Seto was alone again.
Ren had only stayed with Seto for a few weeks before running off, and this time, Seto did not follow her. At first, it had been nice to have a warm hand to hold, someone to smile for. But, it was strange to Seto that her kisses felt more robotic than Crow’s kiss had, and that she soon treated him like a toy she was bored with. She barely spoke, often behaved like a child, and seemed more interested in playing with cats than even listening to Seto. One morning, Seto awoke, and she was just… gone. She left a note, of sorts. Drawings were scribbled on the wall outside the bedroom, drawings of Seto frowning while Ren frolicked away with a smile. All that was written was bye.
He expected it to hurt more, but it didn’t. He waited a week for her to change her mind, but she didn’t. So, Seto decided he would set out across the world to find other people. It was something Ren had been reluctant to do. Surely some of the voices he’d heard on the radio belonged to living people, people who would enjoy his company.
Still, one thing nagged at him. The thought of Crow’s lifeless body lying in that horrible place was too painful for Seto to ignore. He decided that no matter how long it took, no matter how hard it was, he would bury Crow at the amusement park.
He owed that to his best friend.
Seto fell to his knees when he entered the room.
The sight of Crow, crumpled and still on the floor, was too much for him. He fought through his sobs to stand long enough to stumble over to Crow. When Crow had died, there had been so much going on, too much for Seto to process. He had wept then too, but he had needed to quickly move on. He had never been allowed to properly grieve.
Seto sat beside Crow for a long time, holding his hand and softly stroking his cheek. Before, in the amusement park, lips had been warm. Now Crow was as cold as the tile floor. Still, he looked like he was only sleeping. He looked so different from the dead bodies Seto had seen before. Even the old man, who had died only hours before Seto found him, hadn’t looked like anything was left in him. Crow looked the same, just still. He looked like he could wake at any moment. Seto knew it was because Crow was a robot, but it made it hard to believe he was really gone.
Eventually, Seto dried his eyes and pulled Crow up, throwing Crow’s arm around his shoulder and slipping his arm around Crow’s waist. Crow was heavy, but Seto had built up strength after so many battles. Those harrowing days were over, though. The ghosts had been banished along with the computer system that created them, and even the dolls stood motionless. Sometimes their eyes glowed and followed Seto as he passed, but there was no system to tell them to attack, and they had no will of their own. They were just dolls. They weren’t like Crow. Crow had a real soul. At least, that was how Seto felt.
Seto was only just learning to let his guard down, and he jumped at the sound of footsteps behind him. He whipped out his katana with one hand, still keeping a protective grip on Crow with his other. This time, there was no need for concern.
Sheathing his katana, Seto set Crow down against the wall.
“Good evening. Would you like to buy anything?”
“No, I have everything I need right now, maybe later.”
The merchant turned to Crow. “Would you like to buy anything? I have some new books.”
“Merchant-san, Crow is…” Seto paused. The merchant hadn’t seemed to understand the concept of death earlier, and likely still didn’t.
“Oh, does he need to charge his battery?”
Seto froze. “What did you say?”
“This way,” the merchant directed, marching down the corridor.
Seto quickly picked Crow up and followed.
“As a servant of the Princess, I always keep my battery well-charged. I must be ready, should the Princess need anything of me,” the merchant explained. “This one is not so vigilant, but then again, he does not have the honor of serving the Princess.”
Seto didn’t quite understand. “What do you mean by charged? Crow said his battery was dying, that he was…”
“A dead battery must be charged,” the merchant asserted.
They twisted through corridors until finally arriving at a room Seto hadn’t noticed earlier. The room was surprisingly large, with a pile of dolls along one wall. Some were standing in little cubbies set into the wall, while others were simply collapsed on the floor.
“The automatic chargers stopped functioning,” the merchant explained when he noticed Seto staring. “The dolls are too frightening for the Princess, so it is just as well that their batteries die.”
The merchant led him to the opposite wall, where black cords hung against the white tile. Small benches stood beside each cord, and the merchant took his place on one. The merchant pulled the cord up under his mask. Seto was still rather confused.
“Please charge him,” the merchant scolded suddenly, “He might have something for the Princess.”
“Yes, sir. I… I just…” Seto stuttered. He was afraid to do this wrong, to hurt Crow, to ruin this chance to bring him back. Still, Crow certainly wouldn’t come back if he did nothing.
Determined to at least have a look at the cord, Seto set Crow down on the bench. Sitting like that, propped against the wall, Crow looked almost comfortable. Seto grabbed the cord. The merchant must have put the cord somewhere on his head. Removing Crow’s hat, Seto started looking for some clue, anything. The top of Crow’s head revealed only soft black hair. The sides of his head were the same. Finally, Seto brushed the hair way from Crow’s neck, revealing a rectangular panel. Carefully, Seto inspected the panel, trying to fit is fingers into the edges to pry it open. He couldn’t open it with just his fingers, and he was afraid to attempt to force it open with a knife. Finally, a gentle press to one corner caused the panel to spring open. Inside was round black hole. Seto looked at the plug. It was metal, but round and the same size.
“If I don’t try I’ll never have him back,” Seto told himself, gathering his courage and pressing the cord into its socket.
At first nothing happened.
Seto knelt down in front of Crow, looking up at his face, hoping for something, anything.
“… friend.” The sound was barely a whisper.
Seto’s heart pounded. Had he really just heard Crow’s voice? “Crow! Crow! Please, Crow!” Frantically, Seto reached for Crow’s hand. It was warm.
Seto awoke to a warm hand stroking his hair.
Seto glanced quickly around the room, still disoriented. The merchant was gone. Then Seto looked up. Crow was still plugged into the wall, still sitting on the bench in front of him. Seto tried to jump to his feet, but he stumbled, finding his legs were stiff. He would have fallen, but Crow caught him by one arm.
“That’s what you get for falling asleep sitting on a hard floor,” Crow chuckled, smiling down at him.
“Crow!” Seto didn’t even try to stop the tears as he buried his face in Crow’s chest.
Crow just held him close, laughing. “Geez, I though you would have been happy to see me. What’s with the tears?”
Seto raised his head to look at Crow. “Of course I’m happy to see you!” he said defensively. “I’ve never been so happy in my whole life.”
Crow pulled Seto close again. “I know, you idiot, I’m just teasing you. Seriously though, your whole life?”
“My whole life.”
They stayed like that for several more minutes. Crow stroked Seto’s hair as Seto’s tears subsided. Finally, carefully, Seto stood and stretched his stiff legs. He was aware that Crow’s eyes followed his every move.
Suddenly Crow looked away, and Seto could swear he saw a blush spread across Crow’s cheeks.
“You came back for me…” Crow whispered.
“You’re an idiot.” Crow stood suddenly, pulling the cord out of his neck. He took one long stride forward and grabbed Seto by the shoulders. “Do you have any idea how dangerous this place is? You could have been killed! You could still be killed!”
Seto was startled, but soon, all he could do was smile, placing his hands over Crow’s. “It’s not dangerous anymore. But, even if it was, I would have come.”
“Why? How did you know you’d be able to wake me up?”
Seto looked down at his feet. “I didn’t. I thought you were gone forever. I just… I couldn’t leave you here in this awful place, in that awful room. I was going to bury you in the amusement park.”
Crow was speechless. Instead, he wrapped his arms around Seto and drew him close. “Idiot,” he whispered.
Taking a step back, Crow surveyed the room. “So tell me about all this ‘not dangerous anymore’ stuff. Did you forget about the traps and the dolls and the ghosts? That stuff is totally dangerous to a human like you.”
“Ever since the Glass Cage computer was destroyed, I haven’t seen any ghosts, and the dolls just don’t move anymore,” Seto explained.
“Destroyed?” Crow muttered. He walked over to the cords in the wall and disconnected one, stuffing it in his pocket. He then started towards the door, turning back to look at Seto. “Come on, let’s go. You can tell me about it on the way.” Crow stretched out his hand, and Seto took it.
Seto couldn’t help but smile.
Crow was holding his hand as they walked through the woods on their way back to the amusement park. Having the sun shining down on them was a lot better than having to traipse though dank tunnels. Seto had been afraid to wander through such a densely wooded area before, but apparently Crow could navigate with ease.
“So the merchant knew how to charge me. Huh, I guess I owe the guy some nice rocks,” Crow laughed through a smirk.
“I still don’t understand how your battery ran out if it was so easy to charge you,” Seto wondered.
Crow shrugged. “I didn’t remember my past, so I didn’t really know I was a robot. I mean, sure, I knew I wasn’t human, and that I wasn’t a ghost. I couldn’t be sure what I was, though. So, by the time I got to the lab and figured out that I had to charge up, I was too weak to do anything about it.” Crow patted his jacket pocket. “Now I have the cord and some reports about myself.” He then tapped his head. “I also have all sorts of data on how to build generators to keep myself going.”
“Generators?” Seto asked.
“Yeah,” Crow explained. “I have some built in solar and kinetic generators already, and they can keep my battery going for a while. It lasted a long time, actually, but I guess it just needed a full charge to keep up performance.”
Seto sighed. “You talk about it like it’s nothing, but I thought you were dead.”
Crow turned around, drawing close to Seto. “Hey, I thought I was dead too.” Seto nodded, but he couldn’t meet Crow’s eyes. “Seto, what’s wrong?”
Seto couldn’t take it anymore. He grabbed Crow’s hand and pressed it to his chest. “This is what’s wrong! I thought you were dead, and it felt like my heart stopped. It hurt so much, Crow. And now, now my heart won’t slow down. Every time I look at you, every time I think about you, it beats so fast I feel like I can’t even breathe.”
Crow’s face changed from a concerned frown to a devious smile. “I love you too, Seto.”
“L-love?” Seto stammered, but he couldn’t say more because Crow’s lips were on his. This kiss wasn’t like before. It was more forceful, more urgent, more passionate. Seto stumbled backwards into a large tree, while Crow followed, keeping his mouth on Seto’s. Crow’s tongue slid across Seto’s lips, and they parted with a moan.
Grinning, Crow leaned back and gave Seto a chance to breathe. “Ever since we both left the amusement park, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you. I’ve been kicking myself for ever leaving your side.” Crow reached up and ran his thumb gently along Seto’s parted lips. “I promise you, Seto. I won’t leave you ever again.”
The shocked expression on Seto’s face softened, and Crow smiled. Then Seto surprised them both and darted forward, capturing Crow’s lips in a kiss. “You better not leave,” he breathed, pulling away.
That was all Crow needed to hear.
He pressed Seto back against the tree, unclipping the straps to Seto’s supply bags. Crow’s lips sought Seto’s again and again, and Seto threaded his fingers though Crow’s hair, knocking his hat to the ground. Crow pressed their hips together and Seto moaned. That only spurred Crow on, and the kisses became longer, deeper. Seto had to gasp for breath where he could. A heat like he had never felt before was coiling below his waist.
Crow wanted more than just kisses. He grabbed Seto’s wrists and held them above his head, pressing his mouth to Seto’s and grinding their hips together once more. Seto moaned louder. Keeping Seto’s wrists held in one hand, Crow slid the other down Seto’s body, and then back up, under his coat, finding the waist of his pants. His fingers brushed the skin there, and Seto gasped. Grinning, Crow cupped the bulge in Seto’s pants. “I think we need to do something about this…” Seto moaned urgently in response, and Crow took that as orders to press onward.
Slowly, Crow unzipped Seto’s pants, sliding his hand inside and stroking, stroking. The gasps and moans that escaped Seto’s lips were like music to Crow’s ears. Crow took a moment to look at Seto then, admiring his flushed face. Crow smiled, continuing his stroking as he trailed kisses and gentle bites down Seto’s neck. Seto felt like he was getting close to...
“Please Crow, don’t stop,” he panted.
“I need your help then,” Crow whispered, taking Seto’s hand and placing it on his own arousal.
Seto’s eyes widened. “I didn’t know…”
Crow grinned. “I’m a very advanced robot.”
Eager to return the favor of the pleasure Crow was giving him, Seto quickly set his fingers to work. Crow, who had held his composure until now, completely lost it. He gasped and moaned right along with Seto, stroking faster, kissing harder. Soon they were both at their limit. Seto cried out, shuddering with pleasure, while Crow breathed Seto’s name.
Seto collapsed against the tree behind him, and Crow leaned forward, his forehead on Seto’s.
“That… That was…” Seto could barely speak between heaving breaths.
“Amazing,” Crow finished. He grinned, licking his fingers.
Seto looked at his own unsoiled hand, puzzled.
“I’m not that advanced,” Crow laughed.
Seto suddenly understood, and blushed deeply.
“I hope I didn’t move too fast for you, Seto.”
Seto shook his head. “Well, to me, the first kiss was shocking. Since then, though, you’ve been on my mind. Thoughts, dreams, feelings, all things that made me long to kiss you, even just one more time.”
“I intend to make it a lot more than just once, Seto. I want you by my side forever,” Crow breathed Seto’s ear.
Seto knew from all his experiences that there was no forever for humans, or for robots. There was only as long as I walk under the sky, and that was enough.