Yusuke Urameshi was in pain, and for him that was saying something.

He lay on his back on the sidewalk, too stunned to move any more than to blink up at the puffy white clouds in the sky. Above him and slightly out of sight he heard Keiko say, "-never learn? You pervert!" and then he heard the sound of her feet pattering away at a rapid clip. His cheek was on fire and he had smacked his head pretty badly when he hit the ground, but instead of bouncing up like he always did with a smart-ass grin on his face he lay there and kept staring up.

He had thought he had felt the worst of Keiko's slaps before, or that the enemies he'd fought during his time as Spirit Detective had upped the bar more than she could ever meet, but he had been woefully wrong about both. She had caught him off guard today and that was troubling, but as he replayed the scene in his head he knew it wasn't the slap that mattered.

It was what had come right before, and even now he couldn't quite understand what had happened.

He had caught her walking ahead of him on her way to school and, like always, she was totally oblivious to her surroundings. One would think that being kid napped and menaced by various demons would have taught her a bit more caution, but some things never changed. It had felt a little childish to flip her skirt now - they were a whole year older, after all - but he hadn't seen her for awhile and she had looked so innocent and so unsuspecting that he felt he just had to.

He had sneaked up behind her and with practiced ease flipped her skirt hem up over her hips. He had been saying, "Good mooooooorning-!" when he felt his entire body freeze in shock.

Now, not that he was a pervert or anything, but he knew what sort of underwear Keiko had. Her tastes - if he was being kind - went more towards "conservative" than "racy" or "tempting" or even "interesting." There had never really been a thrill to flipping up her skirt because he always knew what he would see. Usually, it was just a way to get her to shut up nagging for the five seconds it took him to escape whatever situation she had caught him in this time.

So today he had expected to be greeted by the usual plain white or boring stripes, something that was made of cotton with no frills, and total coverage of everything. Maybe it would have some cute cartoon characters on it, or flowers if she was feeling bold.

Instead, Keiko was wearing the sort of underwear he saw in his mom's lingerie catalogs, and his brain really hadn't been able to process it at the time. From the brief glimpse he got - and even that was burned in his brain - it was tiny, and made of black lace, with a small red bow right on the back where it cut into a low dip. Most of both her cheeks were exposed, and he had been fascinated by how round they were, especially where they joined her thighs. He had felt his mouth go dry because when had she gotten so curvy down there?

It had felt like an eternity but had only been about a second in real time. She had screamed in shock and then she had whipped around and her eyes were literally blazing and he realized, dimly, that he had no time to prepare himself and that she was not going to be merciful. But that was okay because then maybe the image would get smacked out of his brain where it was already making him feel sort of crazy and not at all himself.

It hadn't worked, though he was pretty sure it wasn't for lack of trying on her part.

It had been a very impressive slap even by Keiko standards.

He was relatively sure she had chipped a tooth, actually, but that didn't matter. As he lay there terrible thoughts kept marching around in his head: Where the fuck had she gotten underwear like that? When had she started wearing underwear like that? Who was she wearing it for? Herself? Not him, surely (not even he was that arrogant). So... some other guy?

He groaned and covered his face with his hands, hating the place his thoughts were taking him. If the sidewalk had opened up and dragged him underground for the rest of eternity he would have been too grateful.

A traffic cop leaned over him and poked his shoulder with his baton.

"Son, you had better get up. If you lay in the street you might get run over or something."

'Been there, done that,' Yusuke thought grimly, but stood up anyway. His cheek kept throbbing, and normally he would have skipped school and wandered off chuckling over making Keiko mad. In the normal world he thought he knew maybe he would have gone to the Pachinko parlor or lifted some cigarettes from an unsuspecting shop owner before goofing off all day. Then he would have headed to the Yukimura diner for some more light-hearted teasing and a free meal, and everything would have been totally fine.

But thanks to unforseen circumstances the day's plans had suddenly changed. He had a new mission, and come what may he was going to find some answers.

Yusuke sat in class and thought, 'This is awful, awful, awful.'

His leg jumped up and down underneath his desk and he kept fidgeting with his pencil. He knew he was making the people around him nervous - he was actually at school, for one thing - but he wasn't thinking about them. Keiko was standing and reciting something from her textbook and because Yusuke sat behind her and slightly to the side he had a perfect view of her back.

Namely, her backside, which he could now picture with near-perfect clarity thanks to this morning. Her skirt was regulation modest and went nearly to her knees but it didn't matter; to him, it was like he had that stupid Spirit Spyglass again and her clothes weren't even there.

His clothes had felt uncomfortably tight for the last few minutes, and it was all he could do to keep his composure. Mostly, he just wanted to run off and punch something. She had shot him a glare when he had first arrived in class but otherwise had refused to acknowledge his existence. That would have been fine if this were a normal situation of "Yusuke did something to annoy Keiko beyond her patience, let's all sort of laugh about it later," but he desperately wanted to talk to her now and she was giving him no opportunity.

Then Keiko finished reading, and somehow his situation became infinitely worse.

He felt a cold sweat break out all over his body as she smoothed her skirt along the back of her thighs to sit down, because that one simple motion brought the new curves of her ass into brief outline and suddenly he wasn't in the classroom anymore.

He was alone with Keiko in a dark room somewhere and she was placing his hand under her skirt, on her thigh, and her skin was warm and soft. He swallowed heavily as he watched her face, which was closer than he could ever remember her being. Her soft breath puffed on on his lips as she rested her hand on his chest and leaned ever so slightly closer. His clothes felt restrictive and he wanted to take off his shirt so he could feel the warmth of her hand on his skin, but he was paralyzed by the desire suddenly choking him. Her eyes were glowing as she looked up at him with a wicked, un-Keiko-like grin on her face and she said, "You never got to see the front of them, did you...?" And she drew his hand up her leg higher than he had ever been allowed to see, let alone touch. His fingers brushed the lace and Keiko closed her eyes with a tiny hum of pleasure and -

"Mr. Urameshi!" Takenaka barked, and the whole class tittered as Yusuke yelped in surprise.

"What?!" He yelled, more in confusion than anything. His heart was beating so hard he was sure it could be heard in the classroom next door. He had never had a daydream so intense in his entire life and it left him reeling.

It also left him with a very prominent problem jutting out in his lap, if truth be told.

He flushed red and chanced a look at Keiko, paranoid that she suddenly had the power to read minds or see through desk tops. She was looking at him with one eyebrow raised, like he was the biggest dope she had never had the misfortune to meet. Then she turned away and ignored him.

He felt a spike of anger. She was the reason for all of this and she didn't even care!

"Mr. Urameshi!" Takenaka yelled again, and Yusuke turned furious eyes on the man as he approached down the aisle. "I asked if you had your report ready to hand in?"

"What do you think?" Yusuke spat, raring for a fight with someone - anyone - to distract him from the wicked images swirling in his brain, where a weird Not-Keiko was totally fine with doing things he'd only read about in magazines.

Mr. Takenaka swelled like a bullfrog. "Young man, report to the principal's office immediately."


His thoughts skidded to a halt. If he stood up now... Oh God, no.

He crossed his arms in a brave show of nonchalance and looked away. "Don't wanna." He was praying that a little more time was all it needed, please, just go down already, he did not need this humiliation.

'Think of awful things. Dead frogs. Genkai naked. Kuwabara naked. Kuwbara naked and playing baseball. Kuwabara naked and playing baseball with a dead frog...'

He shifted in his seat and sneered at the teacher. The class held its breath at his arrogance. Keiko continued to ignore him.

And then the guy in the seat next to her passed her a note. Which she accepted.

It was like a bucket of ice water had been dumped on Yusuke's head and it solved his problem better than all the naked sports games his desperate mind could make up.

In all his years of going to school (which, frankly, didn't mean much considering his awful attendance record) he had never, ever known Keiko to mess around during class. She always kept her eyes on the board or her note book, and even her friends had never tempted her into the seemingly universal practice of note passing when the teacher's back was turned. It had only ever been when Yusuke pulled her pig tail, or threw an eraser at her shoulder, or flicked pencil shavings in her lap that her concentration broke, and even then all he got was a glare of righteous fury. Keiko Yukimura simply did not respond to antics or play around.

At least, that was what he thought, but he was quickly learning that the day was out to surprise him where she was concerned.

Takenaka reached down and grabbed Yusuke by the ear to haul him to his feet. He knew he should be keeping his eyes on the man in front of him (who was beginning his usual speech about responsibility and whatever) but just over Takenaka's shoulder he could see Keiko unfold the note(!) and hide in in her lap to read.

The guy who had given her the note was watching her to see her reaction. He had a small grin on his face and Yusuke wanted to knock his teeth out.

What the ever-living Hell was happening today?! Nothing made sense anymore!

He was about to shout something totally rational at Keiko like, "Don't you read that!" when Takenaka pulled him out the door and yelled for everyone to stay in their seats. Just before the door rolled closed Yusuke saw Keiko - Keiko, whom the thought he knew - turn to the guy who had given her the note, and smile.

The day was fine out on the roof, and Kuwabara grinned to himself to find it empty. He had heard a rumor that Urameshi was at school today but there was no sign of the other boy up here, where he would surely be if he were actually on campus. Certainly, no one would believe that Yusuke Urameshi would be in class getting yelled at when he could be up here instead.

He carefully shut the door and pulled his contraband out of his pocket: a slightly used, still perfectly functioning hand-held game he had gotten from Okubo, who was trying to sell some extra things. As a man and his friend of course Kuwabara had paid the asking price, which was still much cheaper than if it was new. It was the only thing he could do when faced with his friends' dilemma, after all.

The fact that he really, really wanted to play the game himself meant nothing.

He had just powered it on and was picking up where he left off - PRINCESS YUKINA was still in that tower, but not for long! - when he head someone hiss his name.

"Kuwabara... hey, Kuwabara!"

He paused his game and looked around to see who was calling him. He didn't sense anyone else up here, but he knew that voice; he was probably hiding his energy.


"Up here, dumbass."

He looked up to see Yusuke peering over the edge of the roof to the building that housed the staircase entrance. Maybe it was just because he hadn't seen him in awhile, but Urameshi seemed different. Haunted, almost.

"Nice to see you, too." Kuwabara snapped, and put his video game away. He'd just been about to rescue his love, too...

"Shut up." Yusuke jumped down and landed with his usual nonchalant grace. "What are you doing up here, anyway? I thought you were Mr. Straight-and-Narrow now."

Kuwabara shrugged. "Laboratory Science is sort of a joke these days, ever since Akashi got fired. No one is really teaching it right now since it's so close to the end of the year."

"Oh yeah? Well, I'm glad that bastard is gone." But Yusuke did not seem glad.

Kuwabara tried to get a focus on Yusuke's mood because he sensed a headache coming on if he didn't at least try. It was wavering between extremes and was very distracting; one moment it was flaring up with frustration, the next it was leveling out with a tinge of confused dejection. Something was definitely troubling his friend; it was strange to think that something could bother Yusuke this much.

His mind immediately went to Keiko, though he couldn't say why.

The other boy stood with his hands in his pockets, and if he had been with anyone else besides one of the Kuwabara siblings he would have seemed not to have a care in the world. But Kuwabara knew better.

"So..." He began cautiously. "What's up?"

"Uh... How's your sister?"

Kuwabara frowned. Even without his other senses he knew that Yusuke didn't really give a shit about his sister. The guy hadn't come to school and hid up on the roof just to ask questions about his friends' family.

Classic evasion technique. Something was definitely up.

"She's fine, I guess." He answered slowly. "Still a raging terror. She's thinking about going into business with a friend. Opening her own beauty parlor, you know?"

"Uh-huh." Yusuke grunted. He sounded impatient and frustrated, and he was looking off to the side like he couldn't be bothered to pay attention.

"Keiko's dad lent her a few books about business..."

At the mention of Keiko's name Yusuke's spine straightened and his head snapped around. He was staring at Kuwabara intently, and in a flash Kuwabara understood that Urameshi had just been waiting for him to bring her up.

Because even though Urameshi was obviously incredibly bothered by something having to do with her he would never talk about it straight away, oh no, that was for people who could discuss emotions like regular human beings. He would probably have danced around the actual issue for the rest of the afternoon being evasive and silent until he heard her name.

What an idiot.

Kuwabara crossed his arms and stared back. Urameshi had to grow up sometime, and if he wanted to talk about Keiko then he'd just have to man up and ask.

There was silence. Kuwabara held his stance, waiting.

Finally Yusuke said, "Forget it." He stomped off towards the staircase and Kuwabara felt a bit of pity; it wasn't Yusuke's fault he was so repressed, so he couldn't punish him when he was already feeling down.

"Wait, wait, Urameshi." He said, and held out a hand to stop him. "Is everything okay with you and Keiko? Did you have a fight or something?"

If possible, Yusuke's expression closed off even more even as his mood spiked with fear and denial.

"What? No! What makes you think I'm- We're fine." He said forcefully, and Kuwabara felt the lie. But he still grinned.

"Oh, so it's 'we' now? Are you two finally-?"

"ARGH!" Yusuke burst out and threw his hands in the air. "Screw you!"

And he ran away.

It was the worst day ever and it was only lunchtime.

Takenaka had managed to catch up with him as he bolted down the stairs away from Kuwabara and his stupid-ass questions and had finally hauled him into the principal's office. (He had escaped the first time by his classic "trick ear" technique, which was always handy no matter how powerful a being you were regardless of realm.) There had been the usual lecture about grades and his future and wasted potential and, oh yes, have a week's worth of detentions on top of that, one more transgression and he was expelled, etc. etc.

That didn't bother him, of course. School had never been a priority no matter how many times he got yelled at and lectured, so getting officially kicked out would not have made a big difference to him. Except -

Except school was important to Keiko, and she was always here, so if he wanted to see her and figure out what was going on, well...

He kicked at the dirt with his shoe and took a long drag from his cigarette. He was hiding behind one of the outer buildings and he was trying his hardest to figure out what her deal was lately.

Kuwabara had been no help, of course, so he was on his own. Sure, ever since his whole little dying thing he'd changed a lot, but that was him. Keiko didn't change, she couldn't. She should always be, well, Keiko! Keiko who was obsessed with studying and had stuffed animals on her bed and was always where he could find her, that was Keiko, not this weird girl who wore underwear way too sexy for his piece of mind and accepted notes from strange boys. And then smiled at them, like she liked getting notes all of a sudden, or something.

He tried to think back and see if there was anything in her behavior up to now that should have given him a clue. The last time he had seen her was... was...

Hold on...

He furrowed his brow as he concentrated. Kuwabara had thrown a little get-together a month ago and she had been there, but he had spent most of the night talking - well, arguing - with Kuwabara about who was more likely to win the heavy-weight boxing match that next week. They hadn't arrived together and she had left before he had, and for the life of him he couldn't remember if they had really even spoken that night.

He frowned. Okay, that was a bust.

But he knew he had been to school since then, so he cast his memory back. Yes, just two weeks ago! He had come to school during second period and went straight up to the roof for a nap, because he was tired from the night before when he had stayed up way too late playing video games with Kurama, the secret obsessive. He had wanted to get some more sleep before Keiko found out he was on campus and tried to drag him to class, and he had fully expected to get his usual half-hour, max, before she stood over him with crossed arms and a lecture at the ready.

Instead he had woken up naturally just before the mid-day bell, and since he felt so rested he had decided to skip the rest of the day. It had not seemed odd that Keiko hadn't come to find him; at the time, he had just thought himself lucky that he had dodged her nagging.

He leaned against the wall of the building, suddenly feeling at a loss. Keiko must have known he was at school that day (somehow, she and Takenaka always knew) but she had left him alone. Sure, he had been proclaiming for years that he wanted her to do just that but she never listened to him because she knew he was an idiot. It was how they worked. She was Keiko! She was stubborn and nosy and always shoved herself into his life no matter what he said or how much he protested, and she always would.

Wouldn't she...?

He dropped the cigarette stub and ground it beneath his heel viciously. If his memory was correct then he had seen her a total of one time in the last month, and they had pretty much mutually ignored one another. That didn't sit right with him, at all.

Suddenly, he was in a very, very black mood. If this were the old days he would have gone off to one of the rougher bars and picked a fight, but a part of him sensed that he couldn't leave now. Not that he wanted to stick around school and increase his changes of getting in trouble for basically existing, but he didn't want to go off and leave whatever was happening with Keiko go un-adressed.

...Not that he knew at all how to even address it. He just knew it all had to do with that damn underwear, and how she shouldn't be wearing those sorts of things because, well... because it made him uncomfortable.


He crossed his arms and stared up at the sky. If he were being honest he didn't really mind at all that Keiko had suddenly decided to wear skimpier panties under her school skirt. (His earlier daydream was proof of that, even if the persistent thrill he got down his spine whenever he remembered the sight of that hidden black lace wasn't.) It was more that, well, he could to never picture the Keiko he had grown up with being comfortable wearing stuff like that, and suddenly she was and it sort of... really... scared him.

Because it was just now dawning on him that she was maybe starting to change, and that maybe she was changing into someone he didn't recognize anymore.

He felt his chest get tight at the thought. What if sexy panties and note passing was just the start? What if - and he knew it was crazy but what if - Keiko became the sort of person who got tired of being dragged into shit she didn't understand and stopped hanging around him all together?

"Hey, over here guys!"

A voice - male, conspiratorial, and eager - broke him out of his thoughts. It was coming from around the corner and was heading his way. Another voice answered and laughed, and just as they stepped around the corner they saw Yusuke standing there and froze.

There were 3 of them and he sort of recognized the other two, but his attention immediately focused on the one off to the side.

It was him. Keiko's Note Guy.

He felt a low growl start in his throat at the sight of him; suddenly, this guy was the reason for all his confused feelings and anger and his desire to punch something was back with a three boys took a collective step back. As one they all remembered that they were face to face with Yusuke Urameshi, who had been terrifying even before his strange accident where it was rumored that he died but Hell spat him back out.

The way he looked now, they could easily believe it.

For his part, Yusuke didn't know Note Guy's name or anything about him, but it didn't matter. As he looked into his face - wide-eyed and terrified as it was - he saw Keiko's smiling profile from earlier that day as she looked at him, at this strange fucking prick, and not at Yusuke, and he felt if something didn't come along to stop him then he was about to commit actual murder.

"You..." Yusuke spat, his voice rough and full of malice. Note Guy gulped, then straightened his spine.

"Y-Yeah? What do you want, Urameshi?"

Faster than any of them could see Yusuke rushed forward and slammed him against the wall of the building. His friends bolted off like a shot and neither of them looked back to make sure he wasn't tearing their friend limb from limb, which Yusuke considered too good for him anyway. Yusuke's fists were bunched in the front of the guy's uniform as he held him up, and his spirit-infused strength actually held his captive a few inches off the ground. The boy gasped and squirmed, but stopped when Yusuke leaned in close.

"I wanna know who the fuck you think you are."

Then something rolled against Yusuke's foot.

He looked down and saw an unopened can of beer that one his fleeing classmates had dropped. He paused. His eyes drifted down and saw that the other boy held one, too. He had been so focused on hating him that he hadn't noticed.

In a flash he understood: they had snuck off campus during lunch and were hoping for a quick drink before going back to class. He had done this himself many times before, but for this particular guy to do it made him even angrier because this guy - this sneaky little cockroach - shouldn't be doing that sort of thing if he was trying to get closer to Keiko, who didn't approve of underage drinking.

He knew this type; he made all nicey-nice to her face and hid all his bad parts until it was too late, and then she'd be caught up with this two-faced asshole who didn't even have the decency to drink beers at school and be up-front about it.

With a swift motion Yusuke threw him to the ground and then stood over him, fists clenched at his sides. He would have dearly loved to fire off his Spirit Gun and leave the other boy as a smear on the concrete but he sort of understood that that was wrong, somehow. Other people would get mad.

Keiko would get mad, and maybe even be sad, if something happened to this guy. After all, she liked getting notes from him.

Instead he just said, "Get the fuck outta here," before shoving his fists into his pockets. Note Guy scrambled off on all fours before straightening up and running for his life, and it would have been comical if Yusuke hadn't felt so tired. All his anger had turned to ash, and he felt emptier than before.

He wanted to talk to Keiko, but as things stood he didn't know what sort of reception he would get. He didn't even know what he wanted to say to her. It was just...

Ever since he was a kid he knew that being around her made everything okay again. He could never explain it but that was how it was. When shit got awful with his mom or he lost a fight or things started to get to him too badly he could go see Keiko and it was like none of it mattered. She was Keiko, and she always knew what to say or do to make him stop feeling sad and feel like Yusuke again.

But now she was the thing that was making him sad and confused and he had no idea what to do to about that.

The bell to signal the end of lunch rang out but going back to class now was impossible. Probably Mr. Fake Nice Guy had told a teacher - Iwomoto, with his luck - about how he had barely escaped death at the hands of Yusuke Urameshi and the staff was howling for his blood. Maybe he had even told Keiko and she was upset with him for laying hands on her precious note buddy, or something.

In the old days she would have stood up for him, but who knew about now?

He stalked off across the sports fields, not really knowing where he could go when the only place he wanted to be was here.

He sat beneath a tree and watched as she made her way towards him across the field. He tried very hard to think of what, if anything, he should say when she got to him. She was probably going to lay into him for scaring that guy half to death, but if she did he was not going to apologize. A guy like that deserved what he'd gotten, and more.

It was the end of the day and in the distance he could see the other students trailing off towards club activities or for home, and he thought that maybe she was supposed to be at a council meeting or something? Keiko never had free time right after classes ended.

At least, the old Keiko never had free time. With a sinking feeling he realized he did not even know if she was on any sort of council or team this year.

'One more way you dropped the ball with her, you asshole.'

She walked up to him and looked down at him with pursed lips, like she couldn't figure out what to make of him, which was a laugh considering how his day had gone. If either of them had suddenly become all confusing it was definitely her, in his humble opinion.

The breeze blew her skirt against her legs but his mind did not immediately jump to fantasies about her new underwear. Instead, as he looked up at her, he saw that her face was slightly different than he remembered. The childish roundness of her cheeks had become more defined and womanly, and her eyes seemed to be a richer brown than before. Her hair had grown longer and framed her face with soft sections that glinted red and gold in the afternoon sun. Even the way she moved was different now; this Keiko walked with an understated grace and stood with confidence, like she didn't need him or his bullshit anymore.

He had been right, and it hurt. She was different than the Keiko he knew, and it had happened without him noticing. This almost-woman in front of him was no longer his childhood best friend; that girl had up and left him behind without a second thought and he could never bring her back.

He looked up at her. She looked down at him. Neither of them spoke for a moment.

She was magnificent and he loved her and if she had any damn sense at all then she would let him know it was already way too late for those sorts of realizations. He wanted to be angry, to rail at life that it was so unfair that he had just figured things out now, but mostly he was just sad.

Then her shoulders slumped and there she was, the Old Keiko, the one who seemed so tired of him and his antics but was going to try and cope with it anyway. The one who never gave up on him; the one who ran into burning buildings for him and made him lunches. Even if only briefly that girl was back and he was glad to see her.

Keiko sighed and sat down next to him with her legs tucked under her skirt demurely. She looked like a queen as she sat in the shade. He leaned his head back against the bark and kept his eyes on the tree branches so he wouldn't stare at her too openly. It felt wrong to look her admiringly now when he'd had years to do that and hadn't actually seen.

"Oh, Yusuke... " She murmured, and even her voice sounded different; there was a low timbre in it now that thrilled him even as he mourned. "Why, why did you try to kill Daisuke?"

She sounded exasperated and confused, but not wholly surprised. He kept his eyes on the leaves overhead and shrugged and tried not to be too bothered that they were on a first name basis.

"I don't like that guy." He's not good enough for you. No one is. Especially me, I guess, if it's taken me this long to realize it.

Keiko huffed with impatience. "Have you ever... actually... spoken to Daisuke?"

"Yeah, once. He's an asshole." She didn't need to know that the "once" had been when he had almost beat his face in, so he left it at that.

"Yusuke, you think everyone is... that way." He could hear the hesitation in her voice and he smirked. No matter how different she got on the outside she was still not the type of girl who was comfortable with swearing, even if it was just repeating what someone else had said.

"Still..." She continued, and he let his eyes drift to her face, curious to know what else she would say about Mr. Precious Daisuke. She was not looking at him but off into the distance. "In this case I think you're pretty spot on."

He perked up but tried not to make it too obvious. "Oh, yeah?"

"Yes, he's... well, he's nice, and funny, and smart, and plenty of girls think he's good-looking, and he likes to flirt-"

"Uh-huh," he grunted, suddenly regretting that he'd asked.

"But there's just something about him that I don't like." She concluded, looking down at her hands in her lap. "He seems dishonest."

Irrationally he felt a surge of pride. Okay, so maybe this new Keiko was worlds too good for him and was changing in all sorts of frightening ways, but she still had her common sense. Guys like Daisuke could try all they wanted but his Keiko wouldn't be fooled.

...Still, it never hurt to make sure.

Casually, as if it did not matter to him in the least, he said, "I caught him and his friends drinking beer at lunch, you know."

He winced; now that he said it out loud it sounded like snitching. Keiko looked at him incredulously.

"Do not tell me that's why you tried to beat him up, Yusuke Urameshi! You hypocrite, you used to do that all the time!" But she was laughing now, and he chuckled a bit too. The idea of him as a moral guardian was pretty ridiculous.

She relaxed her posture so that she was leaning against the tree as well, and their shoulders touched just the tiniest bit. He held himself very still so she wouldn't notice and move away.

"Shouldn't you be in, er, Student Council, or something?" He asked, and it was her turn to shrug and look up at the leaves. Her throat was a slim column of creamy skin and he wondered if she would ever like to be kissed there.

"I didn't run for office this year."

He blinked in surprise; his faint stirrings of desire were pushed to the side in the face of this news. "What? Why?"

"Because it stopped being important."

He swallowed, his worst fears confirmed. Keiko - the one he knew, at least - was all about extra-curricular activities that were totally useless but looked great on high school applications, which was reason enough to do them. There had not been a book club, or tutoring program, or sports team, or council that Keiko had not at least run for, if not participated in, ever since elementary school. It was just what she did, and now "other things" mattered more?

Suddenly, he was very annoyed with her. No matter what Keiko should care about school! Her future (unlike his) was important!

"What the hell didn't you run for office for?" He demanded. "You've got high school coming up!"

Keiko gave him a look that wanted desperately to be a glare but just didn't have the heart.

"Because, Yusuke, you died? Remember that? And then you went off for psychic training and nearly died. And then I was almost killed by a horde of crazed demon-possessed adults and you had to save me by going to demon world and nearly died. And then you ran off on a rescue mission and almost died. And then you participated in a tournament and almost died, again." She exhaled and sounded very tired. "In short: it's been a busy year and I've been too worried about you to do much else."

There was a ringing silence.

He wanted to apologize, but he knew anything he said to that effect now would be too little, too late. Besides, she wouldn't have accepted any apology he gave for the simple reason that she hadn't been accusing him of anything. This was just their lives now.

"I..." he began, and then cleared his throat. He was never good with words, but this was important. "I remember that the only reason I came back at all is because... you. After dying that first time, but... all those other times, too."

She gave a gusty laugh and he could tell she was not actually amused. She sounded close to crying, actually, and he really, really hoped she wouldn't because then he'd probably have to go throw himself in front of a car again just to try and atone.

"Yes, Yusuke, I know." Keiko still wasn't looking at him. "It's just... hard, sometimes."

He could understand that. They sat in silence for a minute.

"So," Keiko broke the silence. Her tone was brisk, like it was trying to convince itself that crying did no good. "Since there's no way you suddenly decided to enforce the school rules, tell me the truth: Why did you threaten Daisuke? He says you all but took his head off."

He exhaled loudly, trying to stall for time. He couldn't exactly tell her the truth, which was basically that he hated Daisuke for all of time because he had successfully passed a note to Keiko, whom he had suddenly recognized as the girl of his dreams, and that all these realizations came from the fact that Keiko had, without warning, evolved in her taste in lingerie, which he was very eager to question but didn't have the balls to ask about just yet.

There was only one thing to do for now: Lie, a bit.

"I don't know, Keiko. I just saw him and didn't like him. You just said you can tell he's dishonest, right? Well, I'm a spirit detective. That guy has a bad, um, aura. And you should stay away from him." He paused. "Forever."

She was watching him curiously now. "Are you trying to tell me he's... evil?"

"Yes!" He exclaimed happily, then back-tracked. "Wait, no. Not evil but definitely... not good. For you. I mean you're too good. As a person. You know?"

He looked into her eyes and tried not to sound too pleading, but he knew he was coming off as utterly pathetic. He could have kicked himself. For some reason he was having difficulty with not saying too much, and Keiko was giving him a long, measured look like she could see right through him.

He swallowed, and waited. Could she tell that he was about two seconds from becoming an absolute wreck? Would she laugh at him when he did?

The corner of her mouth twitched a bit, and in a low voice she asked, "Why, Yusuke... are you jealous?"

He reared back and away from her, a denial hot on his lips even as he felt the truth of her question, but he was interrupted by her delighted peals of laughter. She was laughing at him! Here he was with his heart in his throat and she was- she was - being a damn tease!

"Watch it, you brat!" He yelled. "It's NOT FUNNY!"

She forced her laughter to subside enough so that she could talk again. "Oh, Yusuke, I'm sorry for laughing. But I can't believe you're jealous!"

"I am not." He insisted. "Why should I be?"

Keiko's brows furrowed in the way they did when he was being particularly stubborn and she was preparing to match him retort by retort.

"I don't know, you tell me. You're the one who almost killed him."

"Yeah, well, he had it coming."

"Oh, really? How? You still haven't answered that."

He crossed his arms and looked away. "Ain't gonna."


"It's none of your damn business, anyway!" He snarled and whipped around. "It's- It's a matter between men."

"Yusuke Urameshi..." Her voice was quiet and dangerous. "You tell me the truth or I swear I will walk away and will never speak to you again."

"And what do you want to hear, huh?!" He burst out, his frayed nerves finally getting the better of him. "You want to hear that I don't like that guy because of the way he looks at you? Fine. There it is. You happy now?"

He took a deep breath and covered his eyes with his hands. He had said as much as he could say, and if she didn't understand the rest herself, well, she'd just have to be left unsatisfied.

"...He did ask me to be his girlfriend, you know."

"Shut up. I don't want to hear."

"I said no."

He knew he should be happy at that - and he was, of course - but most of his concentration was centered on the fact that if she wasn't actively looking for a boyfriend then maybe... just maybe...

He reached out and took her hand, and she let him. He tried to catch her eye but she seemed very interested in the grass by her knee.

"Keiko, hey, look at me."

She finally did, though it took her awhile. He figured he should try to look reassuring and confident, but his heart was beating really fast and he would be glad to settle for not throwing up.

Something of his inner struggle must have shown on his face because she relaxed just a fraction; maybe she was glad to see she wasn't the only one having a hard time with this. He took a chance and held both her hands in his, and pulled her a little closer. The day had gotten very warm, but he couldn't tell if it was from the weather or the way his blood was pulsing in his veins. He felt like they were on the brink of something very big, and important, and really fucking terrifying in all the right ways.

He asked, "Why did you turn that guy down?" It was very important that she give a straight answer.

She said, "You dummy. Why do you think?"

And that was good enough, he guessed, so he leaned forward and kissed her.

They didn't need to do much talking after that.

The sun was beginning to set when they finally decided they should head home. Well, Keiko decided that; Yusuke would have been content to keep doing what they were doing until they locked the school gates and they would have to find shelter somewhere, maybe the sports equipment room where they kept the gymnastic mats, and then they could lock the door and-

"Yusuke? What are you doing?"

He started and realized he had been staring up at her with a glazed expression. She was running her hands through her hair in a vain attempt to get it back in some sort of order, and he had no doubt his own hair looked just as disastrous, never mind the hair gel.

"Oh, just admiring the view."

He gave her a wolfish smile and she blushed. Her lips were a bright pink that had nothing to do with lip gloss and she had grass stains on her skirt.

"Come on, we had better go."

"Right, right."

He got up and slung his uniform jacket over his shoulder; it had been discarded pretty early on under Keiko's searching hands, much to his delight, though disappointingly that had been all that had gotten taken off between the two of them. Oh well, the day was still young, and (in certain areas at least) Yusuke was ambitious.

Which brought his mind back to a certain nagging something he had been harboring since that morning...

"So... nice underwear, by the way."

Keiko's footsteps faltered and she turned around so fast her skirt flared up past her knees. She was glaring at him like they had not just been passionately - if inexpertly - kissing just a minute ago.

"I swear, Yusuke, if you tell anyone-"

He held up his hands, laughing. "Hey, I've got a vested interest in keeping your underwear choices private now, you know." She blushed scarlet, and he advanced on her. "I just want to know why now, all of a sudden?"

It was strange. For most of the day the thought of those panties had driven him to distraction in not good ways, but now that they had established (through new, non-verbal, totally amazing ways of communication) that whatever pent up desire there was between them was definitely a two-way street, well, he was more than content with their existence.

Just so long as he was the only one who got to see them, of course.

Instead of answering right away she lowered her eyelids and looked at him in a way that made him swallow heavily. For a brief moment he had felt like he was back on even ground with her, but that one look made him remember that not ten minutes ago Keiko had nipped him - nipped him - on the tender skin near his collarbone and he had given a squeaky moan he had not even known he was capable of making.

It should have made him feel less manly, and it sort of did, but mostly it just turned him on. Who the fuck would have ever thought Keiko Yukimura could be so dangerous?

"Well..." She sighed, in a tone that seemed innocent but was really devious, "I wanted the set."

His brain took a minute. "The set?"

"Mmhmm, the bra and underwear came together."

Oh that was just. Not. Fair.

The teasing look vanished from his face in a second and was replaced by something far more primal, and slightly dark, and full of wicked promise that made Keiko shiver up her spine. Without a word he grabbed her by the hand and pulled her along, not caring that she had homework to do or that her parents would wonder where she had gone.

And, if she were being perfectly honest with herself, Keiko did not much care either.

She giggled to herself as she recognized that he was leading them to his apartment without even asking, and privately marveled at how simple boys could be, sometimes.

It was just underwear, after all.

Author's Notes: Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed this little tribute to Yusuke and Keiko, who are probably one of my favorite pairings ever. I wrote this for the YYH Big Bang 2017 on Tumblr, so please go check out the other works and art from the other participants listed under that tag!