The evening of the meteor shower was silent. The sun was just starting to set and cast the world in reds and oranges. When the Yugi brothers heard their father’s office door slam shut then their mother’s furious yell they put their plan into motion. They had already hidden their phones so they wouldn’t be tracked through the night and the bag under Tsukasa’s bed. Amane did a quick check; blanket, drinks, star map, and book of stories. Even a lantern was packed, just in case. They were all there. All that was left was Amane’s prized telescope that he neatly packed into a carrying case and held tight against his chest.
As he walked out of his bedroom he froze as the feeling he forgot something important washed over him. He looked around the room until a silver satin bow caught his attention. He almost cursed his stupidity as he grabbed the box. It was no larger than a deck of cards so it fit easily in his pocket. Every step he felt the corners press into his leg and it only made him pray to any of the gods that would listen that Nene would enjoy the gift. When he commissioned it from a small artist he found online it was a spur of the moment decision and he had been filled with anxiety ever since. All he could do was mask the dread as he usually did and pretend that a gift couldn’t make a friendship awkward and ruin everything.
When they made it to the window on the opposite side of the house that would lead directly to the side road, Amane grabbed Tsukasa by the shirt and yanked him to a stop. There on the windowsill was a large bento with both their phones resting stark black on the light blue wave pattern of the furoshiki with a note in their mother's graceful handwriting. “Stay safe and call if you need anything.” Even through the wood and silk wrapping they could smell their mom’s baking.
“She worries too much,” Tsukasa mumbled from where he was looking over Amane’s shoulder. He could only agree as he shoved his phone in his pocket and carefully zipped the box into Tsukasa’s bag. With a nod and a silent pat on the back of Tsukasa’s head they both carefully slipped out the window.
When they finally made it to the top of the hill where they agreed to meet Nene at, she was already there. She was beautiful. The moon light made her seem to glow and her fluffy pink dress made her look like a fairy from a book. She sat so carefully on the grass and seemed right at home with the way her fingers stroked and caressed the grass and little clovers.
When she noticed them her face brightened and his heart fluttered. Just seeing her warmed something deep in his chest and reminded him how desperately he had fallen for her.
“Yugi kun! Tsukasa! I knew you guys would come! Here, granny made tea for us.”
Tsukasa was quick to join her, never noticing the tension that snapped Amane still. Running ahead and plopping onto the grass,he easily shrugged out of his bag and accepted the little plastic cup. “It smells delicious!”
Yashiro knew they were twins. For how long? She knew that the one she met with wasn’t him. Perhaps she liked Tsukasa better? Maybe she saw them together on the first day of school. Why didn’t she say she knew she wasn’t talking with him? Why did she let Tsukasa lie to him?
He tried to stamp down those thoughts and set up his telescope. He folded himself to sit on the grass with crossed legs and the body of the telescope resting heavily in his lap as he screwed in the eye piece. He tried not to grumble at the laughter at his back.
Since when were they so close anyway? It didn't make sense! Calling each other by first name and being all friendly.
“Amane,” Tsukasa cheered, “Come here so we can open Mom’s cookies!”
This time he did grumble ignoring Tsuksa’s song that the telescope could wait. He was careful to set it aside in a place that wouldn’t send it rolling down the hill. When he did join them on the blanket that had been laid out Tsukasa nudged him and handed him a note with a significant look.
He read it and felt the blood drain from his face then back to his cheeks in a dizzying rush.
“Have a good night! Bring her by the house some time so I can meet her. Love Mom”
Amane ripped the paper in two and stuffed it into his pocket. “Not a chance,” he whispered.
“Never,” Tsukasa agreed as he grabbed a roll shaped like a rabbit from the box and handed him a star shaped cookie that smelled like cinnamon.
Nene leaned towards them with another cup in hand. Her glowing smile seemed to light the night and take his breath away. The slightest breeze tugged her long hair in beautiful waves and only emphasized the silver strands. The sudden urge to just tell her everything weighed in his chest making him realize how exhausting lying to her would be. Any injury, unusual attitude, or anything else she might notice would call for more lies and she deserved the truth. Nene, of anyone in their fucked up lives, deserved honesty.
He jumped when he heard his name and saw Nene and Tsukasa both watching him with blatant concern. A wire of guilt shot through him but he laughed. “Sorry,” he stood and brushed crumbs from his shirt, not that he had eaten any of the cookie yet. “I was just thinking that I should finish putting together the telescope. We wanted to see more than the meteor shower, right?”
He stuffed the treat in his mouth as he turned on his heel and planted himself in the grass again to complete his task.
He heard their whispering and Nene’s light giggles. A single glance over his shoulder ripped through them. Tsukasa was leaning into Nene whispering and she was smiling so brightly she out shone all the stars.
An idea had his face flaming and his back turning towards them but he spoke before he lost the nerve. “Isn’t it a hassle to call one of us by name and the other Yugi kun?” He stood to set up the tripod and his sweaty palms almost dropped it. “You can just call me Amane.”
There was a long span of silence, long enough for him to secure the telescope and step away before Nene spoke.
“I just wasn’t sure if you would like it.” Suddenly her demeanor shifted. It was something almost darker but not. Something that he had seen in movies and read about in books. Flirty? No, Yashiro Nene wouldn’t look at him like that , right?
He felt his mind stall. Her tone, the shape of her lips forming his name, the look in her dark eyes. Everything about her consumed him, including the memory of her pressed into his back and the smell of something vaguely floral from her hair. She was so soft and he wanted to hold her again.
His face flamed and he turned sharply, adjusting the telescope mindlessly.
“Don’t worry,” Tsukasa whispered, “I think he likes it.”
He cursed his brother, cursed his teenage hormones! If he was ever stuck in a teenage state forever then he would prefer to die. The thought of dying as a teenager and becoming a teenage spirit came to him and he shuddered. Talk about a fate worse than death…
“You’re thinking something dirty,” Tsukasa’s loud whisper came from over his shoulder. “Aren’t you?”
Amane spun on his heel. “Of course not!” Unfortunately his voice cracked and Tsukasa danced away laughing.
He lunged to grab Tsukasa by his stupid sweater but a giggle froze him. Looking over he saw Nene grinning a shining bemusement that soured his anger. The anger churned to a little ball in his stomach when she lifted a little rabbit bun. “It’s lovely how much you two get along.”
“I think ‘getting along’ is relative in this situation.” He muttered bitterly.
She looked away then to pour tea from a different thermos than what she served them with. Amane seized his chance and planted his elbow squarely in Tsukasa’s stomach. He earned a satisfying “oomph” from his brother.
When Amane flopped down next to her, grabbing a bunny just to add insult to injury, he looked over her shoulder at the red tea in her cup trying to ignore the heat lingering in his face. Theirs was black tea. “Did you not like the tea you brought?
“Oh this?” She looked down at her cut and the most adorable wrinkle in her nose when she scowled down at her cup. “A doctor that Minamoto San knows made it for me. I’ve been in a lot of pain lately.”
He felt a stone sink in his stomach as he remembered her form leaned against a wall. He only realized later that night that her presence was so faint he could only feel her when they were touching. Was the attack the source of her pain? Was he so obtuse that he never noticed her pain through all of that or why she was missing days from school. He should have checked on her. He should have done something .
“Hey,” Nene snapped. He jerked to attention and felt her hand over his. Her skin was so cool and he couldn’t tell if it was a lingering effect of her attack or just caused by the night. “I’m okay. They’re just growing pains.”
He repressed a sigh and gently squeezed the fingers that wrapped around his palm. It wasn’t until he ignored Tsukasa’s petty dry look and ate the rabbit bun that his eyes widened.
“You didn't tell me she filled them with red bean paste!”
Tsukasa only scoffed, taking a bun of his own. “Because I knew you would eat them all. Nene, you wouldn’t believe this but Amane is so selfish when it comes to red bean paste!” He barely dodged the foot Amane kicked his way.
Nene’s gentle scolding was ignored especially when Tsukasa launched into a horrifying story from their childhood. “I’m serious! The only time I’ve ever seen him grovel was when he was begging Father to allow him to eat taiyaki. His head was on the floor and everything and when Father didn’t listen they started arguing. We were maybe five or six years old when this happened so just picture baby Amane screaming and throwing a fit. It was actually kind of scary at that moment.”
Nene watched Amane roll his eyes but his face seemed to be burning red in the low light and he again gripped her hand. “I didn’t grovel.”
“Yes you did! It was also the only time I’ve ever seen you question our family traditions! I wish someone had recorded your tantrum!”
“What tradition?” Nene asked. She could only hope that the change of topic would alleviate some of Amane’s embarrassment. “Why wouldn’t you guys be able to eat taiyaki?”
“Oh,” they both chirped, then giving each other a measured look then grabbing another bun.
“We’re kind of like reverse pescetarians.” Amane offered.
“Yeah,” Tsukasa agreed, leaning back on his elbows while ripping his bun in half. “We can eat anything but fish and fish products.”
“That includes anything shaped like a fish.”
“It’s so stupid.”
Amane shrugged but Nene thought. Thinking back, Amane almost always ate his lunch at his desk and she really couldn’t recall what he ate. Aoi did mention wondering if he was allergic to fish once though. Something about that statement- that tradition- tickled some deep memory in her brain. Something she couldn’t quite reach but was right there out of focus. “So,” she started quietly, “If you can’t eat anything fish shaped how did you find out you like taiyaki?”
Amane hummed with thought and his head rested on her shoulder. Tsukasa’s head suddenly shot up. He stuffed the remainder of his bun in his mouth before rifling through his bag and pulling out an electric lantern and turning on its pale blue light with a quiet “it’s getting pretty dark.” Nene filed that information away for later but Amane just nodded in acknowledgement before he started talking.
“You know how the Minamoto clan puts up a summer festival every year?”
“Yeah,” Nene said, “It’s huge.”
“Yeah,” Amane said as Tsukasa wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Well, because of our family we have to make an appearance every year. That’s how the kid and I know each other. One year when I was little I wandered off and-”
“Wandered off?” Tsukasa snorted. “We turned away to greet someone and Amane was suddenly gone. He disappeared!”
“ Anyway ,” Amane said forcefully. “When I wandered off I ended up getting lost. I found some kind of clearing in between the tents and the trees of the park forest and I was only there for a few minutes when someone found me.”
Tsukasa spoke up again. “It wasn’t us, by the way. And when we did find him he was all smiles but he was clearly crying at some point.”
“Shut up! I was not crying! But yes, the person that found me was a little girl about our age. She was lost too I think but didn’t say anything about it so we just played together. Eventually we got hungry so we went to get something to eat and I had some money on me so I took care of it and she got this big smile. She asked me why I didn’t get anything for myself and so I had to explain to her that I couldn’t eat anything shaped like a fish.”
Nene felt her heart leap into her throat. That was it. That was the memory. She and Kou had done something stupid that morning so they got in trouble and she snuck away from the group. Amane had been crying when she found him and that’s why she stayed.
It seemed so impossible! He was that boy. He remembered her and his voice was so dreamy when he talked about her! She couldn’t seem to wrap her head around it.
She knew where this story was going but her tongue seemed glued to the roof of her mouth. Her throat was thick as if she swallowed a mouthful of cinnamon and she wanted to say or do something but she was stuck.
With Amane leaning on her shoulder she could see his face but could practically hear his smile. “When she heard that she looked so confused but instead of calling me weird like everyone else our age she just started ripping her taiyaki into pieces and just said that it’s not shaped like a fish anymore so I shouldn’t get in trouble. It was just… Insane.” He laughed. His laugh was so bright it seemed to make him shine and lighten the area itself. “So yeah, we shared the taiyaki and it became my favorite treat and I kept harassing Father about it until Mom stepped in.”
“You should have seen him.” Tsukasa jabbed but with a soft fondness in his eyes. “He’s an idiot so he never got that girl’s name. He was too busy being an in love toddler to care.”
“I was not!” Amane practically squealed with his voice cracking again. “It never came up and it didn’t matter! I don’t think she knows my name either! I doubt she even remembers me.”
How wrong he was...
“He used to talk about her all the time. ‘I wonder if she likes stars.’ ‘I wonder if she likes this game.’ Blah, blah, blah. He used to call her Moon Princess because she was- and I quote- as pretty as the moon.”
“Tsu,” Amane hissed, kicking at Tsukasa’s leg, “shut up!”
Tsukasa only laughed more while Nene’s face burned. It had to be visible in the dim light or at the least the steam that she worried was curling out of her head.
Amane really thought of her like that? She watched him as he sprung to his feet and charged at Tsukasa who only rolled away, still laughing. She had already accepted that Amane was actually capable of emotion but did he possibly have a crush on her? Probably not, right? If he knew she was the girl he probably wouldn’t have told that story at all. Besides if he did like the girl it was just a memory he liked. She had changed so much since back then.
Nene’s attention was caught with a yelp and Tsukasa springing to his feet. “Hey, Amane kun,” she called and tried not to snicker when he stopped dead in his tracks and fell into the grass looking at her. They were pretty far away but she could clearly see a pink tint in his cheeks. The lantern must have been more powerful than she realized. “It seemed like you might have had a question before Tsukasa distracted us. You seemed like you almost asked something in class before too.”
“Oh,” she barely heard him as he pulled himself to his feet and brushed off his pants. “Ri-right! There's an asteroid that comes around every five years or so and I think I found it. It won't be visible until early in the morning but if we stay up late I can show you!”
“An asteroid,” she repeated looking at the stars. “Isn’t that what we were going to watch? Won't it pass too quickly for us to really see?”
“Not at all!” Amane flopped across from her and grabbed a mug that she was pretty sure Tsukasa was drinking from before. “Meteors are typically really small, normally like a pebble size, and they burn up in the atmosphere. That’s what makes the light. They normally come from pieces of asteroids or comets. Asteroids though, they’re smaller than a planet, but they orbit something. The one I wanted to show you orbits the sun and can be seen every 1,803 days- just under 5 years.”
“Wow,” she blinked at him. “That’s, uhm, a lot of detail.”
“Oh, I guess it is slightly weird to know all that. Isn’t it?”
“No!” She corrected quickly. “It’s impressive! I just didn’t realize you know so much about space!”
“Tsukasa calls me a space otaku. I just really like the stars and it kind of grew from there.”
She nodded and conversation dwindled from there. They ate their snacks and drank tea in a comfortable silence. Every now and then one of them would share a story or a joke. Amane would point out stars and constellations, here and there showing her through the telescope or pulling out a book to share the stories or history. It was so comfortable and easy.
She had no idea how much time had passed before they saw the first streak of light. Nene had gasped and tried to stand but the pain came back with a vengeance. It shot like lightning through her legs and the ground shifted beneath her feet. She squeezed her eyes shut ready for a heavy fall when something solid came up on either side of her. An arm wrapped around her waist while another hand caught her shoulders and each of her hands were grabbed.
“Whoa,” Amane said softly. “Are you okay?”
“Did you not eat today?” Tsukasa asked.
She opened her eyes to see both boys holding her. They peered at her with the stripes of light putting their soft worried features in a sharp relief and she felt her heart give a single heard thump. She couldn’t imagine why but something about them rushing to her rescue made her feel like the protagonist in a manga. In any other context it would be romantic.
Amane’s hand on her waist tightened slightly but Tsukasa spoke over whatever thought he had. “We can cut the night short and walk you home.”
“Do you need a doctor?” Amane asked quietly.
“I’m okay.” Nene said. The disbelief played over their features in an amusing unison so she squeezed each of their hands and looked up at the falling stars. “I promise. This is too beautiful to miss.”
Looking up over each of their heads, Nene smiled. Something warm fluttered through her chest but she ignored it until the arm around her waist brought her closer to Amane’s chest. She glanced at him and he quickly looked away. He stared up at the shining stares and whispered something under his breath. When he was asked to repeat his face glowed red in the dim light.
“I was just asking if you wanted to sit or stay standing.”
She thought for just a moment and was so tempted to indulge. Maybe it was the fantasy that someone would love her since she was a child, or maybe it was the fact she was finally closer to Amane. And maybe he looked a little cute blushing like that.
“I want to stay standing. But it is kind of cold.”
“Do you want my jumper?” Both boys chimed then glared at each other.
She couldn’t hide her chuckle. They had both leaned closer to her, pressing their warmth into her arms. She mentioned this and the twins pressed closer to her. It allowed her to watch the stars without worry.
It didn’t take long however for Tsukasa to get bored and leave them in favor of snacks and tea. Amane was quick to adjust his grip to better support her even though she had her feet under her and she could stand on her own. Of course he didn’t know that and she couldn’t really find any reason to tell him.
“Are you still cold?” He asked softly. His voice was barely a whisper.
“A bit,” he admitted and he immediately eased her to sit on the grass. When he walked away her senses flooded with the earth. She felt the grass growing and wrapping around her fingers. The roots reach down through the cool dirt, energized to find better nutrition. If she tried she could even count every grain of silt under her finger tips. It was almost overwhelming but thankfully not nearly as bad as it was a few days ago.
It all went quiet when something wrapped around her shoulders and Amane sat next to her. He bumped his shoulder against her’s and smiled wide. “That should help.”
She looked down at the blanket and giggled. It was a thick fleece blanket that seemed well loved. When she looked at Amane to thank him her breath caught in her throat.
His eyes were locked on the sky. A slight smile lifted his features and the streaks of light and moon seemed to give him a beautiful soft blue glow. Despite him pulling his knees to his chest and wrapping his arms tight around his legs and the prickled skin on his arms he looked so relaxed.
Before she thought better of it she tossed half the blanket around his shoulders and leaned into his side. She felt him jump but she fixed her eyes on the falling stars. It took longer than she cared to think about for him to relax but when he did he fully leaned into her. One of her hands planted in the grass behind her and the open position allowed her to lean into his shoulder.
He was surprisingly comfortable. Nene wouldn’t describe him as soft but that made sense given the fact he was able to carry her without any issue and could apparently lift Kou just as easily. He was firm. Something solid to lean on but when he eventually leaned his cheek on the crown of her head she melted.
They sat there in a peaceful silence except for easy breathing from behind them even after the shower of lights faded. Amane pulled out his phone to check the time and whispered her name.
She hummed a response. “Are you tired?” he whispered and she shook her head. “We have a couple hours before that asteroid. Did you want to stay? I can take you home.”
“No I’ll stay,” she whispered back. “Was there anything you would want to talk about?”
He hummed and seemed to lean into her a little more. “Nothing comes to mind. I’m not really good at having friends.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“It’s true.” She could hear a smile in his voice. “In middle school people didn’t really talk to us so it was just me and Tsukasa. This is the first time we’ve actually been in different classes.”
“Wow.” She whispered. “But you didn’t even do any clubs or anything?”
“I played soccer for a little while. I was quite good at it too but after a season the team kicked me out and Father only agreed to let me play the one season anyway.”
“That’s so sad…”
“In a way I guess… Father is… very strict. He keeps threatening to have us homeschooled but Mom won’t allow it.”
She thought for a moment, the faces they made when people approached and the distance that she could feel even now with them being so close. This might be the most vulnerable she’s seen Amane but still she pitied them. How lonely must they be? How lonely did they make themselves?
“Well that’s changing.” She said firmly. “You two have friends now so even if you were home schooled you would still have people that cared about you and that you could talk to.”
The air around them changed and the area seemed lighter. She looked up to see a cloud moving away from the moon and heard Amane.
“That’s very sweet of you.” He whispered.
They fell into silence again and Nene must have drifted to sleep when Amane whispered to himself. “Maybe another night then.” She had barely heard it and almost thought it was a dream except his hand on her shoulder. It moved down behind her again leaving her arm cold even under the warm blanket.
“What?” She murmured groggily.
“The asteroid is almost visible. That’s all. I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“It’s fine…” she sat up and stretched, arching her back and rolling the pain from her neck. “I want to see it.”
She was suddenly very aware that she didn’t hurt. The plants weren’t too loud. Maybe her suffering was finally over and she finally adjusted to the magic flowing through her.
She stood on her own and almost cried with joy. She finally felt normal again.
Unaware, Amane led her to the telescope and adjusted it before gesturing her forward. When she did look she saw a small lumpy, not quite oval rock.
“Oh.” Was all she could say.
Her disinterest must have been clear.
“It’s called 1092 Lilium, named after a true lily. I thought that it might be a good start and since the orbit was so close and I heard your favorite flower was- You know what, it was stupid but here.”
She looked up when she heard the rustling of fabric and from his pocket he pulled out a small blue cardboard box tied with a light silver ribbon. She was admittedly hesitant to open it but when she did she couldn’t restrain the gasp.
Nestled in a bed of black velvet was a hair comb with a cluster of pink and pale yellow lilies. They looked like stargazers with the speckling and exaggerated curling of the petals but she couldn’t be sure in the dark. When she shifted the box, even slightly, the petals glimmered with a metallic shine and she noticed the small leaves behind the blooms and at the center of each of the flowers, barely visible in the dim light-
“Are those pearls,” she asked breathlessly.
“Yeah, at the centers.” He looked away, leaning back on his heels and shoved his hands in his pocket. “Pearls are prized in my family. They are hard to get without injuring the wildlife which is something we don’t really do. Modern technology and all. But they are a sign of wisdom and calming. The elders also say they bring abundance and prosperity so you know…”
“It’s beautiful…” she whispered, taking the ornament out of the box with careful fingers. She looked at the flowers closer with the light of the lantern even if it was faint. They were definitely stargazers. The very flower that somehow reminded her of Amane from day one. The color choice however…
Pink again for abundance and prosperity. Then yellow, the youngest addition to the stargazer family, for thankfulness and a desire for enjoyment. It was likely a simple strain of luck but the comb felt almost like a charm. Something pleasant and comforting sat in the molded blossoms and metal prongs that promised exactly what it stood for. And more, it felt like him. The same protective aura from when she was injured radiated from the accessory and it warmed her.
“I love it.” She finally said and tried not to giggle when Amane let out a burst of a sigh.
“Good, good. I’m glad. I hope it’s not weird. I saw it and thought you would like something like that so you know. And I guess you could see it as a delayed get well gift. I’m not very good at origami and cranes are kind of cliche anyway.”
She did laugh this time. Letting whatever flutter run through her stomach and up her chest. “It’s not weird at all! I promise I love it.”
He fully smiled then. A bright crooked smile that lit up his features and stuck with her well after the night ended. Even after she got home, the smile played through her dreams. Along with the shine in his eyes when he told her about the stars or the lightness of the air when he seemed so happy.
She also dreamed of the little boy that she now knew was Amane waiting for her in a beautiful clearing, a familiar seed in his cupped hands. He stood in a yukata next to a pond, clear as glass despite the surrounding trees and wildlife. The moon pressed down, only overgrown branches keeping it at bay. It was the circle carved under his feet in the dirt that chilled her. A familiar spell that she had almost completely forgotten.
“Why didn’t you want me?” The young Amane asked with the grown Amane’s voice. “You called for me but I wasn’t enough?”
He changed, growing to his teenage self. The yakata grew with him, as did the seed into a young water lily that glowed in his palms.
“We told you.” Tetsuo san's voice came from him now. “This was forbidden. I hope you’re ready this time.”
She woke up with a scream.
She was okay. Nene was in her own bed in her home. She wasn’t in pain and despite the dread seeping into her still, the dream that woke her was already slipping away. She took a deep breath and counted back from ten. Each number she marked something new for her senses.
10. Her granny’s singing.
9. The muffled clatter of cooking.
8. Nene’s hamster running on his wheel.
7 . The plush softness of her bed.
She continued counting until finally her heart rate steadied. But she still counted. She had to finish the count. Then she noticed.
1. A gentle glow in the dark room shining through her eyelids.
Her water lily had bloomed just a little more. No longer a bud, the pink petals had just started to pull away to form a full bloom. It was only a few- maybe 5 petals at the most- but after years of nurturing it was finally starting to bloom. Just as she had forgotten how she got the damn thing in the first place. She couldn’t say that it was normal for flowers to glow but it was just probably a trick of the light sneaking past her curtains and under her door.
Today was going to be a good day if only for the fact that her favorite baby was starting to bloom.