When You was a child, the world was in monochrome. His mother's hair was a rustic silver, his brothers' eyes were dark jewels, and his best friend's smile was as bright as the white moon.
As he got older, he began dreaming about color. The inner romanticist within him wondered how beautiful the world would become with color—how many more shades of life he'd be able to see. But colors were only reserved for people who found their soulmates, the lucky ones who found salvation in love, like his parents.
"When do you think we'll find the people who will paint our worlds with color, Yoru?" he asked after a long summer afternoon in their hilltop hideout.
"I don't really want to think about it." Yoru closed his eyes. "I just want them to come when I'm ready."
"So you're scared?"
"Less of my soulmate, more of change," Yoru admitted. "Because once we touch one another…we can't go back to our old lives, you know?"
As a rebellious ten year old, You didn't quite understand what his childhood friend was saying, but said nothing.
It wasn't until high school that he finally understood.
When he was a first-year, there was a girl he liked—a third-year who was not only cute, but also charming and well-spoken. Looking back on it, he realized she treated him more as a little brother than a friend, but at the time, he was entranced.
One day, when talking to her before she left for club activities, he accidentally bumped arms with her. An electric shock overwhelmed his body and suddenly, graytones faded into new shades—a palette of colors he had been denied his entire life until that point. But while he was busy adjusting to his newfound world, the girl tilted her head in confusion and asked if he was alright.
"Do you see that?" he asked.
"See what?" she replied, and the world came crashing down.
She can't see the colors, he realized.
That evening, he researched every color, every shade of the fabled rainbow, familiarizing himself with his new world. But in actuality, he was trying to drown out his heartache. His only hope seemed to be a symptom called "color-blindness," a thing he discovered during his research fervor.
But, as though the universe was mocking him, the next month, he learned the girl was now enjoying a life of color with one of her fellow classmates—a guy with features more stunning and eye-catching than You's own, he had to admit.
Yoru became his only point of comfort afterwords. His childhood friend would gaze at him with mournful eyes—both dyed a beautiful dark milky blue—and console him for days on end.
"I'm sorry," he'd say over and over. "I'm so sorry."
"Things would be easier if you were my soulmate instead," You once said.
"You're just saying that," Yoru replied.
"Yeah." You sighed. "I am."
Ever since that fateful day, You refused to let anyone make any unnecessary contact with him. He'd reject handshakes, high fives, hugs—whatever form of physical interaction he could avoid, he would shy away from.
"This isn't good, you know," Yoru told him. "You're just running away because you don't want to be hurt again."
"Says the one scared of the idea of a soulmate," You countered.
Yoru's eyes were a cold, icy blue. "At least I'm willing to shake their hand."
But despite Yoru's protests and his family's concerns, You continued with his life, remaining as distant as he possibly could from his surroundings. He wore sleeves when he was in a crowd, insisted on maintaining his personal space, and glared at anybody who dared remark about his sensitivity. With every passing day, his world of color, his childhood fantasy of beauty, seemed more like a curse than a dream come true.
So much for spending days in rainbow-filled happiness. He scrolled through his phone, passing by various news stories and tabloid features about actors and stars in multicolored prints and designs. Who needs a soulmate anyways?
But the romanticist inside of him was crying, mourning the love that fate cruelly denied him.
Nothing matters anymore, he told himself. I'm going to be alone forever, and there's nothing I can do about it anymore.
One day, just a few weeks shy of university graduation, Yoru walked up to him and said, "My friend invited me to a party tonight."
"That's great," You said. "Go have fun."
"You're coming too."
Oh. That was a surprise.
"Why do I have to go to some cruddy party?" You grumbled. "Lemme guess, it's just going to be some stupid bar crawl thing to celebrate our youth before we graduate, isn't it?"
"One, it's at his apartment, and two, it's just a casual little thing." Yoru's eyes, now a dark ocean of concern, were wavering. "And three, you deserve to have some fun for once."
If any other person had invited him, You would have curtly turned them down. But because it was Yoru, sweet, gentle Yoru who had given him nothing but support and a shoulder to lean upon ever since they had been in diapers, he sighed and relented.
"I'll stay for an hour."
Yoru's smile was as bright as it had been when they were kids. "I'll take it."
The party was indeed a casual little thing, but You was not feeling the vibe.
The host was a dark-haired boy with dark eyes whose expression never changed even when a bottle of champagne exploded all over him. Arata, You recalled, a more or less friend of Yoru's he met during opening ceremony three years prior. But even with the antics the host was getting into, You was far from amused.
"Oh, there you are." Yoru stepped in You's path, careful to avoid bumping into his arm. "Your hour isn't up yet."
"I was going to get another drink," You said. Because he was clearly too sober for this.
"Well, if you have the time…" Yoru turned. "This is Aoi. I'm sure I've told you about him before."
You eyed the boy who stepped up beside Yoru. The first thing he noticed was his white blonde hair, with bangs splayed across his forehead and a small tuft of hair resembling wings sitting above them. Then it was his lips, which were a rosy pink color that could put lipstick models to shame. Finally, he settled on the boy's eyes, a beautiful electric blue that glimmered with life.
"Nice to meet you," were the first words out of that beautiful mouth. "I'm Satsuki Aoi. Yoru's friend."
You shook himself out of his thoughts. "Ah, right. Yoru's talked about you before."
"That's what I said," Yoru muttered.
"Haduki You. But call me whatever you want." You looked into his cup, already contemplating escaping the situation by getting a refill. "Um…"
"I'll get that for you." Yoru snatched away his cup, along with his salvation.
"Oo, me too please," Aoi sang as he held out his cup.
"Got it. I'll be back." And Yoru was gone, leaving the two practically strangers in the back of the living room.
"Yoru mentioned you two were friends," Aoi said, trying to liven the mood.
"Childhood friends," You corrected. "I've known him since forever."
"Even better." Aoi's eyes shifted towards the kitchen. "Mine is making a mess over there."
You followed his gaze. "You mean Arata?"
"The one and only," Aoi chuckled. "He's impulsive and blunt, but I cherish him all the same."
You watched as Arata threw a ping pong ball at a pink-haired boy's face. "I'm glad someone in this room knows how to tolerate him."
"He'll be significantly tamer when he starts to get sleepy."
"So in ten seconds?"
"Maybe a half hour."
The two chuckled softly afterwords. You noted that the wings on top of Aoi's head seemed to flutter as his body shook with laughter.
"You two seem to be having fun." Yoru's eyes were sparkling like polished sapphires as he held out two cups.
"Loads." Aoi took a sip. "Hm. Bitter."
"Did I get the wrong one?"
"No, it's fine." Aoi's smile was bright, like sunlight shining on pearly white sand. "Just different is all."
"That's a relief." Yoru raised his head in You's direction. "What about you?"
"Huh?" You shook himself out of his daze and took a swig from his cup. "It's fine."
Yoru opened his mouth to respond, but someone tapped on his shoulder, so he politely excused himself.
"Let me know if you're leaving," he told You before disappearing, leaving the blonde and redhead alone once again. You shifted his weight between his feet uneasily, unsure of what to do.
"Hey, You…" Aoi finally said. "Do you mind if I ask if you have a…" he paused. "Never mind."
"Soulmate?" You finished.
Aoi nodded. You sighed.
"I can see colors, yes."
"What about you?"
"No." There was something dark behind his expression, a solemn sorrow that stained his brilliant azure irises. "I can't."
You felt his expression soften. For some reason, he was tempted to reach out and pat Aoi's shoulder, or squeeze his arm—some gesture of reassurance, much like the ones Yoru used to give him back when his life was both brightened and dulled by color. But fear quickly overwhelmed him, so he kept his hand by his side.
"You still have time," You said. "Really, I'd much rather be in your shoes if anything."
Aoi quirked an eyebrow. "Don't like your soulmate?"
You pursed his lips. Memories of her silky dark chocolate hair and sparking sepia eyes flashed through his mind.
"She…was matched with someone else."
"Oh." Aoi stared into his cup, obviously sensing the tense mood that had engulfed their conversation. "I'm sorry…"
"It's not your fault," You whispered. "She's happy, and that's all that matters."
"What about you?"
The question took him back. He stared at the blonde. Aoi gazed back at him, roseate lips pursed and cerulean eyes wavering.
"What about me?" he finally asked.
"Are you happy?"
You pressed his cup to his lips. "That doesn't matter," he murmured as he downed its contents.
"I think it does."
You raised his eyebrows. "You tell that to every stranger who's in a one-sided soulmate situation?"
"No." Aoi averted his gaze. "I just think everyone deserves to be happy."
"You really are something, aren't you, Aoi-chan?"
Aoi tilted his head. "Am I?"
"Hm." You crushed his cup. "I'm going to throw this out."
"Okay." Aoi scratched his neck. "I might step out onto the balcony for a bit…it's a little warm in here."
"You sure it's not because of the alcohol?" You asked, noting the twinge of red in the blonde's cheeks.
"It might be," Aoi mumbled. "It was nice meeting you, though."
"Yeah." You found the corner of his lips curving upward. "You too."
He found Yoru near the trash can, desperately trying to wrestle a bottle of sake from an obviously drunk Arata's hands.
"You're the host, you know?" Yoru sighed when Arata whined in protest. "Alright, well I can't stop you." He released the bottle, causing Arata to let out a loud cheer before disappearing into the living room. "Maybe I should get Aoi to manhandle him…"
"Aoi-chan is trying to get some air," You said, causing Yoru to jump.
"Oh, it's you." Yoru sighed. "Well, in that case, I guess I'll let him rest a bit."
"I can go get him for you, if you want."
You shrugged. "You're basically the host now anyways, since the actual one is being a doofus." He glared in the direction of the living room.
"I can't deny that…" Yoru leaned against the counter. "You seem to be enjoying yourself, though."
"Is that a bad thing?"
"No." Yoru's eyes had a merry shine in them, like sunlight bouncing off ocean waves. "I just haven't seen you relax like this in a long time is all."
"Whatever you say, Yoru."
When he stepped out onto the balcony, You was greeted with a gust of cool air. It was a refreshing feeling after the warmth of the apartment interior and the alcohol buzzing in his veins.
"Hm?" A figure turned. "Oh, it's You."
"Evening, Aoi-chan." You stopped beside the blonde. "Arata's making a mess of himself."
"Is he drunk?"
"Is Yoru looking after him?"
"I'll be back in a few minutes then." Aoi leaned against the railing and closed his eyes. The gentle breeze caused the ends of his bangs to flutter in the air. "I just need a few moments."
"To clear your head?"
"Just to recollect myself."
You looked out over the railing. "I get what you mean."
In the distance was the city skyline, bespeckled with numerous yellow and white lights. Surrounding it was a swath of inky indigos and violet painting the night sky.
"It's nice out here," Aoi finally said. "Quieter too."
"Prettier too," You whispered. "The skyline is gorgeous."
Aoi chuckled. "I'll take your word for it."
"What if I have a bad eye though?"
Aoi shrugged. "I trust you."
"Oh?" You leaned against the railing and flashed the blonde a smirk. "Is there a specific reason why?"
"Well, Yoru trusts you, for one thing." Aoi smiled softly. "I also think that you have a kind heart."
"That's not something I'm used to hearing."
"You carries a lot of sorrow with him because of his soulmate, I'm sure," Aoi began. "But…I don't know. You don't seem to hate them for leaving you. It's like you…blame yourself instead." He bowed his head. "Like I do for being unable to find mine."
"You know, when I was a kid, I always dreamed about what it'd be like to meet my soulmate," Aoi said. "Like, maybe we meet because their pet is a patient at my dad's clinic, or we just so happen to go to the same school, or it's a stereotypical meet-cute scenario where we claim the same drink at the local cafe." His expression fell. "But when my brother and Arata both found their soulmates during high school…I started to worry that there was nobody out there who was matched with me. And even if there was, what if I'm not good enough for them? What if they don't like me? What if they wish that I wasn't their soulmate? What if…what if they don't want me?" His voice cracked. "I don't want to be alone…"
You was silent.
"Oh, what am I saying?" Aoi suddenly laughed. "Ah, maybe the alcohol is getting to my brain? Why am I saying these things to you anyways? We barely know each other…"
"Aoi-chan is beautiful."
Aoi froze, eyes wide with shock.
"You'll be alright. You have an eternity ahead of you to find your rainbow," You said. "Besides, Aoi-chan is not only handsome, but gentle as well. Anyone would be lucky to have you as a soulmate. In fact, if you were my soulmate instead of that girl…" He chuckled softly. "I'd cherish you for the rest of my life."
"And even if you don't have a match, that's still okay," You continued. "Because you won't be alone. You have your brother. You have Arata. You have Yoru. And now…" His lips curled into a soft smile. "You have me."
"…You." Aoi's eyes shimmered. "Thank you."
"Yeah." You nodded.
Aoi paused. Then, "You have…something…" He reached out, but You suddenly stepped away. "Oh, uh, I'm sorry."
You steadied himself when he saw the hurt look on Aoi's face. "No, I'm sorry," he whispered.
"Do you…not want to be touched?"
You gazed at the blonde, who looked back at him with those beautiful blue eyes, once brimming with tears, but now filled with compassion.
"Usually yes," he answered. "But…it's okay."
Aoi swallowed, then reached out once more. Pale fingers hesitantly hovered over his cheek. You stared into crystal blue eyes, now wide and wavering, silently asking for permission.
He gave a small nod.
Aoi's fingers, You mused, were warm. It was as though the they were buzzing with life, sending a warm hum through his entire body, the current pulsing in time to the rhythm of his heart.
"I-I can see it."
His heart stopped for a moment. Blue eyes, Aoi's beautiful sky blue eyes, now dyed midnight by the darkening sky, looked at him with surprise, astonishment, fear…
"I…" You swallowed. "What do you see?"
"Color." Aoi's eyes welled with tears. "I…the gray…it's all gone. I don't…but that means…"
"Color..?" The word sounded forced. "Then I'm…" He pursed his lips. "But then it's…" One-sided died in his throat.
"No." Aoi shook his head. "No. Not if…not if you can feel it too."
"But Aoi-chan, I can already see color. We have no way of telling if—"
"Don't you feel it?" Aoi raised his other hand and placed it on You's chest. "In here."
"Feel it…" You felt his heart lurch when soft fingers touched his chest. It was as if an electric shock ran through his body, throbbing not with pain, but something else.
"Aoi-chan…" A chuckle rumbled in the back of his throat. "Yeah. I do."
"Then there's no mistaking it." Blue eyes looked up at him, sparkling like the stars in the night sky. "I'm all yours, Haduki You."
You wrapped an arm around Aoi's waist. "Likewise to you, Aoi-chan."
As their lips met, a wave of relief crashed over You. In that moment, a lifetime of burden was suddenly taken off his shoulders and replaced with the gentle touch of an angel's wings.
At long last, he had found peace.
"Thank you," he whispered when they broke apart. Aoi giggled.
"No. Thank you."
"Are you free after this?" You asked.
"Don't you think that's moving a little fast?"
You snorted. "You're right." He smiled. "We have an eternity, after all."
Aoi wrapped his arms around You's neck and beamed. "Yeah," he agreed. "We do."