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.

Chapter 18

The air was freezing, and the blankets and covers were toasty, so Ryoken pulled the covers more over his face to hide from the sun begging him to wake. Remembering he, Takeru, and Kiku were still at Crow and Aki's house, Ryoken sprang up.

They needed to get back.

But Ryoken's hand was gripped. Ryoken had thought he was only one in bed, as Takeru had agreed to sleep on the floor. "The floor is more comfy to me," he'd said. So, what was this bump? Using his other free hand, Ryoken flipped the covers. Takeru was tightly clutching his hand.

"Takeru! What are you—?" Ryoken's question was cut short. Something wasn't right. Takeru's face was bright pink, his breathing shallow but quiet. It's no wonder Ryoken didn't know Takeru was under there. Taking the free hand again, Ryoken lightly touched Takeru's forehead.

It was burning.

Ryoken pulled his hand back, untangling his other from Takeru's, sprinting to Crow and Aki's room. When Ryoken walked in, Aki was putting a light grey sweater on Crow. He and Crow locked eyes.

"Oh, it's the pretty boy rascal!" Crow said. "A good morning to you! Didn't know you got up early too."

"There's—" Ryoken started to say, but Aki sighed.

"Crow, you're not the only one in the world who gets up early. You know that."

"I thought all little rascals slept in. Ryoko was like that. Takeru's like that now. I'm shocked, that's all," Crow said, pulling on his sweater.

"There's somethi—" Ryoken tried again, but Aki replied to Crow, "Didn't you always wake up before the sun as a kid? Don't give me that."

"Well, yeah, but kids these days are just built different, ya know?" Crow laughed.

Ryoken was going to burst. Was this how Takeru felt when people didn't listen to him? Without thinking anymore, Ryoken blurted out, "Could you please listen?"

It got so quiet, Ryoken would've probably heard a button drop from far away. Crow and Aki stared at him, and a pit dropped in Ryoken's stomach. Oh no, was he too loud? Was he being disrespectful? But Aki and Crow's smiles didn't say he was.

"I'm so sorry, Ryoken," Aki said. "You need something?"

Ryoken's throat got hot, but he swallowed. "There's. Something's going on with Takeru." Aki and Crow's expressions changed instantly. Ryoken couldn't detect surprise, but also, Ryoken wished he hadn't said that. "His—His forehead was super warm," Ryoken continued despite himself, "and his breathing was . . . it was weird. Like-like-like he didn't have enough air."

That last word barely left Ryoken's mouth as Aki and Crow glanced at each other. Crow grabbed his cane, practically flying out the door. Suddenly, Aki looked back at Ryoken, mouthing thanks, before following Crow.

Against his reasoning, Ryoken followed the two of them from a distance until he reached his and Takeru's temporary room. It's amazing how quickly they'd already moved, grabbing towels, medicine bottles, a water basin. Ryoken's gaze locked onto Takeru, whose face had definitely gotten redder in the short time Ryoken stepped out of the room. He didn't look good at all.

"Crow, where's the flu medicine?" Aki asked.

Ryoken's ears got hot. Flu?

"Damn, I shipped the last of it to Ryoko just last week in case this happened there," Crow mumbled. "We'll have to go a few blocks down and get it. Sorry, Aki."

Aki exhaled slowly, dabbing Takeru's forehead with a damp cloth. "We can't leave Takeru for a second when he's like this, though," she said, her voice as serious as Ryoken's heard it. "Your favorite son-in-law found that out the hard way last year, remember?"

What happened? What's going on with Takeru? Ryoken had so many questions, but the seriousness on Aki and Crow's faces told him it wasn't the time. Aki positioned Takeru, whose eyes were closed, face getting redder, gently putting a cup of water to his lips.

"Ryoken." Ryoken felt a hand grip his shoulder. He looked up and saw Crow standing next to him, face grim. "Go wake up Kiku. Tell 'er both of you need to go to the medicine store—"

"Pharmacy, Crow," Aki said.

"Yeah, that place," Crow said as he nodded. "Kiku knows where it is. And when you get there, tell them you need cough and . . . what's the other medicine, Aki?"

Aki, one hand on the cloth on Takeru's forehead, quickly wrote something on a piece of paper with her other hand and ripped it, dangling the result in the air. Crow grabbed it and handed it to Ryoken.

"Yeah, so ask the folks at the desk for that," Crow said. "For Homura Takeru. He's got a prescription set up, so there should be no issues."

Ryoken stared at the piece of paper in his hand, the name of the medicine glaring at him in the face. Father was also a doctor, so Ryoken had seen his fair share of medicine names before. But he'd never seen the one that Takeru was supposed to get. A strangled cough rocked Ryoken's core, and Ryoken saw Takeru, his face red, tears clinging to his eyes.

"Go, Ryoken," Aki commanded. Ryoken's legs didn't wait for him to think, dragging him to where Kiku was staying. He knocked on the door several times. Mid-knock, the door opened, revealing a Kiku with hair strands pointing every which way rubbing her eyes.

"Good mooorning, Ryoken" Kiku yawned. Ryoken sensed his worry was plastered on his face because Kiku's face changed immediately. "What's wrong, Ryoken?"

Ryoken explained the situation and all the while, Kiku's eyes widened to various degrees. Telling Ryoken to wait a moment, she closed the door. In about a minute, she reappeared, fully dressed, hair a lot neater than before. Even Ryoken couldn't get ready that quick!

"Get dressed and bring that paper with you, Ryoken," Kiku said. "We have to hurry."

Hurry? Just what was Takeru going through that made everyone panic? Not that Kiku was ever calm, but she was never like this. But, as before, he wasn't about to ask.

Thankfully, they hadn't walked past but a few buildings before Kiku said, "This is the one! Come on, Ryoken!"

Ryoken hadn't known what to expect—after all, he's never been inside a pharmacy before. He expected wall-to-wall medicines. Father's study, but medicines instead of books. But when he walked in, he was surprised by how much it looked like a regular store. There was even candy! Ryoken still had money with him. Maybe he could—

No, no! Ryoken shook his head. He wasn't here for that. He had to get that medicine.

"Over here!" Kiku called from the end of one of the aisles. The two made their way to a desk that had a computerized register and a more updated computer than Ryoken saw at that train station.

"Welcome. How may I help you?" the woman with black hair asked, turning her attention from her computer. Her thick eyebrows floated when she saw Ryoken and Kiku. Was she expecting to see adults and not kids? That must be it. But the woman said nothing, letting her previous question hang in the air.

"Uh, we—" Ryoken started, but Kiku spoke up for him.

"We need to pick up this medicine for Homura Takeru," Kiku said, taking the paper Ryoken had and handing it to the woman. The woman took the paper, studied it, typed some more on her computer, looked at the paper, then typed more. Ryoken's heart pounded. Could she be any slower?! Ryoken snuck a peek at Kiku, and he saw her eyebrow twitch just a bit. Even Kiku's patience looked like it's running thin. Thank goodness Ryoken wasn't the only one

After what was forever, the woman disappeared into the stacks of bright orange, white, and blue medicine bottles behind her. She then reappeared at the desk with four bright blue bottles, Takeru's name neatly printed on the white label, bagging them neatly.

"The instructions are inside the bag," the woman said. "Have a lovely day."

"Have a nice day!" Kiku said as Ryoken took the bag and the two sprinted out of the pharmacy.

As soon as Ryoken and Kiku got back to the house, they made a beeline for Ryoken and Takeru's temporary room. As they got closer, Takeru's nasty coughing got louder. Ryoken's heart dropped.

Takeru . . .

It was though time hadn't passed. Aki was still tending to Takeru, Crow was still furiously writing stuff down.

"We're back!" Kiku said. Aki whipped her head. Crow stopped writing as he got to his feet.

"The medicine's here. Good," Crow said. "Hate to say it, but Aki and I will be stuck with Takeru for a while, so try and keep busy. There should still be breakfast and lunch leftovers from yesterday for when you rascals are hungry." Crow sighed. "Dinner, we'll have to figure out later."

"Can't we have Mama make something and bring it here?" Kiku asked. "She would love that."

Crow smiled. "I know she would, Kiku. But I also know she's got her hands full with your baby brother, so I can't bother her. We'll think of something. Don't worry."

Kiku pouted. "Okay, Jii-jii."

A loud bout of coughing interrupted the conversation. Ryoken saw Takeru's face get even redder with each cough. That moment, Ryoken's chest tightened. It was the same as when he decided to run away from Father.

He was afraid, afraid of what might happen to Takeru. So much so, his lungs wouldn't let him breathe. Before he sank too far down in his worries, a gentle hand touched his shoulder, bringing him back to the room.

"Come on, Ryoken, we gotta go!" Kiku said. Ryoken only slowly nodded. Looking at Aki and Crow's concerned faces and Takeru's one last time, Ryoken let Kiku drag him away, Takeru's coughing getting quieter and quieter.

Certainly no storm outside, but it was still very much a cloudy day. Everything, even the vibrant flowers blooming in the backyard, seemed to lose color under the gray light of the mid-fall sun. Ryoken sat at that same table he dueled Crow with, in that same spot, his mind going everywhere so fast, his head might burst.

"Ryoken." Kiku gently nudged him back to the present. "Ryoken, are you okay?"

"Everything is—" Ryoken stopped himself. Kiku wasn't an adult. He didn't have to lie about how he felt. His chest hurt again. "No, no, I'm not," he said, every word like fire in his mouth.

Kiku only looked, her eyes full of concern. "It's about Takeru, isn't it?"

"I don't get it," Ryoken said. "It's. It's just the flu, right? He just needs to get better. I. I don't get what the fuss is, why Crow and Aki suddenly . . ." Ryoken swallowed. " . . . why Takeru is having a hard time."

Kiku smiled. It was a sad smile. "Seeing Takeru like that for the first time scared me too. But Jii-jii and Baa-baa will—"

"Wait . . . The first time?"

Kiku nodded slowly. "Takeru has so much energy, it's hard to tell. But his body is very, very weak. It has problems fighting off the same things ours do." Kiku frowned. "If I get sick, I feel better after some soup and a day's sleep. But when Takeru gets sick, he takes longer to even start to feel better. If he's not getting taken care of right away, that makes it even longer."

"I . . . I don't get it," Ryoken said, guilt piling on his heart. "How . . . ?" The words were stuck in his throat, the memories of that night playing in his mind again. Takeru was going through all of that, yet Ryoken . . .

Ryoken couldn't finish the thought.

"Mama tried explaining it to me once," Kiku said. "I think I get it. It has to do with Takeru's heart. Every little thing sets it off. That's why he takes a whole bunch of medicine."

"I bet he doesn't like that very much," Ryoken said, forcing a smile.

"If Mama Homura gives it to him, he's fine," Kiku said. "Same with Jii-jii and Baa-baa. But get anyone else to do it, he puts up such a fuss." Kiku pouted and harrumphed. "He's such a big baby."

The way Kiku said that made Ryoken laugh. He laughed and couldn't stop.

"He is. He really is," Ryoken said, wiping his eyes. Then, his heart got heavy again. "He's going to be okay . . . right, Kiku?"

Kiku sighed, stretching herself over the table. "He might be a baby, but he can be strong in a lot of ways too. He can get through this. We just need to wait."

Ryoken nodded, pulling his arm over his eyes. He tried to hide it, but a hiccup still escaped. It was embarrassing how emotional he was. The flu wasn't anything to sneeze at, sure, but with the right amount of medicine and rest, anyone could beat it. Besides, Crow and Aki were taking care of him.

"Ryoken," Kiku said. "It'll be okay. He'll be okay. I promise."

Ryoken nodded, but he couldn't keep the tears in anymore. In a matter of seconds, the hum of the far-off cars and the chirping birds weren't the only loud sounds outside that morning.

Crow stared at the black cord phone, really not wanting to do this again.

"Can't you call and let them know?" Crow had said earlier after Aki suggested they call the Homura house. "If Ryoko answers, okay, fine, but just the thought of that jerk answering makes me upset. You talk with him better than I could."

But Aki only stared at him as she put the huge coughing pills in Takeru's mouth, the stare that said "I dare you to say that again, dumbass." There was absolutely no arguing with her once she gave that look. He put his hands up in surrender, walking out.

And that's how he wound up staring at this black machine like it was hand-delivered from space.

They're not going to know if Crow doesn't tell them. It's either Crow tell them then and there and they know what's going on or one of the two calling day and night asking where their children are. He sighed. If only they were like Kiku's mother. Tamiko had a very good head on her shoulders despite dealing with a squirmy newborn. Not that Ryoko didn't, but she's also quicker to lose her cool than most.

She certainly had her parents to thank for that, though. The rule-following bastard was another story.

It's now or never. Crow dialed the Homura residence number, letting the connection ring several times. It rang so long; Crow was about to hang up and try again later. Truly a sign that Crow wasn't meant to call. Before he moved the phone away from his ear, however, the other side clicked.


Oh, thank goodness.

"Ryoko!" Crow said. "Ryoko, how ya feeling?"

"Hi, Dad," she said. She sounded tired, like she didn't get much sleep the night before. "Better than I was yesterday. My head's killing me, but all good otherwise."

Crow hummed. "And the baby?"

"Good," Ryoko said. Crow heard the smile in her voice, and it made him smile. "But never mind us," she said. "You sending the kids back now, right?"

This was it. Crow grinded his back teeth. This was where the miracle stopped.

"About that . . ." Crow started, but a laugh interrupted him.

"It's not going to rain," Ryoko said. "Hito told me about the hard time he gave you yesterday, even though he didn't put it like that. It should be okay to send the three back."

"Ryoko—" Crow tried again.

"Honestly, it's been more than a decade already." Ryoko sighed. "I still can't understand why you two can't get along. Is it a man thing? A generational thing?"

No, he's just an asshole, Crow wanted to say, but he wasn't going to stray from his mission. Plus, he's not about to provoke the wrath of his wife and his daughter in the same morning.

"Ryoko." Crow decided to engage his serious dad voice. He couldn't have the conversation going on for too long, as much as he loved talking with her.

His daughter, with her ever perceptive self, finally got the hint. "Yes, Dad?"

Crow took a deep breath. "To answer your first question, no, we're not sending the kids back now. We can't."

"You . . . can't?" Crow could hear the disappointment color her voice. "The weather's good and the buses are working today. There's no reason you can't send them back." Ryoko paused. "Oh, I see. You just want your favorite grandson over a while longer, don't you? I know it's been a while since you last saw him, but he really needs to—"

"Ryoko, listen to me," Crow said. Immediate silence on the other side. He sighed. "If this were any other time, yes, that'd be true. But now, that's not why. We really can't send the kids back."

There was nervous shuffling on the other side. Oh, this was harder than Crow thought it'd be. "Dad? Dad, what's going on? No one's in danger, right?"

"No! No, no, no," Crow tried to laugh, but it came out a wheeze instead. "No, Ryoko. We're all safe. But . . ." This is it, Crow. You gotta say it. "Takeru, he's . . ." Crow exhaled through his nose. "He's got the flu."

There was a long pause. Crow hoped from the bottom of his heart Ryoko would spare him.

"Dad," Ryoko said. She took a deep breath. "Dad, he's not in the hospital, is he?" Her voice was shaky. Not the reaction Crow expected, but it wasn't any better.

"No. No, he's not," Crow said. He couldn't lose his cool—not when Ryoko needed him to be as steady as possible. "We got to him before that could happen. Aki's tending to him now."

"How . . . How does he look?"

Crow bit his bottom lip, Takeru coughing and struggling to breathe still in his mind. He couldn't get any words out. But that lack was all Ryoko needed to know.

"Dad." She was losing more control of her voice. "Dad, please."

"We're doing the best we can, Ryoko." Crow tightened the grip on the phone. "So he doesn't have to go back."

A loud hiccup followed, and Crow put a hand to his forehead. Shit. It hadn't been that long since Takeru's last hospitalization either, so Ryoko's heart was still raw. Crow said nothing as the loud hiccup blew up into tears.

"Ryoko . . ." Crow said, softening his voice.

"I'm. I'm coming over there," Ryoko said. "I need to see him."

Crow's mouth dropped. "Ryoko, you're still not feeling well," he said. "You need to rest. We got this."

"But he needs me—"

"Ryoko, don't be ridiculous! You want to be more sick?" Crow snapped. "You want Takeru to wind up in the hospital? Stay where you are." Crow hated yelling at his daughter more than anything—however, he and Aki couldn't afford anyone else falling ill.

But perhaps he went too far.

Ryoko broke down, her sobbing more obvious. Crow tried apologizing, but she was inconsolable, not listening to a word he said. Suddenly, loud footsteps entered the conversation, a whoosh of air, unhinged breathing taking Ryoko's place.

Oh. No.

"Who is this?"

Crow's luck just kept getting worse.

"I said who is this?!" the jerk's voice demanded. Crow heard Ryoko pleading with him to stop in the background, but he wouldn't back down. Funny how he pretended to be a model husband whenever Crow or Aki were involved.

"Hello, Hisahito," Crow said coolly. "It's your fun-loving father-in-law How are you doing today?"

"Cut the crap," he hissed. Crow raised his eyebrow, amused. So he did know how to cuss. Hopefully, those oh-so-distinguished parents of his weren't listening. "What did you tell Ryoko?"

Crow gripped the phone closer to his ear. Nosy ass. "That your son has the flu and we're doing all we can so he doesn't wind up in the hospital," Crow said. "He, Ryoken, and Kiku aren't being sent back today. And don't bother coming down here and try to take them by force 'cause that ain't happening on my and Aki's watch."

Hisahito laughed. Every nerve in Crow's aging body stood at the surface of his skin. Unlike most people, Hisahito didn't laugh when he found things hilarious.

"Very interesting," Hisahito said. "You went against what we promised yesterday, so you're paying the price for it today."

"'Paying the price'?" Crow repeated, incredulous, getting louder. This asshole. "This is your son we're talking about. We look away from one second and he'll—" Crow forced himself to stop. "You know what'll happen. At least try and act like a good father who actually cares about his child and understand."

Crow's jaw clenched. He definitely shouldn't have said that, but damn it, it's why Aki should've been the one talking to Ryoko and this sorry excuse of a man.

"You have some nerve saying that to me," Hisahito returned. Ryoko was screaming in the background for him to stop. It's all what Takeru was saying the other day. "Especially when he got sick under your watch."

What the hell? Crow slammed a fist to the wall. Crow's breathing sped up, his patience at a breaking point—which, really wasn't that hard of a feat when it came to this guy. Out of the corner of his eye, Aki ran in, but Crow's fiery temper was already lit.

"And who do you think you are, telling me that?" Crow spat, his volume out of control. "I got news for you, buddy. All this damn pressure you're putting on him is the reason we're going through this now. It's your fault Takeru's sick. So be a man and take some damn responsibility, you brat."

Hisahito took a deep breath, Crow's blood pressure rising to its peak. Aki yanked the phone away from Crow.

"Hisahito? It's Aki," she said. A pause. "Yes, yes, Takeru does have a fever. He's stable right now. He needs rest at least for a day or two, but he's okay." Another, longer pause. Aki's face gradually darkened as she bit her bottom lip. Closing her eyes and taking a breath, she said, "Okay, okay, I'll pass that along to him. Tell Ryoko I said hello—oh! Oh, she's right there! Can you put her on, please?"

Crow put his hands on Aki's shoulders as she listened intently. Only buzzing came out of the black cord telephone, but Aki's face remained steady.

"Ryoko, I know it's tough," Aki said, "but you need to let us handle this. You're getting over a nasty cold yourself. Focus on getting better." The voice on the phone got louder, but still indecipherable as Aki wrapped the cord around her fingers. Aki sighed. "We will, we will. Okay. Okay, bye."

Aki gently put the phone back as Crow locked her in an embrace. The two stood in silence before Aki sighed again.

"Crow, did you really say that to Hisahito? While Ryoko was standing there?"

"Say what?"

"You know what," she said not even after the last letter left Crow's mouth. Uh oh. It was that tone. "About it being his fault Takeru's sick." Aki stepped away, crossing her arms. "Could you at least try to be civil with Hisahito for once? I'm tired of trying to keep our relationship intact."

Crow bit his bottom lip. "When he stops being an ass, I will," he returned. "It's not worth it. I know you don't like him either, Aki."

"That's not what this is about," she said. "Supporting Ryoko should be our priority. It's not our place to attack the man she chose."

"But it's not like us to sit back when things are wrong," Crow replied. "Takeru told me what goes on in that house, and I sure as hell don't like it. Hisahito needs to take responsibility."

Aki's eyes sharpened, shutting Crow up. "And Ryoko's told me what goes on. Our relationship with the Homuras isn't on good ground as it is. We don't need it collapsing. Not for Ryoko's sake. Certainly not for Takeru's."

Crow had no response. Aki was right—any ruckus with the Homuras is bound to reflect on Ryoko and Takeru. And after all they've gone through, they certainly don't need the embarrassment. But that damn Hisahito made it so difficult.

"We'll talk about this later," Crow said. "We gotta check on Takeru." As soon as Crow grabbed his cane, he heard footsteps scurry towards Takeru's temporary room. Crow and Aki looked at each other, Aki's eyes as wide as Crow's must've been.

Oh shit.