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The Softest End

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Yusaku slowly opens his eyes, seeing the sun peaking through his old blinds and hurting his eyes. It must be dawn, already. He was up late last night, struggling through the first signs of a cold, as his inner night owl and witch appreciated the moon’s beauty. He’d known then it was stupid to stay awake, but he’d done it anyway.

He’s got a lot to do today, just as he always does. So even if his bed is nice and warm, even if his head hurts, his throat is sore and his nose is threatening to run, he gets up and starts getting ready. Getting into his black cloak, signifying him as the city witch, he then climbs the stairs to reach the top of the skyscraper.

On top is a beautiful garden, filled with flowers, herbs and all sorts of medicinal plants. Yusaku's been cultivating this garden since before the world ended, at first because of his personal interest in witchcraft, now to benefit Den City. Miyu wanted to put some violets in the salad she'd be making for herself and Aoi in a grand dinner to celebrate an anniversary. Ryoken appears to be struggling with insomnia if his own observations and Spectre’s thoughts are anything to go on. He needs to make himself a cold remedy too.

Yusaku, lucky for all of them, knows exactly the right plants for the right job.

After watering the plants, removing invasive species and pruning the plants, Yusaku realizes the sun is starting to truly rise. Meaning the rest of Den City will be waking up, now is the time to do the other tasks.

Yusaku digs up a few pieces of lavender and replants them in a small pot that could fit on someone's bedside table. Then he picks some violets and puts them in the wicker basket he finished weaving a week ago. With both plants under his arms, he takes the emergency stairs down the side of the building, avoiding the bustle and hustle inside the skyscraper and any chance of spreading his cold to anyone else.

"Yusaku!"

Yusaku pauses in his walk and looks up. Jin is waving down at him, half hanging onto his washing line, a basket of clothes balancing on the window sill.

"You going anywhere important? You look like you're in a hurry." Jin smirks, grabbing a shirt to hang it on the line.

Yusaku nods at his childhood friend, swallowing to make sure his voice won’t come out horse. If Jin notices his cold, he’ll never hear the end of it, "Yeah! Got a delivery for Miyu and Spectre!"

Jin hums, putting the shirt on the line, pulling two pegs off the jacket he's wearing, "Sweet, Shoichi's about to take the hotdog truck to central! See if he can drop you off at one of those two’s places on the way."

Yusaku blinks and nods, oh thank Hecate he doesn’t think he could walk there, "Got it, thanks!"

Jin grins and claps, "You go, my magical friend!"

Yusaku rolls his eyes and starts climbing down the stairs, trying to subtly lean on the railing, "Best of luck with your clothes then!"

"Thank you! Later, Yusaku!" Jin calls.

Yusaku picks up the pace slightly, spotting a few familiar faces through their windows. Go Onizuka is helping the kids get ready for a day at the library, learning the vital skills to teach them to survive in this new world. Takeru is dressing for a Wanderer Mission, red scarf at the ready. Everyone is contributing to the city in one way or another and he can’t let a cold stop him from doing the same. He spots the hotdog truck and a pair of legs under it.

"Shoichi!" Yusaku shouts.

Luckily Shoichi doesn't injure himself when he pulls himself out from behind the truck on his skateboard. Shoichi gives him a wave, a bit of grease on his nose and forehead.

"Can I get a lift?! Delivery for Spectre and Miyu!" Yusaku calls down, voice breaking, shit please not hear that.

Shoichi laughs and gives him a thumbs up, "Sure thing, but you're on set up and making my breakfast!"

He didn’t notice. Good. Yusaku gets moving, "Deal!" 

Shoichi is packing his tools by the time Yusaku reaches ground floor, "You sleeping any better, night owl?"

Yusaku gives him the stink eye, an answer enough of itself. Shoichi laughs, finishes cleaning his hands and the two of them climb into the hotdog truck, Yusaku in the back and Shoichi in the front. Yusaku sits down as he waits for them to get to the market.

It’s located where the town square once resided. It’s where a lot of Den City's few remaining residents trade goods and services most days of the year. Shoichi is the only one with a hot food truck left and has managed to get his coffee machine attached to a solar panel, so people will trade with him in exchange for the things he can provide them. Shoichi typically gets tools and spare parts for the truck as payment, along with any kind of food people are willing to trade, like fresh vegetables.

When they reach the town square, Yusaku isn't surprised to find a line of people waiting outside Shoichi's usual space. He sets up shop and while Shoichi deals with his first customers, Yusaku fries a few eggs, sausages and bacon for his friend and himself. When the early birds are gone, the two settle to eat.

“Hey bud, you okay?” Shoichi is looking at him critically as Yusaku wolfs down his food, “You’re in an awful rush.”

Yusaku swallows and waits a moment to work out a good excuse, “It’s not an emergency, but I’d like to complete the deliveries sooner rather than later.” 

It’s an easy one, since Shoichi knows he’s not the kind of person who likes to linger. The world ending only made that worse.

“I see, but you do look a little pale and you were with Go Onizuka’s kids after they all caught colds in last week’s storm.” Shoichi takes a bite of the fried egg and smiles at him, “Just look after yourself, okay?”

Yusaku smiles a little for his friend and nods, “Promise.”

He finishes his food and cleans up, as the next string of customers arrive. Shoichi waves to him and Yusaku starts wandering among the stalls, set on finding Spectre or Miyu in the market.

Finding Miyu is easy. She's got a load of fresh fish right in front of her and a massive crowd of people trying to trade for it. Finding meat is hard in this new world, but Miyu is the best fisher in Den City and the one most people go to if they really need the protein. She can only sell her hall once a week, due to travel time to her favorite fishing spot and back to Den City. But it's well worth it, considering there's always a crowd when she gets back.

Crowds don't concern Yusaku though. When they notice his black cloak, they start parting immediately. As one of the City Witches, he's the one with the most medical and herbal knowledge, which is vital since they ran out of mass produced medicine a year ago. People have to make way for him when he’s wearing his cloak, because it means he’s on duty and someone might need him.

“Yusaku!” Miyu cheers when she sees the people parting, “Oh, did you bring the violets?”

Yusaku nods and shows her the wicker basket, “Is this enough?”

“That’s one too many, I think!” Miyu giggles and runs around her side of the stall. 

She plucks a flower from the basket and puts it over Yusaku’s ear. Yusaku blinks, staring at her in bewilderment.

Miyu pulls back and giggles, “There, now you look all pretty for Ryoken!”

Yusaku flushes and hands her the basket, “You just wasted a perfectly good flower.”

Miyu rolls her eyes, used to his no nonsense attitude from being children together, “Yeah, yeah, it won’t be a waste if Ryoken thinks you’re pretty.”

Yusaku rolls his own eyes, “Best of luck with the crowd, Miyu. Don’t forget to grab me some dandelions, seeds still attached while you’re by the river, okay?”

“A promise is a promise!” Miyu giggles and walks around the other side of her stall, “Good day, Yusaku, hope you get to see Ryoken today!”

Yusaku shakes his head at her, somehow not losing the violet in his hair and goes on his way, with only the pot of lavenders to worry about now. It’s a good herb for helping relieve anxiety and if anyone could use it, it’d be Ryoken.

Ryoken Kogami is one of his 5 childhood friends still with him after the world ended. As a member of Den City Council, he’s often busy overseeing the Wanderer Missions, organising internal security with the Guardians, resolving any disputes and a million other tasks you wouldn’t expect the City Council to be responsible for. As the youngest member of the City Council, Ryoken is often the one treated like the equivalent of the coffee boy, on top of all his other duties.

So Yusaku walks on, even as his vision starts to blur a little.


 

Ryoken finishes transcribing the meeting and groans as he rubs his eyes, staying in his seat even as everyone else leaves for the morning. 

Being a member of the D.C.C comes with benefits, such as being one of the few people who can still use computers, but it isn’t easy. Ryoken’s job revolves entirely around using his access to technology to transcribe the meetings, but he wishes he could do more for the city than keep records of what people were saying.

“Ryoken?”

He turns his head towards Spectre, his childhood friend and part of the reason he’s stayed sane in all this. He’s holding a glass of water and offering it to him.

“Thank you, Spectre.” Ryoken takes the glass gratefully, drinking from it, “How’s the library going?”

Spectre hums, “Very well. More people in the city have been able to access the internet and get in touch with other survivors beyond our borders, thanks to you pushing for the Solar Panel Retrieval Mission.”

Ryoken sips from his glass, putting it down gently, “I’m glad.”

There’s still more they could do though, if they could just get the man power and the equipment to bring back more solar panels. The ones the city currently had were few and far between, used only for three buildings; the hospital, the D.C.C building and the library. If he could help just one person through his work to get their city up and running, then he’d be happy.

Still, he won’t lie and say that having to stare at a computer screen all day was a very fulfilling role. If anything, having to be the transcriber for the meetings, the one who had to chase people up on their progress and boil coffee over a campfire for everyone, was rather exhausting. Yet his body couldn’t get the memo when he was actually in his bed and ready to sleep.

No point in getting annoyed about it now though. 

Ryoken chugs the rest of his water and closes his laptop, handing Spectre the glass, “I need to find Kiku and ask her report on any incidents the Guardians had to deal with.” 

Spectre hums, “I do believe she was scheduled to volunteer at the orphanage today?”

Ryoken nods and the two start walking out the room, down the hallway, “Thank you. Then I’ll need to talk to Takeru about the mission he did this morning.”

“I do believe he’ll be at the Wanderers’ HQ?” Spectre follows him through the hall free of windows, then chuckles, “If he’s not, I’d assume he’s hanging out with Kiku.”

Ryoken nods as they enter the stairways, “Thank you, Spectre, I wouldn’t be able to do this job without you.”

Spectre giggles, “That’s why the City Council members all have assistants, old friend.”

Ryoken smiles, shaking his head a little, “True.”

After he does all that, plus hand their reports to Akira Zaizen, the Head of the City Council, he can visit the library to see if he can fix one of the hard drives and find a book on his ... secret mission. 

That’s what he’s been calling it at least, since he hasn’t even told Spectre about it. Why? Because he’d never hear the end of it. Inappropriate gestures whenever he was in a room with him , endless teasing over his love struck expressions around him , forced dates and failed attempts at romantic endeavours.

Yeah, Spectre may make a wonderful assistant and en even better friend, but if he ever learned of his crush on the city witch with the greenest eyes and prettiest smile, Ryoken would probably die of shame.

They reach the bottom of the staircase without any more incidents and return to the outside world, where who should be walking towards him but the object of his affection, himself. 

Long black cloak billowing in the wind, those green eyes he’s loved for years, blue and pink hair fringing over his head. Wearing worn out jeans, sneakers and a soft looking white shirt. Yusaku Fujiki is a vision in the sunlight, a violet flower on his ear.

“Ryoken, here.” Yusaku walks towards him, holding a pot of flowers.

Ryoken blinks as he approaches, trying to think around the fuzzy part of his brain that’s freaking out about his crush calling his name. It really shouldn’t make his heart beat this hard, he should be used to this, “Yusaku, what a pleasant surprise.”

Yusaku gives him a soft smile, like the petals of the flower he has on his ear and Ryoken’s heart melts. He swears he hears angels sing, or something equally as sappy and improbable. But Yusaku has always done that to his heart, even when they were children and Ryoken didn’t understand the affection he held for his closest friend.

“My oh my, what might you be doing with that pot of lavender, Fujiki?” Spectre chuckles as if it’s all a part of his master plan and yep, the angel singing has come to a screeching halt.

Yusaku raises an eyebrow at him, then turns towards Ryoken, “I heard that you were struggling to sleep lately. Lavender has a calming effect, but if it gets worse, I have a few other remedies for insomnia and sleep struggles.”

Ryoken’s heart is touched and he smiles at Yusaku, taking the small pot he offers him, “Thank you, Yusaku, you’re much too kind.”

Yusaku smiles at him and shakes his head, the flower staying in place, “It’s nothing. You’re incredibly dedicated to making life better for everyone in the city. We all do our part, where we can. This is mine.”

Ryoken swallows a little sharply and shrugs, “I only wish I could do more. Thank you.”

Yusaku nods and… is that his imagination, or is he blushing and pale?

Ryoken’s eyes narrow, “Yusaku, are you feeling well?”

Yusaku stiffens like he caught him hiding a secret and, “I’m fine.”

He’s lying. He’s looking a little off balance, eyes darting around, trying hard to stay still. But it’s not his place to force him to tell him what’s wrong. So instead…

“Very well then.” Ryoken walks towards the bike rack, “I needed to drop off this plant at my house before I run anymore errands. I don’t know anything about caring for it, so would you be willing to join me?”

Yusaku blinks at him, while behind his back, Spectre gives him a thumbs up. Damn him.

Yusaku slowly nods and walks over to him, “Okay then, thank you Ryoken.”

The bike isn’t meant to be for two, but there’s handles on the back wheel Yusaku can stand on, and he settles his hands on Ryoken’s shoulders for balance. Ryoken swallows hard, trying not to let the touch get to him.

Then he rides.


 

Yusaku is feeling dizzy by the time they reach Ryoken’s apartment complex, holding onto Ryoken’s shoulders and keeping his legs locked in what feels like an effort to save his life. He knows he’s not in any danger, but still his mind is slipping, as his body’s health plummets. When they finally stop, Yusaku has to carefully control his breathing to keep himself from panting heavily and loudly, letting on just how much he’s been affected by the journey.

“Yusaku?”

Yusaku opens his eyes and slowly climbs off the bike, holding onto Ryoken’s shoulders as he does, “Yeah?”

Ryoken is looking at him in clear concern, “Would you like some water when we get to my apartment? You look a little pale.”

Oh shit. Yusaku waves him off, “I’m fine, Ryoken, really-”

Ryoken presses a hand to his forehead and Yusaku’s breathe hitches. His face heats up, getting to look so deeply into his blue eyes, an electric colour that sends his heart racing. Why does the world look so fuzzy? Since when did he need glasses? 

“Yusaku!”

Yusaku shakes his head, trying to rid himself of the dizziness and finds himself looking up at the sky and Ryoken’s concerned face. Damnit, it’s worse than he thought.

“Sorry.” Yusaku’s voice breaks and he swallows.

Ryoken shakes his head, “Hang on.”

Yusaku turns his head, hiding it on Ryoken’s arm. Damnit, the sun’s too bright. Ryoken maneuvers him until Yusaku is on his back, his arms around his neck. Ryoken wraps his arms around his legs and starts carrying him up the emergency stairs.

“Sorry.” Yusaku murmurs, resting his head on Ryoken’s, “I’m being a burden.”

“You’re not, Yusaku, I promise.” Ryoken pants a little as he carries him, “If anything, you’re helping me even now. I needed a break from D.C.C work, anyway.”

Yusaku groans, his head aching, “But I have responsibilities. I shouldn’t let a cold get the best of me.”

He’s so ashamed.

Ryoken is silent up two flights of stairs, before speaking again, “Yusaku, your dedication is admirable but no one would expect you to overwork yourself for the city. We all support each other, that’s why we have so many systems and organisations in place to look after each other. Just focus on getting better now and resting. That’s how you can help the city most.”

Yusaku blinks and smiles, nuzzling into Ryoken’s neck. He’s warm and smells good.

“Thank you, Ryoken.” Yusaku murmurs, relaxing almost fully as his cold takes him.

He doesn’t notice that the violet in his hair has stayed in place all this time. Just like Ryoken.