The Sun Scratched in the Stars
A Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS fanfic
Summary: A boy on the run from a dangerous home situation falls asleep at a dojo in the countryside. Discovered and taken in by the owners, he grows to understand what love – and loss of that love – truly means, with the help of a rambunctious, fiery-spirited boy close to his age.
Takeru was playing a few board games with Kiku and Ryoken—Takeru obviously winning—when Baa-baa and Jii-jii shuffled into the kitchen. Takeru untangled his hand from one of the curtains.
"You three are staying here for the night." Jii-jii said. "I'll call who I need to. It's just not safe out there."
A burst of joy welled in Takeru's chest. The last time he stayed over at Jii-jii and Baa-baa's, he was a baby like Kiku's brother. Takeru had no memory of that moment, but Mommy said there was a bad storm that time too. It was good. It was better that Takeru stay with Jii-jii and Baa-baa than with Daddy and Ojii-chan.
Daddy . . . Takeru's face fell.
"But Jii-jii—" Takeru shuffled his feet. "—Mommy said Ryoken and I needed to get back by dinnertime. And Daddy gets upset when we show up late to meals."
Crow ruffled Takeru's head. "That piece of work doesn't have you rascals right now. He's not allowed to be mad."
Takeru only nodded as he looked to Kiku, who had made her way over to Ryoken, grin on her face.
"You get to stay at two Team 5D's members' house. How are we feeling, Ryoken-chan?"
Pretty Boy said nothing, but his face reddened. He looked like Takeru's hair!
"I have to talk to Takeru's old man first," Jii-jii said, "so don't get too ahead of yourselves now."
"While that's being settled," Baa-baa said, "I'll show everyone their rooms. Come along now." Baa-baa put an arm around Takeru, and he, Ryoken, and Kiku walked to the first of the rooms, filled with bouncing pink walls, stuffed animals strewn all over, and a bunch of small lights hanging from the ceiling.
"Kiku, this'll be your room," Baa-baa said. "Some of Ryoko's kid clothes should fit you."
Kiku ran inside, picking up a blue bear stuffed animal hanging off a small box full of other stuffed animals. She studied it.
"Okay, Baa-baa!" she said.
Takeru and Ryoken followed Baa-baa to the next room. It was the room Takeru was in earlier.
"And you two will be here in the guest room," Baa-baa said. "I'll look in Ryoko's room for clothes. Stay put here, okay?"
"Okay, Baa-baa," Takeru said. As soon as Baa-baa closed the door, Takeru sprawled across the bed. Ryoken sat crisscrossed next to him. The thunder rumbled loudly, even through the thick, dark blue walls. Takeru's heart quickened.
"You don't like rain much, do you?" Ryoken asked. "I can feel you shaking from here."
Was it that obvious? Takeru turned his face. "Rain dun bother me!" The lightning and thunder clapped, shaking the house, and a whimper escaped from Takeru's mouth before he could stop it.
Takeru's heart stopped pounding in his chest as Ryoken's fingers slid in-between his. Takeru saw Ryoken's eyes shining, his mouth curved in a smile—smile?—smile! Before, Takeru's first instinct would have been to crack a joke and make fun of him. But Takeru wouldn't think of that now. Now, Takeru wished Ryoken would smile forever.
"I . . . I dun like rain very much," Takeru said, finally. "Ghosts or not, I just dun like it. Every bad dream has it. Lightning all over. Loud thunder. It's scary."
"I don't care for it either," Ryoken said, squeezing Takeru's hand, the smile disappearing. "You can't go outside when it rains. Unless you want to get sick."
Takeru sat up. "You would have more time to read indoors when it rains, right?"
"I like reading outside, sitting in the flowers more," Ryoken said. "It's less cramped."
Takeru smiled. Even the bookworm wanted to be outside. Takeru would have never imagined they could be this much alike. You would never find Takeru's nose in any book on purpose, though.
Lightning suddenly flashed outside. Takeru jumped, grabbing Ryoken's arm, a small whine escaping from his throat. He closed his eyes shut so he couldn't see the bombarding lightning.
"Takeru, it's alright," came Ryoken's voice. And the choking fear was chipped away, piece by piece. Something about Ryoken's voice, the way he said his name, the way it made him feel like nothing could hurt him—it was so much like Mommy's.
Takeru slowly opened his eyes, breathing slow. A knock on the door, however, interrupted him mid-breath.
"This is all I could find," Baa-baa said, appearing with a bright-colored pile. "Change into these after you take your baths, alright?"
Baa-baa smiled, rubbing the top of his and Ryoken's heads. "I'll get dinner ready. Sit tight until then."
"I can help, Baa-baa!" Takeru sat up. But Baa-baa shook her head.
"Focus on feeling better, Takeru. I can get loudmouth Jii-jii to help me," she said.
Takeru frowned. But he was feeling great! And he didn't like how Ryoken and Kiku were the only ones that helped Baa-baa with cooking. But he'd never argue with Baa-baa. He zipped his lips shut as Baa-baa walked and closed the door behind her.
Crow took a deep breath as he dialed the Homura house number, hoping with all his might a certain someone would answer the phone instead of a certain other someone. The certain someone would understand completely. The certain other someone understood when he felt like it.
But hope wasn't on his side that night.
Even hearing his uncaring, strict voice agitated Crow. Crow took a deep breath. It's just one phone call. He could do this.
"Ahh, Hisahito," he said, forcing as much politeness as he could, "how nice of you to answer the phone. Is Ryoko ther—"
"She's still in bed recovering. If you have anything to say to her, say it to me," he interrupted. Crow felt bile in his throat, but he swallowed it hard, his cheerful façade crumbling slowly, but definitely.
"Alright then. Takeru, Kiku, and Ryoken are staying with us tonight. The weather's no good here," he said. "And we can't have them be sick now, can we?"
Crow heard furious tapping and a loud sigh. God, this guy was a piece of work. Why couldn't he react like a human?
"If that's the case, why didn't you send them home before it got bad? The deal was breakfast and lunch, then you send them home," he said. "You know Takeru has to study for that entrance exam."
Crow gripped the phone closer to his ear, the ear getting real hot. This is exactly why Crow couldn't tolerate this guy, and exactly why Ryoken couldn't stay with the Homuras. But Crow didn't know if Ryoko was listening on the other side, so he couldn't give the jerk a real earful.
But, damn, did he want to.
"We were still eating lunch when the rain started," Crow said, his patience thin. "The weather report today said nothing of rain, so before you ask: no, we wouldn't have thought to send them home after breakfast either."
A sigh. "You read it wrong then. It said rain and lightning for the area, so that's why we said bring them back after lunch," Hisahito said in the most mocking tone Crow's ever heard him. Crow's patience got even thinner. This guy was really unbelievable. Not even Ryoko knew it was going to rain, so who was he to act like he knew?
To hell with that.
"My mistake then," Crow said, slowly letting go of his nice guy persona. "We'll pay more attention to possibilities rather than what's actually happening next time."
Fortunately, it seemed the jab went right over Hisahito's head—the bonehead didn't comment on it. Crow had hoped that would be it for the conversation, but the other party had more to say on the subject.
"Right. Make sure Takeru's still studying and make sure he's not eating a whole bunch of junk. He needs to be in his best form for that entrance exam. I know you can be very lax, but we can't have that right now . . ."
He went on and on and on and on, Crow standing there, gripping the phone. This guy had some nerve. When had Crow or Aki told him how to parent, even though he was so great at it? Why's he trying to tell him what to do? Crow thought about what Takeru had told him, how Takeru or Ryoko couldn't so much breathe without it being a problem. It's no wonder Takeru bolted out of the door every chance he could. Hisahito wouldn't let him be a kid. And that other old man didn't help either.
"Hisahito," Crow said through his teeth, "I appreciate the list of things to do, but Aki and I know how to parent. It's not needed."
Not even a second after the last word left his mouth, Crow was subjected to a tirade of who do you think you ares and what do you think you're doings, as though Hisahito hasn't done anything wrong in his life. Crow could be loud while arguing with someone, so for the sake of everyone in the house, he kept his comments inward.
But then Mr. I know how to parent perfectly without anyone's help threw in: "It's a good thing Ryoko and Takeru legally have to stay with my parents and not you disgrace to parenthood."
Unfortunately for Crow's temper but fortunately for everyone else in the house, Aki walked in, so Crow couldn't really let him have it. Their eyes met briefly before Crow sighed.
"Well, it was very nice conversing with you, Hisahito-kun," Crow said in his fake enthusiastic voice, "but I have to go take care of some kids, including two who usually live under your roof. Goodbye for now." Before Hisahito could reply, Crow slammed the phone, his hand tingling. He looked at Aki again, his entire body and soul aching.
Aki went behind him and rubbed his upper arms, the tension, his anger fading. "Better?"
Crow didn't respond in the moment, his throat closed like someone rammed a brick wall. The moment it did open, he said, "I really hate that bastard."
If it were any other time, Aki would scold him for using words like that. Not in this house, not in this neighborhood. You never know who's listening outside. But the chances of someone making sure Crow's mouth in that moment wasn't filthy were zero, so maybe that's why Aki said nothing about it. She only continued the motion, humming as she did so.
"I know, Crow. I know."
The rain poured even more. Suddenly, Takeru felt a sharp pain in his forehead and a snaking shiver through his body. Everything—the bed, the curtains, Ryoken—was blurry for a moment or two before it was clear again.
"Takeru." Ryoken's eyes stared straight at his. "You feeling okay?"
"I feel fine!" Takeru said. "I just need food. I will be okay after dinner."
Ryoken looked at him, then sighed. "If you insist. You didn't look okay earlier either."
"Hmm? You were worried about me, Ryoken-chan?" Takeru grinned. "That's not like you."
"Don't call me that, Take-kun." Ryoken crossed his arms. "Besides, I wasn't worried about you. I was worried I'd get in trouble with Ryoko if you got sick."
Takeru looked at Ryoken's eyes. He smiled. "You dun lie very good, Ryoken-chan."
Ryoken said nothing, but his face turned a bright red. Takeru grinned.
"You look red like my hair!" Takeru said, poking one of Ryoken's cheeks. Ryoken's face got even redder.
"You need to stop."
"But it's fun!" Takeru said. "You usually just have a big ole frown on your face."
Ryoken said nothing as Takeru snuggled closer to Ryoken just as a loud clap of thunder rattled the house. Takeru screamed, covering his mouth.
Takeru was pulled into Ryoken's arms, and Takeru shrank into them. He was so safe, hearing Ryoken's heart beating in his ear. The second safest place in the whole world. So comfortable. Takeru could fall asleep right there . . .
. . . but it was too early for that, as Jii-jii's voice called everyone to dinner. Takeru groaned.
"You're the one who said you needed to eat," Ryoken said, trying to untangle himself from Takeru's grip. Takeru only tightened it.
"But I wanna stay with you for a little more," Takeru said, half-expecting Ryoken to give some smart retort in return. But, when that didn't happen, Takeru opened his eyes, staring at Ryoken's clearly concerned ones.
"I can't exactly go anywhere." Ryoken sighed. "None of us can."
"But . . ."
Ryoken slowly unhooked his arm, reaching a hand out, pulling Takeru's bangs from his forehead. Takeru pulled back, cheeks burning.
"Someone looks red like their hair," Ryoken said. "And it isn't me!"
"Sh-Shut up," Takeru said, thankful Mommy wasn't around in that moment. "We better get going."
The rascals were bathed and wrapped in covers by the time Crow finally got to sit down. He wasn't getting that old, but getting to relax on the couch for the first time that day felt amazing. He hadn't been so worn out since all the back-and-forth deliveries he and Aki made those few days after Ryoko had given birth to Takeru.
And to think he and Aki would have to do that again soon. His feet swelled as he thought about it.
Aki made her way to the couch, sitting next to him as Crow wrapped an arm around her.
"I'm starting to think we're getting a little old to be looking after those kids," she laughed. "If we're this worn out after one day."
"Just a little, but we'll never be as old as the other old two."
That got a laugh. Crow smiled. His heart was so full whenever she did. But then, Aki's expression changed. Crow knew that look.
"Okay, what's on your mind, Aki?" Crow asked, moving a stray strand away from her forehead.
"We should take Ryoken in."
"I was thinking that too," he said.
"When he was talking about dueling, about not even dueling with a real person most of the time, it made me sad," she said. "I thought forcing kids to duel like that faded out a long time ago, when..." Aki leaned in against Crow's chest.
"...when the Arcadia Movement disbanded, right?" Crow finished. Aki nodded, grabbing for his shirt. Aki had so much trouble talking about that period of her life still, even several decades later. With everything she'd gone through, though, it made sense. Too much sense.
"It stinks, but even when I was in the pro leagues, I heard rumors about stuff like that still being around," Crow said. "Even Jack tells me about those rumors when he shows up. Some folks are just awful."
"I know . . . I know," Aki said. "But I never expected a child to walk through our door and say that."
"All the more reason we need to take him in," Crow said. "We've fostered troubled kids before. We've raised a child before. Ryoken belongs with us."
"But that's just it," Aki said. "All those other times when we fostered, we at least knew the full story or close to it. But Ryoken keeps quiet. And surely he hasn't told Takeru everything."
Crow grimaced. Aki brought up a good point—two, in fact. If Ryoken came to live with them, how would Takeru feel? And Ryoken . . . it's clear he's the most comfortable around his grandson. Despite what Ryoko's said after that one incident, it was obvious the two couldn't be separated. Take his grandson out of the picture, what would happen?
Sighing, Crow looked out the window as the rain pounded, the wind howling. Takeru must be scared out of his wits. Crow remembered when Takeru was first using those short legs of his to finally walk, he would wobble to Ryoko's side immediately, scared. Or when Crow and Aki had to look after Takeru for a few days because of Ryoko and that boneheaded moron had too much work, and Ryoko insisted on them watching Takeru instead of the other grandparents, Takeru would stumble into their room, shaking, sniffling.
But it's been more than an hour since the worst of the storm started. Takeru hadn't wandered out of that room. Crow smiled. Takeru was slowly expanding his safe circle, one person at a time.
"If we were to take Ryoken in, we would have to take in Takeru and Ryoko," Crow said. "Ryoken and Takeru need each other. And we can't separate Takeru from Ryoko. That wouldn't be right."
"But we can't separate Ryoko from Hisahito." Aki sighed. "Separate but married exists, but it's not tolerated. Not here. We can't embarrass Ryoko and Takeru by encouraging it. You know that."
Crow clicked his tongue, thinking of the earlier conversation he had with him. "That bastard's not stepping one foot in this house. You know that too."
Aki sighed again. She didn't want to talk about it anymore. He didn't blame her. But they had to do something about Ryoken. As it was, Ryoken couldn't be himself. He couldn't be free, not with those jerks in Shirakawa and certainly not with whoever he was with before he wandered into that small town.
Crow just hated seeing a child in trouble and doing nothing. That just wasn't who he was. That wasn't who Aki was either. Nothing could ever be too small when it came to helping kids.
"Why . . ." Crow closed his eyes. ". . . don't we ask the pretty boy himself what he wants to do?"
"The other grandparents already tried that, remember?" Aki said. "And Ryoken said he'd stay with Ryoko. And those two live right across the courtyard. He's not going to want to stay in a city that's two walks and a long bus ride away from Takeru."
"Maybe not now." Crow looked towards the room his grandson and Ryoken were in. "But when Takeru goes off to school, what's Ryoken going to do? I can tell—he's too bright to stay in that town. He'll go nuts just staying inside, reading a big book all day."
Aki laughed. "True. But Ryoken can't be stuck inside all day here either. You'll drive him nuts in less than a day."
"Not true," Crow said, huffing. "But, if my plan works, he won't have to be here for such a long time."
Smiling, Aki got up.
"I know what you're up to," she said. "But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Ryoken has to live with us first."
Crow smiled back. "Alright. We'll ask the squirt in the morning then."
"The squirt, huh? You've really taken a liking to Ryoken, haven't you?"
Crow leaned back in the sofa, letting the softness and Team 5D's memories flood his mind. "Sure have. Even if he does have some Jack attitude in him, but I'll let that slide."
Aki covered her mouth, closing her eyes, the subtle wrinkles around them more visible. "Crow, stop."
"What? You saw how those two interact earlier," Crow said. "If we don't take him in, he'll turn out like Jack. We need to prevent that tragedy from happening."
"Aren't you a little old to be that competitive?" Aki asked through her laughter.
"No." Crow grinned. Then, his eyes softened as Aki's laughter slowed. "But I see a lot of Yusei in him too. That's why . . ." Crow trailed off as the thunder and lightning illuminated the house, the lights flickering, struggling to stay on.
" . . . we can't let him go." Aki finished. She smiled. Then she stretched her arms, a yawn escaping. "Tomorrow's another day," she said. "We better get to bed."
Crow slowly grabbed the dark black cane lying under the sofa and stood next to Aki. He kissed her cheek as she hummed. Without another word, Crow escorted Aki to their large bedroom, sleep calling for them.