There were a lot of things that Leo knew about Sena Izumi. It was only natural that there were, though; they’d now spent more than a year together, after all. But the things that he knew about Izumi weren’t shocking, scandalous secrets or intimate feelings and opinions that were hidden from others. Leo did know one or two of those, he figured, but more importantly, he knew what was laid before him in plain sight.
Leo had a good pair of eyes. He was an observer. Everyone is an observer, if one really thinks about it, but Leo was a good observer. He picked up on all the little things that everybody else might overlook in their day-to-day lives. No “little thing” was ever really little to Leo, as proven by the fact that he’d write each and every one of them down in one of the now hundreds of notebooks piled in his closet at home. Leo was good at picking up those little details and giving them a home. It was hard to answer when people asked him how he could produce those so-called “masterpieces” so easily, because the truth was something that nobody really seemed to get the way that Leo got it: it was all just what he had seen. Inspiration didn’t always come from a once-in-a-lifetime excursion to some beautiful, scenic place that would take his breath away—most of the time, it came from the “little things” that Leo had painstakingly collected on paper so that he wouldn’t forget them.
And most of the time, those little things came from Sena Izumi. Every great artist has had a muse, after all, and so Leo supposed that maybe it wasn’t fair to say it was just the little things that gave him inspiration, because then he’d only be telling half of the story. A gesture from one of his classmates was much different than the same from Izumi, after all. So, Leo thought, if he had to answer the question of how he could produce so much great music, he supposed he would say “from little things; from a little Sena Izumi.”
A Little Sena Izumi. That one had been his favorite.
He remembered the open notebooks scattered about the surface of the desk around him as he hunched over the score, letting his eyelids flutter as he willed his thoughts into poetry and his poetry into music.
A Little Sena Izumi. A song about the little things.
It was about the way that he carried himself, with his shoulders not too tense but never quite relaxed enough, which he seemed to do effortlessly but Leo could never imitate as easily because after five minutes his shoulders would begin to ache from the strain. Izumi opened the door to any room with his right hand always and never his left because Izumi always carried anything heavier and larger than a phone in his left hand. He was usually carrying folders of sheet music and notebooks filled with lyrics for Knights’s songs—for Leo’s songs—that he would always refuse to show to anybody—e specially Leo—until they were perfect. And Izumi’s definition of perfect was something Leo knew, as well. It was spread out amongst the stars and if he fell short of it Leo knew how he would shut himself down, collapse in on himself until he was reduced to nothing but a defensive husk of self-ridicule and negative thoughts. Leo knew to reach out to him when that happened, but more often than not he would have to pass the task over to Arashi or Ritsu because Izumi clammed up like a cocoon when he was around Leo despite how desperately Leo wanted to get inside his head. And he never told Arashi or Ritsu much more than he told Leo, but even the difference of a few more words felt like a great loss to him. Izumi usually suffered alone, and demanded everyone else to settle for sitting back and letting the storm pass.
It was about the way that he danced. Their unit’s choreography was fine as it was, but it wasn’t Izumi’s specialty, because if it were, then the rest of them would be left in the dust. Arashi could imitate it decently, but Leo believed that nobody in the world was on the level that Izumi was when he fitted himself into his ballet slippers. Izumi rarely allowed audiences, but Leo managed to worm his way into his practice studio—Izumi rented it from the school, but never once referred to it as anything other than his studio—on the pretense of needing the inspiration to draft a new song. And he would watch, entranced, as Izumi’s body mirrored the music, delicate and enchanting and elegant and beautiful, with not a flaw to be found. He was light on his feet, impossibly so, and danced like a petal fluttering in the wind—like Leo’s heart fluttering in his chest—graceful and calm and enthralling enough to inspire two—four—six— dozens of masterpieces. Izumi never said much when he was done, usually heading off to the showers immediately because he could never stand feeling anything less than his best. Leo stayed for an extra ten minutes to properly sear the memory into his mind, and into one of his notebooks.
It was about everything that Izumi could offer to him. Little quirks, his voice, his appearance, his behavior—all of it was enough to inspire a notebook’s worth of ideas in Leo’s mind. He could watch Izumi forever, draw ideas from him forever, because Izumi’s beauty was a flowing river that poured into the vastness of the ocean, the current never stopping or slowing for anything. Leo wanted to immerse himself in him, sink beneath the surface and be enveloped in him, soaked in him, because if writing music is what kept Leo alive then Izumi was the air in his lungs.
But for as much as Leo knew that Izumi was beautiful in everything that he did, he knew that he had faults, too—faults that were dangerous when not paid proper attention to. Leo learned that lesson very well after what had happened between them, and once he learned a lesson, he never forgot it, because Leo was a genius through and through. He learned to acknowledge those cracks and chips in the beautiful porcelain that was his Sena Izumi, and he yearned to paint over them in a thin layer of gold and stack four or five more layers up on top of the first until the damage became beautiful, too.
He craved quiet nights by the fireplace, tranquil walks on the beach at the tideline, and impromptu picnics underneath trees centuries older than they were. He longed for those intimate moments because he never overlooked the little things, and he would stare at Izumi much longer than he would stare at the flames or the ocean or the falling flower petals because they would never hold a feather to what he had. He would kiss each crack and chip and bruise and scar because at the end of the day, despite how Izumi would scowl and hiss and claw and hurt, nobody could ever bring themselves to hate beauty. And Izumi was beauty. He was a shimmering moon in a sky of twinkling stars; a breathless glance over miles and miles of uncharted land; the resounding chimes of a bell that had been shaken gently by a summer breeze; the crash of an ocean wave embracing the white sand of the shore.
To hate him would be to cast aside all that was beautiful in the world—fire hurt when touched, but that never once diminished humans’ fascination with its warm, comforting glow. It was foolish to even try to bring oneself to hate beauty, because Leo had tried, and yet the moment he’d closed his eyes and drifted to sleep, Izumi returned to him twice as vivid in his dreams. He was a will-o-wisp—a flickering flame amidst a blizzard, a siren’s song among the waves—and as much as Leo could force him out of his thoughts while he still had to strength to, he returned to his rightful place the moment that Leo surrendered his mind to exhaustion.
Humans craved beauty innately. The will to forget about something so beautiful and to cast it aside registered in their minds as a paradox, because it seemed to their conscience the same as suddenly deciding that they no longer needed air in their lungs. It was impossible to do, and one could only go so long without eventually surrendering to its allure—without giving in to the natural desire to worship it utterly and admire it ceaselessly.
Maybe that’s why Makoto kissed Izumi on the night of the Star Festival, roughly two hours or so before Leo had planned to kiss him first. Leo had watched Izumi knit that scarf for him, watched every loop and pull and noticed how each little movement was driven by nothing but his tender affection. He saw the love heavy in Izumi’s eyes, twinkling like the ornaments on the little tree he’d snuck into the studio and decorated with Ritsu and Arashi while Izumi and Tsukasa weren’t around. Leo saw it all, and knew it all, but he also knew that Makoto didn’t look at Izumi the way Izumi looked at him, and that he wasn’t going to appreciate that scarf the way he would. He knew Makoto would probably awkwardly turn it down and run off, or tell Izumi that he didn’t want any more charity from him, or, considering how he’d puffed out his chest during Halloween, maybe he’d reject Izumi altogether and finally get it through his head that Makoto was never going to love him. And no matter what, Leo would have been waiting for him back at the studio, expecting him, ready to comfort him and tell him that there was someone who loved him and maybe finally get the chance to take Izumi by the shoulders and kiss him the way someone like Izumi should be kissed.
But Makoto kissed him first. Kissed him after Leo watched Izumi wrap the scarf he’d spent hours knitting for him over Makoto’s shoulders, over the coat that was a size too big for him and looked like an old hand-me-down from ten years ago. Kissed him as the snow fell around them and as the bells tinkled in the distance and as Leo tried to figure out whether he was numb because he was wearing such a thin sweater or because there was nothing left in him that could possibly hurt. Kissed him, and Izumi kissed him back, because he’d been waiting so long for it, like how Leo had been waiting so long for Makoto to finally work up the courage to reject Izumi and push him into Leo’s arms instead.
Makoto kissed him first.
Leo hated to be angry, but anger was the first reaction that seized him and held him tightly in its grip. He had half a mind to ruin the moment altogether—to make his presence known by storming between them and maybe punching Makoto in his stupid face with as much strength as his skinny arm could muster—but he knew that would make Izumi cry, and Leo didn’t like it when Izumi cried, despite the fact that he still somehow managed to be so beautiful when crying. Leo didn’t want to cause him pain, even if he felt perfectly prepared to cause a certain someone else a lot of pain. Izumi looked so happy, after all; Leo could tell even from his distance, because Leo knew what sort of body language Izumi had when he was happy. He could tell from the way his shoulders perked up not out of tension but out of elation, and from the way he clasped and folded and fidgeted with his hands, and from the way he kept rocking from the flats of his feet to his toes because Makoto was taller than him now and Izumi kept childishly pretending that he wasn’t.
Leo was still angry, though. In that blind anger, he couldn’t see the beauty in those little things that he’d filled his notebooks with, because they no longer belonged to him. They belonged to someone else, because Leo’s hair wasn’t a pretty golden color and his eyes weren’t the right shade of green and he didn’t wear bulky, ugly, stupid glasses that Izumi was somehow attracted to. He hated losing to a coward who probably never wrote a single song while thinking about the way Izumi puffed out his lips ever so slightly when putting on his favorite mint-flavored lip balm, or the way he hummed softly to himself while he cleaned the studio, so blissfully captured in the moment that he never realized that Leo could hear him. Ah, but maybe Makoto wasn’t a sniveling, trembling, pathetic coward after all, because it sure must’ve taken a lot of nerve to snatch Izumi up and out of Leo’s hands like that. To kiss him like he deserved it, as if that was all it would take for Izumi to leap into his arms and stay there forever.
But he did deserve it, and that was all it took. Because Izumi practically floated when he walked back into the studio that night and his eyes were so bright and his movements were so light and airy that Leo knew Izumi would never— could never—love anybody else.
Leo wondered if Makoto had a good pair of eyes. He wondered if Makoto was an observer—a good observer, like Leo was. He wondered if Makoto would be able to pick up on all the little things that everybody else might overlook in their day-to-day lives. He wondered if Makoto would taste the remnants of mint on his lips when he kissed him, and if he’d think to himself how beautiful Izumi’s voice was when he heard him humming to himself. He wondered if Makoto would take care of Izumi that way that Leo would have taken care of him: running his fingers through his hair as they sat by the warmth of the fire; holding his hand as they listened to the distant sound of the crashing waves; savoring each bite of his delicious, homemade lunches in the springtime when the sakura were in full bloom. Most of all, Leo wondered if Makoto would love Izumi the way that Leo loved him, so full of it that it became part of him, so intense that he’d kiss him in his dreams and wake up with electricity on his lips.
Leo still noticed all the little things. He could never refuse the fact that Izumi was beautiful in all that he did, and that it was only natural for humans to be drawn to that beauty—enchanted by it.
But the little things no longer brought him the same fleeting fantasies and they no longer triggered a symphony in his head and their presence on the hundreds and hundreds of pages of his notebooks were beginning to feel more like an annoyance, because they no longer belonged to him. They belonged to Makoto, now.
And Leo couldn’t write about things that did not belong to him.
The aftermath was suffocating. The absence of music in his life—the absence of the muse that brought music into his life—strangulated him, stole the air from his lungs and left him writhing.
He was haunted by the thought of Izumi’s precious heart in someone else’s hands, someone whose hands were so clumsy and untrained and slippery, someone who might drop it and shatter it into a million pieces. Izumi hated broken things that had been sloppily glued back together again, and Leo couldn’t bear the thought of Izumi hating himself more than he already did. He wrestled with the idea of Izumi breaking in the same way that he’d been broken, of having to share the heartache with him, of being unable to do anything to stop it from happening. He let himself become consumed with it, sank in it, and drowned in it. The music stopped, and his knights worried, and he pushed them away, taking water into his lungs and burning from the inside-out.
And then, on the second week, Leo saw them.
Leo saw them walking past the shoe lockers together, saw Izumi stop Makoto to fix that scarf he’d given him. He heard how Makoto laughed and said Izumi was worrying too much, and knew that Makoto was bluffing because he liked it when Izumi made him homemade lunches and fixed his clothes and gave him goodbye kisses. And he saw how Izumi smiled and saw the spring in his step, heard the love and joy in his voice and heard the sweet nothings that he whispered, and found his lungs full of air instead of water for the first time in what felt like years. Leo saw that Izumi was happy, and that Makoto was happy, and that the two of them were meant to walk through the entrance holding hands like that to keep themselves warm against the wintry winds. He knew that Makoto loved Izumi, and that Izumi was happier than he had ever seen him, and Leo’s heart was full. He’d never been able to make Izumi smile the way that Makoto made him smile. Leo didn’t think that Makoto had any particular talents; he wasn’t exceptional at anything he did, really. He didn’t write songs and he wasn’t very charismatic and Trickstar was still far from being anywhere close to Knights.
But Makoto could make Izumi smile in a way that nobody else could, and Leo decided that if Makoto was the only person who could do that, then it was good that Izumi was holding his hand. Izumi was meant to be appreciated and loved in all his beauty, and if Makoto was the one who could draw out his potential, then Leo couldn’t possibly stay angry at him or envy what he had.
It was impossible to hate beauty, and it was impossible to hate Izumi’s happiness.
So Leo smiled—smiled clumsily because he hadn’t smiled in a while—and walked to his locker. He smiled as he glanced out the entrance and saw those two fade into the falling snow, walking past the gates and to who knows where after that. He smiled when he opened the locker and reached in to retrieve his outdoor shoes, and only stopped smiling when a little piece of paper fluttered to the ground when he’d pulled out his shoes and moved to place them at his feet. Curiously, he slipped off his indoor shoes, stored them in his locker, shut the door quietly, and put on his boots before kneeling to pick it off of the floor.
It was nothing special, really—a blank sheet of paper folded neatly to look like an envelope. Leo’s fingers smoothed it until it was open, and he stared at the pretty penmanship that stared back at him, blinking in the light of the corridor.
After some time he followed the folds until it was back into the way he’d found it, and he tucked the little paper into his coat pocket and turned to start walking home. The snow wasn’t going to stop until tomorrow morning, but he had a hood, and he liked the way that snow looked when it fell around him, so he didn’t mind.
When will you finally notice me?
Leo thought long and hard about it that night, thought about it until his body was too heavy with sleep to think anymore, and dreamed about what it must feel like to be loved by somebody.