This was the first Jet Set fanfic I ever wrote. I edited it a little for this post because back when I wrote it, I messed some stuff up. Fixed now, though. For the record, Beat's name actually is "Aran": it was on the official Smilebit website. I might continue this at some point, so I'm leaving it as incomplete for now.

I'd like to thank volian, who has read both of my other Jet Set fanfics and is probably reading this one, too. Thanks for reviewing, it means a lot to me. :D

Wither

A Jet Set Radio Future fanfiction by Bagatelle


The world is cold against his face, welcome after so long, waiting for it to become what it is now. He rips around corners, dodging respectable figures, smirking at their screams, cocky even now, so long post the separation, so far into his life alone.

…Beat can't deny that it hurt to leave his friends, because it did: it was one of the most painful things he ever did in his life. Because with the GG's, it was one of those best friends forever deals: he thought to himself, looking at all the people surrounding him, that he loved those kids, and he'd never be without them, never be a loner again. Because they all loved him, too, and love kept people together.

But, it happened, as things do. He felt that urge again, that whispering call in the back of his mind, beckoning him elsewhere. And he left, and although he prayed for it, no one—not even Yoyo, who looked up to Beat in that rabid way he did everything—followed him. It stung, but he dealt with it, even when he realized what a huge mistake he had made. And when he went back to the garage however many months later, done with his search for, he supposed, himself…the music was gone, the life drained from their pad: what many of them had once called their second home. It was so desolate, such a depressing sight, that he had left again, heartbroken, and gone to try and move on, and to forget the GG's.

He hadn't believed it, at first: that the GG's had disbanded. But weeks passed, then months, and he kept checking the garage, and each time he went back there, the lights were off, the speakers gone, the corners silent, the air motionless, lacking the rhythm of dancing bodies. Each day that he saw the sight, realization sank in deeper and deeper, until it was like a parasite in his chest, berating him for causing the tragedy, eating away at his heart. He denied that it was his fault, though, and he tried to find a job, because—hopeless as he was—that was his only remaining option. He had no idea where his friends were. He had no clue what had happened to any of them. He had been through the city dozens of times, searching for them in the usual spots, checking the raddest grinding rails and the sweetest jumps and all the coolest hangouts for any sign of his former comrades.

No one.

Nothing.

…Beat, reduced to Aran in public, has found a job with a small-time delivery service on the outskirts of the Skyscraper District. It's called Swoop: irrelevant, perhaps, but funny somehow in Beat's mind. They deliver everything from soda pop to songbirds. People will mail-order things and have their packages sent to the post office, which, in turn, uses Swoop to deliver the items to their rightful owners (who are either unable or too lazy to go to the post office to pick up the packages themselves). It's a decent job with pretty good pay, which Beat needs, now that he lives in an actual apartment instead of wherever he happens to crash for the night. Nobody's face is so friendly anymore, which is sad, but can't really be helped. Besides, it's exciting to have a private toilet and a place for his own sound system, rescued from the dusty remains of the GGs' garage hangout. And, since he's a delivery boy, he gets to wear his skates, still. Sometimes, the rush is so good that it feels like he's seventeen again, rolling neck-and-neck with Corn or Combo along the perilous beams and zigzagging overhangs of the metropolis, spraying buildings fluorescent with Yoyo ambling along behind them, lagging and wheezing like an air-headed little brother.

It's just a rush, though. It's not the real thing. And Beat knows that well enough that it's etching frown lines into his forehead and between his eyes, where he used to wear those trademark goggles.

…Today, however, is insane: a break from fantasy, a break from memories. It's brilliant, it's hot, it's excellent. Swerving in between cars and people, ignoring the horns and the shrieks of indignance from the hoofing pedestrians, Beat clutches a very precious package in his left hand, a broad grin plastered onto his face, because he knows, he knows that this is the key he's been looking for. The key to reuniting with the rest of the GG's, and getting back together with the only family he's ever known.

The parcel is addressed to Cornelius Pennington, 187 Silverson Avenue, building B, room 14. Beat skates there as fast as he ever has, the chill of autumn biting at him, though he loves it against his bare cheeks and whipping through his strawberry hair, because that's how he's always known it. The smell of car exhaust, the harsh vibrancy of the pavement beneath him, and the hot techno beat pulsing through his head, keeping him going, timing his movements.

Oontz oontz oontz oontz oontz oontz oontz oontz Left right left right turn jump duck swerve

It's always been techno, it's always been the street. It's always been about the music and the speed and the seething rush of adrenaline, about the art and the blood and leaving your legacy on the shit-stained walls of this city. But most of all, it's always been about being empowered to push yourself to greatness. Beat hasn't forgotten that in any way, but only when he skids through the door of building B does he hope desperately that Cornelius hasn't forgotten, either.

Beat doesn't know what he'll do if he has.

…Room 14 is at the end of the hall, almost: the second-to-last door on the left. The carpet in here is bad, causes friction with Beat's skates, so he drags his heavy feet over the almost office-building floor, reading the name on the small package again and again to convince himself that this is in fact who he thinks it is. Living less than eight blocks away from where his own apartment is. He grins and stops at the proper door, registers the tarnished numbers screwed into the barrier, and he knocks.

Something immediately shatters behind the locked door, and an angry voice screams "SHIT!!!" at the top of its lungs. Shifting pieces of whatever broke (glass, it sounds like), the sound of that same erratic voice muttering further expletives under its breath, then aggravated, shuffling steps toward the entrance of the apartment.

The door opens, and Beat stares for a moment, awestruck by the somehow dramatic sight of this young man. He looks so different without his skater's gear on: without his pointed hat, without his baggy pants and huge, badass blades. His hair is still shaggy, that natural dirty blonde, though it's pushed out of his face, held back by what looks like knotted dental floss. His face is still thin, his hands still big and gnarled, almost apelike, and his mouth is still twisted and intimidating. There are bags under his eyes, and scars on his nose from falling and scraping the skin off on cold pavement in his youth.

He sniffs and narrows his eyes, purses his full lips tightly together.

"What is it?" Corn snarls, blinking irritably out at Beat. Beat blinks, unsure whether his old friend recognizes him or not, then remembers that he's here to do a job. He holds up his parcel, and Corn looks at it with those slit blue eyes, almost disgusted.

"Swoop delivery service. I have a package here for a Mr. Cornelius Pennington," Beat says, smiling. "I'm assuming that you're Pennington?"

"…Yes," Corn says sourly, as if he still detests his name as much as he did when he was a GG. Beat puts his goggles on as Corn takes the package in one careful, ample hand and, after staring at it for a moment to make sure it hasn't been damaged, he places it very tenderly in his pants pocket…almost as if it were a baby, and upsetting it would be some terrible crime. His eyes wander back to Beat's face for a moment as he starts to close the door, and the pupils dilate when they catch the image of the glasses on his companion's face. Beat can see him trying to remember: he knows that frown, that furrowed brow from years of talking to Corn and watching him calculating tricky moves in his head. Beat's heart leaps, knowing that the hardened, street-wise part of Corn is still—somewhat—alive behind those bitter, cold eyes.

Corn's lips twitch, the eyes full of…almost fear. "…My God…it's…you…y-you're Beat," he says, the name quiet, strained beneath years of pressure. He hasn't said it in such a long time. Beat's mouth spreads into a warm smile, enthralled to be remembered. "…Jesus Christ…Beat…I thought you must've…!"

"No way," Beat says, his chest swelling. Corn shakes his head, sort of grimaces, then backs out of the doorway and opens the portal further to let his friend in.

"Shit, man…come in, sit down. Christ, it's been…it's been years! Where the fuck have you been?" the blonde man asks, closing the door behind Beat. The apartment they're in is very small, very cramped. From where he's standing in the entryway, Beat can see Corn's room: his unmade bed, the broken blinds on his window, the boss speakers against his wall, the posters thrown nonchalantly over air vents and half-covering stains on the wallpaper. Pictures in frames, propped against ancient, dusty books on what looks like art theory: cheerful pictures of people Beat knows, of Yoyo and Soda and Gum, and old ones, from years past, of Beat himself, catching wicked air and laughing with the others. He can see the bathroom: the toilet, the stained sink, towels crumpled, used to the point of extinction, on the floor. He can see the closet, the refrigerator, Corn's skates, slung in a corner, and the pile of broken glass on the hardwood floor. There are little specks of red leading from the pile over to the door, and Beat looks up at Corn to see that his other hand is clenched tight around the bottom of his now ruined shirt. Beat frowns.

"You're bleeding," he remarks. Corn scowls.

"I've noticed," he replies, ushering Beat into the kitchen and pulling a chair for him before heading to the bathroom to fix himself. He boisters through the medicine cabinet with his good hand, searching for bandages. "Could you get that shit off the floor for me, kid? I'll forget that it's there and step on it later," Corn calls. Beat drags the garbage pail obediently over to the pile, kneels beside it and begins putting the pieces carefully into the trash.

"What was this?" he asks airily. Corn lets out a single note of strained laughter.

"A cup. I was trying to clean up before you knocked. I guess some part of me knew I'd have company today, eh?"

He's grunting in the bathroom as he talks, having found a bandage and now struggling to wrap his own hand. Beat finishes his task as Corn steps out and offers his crookedly wrapped, shaking fingers to the redhead. "…Tie that off for me," he demands, though his voice is still quiet, still somewhat weakened against—Beat guesses—the shock of seeing an old friend again after such a long time. Beat complies again, noticing more scars, unnatural scars, along the underside of Corn's skeletal arm. He blinks up at Corn from behind his goggles.

"…You been all right, man?" Beat asks, his jaw tense. Corn looks down at his own arm and sees what Beat has seen, then smiles guiltily. It's such a weird sight: it sends a chill down Beat's spine.

"I've been better," Corn says emotionlessly, reclaiming his hand and herding his company back to the kitchen table. They sit, and Corn pulls out a pack of cigarettes. "You still haven't answered my question, you shithead. Where the fuck have you been for the past three fuckin' years?"

I heard the call of the streets, and I went to it, Beat wants to say, but doesn't. Corn would hit him for saying such a stupid, selfish thing. "…I needed a break," he opts for, tapping his fingers on the tabletop. Corn takes a cigarette out with his teeth and grunts, lighting it with a Zippo he pulls from his pants pocket: opposite the one that the box is nestled comfortably in.

"A break from what?" Corn asks quite bitterly, taking a deep drag. "A break from the GG's? A break from life? What the hell ever happened to youths on motherfuckin' skates, Beat? What the hell happened to your compassion? Did you think before you left us? Huh? You dick?!"

Beat shrinks down a little in his seat, knowing despite slight shock that every question and every insult of Corn's is well founded and meaningful. The truth is, he hadn't thought before he had left the GG's. He had been so used to just following his instincts, at that point, that he had trusted them and left when they told him to. But, foolishly, he hadn't thought about how much it would hurt everyone. Hadn't considered the consequences.

And he can't bring himself to admit that to Corn, now.

Corn shudders, glares down at the tabletop. "…Everyone went shit-wild when you left, kid. Nobody knew what to do with themselves. Boogie, Clutch, and Garam pretty much just shipped back home a few weeks after we all realized you were gone for good…Soda was fuckin' pissed at you: said that if he ever saw you again, he'd kick your teeth in. Cube and Combo went stone-cold, didn't say anything to anybody but each other for the longest time, then left one day without a word, just like you, and never came back. I decommissioned Roboy…couldn't stand him asking me why I let you leave. Gum and Jazz and Rhyth went looking for you, obviously didn't find you. The stupid girls got picked up by the Rokkaku, taggin' some big-time's limo fleet in broad daylight. And Yoyo…" Corn pauses here, takes another drag. His eyes flash, then darken, and Beat sees pain lace through his features. "…Shit, Beat, he cried. I've never seen a man cry like he did. But…maybe that's why Cube and Combo left like they did. They loved that kid, and God knows it'd break anybody's heart to see that."

Beat is still silent, taking his blows, as he knows he deserves them. He's due back at work by now, but he doesn't care. Corn breathes smoke and glances up at Beat again, the eyes still cold, now angry, though, and disappointed. This is no longer the Corn that Beat once knew. Or maybe it is, and Beat's just never seen this side of him before.

"…What about you?" Beat asks softly, careful to meet those eyes steadily with his own. Corn's teeth clench.

"I was pissed," he murmurs. "I was more pissed off than I'd ever been before. And it just got worse, as everyone else started breaking down. You don't even know, man. But back then, it was like watching the fuckin' world end. Everyone standing around, listless, clueless, not knowing how they should feel or how they should act. I'd walk in on Yoyo, bawling his eyes out, alone, in the fuckin' dark, and I…shit…Christ, I hated you, for doing that to him. That kid looked up to you like you were a fuckin' superstar, and you just up and left him, without even a 'take it easy'. Like he was shit to you. You don't want to know how many times I had to lie to him…tell him that you didn't hate him, and that you were gonna come back…to get him to finally pull himself together."

Corn's voice is choking, filling with water. He ashes into the garbage can and rests his nose between his thumb and index finger, digging into his sinuses. Beat is still looking at his eyes, although Corn is fixed on the insides of his eyelids, instead. He chuffs at his cigarette again, his lips tight and furious against the paper. Beat sighs, and can hear his own sadness in the exhale.

"…I've never hated him," he breathes. "I could never…Christ, Corn…why would he think that? I love that kid like my own brother."

"Yeah, well, you did a pisspoor job of showing that," Corn snaps, still rubbing his face. "…And almost everyone else thought so, too. The day before she got picked up, Gum told me…she said that hating people…it wasn't like you, that Yoyo was just missing you bad, and that he needed some kind of a reason for what had happened in order to deal with it. But…hell, man, I couldn't believe her. Seeing Yoyo brought to his fuckin' knees over some delusion?…It wasn't possible. Sure, I mean, he convinced himself of a lot of things, much less plausible things that he invented out of nowhere…but still…I couldn't…man, you wouldn't have believed that anyone would make such awful shit up, just to deal. Nobody wants to hurt like that, even if it's for a good reason."

Beat bites his lip and swallows, hard. His throat hurts. "…Have you kept in touch with anyone?" he asks, guilt flooding every word. Corn's eyebrows burn into the bridge of his nose, and his face pales a little, loose strands of hair falling out of his makeshift ponytail and hanging down around his ears. His lower jaw juts out.

"…Yeah," he says softly, deadening his cigarette on the tabletop and dropping it into the trash pail. It leaves a little round burn mark, amongst a flock of its own kind on the wood of the table. "…Soda gives me a call every once in a while, and we go tagging down near the sewers and sometimes up into the Skyscraper District. It's shit, though. He's still got his grudge against you, and for some reason he thinks I know something about where you've been. I guess, now…I have stories to tell him. But…other than Soda…everyone else is pretty much lost. The girls got hit by the fuzz, Cube and Combo are off somewhere, Soda tells me, hanging with the Noise Tanks…and little Yoyo…he was here with me for a while, but he…you know. He didn't want it anymore. He went back home to try to get back in school. Kid could only take so much. He needed…something else, I guess. He was too young for it."

Beat nods in sad understanding, still watching Corn's wan face for any sign of forgiveness. He doesn't say anything, though, and Beat, uncomfortable, gets up, heading for the bathroom to have a breather before Corn decides to lash out at him again. He closes the door behind himself and looks around at the peeling wallpaper: takes in the stink of moldy shower tiles and the itch of dust on the back of the toilet. There's blood in the sink from earlier, when Corn was wrapping his hand, and two toothbrushes on the back of the counter, like somebody else still lives here with Corn. Beat zips his pants up and flushes, even though it won't do much for the smell.

When he comes out of the bathroom, Corn is slumped over on the table, his face buried in his scarred arms, his shirt pulled up over his back, exposing his ribcage and the fact that his pants are several sizes too large. Beat stares at him for a moment, confused, before Corn lets out a heaving breath and speaks again.

"…The kid was a good roommate," he says, his voice barely audible. "…Kept the house clean, did his share of work to keep us here. Never once complained about my shitty cooking, and he let me have the bed without so much as a word. Sweet kid, always was thoughtful. Had a good heart, if not too bright. I…yeah…I miss him. Little bastard. He started reminding me of you, in those last few weeks."

"…Really?" Beat asks, sitting carefully back down at the table. Corn shrugs.

"He listened to a lot of hard techno, I guess because it made him think of you," Corn mutters. "But yeah…he got quieter, less wild. Got control of himself, I suppose. Started growing up a little. Damn, though, he still loved the street, and the smell of paint, and racing…he still loved to roll, as much as his old crazy-ass self did. It was good, to be with him. He made me laugh. Kept my mind off of a lot of bullshit."

Beat blinks, confused. "Did you tell him…you know…that you felt that way?"

Corn laughs, but it's strangled, like someone is twisting his windpipe in their fists. "Heh…you make it sound like I was hot for the poor kid. Nah…it was one of those things that didn't really need to be said, you know? He knew I was grateful for his company. And I knew he was grateful for mine. We looked out for each other, like all of us used to, before you left. We were solid. Like you said, he was a brother to me. Closer to me than anyone else I know has ever been, 'cept for Gum."

"…Why did he leave, then?" Beat questions, still dumbfounded. His mind is resting on the second toothbrush in the bathroom, at this point. Corn shifts against the table: it's eerie, talking to the top of his head. "I mean, if things were so good between the two of you…?"

Corn is quiet for a while, contemplating. A car speeds by outside and others honk their horns at it in angry exasperation. "…I don't know," he says, his voice a breath, muffled by the table and his shaking arms. "…Christ, Beat. I guess he just didn't want to be reminded of the past anymore. It does still hurt, thinking about it. Even now, when I think about everyone together, and how happy we all were…it's a knife, twisted in an infected wound. You know what I mean, right? You feel that way, too, don't you?"

"Of course I do," Beat replies, looking at the herd of cigarette burns again, because it feels better to focus on something tangible. "But…Yoyo just…doesn't seem like the kind of kid who would abandon somebody that meant so much to him, you know? After…after he felt so fucked about me leaving…I'd think that he'd want to stay with you, even if it did hurt. Because, I mean…it would hurt less to be with somebody you care about, who understands where you're coming from…wouldn't it? Instead of going back to people you haven't seen in years, who'll most likely turn you in to the Rokkaku before they let you into their house?"

"How the fuck should I know?" Corn growls, clenching his fingers around a fistful of his hair. The dental floss is proving itself incredibly useless, at this point. "The kid wanted to leave, I let him go. He deserved to have something that he wanted out of life, for Christ's sake. Since his idol deserted him, and fuckin' eighty percent of the rest of his friends either shipped out or got put away, including the girl he had his eye on. You wanted to take a break. I wanted to start over. The poor little son of a bitch wanted to go home to his mother. Fuck it, I said, he can have his mother back if he wants her. Like hell, I'm going to stop him for my own selfish pleasure, just because I don't have a mother to go home to."

Beat is quiet, still looking at the tabletop, considering all of Corn's words. There is anger coating every syllable, pain playing as an undertone, like it hurts him to talk about Yoyo at all, even when the memories are good.

The second toothbrush in the bathroom is green: Yoyo's favorite color.

"…Do you have a new roommate?" Beat asks gently. The silence following that question is deathly.

"…Why?" Corn finally demands, a low wheeze of a word. Beat's eyebrows furrow.

"There are two toothbrushes on the counter in the bathroom," he says simply. There is another moment of sharp, icy quiet. Corn trembles against the table, curls his bandaged fingers in his own hair. He was lying to me, Beat thinks, staring at Corn in amazement, watching his other hand reach down into his pocket and squeeze the box inside tightly. But then…did something happen to Yoyo? Or…is he just lying to protect the kid, so I won't come back later and find him…?

"…Oh, G-God…why the hell did you leave, Beat…?" Corn whispers, and Beat hears the anguish in his voice again. Only this time, he's almost certain that it's appearing in a physical form. Corn cringes when something jingles off in his bedroom, and Beat jerks around, looking, wild-eyed, for the culprit. A low whine emits from behind the bed, and a familiar little dog walks sleepily out, yawning and stretching and scratching his ear with his big back paws. He ambles out of the bedroom and stares up at Beat, sniffing, his eyes glowing, his doggy mouth pulled back into a smile. He barks happily and his tail wags, and he runs circles around Beat's chair, begging to be petted. Beat stares down at the dog, shocked.

"Pots?" he asks quietly, bending down and scratching the dog behind his ear affectionately. His collar matches Beat's inquiry. Pots grunts and licks Beat's hand, rolling over to show off. Corn grimaces again at the table, still clutching the package, and Beat stares up at him, bewildered.

"Yoyo left Pots here?" he queries, half-serious, watching Corn expectantly. The ex-leader of the GG's says nothing for a while, then rises up from the table, exposing his bloodshot eyes and the tears flowing from them. Dazed, Beat's eyes widen. He has never seen Corn cry before. Hell, he hadn't even thought it was possible.

"…You shouldn't have fuckin' abandoned him like that, Beat," Corn says, his voice strangely controlled, even though he's obviously crying hard. "…Christ…I don't even feel bad for bullshitting you about him just now. I knew Pots would come out. He could smell you since you got here, he's just a lazy old fucker, now, that's all. Goddamnit…you want to know what happened to Yoyo? Shit, fine. He was crashing here every night after I got the place and we were off on our own, and he said that he wasn't living with me, but he was, because he paid half of the rent, and he never left me alone, and he always went out with me whenever Soda called up. I wasn't lying about that. And he was a fuckin' good roomie, and he was the best kid out of all of us, for damn sure. But he got careless out on the streets, you know, because he was always thinking about you, and how you had left us. Always fuckin' daydreaming, never focused on the run. So he made a dumbass mistake, while we were riding the rails up north, and he…"

Corn coughs, his eyes squeezed shut, clutching at his chest as if someone has just shot him through the heart. Beat waits, knowing it's from the cigarettes, though he's not sure that he wants him to finish that sentence anymore. The coughing turns into acrid sobbing, and Corn rips at his eyes, intent on telling the story.

"…He fuckin' jumped…jumped where there wasn't any rail, over the edge of the roof, down fuckin' fifty floors. Soda and me, we tore down there, screaming bloody murder, hoping to God that he had landed soft, maybe on somebody else, or on an overhang, or maybe that he had grabbed a ledge somewhere. But we got down there, and it…it was h-him…Christ, his brains and his blood, all over the fuckin' pavement, all over the r-road, the cars, the p-people. Everyone was screaming, p-people were crying, Soda and me went and threw up in the street…the most horrible thing I've ever seen in my life, the w-worst feeling I've ever had, like somebody slit me down the front and was b-burning my insides. The Rokkaku came with the ambulance and f-fire trucks…but the motherfuckers had no r-respect for him at all, didn't even t-try to find out who he was…just pushed us all away, told us to g-go home, and sprayed him off the sidewalk like n-nothing ever happened there. It…it wasn't even in the n-news the next day, and Soda didn't talk to me for m-months after it happened. I can still tell that he thinks about it, all the time, though…I m-mean…fuck, Beat, I know I do, I have nightmares about it all the time: watching him jump wrong, g-grabbing for him, missing, and I w-wake up sweating, crying, scared shitless. And…you know…I wish…all the time, every day, that it had been m-me, instead of him. B-because he didn't deserve…to go, before he h-heard you tell him that y-you were fuckin' sorry." Corn stares at Beat, his eyes flooded, his mouth trembling. Beat can feel his own eyes stinging, burning with painful tears, realizing that this is honesty, this is truth, in all of its hideousness. His hands are shaking, uncontrolled on the tabletop. "…And I mean…I want…I want to love you again, man, I want to f-forgive you…but…he d-died, thinking that you hated him. He died b-because he was afraid that you didn't give a shit about him. And…Christ, if you hadn't left us…or if you had j-just told him that you were going to come back one day…h-he might not have fallen. And I might still be able to s-sleep at night."

Beat purses his lips to keep them from quivering, his eyes streaming, his face red. He pulls his goggles from his eyes, feeling foolish, now, wearing them, and he buries his face instead in his hands, unable to hold it back. He had never imagined something so terrible. Even in his wildest thoughts, he could never have anticipated someone being lost forever. And as an effect of something he had done…he sobs, feeling a blast of that fiery sensation that Corn spoke of in his midsection, hating himself when he thinks of Yoyo, burst all over the sidewalk, his life cut so short by undeserved pained thoughts and self-doubt. It was an accident, sure, but it happened, and it didn't have to.

If only I had ignored my instincts…

If only I had come home sooner…

If only I had said good-bye…

Corn sniffs, hard, and wipes his face with his shirtsleeve. "…At least you're crying," he murmurs, more to himself than to Beat. "…I feel like a pussy, crying with you, though. I…ugh…here…I'll get you some water, if you want it…Christ, I'm…I'm sorry, man…I didn't mean to be so cruel about this…but you understand…it hurts…"

Beat sobs, because it's all he can do.

…It suddenly strikes him, as Corn rises from his seat, as Pots whines and begs to be petted by his new master, that yesterday, he could still think of Corn, and Yoyo, and everyone else, and the thought would bring endless smiles to his face. This morning, even, and not even two steps outside of this apartment's front door, he had been so excited, so thrilled by the thought of seeing one of his old friends again, after so long. Now, though…he curses his job for bringing him here, he hates the thought of what the next delivery will burden him with, he hates the thought of running into Soda, or anyone else who knows the truth about what happened. He hates how bitter Corn has become, he hates the fact that Yoyo's toothbrush is still on the back of the sink, and most of all, he hates that little package that he delivered an hour ago, the package that's still clenched so protectively in Corn's fist, deep in his pocket.

"What…d-did you order?" Beat forces himself to ask, barely keeping his voice under control, because he'll never forgive himself if he doesn't know why he's here. Corn hesitates for a moment, confused. Then, though, he realizes what his friend means. He chuckles sadly under his breath and, petting Pots to stop the dog from following him, he coughs wetly into his bandaged hand.

"…A yo-yo," he finally answers. He's laughing, crying, all the way to the kitchen.