laughed, clapping in amusement, “There you are, the mighty Adonis-chan dragon, ahaha…! It’s really amazing what you can do with liquid nitrogen these days, isn’t it? Don’t worry, you’re safe, you’re safe, but it’s fun, right?”

“Mm….!” Adonis relaxed at the apparent sound of Arashi’s laughter, the last of the smoke leaving his mouth in the exhale. “I feel like I learn new things each day…”

“And? Isn’t it fun?” Arashi giggled as another snack was impaled on a toothpick, “Now we’re mighty dragons… Though I do wish that I would rather be the princess? That lovely maiden so beautiful that even beasts can’t stay away!”

“The ones who get captured…?” Adonis’s brow furrowed. “I don’t know if that suits you, Narukami…”

“Haaa?” Arashi pouted immediately, the cold smoke this time exiting through the nose in an irritated puff. “That’s not very nice, Adonis-chan. Are you saying that I’m not pretty enough to be a captive princess?”

“You’re misunderstanding…” was the easy response as Adonis resumed his fight against Sugar Mountain. “More than whether or not you’re pretty enough, I think you’re too strong to be taken captive.”

Arashi allowed one carefully manicured eyebrow to lift. “Go on…”

“Mm? I’d thought it obvious…” Adonis paused, a hand lifting to his chin in thought. “Even if you were to catch the attention of a dragon, you would not be left in a tower? Or castle? Perhaps a shrine… I don’t know where the princesses get taken in Japan.

“But even if I were to go to your rescue, I’d expect to arrive and find you already slaying the dragon – or perhaps befriending it and painting its nails.”

By the end of his explanation, Adonis’s smile eased into something amused. “What large nails those would be…”

Soft pink blossomed on Arashi’s cheeks – and it was impossible to miss, that was for sure – but still, the question was burning: “You’d come to rescue me?”

Their gazes locked and Adonis laughed. A soft, familiar rumble.

“I’d try, but you’d save yourself, wouldn’t you? Narukami is always stronger than anyone expects.”

Butterflies .

Like the Dragon’s Breath – the rush of cold, then the delight, the sheer magic.

Like the dessert tray – sweet, tart, refreshing to taste and good for the soul.

Like something new, something scary, something so close that Arashi only wanted to reach out and keep it forever.

“You can say that, but…” Arashi trailed off, looking away and taking a moment to use a napkin as a fan to cool off flushed cheeks. “I’m really defenseless against you, Adonis-chan…!”