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no do-overs, only regrets

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Somewhere above, you hear Zacharie utter your name. Then again, you were on the ground, so everything was technically above you. Everything except for a weird warm wetness blossoming out your sides, above your head, and trailing down your arms. It felt like a halo. You felt ethereal, sublime-- so you didn't understand why Zacharie was clutching your hand so tightly, or why his voice was breaking in so many places when he told you he still had some luck tickets and that you could use them, you could use them all and he wouldn't even charge you a thing.

"Zach... arie?" You began, meaning to ask something, but you find you've already forgotten the question. You manage to focus your eyes on his mask hovering over you enough that you can see him shake his head.

"Try... try not to speak," He rasped, giving your hand a squeeze. "Just-- stay still, until help comes." Help, that was a strange word. You were the help in this place; no one else will come. You try to tell Zacharie that, but your jaw feels heavy and your mouth only opens lazily, soundlessly. He quietly shushes you, wiping away something that you feel dribble out the corner of your mouth. His thumb comes away red.

That same hand pats around his sweater and dives into his pockets. Several luck tickets spill out, and a fortune ticket. He tears through nearly all of them, showering you in sparks and shreds of glimmering paper. But your halo stays, and the wetness continues to grow. His hand flies to the fortune ticket, but you manage to lift a shaky hand and drop it heavily onto his knee. It's not a delicate motion but the gesture still stood.

"Don't." You manage to enunciate with some effort. Don't, you echo silently, your tongue turning back into lead. You inhale, agitated at your own body. "Tell Judge m'sorry. And Batter. Not his fault." You start strongly, words slurring to a whisper. "Not your fault either." It's your turn to squeeze his hand.

"I was... stupid." You continue, voice nearly inaudible. "Made lot of mistakes." Everything feels like it's beginning to lose lucidity, and you frantically blink you eyes to hold the image of Zacharie's mask against the blank sky in focus. "But I'll be okay." Because this isn't real, you want to say. But you know you can't bring yourself to actually say it.

"It is." He mutters, and you realize you spoke the last part out loud after all. You gasp an unintelligible sound that was meant to be an apology but Zacharie is quieting you again. "I know. I know." His hand strokes your cheek. "I know about it all. And I don't care."

"I know you'll come back." You swallow, eyesight growing misty. "And I know when you come back, I won't remember you-- you'll return and it will be like we are meeting for the first time, over and over again." He leans in, the forehead of his mask pressing against yours. "It's the nature of this game, and that is what's unbearable, mon cœur en sucre. I don't want to forget, even once."

"Zach--" You weep, composure whittled away as your vision swam and blurred. "I'm sorry..."

"So," He continued, reaching up towards his mask. "I want you to remember for me." Through the haze of tears you saw something thin and white move away from where Zacharie's face was, and in your peripherals you saw him slowly place it next to your head on the floor. Through your blotted vision you make out the faint shape of unruly dark hair and the tanned color of a face. And moments after, you feel very real lips against yours. There are thin seams of scars that run through the corners of his mouth and one that runs through his lip-- you use what little energy you have left to tilt your head forward and memorize every crease and line.

When he finally pulls away, you try to say something else, but all that comes out is a quiet wheeze.

"It's okay." He whispers, and maybe you're imagining things but you feel a small droplet on your cheek. You look closer and see Zacharie's brimming, red-rimmed eyes. "You don't have to say anything anymore." His lips press against the back of your hand. "Fais de beaux rêves, my dearest Player."

And say nothing you do, as you finally exhale and let yourself fall backwards into blackness.