It was a humid summer day when Seto lit the bonfire in the entrance of the dilapidated hotel. It was honestly too hot to have a fire, but the light was comforting, even in the daytime. It was nice to sit down for a minute, take a break from all of the horrors he’s encountered, take a break from his long journey. He tried to chase away the lonely feeling. It was strangely silent without PF or Crow there to fill it. Seto tried not to let it bother him, tried looking at the lush trees and basking in the summer breeze that flowed through the cracked windows, but loneliness chased him. So he tried not to think at all.
But still his thoughts kept going. He thought about Crow. Seto wondered if he had had any luck finding the place in the picture. He wondered if he was okay, if he was getting enough food and water, if he had met anyone new. And, though he tried not to, he thought about the kiss Crow had given him. His lips were cold but soft, and Seto brought his fingers to his lips as if that would bring back the feeling of Crow’s lips against his. He wondered if Crow would kiss other people the same way he kissed Seto. The thought made him upset, and he felt his chest grow tight with emotions he didn’t know he had. It was an odd, fluttery feeling, but at the same time it felt heavy.
Seto coughed into his hand. When he pulled his hand away, bright orange and soft purple petals rested on his palm.
Sai asked him about the flowers. She questioned why sometimes bright orange and pink petals would spill from his lips after a fit of coughing. She would ask what the pale indigo blossoms tumbling from his lips meant. She stayed quiet when the small white petals escaped every time Seto thought that he might come across another human. When those tiny white petals became larger and stained with blue, Sai would look on him with pity.
Sai knew why Seto couldn’t breathe without hacking up flower petals.
Seto knew that Sai knew that.
But still, she asked, and still he answered, “I’m not sure.”
Before they meet Chiyo, Seto had coughed up large, yellow petals. They were stained with his blood and splattered on the ground in a warped form of the flower they should have been. All because he thought of Crow for just a few moments.
The flowers in Chiyo’s hair were much more lovely than the ones he coughed up. They weren’t bloodstained and broken. They were clean and bright and every bit as sunny as the blossom should have been.
When Chiyo asked for the star, the moon, the ring, Seto set off to get them with the same determined passion he put in everything. Sai told him that he should give up, that the girl would never believe him, but Seto kept going. He left behind a trail of waxy red petals. At one point, the petals became blossoms.
Seto had almost died when the tree attacked him because he couldn’t stop coughing.
“You should just run away!” Sai yelled at him from a safe distance. He ignored her. He was determined to get the ring.
The tree was taken out in a pile of waxy red flowers. Seto delivered the ring along with one of his flowers. Chiyo, in return, gave him one of her flowers. He cherished it.
“If you could tell them,” Sai asked one day, “would you?”
Seto gazed at the crackling fire, rubbing the soft pink flower he had just coughed up. The sickness was getting worse, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. The person he loved was out there, somewhere, finding his past. Even if he wanted to tell him, there was simply no way for him to do so. Who knew when Seto would see Crow again? He hoped that he could at least find the silver haired girl before the sickness did him in. Seto shrugged his shoulders.
“I’d like to,” he said. And he really would. “But I don’t think I’ll ever see them again.”
“So you’re just gonna die?” Sai replied. She sounded offended, as if the thought of Seto throwing away his life because he wouldn’t confess his feelings was the worst thing in the world. To her, it must be. She was dead, after all. She probably didn’t want to see Seto die.
“I don’t have much of a choice,” Seto mumbled. He held his hands up to the fire. It was strangely cold for a summer night.
“I guess I’ll be there to welcome you, then,” she said. Seto smiled at her. It was sad and small and didn’t reach his eyes, but he hoped it showed that he appreciated her acceptance. She smiled back at him with the same smile.
Seto felt his heart drop when he walked into the wide room of the dam. Scattered across the floor were crippled bodies of human sized dolls. There were bodies without arms or legs, some with limbs twisted at a sickening angle, and doll heads were scattered around. Rust covered the walls and the floors and the metallic skin of the dolls themselves. The lights were low and flickering, and there were no windows for the setting sun to spread light through. None of this was the cause for Seto’s dread, however.
Against a wall in a spot that was clean of any broken doll pieces sat Crow, head bowed.
Seto ran to him.
“Crow?” he asked. Crow let out a single short laugh and raised his head. His eyes were foggy, faded from the bright, near glowing green they once were. Seto felt tears welling in his eyes, and the familiar itch in his throat.
“My batteries are almost out,” Crow said. His voice was low and slow, as if he would start crying if he spoke with his usual vitality. “I can’t even really see anymore.”
Seto knelt in front of Crow slowly, letting it fully sink in. Crow wasn’t human, not his body at least. He was made in a lab by scientists. A dying robot. A discarded doll. Seto felts the tears start to fall as he shook Crow. It didn’t matter. It never would have mattered. Crow was Crow, whether he had flesh or circuits, and nothing would change that.
Except a dying battery.
“Come on, don’t cry now,” Crow told Seto. He clutched his friend tightly, desperately, as if a single hug could somehow fill what was being emptied far too quickly. His heavy tears were caught in the dirty yellow scarf; his sobbing was muffled by a shoulder that was far too cool to the touch. Seto resisted the urge to cough. He refused to let the flowers in his lungs ruin his last moments with the one most precious to him.
“Okay,” he whispered through his crying. Crow asked about his skull ring, saying it was proof of their friendship. Seto vowed in his head to always wear the ring on his finger after this was all over.
Seto was shaking, and Crow shook with him. He didn’t want it to end. If only time would freeze. If only they had traveled together.
“You are my number one friend.”
The voice was far too robotic, too emotionless. There was no way it could be Crow’s. But it was. Seto shook harder.
“My best friend.”
Seto began to cough as he sobbed. Blood and spit and tears spilled over Crow’s shoulder and the wall behind him. Seto couldn’t let go. Not yet. Not yet.
“My best friend.”
Don’t leave me!
“My best friend.”
I love you!
Seto slowly pulled away. He could breathe easily again. He hated the feeling, hated the lightness in his lungs, the lack of an itch in his throat. His feelings weren’t gone! Not yet! They would never fade so quickly!
A life fades far quicker than feelings do, though.
Seto placed the single, bloody pink carnation in Crow’s lap and wiped his eyes.
“Come on,” Sai said quietly. “He shut down.”
“You’re wrong,” Seto replied. “He died.”