41. Kiss

Come on, Yusuke. You took on Toguro and won. Just do it.

Almost half a minute passed before he caught himself staring at her mouth - pouty, pink, and slicked with shiny gloss he didn't remember her going out of her way to wear before. She doesn't have anything new to say when they're both at school; something close to the usual Yusuke, where's your homework? Yusuke, why weren't you at gym? Yusuke, you know you can't bring cigarettes and alcohol to school! spilled from her distracting lips. He could tell from her tone Keiko was more overly-concerned and probably a little annoyed, rather than her usual flat out irritation. She'd been, generally, a little softer with him. Maybe his "internship" or whatever bullshit Botan invented endeared him to her a little bit. Still, even if Sarayashiki Junior High's number one student didn't want to kill it's number one disappointment right now, she definitely would in a minute. Clammy palms clenched into fists; Yusuke shoved them in his pockets.

"...I know you were working this weekend, so maybe I can talk Mr. Sato into giving you an extension..."

There were like a million good reasons not to go through with it - several of which involved her palm (or her textbook) connecting with his head - but if Kuwabara could screw up the courage to spill his heart out to a demon girl he literally just met, then Yusuke could manage too.

Keiko carried on. It was better to stare at her mouth than into her big doe eyes. Her dainty eyebrows knitted together, and it reminded Yusuke of the panic behind them on Suzaku's widescreen a few weeks ago. She was bothered about his term paper, but that look triggered memories of desperation and electrocution and being farther away from her than he had ever been in his life.

That was the third time Spirit World business put Keiko in trouble. Third time he'd almost lost his life trying to save her. The lengths he'd go might surprise some, but Yusuke would literally do nothing else, making it increasingly hard to convince Botan of his (lack of) feelings. It was so stupidly obvious the torch he carried for her. He'd take 10,000 volts of demon lightning ten thousand times if it meant keeping that expression out of her pretty brown eyes forever.

And Keiko? Yusuke'd stamped out any expectations about her a long time ago. When being let down is your M.O., you didn't leave any room for additional disappointment by dreaming after your too-good-for-you best friend. A guy her type should be well-mannered and studying in the library, not foul-mouthed and cracking other guys' jaws. And he could convince himself it was better that way, because Keiko was just an uppity spitfire who got off to yanking him around by the ear charading as a sweet schoolgirl.

But ever since his ghost-ordeal, tentative flickers of hope sparked frequently, annoyingly in his chest. Keiko leaning into his unoccupied body attempting to steal a tender (if not a little creepy) moment. Her obvious resentment finding him alone with his ferry-girl assistant. The light-hearted way she laughed and sparkled over chocolate milkshakes when he'd returned from Genkai's compound; they'd only been apart a few weeks, and even Kuwabara could tell how happy he'd made her.

And in what were almost the last moments of her life, Keiko cried out his name.

She asked him to be honest, and while Yusuke couldn't tell Keiko he saved her life from a sadistic, blonde, tone-deaf asshole by shooting bullets of blue light from his fist because he loved her, he could at least maybe let her know he liked her.

And goddamn if Kuwabara, of all people, showed him up.

"Yusuke, really, you're not even listeni-"

The tip of his nose bumped hers and the heady scent of cigarette smoke mixed with sugary body spray. The girl stiffened against him and her breath hitched. Keiko had years of knowing well what happens when he brazenly invades her space, so Yusuke made sure to behave and kept his hands in his pockets.

The kiss was chaste and inexperienced. Their bodies stood awkwardly far apart, save for where their lips met. Keiko's soft bangs brushed his forehead, warmth stemmed from her cheeks; her lips were warm and tasted like artificial strawberry. She hadn't made any effort to shove him away, and the stupid hope-flicker ignited in Yusuke's chest again.

This was it. She was it. No one knew him better than her; no one stayed by his side for as long. As stupid and cheesy as it sounded, Yusuke owed his life to her. And not just because of that first kiss, but because he probably wouldn't have even made it to fourteen without Keiko bringing him dinner or dragging him off the street or cutting through his anger and melancholy and making everything a little bit nicer just by being around…

Keiko's mouth moved against his and Yusuke backed off. Blood rushed into his ears, and the boy dropped his eyes to avoid meeting hers. Her knuckles blanched white around the spine of her textbook. Damnit. The constant care, the milkshakes, the near-death thing all meant nothing. A tangle of embarrassment and bitterness put out the flame and took its place in his chest, because he was an angry, careless, untalented, punk-kid who left a dark mark on her otherwise pristine reputation and put her harm's wa-

"You idiot."

Her voice was soft. Yusuke worked up the courage to meet Keiko's gaze, but she was looking down, dark lashes against pink cheeks and biting her lower lip. She loosened her grip on the book and it fell; taking a handful of his green jacket and tugged him back towards her.

"Yusuke, the bell is about to ring…"


She grabbed his face in her hands, pulled him close, and Yusuke inadvertently backed Keiko against the concrete. His arms felt heavy and awkward by his sides, and it was more comfortable to press his still sweaty palms to the wall on either side of her frame.

The light in Yusuke's center blazed. In her enthusiasm, their teeth knocked together. Her fingertips pinched into his jawline a little uncomfortably, still tugging, like she wants to be ensnared in a kabe-don on the school rooftop, textbook crumpled at their feet and class long, long forgotten, just like out of a shoujo manga. So uncool.

But, uncool was a small price to pay to kiss his spitfire of a sweetheart. Yusuke caught Keiko's bottom lip, and she seized the opportunity to slide her warm tongue inside. An electricity much more pleasant than Suzaku's zinged down his spine, and his hands left the wall to grasp her arms, rougher than he intended, in an attempt to ground himself before his head floated away. Keiko seemed to barely notice and allowed him to kiss her with everything he's repressed underneath years of name-calling and silent-treatments and grabby-hands. They didn't part until the strawberry-gloss was nearly licked off her lips.

Yusuke pushed his forehead against hers and grinned wolfishly. "Miss Perfect missed class."

Keiko's blush smoldered, pink from being a big, fat hypocrite and kissing. "Since- since when do you care?"

"What about your paper?' he asked.

"Yeah, well…" she started, leaning back in, "I guess it's already late now…"


Author's Note: Set between Rescue Yukina and Dark Tournament arcs.

Yusuke x Keiko is my first and forever OTP. This ship's been sailing since 2002, before I knew found out what ships were.

I have this theory that Yusuke and Keiko were actually going out through the middle of the series (and not just 'two best friends with a whole lot of sexual tension'). I know it's not explicitly stated – but you have to wonder at lines like "You know he has the hots for you." "I know." Or how sincerely Yusuke talks about Keiko when she's not around. Not to mention she's constantly introduced as his girlfriend and neither of them seem to mind (as opposed to the way he flipped out in the beginning).

Prompts are pulled from an old 50scenes livejournal I copied into a jumpdrive years ago.