If we're all our own solar systems, what do we gravitate around? I think most people answer questions like that pretty quickly; there's the heart, of course. But then there are our brains.
It goes further than that. Sometimes, our suns are the things in our lives. I look across the seat, and I spy Mina, nearly attached to her phone. She scrolls quickly through her feed, only to pose with Denki for another quick selfie. Filters are added, and it's posted in an instant.
"Oh," she catches me looking. "I forgot to accept your friend request, Nico."
I nod, trying not to look uncomfortable now that she's noticed me. "Um... I didn't send one," I try to smile back, but it turns out a little hazy. "Kiri... did you get into my phone?"
"No," he hangs his neck a little. "I mean... I saw your socials... are you mad?"
I lean back into his warm neck. "Of course not." Everything feels almost at peace, but why does that make me feel guilty?
"Katsuki's gonna meet us at the theater," Jiro tells us, trying not to look me in the eye. I can tell she's still nervous from her boyfriend's outburst earlier, and her earbuds vibrate with silent fury. Her sun is music, I think. Each note is its own star, and her earbuds are the moon.
"Tell him we'll get there soon," Kirishima orders, hanging his arm around my neck. I fidget a little, releasing myself from his vice grip, causing some odd looks.
"Just need some air," I try to say, but there's a small pinprick of hurt in his eyes. "Sorry."
When I see his face turning a little red, I peck him on the cheek, slow and careful. It's fun to finally watch him squirm and be under my control, I guess. I mean, when's the last time I actually knew what I was doing and was in charge? It feels like it's been years since my opinion mattered.
I catch a few other people on the subway staring at us. One mother even blocks her child's eyes. The father walks toward us, eyes narrowed behind his pale face and close-cropped hair.
"Boys," his voice has a tinge of a southern accent, the only thing of him that isn't straight-edge and as clean as possible. "My son is right there. I'd like to ask you to stop."
"Stop what?" Mina stands up, hands on her hips. "I'm sorry, what are they doing?"
"That gross display they just put on," he points to us, face turning red from rage. "I don't want him influenced by you two."
Jiro slowly pulls out her phone directing it toward the man, hiding it slowly underneath the table. I eye her slowly, nodding to assure her; it's the riskest choice, but it just might be the right choice.
"Kiss again," Mina turned to us, pointing her finger. "Please."
"Not the worst thing in the world," Kiri laughs, placing his finger against my cheek. "You okay?"
"I just don't know if we should be doing this," I say back, slowly. "Like, stoking the fires or something."
"I'll protect you," Kirishima claims. "Are you ready?"
I nod, feeling the heat of the man's stares as we kiss again, full and flush.
"You're both going to hell," the man shouts back at us. "You damn homos."
"Harold," the wife calls, her face pinched and full of anger. "Just stop."
"I am not letting our son be on a train with these kids," the man turns back to her. "Get off the train."
"We're going to be late for our movie," Kaminari checks the time on his phone. "That's not really worth it."
The older man pulls out his wallet, handing Denki a couple of dollar bills. "Get the fuck off the train."
"This is our right!" Kiri pulls up from the table, standing in between our table and the man. "You can't just force us off a train because of how we are. Would you have yelled at a straight couple?"
"That's irrelevant," beads of sweat march from his forehead down to his neck. "That's fine for my son to see."
"You keep talking about your son," I point out. "But what about what he wants?"
"He's fine," the man insists. "And if all goes well, he won't end up like you f*ggots."
That's the second time Kiri's had to hear that word yelled at him just this morning. I try to rub his back and hold his shoulders, but there's something about the way the man said it; with Katsuki, he apologized immediately for the outburst. It was from pure anger, raw energy being pulled into a word he's probably heard thousands of times himself. But with this man, there is only conviction. Only hatred runs through his deep voice.
"What did you just call me?" Kiri says, trying to keep tears out of his eyes.
"Man up, f*ggot," is the man's only reply.
"Being manly doesn't have anything to do with putting down other people. it's how we control ourselves and help others. Maybe you should show your son some fucking respect and tell him that. Maybe you cou-"
The red-haired boy doesn't get to finish his sentence before the middle-aged man's fist connects his fist with Kiri's soft face. Our entire group jumps in shock, staring at the blood that falls to the ground, darker and more vivid than his hair.
To my surprise, Kiri doesn't put up his fists to take his own blow. While I'm sure he could nearly beat the old man within an inch of his life, my boyfriend(?) stands there, rigid and solid.
"Hit me again," Eijiro demands. "Show him a true lesson about manliness."
There's nearly no hesitation in Harold as he swings again, catching Kiri in the gut. He doesn't even budge from the blow, unlike the hit from the jaw.
"I'm still standing," Kiri points out. "Keep hitting me!"
The child cowers in his mother's arms, staring as his father pummels Eijiro four more times, this time aiming for his head. He's aiming to spill as much blood as possible, I realize.
He would kill Kiri if he could.
"Don't hit him again!" I push my love out of the way, holding myself close. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
"This boy just insulted me to my face, tainted the mind of my son, and ruined the entire train ride for so many," the father points out. "I won't stand for it. Not in my town!"
I crane my head back, trying to get a view of Kyoka. Sure enough, she's still filming, a nervous expression on her face.
"Nico," Kirishima holds my hand. "I don't want you getting hurt."
"But you we-"
"I know it's hard to believe," he laughs, pulling me closer. "But I'm even tougher than I look. That was nothing. And anyway, I think he's taught his son a lesson."
"And what would that be?" the man crosses his arms, stern and collected once more.
"That his father is a brutal and violent man," Kirishima holds his arms up again, blocking one last punch. He smiles as the impact barely pushes him back. The old man's fists are nearly soaked in blood, a mix of his and Kiri's. Eijiro never even took one punch, but the man is as bloodied as he is.
Am I dating a god? Or is he just as perfect as I thought he was at first?
Another look up toward his eyes denies both these suspicions. No, he's not perfect. the scar above his eyes will always remind him that he wasn't born sculpted and beautiful. He's had to deal with his own mind killing him slowly too.
Kiri just got through it faster than me.
“Well,” Jiro shrugs, pushing her phone back. “I guess the internet’s gonna love that.”
“Are you sure that was okay though?” I ask. “I mean... I don’t know.”
“Kirishima never laid a finger on him,” Denki points out. “He’s alright.”
“But that guy might be fired!”
“Good,” Mina scrunches her nose. “Looks like our stop is heading up soon.”
And just like that, my argument absolves into nothing. Everyone returns to normal conversation, but I stay silent. Kiri senses this and leans back with me.
“I’ll tell you a story later,” he promises, a sparkle in his eye. “I think I know where you’re coming from.”
“Got it,” I nod, trying to focus my attention on the conversation. Of course, their words are like a different language. I’ve never had a friend group like them, and I doubt they’d want to hear about my SATs or studying habits. I’m in uncharted territory. In a new world.
Finally, blissfully, the train’s doors open, revealing the inner city. After a few moments, we stumble upon a particularly grand garden that I barely recognize, despite having gone on this trek nearly every day for school.
"Damn," Denki whistles. "Has anyone been here before?"
Jiro shakes her head, pulling out her phone. "Apparently, I've walked around here about a thousand times. But no... who got these theatre tickets?"
"Katsuki," Mina says. "That's weird..."
"What?" Kiri crosses his arms, leaning up against a bench. A lofty cherry tree leans down over him, covered in pink petals, surrounding a horde of blue lilies, lining the deep green grass next to a silver fountain. "He took me here before."
"He did?" my eyes widen a little.
"Yeah," he pushes his red hair back a little, holding it up in a thin white bandana, strictly contrasting from his darkly tanned face. "He had a different side to him, you know."
I look back to Kiri, trying to read the deep emotions lining his eyes, but a loud noise interrupts me, followed by a snare drum.
"Wait," Jiro cocks her ear. "Is that playing-"
"Line without a hook," I finish. "But why..."
Kyoka figures it all out first. "Hold my phone," she orders me. "Record. Now."
Before I can ask questions, Bakugo appears from behind the fountain, tossing his thick, blonde hair in the sparkling sunlight. "Sorry for being a dick earlier!" he shouts, sliding down the rim of the fountain. A large poster lies in his hands, and I think everyone realizes a single second after me just what it means. Even Denki, with his limited brain capacity, figures out what Katsuki's trying to say.
"Kyoka," Bakugo wipes sweat off his forehead, glimmering and shining. "We've only been dating for about four months, bu-"
"Five!" Eijiro yells, crossing his arms. To my surprise, he's smiling, despite his ex clearly making a big announcement to his girlfriend.
"Five," Jiro nods. "Yeah. You don't even need to finish it, Katsuki. I'll go to prom with you."
Everyone breaks out into laughter as Bakugo turns red, whipping around to face Mina and Denki.
"Dumbasses!" Katsuki throws his poster up in the air. "Do you know how long it took me to make that?"
"Not as long as it took me to love you," Jiro points out. "You really are a great guy, you know. You just do some terrible things."
He shrugs. "I'll take it. Nico, are you still filming?"
"Uh," I just realize this is the first time he's spoken to me without screaming.
"Yeah," I affirm. "You did great."
"I fucking know that, dork. I was just gonna say that ya'll should probably just get your act together and ask each other out while you're still filming."Kiri and I turn as red as his hair. No... it's probably even worse for me, given my pale complexion. "What?" I look up to Kirishima, watching the smile grow on his face.
"I mean," he rubs his neck awkwardly as I angle it toward him. Jiro snatches her phone back, focusing on the two of us. "We slept together."
"What!" Denki screams.
"Not like that!" I shout back toward him. "God!"
"Let's give them a little time," Mina suggests. "I'm gonna go in and get our seats. Everyone else can get some food."
Soon enough, it's just Kiri and I standing together, leaning over a bench.
"I want to tell you my story," Kiri promises. "Would you be okay with that?"
"I'm fine with that," I tell him, slumping against a tree. "To hear you talk is like music."
"I like the sound of that!" he pumps his fist before turning slightly grave.
"I know you're probably tired of hearing me say that people are manly," Kirishima admits.
"No," I say, biting my cheek. "It's sweet."
"You don't have to lie," he says. "I mean, I know you're partially telling the truth. But that's how this whole story started.
"I had a girlfriend," Kiri says. "Before I realized I was..."
"Gay?" I add. He nods slowly.
"Still hard to say it. Anyway, I think that was around the time I started realizing I was... gay. And then I met Bakugo. Would you believe that when I first met him, I wasn't like this? This isn't my natural hair color... it was black. I dyed it red because I thought he would like it. And I practically worshiped him. To me, Bakugo was this unattainable beauty, one that I kept trying to get.
"My father wasn't the best. I think they realized I was gay even before I did. And that... well, my father isn't the nicest man. Sort of like the one on the train. Anyway, he wasn't... happy. He has this idea of what manliness is. Let's just say it doesn't align to mine. He beat me when he found out that I knew."
"I know. It wasn't him though, I think. He was being controlled by his beliefs. He's not even that religious either; he just hates people like us. People who let themselves be free. To me, it's the real identification of manliness."
"But he didn't agree with you," I guess, holding my arm around his neck. He leans into it slowly. How can someone be so soft, yet solid as a rock? "He kicked you out?"
"I left with my mother," Kiri finishes. "And I kissed Bakugo. All on the same day. We were at a party, and I was done with my girlfriend. To be honest, she wasn't even a terrible girl. No one I'd hang out with these days though. We broke up when she caught me, but I don't even think she was that angry. I saw her making out with a boy like half an hour later."
"Slut," I laugh, not really meaning it. Luckily, Kiri catches that too.
"We were both sluts," he leans back against a bench, catching the sun's rays. "And we were wild, unattainable, and destructive."
"You were planets crashing into each other," I affirm. "Meteors, maybe."
"You really like space, don't you?"
I turn red, trying to hide behind the collar of my shirt. "How did you-"
"You sleep talk sometimes," he says. "I mean when you actually sleep. It was cute!"
"No, no nooo..." I mumble, trying to crawl into my shirt. God, what else did he hear?
"It was literally too fucking cute," Kiri says, trying to pull me back out. "Like, please don't change anything about yourself. You're imperfectly perfect. And that makes you perfect."
"That's not how it works," I point out. "But I'll take it."
"Well," he kneels down, smiling widely. "Would you go to prom with me? I know you've only been here for a little while, and prom is way far away... but it'd mean the world to me."
"Of course," I tell him. "I just can't believe Katsuki proposed so early in the year. Aren't you supposed to do it in like spring or something?"
"Bakugo is..." Kiri looks up toward the sky, trying to find the right words. "Complicated. Cocky. He likes to win, I guess. And we're seniors now. Sure, all his sports and clubs are looking like they'll win... and he's even probably gonna make it to salutatorian. But that isn't enough for him. He told me in freshman year that he was confident that whoever he was dating in the fall of his senior year, he'd still be dating them by prom."
"That's rich," I grin. "He's literally terrible at relationships."
"Ah yes," Kiri smiles back. "But he makes up for it with great sex."
It takes most of my competence to not burst out with laughter. "Really? Is that why you stayed with him so long?"
"No," he pushes me back a little, only to come in even closer. "He was nice when he wanted to be. Charming, even. Not at all how he acts around you."
"Maybe not," I point out. "He was a little nice."
"Hmm," Kiri pulls me up, not sounding too happy about that. "We should probably get going."
And just like that, our conversation is dead, completely put down by Kirishima, the last person I'd expect to destroy anything.
And the world falls apart.