Chapter 1: Link (to the past)
Yusaku recently moved in to his first house with his husband. Going through his old diaries certainly made him smile.
Yusaku blinks when he opens one of the moving boxes. He pulls out the contents, an old worn out book with a year on it. He opens it, flipping to a random page.
I made a new friend today! His name’s Ryoken and he’s realy prety. He’s got Stardust hair and eyes like the prety necklace Mama used to wear on speshell occashons. He likes Duel Monsters too and has a very prety laugh! I’m glad I met him!
Yusaku smiles a little as memories flood his head. He’d been just 6 and his therapist had suggested writing about his days would make him feel better after he lost his parents. He remembers writing in his diary everyday as he searched for the good in the world, a small part of him hoping his parents could see it somehow.
Yusaku flips to another random page.
Ryoken and I played with a cat today! It was realy, realy prety with yelo Is and blac fur. The owner had kitens she wanted to guve away and we both got 1. I named my kity Ai and Ryoken named his Patches! They like each other a lot, too, like us!
Yusaku laughs a little, remembering his silly cat who he tried to paint purple for Halloween and who was always climbing on his arm. Ai has been fond of his Duel Monster cards too, so Yusaku tried to teach him how to play. Ai hadn’t been any good though because he was a cat.
He looks inside the box and sees more books with years on them. He opened one from when he was 8 and turned to a random page.
Ryoken and I got into a fight. He says he cant be prety becuz he’s a boy, which is silly. So we borrowed one of Miyu’s dreses to prove Ryoken is prety and he really is! He’s the pretyest boy ever! Miyu agrees with me!
Yusaku shakes his head, fondness curling on his lips. Miyu has been a close friend when he was an orphan, a girl with a kinda scary Mom that loved her. He’s glad he still remembers her from back then.
Yusaku goes for his diary when he was 11.
Ryoken’s scared he’ll be all alone when he grows up, now that his Daddy’s gone. So I made him a promise that if he didn’t fall in love when he was 30, I’d marry him, so he’d never be alone. That’s what best friends do for each other, right? And Ryoken has been my best friend since forever.
Yusaku blushes and groans as he remembers his poor attempt to help Ryoken handle the grief he’d grown up with. It had worked a little if Ryoken’s small smile has been anything to go by, but still.
He grabs one when he was 15.
I still don’t see why Ryoken is with him of all people?! If he wanted to experiment or whatever, he could’ve asked me, I mean I promised to marry him if we’re alone when we’re 30! I swear Ryoken is gonna drive me crazy. Not if stupid Spectre doesn’t first. What kind of a name is that, anyway?! Spectre!
Yusaku blushes as he remembers that awkward stage. Goodness, he’d been an oblivious kid.
He turns to a book about the year he turned 17.
I’m in love with Ryoken. I can’t remember when I fell in love either. He’s always been important to me, but have I always felt this way and just never noticed? Or was it because I suddenly realized how hot he was? But I have never thought that about anyone, not one person has ever registered as hot to me. Why? Am I just lusting for him then? But he means so much to me, I… I don’t know what to do.
Yusaku turns the page.
I’m an idiot. I just blurted it out in front of our stupid, spying friends and ran away. But he just looked so shocked, there’s no way Ryoken feels the same way I do. I’ll be lucky if he wants to be friends after this.
Another page turn.
Ryoken’s gone. He went off fishing with Aso because I scared him. How am I going to live after this? He was such a huge part of my life, my chest hurts so much just thinking about losing him. But now it’s happened.
Yusaku skips three pages. He smiles as he reads it in full, rather than a special paragraph from each diary entry.
My heart still aches. Everything reminds me of Ryoken. Even my stupid porridge reminded me of him because I put blueberries in it.
Class was a drag, as usual, but it was somehow worse because Takeru kept giving me these stupid sad looks while Spectre was laughing in the back of the class like an idiot. The only one who isn’t being weird is Aoi, thank God, she’s a saint. Jin and Miyu are dragging me out for drinks, even though I’m underage, don’t have a license and hate bars. They just wanna watch me suffer like Spectre.
Oh wait no, I was wrong. I was so, so wrong because Ryoken was on stage and staring straight at me. Was I scared? Yes. Did I need to be? Turns out, no because Jin and Miyu actually do care about me.
Because Ryoken told the crowd, “This is a song dedicated to a love story 11 years in the making.”
And then he sang about us. He never took his eyes off me as he strummed his guitar. I’ve always loved the passion in Ryoken’s face when he’s singing his heart out and how he’s feeling just pours into his music, connecting to everyone in hearing range. I cried but don’t tell anyone else that.
Kissing him after that felt like nothing I’d ever done before. It was like coming home and being on an adventure at the same time. Like this was what I was meant to be doing. I wish I had more room to write because that kiss could have a book dedicated to it. But what happened after matters too.
Because afterwards, Ryoken took me home and we talked about our feelings and lives all night, until he fell asleep on me. Head on my shoulders while we watched a movie. My heart was beating so fast and he looked so beautiful. I don’t think I have ever been luckier.
Yusaku lifts his head with a smile, face warming as he looks at, “Ryoken.”
Ryoken walks over to the box, “Do you need help?”
Yusaku shakes his head, looking at the box of diaries, “No.” He then passes the one he was reading, still open on that page, “I just found a link to our past.”
Ryoken reads the page, eyes following each and every word. He blushes a little and Yusaku admires the band on his finger, glinting in the sunset’s light. Ryoken closes the diary, then smiles at Yusaku, “I remember thinking you were way out of my league and that was too cheesy to work on you. I’m glad I was wrong.”
Yusaku laughs and leans over to kiss his husband, a quick peck before he stands up, “Come on, I don’t wanna be late for Miyu and Aoi’s party.”
Ryoken chuckles and stands up.
Ryoken still has stardust hair, a scratch on his hand from annoying Patches, looks pretty in anything, is his best friend, drives him crazy sometimes and is still very hot. But more than anything, Ryoken has always meant everything to him and will always mean everything to him. So looking back, is it really that shocking he fell in love?
No, it isn’t. Because Ryoken looks at him the same way Yusaku looks at him.
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Chapter 2: Bloom (into a person)
It's their wedding day and Ryoken has never been this happy in his life. Shoichi has something to say though.
Ryoken almost thought he was daydreaming. He couldn’t believe this was happening. He just got married to Yusaku Fujiki. He’s sitting with Yusaku right now, head of the table while their friends and family sitting with them, enjoying a quiet ceremony by Stardust Road, like he’d always hoped. Even though it had been months in the planning, it almost didn’t feel real.
Yusaku takes his hand. Ryoken looks to his husband (God what a thought).
Yusaku squeezes lightly, smiling like a shooting star, “I know. It’s like a dream.” His eyes are so soft, “You did so well planning this, Ryoken. Thank you.”
Ryoken smiles wider than he ever has before and he squeezes back, “I feel like the one who should be saying thanks.”
Yusaku blushes and looks to the side a little. Ryoken couldn’t wait to spend the rest of his life making him blush and smile like that.
Shoichi suddenly coughs and all heads turn to him. He smiles at them and stands up, “Now, as the Best Man, I do believe it is my solemn duty to begin the speeches with one of my own.”
The table quiets and Yusaku’s eyes widen. Ryoken almost shakes his head. Why Yusaku thinks Shoichi wouldn’t give a speech or start them, he has no idea.
“I was 10 years old when Yusaku became a part of my life.” Shoichi looks towards the moon, as if the memory is still fresh in his mind, “My Mom and Dad had just lost two close friends to an accident, leaving behind a kid who’d gone quiet after he lost the most important people in the world. I thought that Yusaku was worryingly quiet, since I was so used to Jin on my back 24/7, brother this, brother that, brother help-”
“Hey!” Jin pipes up.
A few laughs break out around the table, Yusaku’s being one of them. Ryoken shakes his head, used to the brothers’ shenanigans. They’ve been in his life for a long time, too.
“As I was saying, I remember worrying, even back then, if Yusaku would ever be happy.” Shoichi looks down at his glass, swirling the mixture in it, “I made a wish upon a star that he’d be able to come out of his shell some day and be happy. Then it came true, because the very next day, Yusaku came home with the biggest smile on his face I had ever seen and holding the hand of a boy he said had stardust hair-”
“I did not!” Yusaku turns pink.
“You did, I read your diary!” Jin fires back.
Ryoken raises his eyebrow, “Oh?”
Yusaku turns even pinker and the crowd breaks out into louder laughter.
Shoichi groans, “I swear if I’m interrupted one more time, I’m cutting my very heartfelt Big Brother Speech TM to a line so you lot can get on with whatever you had to say!”
Yusaku grumbles, “Might be for the best, just to save my dignity.”
“So sorry, Big Bro, please continue, I wanna see Yusaku lose his dignity.” Jin sits back in his chair like it’s a throne.
Spectre laughs, resting his elbows on the table, “Who says he had any to begin with?”
Spectre and Jin high-5 each other while shouting “BURN” as more laughter breaks out, making Shoichi and Yusaku groan. Ryoken himself has to hide his mouth behind his hand. Yusaku shoots him a look that clearly reads betrayal. Ryoken leans over to peck his nose. Yusaku scrunches up his face, pouting at him. Ryoken laughs and takes his hand, lifting up it up so their matching rings are clearly in sight. A little reminder that he’ll be with him no matter what.
Yusaku sighs a little and smiles fondly, “What am I going to do with them? Introducing Spectre and Jin to each other was a mistake.”
Ryoken has to agree, “It was my idea. My apologies.”
Shoichi coughs and sighs, “For fudge’s sake, can I please finish my damn speech?!”
Everyone slowly quiets as they hush each other. Ryoken puts his and Yusaku’s hands down again, but he doesn't let go. Yusaku squeezes back in thanks.
“Finally!” Shoichi huffs, “Anyway, my worrying about whether or not Yusaku would ever have friends or be happy was for nothing. Because he met one Ryoken Kogami, now known as Ryoken Fujiki, about a week after his birthday. The two of you have been friends for as long as you’ve know each other, but unknowingly in love for a lot of that time too.” He rubs his head, almost tired, “I still remember rolling my eyes when Yusaku went on his rants about how ridiculous your fling with Spectre was Ryoken, so you owe me for putting up with that.”
Ryoken nods, not sure if this counts as an interruption, “Duly noted.”
Spectre nods solemnly, “Yes, that was rather dimwitted of you, Ryoken.”
Ryoken flushes, remembering his at the time solid reasoning, “Guys, I was 17-”
“I was 15 and I knew that was stupid.” Miyu pipes up, glaring at him like he personally offended her, “I told you it was stupid and you didn’t listen.”
Aoi sighs and takes away her drink. Ryoken knows there’s nothing alcoholic even on the table, but Miyu still protests it.
“But you both have grown over the years.” Shoichi looks at the two of them now, “You’ve turned from boys who played cards in the backyard to two grown men ready to face the rest of your lives together. Yusaku has bloomed into a young man with friends he values more than anything and Ryoken, you’ve become someone your parents I know would be proud of. May your love continue to bloom!” He raises his glass, “To Ryoken and Yusaku!”
“Ryoken and Yusaku!” Everyone cheers, lifting their glasses.
Ryoken has tears in his eyes, touched beyond belief. He looks to his husband, to see him smiling while whipping at his face.
Yusaku really has bloomed from the shy kid he met when he was 8. He can’t wait to spend his life helping him continue to bloom.
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Chapter 3: Eyes (tell all)
Shoichi needs Yusaku to stop worrying so much and just pop the question already. Please. Before they both go insane from being Jin's brothers.
Shoichi watches as Yusaku passes the room, looking like a man trying to figure out his mission. He munches on a pack of crisps, the crunch the only sound keeping him from going a little bit insane along with his little brother.
“I don’t know how I’m going to pull this off, Shoichi.” Yusaku’ tugging at the back of his head like it’ll give him some ideas, “I have no idea how to make the attack plan, what I’m going to say, any time I try, my mind goes all fuzzy and then the moment disappears!”
Shoichi sighs. Maybe if he teased Yusaku more, he wouldn’t be suffering through his nervous ramblings. Perhaps his brother would be stuck with it instead, or maybe his parents over the phone. Then again, Yusaku doesn’t like talking over the phone and if he was keeping all these thoughts in his head, he’d probably end up talking himself out of it.
“Look, buddy, calm down.” Shoichi sits up straight, making Yusaku freeze mid step. He turns towards him, squirming on the spot. Yusaku is really nervous about this. Time for some hopefully helpful words of wisdom, “You’re overthinking it. Just get on one knee, look him in the eyes and ask him. Ryoken’s not going to care how you proposed to him, he’s going to love it anyway because it’s you, ya know?”
Yusaku is glaring at him, “That’s the problem, Shoichi, were you listening?”
“No.” Shoichi stands up, “Because you’re over worrying.” He smiles and puts his hands on Yusaku’s shoulders, “Yusaku, Ryoken loves you. You could propose to him in a McDonald’s bathroom-”
“Ewww.” Yusaku looks like he just swallowed moldy food.
“And he’d say yes. If you really insist on making it special, then just do it Yusaku style.” Shoichi ruffles his head, “Use your three reasons thing to figure out a strategy, read a load of books if it helps, then just go for it. Ryoken loves you for who you are and that’s gonna be the kind of proposal he’s going to want.”
Yusaku looks up at him with wide eyes, like a deer in the headlights. He lightly punches Shoichi in the chest, a scowl on his lips, “Why do you have to make so much sense?”
Shoichi smirks, hands over the hit, “Because I’m not in love, it does crazy things to your brain.”
Yusaku growls and Shoichi laughs out right. Yusaku turns on his heel, marching out the room like a man on a mission. He stops at the door, then turns around. Shoichi sees fire in those eyes.
“Thank you.” Yusaku leaves.
Shoichi settles back in his chair, excited to watch the fireworks.
And ohhh are there fireworks.
That Saturday, in fact. Yusaku asks him to handle the camera and set up by Stardust Road before 9pm. Shoichi knows he means the good camera that can capture the stars because it’ll be dark enough to see them by then. So he hides in a bush, camera set up like he promised because even if it is freezing, he’s a good big brother and he’s going to help Yusaku, even if it pains him.
So by 9pm, near on the dot, Yusaku and Ryoken pass by Stardust Road. They’re holding hands and chattering quietly to themselves. Shoichi keeps as still as possible.
“Ryoken, I need to say something.” Yusaku speaks up, louder than the murmuring he’d done before.
Shoichi starts recording.
He zooms in on Ryoken’s face, a little bit of surprise in his eyes, “What is it, Yusaku?”
Yusaku holds both of Ryoken’s hands and stands right in front of him. Shoichi gets a good shot of that, then he turns his camera to Yusaku’s face, who’s eyes look like fire as he stares at their hands with a small smile. Then he lifts his head and Shoichi zooms out to get Ryoken in the shot.
“You’ve been in my life for so long, it’s hard to remember what it was like without you. I remember it was cold and dark. I felt like my world was crashing down around me after I lost my parents. Like nothing would ever be okay again, like I would never be okay again. I thought I was broken.” Yusaku lifts both of Ryoken’s hands, intertwining their fingers, “But then you appeared. Like a light in the dark, you kept me from going mad with fear and paranoia. You gave me your friendship when I thought I could never make a friend again. You gave me a future of happiness when I thought I only had misery. You gave me your heart when I thought I’d be spending life watching it fall into someone else’s hands.”
“Yusaku…” Ryoken murmurs softly, the stars reflecting off his wide eyes.
Shoichi feels his own heart bleed, but turns the camera back to Yusaku.
“That’s why I wanted to say that, no matter what your answer, I’ll always be here for you, however you need me. But I have to ask.” Yusaku goes on one knee and Shoichi pans out the camera to get both of them in the shot, making sure to get Ryoken’s face in it. “Ryoken Kogami…” Yusaku reaches into his pocket and pulls out a little box. Shoichi focuses the camera on Ryoken’s shocked face, who’s holding his hands to his mouth. Yusaku says as loudly and as calmly as he can, “Will you marry me?”
Three heartbeats of silence pass.
Shoichi’s holding his breath.
Even the sea has stopped.
Then Ryoken starts crying, the stars reflected in his eyes now on his cheeks, grabbing Yusaku by the arm pits and pulling him to his feet, “Yes!” He lifts Yusaku a little, “Yes, yes!” Ryoken spins them around, holding Yusaku close to him, “A million times, yes!”
Shoichi lets out the breathe he was holding and keeps the camera running as Yusaku puts the ring on Ryoken’s finger. Neither of them ever stop smiling, but Yusaku look like fireworks are going off in his mind.
“You owe me 40 bucks now.”
Shoichi screams, dropping the camera as he turns towards, “JIN?! Spectre?! Since when were you two here?!”
Spectre is munching on some crisps and so is his other little brother. These little shits are such a pain.
Spectre pouts as he hands Jin the money, “Damnit, Ryoken, I needed that money.”
“Did you seriously bet on who’d propose first?!” Shoichi groans, what did he do to have to put up with these monsters?
Jin chuckles, holding up his fist of cash, “Yep, thanks for the tip off bro. I almost thought Ryoken would ask first.”
Spectre nods solemnly, “He is typically the bolder of the two of them.”
“What’s going on back here?!”
Jin and Spectre yelp, “SCATTER!”
Then they take off in opposite directions leaving Shoichi alone, behind the bush, with the camera still rolling as Ryoken comes over to investigate.
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Chapter 4: Summer (treats)
Jin and Spectre just so happen to be talking in the same ice cream parlour as Ryoken and Yusaku while they’re on a date. Ryoken and Yusaku can never know they were there though or the topic of their conversation.
Jin smiles as he and Spectre munch on some ice cream, wearing sunglasses, fedoras and curly moustaches. They’re semi hiding behind their menus, watching over Yusaku and Ryoken as they enjoy a date.
“I wonder what will give me cavities first.” Spectre takes a spoonful of his ice cream, “The sugar confectionery disasters or my ice cream.”
Jin snorts and looks out from behind his banana split, “The SCD most likely.”
They may give him cavities at this rate too.
Yusaku is struggling to eat an ice cream sandwich while Ryoken is sipping a milkshake. The two make idol conversation while holding hands on the table. Ryoken keeps rubbing little circles on Yusaku’s hand with his thumb and Yusaku keeps smiling at him, blurting something out that makes Ryoken blush and grin. There may as well be hearts floating around them for how much love is in the air, even the girls behind the counters keep stealing glances at them when they’re not looking after their customers.
Spectre chuckles and turns his head away, “Why the hell aren’t they married yet? They already live together, albert sadly with me.”
Jin snorts, “Now that’s a threesome I’d pay to see!”
Spectre looks at him like he just swallowed some nails, “Good grief, I’d sooner die than see your brother in such a state. That’s why I keep asking you two to let me move in with you, actually.”
Jin grimaces, sympathetically patting Spectre’s shoulder, “And I’m trying to wear my brother down but he just won’t quit. Says we’d take over the world if we lived together.”
Spectre hums and pulls out a small diary from his pocket, flipping a few pages, “Well I am free this Saturday.”
Jin grins, cracking his knuckles in excitement, “Sounds like a good time.”
The two cackle as they contemplate world domination. Ohh what fun that would be.
Jin glances to the table Ryoken and Yusaku are on and almost loses all his teeth.
Yusaku and Ryoken ordered another ice cream, but this one clearly for sharing since it’s pretty big. They’re on the same set of seats now, spooning ice cream to each other and cuddled up like they’re watching a movie on the couch at home. Yusaku gets some ice cream on Ryoken’s cheek, laughing when Ryoken pouts at him. Ryoken then sticks his finger in the whipped cream and taps Yusaku’s nose, making him go cross eyed. Ryoken starts laughing then and Yusaku rolls his eyes, leaning up to kiss away the ice cream on Ryoken’s cheek. Ryoken blushes bright red and then pecks Yusaku’s nose to do the same. Yusaku smiles at him and nuzzles into Ryoken’s neck. Ryoken smiles and runs his fingers through Yusaku’s hair.
“But seriously, they need to get married now.” Jin groans, leaning back in his seat, “I can’t take much more of this.”
Spectre chuckles, “10 bucks Ryoken proposes.”
Jin raises his eyebrow, folding his arms, smirking, “Really?” He shakes his head, “You’re betting after last time? On them? With me?” Jin points his thumb at his chest, laughing, “Ohhh Spectre, Spectre, Spectre.”
“Afraid you’ll lose, Firefly?” Spectre smirks.
Jin’s eye brow twitches, he hates that nickname “20 bucks Ryoken proposes in some fancy restaurant.”
Spectre shakes his head, “30 says he’ll do it by Stardust Road.”
Jin glares, slapping his hand on the table, “40 Yusaku proposes by Stardust Road!”
Spectre starts laughing uncontrollably and Jin’s face twitches. Shoot that was a horrible bet, what was he thinking?!
“What are you two doing here?!”
Spectre and Jin freeze.
Then scream, “SCATTER!”
They take off in different directions, leaving their disguises and money for their ice cream on the table.
Better to live and loose a bet than die at the hand of Ryoken’s anger. He hates it when he and Spectre stalk him and Yusaku. It’s way too entertaining to ever stop though.
That’s why Jin will do whatever it takes to win the bet.
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Chapter 5: Game (night at the Kusanagi Household)
Spectre adores Game Nights at the Kusanagi Household more than anything.
Spectre absolutely loves Game Night at the Kusanagi Household. He gets to hang out with Jin, Takeru has a drama whenever the dice doesn’t listen to him and the best part: he gets to take the mick out of Ryoken for being protective over Yusaku.
Shoichi declares as he reads from his book, “Playmaker and his pet Ai are about to be devoured by the evil Lightening and Windy-”
“Roll to rescue them.” Ryoken reaches for the dice.
Yusaku blinks at him, “Ryoken you’re on a different campaign to find rare old cards to take them down with.”
Ryoken’s already rolling the dice.
It lands on a 20.
Shoichi blinks at him, then glares at Ryoken, “You know I’ll have to rewrite the whole campaign now, right?”
Ryoken smirks back at him, “At least Playmaker will be safe, right, Game Master?”
Jin cackles next to him, “He did roll a 20!”
“Love conquers luck!” Spectre cackles.
The two high five, sharing matching shit eating grins directed at Ryoken. Ryoken flushes and Yusaku holds his character sheet to his face, hiding a smile. Takeru is sticking his tongue out in disgust and Aoi is rolling her eyes.
Shoichi sighs deeply, “Okay, so, since someone likes to make my life impossible.” He gives Ryoken a final glare, “Revolver suddenly drops to the ground from a lightning bolt, with the other Knights of Hanoi outside beating up Windy’s henchmen. Revolver duels Windy, using the old cards he found to beat him.”
“Roll to kill him.” Ryoken grabs the dice again.
Yusaku snorts, “Ryoken, we kinda need peace talks here, not murder.”
“He kidnapped you. Fuck that.” Ryoken rolls and it was a 11.
“Revolver sticks a virus in Windy that heavily weakens him, but Lightening saves him.” Shoichi smirks, “Weakening Windy helped destroy the barriers on Playmaker and Ai.”
Yusaku chuckles, gently taking the dice from Ryoken, “Roll to get back to business and hunt down Lightening and Windy while they’re weak.”
He gets a 7. Yusaku groans and Ryoken pats his back in sympathy.
“Playmaker is so happy to be rescued by Revolver, they end up spending something like 10 minutes making out, until the other Knights of Hanoi crash the make out session with Soulburner and Flame.” Shoichi chuckles, a pleased glint in his eyes, “They thus loose Lightening and Windy for the day and go regroup.”
Takeru starts laughing, “I think the dice really want you to chill, Yusaku. Winning the campaign isn’t all about how fast you do it.”
Yusaku sighs, “Yeah, I know. I’m just hoping if I finish this, I’ll finally find out if Revolver will accept Playmaker’s proposal of seizing a future together. Shoichi won’t let me roll for it until the Ignis War is over.”
Ryoken blushes and looks away. Aoi sighs like this is a forgone conclusion, which it is, considering it’s them.
Spectre and Jin make eye contact and start singing, “Revolver and Playmaker, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-”
“ENOUGH!” Ryoken roars, face beat red.
The two break out into laughter, which prompts everyone else to start giggling. Yusaku shakes his head a little, shoulders shaking with his own giggles. Ryoken glances at him out the corner of his eyes and his tense shoulders relax a little. Yusaku smiles at him and suddenly leans over to peck his cheek before Ryoken can do anything about it.
Ryoken turns red again and covers his face. Everyone breaks out into more laughter.
Yes Game Night at the Kusanagi Household could not be more perfect.
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Chapter 6: Choice (I'd make again and again)
Flame is literally impossible to clean without his siblings around, so Splash Parties are often held at the Kusanagi Household.
Takeru loves a lot of things in this world. He loves Kiku, he loves his friends, he loves his family. But the living being he loves the most has got to be Flame.
“Get down from there you stupid-!”
When he isn’t being a stupidly stubborn cat and hiding in on top of his draws because he doesn’t wanna have a bath, hissing at him angrily.
Takeru groans and pulls out his phone, calling the number he knows by heart. He blurts out the problem without waiting for a hello, “Yusaku get Ai here please, Flame’s hiding from bath time again!”
A chuckle on the end that sounds a lot like Jin, “You heard our Soulburner, bro! Get your cat at his place pronto!”
“But Ryoken and I are busy!” Yusaku’s voice sounds a little disjointed over the phone.
“Busy doing each other, I’m sure.” Jin laughs again, then says over the squawks of protest and embarrassment, “They’re washing their own cats actually. How about you get Flame over here instead?”
Takeru mulls it over, then smiles, “Yeah sure, it’s been a while since the kittens got together.”
Jin snaps his fingers, “I’ll call the others then!”
He hangs up and Takeru smiles when he sees Flame sitting on top his cage, already excited about seeing his siblings. If only he behaved this well for bath time.
The run to Yusaku’s house is one he knows better than his own heartbeat. Seeing Aoi and Miyu on the way with Aqua was fun, since it’s been a while since he could catch up with them. Spectre and Earth were chill as usual, though Flame did hiss at Spectre a good few times though none of them really know why Flame isn’t Spectre’s biggest fan. Then like magic, Windy was already waiting for them outside the Kusanagi Household, even though his owner moved away years ago without him.
“We’re here!” Takeru opens the door.
Mrs Kusanagi smiles, popping her head around the wall, “Hey kids, good to see you! Ryoken, Yusaku and Jin are in the backyard. I’m making cookies, do you guys want any when you’re done?”
“Yes please!” Everyone calls out.
She laughs, then goes back into the kitchen.
Everyone gets into the backyard on their own, finding things being relatively relaxed, considering the household’s normal chaos. The pool is about a meter full with loads of suds, at the decent height for the kids to be up to their knees and the cats to tread water. Jin is chasing Lightening all over the pool, since he keeps trying to run up the sides and falls back into the water. Ryoken is sitting in the water with Patches actually behaving, sitting still as he lathers his fur in soap. Yusaku is chasing Ai around the pool as well with a grooming brush in one one, because he keeps running away from him.
“Hey!” Miyu calls out, leaning over the pool edge, “Good to see you guys!”
Jin pauses in his chasing, “Hi Miyu!”
Lightening then falls onto his face, pushing Jin into the water and then running off.
Spectre laughs, climbing into the pool with Earth on his shoulders, “You okay man?”
Jin sits up, spitting water out his mouth like a fountain and giving him a deadpan glare, “Peachy.”
Takeru laughs, looking down at the two, “Aww, Trouble in Pandemonium?”
The two flip him off and the others laugh with him.
Miyu starts clapping her hands, excited to get into the water. She climbs into the pool and Aoi passes her Aqua. Miyu smiles and then she settles Aqua in the pool water. The cat takes to it like her namesake, swimming in happy circles around Miyu as the two wait for Aoi to get in. Windy jumps on her head, then Miyu’s to make a safe landing in the pool.
Takeru shakes his head a little, then pulls Flame out his carrier, “Okay buddy, let’s get you clean.”
Flame hisses at the sight of the water, twisting in Takeru’s hold. Takeru struggles to keep his hold on him and holds him over the pool. Flame hisses and spits even more, looking at Takeru with kitty eyes of betrayal. If Takeru stares at them longer he knows he’ll give in.
So he says with honest apology, “I’m sorry, partner. It’s for your own good.”
Then he drops Flame-
Into Ryoken’s arms, who gently lowers him into the water, “A heads up would have been nice.”
Takeru grins at him, “I knew you’d catch him.”
Then he joins his friends and chaos breaks out. They end up crashing into each other and slipping a good few times while chasing their cats, who keep insisting on not being clean or on just making general trouble. A few splash wars break out when people accidentally get each other soaked in the aforementioned chases. Shoichi comes out at some point to point score and mediate, but he’s holding a camera too so this is likely going to be added to their Friendship Album.
After what feels like no time at all, all the cats are clean and everyone is sitting in the backyards, drying off in the sunlight.
Yusaku groans as he sits next to Takeru, rubbing his sore and lightly scratched arms, “One of these days Ai will kill me.”
“But then Ryoken will bring you back to life, right?” Takeru laughs, “True love and stuff.”
Yusaku splutters, turning red to the roots of his hair, “Shhhh, what if he hears you?!”
Takeru shrugs, “You already promised you’d marry him though, so who cares?”
“I was 11!” Yusaku turns over, burying his head in his arms, “Why is this my life?”
Takeru laughs and pats his back, “Because you got lucky enough to have me as one of your buddies. But seriously.” He settles on his back, looking up at the clouds, “Do you ever wonder what would happen if we’d never been friends? Or didn’t all adopt the kittens together? Would we still be friends without them or would we have drifted apart?”
Yusaku grumbles, “I’d have picked a different cat if I knew Ai would be impossible to clean.”
Takeru looks at him, smirking a little, “Would you really?”
Memories filter through his head. Ai would always get angsty if he didn’t see his siblings often, so play dates were made often when they were younger. When Ryoken was 12 and missing in the woods, Ai was the one who sniffed him and Patches out. Once when Yusaku was crying alone in the park after he ran out from a fight, Ai was the one who ran to Ryoken’s house and clawed at his door until Ryoken came running to where Yusaku was. Ai has saved Yusaku pretty often and the others too.
Yusaku lifts his head and looks towards Ryoken. Ryoken’s smiling softly as he rubs Patch’s head, Ai sitting on his head. Ai and Ryoken look over, as if feeling Yusaku’s eyes on them. Ryoken smiles wider and waves, then Ai hops off his head. He trots over to Yusaku and licks his fingers.
Yusaku smiles softly and tickles him under his chin, “No, I wouldn’t. I’d make that same choice each and every time.”
Takeru chuckles and pats Flame, who’s licking his scratched up arm in apology, “Me too.”
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Chapter 7: Hope (for Yusaku's future)
Shizu Kusanagi has lost her best friend, but Yusaku, her best friend's son (her niece in all but name and blood) is still here and she will see him smile.
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Shizu smiles as she looks at the stairs, “Jin! Shoichi! Yusaku! Are you ready for the park?”
Jin comes barrelling down the stairs, excited and happy, giggling as he jumps them, “Yep, yep, yep!” He jumps to the bottom and claps his hands, “I wanna play on the roundabout!”
Shoichi laughs as he follows him, stepping down the stairs much more calmly, “But then you’ll get dizzy and sick, Jin.”
“But that’s half the fun!” Jin turns up to his brother, poking his tongue out at him.
Shizu shakes her head, but looks up the stairs again, frowning slightly, “Yusaku? Are you coming dear?”
She goes to move, but Shoichi’s already heading up the stairs, “I’ll get him!”
Shizu waits as Jin continues to ramble on about the roundabout. She’d listen normally, but Yusaku’s always been so quiet, she has to strain her ears to hear him talking to Shoichi. She can hear them talking, but not what they’re saying. After a while though, Shoichi comes down the stairs holding Yusaku’s hand. Yusaku who’s head is hung low, eyes still that terrible dull light. Nothing like the little sparks they used to be when he had his parents with him.
“We’re ready! Yusaku just hadn’t finished packing his bag!” Shoichi smiles.
Jin throws his hands up, “Hurray! Now we can go to the park!”
Shizu smiles for her sons, taking Jin’s hand, “Then let’s go everyone! To the park!”
Her sons cheer, but Yusaku remains silent. Shizu’s heart aches and she wonders if he’ll ever be happy.
The drive to the park could be quick, but Shizu likes to take the scenic route, encase Yusaku or her sons spot anything they want to do after, like eat out at a funny cafe or visit the animal shelter to play with the newborns. Jin is all too happy to excitedly tell Shoichi about everything he sees, Shoichi commenting as he sits in the middle. Yusaku only stares out the window with dull eyes and a tight lipped face.
When they reach the park, Jin takes off for the roundabout right away, Shoichi following behind to make sure he’ll be okay.
“Oh my, to have that energy again.” Shizu smiles, then looks to Yusaku at her side, “Do you wanna go play with them?”
Yusaku shakes his head.
Shizu smiles through her heart ache and puts her hand on his shoulder, “That’s okay. You can sit with me and practise reading if you like.”
The two find a bench and Yusaku pulls a book from his bag. It’s the same one he always has in it. Shizu wonders if it’s because he likes it or because he doesn’t bother changing it. Yusaku reads it aloud mechanically, as if he’d memorised all the lines simply because he heard it far too often. Shizu listens, putting in questions to try and get him excited, but he remains stoic. They get through the book far too quickly and Shizu notices as he puts it away he doesn’t have another in his bag. She didn’t bring a book with her either.
Shizu looks to see Jin and Shoichi are playing on the swingset with two girls about Jin’s age. She looks to Yusaku to see him staring out at the park like he’s not really seeing it.
“Do you wanna go play now Yusaku?” Shizu has to find something to make him smile.
Yusaku shakes his head without looking at her and she wants to start crying.
Shizu looks at the passing cars and makes a wish on one, “ Please give this boy a friend. Someone who can make him smile, someone who lights up his eyes, someone who knows how he feels and the right things to say. Please just give him a friend. ” She remembers the little boy who laughed so brightly and would run around her legs, happily rambling about his imaginary friends and the ones he had at school. “ He wasn’t meant to be alone. ”
Shizu looks at Yusaku, about to suggest he play on the slide when something happens.
A boy runs over to them with white and blue hair and wearing a lavender hoodie. His eyes are aquamarine and serious, like he has something he has to say. Shizu’s worry spikes and her heart leaps into her throat.
He stops right in front of Yusaku, “Hey you.”
Yusaku lifts his head a little.
The boy offers his hand, “Whenever I’m sad, my Mommy used to tell me to think of three reasons not to be.”
Yusaku blinks, looking interested for once. Shizu’s eyes widen. It’s more than she or any of her boys have gotten from Yusaku so far.
Yusaku frowns, looking tearful, “I don’t have three reasons to be happy.”
The boy frowns a little, lowering his hand. Yusaku looks at his lap, his shoulders starting to shake. Shizu feels protectiveness claw at her throat and struggles with what action to take. Send the boy away or thank him for trying.
Then he takes Yusaku’s hand, “Then think of three reasons to look for happiness. Three reasons to live. Three reasons to try again.” The boy smiles. “By thinking, you can still live.”
Yusaku’s eyes show a bit of light. Shizu holds her breathe. Dare she hope?
“I’m Ryoken.” The boy looks up at Yusaku with a wide grin, “You?”
Yusaku stares at the boy and squeezes back a little, something like a smile starting to appear on his face, “Yusaku.”
Ryoken giggles, “Do you play Duel Monsters? It’s my favourite game!”
Yusaku’s eyes widen, a light appearing in them and he smiles, nodding happily, “Yeah! I have my Deck in my bag! Can we play now?!”
Shizu tries hard not to cry.
“Yeah, I had some matts with my Papa! Let’s go!” Ryoken pulls him to his feet.
Yusaku grabs his back and then they take off, running, laughing.
Shizu watches, smiling ear to ear, covering her mouth as she cries. She looks up at the sky, smiling still, “Thank you.”
For the first time in a long while, she has hope for Yusaku’s future. He’s gonna be okay. He’s got the strongest woman Shizu’s ever known looking out for him, because not even death could stop the incredible force that is Mieko Fujiki. She only wishes Yusaku got to know her.
Chapter 8: New Beginnings (in the form of new life)
Mieko Fujiki was so blessed to have her husband and her best friend by her side on the day her son was born.
Mieko smiles as she looks at the baby, her baby, in her arms, sleeping soundly. Going through labour had been something she thought she’d been prepared for, but really truly wasn’t. She hadn’t faced it alone though.
At her side are the two other most important people in her life. Her best friend Shizu, who’s holding her eldest son up to look at Mieko’s baby even though she’s still heavily pregnant and really should be resting. The other is the man who helped her create this miracle, holding her hand and crying as he looks at their son.
“Mieko, he’s beautiful.” Keishi leans down and kisses her forehead, “You’re beautiful.”
Mieko smiles and squeezes back his hand, “Yeah, he is. Just like his father.”
Keishi blushes and Shizu cackles.
Shoichi looks down at the baby in confusion, then looks up at his mother, “Was I really that small? Is that how small my little brother is going to be?”
Shizu smiles and nods, “Yep. You were a chubby baby, but you grew out of that far too quickly.”
Shoichi pouts, “But I thought being chubby was a bad thing?”
“Not really.” Mieko smiles, shuffling a little, “Having a good bit of meat on your bones helps with keeping warm in the winter.” Then she groans, “And I’ve probably cursed this little one to be full of shivers because if he’s anything like me and my brother, he’ll be freezing because he was born in the summer.”
“Then we’ll be there to keep him warm.” Keishi gently runs his fingers over their son’s head.
Mieko blinks at him, then smiles softly. How did she get so lucky to have this?
“What are you going to name him then, Auntie Mieko?” Shoichi pipes up.
Keishi and Mieko look at each other, then giggle nervously, “We haven’t thought of anything actually.”
Shizu groans, sitting down on the bench, “Really?”
Shoichi sighs, shaking his head, “Typical Auntie Mieko.”
“We figured the best name would come in the moment!” Mieko flushes, looking down at her son.
Keishi nods beside her, “We wanted something unique and none of the suggestions anyone gave us really felt right.”
Mieko smiles at her husband, then her son starts squirming a little. He opens his eyes and Mieko feels her heart burst. Green pretty eyes, so much like her own, looking around in confusion.
Mieko starts to rock him, “Hey baby, it’s me. I’m your Mommy.”
The baby looks at her in confusion, gurgling out little sounds.
Keishi rests his arm around her shoulders and reaches his hand out to the baby, “And I’m your Daddy.”
The baby looks at his hand and then starts reaching for it. Mieko watches as Keishi’s eyes fill with tears and the baby tugs on his hand. He plays with his fingers and Mieko swears her heart bursts out of her chest watching her husband like this.
“I hope he gets to play and laugh.” Keishi smiles through his tears, “That’s the most important thing to me.”
Mieko can’t stop smiling as she looks at her baby, “I hope he works hard and makes all his dreams come true.”
Then lightning strikes in her mind. She gasps and looks at Keishi, who’s also staring at her, “Yusaku!”
Shizu and Shoichi blink at the both of them, tilting their head, “What?”
Keishi and Mieko blink, then they start laughing and rest their foreheads together. They look at the little boy in their arms, who’s looking at them in confusion.
Mieko smiles at her best friend, “The character for ‘Yu’ means game or playing.”
“While the character for ‘Saku’ means work or making.” Keishi kisses her forehead.
Shoich gasps, then claps his hands, “That’s perfect Auntie Mieko, Uncle Keishi!”
Shizu laughs, leaning back in her seat, “Of course you two would come up with something like that.” She shakes her head but she’s still smiling, “Yusaku Fujiki huh?”
Keishi smiles and looks at Mieko, “Sound perfect right?”
Mieko hums, then looks at the baby in her arms, “What do you think, buddy? Do you wanna be Yusaku?”
The baby blinks up at her.
Then smiles his very first smile and babbles happily.
Mieko starts to cry and kisses his forehead, “Yusaku Fujiki it is then. A kid who’ll be working hard and playing hard.”
Yusaku babbles as he clings to Keishi’s fingers. Mieko smiles and looks at Shizu, who’s smiling as she looks over them. Shoichi seems excited too, swinging his legs and grinning wide.
No one here knows what the future holds for them or for each other. But Mieko knows that she will never forget this moment when new beginnings were formed and she got to name her son with the man she loves and the friends she’s made.
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