Chapter 1: DecemberBy: Diana-Jae
The lights indicating that the plane would be getting ready to descend blinked on. A young flight attendant walked down the aisles regarding the passengers with a smile and making sure that their belts were on.
"Excuse me, miss," she reached over to shake a woman awake from her brief slumber. The book she held clutched to her chest fell onto her lap as her eyes groggily opened. "Sorry to wake you, but we're about ready to land, and we'd like it if you buckled up."
"Oh, thank you," the woman said, reaching behind her to buckle the seatbelt around her waist. The flight attendant just smiled and began walking down the aisle again, continuing her routine.
A mixture of anxiety and excitement had settled in the pit of the woman's stomach about half an hour ago, and the feeling had not left her. It had been a good five years since she had left Japan for France where she went to pursue a career in fashion design, and it had not been a disappointment.
At the tender age of twenty-three, Botan Furuya was at the height of her success, already having earned recognition in the world of fashion designers. It didn't take very long for her to be introduced to the right people, who helped her establish what would be the foundation for good business to cover her for the rest of her life. Like most other entrepreneurs her age, her clothing line had started small but gradually gained momentum at a faster rate than most others, and now the young woman's fashion line could be found on magazines from one stretch of the globe to the other. Sure, her schedule could be a nightmare sometimes, but she had figured that there were really only so many a number of people that could say they had succeeded easily or say they would be invited to the grandest of events and whatnot.
Besides, it had been what she wanted, wasn't it? That had been the reason why she left Japan, wasn't it? She was she content, wasn't she?
She never could dish out an answer that she could wholly believe without her conscience telling her otherwise.
What's the real reason you left Sapporo in the first place?Have you really exorcised the ghosts of your past? Or do they still haunt?
Do you still think about him?Do you regret leaving it all behind? Do you regret not knowing what could have been had you not left?
These were the questions she would ask herself when she thought she had moved on – when she thought that she had convinced herself that she had done the right thing and that she was happy.
So when Yuusuke Urameshi had unexpectedly called her, and nearly gave her heart failure after demanding, in such a tone that could give a deaf man a run for his money, where she had been all these years, she had purposely evaded the question and immediately asked how he, Keiko, and the others were doing. To which his reply was the main concern of his tracking her down and calling her; marriage bells were apparently ringing for another couple, and they had not wanted to have it unless the old gang were there, and thus included her."Does that mean I have to go back, Urameshi?" she asked with a wry smile.
"Why, yes, little lady. I think that warrants a good old trip back to Japan to see the friends you left hanging," he laughed. "Besides you're way overdue on visits. Everyone misses you… and some more than others."
Whether he had meant for his last comment to hold any hidden meaning or some sort, Botan had failed to catch it. She was already calculating airfare, her schedule, who she would ask to watch the business while she was away, when to pack, how long she'd be gone, and the list went on.
Botan gingerly placed her hand on the plastic shade over the rectangular window and lifted it up. It was early evening, and already she could see the cars zipping across the streets and freeways on their way home from a hectic day at work.
Still the busy city that she had known before she left.
Her thoughts drifted to the nightlife of the area, completely mesmerized by the fact that she could still remember it all very clearly.
But how could she forget?
It was in this city, when the lights were burning bright, only outshone by the light of the celestial bodies above, the cold air entangling itself into the unbound hair of passersby, where he had bumped into her, where he had comforted her when she and her ex got into arguments when she could not, and, ironically, it was also where he had broken her heart by telling her that he was in love with her best friend before she got the chance to tell him how she had felt.
"Dad, is Uncle Yuusuke gonna be there?"
"Hold still, Chiaki," Shuuichi said to his restless son, who stood bouncing on the mattress of his bed while his father helped to put a shirt on him. "And yes, he's going to be there. Why do you ask?"
Shuuichi put his son on the floor and looked down at him with a raised brow in question, silently asking what he meant.
"Uncle Yuusuke said that he bet Uncle Kazuma won't be scoring more than thirty tonight, and I said he could. So he said that if I'm right, he'll take me to Toons," he continued with a wide grin spread on his face. "And I know I'll win cuz Uncle Kazuma always scores more than thirty-five in a whole game."
The doorbell rang and Chiaki scampered off yelling to his father that he'd get it.
Shuuichi shook his head and smiled. He never could quite understand why kids were so naive even though he had once been through that stage himself. And Yuusuke. He was well aware that his friend knew that Kuwabara could score up to sixty in a game. He definitely had to talk with him about purposely spoiling Chiaki.
Chiaki opened the door and immediately found himself in the arms of one of his father's friends. "Hey, brat. Where's your dad?"
"He's upstairs, Uncle Hiei." He looked out into the driveway and spotted his flashy midnight blue vehicle parked beside his father's jet black SUV. "Are you gonna go to the game too?"
"Yeah. I'm catching a ride with you and your dad. It's better to take one car."
"Do you think Uncle Kazuma's gonna do good tonight?"
Hiei's face twisted into a comical expression all of a sudden. "I'm surprised that the ape even made it pro."
"Does that mean that you don't think he'll win tonight?"
"You got some ulterior motive for asking or something?"
"Atelier motif?" the child asked, completely dumbfounded with the older man's vocabulary.
"Is there a reason you're asking?" Hiei clarified.
Chiaki's bafflement melted, and his face immediately brightened as he explained. "Uncle Yuusuke said that if Uncle Kazuma scores more than thirty, he'll take me to Toons."
"He said that, huh?"
"Tell you what, squirt. If Kuwabara scores more than thirty points in tonight's game, I'll design and name a theme park after you. Call it my muse or something."
The little boy's eyes lit up. "With roller coasters and ferris wheels and scary rides? And cotton candy and popcorn?"
Hiei grinned. "Why don't we see if you win this bet first, kay, squirt?"
"I wish you wouldn't advocate their innocence by playing on it and then rewarding them for it."
"Why?" Hiei bent low and put the child down, who immediately scampered away. "It's just like telling the kid that Santa Claus is real, and he goes down a chimney to give good kids presents, and they get them."
"Sure, but they grow up kind of…"
"Like you," Hiei offered sarcastically.
Shuuichi shook his head and looked away. "I was thinking more along the lines of raw or naïve or something."
"Minamino," he began apologetically.
"It's okay. I know what you were trying to get at."
"It's not like kids are going to stay naïve forever. They grow out of it, and Chiaki's no exception. He's a smart kid."
"You think that skipped me or something?"
Hiei looked at his friend but said nothing for a while, and then he asked Shuuichi where his keys were. "I'll drive."
Botan's head whipped around at the familiar voice that yelled her name. When her lavender eyes came into contact with dark-chocolate ones, she instantly broke into a smile and would have run up to him and threw her arms around him had she not been carrying her duffel bag.
"It's good to see you back, Botan," he welcomed as he took the bag from her arms. "What'd you put in here anyway? Your whole house?"
Botan laughed. "If it isn't heavy for me, then it should be like a bag of feathers for you, Yuusuke."
"A bag of feathers, huh? Botan, my dear, I think you over-estimate my strength."
"And I think you under-estimate it."
"Well, it's been five years, you know." He put an arm around her and walked her towards the parking garage. "A lot of things have changed."
"Including your strength, I suppose."
"Well, I'm about to be a father to a baby girl. I had to learn to be tender eventually."
Botan laughed. "You remind me of the reasons why I should hate myself for ever leaving."
"Don't worry. You'll have the whole next week and a half to apologize and give us the story in detail, Furuya." He opened the passenger door for her. "Until then, you should just worry about Chiaki. If you aren't careful, he'll steal your heart away."
"Chiaki?" she blinked, puzzled.
"Mm-hm. You know, Shuuichi's son."
Hiei groaned. "Kid, your hands."
"Find some other place to put your hands besides over my eyes. I don't want your dad to sue me for all I'm worth if we fall down these stairs."
Chiaki laughed and shifted his hands so they were now resting on Hiei's forehead.
"You're funny, Uncle Hiei. Daddy would never do that to you."
"You don't know him the way I do," he mumbled. "Hey, squirt, do me a favor and look for your dad. You can see more than I can."
"Uhh…" he trailed off as large green pools searched the arena for his father finally locking on an unmistakably Minamino crimson. "He's over there with Auntie Yukina," his four-year old fingers pointed down to the far right side of the third row as his carrier walked towards the pointed spot and then casually greeting his younger sister.
"Hiei! You made it."
He shrugged. "I'm not here for the buffoon, if that was your underlying meaning." He looked over at Shuuichi, and hoisted Chiaki from his shoulders and onto a stadium seat. "I'm here because I heard about an engagement, and I'll strangle that clown before he lays a hand on you."
"Hiei!" she whined. "I know you didn't come all the way over here just to strangle my fiancé."
"What am I here for then?" her brother asked playfully, eyes glinting with its usual mischief.
She thought for a moment, her eyes scanning the basketball court. "I don't know. Do you think maybe it crossed your mind that you'd like to congratulate me?"
"You didn't know Shuuichi had a son?" Yuusuke asked a little tentatively, which Botan did not fail to notice.
She shook her head. "No. After I left, I cut off all communications with everyone, or haven't you noticed?"
Yuusuke tapped the steering wheel with his fingers. "You'll have a whole week and a half to explain yourself and apologize," he reiterated with a lop-sided grin.
"Yuusuke?" Botan blushed.
He laughed. "I missed you, Furuya."
"For what? Missing you?" Yuusuke asked confused.
"Oh no. I mean yours and Keiko's baby."
"Oh, that. Thanks." He smiled proudly. "We're gonna name her Kimoko. Kimoko Urameshi."
"Kimoko Urameshi," she repeated quietly. "When's she due?"
"In a couple of weeks," Yuusuke replied. "You know, Keiko was…" he paused, "…well, Keiko and I were wondering if you wanted to be her godmother, but at the time, we didn't know how to get a hold of you."
"Since you bring it up, just how were you able to track me down?"
"Shuuichi told us that you were in France," Yuusuke began. "I had a couple of friends down there, and I had them stalk someone under the name Furuya."
Botan grimaced. "Well, your stalkers did a good job."
"I guess. I mean, they did find you, didn't they?" Yuusuke grinned and then added, "And according to them, with your name plastered on practically every fashion magazine printed, you're kind of hard to miss."
Botan was silent, her eyes scanning the city scenery that flashed by her. "Who told Shuuichi that I was in France?" she asked absently.
"It figures." A wry smile had now twisted itself onto her pink lips. "She was the only one that I told I'd be leaving, and at the time, she was dating Shuuichi. I take it that she's Chiaki's mother then."
Yuusuke winced. Next to Juri, he was, contradictory to what everyone probably thought, Botan's closest friend. Being in that position led Yuusuke to discover that Shuuichi had captivated both the hearts of Botan and Juri when he moved to Sapporo from Fukuoka, but at the time, Botan had been dating someone else, and by the time that her relationship with her beau dissolved, Shuuichi had begun dating Juri. Not being one to disappoint friends, and her best friend at that, over such trivial matters, Botan didn't tell Shuuichi or Juri how she felt. She had convinced Yuusuke that she wanted them to be happy, and if they were happy, she would be too. But over time, especially after Botan had disappeared, Yuusuke had come to ponder if that had been the reason why she left Japan without telling anyone except Juri she was leaving.Had she really been happy? Had she really been okay with Shuuichi and Juri's relationship?
He would have to remember to ask her about that sometime later.
"Yeah, she is."
There was silence between them for a moment. Yuusuke wasn't quite sure if Botan ever found out of Juri's lost battle with leukemia, and was debating with himself whether to tell her or let her find out on her own, and if he did tell her, how he would tell her. Deciding on the former, he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, his eyes glancing sideways at her rather nonchalant expression.
"You know," Yuusuke started, "about two years after you left…" And immediately he was cut off.
"If you're going to tell me about Juri's death, you can spare yourself the energy you'd use to explain. I already know." She looked over at him, a sad smile implemented on her face. "I guess Juri had spilled the beans on my location to her parents too because they sent me a notice of her death, but by the time I got it, it was too late to fly here for the ceremony."
"It doesn't bother you?" Yuusuke asked, somewhat startled by her cool attitude.
"It did. It still does, but I try not to dwell on it. I found out firsthand that you can't go anywhere if you dwell on things of the past."
A light chuckle escaped her friend's throat. "Jaded, are we?"
Botan shrugged. "But back to Kim."
"Kim?" he inquired with a raised brow.
"Your daughter, Kimoko. Do you mind if I call her Kim?"
"No. Kim… I like that," he grinned. "You were always the one with the pet-name fetish. But what about her?"
"I'd love to be her godmother." She smirked and added before he could get a word in, "And I hope she doesn't turn out anything like her father. Her name sounds too soft for the personality of Yuusuke Urameshi."
"Hey!" he protested. "I should drive back to the airport and ship you back to France."
"Ship me back?" she laughed. "What am I? Cargo?"
He snorted. "Just remember that I'm driving, Furuya. I can stop right here and make you walk to your hotel."
Botan gazed out the window of Yuusuke's SUV, not really paying any attention to him, and noticed that they had come to the Jets' Home Court. "Yuusuke?" she asked, puzzled.
"Why are we here?" he asked for her.
"It's Kuwabara's big game. Thought you'd like to join me since I have an extra ticket. Keiko didn't wanna come so she told me to take you instead. Said something about it being a good transition and setting the mood or other. And you know Keiko. When she gets an idea, it's pretty near impossible to get her decision to falter. And besides, I'm not about to waste money." He reached over to open the glove compartment and took out a white envelope. "Here," he said, shoving the envelope into her lap. "You hold on to them."
"Kuwabara's… big game?" she asked. "I don't quite follow."
"Big guy's turned pro. Plays for the Sapporo Jets."
Botan suddenly squealed at that prospect. "I always knew he'd become pro or something, but now that he is, I can barely believe it."
"I'm sure he'll be just as excited to see you again, Botan," Yuusuke smiled.
He continued to drive around the arena to look for a decent parking spot, and unfortunately, not having arrived early, they ended up having to walk a mighty long way from where they parked to the entrance.
"You're a lot of trouble, you know that, missy?" Yuusuke teased.
"Me?" she cried.
"Yes. If I didn't have to pick you up, I wouldn't have to walk this far."
"Lazy," she muttered under her breath before going off again. "And it's not like I asked you to stalk me and get my phone number, you know."
"Smart-ass," he smirked and grabbed her, catching her in the crook of his arm and then mercilessly rubbing his knuckles on her head.
"Daddy," Chiaki's small hands grabbed onto his father's shirt as he tugged lightly, trying to get his attention.
"What's up, Chiaki?"
"Can we get some popcorn and a Coke before the game starts? Pretty please?"
"Mm… sure." He looked at his watch. "It won't ruin your appetite."
Yukina giggled. "It's tough to say no to that face, isn't it, Shuuichi?" She bent low and ruffled the little boy's choppy crimson tresses.
"Now I know how you do it," Shuuichi laughed as he bent over to scoop his son up into his arms.
"Do what?" Chiaki asked, blinking.
"Get your uncles and aunties to spoil you."
Chiaki pouted. "I'm not spoiled."
His father laughed and shook his head. "No. You're right. How could I ever think my son's spoiled, right?"
Hiei burst out laughing. "It's quite obvious that your brat gets you to spoil him too, Minamino."
Chiaki tugged at his father's hair unconsciously as he whined. "Uncle Hiei!"
"Okay, Chiaki. Let's go before the game starts." With his son in his arms, Shuuichi excused himself from the twins and walked up the aisle towards the snack bar, not at all prepared to see the least person he expected to see.
"After the game, Kuwabara's treating us to dinner." An idiotic grin appeared on Yuusuke's face. "I'd like to think that it's his way of trying to suck up to Hiei. After all, it is Hiei's sister that he's marrying."
"It was bound to happen," Botan pointed out.
"It was. I think everyone was aware of that, but I don't think Hiei thought it would be this soon. I'm not really sure that he's fully accepted it yet either."
"You know, I bet Hiei's outward attitude towards Kuwabara and vice-versa is just for show."
"I think they've always been prepared to be brothers-in-law or something. It'd explain why they fight all the time, wouldn't it?"
"Yeah, it… Hey." Yuusuke's eyes had wandered and locked itself onto a small boy. "Minamino!"
Shuuichi's head whipped towards where he heard his name being called and automatically shook his head at the sight of his friend. Chiaki, upon seeing Yuusuke, shook his hand away from his father's hold and ran towards him. "Uncle Yuusuke!"
"Was that record speed this time, Chiaki?" Yuusuke asked, bending down so that he was eye to eye with the little boy.
Chiaki shrugged and threw himself at his uncle. "You're gonna end up taking me to Toons, you know. And guess what?"
"Uncle Hiei's gonna end up designing a park for me too."
"Is he now?"
"Yeah, and…" his little voice trailed off as he now noticed Yuusuke's companion. A slim young woman, probably about the same age as Yuusuke with pretty blue hair pulled back and held by a pair of ivory chopsticks looked back at him with her large, lavender irises.
"Are you Uncle Yuusuke's girlfriend?" the little boy blurted out innocently.
Yuusuke nearly fell atop the little boy from the impact of his small question, and Botan just blushed, shaking her head.
"No, Chiaki. Her name's Botan Furuya, and she's just a friend. Not my girlfriend."
He wobbled over to Botan and introduced himself as best as a four-year-old could with his limited vocabulary.
"Chiaki… cute kid, cute name," Botan replied to the child before shifting her gaze to Yuusuke momentarily and back again.
"I wonder how long it'll take you to find a pet-name for him too," Yuusuke offered and was immediately replied with a raspberry.
"My daddy's here buying me some popcorn and Coke," Chiaki said, his hands tugging at the hem of Botan's white mini and then looking back towards where his father was standing. Botan's head instinctively looked in the direction where the little boy was looking, and she didn't have to look for too long before her eyes were captured by a familiar shade of deep bottle green. Seeing her, his eyes widened for a split-second before he smiled at her, and Botan's head automatically looked down.
The past that she had tried to repress deep into the blackest part of her memory had found a way out and was now running amuck her body, feelings she had not felt for nearly five years suddenly surging through her body, sending strange sensations to crawl up and down her spine. She began to feel uncomfortable and was tempted to ask Yuusuke to just take her to her hotel, but to her horror, her voice started blabbering the words that she was fairly sure her heart was responsible for forming even before her brain could tell it not to.
"Will Shuuichi be joining us during dinner?"
Yuusuke wasn't sure if the anxiety he felt emanating from her body was that of a good or bad nature and so asked, "Why? Do you want him to?"
"I… I don't know," Botan answered truthfully.
"Well, if it's catching up you wanted to do with him, then you don't have to worry. He's joining us for dinner, but if you're uncomfortable, I can drop you off at your hotel on my way to get Keiko. I'll just tell everyone that you're tired from the trip or something." He paused a moment and looked at her, his comments eliciting no reaction. "And since you didn't freak out when I mentioned that he'd be joining us for dinner, I gather that you wouldn't mind being in his company." He grinned impishly. "With that in mind, would you mind catching a ride with him after the game? I believe Hiei's riding with him as well."
"Why should you ride with him or why is Hiei riding with him?"
Botan frowned. "You know what I mean, Urameshi."
"I have to go and pick up Keiko after the game. I think it's pointless to have you come along when we'll be going to the same place. You'll just get there without any detours."
She tapped her foot in mock anger. "Yuusuke Urameshi, are you trying to get rid of me?"
Yuusuke snapped his fingers. "You saw right through my ploy, Botan," he said sarcastically.
She would have attacked him with an equally sarcastic comment, but she could feel Chiaki start pulling at her hand. She smiled down at the little boy.
"Here. I want you to meet my daddy, okay?" The small child dragged the older woman through the throng of people loitering around the lobby of the food court towards his father. "Daddy! Look at Uncle Yuusuke's friend. Isn't she pretty?"
Botan blushed, finding it very difficult to give him an acknowledging smile or hello or to, at the very least, even look him in the eyes.
"She sure is, Chiaki." Shuuichi picked up the small boy and turned around and asked the man behind the snack bar for some popcorn and a small Coke. Then he turned around and looked at Botan, the same goofy smile plastered on his face. "So, Furuya. Long time no see."
"Five years is a while," she concurred. Her eyes shifted to Chiaki, who was now munching contentedly on his popcorn. "You have a great son. Adorable too."
Shuuichi looked at his son and smiled, and Botan thought she saw a hint of sadness in the gesture. "Yeah. Little guy's my everything."
Botan almost wanted to slap herself. She probably just reminded him of Juri. Though she hadn't meant to do it, and though everyone probably said the very same thing to him about Chiaki, she couldn't help but feel guilty that this time, she may be the cause to his sudden memory of her.
"I heard you're pretty successful back in France," his voice interrupted her verbal self-injury.
"Where's France, Daddy?" Chiaki asked in between his chomps of popcorn.
"It's in Europe. You gotta fly there." He paused and looked at Botan. "It's where Botan lives."
The child looked at his father blankly, and, without skipping a beat, went back to giving his popcorn his undivided attention. Botan smiled. Chiaki reminded her so much of Juri with his easily distracted manner.
"We missed you," Shuuichi interrupted her thoughts again.
"Huh?" she blinked, averting her gaze at the boy's father.
"I didn't think that Yuusuke would actually be able to find you in the short amount of time that he did because all we knew was that you were in France pursuing what Juri preferred to call an unknown career." He offered a sheepish smile. "We didn't even know that you had your own line until one of Yuusuke's friends pointed it out when they were trying to find you. I guess we're not really paying attention to the fashion magazines around here. Your name is all over the place."
Botan blushed. "Well, it was really only about a year ago that my line's been recognized and printed on the press and stuff. The past four years was foundation building and getting to know the right people, you know?"
Shuuichi nodded. "When Yuusuke told me you were coming, I honestly didn't think you were. And even when he told me that you had boarded the plane last night, I was still skeptical." He chuckled. "Don't take it to offense, Botan, but I guess it was just a defense mechanism or something. It might sound strange, but after losing Juri, I've been having major trust issues, and I didn't want to be disappointed if you couldn't make it."
"If this has any ties to her death and my not making it, I want you to know that…" she frantically tried to explain.
"I know. Juri's mom told me a few days after the funeral."
Botan was at a loss for words. It seemed that no one could ever keep their mouths shut around here. She smiled. "For the record, for someone that has trust issues, that sure was a lot to tell someone you haven't seen or talked to in five years."
"I'm glad you're back," Shuuichi said with a smile, which Botan reciprocated.
"Daddy, let's go," Chiaki's voice chimed in. "Uncle Yuusuke's already gone back to the stands."
Author Notes: Ahh… what a long-ass first chapter. I don't know about any of you that bothered to read this, but I got kind of dizzy after having to take in all that information in the first freakin' chapter. If you all find yourself not at the mercy of a migraine, I apologize profusely.
Anyhoo, this is another AU fic. No surprise there. Are you guys getting tired of it? ' Want me to try and write something that is actually within boundaries of Togashi's original plot? I could if I tried hard enough, and if I'm given honest word that I won't be threatened with bodily harm if characters are still slightly OOC. '
Hopefully, that last paragraph in the first part of this fic (the part where a whole lot of "he" and "she" words were put in bold) wasn't confusing. The bold "he" and "she words all refer to Shuuichi and Juri. I hope that clarified that part. Also about Kuwabara playing for the Sapporo Jets – I don't think that team really exists. I just thought it sounded cool. ' I ate at a Japanese restaurant yesterday, and they had an ad for Sapporo beer or something… x) And I'm pretty sure Sapporo is a city. Do correct me if I'm mistaken, otherwise I'd be setting this fic in a nonexistent place. :P
Other than those two kinks, was this chapter really confusing? I hope it wasn't. That wasn't my intention. It's just that I haven't written a new Kurama x Botan fic in a while, and I just got this buzz, literally, to write this one. The idea was all over the place while I was a prisoner at the hospital. ' Don't ask. But anyway, beware for future fluffiness. No, seriously. With Shuuichi's "kid" loose and all over this fic, the fluff is a definite given. I am a slave to the fluff. :P
Ahh… I feel like I'm forgetting something. . Oh well… I'm brain-dead right now. If I remember, I'll stick it in the second chapter.
Well, please read and review. Comments, suggestions, flames, etc – they're all very welcome.
Any Kurama (Shuuichi) x Botan fans reading? Please visit and support this clique:
www . geocities . com / kb reflections
(No, the site is not dead by the way. I got a concussion and was at the hospital for like 4 – 5 days last week, and the week before that, I had laryngitis and was irritable, so no updates. I'll get on it this week, and stuff should be up by Sunday as usual. Sorry for the inconvenience.)
Disclaimers: Yuu Yuu Hakusho and its characters belong to Yoshihiro Togashi, Shueisha, Fuji TV, Shounen Jump, etc. Don't sue. You are cool.