Title: One Promise Too Late

Authors: Buffybot76 & Space Monkey Ku

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: Kuwabara/Keiko

Summary: Keiko is feeling down about her break up with Yusuke, when someone unexpected takes her mind off her troubles.

Disclaimer: We do NOT own YYH or its characters. They belong to their creator, which sadly, is not us.

Prologue

Keiko Yukimura walked along the local park's concrete sidewalk slowly, the bottoms of her shoes scuffling along as if she barely had the strength (or willpower) to lift them properly. Her arms wrapped around her trim waist in an almost protective gesture, Keiko's head hung down dejectedly as she watched the ground. He hadn't come back. Yusuke had promised her before he left for the Demon World that he would return to her and they would be together. Three years she had waited, had faith in him, and he'd broken his promise. Her arms tightened around herself at the thought, as if the gesture could ward off the sudden chill that had come over her... that had claimed her heart. She could feel a stinging sensation behind her eyes as her vision began to blur slightly and she clenched them shut in a vain attempt to ward off the tears that threatened to fall.

It didn't work.

Flashback

She'd broken up with him earlier that day and yet here he sat in the restaurant as if nothing had happened. He'd even made her sit with him when she'd tried to retreat upstairs to be away from him. She had done her best to ignore him, try to make it obvious that she wasn't in the mood to talk to him, until he'd grabbed her hands.

"Let's get married." He said when he had her attention. His eyes where dancing, his attitude sure, as if he knew she wouldn't say no.

"In three years?" She asked, raising her eyebrow, keeping her expression annoyed, though inside her heart was racing. She'd always thought that was how it would end up, but there had been plenty of doubts. To actual hear him say those words...she wasn't sure if she wanted to laugh or cry. Her face betrayed none of this to him.

"Just three years." He promised, still grinning.

She rose without a word and headed up the stairs.

"Keiko!" She heard him call, causing her to stop, but not turn around. "I love you!"

"I know, I know." She called back heading up the stairs again, though it took an effort to keep from running.

End Flashback

"Damn you, Yusuke." The embittered words trickled from her lips in the same manner as the salty teardrops fell from her still closed eyes. "Why..." She continued on, her sluggish pace made even slower by her inability to see and thus cautioning her steps. "Why didn't you come back...? You promised. You stupid jerk, you promised!" Her last few words came out a bit louder than her previous ones, but still sounded distant to her ears due to her dampened spirit.

She was gone, just like that.

He'd thought she had been happy in the human world, that she had liked living in the temple with Genkai. But she'd told him she needed to be with her own people. And now he was alone.

Kuwabara sighed as he stuffed his hands even deeper into his pants pockets, head bowed as he walked through the park. He'd come here in hopes to clear away the memories of his beloved Yukina, but... it didn't seem to be working too well. He could still see her face... hear her voice as though she were near him. Part of him refused to believe that she was gone for good, that he'd never see her again. Even though he knew it was true. He'd sworn to always protect her, but now that she was gone... He felt useless. Kuwabara was so involved in his own thoughts, he didn't realize anyone else was in the park with him... until he heard the startled yelp, and realized he had bumped into someone. Strong arms instinctively shot out, grasping the forearms of the person in which he'd nearly plowed over, steadying them with a sure grip.

"I'm so sorry! Are you all right?" He asked, before he realized who was in front of him, "Keiko?"

"Uh... huh? Kuwabara?" Moisture filled brown eyes stared up at the towering red head with a slightly obscured look of surprise.

Her tears startled him, "I'm sorry, Keiko. Are you hurt?"

Instantly, the tear-filled gaze was averted. "No... I'm fine, Kuwabara." She mumbled faintly.

He stared at her for a moment, knowing she was lying, and badly at that, but was unsure of what to say. Not for the first time he wished he was better at talking to people. "Are you sure?" They sat next to each other on a bench in uncomfortable silence, Kuwabara desperately trying to think of something to say.

Keiko kept her head lowered, not really feeling like facing Kuwabara at the moment. But she knew her tears had worried him. 'He's such a sweet guy,' She thought. 'Yukina is such a lucky girl to have someone like him... So totally devoted to her... Only her.'

"So...um...is Urameshi back yet?" He finally asked.

The mention of Yusuke's name had Keiko clenching her eyes tightly again to ward off oncoming tears. She shook her head sharply. "No."

So that was it, Kuwabara realized. Yusuke had forgotten about her... Again. He'd seen this happen many times, but this was the first time he'd seen Keiko reduced to tears about it. "He'll be back," He tried to assure her; "You know how Urameshi is."

Keiko's auburn hair whipped about her face as she shook her head. "No, he's not." She said glumly, "It doesn't matter anyway."

"Did something happen?" There was a finality in her voice that concerned him.

She laughed lightly, though the sound was tainted with bitterness, "Yeah, you could say that." She glanced up at him then, not bothering to hide her tearful eyes. "I finally came to my senses, is all."

He stared at her, shocked. In all the time he'd known them, Keiko and Urameshi had been together. Sure, they didn't always get along, but they were always together. It was impossible for him to believe that Keiko would finally give up.

If she noticed his shocked expression, Keiko showed no sign. Instead, she looked back to the sidewalk in front of her as she continued to speak. "Even though he's always protected me when something happened, I've always been second. Even before he became a Spirit Detective it was the same thing. He loved to fight, no matter if it was you or... just some random bully. It's what he lived for. I always managed to catch his attention for awhile, but it never lasted. Once the next punk came along to challenge him... I don't want to come second anymore, Kuwabara." Once again, she turned back to face him. "I want... I want to be put first for a change, you know? I got a letter from him yesterday. He said he has some "important business" he has to take care of before he can come back, and that it will probably take another year or two to finish. He asked me to wait... but I don't think I can do that anymore, Kuwabara."

Kuwabara turned away, trying to think of what to say. He felt he should try to patch things up for Urameshi, they were friends after all. And Urameshi did care about Keiko. He would be devastated if he came home to find Keiko had given up on him. Yet at the same time, he couldn't bring himself to do it. Urameshi didn't realize how good he'd had it. Keiko was always there waiting for him, supporting him, and he just threw it all away.

"Urameshi always was an idiot," He muttered, not realizing he'd spoken out loud.

Keiko blinked, not being sure she had heard Kuwabara correctly. "What?"

Kuwabara froze, his eyes wide. He'd actually spoken out loud! He could feel his cheeks burning with embarrassment as he desperately tried to think of a way to get himself out of the situation. Clearing his throat nervously, refusing to meet her eyes, he muttered, "Nothing. I didn't say anything."

"Uh... okay." She replied. "What are you doing out here anyway, Kuwabara? Shouldn't you be at Yukina's?"

As happy as he was that she didn't press him to tell her what he'd said, talking about Yukina wasn't something he wanted to do either. Of course, he would have to tell everyone sometime. "She's gone. She went back to Demon World. She won't be coming back." He told her without looking at her.

"Oh," Keiko's eyes widened in surprise. She had definitely never expected Yukina to leave. She seemed to care for Kuwabara, and it was obvious that he deeply loved her. She was always first and foremost to him. Oddly, this thought caused a strange feeling to come over her, but she shook it off. Instead, she placed a hand over one of Kuwabara's in a gesture of comfort. "I'm so sorry to hear that."

Silence passed between them as they both sat, lost in their own misery. Suddenly, the sound of bells chiming disrupted the quiet environment, causing them both to look up. A middle aged man stood off to the left of their bench beside a cart with a sign posted on the front which read: Ice Cream Cones - All Flavors. A small smile appeared on Keiko's lips as she turned to nudge Kuwabara in the arm. "Hey, you want some ice cream? I know it won't bring Yukina back or anything, but, maybe it'll cheer us up some."

He wanted to tell her no, but something about the look on her face made it impossible. Instead he smiled, "Sure, why not?"

He stared at his hands as she walked over to the ice cream cart. He should have told her no, he wasn't good company for anyone right now. His mind made up, he decided to tell her he needed to leave. She turned at that moment, and looked back at him over her shoulder, a smile on her face. It lit up her whole face, Kuwabara realized, and felt a blush burn his cheeks. This was Keiko he was thinking about, Urameshi's girlfriend, he wasn't supposed to be thinking like that!

Kuwabara fought back the blush that was threatening to make his face match the color of his hair, and returned the smile tentatively. This seemed to please Keiko, for her smile brightened even more before she turned back to the vendor, supposedly to place an order for their preferred frozen treat. He glanced down, studying his hands which were entwined and lying limply in his lap. It was then that he realized he'd forgotten to tell Keiko what flavor he wanted and so looked up to call out to her, only to find she was already making her way back to the bench, twin cones in hand. He started a bit when he noticed she had managed to select his favorite flavor after all.

'But...how did she know?' He wondered in awe.

Keiko paused, handing him the ice cream, "Did you want a different kind?" Something about the way he was looking at her made her wonder if she'd done something wrong.

"No, no," He said quickly, "I'm just surprised you knew what kind I liked, that's all."

Taking a seat on the bench next to him, Keiko realized she hadn't really thought about asking him what he wanted. She had just remembered what flavor he'd chosen a few other times they'd hung out together. She supposed the memory had just stuck. "Huh, I must have just remembered you saying what kind of ice cream you liked." She offered her means of explanation.

"That must be it." He agreed. They lapsed into silence neither one able to think of a way to keep the conversation going, but at the same time neither minded the silence.

They ate their ice cream, each looking off in a random direction, not really seeing the beautiful scenery around them. The plush green grass carpeted the entire area except for where the cement pathways had been laid. Oak, Elm and Birch trees were sporadically located around to enhance the wilderness feel to the park. The sight was one that would soothe a person's qualms, put their minds at ease, if only that person would allow it. But the slim brunette and husky red head were not willing (at least they thought) to be comforted from their woes. Finishing her cone first, Keiko leaned over to throw her paper wrapper in the trash, the movement causing her gaze to travel over the form of the young man beside her. She couldn't help but notice how broad Kuwabara's shoulders actually were. They looked solid and strong, the same as his arms. Keiko immediately blushed, realizing her thoughts and wondering where on earth they had even come from.

'I don't think of Kuwabara that way,' She reasoned in her mind. 'All this time, I've loved Yusuke...have been waiting for Yusuke. Then why can't I feel the sadness I've been feeling for the past week? Ever since I got that letter from Yusuke... saying he still wasn't ready to come back...'

Shaking the thought away, Keiko redirected her gaze from Kuwabara's chest to his face... and promptly burst into a fit of giggles.

Kuwabara watched puzzled as she clamped a hand over her mouth to hold her laughter back. She had a very pretty laugh, it lit up her whole face, but it wasn't so cute when she was laughing at him. "What?" This appeared to be the wrong thing, it only made Keiko laugh more.

Doing her best to calm her laughter, Keiko wordlessly reached out and grabbed his chin, turning his face towards her as she used the napkin in her other hand to wipe the tip of his nose.

She held the napkin out to him so he could see the ice cream she'd wiped off. "Sorry," She murmured still trying to hold back laughter, "it just looked funny."

"That's all right." He smiled at her, and then dipped his finger in the remaining ice cream he had and touched the tip of her nose. "Now we're even."

Keiko giggled again and Kuwabara smiled contentedly, having accomplished what he'd set out to do. She was just too cute when she laughed and for some reason he didn't want her to stop. Shifting his ice cream covered fingertip to the left slightly, he brushed it lightly across her cheek. "Uh oh, look, you got some there too." He teased while Keiko's giggle erupted into a delightful squeal.

He moved his hand away from her cheek intending to wipe the last of the ice cream on her other cheek, but Keiko grabbed his wrist and turned his hand towards his own face. Not expecting her to retaliate, Kuwabara's arm was lax enough for the petite girl to almost succeed in her task, until instinct finally kicked in. In a flash, he had Keiko whirled around and pulled against him, her back to his chest and his arm wrapped around her waist, capturing her arm against her side as she sprawled haphazardly in his lap.

He'd done it without thinking, and knew he should let go once he'd realized what he'd done, yet he hesitated. There was something whether it was the smell of her perfume...the way she felt pressed against him... that felt right. He didn't want to let her go, he realized with shock.

It took Keiko a minute to realize what had happened. One minute they were goofing around and the next Kuwabara had his arm around her waist. Without thinking she leaned back against him. And for the first time in quite a while she felt protected and comforted at the same time. Safe. That was the only word she could think of to describe it.

Kuwabara pulled his arm away, and Keiko shifted over on the bench, a blush staining both their faces. "Sorry." They both said at the same time, not meeting each other's eyes. The surreal awkwardness of the situations made for a very tense atmosphere where neither one knew what to do or say. Thankfully, the tension was cut as a voice shouted, "Heads up!" from their left, causing them to look in that direction.

BOINK

Keiko's eyes widened in surprise as she watched Kuwabara's face take on an even deeper color red than it already was, only she was pretty certain it had to do with the fact that he'd just taken a pot shot to the face by the black and white soccer ball that was even now rolling a few feet away from their bench. A second later and a young boy around 13 ran up to retrieve his runaway ball.

"S-sorry about that," He apologized, flustered at the look of growing anger on Kuwabara's face. "I tried to warn you."

Kuwabara stood, towering over the boy, ready to pound him when a sound caught his attention. He turned and looked back at Keiko who was desperately trying to control her giggles.

"Sorry," She gasped, "It just looked so funny!"

The sound of her laughter was contagious and he found himself laughing as well. "I suppose it did." He said, hand behind his head, allowing the young boy to run back to his game safely.

Keiko smiled up at him, their eyes meeting, and her heart skipped a beat. She stood quickly, looking at the watch she didn't have. "Oh, it's getting late! I should be going home……."

"Me too," Kuwabara said quickly, running his hand nervously through his hair. Eager to get away before his mind went back to how she had felt against him.

"So, I guess I'll see you around then." She started walking away. Stopped as though thinking, then turned and ran back to him. Grabbing his arm, she pulled him to lean down while she stood on her toes so that she could kiss him quickly on the cheek. "Thank you." She whispered, and hurried off before he could say anything.

Kuwabara watched her run off, slowly raising his hand to his cheek.

"You're welcome."

TBC…