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Your End, New Breath

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It’s not as though Astral has never considered it: grabbing Yuma by his rather coarse hair and pulling, shoving the boy into the infinitude of water with them. They have enough faith in their strength that they feel they would have the upper hand; their arms would wrap quickly around Yuma’s shocked form, locking his arms to his side, and their dear boy could only kick uselessly and squirm as Astral takes them both down deeper, simply having to keep ahold of him – and wait.

That’s when Astral would have to do it – follow Black Mist’s advice, follow the instructions that everyone of their kind learned when young – and cover Yuma’s mouth with theirs, “breathe” into him, and make it so that Yuma is reborn, jolted awake from the brink of death. It would be his first step in his transformation – from human to something else, something not limited by the air of the surface world, and who Astral could stay with even here, down below.

–Not that Astral ever would, of course.

But it’s not as though they never considered it. The fantasy is an itch in the back of Astral’s mind that they doubt they’d ever be able – doubt they’d ever allow themself – to scratch. It was a mistake, perhaps, to give Black Mist the time of day, to listen to their words about the limitations of human bodies and the finite lives that humans live. It was a mistake to hear what Black Mist’s opinion of Astral’s budding romance is, and more so to listen to what the sea witch believes Astral should do about it.

“It’s practically tradition.” Black Mist had waved off, callous over a topic that, in contrast, would send Yuma over the edge in rage. Murder . “Humans are pulled into our ocean’s depths all the time, and for their own idiotic reasons, no less. Adventure, a faulty ship, a slip into the water, or not enough strength to swim. What’s one more human – and to a temporary death, at that?”

And Astral hadn’t even bothered to argue with some variation of, “He wouldn’t approve,” knowing that their twin would merely scoff at that reasoning too.

“You are first heir to the kingdom, after all.” Astral could imagine Black Mist saying. “Eliphas would agree – any lover you wished for, they’re yours.”

It is all Black Mist’s way of being supportive, Astral supposes, but it does little to help. Coming from that encounter and straight back to Yuma now makes the conversation with Black Mist feel doubly like a mistake. Yuma’s light and carefree attitude, something that usually brings Astral into a sense of peace and easiness, now only contrasts to the sharp images and sense of possessiveness and privilege that their twin helped to reascend–

“Astral!” Yuma grins, cheeky, showing his companion, with no shortage of pride, the gaping clam in his hands. “I finally got it to open! See, I told you I could do it.” He laughs to himself, snarky, as though he had just proved Astral wrong on a significant bet. “You don’t have to come from the sea to flex some muscle.”

–Now, Yuma’s innocence only serves to endear Astral in a way that makes them want to bottle it all up, like snatching a precious shell from the shore’s harsh grains of sand and ripping it from its home, giving it a new one where the water Astral comes from would suffocate it and make it shine anew beside them.

“Hey, what? Nothing to say to that, tough guy?”

He would absolutely love the world they hail from, after all – glowing, soft lights, with Astral’s people gliding to and fro with none of the hurry that humans are so known for having. And isn’t Yuma the perfect partner – the “someone special” that Ena had once, long ago, promised a younger Astral that they would someday meet and be with for the rest of their life, someone who will rule beside them? And who better than someone who is also a prince himself – of a human kingdom notwithstanding?

He’s so young. Indeed, young enough that none of his subjects or his people even consider him as a heir – the responsibility left instead to his older sister, who Astral knows is close to age and vastly ahead of Yuma in her studies and training. Yet, with guidance and time, Yuma, too, can rule – if somewhere else, with someone else. His current kingdom has Akari, after all.

It’s not as though they’ve been ignoring him, but so heavy with the yearning and the means that Black Mist had revealed out loud that Astral finds it hard to invest their attention to much else, still focused on Yuma now but unable to muster the wherewithal to respond – if even with just a smile. He edges closer to them at their prolonged silence, frowning and placing the clam he’d been so playfully involved with just a moment ago behind him.

It’s not as though Astral would ever do it. Yet, with Yuma moving closer to them, towards the water, Astral can’t help the thought blaring as though in warning towards Yuma, or as a siren alerting Astral of their chance. You’re too close–!

“Hey.” Yuma tries again, lower this time, voiced almost like a question. Astral continues to stare at him silently in reply, contemplative. “You’re acting kind of out of it today. Are you okay? Tired?”

“I’m alright.” Astral doesn’t lie. They are fine, aren’t they? As is all else with this scene, with this situation. It’s not as though they’d ever do it. “I am a bit tired.”

“Oh? Why?” Yuma shifts, sitting cross-legged and facing Astral fully. As though to soften his attentiveness, he reaches back for the clam, if only to fidget absently with it now – it isn’t as though there was a precious pearl inside, despite his hope for it before.

Astral does not even consider telling him the whole truth. “Family, mostly.” They offer, attempting to make their tone light and the topic disinteresting. “Mild disagreements.”

“I hear you.” Yuma grumbles over his clam. It’s a peculiar habit Astral observes more so in humans than with their own kind – the inclination to idly tinker with external items and their environments when in deep thought or conversation, rather than allow the density of their emotions to pour wholly onto the people who inspire those feelings. “Akari doesn’t let me hear the end of it whenever she thinks I’m wrong about something. What did your family disagree with you about?”

Astral pictures Black Mist’s confidence when they’d reiterated their standpoint to them earlier today. They remember their own responding silence. The act itself wasn’t the source of disagreement. Astral realizes, though not so much with a blinding clarity as it is with a lack of surprise at where their own priorities lie. It is the fact that you could hate me afterwards. It’s that Black Mist feels that your hate isn’t important at all.

I need you to agree, Yuma.

“My sibling doesn’t know how to talk to people, is all.” Astral softens the issue. “They’ve had very little interaction with humans. It wasn’t a fight, really. I just think it’ll be hard trying to make them understand how humans think, how different we are…”

They trail off, their wording striking them as bitterly familiar. It’s what many – elders of both species, especially – warn with when preaching against relations such as the one they and Yuma share now. For good reason. Yet hearing those words now, Yuma only smiles, wry and huffing a short laugh.

“We’re not so different.” He scoffs.

Another blare in Astral’s mind – this time, oddly enough, with hope. Their and Yuma’s hearts are not so different, as their bond has evidenced. Finally, Astral smiles back, a sight that seems to please Yuma. Their boy has always been the surest way to melt Astral into ease, into peace.

The sensation settles, somehow, with the conflicted spark that Yuma’s reassurance encouraged into the beginnings of a bloom.

Maybe, someday, Yuma would want such a thing as well. One day, their shared ideal of a future would look one and the same.  They have already seen it, imagined it – Yuma’s panicked form in their arms, their kiss saving him just as his body ceases to jerk.

Reaching up, Astral touches Yuma’s cheek, coaxing the two of them closer together so that their lips can meet.