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Something like Spring

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When he was young, he’d lay down in a field of flowers and look up at the sky. He had no troubles back then. He was just excited about the world that spread before his eyes…

That was the first time Ryoken opened up to him.

On that day, they had steeled their hearts and headed into the final battle. The Ignis of Light had been driven mad with hate and pain, corrupted beyond reach, and refused to stop. In his mind, his righteousness was undisputable.

If they were to have the future they wanted, crossing swords with the Ignis was inevitable. Yusaku could never have accepted his wrongdoings. The end of humanity would be the end of all.

Although Revolver was on the verge of winning, the desperate Lightning resorted to cheating. Before they knew what was happening, their Duel ended in a draw.

And Yusaku had to lose Ryoken again

But that was all in the past now.

The future they’d fought for was within their grasp, though it had only come at a great cost. But Yusaku still accepted Ryoken for who he was. Every time he remembered their battles and how far they’ve come together, he felt his heart swell up with emotions. Their life together now was happy and peaceful.

And that was how it would stay.

It felt surreal to know it was possible to love a person so much like this. Ryoken was very good to him in many ways. To Yusaku he’d been considerate, caring, attentive and always concerned with his health, his needs. Sometimes Yusaku felt like Ryoken’s been spoiling him, though he had assured him that it was loving, not spoiling. Yusaku tended to just shrug and blush in agreement.

Ryoken definitely could afford to spoil him with expensive clothes, food and other stuff. But Yusaku also felt that Ryoken has also spoiled him with something that can’t be bought, and it was his time and affection. Even with work, Ryoken had proven to him several times that he had always been his top priority. He had given him so much that sometimes Yusaku wondered if he deserved him.

Was he taking good care of him in return?

Even now, he wondered if he was doing enough for Ryoken.

Then on one spring day…

They decided to go out and hang out at Café Nagi, but then Yusaku noticed something wrong with Ryoken. At first Yusaku had thought it was just lack of sleep. The rest of the day, Ryoken had been strangely withdrawn. Quiet. Almost sluggish. He was spacing out a lot.

Later that night, it was almost time for dinner and Yusaku hadn’t heard a peep out of him when they got home. When he went to check up on him in his room, he saw Ryoken on the bed, but he somehow didn’t look right. His breathing was ragged. His snowy hair was soaking wet and plastered to his head. Sweat flowed down his face and neck, and his cheeks were bright red.

“Ryoken…?” Yusaku walked up to the bed, concern etched on his face. He pressed his hand to his temple and hissed from the heat. A formless anxiety rose in his chest. “No way…”

He quickly dashed to the bathroom to get the thermometer out of the mirror cabinet. When he returned and tested him, it came back with an awful temperature of 38.8°C. Ryoken had a fever. A real bad one.

Ryoken?” Yusaku called out, gentle shaking his shoulder to rouse him.

Ryoken winced as he looked at him, even though the room was relatively dim. His blue eyes were glazed with fever, but he tried to smile. He was very pale. “I must have fallen asleep… Is dinner ready?” He tried to sit up, but everything started spinning and he got dizzy and a little nauseous. He brought a hand to the side of his head. “My head…feels like its cracking open.”

“Take it easy.” A hand on his shoulder, Yusaku eased Ryoken back on the pillow and sat down beside him. With a frown of concern, he placed a hand against his cheek. “You’re running a fever, Ryoken. I’ve got to call a doctor.”

“There’s no need for that.”

“Then let me just call Spectre—”

“He’s gonna fuss over me like a mother hen. Besides, it’s just the flu.”

Swallowing his panic down, Yusaku let out a sigh. “Then I’m staying with you.”

Ryoken’s sudden change in expression left Yusaku a bit disoriented for a moment. He looked rather concerned. “I don’t want you getting sick either so—”

“Shut up and let me take care of you,” Yusaku chided, his tone stern. “You’re sick and you need rest, and don’t forget that I’m your partner. You have me to take care of you and help you in any way I can.”

An expression of astonishment took its place upon Ryoken’s face before a smile tugged his lips. His handsome features had taken on a touch of gentleness, and in his eyes glowed and burned a fever of passion and unrest. “You’d still do it even if I say no. Well… I guess it wouldn’t hurt to be spoiled by you.”

Yusaku could only pout. Something about Ryoken’s tone made him unsure as to whether he was serious or just joking. “Wait here. I’ll go get medicine and water.” He tried not run from the room. He moved quickly to grab a pitcher of water, some Koolfevers and paracetamols from the medicine cabinet.

Upon returning, Yusaku watched briefly as Ryoken squirmed restlessly on the bed from the fever. His skin was flushed and clammy, and his breathing was raspy and labored. Ryoken’s shirt was also dreadfully soaked with sweat. He just took his eyes off him for a minute and Ryoken already looked worse. Damn.

He rushed to get a basin of water and a clean towel from the bathroom. Ryoken needed to be sponged down with the hope it would get the fever lower.

“Yusaku…water…”

Yusaky poured a glass and helped him drink it.

“Thank you…”

“I’m taking your shirt off. You’re really hot.”

Ryoken had the decency to smirk. “Glad you think so.”

Yusaku tried not to roll his eyes and focused on his objective. “I’m giving you a sponge bath, okay? I need to get you cooled down.”

“You’re welcome to touch me anytime.”

Was that flirting? Or was Ryoken being delirious? Hard to tell whether it was teasing or not as Yusaku helped Ryoken sit up on the bed.

It took some effort to vehemently ignore the fluttering in his stomach once he worked on the buttons of Ryoken’s shirt. He unbuttoned them carefully, exposing his skin bit by bit. His heart stuttered, eyes catching sight of the pendant he gave him. It was a beautiful piece of two interlocking silver rings, each decorated with a brilliant gemstone that symbolized the color of their eyes. It brought him nothing but joy every time he sees it hanging from his neck. It was a symbol of the link that bonded them together...

But then his eyes found themselves traveling over the toned muscles of Ryoken’s chest, lower to his abs. He inwardly shuddered and swallowed. From the very core of his soul, he strove to resist the temptation to feel those muscles under his palm, instead concentrating on his care.

His fingers were cool as they brushed lightly against Ryoken’s skin, his eyes intent on the task. When he pushed the shirt off his shoulders, Yusaku’s inside began to melt, and his throat felt suddenly drier than the Sahara. Ryoken was topless in front of him, tantalizing even in such a state. He found himself swallowing hard again, exerting much effort to move his eyes from the enticing expanse.

He had the most uncontrollable urge to kiss him, and he scolded himself for it.

He immediately placed the towel into the water and squeezed the excess from it. He started with Ryoken’s face and began to wash his body rubbing firmly and gently. As he washed, he watched Ryoken struggling for his breath and couldn’t help but remember the time Ryoken took care of him when he was sick.

As he pulled a clean fresh shirt down over his torso, his ministrations roused him from his stupor. He then gave him medicine and some water to keep him hydrated. He also opened a pack of Koolfever and placed it on Ryoken’s forehead to help regulate his temperature.

“I’ll go make you some porridge,” Yusaku said. Though he was reluctant to leave Ryoken alone again, he needed to feed him.

“I’m not really hungry.”

“I will make you food and you’re gonna eat it. No buts.”

“You sound like Spectre.”

Yusaku almost glared, tucking the comforter carefully around him.

Ryoken lightly chuckled. “Will you be okay?” he asked, voice raspy and faint.

“Kusanagi-san taught me how. I’ll manage,” Yusaku assured him, then off he went to the kitchen to work on his porridge.

Before long…

Yusaku was on his way back, porridge in hand. Of course, once he started feeding him, Ryoken’s expressions became a bit odd. Did he not like it? Was the taste off? Did he forget to add something? He hesitated for a while before he asked, “So, um, how is it?”

“I’m not sure… I’m probably losing my sense of taste because of the fever, but…” Ryoken’s lips curved into a warm smile. “I think it tastes good. It's making me feel better already.”

“R-Really?”

“Yes…”

Yusaku was so glad that his heart was practically jumping up and down with joy. He scooped up another spoonful. “Then you better finish this all, okay?”

Ryoken’s face was still slack and pale, but he swallowed every spoonful of porridge Yusaku offered. To see him eat something he made was fulfilling. He needed the food, warmth and rest, and Yusaku was there to make sure he had them.

Eventually, Ryoken finished the entire bowl and drank another glass of water. “Are you going to stay with me the whole night?”

“Of course. Don’t try to convince me not to,” Yusaku replied. He was more than willing and happy to stay beside Ryoken.

“I see…” Ryoken looked a bit troubled. Yusaku knew he hated not having complete control of any given situation at all times and didn’t want to cause him any trouble, but with his assurance, Ryoken seemed to relax. “About this… Don’t tell Spectre, Dr. Taki or any of the Knights, please…”

Yusaku understood why Ryoken didn’t want them to know. He didn’t want them to worry. “I won’t tell them, so rest assured.”

His response appeared to set Ryoken at ease. He let out a soft sigh of relief before settling back onto the pillows, his eyes quickly closing from the exertion. “You know… When I was a child, Dr. Taki used to make me porridge whenever I get sick. She would feed me and nurse me back to health the way you do. I’m reminded of those times. I usually try to hide the fact that I was sick, but she could always tell. She’d always scold me for not telling. I feel bad for all the trouble I’ve caused…not to just to her, but all of them.”

They’ve been dating for months now, but Ryoken rarely talks about his childhood. Yusaku showed an interest in them ever since that day on the flower field but never pried. Ryoken wasn’t one to openly show weakness and vulnerabilities. As leader, he was forced to push through the pain, trying to be tough, showing everyone he was fine when really he was not. But he also had a large, giving and sympathetic heart. He was fiercely loyal and devoted to those he loved. And Yusaku had felt Ryoken’s love showered endlessly upon him every day.

“On second thought, maybe I should tell Dr. Taki, so she could scold you for overworking,” Yusaku meant to tease, but his tone sounded way too serious to come off as a joke.

Ryoken looked a little shocked. “Please, no… I’ll be good.”

“People are allowed to worry about you. It shows that they care.”

The Knights have served and followed Ryoken for years, and took care of him like a real family should. That was proof enough that they loved him.

“And that includes you?” There was a hint of tease in the way Ryoken said it.

Yusaku fought the blush rising to his cheeks. Ryoken had the galls to be this cheeky even when sick.  

 

 

00000

 

 

It was a long night and Yusaku never left Ryoken’s side. His back kind of ached from leaning over him, sponging him endlessly and changing his cooling pad. A couple of times he saw Ryoken’s face twisting in pain. If it had been a bad dream, he would have woken him up immediately, but this was no nightmare. Even in his sleep, his fever was causing him trouble.

Gently, he wiped the sweat from his face. He was being so careful, so attentive. It saddened him to see Ryoken in such a state, but all he could do was to be patient and hope for the best.

Eventually, the fever seemed to dissipate and Ryoken slept peacefully.

Yusaku sighed in relief. He was tired, but the trouble had been so worth it. He still had to monitor Ryoken’s temperature just in case, and once he realized the Koolfever needed changing, he opened another pack and applied the new one.

“Mmm, Yusaku…” Ryoken mumbled in his sleep as he shifted slightly.

Yusaku froze, not breathing until Ryoken relaxed and began to snore softly like the breeze. To hear his name slip from his lips while he dreamed jumpstarted his heart to the point it almost leapt out of his chest. But it made him quite happy.

He let himself smile as he took one of Ryoken’s hands that was peeking out from under the covers. He squeezed it gently in his. Leaning over, he whispered words of affection into Ryoken’s ear, reassuring him that he’ll be right there when he needed him. Finally, he couldn’t help sitting on the floor by his bed, laying his head against the blanket and dozing off.

Sometime later, Yusaku felt him stirring. He raised his head to find a pair of blue eyes slowly fluttering open. Ryoken blinked sleepily and his gaze drifted over to Yusaku’s face.

“Yusaku…?”

“How are you feeling?”

“Better than last night… I think.” Ryoken’s voice was still weak.

“Are you sure you’re just not saying that?”

“I’m fine…” Ryoken’s mouth twitched into a shaky, wry smile. “Is the sun up already?”

“Yeah. Do you want to sit up?”

“Sure...”

Yusaku helped steady him as he sat up, conscious of his warmth.

“You never left my side, huh?” Ryoken asked.

“Is there something wrong with that?”

Ryoken’s face came closer to Yusaku’s, and his blue eyes narrowed slightly as he studied him. Yusaku felt his heart race like a galloping horse. “Don’t tell me you didn’t sleep a wink last night?”

“That’s…not true.”

Ryoken raised an eyebrow. “Really now?”

Yusaku may appear somewhat calm, but inside his mind was scrambling to think up a convincing explanation. Just then, he heard a voice coming up from behind him.

“Don’t believe him, Ryoken-chan!”

Of all the blasted timing… Yuskau swore he almost jumped in fright, and he immediately shot the AI a glare. “What are you doing here, Ai?”

Electing to ignore Yusaku, the Dark Ignis focused his attention on Ryoken. “This guy’s been too busy caring for you to sleep.”

“What? Are you telling me you’ve been here since last night?”

“You’re gonna get yourself sick too if you’re not careful, Yusaku-chan,” Ai told him off.

Ryoken grinned at Yusaku. “You’re getting some sleep.”

Yusaku inwardly groaned. He was starting to think that having Ai and Ryoken together as friends was more of a curse than a blessing. Sometimes, Ai resembled Ryoken more than him. He can’t believe they’d both ganged up on him like this. “For your information, I did get some sleep.”

Ai snorted. “You just dozed off for like 30 minutes. Hardly counts.”

“I’ll rest when he’s all better,” Yusaku told Ai. He was happy that they were both concerned about him, but he was still worried about Ryoken’s health. He didn’t want to leave him. “I’ll go make you some more porridge.” He looked back at Ryoken. “Don’t even think about getting out of this room, got it?”

“Don’t worry, Yusaku, Ai will keep an eye on him,” Ai announced cheerfully.

“Any reason why you never bothered showing yourself until now?” Yusaku questioned him, looking annoyed.

“Well... I couldn’t find the right timing last night,” Ai said with a snicker. “It seemed like a delicious experience for you, and I didn’t want to interrupt.”

Yusaku’s cheeks had burned an impressive shade of red, and he seemed ready to crawl under the bed and hide. At the same time, he felt the urge to just squeeze the living daylights out of Ai. On the other hand, Ryoken cleared his throat, desperately awkward under the luminous eyes of the Ignis that he had somehow grown fond of.

"Y-You're spouting nonsense as usual, Ai,” Yusaku retorted, getting up from the bed and hurried towards the door.

“Aww, is Yusaku-chan embarrassed?”

“Shut it and watch over him.” And with that, Yusaku left the room.

Ryoken sighed. “Do you really have to tease him like that?”

“Why not? It’s fun. Besides, you were doing it too last night.”

“That...was different.”

“Oh, right, you were flirting.”

“I wasn’t...” Denial ready on his tongue, Ryoken decided to snap his mouth shut on the last second. He let out a sigh. “Guess I wanted to be spoiled a bit.”

"Oh?” Ai chuckled, a familiar note of amusement reminding Ryoken of his usual pranks whenever he’s being particularly mischievous. “You should let Yusaku spoil you often then. He actually likes taking care of you.”

Something warm hit Ryoken’s chest with a stunning force. “He made that very clear to me,” he muttered almost in a whisper, welcoming the emotions that he has become so accustomed with ever since he got together with Yusaku.  He still somewhat felt guilty that he’d been the cause for Yusaku’s lack of sleep, but Yusaku made him feel so loved.

“He’ll make a good husband, huh?”

“You’re right...” Ryoken gave off a sad smile. “What did I ever do to deserve him?”

“Hmm...” Ai settled down on Ryoken’s lap, sitting like a pretzel. “Believe me, you’ve done plenty. And would you stop thinking you don’t deserve him? Sure, maybe it’s your messed-up past that gets you down. Or you see Yusaku as someone you could defile with all your imperfections, but... Newsflash, Yusaku doesn’t want you to do that.”

Ryoken’s lips quirked upwards in something resembling a smile at the slight teasing of Ai’s words, but he was not irked by them. Ai said the words simply and with ultimate sincerity in the way he knows how. 

“I’ve learned a lot by being with humans, and I know that none of us are perfect.” There was something soft about Ai’s expression now. “There are times Yusaku thinks he doesn’t deserve you. He has his own insecurities. He’s no stranger to pain or rejection.”

“Ai...”

“Thing is... Yusaku will always believe that you’re worth it, and he wants you to know that it’s okay to let him carry you too, like you’ve done for him so many times. Bottomline here... it’s really not about the deserve, Ryoken-chan; it’s about what you believe!” Ai finished off, pumping a cheerful fist in the air.

A sigh escaped him, and Ryoken poked Ai’s head affectionately. He was grateful and comforted by Ai’s words. “You’ve gotten better at giving pep talks, Ai.”

Looking a little embarrassed by the compliment, Ai sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. “Gotta watch out for my emotionally-constipated parents after all...”

Who would have thought that he’d turned out to be the parent of the most carefree and laziest AI among the Ignis? Oh, the irony of it all... But Ryoken realized a long time ago that Ai was way smarter than people gave him credit for.

“You’re still way too carefree for an AI,” Ryoken said just to poke fun, “especially since you just like lazing around the field every day.”

Ai shrugged. “And who do you think I got that from?”

Ryoken knew very well who, but decided not to answer. “By the way, the flowers must have bloomed in Cyberse by now.”

“Oh, yeah! Those new blue flowers will bloom tomorrow. Spectre and Earth have done a great job with the flower field! Really perfect for Spring.” Ai sounded so delighted. “You and Yusaku should come when you’re all better. Then we can laze around all day!”

At that, Ryoken snorted, shaking his head in amusement. But the idea didn’t sound bad. “I’d very much like that.”

 

 

00000

 

 

The next morning, Ryoken was feeling much better and had made the journey to Stardust Road from his mansion. The weather was good, cold but manageable. But then a gust of frigid wind rolled in off the sea, and he shivered visibly as he tightened the scarf around his neck.

“Ryoken! What are you doing out here?”

At the sound of his voice Ryoken turned to greet him with a smile. “Nice day for a walk, huh?”

“Why the hell are you out in this cold when you just recovered?”

“I’m all right, don’t worry,” Ryoken assured, but Yusaku went ahead and grabbed his hand.

“Don’t give me that,” Yusaku retorted, scowling at him. “You didn’t even drink your medicine yet. We can’t take any chances.” His anger came from a place of concern—that much was obvious—and he was worried that Ryoken might get sick again.

The thought of it all made Ryoken delighted.

“What are you grinning for? This isn’t a joke, Ryoken.”

“I really am not sick anymore and that’s because of you, Yusaku.” A beautiful smile bloomed across Ryoken’s lips. “Thank you for taking care of me while I was sick,” he said softly, caressing his cheek lightly.

Yusaku’s eyes met his, intensely blue, and he felt like he could drown in them. The force of his emotions came sweeping in with the heat crawling up to his face. The pounding of heart increased along with the warmth inside. He knew he should bring Ryoken back into the mansion, but couldn’t find the strength. Instead, he closed his eyes and held the hand on his cheek, enjoying his touch and the respite it gave him. “I’ll always take care of you no matter what,” he finally said under his breath.

“Me too…” Ryoken’s breath caressed his cheek and was soon replaced by the softness of his lips.

For several long moments, an eternity it seemed, they shared a kiss, gently intoxicating kiss that filled them both with emotion, locked in each other’s arms. Their lips had meshed into a perfect oneness as their hearts matched each other, beat for rapid beat.

Yusaku moaned, getting drunk by the kiss, the sound rising from deep within him. A sound full of pleasure and yearning. He was drowning in satisfaction until Ryoken pulled back to stroke his cheek.

Looking into eyes of green, Ryoken saw his whole world staring back at him.

“A-Anyway...” Yusaku tore his gaze away, looking terribly shy and awkward. “You still shouldn’t be out here. I’d rather have you in Link VRAINS than here.”

“Speaking of Link VRAINS...” Ryoken muttered under his breath, cupping his chin in sudden thought. “Hm... They should have bloomed by now.”

Yusaku blinked at him in curiosity. “Bloomed?”

“Let’s go, Yusaku.”

“Wait! Where are we going?”

Ryoken didn’t answer, and instead pulled Yusaku along with him back to the mansion, where they linked into the VRAINS. But it wasn’t long before they found themselves in a field of newly bloomed—

“Bluebells?” Yusaku—now Playmaker said, staring in awe at the sight before him.

Spring was definitely in the air, and the most beautiful Bluebell flowers were currently blooming in their full glory on the vast fields of the Earth Ignis’s territory in Cyberse, covering an area about 8.6 hectares. The brilliant blue petals have transformed the landscape into rolling waves of sea that seemed to merge earth and sky.

Revolver took in the sight, and Playmaker thought he could see a hint of nostalgia in his eyes. Then he shook his head, and held out a hand to him. “Do you trust me, Playmaker?”

Playmaker wasn’t sure what he actually meant by that or what Revolver wanted to do, but he knew it deep in his heart that he could always trust him. He nodded at him and took his hand without question. Before he knew it, Revolver pulled him down in the grass to lie beside him, much to his utter surprise.

And for the first time in a long while Revolver laughed, a long hearty laugh. Playmaker couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the way it made Revolver looked so innocent, so childlike. As soon as the laughter faded, he removed his mask and looked up into the sky.

“The last time I was lying in a flower field like this... I had to say goodbye to you and Ai,” Revolver muttered, a bittersweet smile tugging the corners of his lips.

Playmaker remembered that time well, and he felt sad thinking about it.

“I’ve never been this happy for this long. I can’t help feeling afraid of the possibility that one day it might just end... In the past, each day had been different—I never knew what might happen. Back when I was a cyber-terrorist and tried to kill himself, or when we were battling with the Ignis, I never felt afraid. I had nothing to lose...”

His voice trailed off, and Revolver had never looked more beautiful and gentler. It made Playmaker feel more drawn to him. 

“Now all our days seem to blend together in harmony. The happiness I get to experience with you feels so natural that I’d never ever want to lose it. But sometimes I don’t feel like I’ve done good enough to deserve to have you in my life.”

“Me too...” Playmaker said almost in a whisper, his heart pounding with desire and affection for him. He snuggled against him, head on his shoulder, one hand splayed across his chest. “I feel the same way.”

“We overthink things a little too much, huh?”

“Yeah...”

Revolver wrapped an arm around him, bringing him closer, and they grinned like children when their cheeks touched. The warmth of their bodies pressed up against one another made them feel content. They could spend the whole day here soaking up the warm rays of the sun. It felt like heaven.

Just then, Playmaker yawned...

“Getting sleepy?”

“A bit...”

“I’m sorry for keeping you up...”

Playmaker shook his head. “You’re worth the trouble,” he whispered, making Revolver’s heart flutter in his chest.

“You’re also worth it, Yusaku...” Revolver twined his fingers with Playmaker’s. His eyes looked deeply into green before he gave him a peck on the forehead. “In the language of flowers Bluebells symbolizes gratitude, constancy, and everlasting love. My feelings for you will never change, and don’t ever forget that I want you to be happy always.”

Playmaker couldn’t count the number of wonderful memories he had made with this man. The choices they had to make in the past had been difficult ones. There was no question that they had lost something getting here, but they’ve also gained much in return.

Revolver gave him another smile, and then he brought his gaze back at the sky. When Playmaker looked at him, he could see the young boy he met all those years ago.

A warm spring breeze drifted across them, and Playmaker’s heart felt so light that it might get blown away with it. As they lay there, looking at the sky, a satisfied smile stretched across his face. If possible, he wanted to stay like this always—wrapped in his embrace, the slow rise and fall of his chest lulling him to sleep.

His eyes began to drift closed and soon he was in the land of dreams.