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cannot be returned

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There is a fang-shaped indent in Yuuma’s palm, from clutching at the necklace until it hurts; he imagines that there is an indent like that in his heart, too. A place where something is missing. He and Kaito are running, while their friends fall behind them, slowing the Barians just enough, and Yuuma hears their cries and keeps looking back over his shoulder for a flash of purple hair, for Shark’s presence at his back.

There is only his shadow there, though, and Yuuma squeezes the fang until the pain distracts him from the emptiness. He can’t afford to fall or give up or shed too many tears.

He will carry Ryoga Kamishiro with him as long as it takes.

++++

Yuuma knows it’s over then – not because he is standing in a void of rainbow light, not because his body feels light and free of pain, not because the Key is miraculously around his neck again – but because when he looks up, Nasch is there.

And he’s smiling, a real smile, and both his eyes are blue again, the blood red color washed away. Yuuma goes to him, and he has to look up, because Nasch is taller, older, the way Shark might be in five years. The way, Yuuma lets himself think, Shark will be in five years.

“Did we win?”

Nasch takes his hands, and folds his long fingers over Yuuma’s own. He’s wearing bronze armor that shines, and a long dark cape, and no weapon. His touch is warm.

“We did,” he says.

“I told you.” Yuuma’s grin feels like it might break his face. “We were on the same side all along, weren’t we?”

“Yeah.” Nasch says solemnly. He drops one of Yuuma’s hands and brings the one he’s still holding up his lips. Yuuma shivers as his mouth brushes across his knuckles. “You saved me.”

That’s not what Yuuma remembers, but he doesn’t protest. He wants to hang on to Nasch’s hand, possibly forever, and drag him home. He wants to see where Shark actually lives and eat lunch with him and finally get to ride on the back of his bike.

But it’s Nasch here with him, not Shark, and Nasch isn’t saying anything, only looking at him intently. Like he might never see Yuuma again.

Yuuma feels a phantom pain in his palm.

“Are you coming back?”

“I don’t know.”

Yuuma yanks his hand out of Nasch’s grasp and embraces him, burying his fingers in his cape. Maybe if he just hangs on tight enough, things will change, or at least freeze so he can steal a few moments more. Maybe he can make this second last forever and Nasch will never get around to saying goodbye.

“Astral’s gone. And my parents are…” Yuuma closes his eyes, but the tears fall anyway. “And now, you are also…”

“I’m sorry.” Nasch holds onto him tightly. “I…I’m needed somewhere else now.”

 “I wanted us to go back together!”

“So did I.”

Yuuma lets himself sob into Nasch’s shoulder. It’s unfair. He wants…he wants…

He wants to win without having to give up yet another precious person.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to return to Earth. That’s why I wanted you to know…that I’m glad we could be friends.”

“Me, too.” Yuuma opens his mouth to keep talking, but Nasch silences him with a kiss. His mouth is hot and desperate, and Yuuma tangles his fingers in his hair and kisses him back as hard as he can. This is their first and last and only kiss, Yuuma thinks.

“Don’t go,” he whispers when they finally stop. Nasch is so close to him, their bodies pressed together, his arms holding Yuuma fast. Nothing else seems to exist, and Yuuma lets himself forget all the reasons Nasch has for going – what can be more important than this, than them?

“If I could stay with you…” Nasch kisses him again, and when he pulls away Yuuma sees that he’s crying, too.

Yuuma closes his eyes, just for a moment, to block out Nasch’s sad expression –

++++

— the attic is dark and he’s lost his blanket. Yuuma sits up in the hammock and peers over the edge; the white blanket glows in the gloom. It’s on the floor.

A dream, then. He sighs with relief and wipes away the tears. It was just a nightmare. He lies back again, curling up on his side, and there is a metallic clank as something falls onto the floor. For a moment Yuuma thinks it is the Key – but no, Astral has gone home.

He gets down onto the floor and fumbles around. There, glinting against the wooden floor, is something small and silver and pointed. Yuuma picks it up, and even in the dark he knows; his hands remember the shape of it, of this little triangle of steel that has caused him so much pain.

And if the necklace is here, then Shark is really gone, and he is alone, and Yuuma never even managed to say ‘I love you’ to him.

Yuuma brings the cold steel to his lips; it’s not good enough, but what else is left?