Hokuto meets him on the first day of high school.
"We're in the same class, so we should get along!" The boy introduces himself as Subaru, with a handshake that's a little too enthusiastic and an infectiously bright smile. Subaru is annoying, but although Hokuto puts off the aura that he doesn't really care all that much, there's something refreshing about the boy that he doesn't understand, so he lets Subaru come back.
Subaru says he likes sparkly things, like the penlights from the stage while he sings, and Hokuto finds that absurd, because they're not idols or anything like that, but he's proven wrong when Subaru begs and begs him to sing for the cultural festival that year.
"Remind me again why we're doing this?" Hokuto straightens the jacket for what feels like the hundredth time, pats down the creases in his matching pants.
"Because it's gonna be fun!" Subaru smiles at him, and Hokuto seems to forget the nervousness bubbling in his chest when he sees that smile. "We practiced super hard, so don't worry so much! Just let the music carry you away, Hokke!"
Hokuto wonders when the boy had started calling him by that nickname, but he leaves the question unanswered as they're welcomed on stage.
So he just sings, and it feels right, and Subaru smiles, and that feels right too. And the lights - the sparkling lights of the audience - somehow, Hokuto understands Subaru's love for them in that moment.
And when they hear the audience call their names for an encore, Subaru grabs Hokuto's hand and his smile is so full of joy and happiness that Hokuto feels the bud of something - a flower of emotion, perhaps - begin to bloom deep within him.
When they finally catch a break backstage, Subaru envelopes Hokuto in a hug so tight that knocks the last of the air from him and they collapse in a little pile, laughing.
"I want to sing with you forever, Hokke!"
So Hokuto replies, simply, as honestly as he can, "I do, too."
Their second year rocket launches under the blooming cherry trees; two having graduated to four, and four having graduated to one.
"I didn't know you could play piano, Hokke," Subaru says, almost suspiciously, and Hokuto just brushes it off, but brings his keyboard to school the next day, and Mao brings his guitar, and Makoto frets about it all too much because he's only allowed to bring his drum sticks.
"We have to think of a name," Mao comments, a week into playing arranged scores from online and stealing the drum kit from the music classrooms. "Anyone got ideas?"
"Something shiny, like stars," Subaru says, and things happen, and eventually they make it out of an unproductive little session with a name and a logo.
Trickstar makes their debut a month later in a little live house out of the way as part of a special flower-viewing festival, and Hokuto can say, then, that he's never felt more alive being surrounded by his three closest friends. Sure, Subaru doesn't show up, so he sings the part for him. But when he does, and they sing together again, Hokuto finally realises that feeling from the festival had been love all along.
The penlights in the audience sparkle, and Hokuto falls in love once again.
With quietly blooming feelings, fingers dancing over keys and handwritten lyrics, his second year passes and a third starts.
The aura in the classrooms shifts to serious, and Hokuto either sees his classmates chatting up girls from other schools or cramming for university entrance exams. It's strange, though, when he gets asked about the former, because he sees Subaru off to the side and his heart sort of flutters, he finds himself desperately pretending not to be in love, and then gets flustered answering the question itself.
Word goes around about the first soul marks to appear, and then everyone's gossiping over whose mark is whose.
Hokuto doesn't believe in fate. He believes in the way his fingers tingle when Subaru touches them, and in the warmth that thinking of him brings to his cheeks, and in the floating feeling of happiness that comes when they sing together.
But, still, he hopes, dearly, that fate will be the thing that allows his feelings to be heard.
It's raining on his birthday, but Subaru doesn't let it deter his happiness. His smile is ever-bright despite forgetting his umbrella, so Hokuto shares his own, hurrying after Subaru when he runs ahead.
Subaru's room is toasty and familiar, so while Makoto dries off his glasses and Mao fixes his hair, Hokuto strips off his wet blazer and hangs it up to dry. Just like any other meeting they have that isn't practice, Subaru brings up a jug of juice and pours four glasses.
It's sparkling, Hokuto realises as he takes a sip, and smiles.
"That's right, it's your 18th today, isn't it?" Mao brings it up so casually that Hokuto doesn't understand until Subaru's lifting up his shirt.
"I don't get why it's 18," he's grumbling, because 18 doesn't really mean much to any of them. "Couldn't they have chosen a better number?"
Subaru's mark is a little star, just above his left hip. It's cute; immensely fitting, for a boy so connected with the stars. For a selfish little moment, Hokuto thinks about having the same mark imprinted on his hip in December, and allows himself to think about Subaru's smile when they-
...Until Makoto wipes his glasses in disbelief, and pulls up his own shirt to reveal an identical mark.
"Holy shit." Mao's voice is so soft in the silence, and that triggers all the chaos.
Hokuto doesn't believe in fate, but somehow, the little bud of happiness that he'd allowed himself wilts and falls from his hands.
Subaru almost launches himself at Makoto, and Hokuto registers some sort of laughter, but he can't really hear it. Distantly, he realises he's holding his glass so tightly that his hands are shaking, so he releases it with a soft clatter. Is he pretending well enough?
He sees Subaru's smile, and it hurts, it hurts to think that he'd never had a chance at it, and so Hokuto gently picks up the weary limbs of his body and staggers to the door, making up some excuse about the toilet.
Hokuto never makes it to the toilet, because the moment he closes the door to the room, he feels his heart break into tiny, tiny pieces. He cries, because he doesn't even know what to do, what to feel any more. So he quietly sobs, letting the tears come, hoping, somehow, that his heart will piece itself back together.
"Do you guys think Hokke is okay?" Subaru's voice floats in from the doorway, and Hokuto idly realises the ruckus has slowly died down.
"He probably needs some space," comes Mao. "He was really tense earlier."
Subaru's voice is a little soft when he hears it next. "Space...?"
"You haven't realised it at all, have you?" Mao pauses there. Hokuto wonders what sort of face Subaru would be making on the other side of the door. "Hokuto's in love with you, Subaru. It's obvious from the way he looks at you."
A loud clatter. Hokuto quickly gathers himself, calculating the seconds to the nearest bathroom, but the door is faster, so he lurches away from the footsteps following him, almost trips down the stairs.
"Hokke!?" So it's just Subaru, then; the only person he refuses to show his crying face to. Hokuto pauses at the bottom of the stairs, then heads straight for the front door, original plan forgotten.
The rain makes him stop a little, and that's enough for a hand to grab his arm and pull him back.
"Why are you running away?" He sounds so hurt, and Hokuto feels himself break a little more.
"Let me go," Hokuto says instead, wincing at how rough and weak he sounds. So much for being their strong leader.
Subaru says nothing.
"Let me go, Akehoshi," he repeats, and Subaru does, finally.
"...Why did you run away?"
It's cold, in the rain, and it masks the tears that won't stop falling.
"I don't- I don't want you to see me like this," Hokuto chokes out, finally, because that's the only reason that makes sense. He's never allowed himself to cry in front of Trickstar before - hell, he won't even let himself cry in front of anyone - but the iron grip he thought he had on his emotions refuses to stop the tears.
After a moment of silence, the footsteps head back into the house, but they return just as quickly.
"It's not like I'm going to let fate decide who I like." Suddenly, the rain stops, and Hokuto glances up to see an umbrella over his head. Subaru shyly peers at him from under it, the remnants of a smile gathering on his cheeks. "And I'm not going to let someone else throw away the feelings I treasured before."
Acutely aware of his red-rimmed, puffy eyes, Hokuto lowers his head, still letting the last shreds of his pride hold himself upright. "What does that mean?"
"I like you."
"You're lying," Hokuto deflects immediately, despite the yearning that tears him apart. He's not about to let Subaru toy with his heart, not after it's tender from being broken. "Just say you're trying to comfort me-"
But Subaru has other plans, and Hokuto finds the words taken from him by something soft, something gentle.
"I wouldn't lie about something so important to me," Subaru says when he steps back, and his eyes swirl from tormented to desperate to uncertain, settling on determined. "I love you, Hokuto. And I'm not letting fate take you away from me."
And that breaks Hokuto once again, but this time he cries tears of happiness into Subaru's warm shoulder, and the little flower in his chest blooms once again.
(Oh, little does he know that fate takes away much more than that.)
"Are you sure that it's okay, Ukki? For Hokke and I to...?"
"Yeah. I've actually been dating someone-"
"Wait?! Why didn't you tell us?"
"I- I didn't know when would be the right time andthenitjustbecamea-"
"Who is it? Tell us!"
"Um...A-Anzu from our cl-"
"Oh my god. The girl who helped us get the drum kit from the music room?"
"Holy shit. That's so cute."
"Don't m-make it such a big deal, guys! Akehoshi-kun, give my phone back...!"
He turns with a smile, and is met with brightness and bubbling happiness. "Akehoshi. Good morning."
Subaru slips his hand into Hokuto's gently, and it feels just right.
"I was thinking about our next live," Subaru says. "Do you wanna sing with me?"
It's peaceful; being like this with Subaru. Hokuto feels his heart fill with joy every day, and when he tells Subaru, he receives a barrage of kisses and the most loving gaze in the world. He knows he's in love with the world's biggest idiot, but, well, it's Subaru, and that somehow makes it all right. He's still embarrassed to think about them as something- something more than friends, and although nothing much changes at all except for the little kisses that they share, the brush of hands that graduates to fingers entangled while they walk, Hokuto thinks that he's truly happy.
If he could just have these days forever, happily in love without a worry in the world-
Summer passes, and then comes autumn, and then slowly winter starts to creep in. Performances and exams and secretly planned dates fill up the last of the calendar pinned to Hokuto's wall, and then suddenly it's the day before his birthday.
Subaru is tense, but Hokuto reassures him that he has nothing to worry about as the clock ticks closer to midnight.
As expected, it's not Subaru's mark, but a little thing on the curve of his back. Subaru pores all over it, takes pictures and shows Hokuto, but there's a weird look in his eyes, so Hokuto turns over and shoos Subaru off him after a while.
"I'll never leave you," Hokuto promises, just in case the first reassurance wasn't enough, just before he turns off the lights. "No matter what, Akehoshi."
The next day, they realise Hokuto's mark is also Anzu's (god knows how Makoto's seen that), and he and Makoto spend the afternoon furiously apologising to the other's partner. But Anzu brushes it off with a smile, and Subaru hugs them all, and poor Mao, overseeing the entire ordeal, brings in cake and the apologies are forgotten.
Christmas comes all too quickly, and there's the gift giving and awkward little meetings under the cleverly hidden mistletoe; quiet moments in the snow that Subaru and Hokuto spend shyly exploring each other's lips.
Hokuto graduates top of class that spring, to nobody's surprise, and finds himself accepted to a number of university scholarship programs even before the offers release. Subaru, not so bright, despite having the fortune of the smartest guy in the grade being his boyfriend, opts to get a job or three, and this, to Hokuto's actual surprise, manages to earn enough to rent a little studio by the uni he chooses.
He supposes, that however much he's underestimated Subaru's bubbly personality snagging him job offers left and right is however much he has to repay the boy by doing practically all the house chores.
It's worth it, though, because he falls asleep happily with Subaru by his side every night, and wakes up to him every morning. Living with Subaru is refreshing above all, and Hokuto wonders where he'd be without him.
"You'd be a good house husband," Subaru admits one day when Hokuto finds him collapsed on the couch, and had woken up to find himself tucked into bed, clothes changed. "Let's get married, Hokke!"
"Don't be stupid," Hokuto retorts back, hiding his flaming cheeks by staring intently at his laptop, where his thesis lies half-written. It's not an unwelcome proposal, however. "...Well, let's think about it properly after I graduate, all right?"
"We're thinking of offering you a full-time job here, Hidaka-kun," Eichi says slowly, "since you've done so well during your internship. Of course, you're welcome to finish your university degree first, in which case, we'll save a spot here for you."
A full-time job? At the Tenshouin Conglomerate? Hokuto thanks the heavens for the internship, thanks Subaru for urging him to apply for it.
"You seem rather happy." With a smile, Eichi types something on the computer beside him. "I take it that you're interested?"
"I'd be honoured to," Hokuto almost gushes, unable to contain the excitement in his voice. "Of course, if you are willing to accommodate me."
"Then, consider it done." A tap of a button prints a set of forms, which Eichi hands to him, a little glint in his eye. "I do believe we have one more position available. If I send the details to you, would you be able to find a candidate?"
And that is how Hokuto lands both himself and Anzu perfect jobs, is the one to shell out for a celebratory cake instead of Subaru, and somehow still has money left over to show for it.
Subaru goes to his graduation ceremony and falls asleep almost immediately. Hokuto teases him about it relentlessly afterwards, having completely missed Hokuto, Anzu and Mao's appearances and almost yelled out loud when Makoto had elbowed him slightly too hard.
"Congrats," he says instead, cheeks as pink as the flowers in his hands, looking somewhat handsome in his suit. Hokuto ruffles his sleep-messed hair and lets his lover kiss him anyway.
Later that night, as Subaru settles into bed beside him, Hokuto idly wonders if he'd remember that offhanded comment he'd said while tired from working on his thesis about marrying after graduation.
He decides not to dwell on it too much.
Subaru does remember that offhanded comment.
"Fate told us that we weren't meant for each other, but I don't care about that. You are everything to me, Hokuto, and I would throw away fate for you."
Subaru kneels at his feet, eyes full of longing and adoration. It's been years, years since their first kiss under the umbrella in the rain, but Hokuto has never felt the love for the man before him diminish, and it blooms so much brighter in his chest in this moment.
"So, Hidaka Hokuto, will you marry me?"
His voice shakes, but he's so happy that he doesn't care. "Of course I'll marry you, Subaru."
Subaru slides the ring on his finger (it's shiny, just how he likes it) as they kiss under the blooming cherry trees.
"I can't believe you guys are getting married so soon," Mao says, somewhat in disbelief. "All Ritsu does is sleep at my place. It's a miracle that we still have it, since he doesn't pay the rent."
"I mean, Hokke's kinda like a god, so..."
"Hidaka-kun is literally a god," Anzu punctuates over Subaru, face all serious. "He did this huge presentation for work, finished arranging the music for the next live and he's planning the wedding. I'd say that makes him a god."
Hokuto remembers actually presenting that pile of papers and winces. "Anzu, please don't bring up that presentation. Hibiki wouldn't stop making fun of me for weeks."
Subaru giggles. "Hokke kept falling asleep at the table. I don't remember how many coffees I made for him."
"Akehoshi, I'm divorcing you."
"Hokke! We're not even married yet!"
"You guys are literally already married," Makoto laughs, and Hokuto feels his face turn an unwanted pink.
Subaru screams in the shower one day, and Hokuto almost breaks down the door, but Subaru only smiles weakly, a little shock and terror still outlining his bright blue eyes.
"Don't worry, I just slipped a little," he says, clutching his chest, probably to still his beating heart. Hokuto sighs, relieved, and Subaru smiles at him until he quietly closes the door to the bathroom again.
There are no more bathroom incidents, but Hokuto notices a faraway look in Subaru's eyes from time to time, and makes a note to check on him if it continues.
"I wanna have a sparkly ceremony under the stars," Subaru says dreamily one day, and Hokuto calls every place he can think of to make it happen.
With his job and band practice, because Trickstar somehow is still a thing even if their lives are much fewer now, planning the ceremony takes up the last of Hokuto's energy. Subaru tries to help out, writing lists of guests and choosing locations and making plans, but in the end Hokuto usually ends the day collapsed on Subaru's shoulder.
But it's all right, because when they emerge from the other side of their plans a generous few months later, the ceremony is set for the next spring, under the stars and strings of fairy lights in a beautiful moonlit garden just a way out of town.
Subaru loves it, adores it to bits when Hokuto shows him everything; he even cries about how extra embarrassing Hokuto had been while choosing everything down to the details. So Hokuto indulges him, gives him kisses and ruffles his hair, and finally gets a proper night of rest.
"I can't believe we'll be married this time next year," Subaru whispers in awe, twisting the band on his finger. "Hokke! Where do you want to go for our honeymoon?"
"I've got a list of places," Hokuto murmurs into the mess of orange hair, absently thinking about their budget and how much he can spare for it. They might be older than their teenage selves, but Subaru somehow seems to retain his bubbly childishness when he's at home. "What are you thinking?"
"Aaah~," Subaru gasps, "wait, ah-! Hokke, not my shirt..."
Hokuto pauses, hovers gently above his lover's neck, where his trail of kisses leads to the collar of his shirt. "Akehoshi?"
"Can I...keep my shirt on?" Subaru diverts his eyes.
But we haven't done this in ages, Hokuto thinks, but weighs up the possibilities anyway. "If it's about your junk food addiction, I told you not to eat so much."
"It's not-" He looks almost terrified, now, and Hokuto immediately knows something is wrong.
"Akehoshi. What's the matter?"
Quietly, Subaru reaches for Hokuto's hand, interlocking fingers. A comfort gesture.
Finally, in barely a whimper, "I'm disappearing."
"You what." Hokuto's heard ridiculous things from Subaru before, but not something like this, that makes him almost cry and look like Daikichi when a storm is passing by. "How-"
"Take off my shirt," he says, softly.
So Hokuto does, and completely stops in his tracks.
The middle of Subaru's chest is transparent, a blotchy patch perhaps the size of perhaps a dinner plate. It ebbs every now and again, and when Hokuto puts his hand to it, he still feels Subaru there, but just barely visible.
"I did some research," Subaru says, pulling the discarded shirt to his chest, looking so vulnerable and scared, tears threatening to spill from his eyes. "It's a rare side effect of defying the...mark system. I'm disappearing because I love you too much."
Choking on his words, Subaru curls into Hokuto's side.
Once upon a time, Subaru had declared that fate would never steal Hokuto away from him.
"I won't ever leave you," Hokuto says as Subaru sobs quietly, thinking about whether he's said the same thing before, because the tightness in his chest feels all too familiar. "I promise, Subaru."
Subaru's bright mood never fully returns after that, and Hokuto sees him glancing off into the distance every now and then, a glaze over his eyes. Every waking hour that he has that isn't at work or with Makoto and Mao, he spends with Subaru, because Subaru smiles when he's there.
The days pass, autumn giving way to winter, the little hole in Subaru's chest growing. Hokuto sees Subaru's mood slowly worsen as the disappearance spreads, reaching his shoulders and arms, spreading down his legs.
"I'm glad it's winter soon," Subaru says as they sit across from each other in the restaurant, looking happier than usual. "I took a break from work for your birthday. Let's go on a date!"
"I'll ask Isara and Yuuki if they're happy with the weekend," Hokuto replies over his pancakes. "Unless you wanted to go with them?"
Subaru smiles. "How about a triple date? With Ritsu and Anzu?"
"Let's ask in the group chat later," Hokuto muses, and for a moment, he thinks he sees the old Subaru's eyes sparkling in joy.
The year passes, and Subaru quits his job to stay at home, unable to leave the house without covering himself with clothing to hide the spreading blankness. His eyes seem to always be distant, never sparkling any more, and there's always deep bags under them no matter how much he sleeps. Hokuto alternates between working at his office and staying at home, and often enough, Subaru pulls a chair in to sit beside him as he works; sipping hot cocoa or juice, seemingly content with being by his lover. Subaru's presence becomes less and less bright, and although he tries his best to keep his old self up with Makoto and Mao around, they too notice in time.
Trickstar goes into a permanent hiatus, and even though Subaru still sings, it's always with Hokuto when they're alone, and it's one of the last things to still give a spark in his eyes.
Hokuto's heart breaks to see Subaru, the once shining star of his heart, turn into a empty shell of his past self.
Subaru spends the days wishing for spring to come, rubbing the ring on his hand and counting the days to their wedding. It's almost as if he's hoping he won't disappear before it happens. The nothingness keeps eating away at him, turning his hands barely transparent and working too fast, too fast at his face.
But still, every day, he whispers to Hokuto how much he loves him, kisses him dearly with tears in his eyes.
"I won't stop loving you, ever," he promises, but Hokuto knows well enough that Subaru says it partially for himself as well. In case he doesn't make it to the next day.
Winter drags on, and Subaru can barely drag himself out of the house to celebrate Mao's birthday in March when it finally ends. His face is starting to turn transparent, his fingers little smudges. Hokuto pushes the agency to have the ceremony earlier, to the end of the month.
After that, all he can do is pray that Subaru lasts until then.
"I want to see the cherry blossoms," Subaru says, when they wake up on the destined morning, looking through the window to see the cherry trees blooming. "Is that okay, Hokke?"
"Only for the morning," Hokuto replies. "We need to get to the place by the afternoon, so they can run through everything with us."
Subaru smiles, and puts on his favourite clothes.
Hokuto is thankful that the park isn't crowded in the early morning, because he's completely unsure of what he'd do if people realise Subaru is literally transparent.
"Can I sing with you? The song we made about the cherry blossoms." There's a little dusting of happiness in his eyes as he gazes up at the vivid pinks, and Hokuto is more than happy to.
In the end, they sing everything; every single song they've composed. Hokuto kisses him under the blossoms and Subaru laughs, for the first time in god knows how long. The Subaru he'd fallen for years ago dances right before him, and he forgets about everything to just fall in love again.
Hokuto remembers, dearly, the first kiss they'd shared under the umbrella, the feeling of endless happiness that had bloomed in his chest.
"I love you, Hokuto," Subaru says, and Hokuto kisses him again, heart feeling all too full with the memory.
"I love you, Subaru," he replies when their lips part, and Subaru almost glows.
"I want to go back," he says, as Hokuto drives, petals still lingering in his hair, "to that day when we kissed."
The faraway look is back in his eyes, but they're still sparkling.
"I do, too."
It's a small ceremony. Makoto and Anzu turn up first, helping set up flowers and lights and everything Hokuto had perfectly planned, and then Mao turns up with Ritsu a while after Seiya wheels in Hokuto's grandmother. Subaru's mother cries when she can't even see her son, though Subaru comforts her as best he can.
Hokuto learns that day that Subaru's father had suffered the same fate.
"I'm happy, though," she says, through tears, "that Hokuto was always there for you."
The ceremony starts at sunset.
It all somehow blurs together, a mess of sunset orange and starlit blue, as Subaru lifts the veil from Hokuto's face gently and kisses him to seal everything. Hokuto can barely see him any more, but he can feel his lover's warmth, the happiness and joy in his gaze.
With the stars watching over them, Hokuto feels a gentle peace. Subaru smiles at him, and he swears never to forget that smile.
"Hokke, I want-" Subaru buries his face into Hokuto's chest, cheeks flaming, when they arrive home. "I want to consummate our marriage."
So he lets Subaru quietly strip off their clothes, relishing the gentle touch of his lover. Subaru has never been anything but gentle, so Hokuto kisses him, and lets Subaru make love to him in the darkness of their starlit room.
Subaru pulls the blankets around their bodies in the aftermath, leaving gentle ghost kisses where he touches. Hokuto can barely see him any more, but pulls him close anyway, feeling his warm skin.
"You're cold, Hokke," Subaru complains, and Hokuto only hums, mind feeling fuzzy. "Hokke?"
"I'm here," he whispers, sleepily. Subaru's warmth almost lulls him to sleep.
"I really wanna become a star," Subaru whispers. "When I go, I want to become a sparkly star so I can watch over you from heaven, Hokke. I wanna breathe in all the light from the sun and shine so brightly for you."
It's so Subaru of him. Hokuto manages a chuckle.
"I love you so much, Hokke."
"Don't say that," Hokuto chokes through sudden tears, "it makes me think that you're going to go."
But Subaru just holds onto him as he sobs. "I said I wouldn't let fate take you away from me. But instead, fate took me away from you. And, I want to thank you, Hokke. For loving me. I'm scared, Hokke. I'm scared I won't make it to tomorrow, and I don't want to end the happiest day of my life without telling you how much you mean to me."
Hokuto's heart throbs, quietly, at hearing that, hoping Subaru can't also feel the tearing pain in his chest. It feels like he's already leaving already, slipping away from his grasp, and when Hokuto reaches out, he's met with nothing.
"Akehoshi. Don't leave me-"
"I'll always be with you." Even Subaru's voice quavers at that, and Hokuto sees the tears splash onto the pillow.
"You don't usually use my name like that twice in a day, you know?" His laugh chimes in the empty room, and it hurts to hear it.
"Don't leave me, Subaru. I love you. I can't live without you."
"I love you, Hokuto. I love you more than I can express in words." Something soft, something gentle presses against Hokuto's lips. It feels like an eternity, an eternity of heartbeats before Subaru pulls away, the gentlest of smiles on his face. "When I find you, in our next lives, let's fall in love again. But I think, for this life, it's time."
"...Will you hold me, one last time?"
The early morning sun streams in through the blinds, and Hokuto blinks in the light.
There's nobody beside him, so he calls for his lover.
Without needing to listen, Hokuto knows the answer already. But he waits, just in case a cheery voice from the kitchen tells him that breakfast will be soon.
Instead, a single gold ring, identical to the one on his hand, shines up at him from the pillow.