Disclaimer: These characters are not mine. They belong to the wonderful Tamura Yumi.

AN: Rated K for general audiences. This takes place after Team Summer A are defrosted, except for the flashback, which takes place during their final test. Spoilers are up to Volume 13, Chapter 69: Find. Translations are courtesy of Boku-Tachi, Storm in Heaven, Tsukihana Scans, and Rain over Paradise. (Edited 12.2013)

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Coming Home by luvsanime02

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When you awake, you might be in Heaven or Hell. But either way, I hope that you'll live on vigorously.

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Ango hadn't expected the future to be like this.

They watch the sun rise and set every day. Just for the reminder that they've made it. This is the future. They are the survivors. That there is proof is a wonderful thing.

So, they build a home. They use everything they've been taught, and nothing they haven't. Chores are done with the ease of familiarity, and everyone attends to their own tasks with steady dedication.

Koruri flies. Ango worries about her injuring herself in a crash, or being unprepared when coming across some unexpected wildlife, but he won't tell her to stop. Besides, she always comes back before darkness sets in. Her reports of the geography and weather are useful too. And he can't really stand the sadness in her eyes, or the way her breath comes out in gasps when she lands on the ground and once again Mayu isn't there to greet her.

Still, the world is beautiful and everyone is happy. Even Madonna and Ryō. Well, Ango thinks Ryō is happy. He certainly looks content, here in the future. To be honest, Ango is not surprised. He'd always known, in the back of his mind, that Ryō would be here too. And Madonna is smiling, in a way that sometimes makes Ango stare, unable to stop the image of her as she was when he first noticed her, as pretty as the flowers. She smiles, and even laughs, as long as there is no full moon.

Ango doesn't know what happened to her during the final test, but he won't pry. None of them will. Still, she is here. She worries, and Ban-chan too, that their specialties are useless now, but Gengorō always interjects that every bit of knowledge helps.

"What's next?" Nijiko asks one night. A rarity for her, to be so introspective out loud. No one answers. Ango isn't certain, but he thinks he is not the only one startled. There is no next, is there? They're here, and they're alive when so many others are not. This is what they trained for, fought for, killed for their whole lives. Now, they can finally…

Even though nobody is forcing you, you're convinced that you're forced, aren't you?

So, maybe they aren't that happy after all. But they are content. Extraordinary that they should be able to walk around free from constant surveillance, to fashion their home as they wish, to roam in this new world as the first explorers. Of course, there are other teams here but they are negligible, untrained and unworthy. They will not be here long, Ango is convinced. This new world will swallow them whole, leaving only those who are valuable behind.

It's still nothing like Ango had thought it would be.

There is rain. He feels it distantly, but the rain is not toxic. It is a cleansing presence, soaking him to the skin, yet unable to break through his thoughts.

Shigeru.

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He is in the cave, and Shigeru is there helping him up the wall. It is galling that Ango needs the help, that he fell for such an obvious trap in the first place. Ryō is there as well, and Ango cannot help but be uneasy with his presence while he himself is so weak.

Only one of you two can remain, you or Shigeru.

Is that why Ryō is here? This is the final test, Ango knows. Their final test, the three of them. Ryō climbs up by himself, not willing to rely on anyone else's strength but his own. Ango would do the same, if he was fit enough to. It's funny, in a way, how right Ryō was about the two of them. It makes Ango wonder what else Ryō was right about.

And then he is falling. An eternity is spent in free-fall, feeling nothing but the mounting panic set in before the line is grabbed abruptly.

Ryō.

Ango doesn't know why Ryō grabs ahold of the rope. Much later, when he replays this moment in his head over and over, he has the peculiar feeling that Ryō hadn't meant to reach out but had acted on impulse. He sometimes has a flash of Ryō's face, desperate, but shakes the image away. In the moment, all Ango can grasp is that Shigeru isn't responding. The line won't hold.

Ango is shouting. At Shigeru. At Ryō. And it doesn't matter, because there's no escape. The knife cuts through the rope. Ango is saved. And Shigeru isn't.

As long as I can remember, Shigeru has always been on my left side.

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The rain's stopped, but Ango doesn't think he minds. It's late, but that doesn't matter. Ango's body will wake up in the morning no matter how little sleep he gets. Shigeru is out here somewhere, Ango believes. He just doesn't know where. He stumbles on something, but doesn't look to see what. In his head, a voice echoes, 'What's next?' Ango doesn't know.

If Shigeru isn't with me, it looks like my power to make decisions dies away.

"Ango, are you okay? Were you staggering around again?" Ryō is in front of him. His hands are holding Ango's face, as though afraid he's going to change into someone else, someone Ryō's not so familiar with.

Strange to think that Ryō is familiar with Ango now. To think that maybe he always has been. To know that Nijiko is angry when there is no hint of the sun for a day, because that means no dry wood to work with. Or that Ban-chan is always the first one awake in the morning, just in case one of the others needs his limited medical expertise.

But then, maybe that's okay. Ango had thought he knew Shigeru, only to eventually realize that he'd never honestly had even one meaningful conversation with his best friend. Encouraged him, yes. Pushed him to go farther and not drop out, always. Defended him, forever. Somehow, he'd thought that he and Shigeru were beyond the kind of conversations he'd had with the others, especially Gengorō and Ryō.

This wasn't Ango's vision of the future, but it's not the first time he has been wrong. However, fighting to survive, to come to the future, is not one of those times. It can't be. The seven of them are here. They'll find their way eventually. Otherwise, their entire existence has been for nothing. Mayu's suffering was for nothing. Shigeru was for nothing. Ango refuses to allow that to happen.

'What's next?'

Ango doesn't know, but he hopes they'll all live on vigorously.