it's in the stars / it's been written in the scars on our hearts / we're not broken, just bent / and we can learn to love again
It was always dark by the time their shows finished.
It was winter, bitter, and the sun departed hurriedly. The cities were the best, for the band. The crowds were bigger, louder, worth the music, and the streets were still alive when they left from a backstage door that wasn’t as glamourous as the movies made it out to be. The dark made Nori anxious, as did the quiet locals of towns they toured through. He preferred the cities – most of them did. They were musicians. Silence was the enemy. But Kuramochi didn’t have an opinion.
(He did but he didn’t say it.)
This time, it was a city. Streetlights and sirens and people to get lost into. They played at a club near the hotel they were staying at. The rest of the band stayed at the club, meeting enthusiastic fans and arguing with unimpressed ones (this was Shinji’s speciality.) They noticed Kuramochi leave but no one said anything. Just as they were aware of Nori’s quiet town paranoia, they had some idea of Kuramochi’s unsettling nerves under a night sky that didn’t even look like a night sky.
Upon leaving the cramped nightclub, he pulled his jacket closer to him, though the leather material was bought for image rather than weather protection purposes. It was interesting how one could be so cold, wedged between a group of girls, laughing and pulling at each other’s dresses to get the attention of one another, and a man hurrying for the train, presumably from work because who else would wear a suit and tie so tight at this hour? There was no human warmth in cities but so many humans. Kuramochi breathed out the coldness within him but he was no warmer.
He looked up, hopelessly but a force of habit. No stars, a sky that photographers chased, new age artists painted. The colour of bruises, oranges and pinks and purples and blues. It hurt to look more than usual, this night.
Kuramochi was aware he was a stereotype. Bad home life, barely any education and a terrible mouth to top it all off. Wardrobe made of tattered jeans, tattered boots, some of his t-shirts even had holes in them. He had enough tattoos to stop old ladies in the street when he went out to buy a gallon of milk. His piercings, one that tasted sourer than the words he spat out and often knocked against his teeth in an effort to keep his mouth shut, were just as intimidating. Everything about Kuramochi Youichi, inside and out, was made for the scene. He didn’t hate it as much as he thought he would.
He didn’t get along with people much anyway. A lot of the time, he just didn’t know how. If he scared people away then so be it. He was grateful that the people that mattered had bothered to look at him twice. If they hadn’t, the band wouldn’t exist. He wouldn’t have found a place to belong – even just a little.
There would always be a gap between him and his friends. Sometimes, the gap closed. Kenjirou was a good listener. Nori had his own demons he fought every day. Shinji was dependable and stable. But Kuramochi wasn’t good at talking about himself unless it was through song. There would always be a gap.
Whilst his bandmates groaned about the cramped conditions of the tour bus, about having to play for crowds that were a gamble – sometimes they were nice, sometimes they weren’t – Kuramochi relished a roof over his head and a pillow under it more than he could ever put into words.
At least, words for general conversation.
It beat living in the streets with only the night sky as company and that was when he was lucky. Of course, Kuramochi wasn’t afraid of the dark but more so, he didn’t like being blind. Maybe that was why he never looked at the sun for too long. Daylight was vulnerable, harsh. There was nothing to hide in it. At least, in the dark, if he was blind then everyone was too.
For a long time, Kuramochi believed he was the only one who couldn’t see the sun. Maybe Kuramochi hated the uncertainty of it, how he didn’t know if it would rise again – for him or at all. The sun was undependable at the very least, blinding at worst. Kuramochi had hurt enough in his life. He wouldn’t chase it.
So he followed the only light he had, flickers of stars, bleached by stuttering streetlamps and pollution. Where there was darkness, he would see stars, even behind his eyelids, even if he had to paint them there, to his skin.
He could never thank the stars enough so when he found them, a galaxy of them over his head, he tattooed them to his skin, stories of constellations he learnt from the travelling musicians who gave him his first guitar and the antique shop owner who taught him how to tune it and the comfort of the old woman who really shouldn’t have been out in a park so late (but she was the first one to tell him to stop looking down and start looking up.)
There was nothing remarkable about the town he was passing through until afterwards. It was dark out (not dark enough that he couldn’t see but dark enough that he could pretend not to) and he hadn’t planned to loiter, though he had little motivation to find shelter. Some days were better than others but this day was a razor blade under his tongue and coldness under the tips of his fingernails.
To this day, Kuramochi still wondered if the old woman had been able to see that, see the way he didn’t want to die but he could have and he wouldn’t have minded all that much at that moment.
Kuramochi had never believed in God but the concept of saviours was not foreign to him. When he looked at the wrinkles of the old woman’s face folding as she smiled at him, so warm for a winter day, he was reminded of his grandfather. So he stopped and said hello.
He wasn’t a naturally open person. He had no right to be. But Kuramochi was that night, like this was a Hollywood blockbuster where the dirt ingrained to his skin seemed legit but his armpits appeared shaved despite the fact he’d been kicking stones off sidewalks for nearly two years now. And what was more surprising was that he expected an answer. He looked at this old lady as though the resemblance to his grandfather meant something because he missed his grandpa and the idea of a warm home and the opportunity to be something more than an empty vessel fighting itself to survive.
And it was more surprising still that she replied to his plea for a cure, an end to this aimless wandering. This aimless hope. “Go make some noise.”
He had stared, digested her words because there was enough room within him for that (he hadn’t eaten properly in weeks.) And when a second had passed and then two, he laughed, the most genuine laughter he had in him because he was a runaway who was still ducking at fists rather than meeting them with his own. Noise was the last thing he needed. But the laughter didn’t stop when he did but rather settled in his stomach, like the berry pie Grandpa made when Kuramochi did something good, passed a class or got a homerun.
Kuramochi stayed sat down next to the old lady, listened to her talk about stars burning themselves to death and how he looked like one of them. Me? A star? he asked. Yes, she replied, unfazed by the quietly incredulous tone of his voice. Someone ready to destroy themselves to create something beautiful.
Kuramochi had taken to the streets as a boy with too much pride but just as many fears. Ambition was a luxury. He was just trying to survive. And he was afraid of being rooted down, terrified of being buried, and he always had been since he had sprinkled dirt on his grandfather’s closed casket even though he had tried to argue with his mom that Granddad wanted to be cremated, not trapped. It had been the old woman who had told him that he feared silence more (ridiculous, he had been alone for years now, silence was a companion) but it was okay although death and silence went hand in hand. When people die, she said, they return to the stars and the stars were never silent. The stars had the loudest stories of all.
Kuramochi had smiled, disagreed (to the earth perhaps but the stars were unearthly, immortal) but he didn’t speak out, because it was the first time anyone in his life had looked at him and seen something other than a runaway, a failure. She had touched his face, wrinkled hands coming away with the grime of cheeks meeting sidewalks, but had only smiled back.
Sic itur ad astra, she said. Kuramochi hadn’t thought much of her words then, a foreign language, lights he could barely see. He was so sleepy, so tired of walking around with no home and no room in his head that he blacked out his thoughts but they became a sky. He was seeing stars under his eyelids, skin. This was where his story began, really. Thus you shall go the stars.
He hadn’t thought much about her words much at all but he still asked strangers he met on the streets and friends he made on the roads about the mysteries of the sky above them. He never forgot.
Years later, when Kuramochi was more than surviving, when he met his bandmates, made enough music to live, he went back to find the old woman. Too late. Kuramochi felt sadness alike to his grandfather’s death but satisfaction in her cremation, a sense of peace when he sat in the same park and stared up at the stars that night. He still didn’t believe in God but he didn’t need to. He already knew where people would go after they died.
Kuramochi knew he was only a small part of that old woman’s story but the stars were his everything.
Barely tired, Kuramochi went back to the hotel they were lucky to be staying in. It wasn’t anything special, peeling wallpaper but clean sheets that they could call their own for the night. Kuramochi checked his phone, ignoring a text from Kenjirou without guilt (he always felt it the morning after, like his feelings suffered a hangover once leaving cities so bright) before dropping it on his pillow and heading back out. He knew they wouldn’t physically check up on him and he was glad that this room was his own. The band was another saviour but, after spending so much time alone, Kuramochi found himself withdrawing.
Some days were worse than others. A roof didn’t change a street kid. The metal of the piercing in his tongue tasted like those razorblades.
Contradictions. Kuramochi wanted to be alone but he didn’t want to be alone at all. He followed the sound of music and human emotion to the hotel’s bar.
He wanted to be alone but he couldn’t be.
Miyuki Kazuya was a bad idea as soon as Kuramochi laid his eyes on him.
For an hour, Kuramochi had sat alone and drank steadily (nothing too strong, he wanted his edges to numb but his palms to feel.) Not many approached him. Bars had rules. His head stayed down. No one talked to you that way.
It defeated the purpose that Kuramochi had come here for but he didn’t want someone who followed imaginary social protocols. He wanted someone as hopeless and jagged and uncaring as himself at that moment.
Someone who needed him just as much he needed him. Someone he wouldn’t regret in the morning.
He didn’t hear anyone sit down beside him and, when he noticed, he pushed his drink away. He needed his senses but a small part of him feared it was too late. His tongue felt strangely heavy when he regarded the person beside him. Suit (unlike the man earlier, this tie was loosened, these shirt sleeves pushed up to reveal muscled forearms that made Kuramochi’s tongue heavier still), glasses (Kuramochi couldn’t see his eyes), ordering a drink stronger than everything Kuramochi had drank altogether over the course of the night.
“Rough night?” Kuramochi didn’t realise he’d said the words until the man looked up, at him. He held his stare for a touch too long and Kuramochi knew that whatever he was looking for, whatever mistake he would one day write songs about, was here. Then the man smiled, a carefully practiced, carefully careless grin. It was too dark to see the exact colour of his eyes but, in the dim flickers of light, Kuramochi was sure he saw gold.
He held out his hand. “Kuramochi.”
“Miyuki.” They shook hands on their names and a promise. They wouldn’t need any more words that night. Kuramochi was sober enough to feel Miyuki’s warm palm against his, Miyuki’s warmth reaching his cold body. He hadn’t realised he was leaning forward until Miyuki’s other hand held him back, up. But not steady. Miyuki was a broken piece.
(that Kuramochi was missing.)
“Careful,” Miyuki said, quiet and low. A voice that was anything but.
For the first time in the night (and for a long, long time), Kuramochi grinned.
Miyuki never finished his drink.
Miyuki was considerably taller than Kuramochi and broader, filling up his suit so well that Kuramochi hated him for it. There shouldn’t have been any words between them but there were too many. Miyuki was an asshole and Kuramochi wished that he didn’t feel that weirdly beautiful grin under his skin, thrumming in his heartbeat.
Kuramochi told himself that he kissed Miyuki to shut him up, that he sighed with relief because Miyuki complied and not because he’d wanted to kiss those lips all night for no other reason except Miyuki was gorgeous in the rich/pretty boy/suit and tie way Kuramochi despised.
Tall, dark, handsome. Miyuki checked all the boxes but there shouldn’t have been anything remarkable about him. Another man in a suit trying to catch a train. Privileged enough to feel as though the train would wait for him. Rich enough to not need to get the train at all. Kuramochi shouldn’t have been looking for anything remarkable at all.
But there was something there, in the way Miyuki paused before touching, hands far too light on Kuramochi’s waist. It wasn’t disinterest or misplaced caution (Miyuki was kissing him back whole-heartedly, lips smooth against Kuramochi’s cold-chapped ones) but something. When Kuramochi separated from their first kiss of the night – gentle in a way that first kisses with one night stands never were – he saw that something and it made him wonder, briefly, what the hell he was doing with his life. Uncertainty.
You don’t have the right to look at me like that. You don’t have the right to have eyes so sad. What have you been through? What do you know? You don’t have the right to look at me like that and make me feel something.
Kuramochi couldn’t bear it. He kissed Miyuki again, angrily, hands fisting into the white shirt that was already rumpled but he wanted to tear it. He forgot that they were in public and the band wasn’t popular but Kenjirou didn’t believe in any publicity is good publicity and he really didn’t want to think about his best friend’s disapproval in the mess he was already in.
When Miyuki whined into Kuramochi’s mouth, too quiet for anyone else to hear but the sound resonated in Kuramochi’s ears, Kuramochi pulled back abruptly, using Miyuki’s shirt to keep him close as he asked, “Are you staying at the hotel?”
“I don’t care which room.” The words were clumsy, tripping over one and other. Miyuki was yearning for another kiss.
Kuramochi didn’t give it to him, not yet. It was satisfying to have some level of control in a situation that felt like a downward spiral. “Mine, then.”
No one was paying attention to them. No one would miss them once they left. Kuramochi had spent years trying to leave an imprint on the world – would continue to do so until he succeeded – but today it didn’t matter. Miyuki couldn’t take his eyes off Kuramochi.
Kuramochi’s room was empty, the phone still on his bed. He barely noticed as he pushed Miyuki onto the same bed, barely saw the way it lit up to signal someone looking for him (caring about him), barely heard the soft thud it made as it hit the carpeted floor. His senses focused only removing the suit beneath him, hearing the rhythmic panting in his ear as his hands touched smooth skin, a trail of hair, a body made of muscle and nerves. Miyuki was satisfyingly reactive.
There was always time for guilt later and, the more time he spent with Miyuki, the more he realised that regret was inevitable. This was why beautiful people were so hard to look at. Look away for a second and they were gone.
But when Kuramochi blinked, Miyuki was still under him, tie discarded, shirt and trousers unbuttoned but not off, hair ruffled, mouth open. Expectant, waiting. Still there. And when Kuramochi reached down to press his lips to Miyuki’s, as if he needed a confirmation that he was real, Miyuki was warm. The kiss was as gentle as their first but Kuramochi moved back to determined eyes glowing up at him.
The uncertainty was gone. “Touch me.”
(Not a demand but a request.)
And Kuramochi did.
Often, he heard people describing seeing stars behind their eyelids as they orgasmed and, in the past, Kuramochi saw light but it was flashes, artificial, like fireworks. Satisfactory, wonderful at times. But they died out quickly, the glow leaving destruction and darkness in its wake.
But when Kuramochi came into Miyuki, he closed his eyes and didn’t see stars but a galaxy, his mind the night sky, the expansion of space, and the man beneath him as his only hold of gravity.
Miyuki laid across his chest, tracing over the tattoo as others had before, except Kuramochi didn’t have to bite back the urge to slap his hand away, to cover himself from the words so personal to him that there were times (these were usually one of those times) that Kuramochi regretted inking them to his skin for the world to see.
Kuramochi found Miyuki’s interest interesting himself. Miyuki didn’t so much ignore the Technicolor images of mythical animals and arrows and fleeces up and down his arms, art snaking onto his back but just barely, but rather acted as if they didn’t exist at all. It would have been insulting had it not been for the expression in his eyes and the way his fingers glided over the tattooed skin. Gentle, barely curious, not at all judgemental. He touched the skin as though the words were scars and in a way, Kuramochi thought, they kind of were.
“‘Thus you shall go the stars,’” Kuramochi quoted, abrupt, unsmooth. The words that had made him start looking at the sky and start seeing stars at all, his life motto felt clumsy on his tongue, as though it were a badly timed confession. Miyuki hadn’t said anything but Kuramochi wanted to explain himself.
Miyuki’s breath was warm against Kuramochi’s chest but not steady. Neither of them were. It was laughable how Kuramochi had somehow found himself tangled in bed with a person as fucked up as he was.
He carried on, voice quieter this time. “That’s what it means. It’s Latin.”
“You know Latin?” It was a tease. Miyuki’s finger dotted the ‘i’ and crossed the ‘t.’ He didn’t miss details. But Kuramochi didn’t either and it was an offering question rather than a demanding one.
Kuramochi answered with blunt honestly. “I didn’t even finish high school. They don’t offer ‘Latin for Beginners’ on the streets, ya know?”
Miyuki laughed, a shy sound without meaning to be. Kuramochi got the impression that Miyuki didn’t laugh often, not genuinely. Yeah, me too. “High school was a joke anyway.”
“You’re wearing a fucking suit in a shitty hotel’s shitty bar. I bet you framed your graduation certificates.”
“Was,” Miyuki corrected. “Was wearing a suit.”
Kuramochi snorted. “Yeah, I’m perfectly aware that you’re naked right now, Mr Honour Roll. You’re avoiding my question.”
“Guys in suits do that often.”
Kuramochi laughed properly now, not even stopping when Miyuki looked up at him with unreadable eyes (Kuramochi knew his laugh was strange, more like an animal than a human, and their band manager had begged him not to laugh on stage if he couldn’t control it and he couldn’t control it right now.) Up close, Miyuki’s eyes were the strangest of colours, as though summer was burning autumn. But then he smiled. Kuramochi saw it in his eyes first, the creases at the corners like the folds of leaves, the irises like the gold of the sun. And then he stopped laughing because the only sun Kuramochi knew had set a few hours ago and he turned away because, with any star that burned that bright, it hurt to look. More so because Kuramochi had stumbled along in the dark for so long, he had forgotten what sunshine looked like. He had forgotten what it felt like until it stumbled into his arms, pretty and heavy and too warm. He tasted it on his mouth when he kissed Miyuki’s skin, sweaty and freckled and too warm.
“I didn’t know Latin but someone I met on the streets did.”
If Miyuki noticed Kuramochi’s overwhelmed uneasiness, he didn’t say. “A friend?”
“Elderly lady. I met her when… when things weren’t looking so good.” Kuramochi breathed out heavily, the simple words spoken a relief in itself. He still couldn’t look at Miyuki but the other man didn’t expect him to. The story spun out of his mouth like silk but it had been a gag. He spilled out his life story to a stranger he had just fucked and rationality told him to take it back, to laugh his way out of it because there was nothing about Miyuki that could be deemed trustworthy, nothing in the suit or the Cheshire cat smile.
But the silk was spinning now. “I was fifteen when I first hit the streets. It was two days after my grandfather died and my dad didn’t want me and my mom couldn’t. She couldn’t want me, that is.”
There was nothing at all trustworthy about Miyuki until he leaned back, far enough to be able to look at Kuramochi as he spoke but close enough that his body heat warmed Kuramochi to his bones. He still couldn’t look at Miyuki so he focused on the ceiling as he continued. And the story – non-fiction, autobiographical – wasn’t orderly or smooth, unlike a book. There were no chapter titles, if he didn’t count the moments when he had to stop and breathe and concentrate on Miyuki’s heartbeat, steadier than his own, under his fingertips to just calm down. It was chaos on his tongue. Kuramochi was talking about his childhood and his granddad and his parents and his first middle school fight which was nothing but everything because it was the first time Kuramochi’s mom said directly to him she couldn’t do this anymore and the streets. God, Kuramochi couldn’t stop talking about the streets and he tried to make them sound like a map of endless cruelties, of knives and hunger and beer bottle broken on backs, rather than one long, dark tunnel that had eventually, eventually led out to the light. It wasn’t that easy and besides, it was never truly dark, not even when you refused to see the stars, not even when you wanted to see nothing at all.
There were things in his words that he wrote about, sang about, and things he hadn’t shared with anyone. He talked about his grandpa’s baseball shop and his teenage dream. He talked about how there was a time when he gripped the bat and thought this is it because Kuramochi wasn’t good at much but when he was good at something, he was loyal to it. He talked about his granddad being the best man in the world and it was funny how he wrote songs about his grandfather, sang them on stage to crowds big enough, and rarely did the experience leave him with a lump in his throat. There were plenty of things for Kuramochi to cry about but a long time had passed and he was twenty six and there was no use digging up the old man’s grave now.
And then Miyuki was touching his chest again, spelling out the tattoo, but his eyes remained fixed on Kuramochi and this time, Kuramochi didn’t avoid them. When he caught Miyuki’s hand (as warm as the rest of him), neither of them flinched or turned away and, for a brief, brief moment, Kuramochi saw something in Miyuki’s eyes, the gold dimming.
Understanding. Miyuki had lost too.
Kissing Miyuki at that moment would be Kuramochi’s biggest mistake to date. Bigger than letting his dad treat him like a doormat and dropping out of high school. Bigger than getting attached to a band that was moving towns but never cities, countries and the most productive sleepless nights he had but sleepless, nonetheless. But Miyuki kissed back and Kuramochi hoped it wouldn’t matter in a year when Kuramochi would struggle to remember the name and/or face but he would remember saying, “‘Sic itur ad astra,’” against Miyuki’s mouth and Miyuki smiling and Kuramochi smiling which ended up with their teeth knocking but it didn’t matter because they were laughing too hard to protest. Kuramochi wanted to remember that feeling, the brief moment of lightness, carelessness, as they separated to breathe and he finished his story, “That’s why I got the words on me. She was a stranger but she gave me a direction.” Pressing his lips to the tip of Miyuki’s nose, his forehead, his last word was barely audible. Barely but enough. “Upwards.”
Miyuki didn’t laugh but he smiled, without mockery. And, if nothing else, Kuramochi would one day string together the letters of Miyuki’s name using the transition of movements, from the kiss at his jaw to the tug off his hand off the bed and into his shirt and pants and out the door, tiptoeing as though they were criminals and when Miyuki whispered that he was pretty sure this was illegal, Kuramochi realised that he wasn’t too far off the point. Miyuki, he said, in warning as the other man led them to a fire exit at the top of the stairs, and it felt impossible to imagine Kuramochi forgetting that name for as long as he lived. Miyuki just smiled and opened the door for him.
The alarm didn’t go off and they found themselves on the roof of the hotel, the cold biting but not bitter. Kuramochi was closer to the stars than he would ever be in any city. Miyuki was still holding his hand.
“You know the hotel?” His eyebrow was raised as if he was unimpressed. He wasn’t. It hadn’t clicked until now that someone who wore a watch heavier than Kuramochi’s altogether luggage could afford a better place.
“I know places.” A vague answer. Kuramochi wished he wasn’t disappointed by it but ignored the feeling, slipping to the ground beside the man in a ruffled suit. The wind trapped between the locks of Miyuki’s hair, gently, as if they didn’t want to make it more of a mess than it already was. His shirt was unbuttoned from the top and, though it was too dark to see clearly, way above the streetlamps and car lights, Kuramochi knew there was skin puckered and raw where his teeth and mouth had worked. He smiled into the darkness.
“When’s your birthday?” Kuramochi asked before he could rethink the idea.
Barely blinking at the question, Miyuki leant his cheek on top of his fist, his elbow balanced on his thighs. He looked at Kuramochi lazily and Kuramochi found himself wanting to both kiss him and strangle him. There was nothing predatory about Miyuki but rather his grin begged to be bit, kissed. “All things considered, I’m sure you’ve already compensated for your lateness.”
“Asshole,” Kuramochi scoffed.
Miyuki also had a habit of grinning harder at insults. His mouth shaped a ‘thank you’ but Kuramochi stopped him with a stubborn look. “I’m not going to do anything sinister with the information. Jeez. What about your star sign?”
“Scorpio, if I recall correctly.” Finally, Miyuki had caught on. “Why? Are you going to read the stars for me, Kuramochi?”
Ignoring the teasing lilt to his tone, Kuramochi pulled closer to him. He was shivering, he told himself, and he needed the warmth. Their shoulders touched. Kuramochi lowered his voice as he spoke. “Yeah, I’ve got your fortune for you, Miyuki. You’re an asshole. The stars told me that.”
Miyuki laughed quietly, head still low. He looked at Kuramochi through his eyelashes and it should have been ridiculous. He shouldn’t have looked so beautiful under the half-moon light, bleached white where the rays hit him. Half his face. The side of his neck. The curve of his jaw. His lips.
Kuramochi looked up at the stars because Miyuki’s eyes shouldn’t have looked so golden in the starlight but they did. “Ever heard the myth behind the constellation?” A shake of his head that Kuramochi felt rather than saw. They were closer now, Miyuki leaning back into him and Kuramochi resting his chin on Miyuki’s shoulder. “It was about Orion. The guy was a hunter and he was good but… well, he was cocky as hell. Kinda like you.”
Kuramochi felt Miyuki’s laughter and a palm against his own as his other hand drew out images he’d used as sheep to fall asleep, one hunter, one scorpion, one two three angry gods- “I guess some people couldn’t deal with it. Kinda like me” – Miyuki didn’t laugh this time and Kuramochi swallowed hard before carrying on – “but anyway- Apollo, God of Animal Herds, and Gaia, the Earth Goddess, decided that they wanted to hunt, uh, the hunter. So they made a giant scorpion and placed it in Orion’s path. When he stepped on it, he got stung and died.”
Miyuki made a sound that suggested he was unimpressed at Kuramochi’s anti-climactic story-telling and Kuramochi prodded his stomach gently to shut him up. “Hear me out, you sack of shit. It was a big thing. I mean, he was a really great hunter. He’d kick your rich boy ass.”
“Really now?” Miyuki still sounded unconvinced.
Kuramochi was better at actions than words. Before Miyuki could say anything, Kuramochi pushed him down, straddling his waist to hold him down. Miyuki had a good few pounds on Kuramochi, that was evident, but he appeared to have little idea on how to use it. Meanwhile, this was Kuramochi’s safe zone, adrenaline pumping through his veins and weak hands trapped between his dominant ones. Miyuki’s breathing was heavy and Kuramochi spoke hurriedly to distract himself (but only barely because now he had no choice but to look at Miyuki as the other man stared back up at him.) “Anyway, turns out Artemis, Goddess of Hunting and Apollo’s twin sister, really liked Orion so she decided to honour him by putting him in the sky with his hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor. If you look up” – Kuramochi released Miyuki’s hands and leant back slightly to point out the star, if he could find it in the clouds of vapour and city pollution – “yeah, that one there is Sirius. That bright star. It’s in Canis Major, apparently.” When Miyuki hummed in acknowledgement, the sound travelled up Kuramochi’s legs and spine. His knees felt tight around Miyuki’s waist. “But it was kind of pointless to, uh, honour Orion and not his killer. At least, that’s what Gaia and Apollo thought. It was their scorpion that killed the greatest hunter of that time and all that. So Zeus – please tell me you know how Zeus is?” Miyuki rolled his eyes and Kuramochi carried on with a laughing grin. “Yeah, Zeus saw it all happen and decided to put the scorpion is in the sky too but on the opposite side so whenever it sets, Orion is rising. So Orion is constantly chasing after the scorpion for revenge. That’s why your star sign is called Scorpio and- yeah, that’s it.”
Kuramochi lacked flourish. He sat back, still on top of Miyuki, and struggled to meet his eyes clearly. His voice was slightly hoarse from talking so much over the course of the night. He cleared his throat awkwardly but said nothing.
Miyuki spoke quietly, expression unreadable. “Do you actually believe in this stuff?”
It was this kind of judgement that taught Kuramochi that it was better to not speak at all, that others would never understand that Orion’s bitter fate had encouraged Kuramochi to find a better one of his own, listening to the travelling band as they told him that the stars would take him whatever way he was. Don’t take any burdens up with you, kid. You don’t want to chase them every time the sun sets.
But then Kuramochi looked at Miyuki properly, forced himself to, and he saw the same expression he had when he spoke of his tattoo. A sad understanding. Kuramochi shrugged. “Better than believing in people.”
Miyuki leant up on his elbows, their bodies brushing daringly. His grin was soft around the edges. “Was that a dig?”
“Ha!” Kuramochi paused, weighing Miyuki’s original question with the words. “Nah, I like the stories and the… lights, I guess. Man, that sounded lame.”
“The aesthetic qualities are rather appealing.”
Kuramochi knocked his knee against Miyuki’s side. “Don’t be an asshole just because you’re uncultured as fuck.”
Miyuki’s expression was innocent but his words were truthful, heavy. “If it makes you feel any better, I don’t believe in people too.”
“Does this have anything to do with the suit?” Kuramochi ran his fingers down the edge of the blazer, teasing.
Miyuki’s smile was soft, unoffended, unruffled but further away from Kuramochi he had been the whole night, even as Kuramochi leant over him, blocking the moonlight so all that glowed was Miyuki’s eyes. A boy of sunlight didn’t belong in the dark. A boy of starlight didn’t belong with the sun.
“Hey.” Joking forgotten, Miyuki tore his eyes from the sky and back to Kuramochi. Kuramochi knew he was frowning, analysing the other boy when he swore he wouldn’t (not for a one night stand, not for anyone who looked at the stars with eyes sadder than his own) but he spoke anyway, quietly because he wasn’t sure if he was capable of deliberate gentleness. “You don’t need to believe in the stars or the stories. That’s what the old lady was getting at. She said that stars exploded – died – to create the atoms that make us. So just… believe in something. That’s enough for the stars.” That’s enough for me.
Appearing speechless, Miyuki did nothing but look at Kuramochi. His gaze was heavy with as many questions as there were stars in the sky. Kuramochi was afraid of those questions but he leant closer, wanting to taste the starlight on the tip of Miyuki’s tongue, on his mouth.
And then they heard human noises besides from their own and Miyuki laughed too loudly as Kuramochi pulled him to his feet. “This is definitely illegal.”
And then they were hand in hand, running and laughing and pushing and shoving, in and out of the shadows like stars behind fog but bursting through doors and hallways and into their room for the night, onto the bed, into each other’s arms. Breathless, beautiful, burning so bright. Alive.
When Kuramochi woke up, Miyuki was gone.
This was the punishment for putting faith in the sun.
It shouldn’t have been as difficult as it was to move on. Kuramochi had lived on the streets, lost friends to bitterness or simply to the cruelties of it. And that was where everyone was equal, barefoot on shattered glass. Loss was far more bearable at the knowledge that what you were losing was never yours to begin with. Kuramochi had never been worthy of someone like Miyuki anyway.
All things considered, it didn’t take much to find out who Miyuki was. Kuramochi marvelled at the powers of the internet, so useless when it came to promoting the band but somehow, within a couple of searches, Kuramochi had discovered Miyuki’s first name, occupation, family history and- oh, the fact that his company was worth millions.
Miyuki Kazuya. The information was no closure. Miyuki was worlds apart from Kuramochi yet, for one night, they had been equals in a way the streets had never offered. There was something about standing under the stars with someone that made Kuramochi feel like there was no way Miyuki hadn’t felt as questionable, small, in the never-ending expanse of the universe.
But people like Miyuki were always moving in ways that Kuramochi couldn’t. Up in the material world. The thought made Kuramochi feel ridiculous for his stars and his stories. As time passed, the night with Miyuki did not become any less real but rather more ridiculous, angering. Had he really said those things and thought Miyuki’s silence was hesitance, not mockery? Had he really been that pitiful?
When the band toured through that very city, more popular this time, and stayed at that very hotel, Kuramochi drank himself sick at that very bar. Kenjirou had to help him back to his room and this time, he felt the guilt as it came, as his best friend and bandmate looked at him with eyes that knew too much.
“You make music because you want to die.” He held no judgement in his voice. They’d been in a band together for five years now. Kenjirou had kicked his ass to early morning practice, told him which hook-ups Kuramochi would only regret (he’d regretted every single one, before and after Miyuki. Especially after.) This time, his eyes were just sad.
Kuramochi didn’t answer – or maybe he couldn’t, he’d drank so much. But he didn’t need to. It wasn’t a question.
Softly, so softly. “Don’t. Make music because you want to live.”
But it was easier to make no music at all.
The hangover hurt less than the regret. Kuramochi watched the sunrise the next morning stubbornly, in the same hotel room he had made love to a stranger a year ago. And then he packed his bags and took two large coffees to go before driving home, his first home. He barely felt anything at all, as he passed through the same streets that made him who he was today. He didn’t even cry at his grandfather’s grave.
It was as if Miyuki was the scorpion and Kuramochi was Orion. As if Miyuki had killed all the life within him. It was hauntingly similar to how he had felt the night he met the old lady except there was no saviour here, just streets of bad memories and a head full of good ones. Kuramochi couldn’t decide which was worse.
He had walked and walked and walked but this time he drove and drove and drove, smoking too many cigarettes and listening to so much music he got sick of it and sang his own, obnoxious and loud and lonely by himself in his car. The only saviour he had was the humming at the back of his throat and the drumbeat of fingertips on a steering wheel. The only saviour Kuramochi had, this time, was himself.
He wrote his best music on that drive to nowhere and everywhere. He wrote songs that could’ve been about anyone.
(They were about Miyuki.)
Kuramochi’s misery became their best selling point and, with the new fame, the persistent attention, the constant moving, the memory of Miyuki began to dissolve like ink on paper under the rain. Every word Kuramochi sang, Miyuki disappeared with until he was a smudged verse scribbled hurriedly onto Kuramochi’s palm, a fleeting thought at the back of his mind, a lump in his throat when he looked at stars fighting bruised skies.
Miyuki Kazuya was no less real but Kuramochi made him a lyric, a story, a star that had been too warm, too golden for Kuramochi’s darkness, just to let him go.
Kuramochi had finally forgotten.
(He hadn’t but it became a secondary thought, like breathing. He only remembered when it started to choke him.)
It was another unremarkable town. Nori didn’t mind towns so much now. They had fans everywhere. The crowds chanted their names, sang along to their songs.
Kuramochi didn’t have to lie anymore. His bandmates knew that he liked towns better because the skies were clearer, the stars more prominent. His preference for towns often lifted his mood but this time, after the show was done and he left his bandmates to find a park, unlike and all too alike to the many he had sat in before, all he could feel was a prickling under his skin and a nagging at the back of his mind, as if he had forgotten something.
(Kuramochi hadn’t forgotten.)
(But he remembered with a jolt, with so little distance between them.)
He was wearing a coat this time, his scarf wrapped loosely around his neck and his gloves in his hands rather than on them. His cheeks were flushed from the cold and his breath made clouds in the air. He had sat down next to Kuramochi so casually that Kuramochi thought that he was imagining things, that he didn’t recognise Kuramochi, that Miyuki Kazuya had been the one to forget his name instead.
Neither spoke. They had never been good with words.
(And Kuramochi was too busy remembering.)
(This was Miyuki’s mother’s home town.)
(This was Miyuki’s home town.)
(Miyuki Kazuya still radiates warmth, even sat at the other side of the bench.)
But Kuramochi had done enough interviews and radio shows to be better with words than the boy who had let himself fall for a one night stand, a bit of warmth on a cold day. He laughed, horribly, before he spoke. “Do you think Orion deserved to die?”
Miyuki didn’t say a word.
“He was obnoxious, arrogant, Godly. But he was a god.”
When he spoke, it was quiet. Kuramochi wished his body didn’t respond to the carefully planned tone, the automatic intelligence, the unintentional arrogance. “I think it was far worse to immortalise him in the stars. Not only do you humiliate him but you force him to chase his killer every night in vain. It was a cruel fate.”
Kuramochi wished, more than anything else, that the answer didn’t satisfy him. “I didn’t plan this.”
“Being here or seeing me?”
“Do you wish you did?”
Miyuki was looking at him now and Kuramochi looked back, glaring into eyes that had took longer than anything else to forget. Two years of anger made Kuramochi’s words sharp, accusing. “You didn’t know who I was.”
“Well, did you know who I was?”
Kuramochi didn’t miss a beat. “Miyuki Kazuya, heir of the Miyuki fortune.”
Miyuki flinched at the word heir as if Kuramochi had physically hit him. It probably would have hurt less if Kuramochi had.
And just like that, the anger faded. It probably wouldn’t ever go away. But neither did the longing, the understanding. The stars were giving Kuramochi a second chance when no one else had.
And when Miyuki opened his mouth against Kuramochi’s, Miyuki was too.
This time, Miyuki didn’t ignore an inch of Kuramochi’s skin, hands tracing over constellations and mouth over ancient myths. Kuramochi explained each one, the sacrifice of the ram and the Nemean lion and Virgo’s scales and more and Miyuki listened. This was all the promise Kuramochi needed.
Over the two years, Miyuki had faced his business almost going bankrupt and his father’s disapproval (though the last one wasn’t anything new, Miyuki would tell him later with a frown that Kuramochi kissed away.) The pressure bore its weight. Miyuki had moved into his mother’s hometown as if to feel closer to her. Sometimes, it made things better and sometimes it made things worse.
“Wanna know something?” Miyuki said, after. They were in Miyuki’s apartment and it was too dark for Kuramochi to notice or care about the careless riches thrown around. All he could see was Miyuki, golden eyes, lazy and satisfied.
“I thought about what you said about the stars. Not the scorpion and the hunter but…” Miyuki trailed off, rolling onto his back to stare up at the ceiling as if he could see through it, up at the night sky. “Between the lack of scientific evidence to prove God and plenty of scientific evidence to prove stars, I’d believe in the stars too.”
The last part was whispered softly, almost fondly.
“You miss her a lot?”
Miyuki’s tone was not unkind. “Do you miss your granddad?”
It wasn’t a question. Miyuki spoke on. “Shame I couldn’t look at the stars without thinking of your crappy storytelling. Or turn on the radio without hearing your voice. Or drive to work without seeing your face on a big ass billboard-”
“My face is on a billboard?” Kuramochi was delighted (not so much at the billboard but at Miyuki thinking about him too.)
“You’re prettier in real life.”
Kuramochi laughed and Miyuki smiled. They were so close, even whispers felt loud. “I’d want that.”
Miyuki blinked. “A billboard?”
“No, you ass. I mean, I’d want to be immortalised in the stars.”
“Isn’t that the whole point of being a rockstar?”
“Nah, that’s sex, drugs and rock n roll. Also don’t use the word rockstar, it makes you sound middle aged.”
“Would you prefer popstar?”
There was something far too easy in the way they’d fallen back into the routine of teasing and taunting, kissing and touching. Kuramochi rolled his eyes. “If I write anymore lyrics about the freckled skin of your damn sun-kissed back then I may as well be.”
Miyuki laughed softly, his grin infectious. “You never told me your favourite star. Star as in ball of fire in the sky, not yourself.”
“Glad you think so high of me.”
Miyuki laughed again then waited. Kuramochi breathed out heavily. “I don’t know. I favour some stories over others. The first one I was ever told was for my star sign. Did you know Taurus is about Europa fucking a bull? Happy birthday me.” He shrugged and the naked skin of his arms rubbed against Miyuki’s. “Maybe I’m just bitter because my birthdays always sucked. But bestiality? Really?”
Miyuki laughed again. He was laughing a lot tonight. The sound sounded like how Kuramochi imagined sunlight would.
They laid there for a while. Kuramochi was unconsciously mapping constellations out of Miyuki’s freckles. There was a galaxy on his skin and it would take years to explore it. Miyuki didn’t look like he planned to move any time soon and it motivated Kuramochi to say his next words. “There’s only one star I’m not familiar with.”
Miyuki meet Kuramochi’s eyes and Kuramochi didn’t flinch away. It wasn’t that Miyuki’s gaze was any easier to look at – the sun didn’t burn any less whether it was rising or setting – but Kuramochi was braver now, less afraid of the unknown and the possibilities within it. And then Miyuki was moving closer to him still and Kuramochi was holding his face and the only star he didn’t understand in the entire universe was in his hands, burning so bright, so golden that Kuramochi didn’t care that he didn’t know it’s story. He’d make his own. When he pressed his lips to Miyuki’s, he tasted warmth. The words were unspoken.
You told me the stars, Miyuki said as Kuramochi’s hand trailed down to Miyuki’s back again, marking Perseus on Pegasus. Perseus saving Andromeda. Andromeda swept back as she was carried away by Pegasus. Miyuki found Kuramochi’s hand in his own.
You showed me the sun, Kuramochi said as they separated, but just barely, to breathe and when Miyuki opened his eyes, he smiled as he had the night they met except brighter. Miyuki glowed, warming Kuramochi’s bones and awakening his veins, lighting up a galaxy, uncovering a universe. Miyuki was the centre of it, at that moment as the sun set outside, for that evening as the stars above them aligned and forever, as the sun rose again and Miyuki’s skin made of constellations was the first thing Kuramochi felt and Miyuki’s eyes made of sunlight were the first thing Kuramochi saw the next morning.
“You still haven’t written a song about me.”
(He had but two years of absence didn’t compare to a lifetime of forever.)
“I got a sun tattooed on my ribs and that shit hurt like hell. What more could you possibly want, you asshole?”
The universe, Miyuki’s eyes smiled, his fingertips warm on the skin over Kuramochi’s heart where a sun was inked, the star now more familiar to Kuramochi but no less golden than Miyuki’s gaze. You.