Rain fell soft and cold upon the empty night streets of Sariashiki. The train tracks high above Yusuke's ramen shop were silent with the trains long since gone. The night commute would not arrive for another three hours, and so the chef was left to his own musings as he quietly washed a dirtied ramen pot. His shop was empty, save for Keiko who collected the nights final tips from their old pickle jar. The morning was almost upon them. Soon the streets would turn soft blue, and the yellow street lamps would pop out one by one. Dogs would begin to bark, alarm clocks would begin to ring, and life would pick up the pace as people went to work and school heedless of the sorrows that others felt.
"I'm going to see Yukina today." Keiko spoke up in the gloom, her voice mellow though full of sorrow. "I'm bringing her a bouquet of flowers."
Yusuke nodded absent mindedly, setting the clean pot aside to dry upon a rack.
"Kurama called during the rush. He said Mukuro's gone back to demon world now that... she's stable... to some extent." Keiko paused, "Kurama said he'd given her some plants to help. Maybe it's like drugs psychiatrists give, but I doubt it."
"No, you're probably right." Yusuke finally spoke up, looking up to catch Keiko's eyes.
Silence fell once more, and Keiko put the meagre tips they'd earned into Yusuke's wallet. He'd been this way ever since he'd returned one party member short a month ago.
Had it really been a month? Time had flown past... broken only by nights where Yusuke had to have a smoke on the tiny balcony or the times when Kuwabara came over to rant and rave about Yukina not crying 'enough'.
They'd survive somehow. They always did.
"Do you want me to stay?" Keiko asked, rubbing Yusuke's arm. He did not give notice at first, reaching through the warm soapy water to pull out the drain of his large sink. Wiping off his forearms with a dirty cloth, Yusuke shrugged and rubbed his neck absentmindedly.
"I'm closing up shop." Yusuke replied, not answering her question. "Do me a favor and turn off all the lights?"
Keiko nodded, pulling away to head for the back hallway where their light board was kept. Yusuke pulled off his stained apron and grabbed a cup from the high shelf where he kept booze for private moments. Instead of reaching for liquor however, he reached for the sink and poured himself a glass of ice cold water instead. Keiko turned off each light one by one till the entire back kitchen area was plunged in darkness.
In the dark, Yusuke lit a cigarette and drank a bit of his water, saying nothing. Keiko returned to the front, heading for the door where the second light board lay. Yusuke grabbed his car keys and wallet, pocketing both as he finished his glass and set it down atop the bar. It was then that Keiko noticed a bowl left out by an ajar chair.
"I'll get that." She brushed past Yusuke to snag the bowl, but he grabbed her hand.
She paused, turning to look back into his eyes.
They were empty, and yet full of emotion.
Everyone said 'no' to death differently. Some waged war. Some put out bowls for no reason.
Keiko titled her head, patting Yusuke gently upon the back as he passed her once more. He put out the final lights of the shop, leaving the door open for her as she passed.
Keiko took the key to the shop in hand.
Yusuke left for the car.
With the shop dark, Keiko's eyes played small tricks on her. Yusuke's stubbed out cigarette still smoldered next to the bowl left out for no one to eat from. In the curls of smoke that unfurled, Keiko wondered if she might see a ghost there. All the conditions were right... the lights were out, the air was full of heartache, and a meal had been left out for a ghost.
But no form appeared in the gloom, and Keiko closed the doors.
The lock slid into place, another night well worked, and she pocketed the key as she turned away.
In the dark, the cigarette slowly went out.
The last curl of smoke hung lazily in the air... and vanished.