My Space or Yours

 

"Miyako… Miyako…"

That lovely voice. That perfect voice.

"You must come. Miyako."

The girl standing at the center of the room raised her right hand. Clutched loosely in the trembling fingers was a long, narrow card. "I… I…" She hesitated, for a moment caught in indecision.

"Come to me. Come and join me in the light."

The card came down. The girl called Miyako raised her eyes and gazed into thin air with blinding adoration. "Hikari," she breathed. "Take me away."

And the light flared up, bright and consuming.

~~~~~~

My eyes go from shut to wide open in less than half a second.

First thing I notice: I'm covered in sweat. Second: the covers are half kicked off, and I'm sprawled half-naked across the bed. And third: that damned annoying buzzing noise is screaming itself into my ear.

"Agh! Shup up!" I swing a hand out blindly and send my alarm clock to the floor with a dull clunk.

It ignores me and keeps buzzing.

Nice going, Daisuke. I start muttering four-letter words under my breath and sit up, snatching the clock up and pressing 'sleep'. It's ten minutes to seven.

Which means I'm up early. Again.

I drag myself into the shower. This has to stop. She disappeared months ago, after all… That thought still sends chills through me. No one ever found out where she'd gone. My best friend is a statistic. Another "mysterious" disappearance. A victim of them.

It doesn’t help that in this case the word 'them' has no real definition. Demons. Devils. Some religious fanatics even think that they're angels, or bringers of justice, or something crazy like that.

Those are people who haven't lost friends and family.

It's pretty scary, living in the safest city in the country and being worried about this sort of thing. The government calls it 'opening a gate'. Or, inviting them to come into your life and seduce you over to whatever hell they live in.

How, I wonder, is Miyako living now? Is she dead? Alive but being tortured for the amusement of whoever had taken her? Alive but existing in some weird dream while alien beings poke and prod at her?

I've really got an imagination problem.

The phone rings in practically the same second that I step out of the shower. Such timing… I can't help but grin, hastily snatching up a towel and heading for the telephone. The call display reads 'Hida'.

Iori, I realize, and snatch up the phone. "Dude, what's with the early morning call? Didja ever stop to think I might be sleeping?"

"You have an 8:30 class," the neat-sounding voice on the other end answers back flatly. "If you weren't up by now, you should've been."

"Okay, fine," I agree grugingly. "So what do you want?"

"You searched Miyako's room eight months ago," he begins, voice suddenly slowing. "Did you… find anything? While you were in there, I mean."

"Nope," I answer immediately, without thinking about it. "Sorry."

"Nothing at all?" There's a strange sort of intent tone in Iori's voice.

"Um… yeah - no!" I run a hand through my hair. I don't want to think about Miyako, or her room. Memories hit me at the worst possible times, which only makes me not want to think about them when I can actually help it.

Oh yeah, I remember her room. I had a spare key, so I'd let myself in because I thought she was deathly sick or something. She hadn't been in class. And her room had been empty. She just wasn't there; that was all.

On the floor was a pack of Tarot cards, arranged like she was going to do one of her fake "readings". I picked them up and took them home, because the last thing Miyako would want was someone messing with her stuff.

A month later, she was officially 'taken'.

Another month later, and I started having nightmares - about the cards, about Miyako, and about that strange word: Hikari. I even went and looked it up; it means 'ray' or 'beam of light'. I thought it'd sounded more like a name when Miyako said it in the dream. Where I had picked it up from, I have no idea. I'm not exactly bright enough to remember more than fragments, anyway.

"Daisuke?" Iori cuts into my trance.

"Huh?" I blink. "What?"

"You've been quiet for more than five minutes. That's a new record for you," he comments dryly. "The question wasn't that confusing, was it?"

"Oh. Uh… no." I scratch my head. "But I sorta remembered something. Tarot cards."

There's a second of silence. "What?" Iori sounds puzzled.

"That's what I found in Miyako's room. You know how she was always carrying them around, right?" I shrug, even though he can't see it. "Telling people's fortunes and all… I picked them up because I knew she wouldn't - "

"Thanks." Iori cuts me off. "I have to go, Daisuke. I'll see you later, all right?"

"Huh? Oh… sure thing, dude." I'm not even sure if he heard that last part; the dial tone is already singing into my ear. What's up with him?

I freeze for a second, still dripping all over the carpet, one hand holding up my towel. Dude… it can't be… Memory sucks me back in.

I stood with Miyako by the gym. "I've got a class here in five minutes, you know."

"Daisuke dear, I know your schedule better than you do. Believe me, I know." She smirked - the all-knowing expression that really annoyed me. "I'm surprised you remembered, though. Your brain is should be donated to science so they can study what went wrong."

"Ha ha, very funny." I hated how she always called me 'dear'. It sounds so… insulting. "I remember things just fine."

"Sure." She looked away, and her smile suddenly faded as a strange expression invaded her face. "I have to… I'll see you later. All right, Daisuke?"

"Um… okay." She was gone before I could finish. Geez, I thought, puzzled. What's up with her?

I know now. And that's what scares me about Iori.

I guess I'm paranoid. But who can blame me?

~~~~~~

"I'm huuuuuuungry!" I whine, practically hopping in place as I watch the line for our campus foods area advance slowly. "Dude, it's a million miles to the food, and I can smell it like it's right here!"

Iori smiles, looking irritatingly amused. "Daisuke, you are in a constant state of hunger," he comments teasingly. I scowl down at him. Iori is younger than me by a couple of years, and shorter by about a full head's length, but he's super intelligent. Unlike me.

"I'm not," I protest. "Only when I'm around food, and I just had two gym classes, and I haven't eaten since eight o'clock in the morning!"

"Daisuke, yesterday you finished lunch and were begging for part of mine within the space of thirty seconds!" Iori phrases his words with a care that makes me blink. He's an English major, and real Professor material. I swear that he can probably teach better than some of our Profs.

"It'll be twenty seconds today if the line doesn't move faster!" I complain.

Iori rolls his eyes and doesn't comment.

I wait for about ten seconds before remembering, yet again, that Miyako is not here to say 'Go for ten, and we'll call the newspapers to witness your record-breaking eating streak'. "I'm hungry," I whine again, trying to get my mind off that subject. It doesn't work.

"What's with you, Miyako? You've been acting like you hardly even know us any more!"

"I'm so sorry, Dai. So sorry… I can't… you don't understand…"

"Understand what? What the hell are you talking about?"

"You don't understand," she repeated, so softly that I barely heard it. "They're so beautiful… she is so beautiful… God, Daisuke, she's like a goddess…"

"She?"

"I have to go." The whisper was a broken little thing, tones of sadness weaving around through it. "I'm sorry, Daisuke… I have to go. Don’t think too badly of me…"

"Miyako…"

"I have to go!"

Great last conversation. I shake myself awake again. If I'd known she meant that she had to go for good, I would've tried to say something deep and meaningful. Heck, I would've tried to stop her! Last thing I wanted was for one of my best friends to get taken away by demons.

Miyako was smart, though. She probably knew I'd try to stop her. She couldn't tell me.

Damn her!

"Daisuke?" Iori waves a hand in front of my face to attract my attention. I blink, confused. "We're at the front. I thought you were hungry."

"Oh yeah." I push Miyako out of my brain and snag some lunch. "All right! Food!"

Iori concentrates on filling his tray, and takes a lot longer than me. Than again, that could be because I just grabbed whatever was nearest and tossed it on the tray. I'm not exactly a picky eater. But, whatever the reason, I'm the one to notice this very attractive blond who's staring at my friend with obvious appreciation on his face. He's smiling just slightly, and there's an expression in his eyes that looks almost like affection.

But that's impossible. You have to know someone to have that kind of affection for them, and if Iori knew a hottie like that, I'd sure as hell know about it! I decide that I'm blind and nudge my friend to get his attention.

He doesn't turn. "I'm almost finished, Dai."

"Dude, that's not it," I tell him, then lower my voice. "There's a really hot blond checking you out, right over there." I nod slightly in the direction of the guy. I know Iori's gay, so he's not gonna mind, and I'm bi so I sure as hell don't mind. Besides, the guy is cute. Not my type, but cool enough for Iori.

Iori looks up, and his face reddens. That's not unusual, since it's Iori, but the look on his face is something I'd call priceless if I could understand it. He looks absolutely astonished to see the blond guy. It's like… they knew each other.

But like I said, that's impossible. Right?

I glance over at the blond again, and he looks away from Iori long enough to smile at me. Then he turns and threads his way through the crowd until I can't see him any more.

"Aw, and here I thought he was gonna join us for lunch." I grin at my friend.

Iori doesn't return the smile. "Yeah," he says shortly, and hunches over his tray, letting out a sigh.

I blink. Wha…?

Hot blond checks out at my friend. Friend then looks at hot blond. Hot blond walks away. Friend turns weird. Well, everything fits but the last part… I scratch my head.

What the hell am I missing?

~~~~~~

"Go ahead." Iori pushes his tray - which is still practically full - at me, and sighs. "Take it all. I'm not hungry."

"Dude, you hardly ate anything." Despite my words, I attack the food placed in front of me immediately. "What's the deal?"

"Nothing, it's just…" He lets that trail off, and looks at his watch. "I've got to go to class, Daisuke. I'll see you later this afternoon, all right?"

"Huh?" I look over at the clock. "It's only one-thirty. I thought you had a class at two."

"I need to get there early today," he answers, in a clipped tone that makes it sound like he's mad at me. I know that he isn't, though, because I've known Iori almost as long as I'd known Miyako. He's stressed out about something.

"Big test coming up?" I guess.

"Something like that," he answers, an odd expression settling in his eyes. "It's fairly important, too."

"Gotcha." I grin. "Good luck studying, even though I doubt you need it."

"Thanks."

"You should look for that blond guy," I suggest. "He was pretty hot."

"I know him already," Iori says flatly. "And, believe me, hot doesn't even begin to describe it." He bites his lip, and when he looks at me again, his eyes are haunted. "You can't understand, Daisuke," he says, very softly. "He's like… a god. That's the only way to describe it."

He grabs his bag and almost runs away from our table, where I've frozen in mid-chew.

"God, Daisuke," Miyako's broken voice told me, "she's like a goddess…"

Damn.

~~~~~~

You know what's really annoying? Trying to pretend you're fine when you're not. That's why I'm going online for a 'chat'. I've got Miyako's Tarot cards and I'm going to show them to just about everyone I know and find out what they do.

Then I'll banish away Iori's blond demon and we'll never talk about it again.

I'm so convinced that I can do this that I half think I can even drag Miyako back somehow, too.

So I type a request for help with Tarot cards in to the chat room and sit back to wait. After all, somebody has to answer, right?

I wait about five minutes, then repeat the question.

People ignore me.

Damn it!

A message suddenly pops up on the computer screen: RayOfLight171 has requested a private chat. I frown. RayOfLight171? I've never even heard of this person.

But… I can't help being curious. I press 'Accept' and the private message screen comes up.

My first message isn't even a 'hello'.

I hear you're curious about Tarot cards.

I stare at the message for a moment, wondering. It's weird… I didn't see RayOfLight171 in the list of chatters until just recently… How on earth could this person have known that?

Still…

'Maybe I am', I type back. 'Do you know something?'

I might. What do you want to know?

"Could you be a little more mysterious?" I mutter, annoyed. All the same, I type in, 'My friend got taken by demons, and I think it was with cards. Another friend of mine is acting funny, and I think it's demons again. I want to close the gate up. Can Tarot cards do that?'

Oh yeah, just a perfectly normal conversation. Well, I get the feeling RayOfLight171 isn't a perfectly normal person.

Why don't you try reversing the cards?

"What?" I scowl at the screen. 'How do I do that?' I type back.

When a Tarot card is held upside down, its meaning changes. If you remember how your friend used cards to open a gate, reverse them all. That might close it.

I blink. Why hadn't I thought of that? 'Thanks,' I type back.

No charge. Goodbye.

"Goodbye?" I blink again. "But…"

RayOfLight171 has signed off.

"Damnit!" I scowl. "Thanks a lot! The least you could've done was stick around!" I sign out of the chatroom, muttering swears under my breath. I hate people who act all mysterious. It's like they think they're better than us ordinary mortals.

Oh well. I turn around and look at Miyako's cards. They seem all innocent-like. Just like ordinary cards. Could they actually open and close up gates like that?

No way, I think, and snatch up my shoes. I can't stand to stay around that apartment any more. I need to get out.

~~~~~~

I stare at the cards.

The cards stare at me.

Sort of.

"Okay," I tell them, holding the pack up, and pouring them halfway out into my hand. "I don't have a clue how to use you guys, so you're going to have to help me out. I remember how Miyako arranged you, because I dreamed about it, and I found you that way in her room. So I'm gonna do that, except you'll be upside-down. Got that?"

They ignore me.

"Fine, be that way," I mutter, pulling the cards out of their pack. "I'll do it myself. Iori can thank me when blondie's gone and he's back to normal again."

I don’t know anything about Tarot cards, but the way Miyako had them arranged seemed weird even to me. They went in a sort of arch that came to a point and arched out again. Then a straight line of cards connected the two arches at the bottom. It looks, when I get all the cards in the right places, like a triangle with two inwardly arched sides.

I have one card left when I'm done, which is okay, because it's the same card Miyako was holding in the dream - the 'Lovers' card. I don't even think about the 'love' part of it, because Miyako used to tell me that Tarot card meanings weren't always what they looked like.

Miyako put the card down inside the rest, I remember. So I should put it outside, right? I place the 'Lovers' card outside of the strange-shaped triangle, and sit back to wait.

Nothing happens, but I feel a little tingly all over.

So… maybe I have to just leave it like this. I frown. That does make sense. If putting the cards like that made Iori's gate close, all I have to do is leave them alone and it'll stay closed, right? I feel pretty proud of myself for figuring that out.

I'll have to remember to thank that RayOfLight person.

In the morning.

~~~~~~

"Daisuke…"

I roll over and pull the pillow over my head. Too early…

"Daisuke, wake up."

"Don' wanna," I mumble, hoping whoever it is will go away.

Wait a sec…

"Gah!" I sit up, throwing off the pillow and knocking back the thin form that had been hovering over me. "What th… Hey, who are you? And how'd you get into my room?"

The form pulls itself up again, and I'm struck dumb as a vision of… well, hell, perfection, almost… stares back at me. It's a face that's mostly just the two large, sad, blue-violet eyes, framed by pale skin, high cheekbones, and silky dark hair. The body beneath it… well, let's just say it has me gaping… Wow…

"My name's Ken," answers a low voice from those perfect lips. "And you invited me in. Don't you remember?" He smiles, and it looks beautiful.

I pinch my arm to make sure I'm not dreaming. It hurts. "I didn't invite you! I've never seen you before in my life!"

"Of course you haven't." He looks at me like I've just stated the most obvious thing in the world. "But you did call me." He gestures toward the floor, where my card design is still sitting. "I wouldn't have come through if you hadn't called me."

"Call you? What…?" I look over at the cards again, and my stomach feels like it's sinking. "Oh…" I turn my head back again, to face him. "You're…"

Ken smiles. "I've been waiting for you forever! I thought you'd never call me." He leans forward, lips parted like he's going to kiss me.

I push him away. "You're one of them! Stay the hell away from me!"

His eyes go wide. "Wh-what?"

"You're not snatching me away like you did Miyako!" I snap at him, glaring. "You think I'm crazy or something? You and your demon friends are probably snacking on her right now!" The mention of one of my best friends brings the other to mind. "Damn it, now I've gotta think of something else to save Iori, too!"

Ken's mouth is moving, but he doesn't seem to be able to make sounds. "But… you… you called me!" he protests, sounding confused. "Why would you… if you didn’t want me here…?"

"I screwed up, okay?" I scowl. "And just forget it if you think I'm falling for your silly sappy demon tricks! I'm not buying the act, pal! There is no way I'm letting you drag me off to some private hell-hole so you can chew on my soul for eternity! Forget it!"

"Hell-hole?" Ken's eyes suddenly blaze. "What do you think I am? Some kind of demon?"

I blink, forgetting what I was going to yell out next. "You're not?"

"No, you idiot!" he snaps, looking furious. "I'm supposed to be your soulmate, dumbass, and I've been hanging around in paradise waiting for you to join me, and I finally get called to come get you, and you're calling me a demon? Well, that's just great! Thanks a lot!"

I blink some more. "Soulmate?"

"Sort of." He's calmed down a little, but those pretty purple-blue eyes glint with anger and resentment. "We're like the other half of you people. Sort of like two souls split into one, understand? The difference between us and you is that we know about you."

I frown. Is this some kinda trick? Ken seemed pretty mad when I called him a demon. Still… "How'm I supposed to know if you're telling the truth or not? You could be lying to get me to go back with you."

"I don't lie," Ken says, sounding indignant.

"What if you're lying right now?"

He scowls at me.

"Okay, okay." I sit up a little better, leaning my back against the pillows. "So let me get this straight. You guys are just sitting around in hell - "

"We do not live in hell!"

"Dude, whatever!" I make a face. "All right, so you're sitting around in your space - wherever that is - and just waiting for your soulmate, or the other half, or whatever, to call you over here?"

"That's about the extent of it," Ken agrees.

"Great." You're having a conversation with a demon! Why are you being so damned calm about this? It's insane! "So what is there to do over there if all of you just sit around and wait all the time?"

"We don't sit down and stare off into space." Ken actually grins. "We've got the same sort of things you have here. Like I said, the only noticeable difference is the fact that we know about you."

"Well, we sorta know about you," I answer defensively. Why are you trying to get to know this person? He's a demon! "Except we don't know what you are. My friend Miyako got taken away, you know. She looked really bad before - she was upset and everything."

Ken nods. "I met her. Hikari came to visit after they came back… they were very much in love, you know. Miyako seemed happy - and, actually, she told me about you. That's how I knew your name. She just took one look at me, and knew that I was supposed to be with you." He shrugs. "I'm not sure how."

"Uh huh." I nod my head, trying to hide the fact that I have no idea what he's talking about. "Doesn't Hikari mean 'ray of light'? I met someone with the screen name RayOfLight171 on the internet. That's who told me to use the cards to close up Iori's gate."

Ken looks at me for a moment, then abruptly lowers his eyes. "Damn that girl! She's been messing in my life again!"

"That went by a little fast," I tell him.

"Hikari is the person you met on the internet," he explains, voice dry. "I'm practically positive. She and that new girlfriend of hers would take any opportunity to mess with my life. It's nice to know they're thinking of me, but… really. It's annoying."

"Oh." I don't really know what to say to that. It does sound like something Miyako would do, though…

"If we went back right now, I'm sure we could think of some way to get back at them," he tells me, eyes hopeful.

"Hah! Fat chance!" I cross my arms over my chest. "You're not getting me that easy! And what about Iori and that blond demon? Huh? He acted all jumpy when the guy showed up."

"Well, sometimes there are reasons why people don't want to go." Ken shrugs. "Maybe he's worried about his family, or friends, or something."

"Oh yeah." That gives me something else to use as a reason. "Hey, that's a good one, actually. What about my family? My folks would go crazy if I suddenly wasn’t there any more!"

Ken looks unhappy. "I can't help that. You either go and leave them behind, or stay and forget about me, I guess." He gazes at me with those huge, sad eyes, and I feel a little less certain about my choice to stay.

"I can't leave my whole life!" I protest, trying to make him understand. "How would you feel? Hey, and why don't you just stay here if you want to be with me so bad?"

"Because I can't. I'll fade away after a week, and then you'll probably never be able to open a gate again. At least that's what's supposed to happen." He looks dejected. "It's never been a problem for anyone but me."

"Why? Because everyone always makes some innocent person go back to hell with them?" Okay, now I'm just trying to make him mad. But I can't stand to see him look so sad! It's… for some reason, it's really distressing.

"I don't live in hell!" Ken glares at me. His eyes are still big and mournful.

"Well, then, why does Iori looks so upset?"

"I don’t know!" Ken sounds exasperated. "How could I possibly know that? Maybe you should ask him!"

Hmm… That's actually a good plan. "Maybe I will," I answer.

"I'm glad that's settled." Ken sighs, and looks at the floor.

"Look," I say, trying to cheer him up a little. "I'm not trying to be rude or anything. It's just… how'm I supposed to know if I can trust you? There's no way!"

He looks up. "Is that all?"

"No, there's my family and friends and my life, but that's less important." I cross my arms over my chest. "If I don't have some way of knowing that you're not gonna drag me off to some firy torture chamber somewhere, I'm not going nowhere!"

"Well," Ken begins, leaning toward me and licking his lips. "There is something I can do to try and convince you. Just hold still." He shifts a little so that he's closer to me.

"Dude, what are you…?" My breath catches as his face comes within inches of mine. I've kissed both girls and guys before, but this… it's… new… I feel some kind of rush of emotions I don't recognize, and I can hardly breathe. My heart beats fast against my chest, and I feel like…

Like I can feel another heartbeat next to it.

Wow…

Ken's lips brush mine very, very lightly, and every form of longing I've ever felt in my life seems to materialize inside me - just for that one, soft touch. Damn… I reach out without thinking and grip his waist with both arms, pulling him closer.

"You see what I mean?" He kisses me again, a little more firmly this time. "Soulmates," he whispers against my lips. "That's why it feels like this. We're soulmates."

"You make a good point," I answer, a touch breathlessly. Then I pull him down on top of me and kiss him again, more properly.

~~~~~~

The room is starting to light up when I drift awake - again. Dude, do I have a morning class today…? I moved to reach for the clock so I could check what day it was.

My hand came in contact with something warm and soft.

Ken… So it wasn't a dream! I sit up a little, feeling a lot more awake, and stare at him while he sleeps. He's on his side, facing me, and he's got this very pale skin that I hadn't noticed before. Like he spent all his time indoors. With the early morning light shining all around him, he looks like some kind of angel.

Hard to believe I once thought he was a demon.

I believe him, I think. I only just met him last night, and I've always thought that demons were the ones dragging people back through gates. But he just had to say it wasn't true, and now I can't help but believe him. There's a sincerity behind his words that's kinda, almost… irresistible. Or something like that.

Reaching out to run fingers that are shaking now, for some reason, over his cheek, I have to think that I believe him about the soulmates thing, too. How else could I feel like I never want to be without him again this soon? I don't even know the guy!

I want him like we were last night, almost meshed together into one soul… together. I'm not sure if I can live without that now that I've had it.

S'gonna make it harder if I think about my family. I have a sister who's older, and two great parents who are actually still together - a miracle, nowadays. My folks love the both of us a whole lot. I know I can go months without seeing them, but that's knowing that they're both okay, and knowing that they know I'm okay.

I don’t even want to think about their reaction if I ever just up and disappeared.

I gotta talk to Iori today. I crawl out of bed - being careful not to wake Ken - and go straight to the bathroom to take a nice hot shower. At least now I know what he's going through, though.

The guy in my bed is still sleeping when I get out of the shower, and get dressed. Good. He doesn't need to be awake to know where I'm going. Hey, if his world is the same as mine, he'll be able to read my writing, right?

I leave Ken a note and run out to bus over to Iori's apartment.

It's hard to think about… making this kind of decision. I finally know what all the demons and stuff are about now, and I can sort of understand why people look so miserable before they get taken away. No one ever told me that being able to understand wouldn't make it easier, too.

I don't want to go. But I don't want to be apart from Ken either…

I feel a lot like I've been split in two, and I don't like it. Whatever I choose, there's going to be a part of me stuck in another world, and it's not likely that I'll ever be totally whole again.

That really blows.

Well, maybe Iori can give me some help with all this, I think, climbing up the stairs to his apartment. After all, he's gotta make the same choice, right? Maybe he's got some advice or something.

He's a hell of a lot smarter than I am, so… maybe.

I reach my friend's door, and raise my hand to knock.

"Are you sure about this?"

That voice isn't familiar… And I shouldn't be able to hear it at all, but it looks like Iori left his door open. That's funny - it's not like him to be careless about that sort of thing. Makes me pause for a second, and I just listen.

"Not exactly." Now that's Iori's voice - and he doesn't sound very happy. He lets out a long sigh after, then goes on. "I'm not really sure about anything any more."

Sounds like me.

"Maybe we shouldn't, then." I still don't recognize that voice, but I have a pretty good idea who's speaking. I push the door open just a bit, and peek inside - in time to see that blond guy from the other day reach out and touch Iori's cheek gently. They're standing by the window, less than arms' length apart, and they make a really pretty picture, staring into each other's eyes like the world could end and it wouldn't make a difference.

I have to wonder… Is that how I'd look with Ken? Like we just… fit? It's hard to look away; I don't even realize I'm holding my breath until I start seeing sparks at the edges of my vision.

"No… I'm done thinking this over." Iori shuts his eyes briefly, grimacing a little. "This is never going to get easier," he says, reaching up to take hold of his soulmate's hand. "I don't want to leave. But… Takeru… I…"

"It's okay - you don't have to say it." The blond - Takeru? - takes a small step forward to close the distance between them, and presses his lips softly down on my younger friend's. Iori leans up to meet him halfway, eyes still closed, for a moment too caught up in bliss to feel torn any more.

And… that's it, I think. He's happy. He'd give up everything he's got - his life, his friends, his family - because the kind of happiness this Takeru guy can offer is more than what everything else has got for him, put together.

There isn't going to be an easy way out of this, after all.

I back away from the door, trying not to make a sound that'll interrupt them. I came here to ask Iori to tell me what to do, pretty much - but after what I've seen… I think I know. No matter how much I think about it and weigh the options and all that, I know what it is I want to do already.

And that, I'm almost positive, is all that really matters.

~~~~~~

"So what's it like in hell?"

Ken shoots a dirty look my way from where he's sitting cross-legged at the foot of my bed. "You're never going to get over that, are you?"

"Hey, if you can't put up with me, you'd better head back to hell," I answer, pretending to ignore him in favor of the TV. I'm flipping through the few channels I have without really paying any attention to what's on them. "You guys do have cable, don't you?"

"We have better entertainment than this," he replies, raising an eyebrow at the TV.

"Seriously?" I turn to look at him, still flipping channels. "Like what?"

He smiles at me. "Why don't you come back with me and find out?"

"Sure." I rest one arm on the bed and return the smile, in a perfectly innocent manner that is meant to hold no shock value whatsoever. "Anyway, so what kind of food do you guys have? And if chocolate's not included, I'm reconsidering my position."

Ken's eyes have gone totally wide before I can finish, and all he does in response is blink at me.

I wave a hand in front of his face. "Dude… still with me?"

It takes him a minute to be able to talk again. "Are you serious?" is the first thing he demands.

"Oh yeah." I nod. I haven't known him for very long at all… but I know what I want to do. It's like they say, right? Even when you ask people to help you make a decision, you won't like what they have to say unless they agree with what you really want to do. And somehow I just know that what I really want to do is go with Ken.

I think if he left me, and I never saw him again… I'd regret it until I die.

I'm not really cool with that. "I could spend a lot of time thinking this over, or I could spend a lot of time saying goodbye to my friends and family without really saying goodbye or tipping them off or anything. Wasting time's kind of dumb, huh?"

He stares at me. I don't think he follows my logic. Hell, I'm not even sure I follow it, but it sounds right. "Are you really sure about this?" he chokes out, after another moment of silence. "You won't be able to come back, you know. Not ever."

I shut my eyes, and let out a sigh. "I know. But if you leave, I'll never be able to get you back, either. And I know I'd never find anyone else, so I'd probably just spend the rest of my life feeling lonely. And besides," I add, trying to lighten the mood a little, "My two best friends aren't going to be here. So what good is this space, anyway?"

His eyes are getting suspiciously shiny. "Daisuke…" he says, very softly, and reaches out to cup my face and pull me in for a sweet, serious kiss.

It's hypnotizing. Addictive. I never want to let go.

And now, I know for sure, I'll never have to.

~~~~~~

In the end, I chicken out, and leave my parents a note. But as a concession, I give them one of my random but welcome phone calls, and spend the time I'd usually spend on homework writing the note - so it says everything I want it to.

I hope they understand.

The more I get to know Ken, the more I realize how impossible the choice of staying behind really would have been. No wonder so many people disappear - I can't imagine anyone saying no to something like this, once they're faced with it. It's one thing to swear you'll never get taken in by the demons, but it's another to find out that what you thought was a demon is really a beautiful, kind, perfect-for-you person who's been waiting for you your whole life. And then you think you're going to say no and stay behind? I don't think so.

"Are you ready?" Ken wraps his arms around my neck from behind and kisses my cheek. He's arranged the cards as they were the first night I called him - how Miyako had put them in the dream. All except for the one last card.

I grin a little. I'm nervous, yeah, but I'm sure about this. "Yeah." For some reason, my voice sounds quieter than usual.

He lets me go, and moves around so he's facing me - then hands me the 'Lovers' card and steps back with a solemnity I hadn't seen him show before. "Don't stop looking at me, Daisuke."

I'm not sure I could if I wanted to… Something's happening now - something familiar.

He's glowing, almost too bright, but I can see those beautiful, exotic violet eyes through it all, and I want to fill my eyes with it. He's drained of all color but that blue glow - but it highlights his features, enhancing them. I can almost feel the air, growing thick like it could grab me and hold me still.

I can't do anything any more but watch him helplessly. "Ken…" I breathe out.

And I know why it's familiar. Miyako… in the dream…

"Come to me, Daisuke," he says softly, holding out one glowing hand. "Come and join me in the light."

I'm gone… I know I'm gone, already. I reach out with my free hand, and let him take it. "Take me away," I say - just like she had - and let the card fall into the center of the circle, closing that gateway behind me forever.

The light flares up, bright and consuming, and the world around me fades.

 

The End