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dry your tears, love (but this is goodbye)

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"No! You can't go too!"

He's heard Yuuma sound like that before. After Astral, and after Shingetsu too, and he'd turned away for Astral and slapped sense into Yuuma for Shingetsu but this time it's-- it's harder. Because it's not right for Yuuma to cry for a Barian - not again, not after all that they've done, and maybe they're not all bad, maybe Vector wasn't the shining example of their species but that's not to say that the rest of them are all blameless, even if the blame is only for not controlling Vector between the rest of them - but this isn't like Shingetsu. It's not someone who's been manipulating Yuuma, not some precious friend that Kaito's never even seen before, it's...

It's Ryoga. And he, well, it's not like he's ever made a point of associating with any of Yuuma's friends, really, can't even remember the names of half of them even if he recognises them by sight at least, and Kotori and Rio were exceptions to that - and, oh, there's Rio too, next to Ryoga with her face turned away - but Ryoga was... Ryoga is his friend too, he thinks. Ryoga and Yuuma and Astral, he thinks, in as much as he's really ever had friends they've been those friends, and now Astral's gone and Ryoga's going and it's like each of them takes a piece of Yuuma so that by the end of today he's not sure he'll really even have claim to one friend, not sure Yuuma's going to even be a whole person any more.

(and that's the danger of friendship, isn't it? You give up parts of yourself and that's dangerous, it's why Kaito had only had Haruto for so long after Chris had taken a chunk of his heart away like that, but Yuuma had gone so long without a lesson like that and even after Vector had given him one he'd kept on giving so freely that it's a wonder there's anything left at all)

(he doesn't think Ryoga's the only Barian who'll take a piece of Yuuma with him, either)

He turns his gaze on Ryoga himself then, because Yuuma's on his knees and Kaito can't just look at that but he can't go to him either; it's not his place and besides that what would he evendo? Ryoga who stands at the front of the other Barians - of course he would, because he's their leader now, isn't he? - and looks every bit as young as he'd thought he was and younger besides. Nothing like the fearless leader that Kaito thinks he's probably supposed to be, that the others probably need him to be, and everything like a small and frightened child, his brows knitted into a frown but his bottom lip wobbling a little until he catches Kaito's eyes on him and sinks his teeth into it instead. And it's... it's funny, it's weird, because Kaito's not really thought of him or Yuuma as young for a long time. At the beginning, maybe, dismissing the both of them, and sometimes when Yuuma's been hurting it's crossed his mind - god though, he's so young - but for Ryoga particularly it's not really been a thing. It's easy to forget the difference when Ryoga and Yuuma are... they're immature, in their way - Yuuma with his naïveté and Ryoga with his hotheadedness - but they're... they're friends, and comrades, and duelists, and Kaito has trusted them and believed in them and fought beside them and so in the end they'd seemed ageless, they all had, at some point they'd all become a single unit when the situation called for it and so it hadn't mattered that they were different ages so long as they all fought together.

Now though, Ryoga looks young and Kaito's all-too-aware of his age, never mind the fact that it's not his age, not really. It probably doesn't really matter in the end, though, not when Ryoga's moving forward now and kneeling in front of Yuuma, not even protesting the arms thrown around his neck even if his eyes go wide and his mouth falls open for a moment. A little while ago that would have been a dream come true for him, Kaito thinks, never mind that he'd have denied it until his last breath, but now it's... now every part of it is tainted by the knowledge that it's fleeting, that Ryoga's leaving, isn't it? He thinks that must hit Ryoga fully at the same moment with the way that Ryoga's mouth twists, the way he clutches back all of a sudden and buries his face in the side of Yuuma's neck - like he's making up for lost time, Kaito thinks unbidden, like he's trying to fit a hundred embraces that Could Have Been into this one first and last embrace, into these too-few last minutes between them - and he's saying something too, something muffled and indistinct in Yuuma's ear that has Yuuma shaking his head sharply and saying no, no,and Kaito's left wondering whether Ryoga tried to say that it's okay.

(Yuuma's right, though - it's not, it hasn't been, it won't be)

They stay that way for long moments, clutching each other tight on the ground like that - too long, apparently, because Durbe's saying Nasch in this hesitant voice and he sounds kind of lost and almost scared which, well, it's not like Kaito has paid massive amounts of attention to Durbe in particular but he was the leader before, wasn't he, and what Kaito has heard from him before has been strong, has been authoritative, which is what has Kaito really looking at the others, the four of them huddled behind Rio who's still forward, still apart from them where she'd been stood beside Ryoga. And... god, but they look a wreck. Huddled together and Durbe's eyes are red-rimmed behind his glasses and Mizael's staring sort of numbly into the gap between the four of them, and that other one is holding Alit back with a hand on his shoulder because he looks like he wants to run forward and snatch Yuuma out of Ryoga's arms, like he wants to be the one to comfort Yuuma - but, really, what comfort could he give anyway when he's leaving just the same? And Kaito doesn't really get it, not quite, because he's never relied on someone to the extent that they all seem to, never been so invested in bonds and friendship - but then they're sort of a family, aren't they, and Kaito understands that, certainly - but it still makes him ache for Ryoga, some deep sympathy he doesn't quite understand because their kind of bond feels so alien to him still.

Yuuma needs Ryoga, the grip they have on each other is enough to make that clear, but they need him too, and now Rio's calling softly for him too - Ryoga this time, not Nasch like Durbe had called - and he's starting to pull back now and Yuuma's grabbing at him desperately and it's painful, painful to watch when he has to stand there and do nothing because he knows there's nothing he can do. Painful because Yuuma needs his friends but the Barians need someone to lead them, need someone to be strong for them and Kaito knows that, Kaito has been the strong one for Haruto for so long and right now, broken as they all look, he thinks their need might not be so far from that. So Ryoga's pulling back and trying to stand and Yuuma's grabbing at him, Yuuma's breaking and pleading with him and Kaito has never wanted so much to turn away, to pretend it's not happening.

(but he can't, can he, because Yuuma's going to need someone who was here for this, someone who saw it all, and Kaito's the only one here who'll still be here after the Barians are gone)

So he keeps watching. Keeps watching as Ryoga stands, pulls Yuuma with him because he wouldn't be able to stand with Yuuma grabbing at him like that otherwise. And then it's like Ryoga gives in, because he's clutching at Yuuma again and murmuring in his ear, and Yuuma's pleading with him again until Ryoga catches his face, until Ryoga kisses him, and it's closed-mouthed and sort of amateurish and it takes him three tries to get Yuuma's lips properly but somehow it still seems the most intimate kiss that Kaito's ever seen, still makes him feel like an intruder, so he turns his eyes back to the other Barians. To Rio, whose eyes are shut and whose mouth is twisted into a thin, pained line. To Durbe and Alit, who're both watching Ryoga and Yuuma with matching longing expressions, and the only difference is which one they're staring at. To Mizael, whose eyes go to Durbe and his mouth twists and Kaito sort of half-wonders - but no, it's irrelevant, because he's never going to see them again anyway, so what does it matter what his (former, now) rival thinks or feels about anything, really, when any potential they might have had for some sort of camaraderie is going to evaporate into a Barian portal any moment now - before movement catches his eye and sends his attention skittering almost gratefully away from Mizael and any of the thoughts attached to him.

Ryoga pulls back slowly and Yuuma's letting him now, which is... sort of worse than before, actually, because this is Yuuma and he's given up - and it is giving up, there's a desperate look in his eyes that says it's not acceptance - and he's not supposed to give up, he's supposed to fight to the end. But this is the end, isn't it, there's nothing he can do and nobody to tell him to fight on because Astral's gone and Ryoga's going and Kaito's not going to tell him to fight when it'll only hurt him more.

And then Ryoga, of all things, smiles, and it's soft and sad and not really like him at all, has Kaito glancing over at Durbe who's looking back with a similar sort of expression to the one Kaito imagines is on his own face, so... yeah, he's going to assume it's not much like Nasch either, the Nasch that Durbe knows and-- yeah, okay, no, he's not going down that route either because if he's not entertaining thoughts about Mizael's romantic inclinations he's certainly not entertaining any thoughts about Durbe's. Particularly not when he looks back at Ryoga and Yuuma, and Yuuma's cheeks are wet and god, if Ryoga looked young earlier Yuuma looks even worse now, reaching out toward Ryoga again but not quite touching him.

(with the look on Yuuma's face Kaito doesn't think he'd let go a second time, and Kaito thanks his stars - or perhaps not, he thinks, gaze flicking briefly to the broken little bunch of them - that Yuuma had the self-control not to touch, because Kaito can imagine having to prise Yuuma away from him and he doesn't know if he could manage it)

Ryoga's smiling, and he doesn't reach out but he looks like he wants to, and he sort of laughs then - and that's soft and sad and not like him, too - and says, quietly, "Should have said something then. Would have been great. Only..." He pauses, gestures vaguely with one hand. Shakes his head. "Anyway," he adds, "It's hard to come out with something all heartfelt and sappy like that when you've found out you don't really have a heart." He laughs again, hollow this time.

"Don't say that," Yuuma snaps back, clenches his fist like he wants to-- to what? To punch Ryoga? To grab him again? Kaito's not quite sure, doesn't think Yuuma's quite sure either, but in the end he just steps back and bangs his fist on his own chest, over his own heart. "You do, you do have a heart."

"It's not real--"

"It is!" Yuuma's angry now, or at least it's probably easier to be that way because thinking about what Ryoga's saying - thinking about how none of the others are trying to disagree with it - is kind of desperately sad, the fact he thinks he doesn't have a heart when, god, even Kaito could tell him how idiotic that is.

"You have a heart, Shark, you--" Yuuma cuts off then, looks around Ryoga at the others and waves his hand out. "Aren't any of you going to-- you have hearts, you all have hearts, you'repeople, you-- you do, all of you..."

He's swaying on his feet and he looks so desperate and none of them will look at him, not even Rio, and maybe this is more Ryoga's area than his own but Kaito's pretty sure he wants to punch all of them right now. Because, dammit, how hard is it to just look at this broken-down child in front of you and pretend even if you don't believe what you're saying? How hard is it to pretend everything is okay even if it's not when it's for a child - and maybe it's not the same as standing out in the rain and holding out a square of caramel, putting on a smile and saying it's magical, but Yuuma's as much a child in this moment as Haruto was then even if he's older, and still not one of them will look him in the eye and even pretend to agree with him.

Ryoga doesn't say anything either, and that's the worst part of it. Because Yuuma's staring at him and him alone now and he won't say anything and, yeah, Kaito's definitely going to punch him at least in a second. But then he reaches forward, at least, grabs the hand that Yuuma was gesturing with and holds it to his chest and Kaito has to look away again, has to give them this moment - because it's going to be the last, isn't it, because out of the corner of his eye he can see Ryoga pulling away from Yuuma even as he keeps up the contact between them, angling his body away even while Yuuma's hand is still pressed to his chest. He tries to catch Kaito's eye then, so Kaito looks back again and there's a Look between them. Something that says look after him, and Kaito sort of wants to roll his eyes because of course he will, how could he not, but he nods instead. And then Ryoga's nodding to the others and Durbe's opening a portal, leading the others through it until only Rio's left, waiting beside it as Ryoga lets go of Yuuma's hand and starts to back away toward it.

And Yuuma sort of breaks there, grabs for him and practically wails, and Kaito still doesn't know if he can really manage this but he moves forward finally to grab Yuuma from behind, to hold him back before he can actually get ahold of Ryoga.

(the look in Ryoga's eyes is so grateful that it's hard to meet them, and Kaito thinks now that Yuuma's not the only one who wouldn't have let go if they'd embraced again)

"Go," he says, his own voice thicker in his throat than he'd like it to be, and Ryoga nods sharply. Turns away, Rio's hand reaching out to grab his as he follows her through the portal, and all the while Yuuma's struggling in Kaito's arms, begging and pleading until the portal finally closes and he just sinks down to the ground with Kaito following close behind him.

They stay that way for what feels like forever, seconds or minutes or hours and Kaito doesn't quite know which, because the light starts to fade around them but it's difficult to tell how much of that is just because of the thick clouds filling the sky, painting it black and gray and chilling the air around them both until Kaito can't tell any more how much of Yuuma's shaking is from the slowly-dying sobs and how much is from the cold, but either way Kaito needs to get him up and moving. "Come on," he murmurs in his softest voice, the one that's always been for Haruto and Haruto alone but Yuuma needs it now, and he thinks Haruto would be more than happy to share it with Yuuma - particularly if he could see the way he looks right now, the way he's turned at some point to huddle into Kaito's chest and the damp spot he's left on Kaito's jacket, tears and snot but Kaito can't find it in him to care at all about the state of his clothes at the moment.

"He's gone," Yuuma says, lets Kaito pick him off the ground but doesn't really seem to register that he's been moved. "They're all gone." He sounds numb, looks it too with the gooseflesh on his arms and the way his eyes stare off into the distance and don't quite focus on anything, and in the end Kaito can't do much more than nod and breathe, yeah, they are. He's not sure Yuuma quite hears him anyway.

"Come on," Kaito says eventually, when his legs have started to cramp and Yuuma's still not shown any signs of planning to move, and he contemplates calling Orbital but... it'd mean questions, and it's not like he can't shut Orbital up with a glare and a sharp word but he can't prevent him from saying something in the first place, so... yeah, he thinks, let's not. "Come on," he repeats instead, nudges Yuuma forward a little without really letting go of him, "Home."

(perhaps not Yuuma's home, he thinks, perhaps the tower and a call to Yuuma's family, but it's his home at least because Haruto's there, and Haruto will sit with Yuuma - even if Kaito tries to keep him away, he thinks - and probably give him caramel, and he probably won't talk but it's okay because Yuuma probably wouldn't be able to listen, but either way he'll probably be a lot better at this than Kaito is managing to be right now if only because the numbness that's taken over Yuuma is starting to slip up over him too)

It starts to rain as he leads Yuuma along, the kind of rain where you're soaked through and chilled to the bone in moments, and that's... a mercy, he thinks, something to hide the tears and explain away the cold and Kaito remembers sitting on the ground in the rain and being glad of it for that at least, thinks it might just be the same for Yuuma right now if Yuuma's even there enough to notice the rain.

(it hadn't rained for Astral's death even though they'd all felt like it ought to, but it rains twice as hard for the Barians, and maybe it's fitting that the world mourns them all together because hadn't they all had something similar to them in the end, the star-fire Barians and the guiding-star Astral, and it's all of them that have left Yuuma's sky dark and empty)

"Kaito?" Yuuma says halfway to the tower, tiny and quiet and raw-sounding and when Kaito grunts an acknowledgement he just adds on, "You're not gonna leave too, are you?" And he sounds about five years old and Kaito wants to hold him close and not let anything in the world hurt him again - and he hasn't ever felt this strongly about anyone but Haruto - but he can't do that. Can't guarantee that the world won't keep tearing into him like this.

He can hold Yuma's hand tight in one of his own though, and he can do his best to soften the blows when they come, and he can make a promise that he means every bit as much as any of the promises he's ever made to Haruto.

"I'm not going to leave, Yuuma."