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Before they’d ever overlayed into Zexal for the first time, Yuma would feel nothing whenever he reached for Astral; and quickly found out it was the same for his luminescent companion. However that seemed like ages ago, for as time had passed, and as the two had overlayed time and time again as the situation called for it, the duo would feel a little more of each other. Astral would seem to give off the slightest warmth now; Yuma could swear every once in a while he’d graze Astral when running to school; there’d be the slightest, almost tingly sensation of something passing through Yuma’s hand whenever he and Astral met for a highfive.

Then there was the duel against Shingetsu– no, Vector – in Saragasso. Their overlay had been tainted and all Yuma knew was fear and pain and sorrow and anger and hatred, emotions he could feel, yet somehow registered were not his own. He was faced with Astral, dark and corrupted and pained, and even through the bubbling broil of negative emotions that threatened to consume his partner, Yuma did the only thing he could think of doing.

He ran and lunged at Astral, pulling him into a hug.

An honest to god hug, who woulda believed it? Ok, maybe it was more of a tackle, but still! In Yuma’s eyes, he’d hugged him for the first time on that day. Maybe it was because they were in that same -albeit corrupted- mental space they shared when their Zexal overlay went correctly, when they shared Yuma’s Duel Fuel onigiri for the first time, but even then Yuma had never made the attempt to actually hug Astral.

But at that time he had hugged the other, sending them toppling out of the corrupted tower, and ultimately out of Dark Zexal. Even as they layed their on the ground, they did something completely new. Outside of their conjoined existance, they held hands. Against Yuma’s own warm, slightly calloused, tanned hand, Astral’s was cool, yet somehow warm at the same time, and smooth, almost like living glass. Yuma’d held his parents hand before, and his sister’s and his grandmother’s. Hell, he’d even held Shingetsu and Alit’s and Shark’s hands before for different reasons.

But Astral’s? Something about the way Astral’s hand fit into his in that moment felt perfect.

Then… there was Astral’s death. Yuma’s journey to Astral World to retrieve him hadn’t been an easy one. But after defeating Eliphas and freeing Astral, Yuma ran to him and cried, cried and sobbed as he hugged his floating partner, his grip tight like he’d disappear all over again if he let go.

It wasn’t until he felt tears fall onto him that he registered Astral was hugging him back, smiling and crying as he looked down at him. It prompted Yuma to just cry harder, nuzzling his face into Astral’s chest, thankful to have the person who’d meant the most to him back by his side.

They’re about to head back to Earth when a thought occurs to Yuma. Would they be able to hug and hold each other like that again once they reached Earth? Or was this simply because they were both in Astral World, Astral’s home world, where they were equally as corporeal? Standing before the portal to send them back to Earth, Yuma stalls, and grasps Astral’s hand.

Astral turns, looking to Yuma confusedly. He speaks, Yuma sees this, but hears nothing, the thumping of his own heart deafening in his ears as he contemplates doing something he has no guarantee he’d be able to do on Earth. Gently, Yuma pulls Astral closer to him, Astral easily floating near without any resistance. “Yuma?”

Yuma can feel the heat in his cheeks as he squeezes Astral’s hand, and uses his own free hand to cup Astral’s face. Yuma leans in, pulling Astral a little closer as he brings their lips together in a simple, chasté kiss.

Initially, Astral doesn’t react, Yuma doesn’t expect him to. But when he pulls away from Astral with a sheepish smile on his face, the heat in his cheeks begins to grow warmer as Astral smiles gently, questioningly, but says nothing. He feels a smooth, glossy thumb stroke the back of his hand, and follows as Astral leads him through the portal, and together, they head back to Earth.