Pairings: Nothing non-canon.
Author's note: In canon supplemental information, true mark bearers cannot sleep. Except for the King, the Maidens and the True Galactic Pretty Boy (Takuto).
Also, rhea314 has created a wonderful podfic for this story, which can be found here!
Sugata, Takuto and Wako
They float in space for a while. Sugata's never been off the island, Takuto always welcomes new experiences, and it's incredible to see the world before them in all its blue-green glory.
They spend a span of time there, just looking, before Takuto clears his throat and gestures to the earth. Sugata nods at him, and Takuto moves Tauburn's hand. He can feel the strain on every ligament, the frayed wires trying to stay together, and he silently prays that Tauburn survives re-entry. He touches Sugata's bubble to the cockpit bubble, and Sugata presses against the surface of his bubble to tumble into the cockpit, getting up gracefully. He even makes falling look good. Not that Takuto is jealous.
Lines and symbols flow across the surface of the bubble, and Takuto can understand enough to know that it's going to be a bumpy ride down. He tries to picture Southern Cross Island in his mind, and Tauburn rumbles a noise of assent. This might be their last trip together, but it's okay.
He stretches his hand out, guiding Tauburn downwards, but he can't resist turning to Sugata.
"Seriously? Peacock feathers?"
Sugata flushes. "I didn't make the design decisions for the Emperor section. Go take it up with your father."
"I don't think his face can take that many punches."
Sugata chuckles, and their conversation trails off as they approach the atmosphere. The metal's shrieking with the stress that it's going through, and Takuto is curled up into a ball, teeth gritted, concentrating on staying together and not falling apart before they touch down. Sugata places a reassuring hand on Takuto's back, and the beach is in sight, and he shouts at Sugata to start bracing for impact just in case the bubble shatters.
It's not a graceful landing, it sounds like screeching metal and smells like smoke, but it's a landing. Tauburn's mostly a mess of twisted wreckage, and sparks are shooting out from its severed wires, but the cockpit still remains activated, and the bubble remains intact.
"Thanks, Tauburn." Takuto stands up, extends his fist and gently bumps the inside of the bubble - he's been battling alongside Tauburn all this while, and it's polite to show appreciation. "Couldn't have done it without you."
Circular patterns form on the surface of the bubble, ripples of impact, and Takuto can almost hear Tauburn laugh.
Takuto pushes the bubble to a spot that's clear of wreckage, then opens his hand, and traces a cross on the bubble.
Tauburn's eyes flicker, then grow dim, and the bubble pops.
They tumble onto the beach, and Wako runs across the beach to meet them, her boots sinking into the sand.
"I was so worried about both of you! Sugata, don't make stupid decisions like this anymore, especially on your own! This is worse than the time you convinced Tiger that she could do magic!"
After Wako blurts the last sentence out, she glares at Sugata, fuming, daring him to say something. Sugata lowers his eyes sheepishly, and has the decency to look somewhat ashamed of himself.
"Well," Wako continues, taking a deep breath to calm herself, "It all worked out, I suppose. Except for Sugata's outfit - Sugata, weren't you paying any attention during Sarina's talk on costume design?"
"They gave it to me when I joined. Please blame Takuto's father for the design."
"Sugata, you're the one wearing it - unless he put it on you! Did he put it on you? Do I have to punch him again?" Takuto cracks his knuckles, and Sugata looks faintly alarmed.
"If he had insisted on that part, I might have reconsidered joining." Sugata fiddles with the cloak and the gauntlets, and slips them off his body, tossing them on top of some of the wreckage. "Happy now, critics?"
Wako makes a strangled noise, turns away from Sugata, and flips her phone open. She dials a number, then holds it up to her ear.
"Ah, yes - you saw it? I'm on the beach, he's fine, they're fine, could you send the crew to clear up the wreckage? Oh, that's great. Thanks for your help! See you in class."
Takuto undoes his overcoat and passes it over to Sugata - it's a cold night, and it would suck if Sugata got the flu before they could do anything fun. Sugata slips the coat on.
"So, guys," Takuto says, "Where do you want to go? We can go anywhere now."
"Ah, the cafe! Wait, no, it's closed now..."
"How about my place?" Sugata suggests. "We should get some sleep anyway."
"Sounds great - uh, do you have anything to eat though? Apprivoising made me really hungry." Wako's stomach growls in agreement.
"Both of you can have anything you want."
"Oh, Sugata! Is that what you say to all the girls?"
"No," Sugata rolls his eyes, "Only to the people I like."
Kanako, Simone and Takashi
Simone's mark burns on her chest, even though Daletos is a pile of scrap metal, and it takes two nights of staring at the ceiling for Simone to realise that something is definitely wrong. She finishes her homework, cleans the deck, polishes the silverware and dusts the cocktail glasses, and she finally knocks on Takashi's door at 2 am. He has a true mark and he had (briefly) been part of Vanishing Age, he might know if her insomnia means something else - maybe the transfer of the Daleth mark had gone horribly wrong during the final battle.
She opens the door, and Takashi's writing a letter to his father. All the lights in his room are on, and he doesn't look like he's going to sleep anytime soon.
"I...I can't sleep. Is this..."
He gives her a look of appraisal. "It happens to all true mark-bearers. At least you'll have more free time now." He goes back to scrawling on his pad of paper, and the tip of his tongue is poking out of his mouth.
She sighs - Takashi's right, she does welcome the free time, but honestly, she can't imagine a life without sleep every night, and she's too connected with Daletos to even think about transferring the mark to anyone else. "What would you suggest?"
"Well," he says, "we could always play a card game. That's what my...other section...did to kill the time." He sets the letter aside, reaches into his satchel, and rummages in the inner compartment. "How does Monopoly Deal sound?"
Takashi explains the rules and shows her the rule sheet, they divide out the properties and the rest of the cards and start to play. After a few rounds, they come to a realisation.
"Takashi...do you get the feeling that this would be better with more people?"
He nods. They both glance at the door of his room, and their eyes meet again. Both of them have expressions that are a strange mix of dread and anticipation. Simone inhales sharply, steeling herself so she isn't tempted to flee to her room and forget that she ever had that idea.
"I've always expected to be fired anyway," Simone says, stepping off Takashi's bed. Takashi gets up too, and Simone flattens the wrinkles that have formed on his blanket.
Takashi asks, "Do you want to be the one to knock on her door?"
"I'll ask. You knock." Simone straightens her skirt, and marches out of Takashi's room like she's going to war. Her pace quickens - she hopes to reach Kanako's room before her rational thought processes kick in and stop her from asking something so presumptuous. Takashi follows in her wake, clutching the pack of cards like a shield.
Kanako's door is open, and her lights aren't turned on, but she's unlikely to be asleep at this time anyway. Simone ventures inside.
The light of the screen is blinding, and the numbers are in constant flux, but Kanako's lips are curved upwards in a predatory smile and she's tapping away on her favourite laptop, so it's probably a good night.
"Yes, Simone? Is there something you want to ask?"
"Would you like to play cards with us?" Simone motions to Takashi to come out of hiding, and Takashi holds the pack of cards out.
Kanako opens the box, looks through the instructions, inspects the cards closely, then nods in approval. "Would both of you like to team up? I might be a tough opponent."
"We'd like to play a three person game." Simone is very proud of the way that she manages to prevent her voice from shaking.
Kanako laughs, and they begin the game. They sit on her bed, and the game devolves into Simone and Takashi attempting to evade bankruptcy while Kanako absolutely steamrollers both of them, but it's still more fun than playing it with two people.
After twelve rounds, all three of them come to the conclusion that Kanako will keep winning until Simone and Takashi develop more business acumen, and Kanako declares a break. The stock ticker fluctuates, and Kanako's eyes move across it like she's reading a familiar language.
They've learned about stock markets and the economy in school, but it's nothing like what Kanako does. She points to different ticker symbols and tells them what the number signifies in the current social context, what it means for the world, how it'll affect other countries and other markets, but they can't seem to grasp how she can see the connections so intuitively, or how she can see the connections at all.
"It's almost like hearing the voice of the world," Takashi murmurs. Simone nods in agreement.
"I'll have to teach both of you how to do this someday," Kanako muses. "It's no fun if I don't have anyone to play with."
Benio, George and Tetsuya
It takes a few days before they can bring themselves to actually talk about what happened. They have their marks, but no Cybodies, and it's difficult to get used to accomplishing part of what they always wanted to do.
They meet in the courtyard, and no one knows how to start, Tetsuya and George look expectantly at Benio.
Benio exclaims, "Well, I'm glad that's over with," and Tetsuya and George relax now that they know she's not angry at how things turned out. "God, talk about a hassle. Especially the outfits!" She exhales sharply.
Tetsuya chimes in. "He was the one who made us wear those things and was completely into it. I don't know how he could tell us that the Glittering Crux was stupid when most of it was his fault."
"He was so enthusiastic about Samekh rising up that he practically had an orgasm. Guess we know where he wanted his King's Pillar." George elbows Tetsuya, and they both chuckle.
"Oi, about the costume thing - you think he was trying to outdo Takuto's costume?" Tetsuya muses. "They're related, right?"
"Shut up, Tetsuya, don't associate the two! Takuto doesn't deserve to be associated with that man!" Benio pokes Tetsuya sharply, and Tetsuya zips his lips, making an elaborate pantomime of the process.
"So, anyway, George, Tetsuya, I was thinking -"
"Benio, he's turning blue."
"Fine, Tetsuya, you can speak again! Anyway! I was thinking, after my club tryouts today, we could meet here again and discuss what we could do with our free time."
"Ah, a secret Filament meeting," Tetsuya muses. "Planning a coup, Benio? We'll be your loyal knights no matter what."
George makes a sweeping bow.
"Do you never stop saying irritating things, Tetsuya?! Anyway - no more secrets, no more Filament. Just childhood friends having fun."
"Sounds great to me," George says. Tetsuya nods.
"...and...thanks. For standing behind me."
George catches Tetsuya's eye, winks, and says, "Benio, if we stood in front of you, you wouldn't be able to see a thing."
"Yeah, Benio - you're pretty short, you know."
Her shriek of outrage carries across the campus.
Head (Tokio) and Katashiro
Reiji, no, Tokio now - is daubing paint on a canvas. To Katashiro's eye, it looks like he's painting a woman that's a conglomeration of Sora and the North Maiden. She's facing the viewer, lips parted invitingly, doe-eyed and docile. The sunset behind the woman is impossibly glorious, and the sunlight glints on the woman's hair, giving her an aura of angelic radiance.
"Hey, do you think I'll ever be able to recapture that time, Ryousuke?" He looks expectantly at Katashiro, and Katashiro sighs.
"That's entirely up to you," Katashiro replies, and he pointedly avoids using Tokio's name.
"It's a beautiful sunset, isn't it?"
Katashiro murmurs something non-committal, and looks up - the actual sky is grey and dreary, and it looks like the weather's going to take a turn for the worse. They should probably head indoors, and he's going to have to coax Tokio out of his delusions sooner or later.
For the first time since he lost his eye, he can see a future for himself.
Now if only Tokio would come with him.
Midori and Tsubasa
Tsubasa double-checks the address he acquired from judicious espionage in the school office. He presses the doorbell, and fiddles with his cell phone while he waits. The door creaks open, and someone peeks out.
"Nurse, I have a problem. It's a medical emergency, I think."
"Tsubasa? This is my apartment - not that you aren't welcome...I mean, is there anything I can do to help my darling patient?"
"My heart keeps aching when we're apart." He presents her with the bouquet of roses and the gift-wrapped box of chocolates.
"Ah! That is a problem. You can tell me all about it inside, and maybe I can find a cure," she purrs.
The door clicks shut behind them.
Keito leaves the island a week after her seal is broken. It takes four awkward conversations with Sugata for her to make that decision, and she can't handle the concerned looks that he keeps giving her. Her grades are plummeting because she can't stop thinking about what she should do, and she knows it's not healthy for her to be so obsessed with someone who pities her instead of liking her.
She doesn't know where she'll go, but she needs to clear her mind before something terrible happens. Her teachers are surprisingly understanding, and tell her that they hope to see her back in class when she feels better. She has a distant relative working in Tokyo, and she spends a week hanging around in the cramped apartment, in a daze, staring at trashy daytime television and trying to think straight. She cries a lot, and the only place she visits is the convenience store downstairs. Keito doesn't want people to laugh at her swollen red eyes and her puffy face, and she doesn't feel up to the challenge of interacting with people.
Her phone lies neglected in a corner. She hasn't bothered to charge it for a few days - no one is going to call her, probably no one cares - there were much better class representatives than her. She flicks the remote, flipping through channels, and it's endless idol shows, and she can't help but feel jealous. It's like an endless parade of the girls she'll never be - successful singer, girl in a reverse-harem show, successful businesswoman - and of course she can't be any of those, because she can't ever leave the island -
Her back stiffens, and she drops the remote. She walks to the bathroom, takes off her glasses, and splashes her face with water. She towels her face off roughly, then looks at herself in the mirror. It feels like the first time she's seeing herself in years. Her hair is loose around her shoulders, and she tucks it behind her ears before rummaging in her bag for her ponytail holder. She pulls her hair back into her usual hairstyle, and puts her glasses back on.
She plugs her phone into the charger, grabs a pad of Post-its and starts browsing the internet, scribbling notes as she goes. It's going to be a busy night - it's prime audition season for potential idols, and she needs to make a lot of phone calls tomorrow and figure out which auditions she can go for.
It's not as easy as she thought it would be, and she fails a lot of auditions - all the practice in the karaoke bar was nothing like the real thing. But whenever she feels discouraged, she remembers that she was a section head in the Glittering Crux. She's used to dealing with powertripping individuals, she sings well, she looks decent in tight clothing, and she's not averse to sedating irritating contenders and locking them in broom closets.
For the first time in a long while, she's sure she'll do fine on her own.
Sarina, Tiger and Jaguar
Sarina smiles at Tiger and Jaguar, and taps her pen on the clipboard.
"I'm going off in a few days, so this is kind of like passing the baton - I've already talked to the rest of the members. I trust you understand your new responsibilities?"
"Make sure we have an appropriate script for the members, have a recruitment drive for new members, liase with the prop vendor and the tailor..." Tiger trails off near the end, counting on her fingers. Jaguar frowns at her, and continues.
"Get a few audio-visual technicians to show everyone the ropes, go through breathing exercises, book an appropriate venue for rehearsals, have rehearsal at least twice a week." Jaguar pushes her spectacles up her nose, and looks at Sarina. "I'm fairly sure those are the basics."
"Ah, you forgot a few - have at least one kissing scene to draw the audience during the festival, give Sugata an excuse to wear glasses during the next play, and then there's the most important one."
Sarina looks Tiger and Jaguar in the eyes. Her face turns serious.
"Take care of them. All of them."
Tiger and Jaguar nod in unison.
Sugata, Takuto and Wako (Reprise)
"Tch. The air quality is terrible here - it almost makes me miss the island."
"But think about the great food, Sugata! The excitement! The concert that we're about to attend! Visiting Mizuno and Marino on Tuesday! Doesn't it fill your soul with youthful energy to be in a big city for once?"
Sugata chews thoughtfully on his pork bun, then swallows. "I suppose this place does have its merits. But I don't think I could get used to not seeing the sky."
"Sugata, the sky doesn't go away just because buildings are blocking it out. Or if there's light pollution, or actual pollution..." Takuto tilts his head back, and stares upwards. "Hey, you're right, you can't really see it much. Huh."
Sugata's face practically says I-told-you-so.
Takuto snatches a pork bun from the bag that Sugata's holding, and says, "But we're all under the same sky, even if we can't see it at all. No matter where we are."
"Ah, such poetic words from a pork bun thief."
"Such petty words from a selfish guy! Seriously, we both paid for these buns!"
"Both of you! Why are you standing here staring at the sky when Keito's concert is starting in fifteen minutes?! Get going! And finish those pork buns, there's no food allowed inside!"
"Wako, easy on my arm, no dragging - Sugata! Look out for the scooter!" Takuto grabs Sugata's hand, yanking him out of the renegade scooter's path, and all three of them run through the crowd, skidding to a halt as the traffic light changes.
They stand there, panting, watching the cars zoom past them, waiting for the traffic to stop so they can cross. Takuto looks down at his right hand, its fingers still linked with Sugata's. Sugata doesn't seem to object.
Wako nudges Takuto in the side, and links her fingers with his other hand.
Takuto's standing hand-in-hand with his best friends, and they're not trapped on the island anymore, and they have no responsibilities except for what they choose to do. He grins.
Takuto can't see the future, but he knows what he wants it to be like, and he'll do his best to make sure it happens.
And somewhere far away, a blue-haired girl adjusts the brim of her straw hat, and looks up at the sky.
"And so, the adventure of life goes on."