"Taichi,” Shirabu says when he walks into their room, “you’re still here?”
“Still?” Kawanishi echoes, fingers moving to pull his headphones around his neck. He doesn’t look away from his phone. “This is my room too, you know.”
“I’m painfully aware,” Shirabu mutters, picking up his roommate’s crumpled blanket and throwing it onto his messy bed, the corners of the sheets pulled off the mattress.
“Hey, I—” Semi walks in with an armful of books, but stops when he catches Kawanishi’s eye, lips stretching across his teeth in greeting.
Shirabu’s fingers, tenderly wrapped in bandages, tug open the peach curtains. The last rays of sunlight trickle in, slowly, like dripping honey. “I thought you’d be at Yamagata-san’s place,” he says. “Friday movie nights, and all.”
Kawanishi’s glances at the clock sitting on the nightstand, edged in hues of sunset-gold. “You’re right, I should be going,” he says, getting up. He makes sure to meet his best friend’s eye and raise an eyebrow in silent question.
“Semi-san is struggling with Maths,” Shirabu replies, and their senior glances up from setting his books down on the table to narrow his eyes, “and just about everything else.”
“Hey, Shirabu,” Semi says dryly. “Your side of the room looks kinda boring, is it a reflection on your personality, or—”
Shirabu sighs. “We’re studying.”
“Sure,” Kawanishi says, a gentle gleam in his eyes. “I’ll leave you to it.”
“Yamagata-san,” Kawanishi says, reaching up to knock, “I’m here.”
It’s a polite gesture, if anything. Yamagata is notorious in their hall for never locking his door. One day, Hayato, someone will sneak in and steal your phone, Tendou has a penchant for saying. But no one will realize it, because you lose it all the time!
When he opens the door, he finds Yamagata rummaging through his bag, muttering to himself.
“Under your bed,” Kawanishi says, slipping in with the barest of smiles.
“Thanks, I’ll go check. Make yourself at home!”
Yamagata’s dorm looks like it was hit by a tornado, except for the other bed, which still has clean, untouched sheets. His roommate switched schools a year ago, and he’s been alone ever since.
Kawanishi settles himself onto the libero’s bed, picking up the maroon jersey lying there and tossing it carelessly across the room.
“Found it!” Yamagata says, holding up his phone. “I swear, you’re some kind of a magician, what the heck.”
Kawanishi’s face softens, and he gestures to the other boy’s dark, messy strands. “Your hair has dust tangled in it,” he says, simply. “You should probably clean up more often.”
“Was that an offer to help?” is the response, along with a raised eyebrow and a laugh that flashes his snaggletooth. “And anyway, that’s not what you’re here for.”
“No,” Kawanishi says, watching Yamagata pick up the laptop resting on his nightstand, “it’s not.”
Yamagata sits down next to him, their shoulders bumping. He opens up the laptop, and starts talking as they wait for it to load. “Satori told me about this anime. I looked it up. I think you’ll like it.”
Another grin that leaves him blinking like he’s thunderstruck. “Yeah. I’m a fantasy person, but Tendou barged in screaming about it the other day, so why not?”
Kawanishi hums, watching Yamagata open a tab and start typing unnaturally fast and making several typos in the process. “There are chips in the third drawer,” he says. The computer screen’s light highlights his face and makes his eyes glow.
He looks almost otherworldly.
The plastic crinkles. Kawanishi’s carefully tearing open the bag of chips when he thinks to ask, “What’s the title?”
“Satellite star.” Yamagata’s right cheek dimples. “I hope you like space operas.”
There’s a whole galaxy out there, waiting to be explored, but I like it here next to you.
I’ll be back, okay?
“I think I could cry.”
“There’s still one more episode left,” Kawanishi reminds him, noting his glassy eyes with a hint of a smile. “Besides, didn’t he promise he’d come back?”
“Do you think he will, though?”
Yanagata draws up another tab and searches for the last episode. He hears the airy snort at the back of Kawanishi’s throat. “If he doesn’t get captured by the patrols first, then I’m sure he will.”
Yamagata grins up at him. Kawanishi feels like a moonstruck idiot.
“You’re secretly a romantic, aren’t you?”
A startled laugh. Kawanishi covers his mouth with his palm, and exhales. “I’m nothing of the sort,” he says. “I just like to believe in promises, is all.”
“And angry otaku that would complain if they don’t get their romance.”
Kawanishi presses his lips together and smiles. “That, too,” he says, and reaches out to press play.
I’ll be waiting.
“What?” Yamagata mutters, peering at the screen. He rewinds to the last few minutes. “What kind of ending was that?”
“I quite like it,” Kawanishi comments lightly. “Open endings are my favourite kind.”
Yamagata leans against the wall, pulling their shared, thin blanket closer. His eyes reflect the planets orbiting the sun on the screen, and they await in bated breath.
The last few seconds tick past, and the protagonist peers out the window of his starship to smile at a faraway violet planet where it rains diamonds as his love awaits.
Soon, is the last thought they hear, before the end credits start to roll.
“Dramatic,” Kawanishi whispers, and Yamagata laughs into the fabric of their blanket, nudging his shoulder with his own roughly.
“He got his dream, though!” the dark-haired boy argues. “Exploring the solar system and all that.”
The song continues to play, a quiet, crooning tune accompanied by an airy melody. “Dreams can change,” Kawanishi says, eyeing the violet planet as it appears on the screen. “I thought this would be nothing but a cliché romance at first.”
Yamagata tilts his head. “But — ?”
“But it felt like we were watching the events through a telescope.” Kawanishi intertwines his fingers together, pressing his palms together gently. “I think one of them will die in the second season.”
Yamagata clicks his tongue against his teeth, however fondly. “So negative,” he says. “Care to find out?” He gestures to the screen, where the link to the second season awaits in blue.
Kawanishi peers at the lower corner of the screen. “It’s gotten pretty late,” he says. “Kenjirou will kill me if I come in while he’s asleep.”
“You can sleep here, if you want,” Yamagata offers with a casual wave of his hand. “The other bed is the only clean part of this room.”
Kawanishi thinks, for a second, about the word yes, and the weight of it in his tongue. “Another time,” he says instead, ducking his head.
“Alright,” Yamagata says, something gentle in his eyes as Kawanishi peels the covers off his legs, long and folded under the blanket like origami.
(But you can’t bend Kawanishi the way you do thin, prettily patterned paper. It took Yamagata what felt like an eternity to figure out his folds.)
“Good night,” Kawanishi says as he lingers by the doorway, glowing in the hallway lights. “Can I come tomorrow to watch season two?”
“Of course you can,” Yamagata laughs, smoothing out the creases in his blanket. Like he wasn’t expecting him to say anything else.
Kawanishi smiles. “Lock your door,” he says with a fond shake of his head. “You always keep it open.”
“Get up and get out, Taichi,” Shirabu says, tearing the pale blue blanket — it barely covers the tips of his toes — away from him.
Kawanishi groans, forcing himself to sit up while blinking blearily. “Let me have my sleep,” he complains, combing his fingers through his bedhead. “It’s a Saturday, so what are you going on about?”
Shirabu shrugs, but he folds his blanket like an apology. “Semi-san needs help with some studying again. I’m doing you a favour, he’ll be here in ten minutes.”
“If Tendou-san doesn’t hold him back.”
A shrug. Shirabu gingerly places the blanket on the edge of the bed. He brushes the hair out of his eyes, before picking up a pillow on the floor and taking a seat next to Kawanishi on the bed.
He fluffs the pillow idly as he waits for his roommate to blink the sleep out of his eyes.
The afternoon sunlight slants through the windows in golden bars. Dust motes dance in the air. Kawanishi stretches out his arms, slinging his legs down so his feet touch the wooden floors.
“Why did he ask you to tutor him, anyway?” Kawanishi murmurs, hiding a yawn behind his palm. “I mean, you’re not even in the same year.”
“I know enough,” another shrug, “I guess.”
A birdsong comes flitting through their window. Only now does Kawanishi realise that it’s open. “Why did you agree?”
“It would be rude not to,” Shirabu says, handing him the pillow. “How was your movie?”
Kawanishi buries his face into the pillow. His wrist feels sore. Their study table, lined in sunrays, is still littered with his notes and homework and pencils without erasers.
“Anime,” he corrects. “We watched an anime.”
Shirabu raises an eyebrow, spares him a glance, and waits.
“It was this space opera thing,” he continues. “Boy wants to travel the galaxy. Boy lands on a foreign planet. Boy meets girl, and then, he suddenly wants to stay there forever.”
“Sounds interesting,” Shirabu hums. “One of Tendou-san’s recommendations?”
“Yeah,” is the answer. “Aren’t you going to ask me if he stays?
“Why would he? That would be boring,” the shorter boy mutters, picking at his nails. He always did like predicting the endings of films. “He’ll probably come back, though. Does he?”
“Yeah, he does, in the last episode, for a bit. Then he jets off into the far corners of the known universe,” he says with a chuckle. “We’re watching the second season later. You want to come with?”
“No, thank you. I have homework,” he says. “Tell me all about it, though.”
When Shirabu starts sorting through his own homework on his bed with highlighters, Kawanishi checks his phone to find two unread messages from Yamagata.
u still coming over
five or smth good for u?
A bird starts to sing, and another picks up the tune. The curtains sway like pale silk ribbons in the breeze.
i'll be there.
Kawanishi is just about to leave when the door opens, and Semi comes strolling in with a small, potted cactus in his hand.
“Because you’re such a prick,” Semi says to Shirabu over his shoulder, placing it on the window sill. A gentle breeze cards through the white flower tucked behind his ear, the stem nearly falling to the ground.
“Thanks,” Shirabu says dryly. “What’s with the flower, Semi-san?”
Semi frowns a little, plucking the delicate blossom from behind his ear. “I think there’s a bush of this in the courtyard. Tendou grabbed me before I left and put it on my head,” he answers, before placing it on the table. “Keep it, if you want.”
Kawanishi, feeling mildly out of place, pulls on his left sock.
“Thank you,” Shirabu says, twirling the stem between his flower-delicate setter-fingers that he was gently teased for so often. “We’ll start with Maths.”
Kawanishi tucks his phone in his pocket after checking the batteries.
He slips out quietly.
“Are you ready?” Yamagata asks, grinning widely as the cursor hovers over the play button.
“Yes,” Kawanishi sighs, knocking their knees together. He peers at the screen, narrowing his eyes. “Please don’t skip the opening theme, Yamagata-san.”
Yamagata nudges his elbow. “Why not?”
“Because they probably have a new intro in honour of the new season,” the younger boy murmurs. “Is this the last?”
“Not of their story, no,” Yamagata replies as glowing white stars spell out the title across the screen — a celestial banner that spans through constellations.
“That’s so cheesy,” Kawanishi can’t help but laugh in a hushed whisper.
“Stop judging me and hand over the chips.”
“Taichi, you’re the love of my life, the fire of my soul, the only one for me, so won't you — ”
“Shut up,” Kawanishi mutters, and shoves the crinkling plastic bag in his face.
I will meet you when the stars align.
And if you die before then?
Then I’ll be the lone star accompanying the lonely crescent moon. Won’t you search for me in the sky?
“It’s late,” Kawanishi groans. “Kenjirou’s going to kill me.”
Yamagata ruffles his hair in a comforting manner. “I’m sure he won’t do that.”
“He’s the lightest sleeper in the known universe,” Kawanishi tells him, falling back down onto the bed, hair splayed out messily, “and he loses all sense of humanity if you disturb his rest.”
Drama queen, Yamagata mouths, and gets a pillow shoved into his face.
The older boy raises an eyebrow, the moonlight seeping through the curtains to dust his hair in silver. “Stay, then.”
“Okay,” Kawanishi says, breath still caught in his throat as he sits up. His t-shirt is old and hangs a little loose around the collar. He pulls up his sleeve.
Kawanishi ambles towards the spare bed while Yamagata moves to close the curtains. He finds his senior’s jersey there, and he throws it in the vague direction of the closet.
Later, when they’re lying in their separate beds and Kawanishi has decided that staring at the blank wall is boring, he rolls over and mutters, “I think this is against the school rules.”
“So what?” Yamagata snorts, kicking off his blanket. “The real problem is how hot it is in here.”
“It’s pretty cool, you’re just a walking furnace,” Kawanishi whispers back. “And you’re supposed to be my senpai.”
Yamagata rolls over to face him. In the shadows, Kawanishi can barely make out the his face, but a sliver of moonlight illuminates the warm brown of his left eye.
“Why are you whispering?” Yamagata says, very quietly.
“Because the walls here are thin,” Kawanishi shoots back. “I snore, you know.”
He hears the other boy laugh into his palm. “I know from training camp. I sleep like a log, though,” is the reply. “But I move around a lot, so if I fall off — ”
“Then you’ll land on the pile of clothes on the floor.”
A snort, soft and all too whisper-like. “Goodnight to you, too, Kawanishi.”
A pause. Kawanishi thinks of this feeling, precious and perfect and paper-thin, and holds it close. Calmly, he shifts, and draws his blanket to his chin.
“Goodnight,” he whispers back.
Outside, a crescent moon hangs in the air.
A single star gleams faintly in the night, and chases away the wispy clouds.