Love is a friendship set on fire.

    It was the beginning of it all, the first fight against Talpa and his evil dynasty. A few hours before they had fought their first adversary and made a decent scrap out of the Warlord they now knew as Anubis. All five of the young warriors were aware of the high stakes they were playing for — humanity itself, the very world, and their own lives.

    The streets of Toyama were vacant and dark. White Blaze amused himself by watching the stray cats as they scourged the streets in search of food. Two young men, strangers to each other but brought together by the same cause, watched the large Siberian tiger in silence.

    “Kinda funny,” the young man with dark hair, a bluish tinge to it, commented. “The tigah and the cats. Both part of the same species, felinus, in Latin.” He had a slight city accent.

    The other boy, leaning against the side of a building with his arms crossed, murmured in a voice that sounded like velvet, “You’re pretty smart.”

    The dark haired boy turned his head and looked at his companion, as if noticing him for the first time. He had blond hair, wild and falling over his right eye, his complexion pale and smooth. But his eyes, or eye rather, was the most striking hue: light blue, almost lavender in color.

    The golden-haired boy raised his head and stared at his comrade, a small grin twitching the corner of his mouth up. “I’m Sage Datier of the Halo armor.”

    “Name’s Rowen,” the other replied. “Rowen Hashiba of the arma’ Strata.”

    Now they had names for each other. Sage’s smiled broadened, fairly glowing. “Nice to meet you, Rowen.”

    Thud. What was that . . . ? Inside ‘a me? Was that my heart? Rowen gulped. “ I, uh . . . yeah.”

    Sage raised an eyebrow.

    “I mean-!” Rowen suddenly found he was unable to speak without tripping over his words. Nothing like this had ever happened before. “I’m, uh. Sage to meet ya nice . . .” A strange look crossed his face. “I, I . . . shit.”

    Sage laughed — a beautiful sound like that of flowing water — and uncrossed his arms. Rowen found himself staring at his new friend, half in curiosity, half in wonder. Sage let his laugh trail but the smile still remained. Rowen felt his head swim and he broke his gaze, staring out at the desolate city.

    “Ya think we can beat these guys?”

    Sage shrugged. “It’s all relative. Even if we are going down, at least we can say we tried.”

    Rowen sighed. “That’s true.”

    He was startled by something touching his head, and he turned slightly to see Sage running a hand through Rowen’s azure locks, an inquisitive expression on his face. Rowen felt his face get hot and his breath quicken and suddenly, everything was spinning. Except for Sage.

    The blond noticed Rowen’s discomfort and pulled away. “ Oh. Sorry. Your hair is a very . . . unique color. I’ve never seen it before.”

    Rowen, ever witty, replied, “Your eyes’re a very unique color. I’ve neva seen it before.” He winked and Sage grinned.

    “You got me there.”

    Rowen, forgetting his bashfulness, smiled back. Deep down he felt strangely stronger, not knowing that he had made a new friend who would fight by his side in the coming weeks and time upon time lay his life on the line for Rowen. And Rowen never would have guessed he’d be doing the same thing for Sage.

A few months later

    Talpa was gone now, defeated for the final time by the Ronin Warriors. It was August, and the other members of the team (including Rowen), Cye Maury, Kento Rei Fuan, Mia Koji and Yuli Yamano decided to throw a birthday party for Ryo Sanada, their acclaimed leader to whom they all owed their lives.

    Rowen was rather disappointed when Sage did not show up, but he let it hide. Sage had become his closest friend and had looked forward to celebrating the occasion with him. He hoped he didn’t look sulky; nothing was worse than being a sour tart at a social event.

    Then there were the few days of hell that came when a report of a green armor was attacking gangs in New York City. All of them flew across the world, fear nagging at the back of Rowen’s mind that Sage has somehow gone wrong and turned on them all. They shortly found out the situation, and arrived in time to save Sage and put the evil Shikaisen, an evil apparition who had it in his mind to take over the world, to death.

    Rowen remembered seeing Sage tied upon that six-pointed star with wires running all over his body and his stomach had twisted. And when Sage had fallen, Rowen was the first one at his side, the first thing for Sage to see when he opened his eyes.

    “Sage!” Rowen cried, cradling his comrade’s body in his arms like a child. He opened his glassy eyes and smiled up at his rescuer.

    “ You came . . . Rowen.”

    Rowen blinked and felt liquid run down his cheeks, hot and burning.

    “Sage,” he hissed angrily. “Why wouldn’t I come?”

    The blond closed his eyes. “Too busy?”

    “I’m neva too busy to save my best friend’s life. Sage . . .” He leaned down and gently placed his lips to Sage’s feverish forehead. Not a kiss; a touch. A very passionate and sentimental touch. Sage’s hair smelled strange, like electricity and metal, and Rowen stayed that way for awhile, going unnoticed by the others. When he finally pulled away, Sage was gazing at him, both amethyst eyes locked to shimmering sapphire.

    “Can ya stand?” Rowen asked in a trembling voice. Sage nodded vaguely.

    “I think so.”

    And he grasped Sage’s arm and helped him crawl to his feet. Even after Sage was standing, Rowen did not let go of his arm. He never wanted to let go again, for fear of losing him a second time.

    The strength of Rowen and Sage’s camaraderie was tested twice more before peace was finally restored to their lives. They had new armors and a new motive: protect the human world from the threat of whatever evil may show its ugly face in the future.

    After much deliberation, the team of five decided that if there were to be any future attacks that they would be best to fight it together, and moved into a large house not far from where Mia lived (it was becoming too expensive for her to keep them, and they had to attend school and Mia teach her classes at the university). It also insured that not one of the Ronins would be singled out and ambushed much like Sage had been. They looked out for each other, and tried to live normal lives as best they could.

    Sage had just turned nineteen that summer. It was a rather pleasant change, to be living without worrying too much about evil making an encore in their world. They were all going to start college that fall and so were making the most out of their free summer. Most of them had jobs: Rowen working at a nearby observatory and earning credit for his degree in astronomy, Cye on a marine biology schooner (sometimes he was gone for days at a time — that was when he went out to sea) and Ryo and Kento missed his company terribly. Ryo himself worked as an assistant coach for the girl’s youth football team that summer (soccer as it’s known here — he loved soccer) and Kento was training for his judo and kung fu tournament coming up soon. And Sage . . .

    Sage was left hanging in the middle, too far away from his family to train for taking over the Datier family dojo. And there was nothing for him to do in Toyama. The solution seemed to be going back home. However, there was only one thing and one thing only that Sage was not willing to give up to continue his perfect life:


    It was a warm summer evening. Rays of the sun lingered on the horizon in a palette of pinks and purples. The air was ripe and sweet, and the breeze was blowing slightly. A perfect summer night.

    The perfect night for everything to go wrong.

    All five friends were lounging around on the back veranda, Ryo and Cye sitting on the swing and chatting pleasantly with Kento, who was on the steps and making wisecrack jokes. Rowen laughed at a particularly funny comment, leaning against the veranda rail. Sage was doing the same, only there was nothing on earth that could make him laugh right now.

    “. . . and then the lady says, ‘Who’s there’?”

    The others groaned at the lameness of the joke and Kento laughed out loud. Rowen was chuckling softly when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around and saw Sage, face serious. Rowen instantly became quiet, feeling his sixth sense about his long-time companion tell him that something was not alright.

    “What is it?”

    “I need to talk to you,” Sage said lowly, then looked over at the others. Strangely enough, they had ceased laughing and were watching the two young men silently. “A moment please, guys,” he whispered.

    Cye nodded and stood up. “Yah, I’ve got londry to be doing.”

    “Same here,” Ryo added.

    Kento gave the two a wistful look and stood to his feet. “Don’t stay out too long, guys. Mosquitos’ll eat ya alive.”

    They nodded and Kento closed the door behind himself, leaving the remaining two alone on the veranda. The sound of chirping crickets was suddenly audible, and the small croaks of frogs. Fireflies were beginning to dance in the dusk as Sage turned to face Rowen.

    “I won’t be going back to college this year,” he said plainly. Rowen blinked in shock.

    “Wh-what? Not goin’ back, why?”

    Sage sighed. “Rowen, there’s nothing for me in this town. If I stay here the only thing I’ll become is a bum.”

    “Get a job,” Rowen suggested. “They have an openin’ for an assistant at the observ-”

    “I’m not good at science, and you know it,” came the crisp reply. “That’s your job, Ro. Not mine.”

    “Then what else is there?”

    Sage was quiet at first. “I’m leaving.”

    “What . . . ?”

    “Sendai.” Sage lowered his head. “I’m going back, Rowen.”

    A look of total betrayal swept across Rowen’s face and he took a step back. Sage likewise took a step forward, raising his hands pleadingly. “Rowen, don’t be-”

    “When’re ya leavin’?” he asked bluntly. Sage gulped, his face looking almost frightened.


    Rowen’s mouth fell open slightly, then his face became angry. “When were ya plannin’ on tellin’ me, huh? Were ya even gonna tell me!?” His voice fell to a growl as tears welled in his eyes. “You’re such a bastard-”

    He turned to leave and Sage grabbed his arm. Rowen tore away, stomped down the veranda steps and across the yard. “Don’t follow me! I don’t want nothin’ ta do with ya!”

    Sage chased after him desperately, pleading, “Rowen, if you’ll just wait a minute-!”

    The darker haired lad turned around and Sage stopped when he saw tears flowing down Rowen’s flushed red face.

    “No, you wait a minute, Sage. Why didn’t ya tell us-”

    “I told the others-”

    Rowen was infuriated. “THEN HOW COME I’M THE LAST ONE TA KNOW!?”

    “I DON’T LIKE LONG GOODBYES!” Sage screamed back. Their voices echoed in the nearby forest as they stood in the back yard, under a large sakura whose soft pink flowers had already fallen many weeks before. When the ringing of their shouts had faded completely, Rowen wiped his face with the back of his hand and looked askance.

    “Go on. Go back to Sendai-”

    “It’s not the end of the world, Ro. I can write letters and call you on the pho-”

    “Don’t ya see!?” Rowen shrieked desperately. “I don’t want lettas or calls, I want you!”

    Sage responded by staring straight into Rowen’s deep blue eyes, holding his arms wide open and whispering, “Here I am.”

    The power of those three words went deeper than that of mere friendship between the two companions, and all that Rowen could see, all that he wanted to see, was Sage’s face, right there before him.

    With a sob, Rowen flung himself into Sage’s arms and buried his face in the crook of his neck. He didn’t cry, no. He could never cry when Sage was holding him. Right here and right now, forgetting the past and the future and living only in the present . . . Rowen, for perhaps the first time in his life, was truly, purely happy.

    Sage wrapped his arms loosely about Rowen’s waist and closed his eyes. Sendai seemed so far away it should be measured in time. It was far, too far, from Rowen. And yet Sage knew that Rowen could never be happy living with him; there was nothing but nothing where he lived, on the outskirts. No place, no college, no nothing. Stay or leave . . . damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    Sage’s normally stoic, mellow face contorted into one of pain and suffering and he squeezed Rowen tightly. “ I’m going to miss you.”

    “Don’t,” Rowen murmured, warm breath on Sage’s neck. “Ya not gone yet.”

    Sage was silent a moment. “You’re right.”

    Rowen blinked and smiled suddenly. “Rememba all the pranks ya used to play on me?”

    The blond laughed softly. “Yeah. You were so gullible. Remember when I dared you to bend over backwards and you got stuck?”

    “An’ that report I wrote about the pipes? Ha ha! Ya shoulda seen the look on my professa’s face!”

    They pulled away slowly and stared at each other with hollow sadness. Rowen’s fingers twined innocently with Sage’s as they stood before each other, the night around them growing darker.

    “Seems just like yesterday we just met... a thousand years ago,” Sage said.

    “Why’re ya leavin’ us? Leavin’ the team?”

    Pause. “I’ve got a life I have to start living. So do you.”

    He reached up and touched his fingers to Rowen’s cheek, who shook his head. “Don’t wanna,” Rowen breathed. “Not without you.”

    “Rowen-” Sage stepped closer, taking his face into his hands and gazing into eyes like the night sky. “ -we’ve got to go on. We have to go our separate ways. We both have to get married and have children some day. We have to live the rest of our lives and grow old. We have to pass down our armors to our children and then pass onto that place. You remember that place? Sleeping under the tree, resting so peacefully . . . that’s what awaits us, Rowen.”

    Tears had begun rolling down Rowen’s cheeks in large droplets, running across Sage’s knuckles as he held the face he cherished more than his own life.

    “And what if-” Rowen choked. “-what if I said. That I’d give all that up just to be with you?”

    A knot formed in Sage’s throat and he swallowed hard. “ I’d say you were a complete fool.”

    Rowen cast his eyes to the ground, unable to bear Sage’s words, let alone the look in his eyes.

    “If I didn’t totally agree with you.”

    Rowen raised his head in shock, and Sage moved forward and pressed his lips to Rowen’s.

    He was stunned at first, surprised. Then the kiss deepened and Rowen parted his lips, giving in to the strange feeling he suddenly felt flowing through him. It wasn’t a bad feeling at all. It was a feeling . . . of one becoming complete.

    Sage raised his hand and ran it through Rowen’s hair, as gently as he did when they had first met. Rowen remembered this too, and made a small noise in his throat, like that of a soft plea.

    They were both unlearned, both inexperienced. Noses and foreheads knocking together clumsily, saliva trailing from the sides of their mouths. It was all very sloppy but felt very satisfying. And then, too soon for Rowen, it ended with Sage pulling away, lips hovering longingly near Rowen’s.

    Rowen was heartbroken that it ended so soon and leaned closer, sighing, “Not yet. Not yet. Just a little while longer-” He kissed the corner of Sage’s mouth.

    “Rowen, don’t-”

    “You’re not gone yet. You’re still here.”

    “Rowen!” Sage said sharply, breaking away from the soft touches.

    Rowen, face nearly invisible in the creeping darkness, stammered, “L-love you . . .” He could not say a word for the tears he was crying.

    Sage drew him into his arms possessively and muttered, “Rowen, you idiot. You stupid, stupid fool. You don’t know . . . you don’t want . . . y-you . . .” Tears were flowing from the lavender eyes, glistening on his face as they caught the light of the moon. “God damn you, Rowen Hashiba.”

    “Damn me,” Rowen replied. “Just don’t leave me.”

    “You’re making this difficult,” Sage snapped.

    “Who evah said fallin’ in love was easy?”

    Sage shook his head slightly, his thoughts disagreeing but his arms still holding Rowen closely.

    “This is so wrong,” he muttered. “We shouldn’t be acting like this. We shouldn’t be doing this. Nothing like this should have happened, we could have just been friends. We would have stayed friends but-”

    “Shoulda, woulda, coulda. It’s all relative,” Rowen repeated the words that Sage himself had uttered back in the streets of Toyama, nearly four years ago. Rowen continued,”We both knew that the day we met . . . didn’t we?”

    Parry, dodge, touché. Was there nothing that Sage could say that Rowen didn’t have the perfect counter-attack for? Of course not. He had forgotten that Rowen was a chess master — strategies were his forte. Sage decided to say not another word; he let his actions do the speaking.

    He pulled away and brought his hands up to Rowen’s face, caressing softly, fingers tracing the lips, forehead, nose and chin of the one he so adored. Sage watched almost curiously as Rowen closed his eyes and melted against the touch he had yearned for so long.

    “You’re beautiful Rowen,” he murmured.

    “Maybe,” came the reply. “But you’re perfect.”

    Sage shook his head, misery almost palpable. “No, I’m not. If I were perfect then why would I be leaving you behind?”

    Rowen blinked back tears. “Cause ya need you’re life more than ya need me.”

    Sage stared at Rowen in silent awe. “I don’t know if that’s true.”

    “Let’s run away,” Rowen said suddenly, taking a hold of Sage’s hand. “Let’s just run far away and neva come back. We can be togetha, we can spend the rest of our lives-”

    “You know the logic of the situation, Rowen, and you know running away is not an option.” Sage’s voice was harsh, and Rowen hung his head shamefully.

    “So ya really are goin’.”

    “I have to.”

    “But-” Rowen felt so weak, so helpless, so . . . alone. “But what’ll I do? How can I . . . ? I can’t-!”

    “Rowen, I have a riddle for you.”

    Rowen rolled his eyes and sniffed, nose becoming stuffy for the tears he cried. “I can’t believe ya wanna play a stupid-”

    “What’s the difference between a house and a home?”

    Rowen blinked, staring at Sage with a blank look. “A . . . house is . . .” He thought a moment. “A home is . . . home is where the heart is!”

    Sage nodded slowly, placed his hand upon Rowen’s breast, above his frantically pounding heart, and smiled. “I’m already home.”

    Silence fell with the darkness, slowly, calmly, and devoid of hatred and confusion. Then Rowen leaned forward and clasped his arms around Sage’s neck, holding onto him tightly as the lilting melodies of the crickets and frogs sang through the twilight yard.

    And the stars appeared in the sky that night, as they had millions of years before.

I want to keep this feeling deep inside of me.
I want you always in my heart.
You are everything.

The Cure, “Halo”