(A/N: I've had most of this written for ages and struggled to come up with an ending; so finally I let it end with a question. I'm going through my old abandoned YYH fics again so expect to see a few more rescued and published from me soon. Obviously, I have some Opinions about Keiko's role in the series - and after it.)
Keiko woke cleanly, with no moment of disorientation. She was instantly aware of two things. One was that it was the dead hours of the night, long past midnight. The other was that Yusuke wasn't there.
Keiko lay in bed without moving for several minutes, looking up at the ceiling and telling herself not to cry. She wondered if it was even worth getting up.
In the end, it didn't matter whether it was worthwhile or not. She couldn't just do nothing. So she freed herself from the twisted sheets and got dressed in the dark, pulling the clothes she'd worn yesterday out of the laundry hamper and shrugging into them. Either she would find Yusuke and yell at him, or she wouldn't find him and all she'd have to show for her trouble would be a headache from sleep deprivation. But at least she wouldn't be sitting at home uselessly.
As she slipped her shirt on she promised herself that she would really let Yusuke have it this time. She had specifically asked him to stay home tonight. To let it go, just this once. After all, he wasn't Koenma's detective anymore, and he'd given up being a king in Makai to come back to her. He didn't need to go off chasing every rumor in the city and getting into fights with demon thugs anymore. He could bow out sometimes, let things happen without him. He could have stayed home this time.
He'd said he would.
Keiko didn't bother to turn on the lights as she moved from the bedroom of their little apartment and into the living room. She had just picked up her keys from their dish by the door when somebody spoke, not ten feet away.
Keiko didn't hear what was said-she screamed in surprise, dropped her keys, and frantically fumbled for the light switch.
It wasn't a demon or a burglar-or actually, it was both those things, but not in the way she had feared. Kurama was halfway sitting, halfway lying on the couch, his disheveled hair attesting that he had been sleeping there. "My apologies," he said. "I thought you realized I was here. I didn't mean to startle you."
She hadn't even noticed the outline of someone on the couch. "Oh," she said, inadequately.
Kurama sat up all the way and smoothed his hair. "Let me try again. I was trying to tell you, I would advise against leaving."
Keiko felt her jaw tighten. With the adrenaline of shock pumping through her, it was all too easy to let herself get angry. "So now Yusuke's making his friends baby-sit me? You must hate having to do this instead of being a part of whatever's going on."
"Actually, I don't believe Yusuke knows I'm here. And, in point of fact, I have no idea where he is. He didn't want any help tonight."
"Then why are you here?"
"I had a feeling you might try to follow him."
Keiko turned angrily away from him and opened the door. Or rather, tried to. Kurama sat quietly, allowing Keiko to discover for herself that the door wouldn't budge; the lock had been tampered with.
Swallowing, Keiko took a moment to compose herself before turning around. She was determined to keep at least some of her dignity, even if she was being held prisoner in her own home. "I don't suppose asking you to undo whatever you did to the door will get me anywhere."
"Forgive me," Kurama said, in a flat tone that implied no desire for forgiveness whatsoever. "I do feel that it's important that you hear what I have to say before you go out."
Slowly, Keiko walked over to the couch and sat down on the very edge. She felt-betrayed, almost. She'd always gotten along with Kurama better than the rest of Yusuke's demonic friends, because he was so polite and so knowledgeable of human culture. She would never had dreamed he would do something like this. What will Yusuke think when he finds out? Will he be angry at Kurama? Or will he be on Kurama's side?
"I'm listening," she said warily.
"What is your purpose for leaving your home at this hour of the night?"
"To find Yusuke and drag him home by his ear," Keiko replied grimly.
Kurama paused for a moment before responding. His mouth was set in a hard line. "Do you know how weak you are?"
Keiko's jaw dropped. So much for her idea of Kurama as the polite one! "Weak?" she spluttered. "Because I won't stay home and wring my hands and worry? Because I actually want to do something? Or is it because I hold Yusuke accountable when he tells me he'll act one way and then he does the opposite?"
"Supposing you were to leave tonight, and were unable to locate Yusuke. What then?"
"It's better than not doing anything."
Kurama nodded. "It certainly makes you feel better. Meanwhile, however, the rest of us have to abandon or compromise what we're doing to prevent you from getting into trouble. Or worse-rescue you from whatever trouble found you before we could. Maybe it's the battle that Yusuke lost because he was suddenly distracted by your peril. Maybe it's the demon who took you hostage to force Yusuke's hand. Maybe there are other lives suddenly at stake. Maybe some demon finds you who doesn't care about any of this and kills you on the spot. Maybe nothing happens to you-but we've all put everything else aside to look for you anyway. All of these scenarios could be prevented if you just remained here."
"Those things could happen to me anywhere," Keiko said. She was a little shaken by all the scenarios Kurama described, but she tried not to show it. "Even if I stayed here."
"It is technically possible that a demon could come after you here, yes. But I believe you understand the concept of a crime of opportunity. You're not unintelligent. You know the situation you're creating every time you follow Yusuke into these affairs. And yet, watching you through all these years, I have come to the conclusion that you simply don't care. You take everyone's lives into your hands because you don't have the strength to remain still and wait for Yusuke to come back to you."
"This isn't your business," Keiko said, stung. "You don't understand."
"It is very much my business. I get to participate in the mad scramble to keep you safe every time this happens. And believe me, I do understand." Kurama's eyes grew hard. "I understand that one of the greatest weaknesses a fighter can have is to love a human who cannot defend herself. I understand that it's impossible to keep such a crippling weakness secret. Anytime you fight, all anyone has to do is say her name and you're trapped. You can't attack, can't even defend yourself, not until you know she's safe. It's an easy way to die."
"But he hasn't," Keiko said quietly, knowing it to be a feeble protest even as she spoke. Kurama just looked at her. "He never has. He always wins anyway."
Kurama didn't speak, but Keiko felt like his silence was a condemnation. The truth was, there was a part of her-a part she didn't often acknowledge-that liked knowing Yusuke would do anything to protect her, no matter what trouble she was in. Yusuke wasn't good at expressing his feelings. But when he was fighting for her, she knew he loved her. When he was fighting for her, she felt invulnerable.
"I have to do something," Keiko said weakly.
"Do something truly courageous. Be still."
"That's not doing something."
"Then learn to fight, if you want to be involved. As it is, you are endangering all of us, especially Yusuke, every time you 'do something.' And none of us can afford for you to delude yourself as to that." Kurama stood, walking to the door and opening it as though it had never been fused shut. Keiko sat watching, mute with resentment. "This works now," Kurama noted, gesturing to the door. "I won't force a decision on you. But I very much hope not to see you again tonight."
"You make it sound like all I do is cause trouble," Keiko said, her voice barely above a whisper.
Kurama paused. Keiko knew instantly, before he spoke, that whether he told a lie to spare her feelings or not, that was, in fact, what he thought of her. In a tone meant to soften the impact of his words, he said, "That is not all you do for Yusuke. But it is all you do for me."
Kurama left then, closing the door quietly behind him. The apartment was completely silent. Keiko sat on the edge of the couch, twisting her fingers together as rapid-fire thoughts chased each other around her head.
If she left, she'd be proving him right. She couldn't bear to be the person he painted the image of, caring for nothing but herself, willingly endangering others so she could enjoy having her boyfriend rescue her. But who was he, for her to try to prove something to? It was between her and Yusuke, and Yusuke had promised her he would stay home tonight. So she had every right to go after him.
Except it wasn't between her and Yusuke. If he'd blown the rent money on video games, that would be between the two of them; but if Yusuke was off fighting demons maybe Kurama and the rest of them did have a right to tell her what to do. Keiko suddenly recalled, with burning shame, all the times someone other than Yusuke had saved her from a situation that was over her head.
She couldn't bear to be the person Kurama described, but she couldn't bear to sit at home on her hands either, and Kurama's suggestion that she learn to fight was laughable-Keiko had seen enough to know she didn't have the temperament for that world. And Yusuke couldn't bear to stay away from that world, no matter how many times he promised her he would. How many bearable options did that leave them?
Did it leave any?