Disclaimer: I do not own YuYu Hakusho. That means no Hiei, Yusuke, Kurama, Kuwabara or Koenma or any of the other gorgeous anime guys that are featured on this show. They (and of their lucky anime girlfriends) all belong to Mr. Togashi. And now that I am thoroughly depressed, I think I'll just toddle off to bed with a huge quart of rocky-road ice cream.
Warning: May be OOC at some point but I'm going to try REALLY hard to make sure that they're all in character. There is NO Kuwabara bashing in this story unless it's just Yusuke or Hiei being themselves. I happen to respect Kuwabara and I hope that I don't get any flames just because I refuse to bash him. Also, some spoilers...a few vague references to the Makai Tournament and the Sensui Arc.
Keiko Urameshi looked with bemusement at the chaotic scene in her backyard. Puu squeaked in protest when her arms involuntarily tightened and she let him go, knowing he'd be back later, when it was time to cut the cake. This was the two-year anniversary of the day Yusuke got back from the Makai and the group decided to have a little get together every year afterward, to "catch up". Her brown eyes traveled to Kurama and Yukina talking (no doubt trading healing tips), to the swing-set that Kuwabara and Yusuke were trying to build for the upcoming arrival of their child. She and Yusuke had argued over purchasing said swing-set but one look in his eyes and the famous puppy-face had awarded victory to Yusuke. Shizuru was inside, getting the rest of the food out for the patio. Hiei was lounging in "his" tree, eyes watching for any threats. She was particularly surprised to see him but figured that Mukuro had given him permission to be here for the day. The greenhouse (a wedding present from Kurama) door was wide open, the heat escaping and adding to the humidity. Botan and Koenma were the only ones who hadn't arrived yet. At the thought of the blue-haired ferry-girl, she sighed. The last time she'd talked to her, Botan had seemed withdrawn, and listless, completely unlike the cheerful optimist that Keiko had come to see as a sister.
I hope everything's all right with her. Maybe Koenma's done something to upset her again...
Keiko was the only one who knew of the relationship troubles that Koenma and Botan had been having as of late. They were having arguments so often that it almost seemed like a morbid type of routine. Although, Keiko thought, I never really thought he was the one for her. He was a good person and definitely not bad on the eyes but somehow, he didn't seem...right for Botan. Of course, Keiko had kept her opinions to herself. She too polite to give Botan her opinion unless she was asked and Botan wasn't in any real danger from being with Koenma. Botan had seemed so happy when they got together that Keiko didn't think it was right for her to spoil it just because of a little feeling that had no real root.
Still, she couldn't help wondering...
"You're doing it all wrong Urameshi!"
The former Spirit Detective gave an exasperated sigh at the rather unwelcome sound of his best friend's gravelly voice. Not that he'd ever admit it of course. He did have a reputation to live up to, even if he was already married and unofficially retired from the world of professional ass-kicking. Turning back to Kuwabara, he started to spit out one of his acidic retorts when a movement from the corner of his eye suddenly gave him pause. A flash of blue told him that his favorite ferry-girl had just arrived.
Oh yeah... and Koenma too.
He realized something else. They'd arrived separately. Usually, Koenma had just programmed a portal to take them anywhere they wanted to go in the human world. Yusuke gleefully rubbed his hand together. He was going to have fun milking it out of Koenma.
He cocked his head to the right when he heard a girlish squeal.
"Kuwabara! Put me down!"
Botan was currently spinning in mid-air courtesy of Kuwabara as everyone else looked on in amusement. After his ears had taken enough torture, Kuwabara gave in to her request, brown eyes sparkling with mischief.
"Well it's not my fault! You guys hardly ever come down here except for these parties. I've just missed you is all."
Botan smiled at him and after nodded greetings to Kurama, Yusuke and Hiei(still in his tree) moved to talk to Yukina and the very-pregnant Keiko. Shizuru chose that moment to come out of the house, arms laden with plastic plates and various eating utensils. Kurama rose from his seat to help her while Kuwabara and Yusuke continued their work on the swing-set. Koenma walked inside the comfortable two-story house, telling everyone he was going to wash up.
Picking up a screwdriver from the ever-present toolbox, Yusuke turned to Kuwabara.
"Did you see that?"
Kuwabara didn't even need to ask what "that" was and Yusuke knew it. Hell, with his friend's heightened sixth sense, Yusuke was surprised Kuwabara didn't already know what was going on.
"Yeah. I wonder what he did this time."
"You feel up for a little detective work?"
"Sorry. So you interested or what?"
"Hand me that hammer and we'll finish this up. Then, we investigate. Don't you think your baby's more important then the relationship problems of your former boss? "
Kurama shook his head at the usual retorts and gestured for Hiei to help him with the grill.
Yukina, Keiko, Shizuru and Botan were inside sitting on the living room sofa, talking about everything. Keiko insisted that the boys could wait for the food for a few more moments. They had some major gossip to share.
"So Keiko, how is pregnancy treating you?"
Keiko thought for a moment, and then winced. The baby had kicked her again.
Shizuru gave a low chuckle.
"Guess that answers our question."
Botan turned to the elder Kuwabara with a smirk playing on her lips.
"And how about you? Married to Japan's former 'most eligible bachelor'?"
Shizuru rolled her eyes upward.
"Don't let him hear you talk like that. Contrary to what you might think, Kurama's got a healthy-sized ego."
"Yes, but he can certainly afford to have one. He is quite adorable and his looks have only improved with his maturity."
The smoker's eyes softened.
"Yes they have, haven't they? Now, Kazuma on the other hand..."
Yukina cut her off before she became too harsh.
"Now, now. Kuwabara is handsome enough for me. And even if he wasn't, his personality more than makes up for it."
They sat in silent contemplation for a while, all four thinking about their various situations before Keiko saw the perfect opportunity to pounce. She knew Botan wouldn't mind spilling her secrets with Yukina and Shizuru present so it was now or never to pose her questions.
"Hey Botan...how about you and Koenma?"
A decidedly more masculine voice cut into the conversation at that point.
"What about us?"
Botan turned pinkish eyes on him, and spoke softly. Keiko suddenly noticed a slight redness in her friend's eyes.
"Nothing Koenma, can't we have a little girl time without one of you guys spoiling it?"
Although the words in the question were teasing enough, the tone they were delivered in had a touch of sadness. His brown eyes looked at her with something akin to regret. He nodded his head and walked outside presumably to help Kuwabara and Yusuke set up the slide.
That left Botan at the mercy of two extremely perceptive human women, and one equally persuasive ice apparition.
"What was that all about?"
There were times she hated Shizuru's advanced sixth sense. This was definitely one of those times.
"Botan, don't give us that! Now answer Shizuru's question," Keiko snapped.
Must be those mood swings...
Yukina didn't say anything but Botan knew she was just as curious as the others. And she did owe them an explanation. After all, they were her friends and they should know. And more than that, she wanted them to.
"Koenma and I broke up."
"What do you mean you and Botan broke up?"
By now, Kurama had left the steaks grilling, Hiei's ki moderating the intensity of the flames. Two of the four former detectives were sitting on the ground waiting for the story. Hiei was sitting near the grill wondering what in hell had possessed him to come to this "party". Then the image of Yukina came to mind and he stopped wondering. Kurama sat a little further away reading a book, deciding that if Koenma wanted to tell him about the beak-up he would, and until then he would mind his own business.
"I mean we broke up. Plain and simple."
"Why? What'd you do?"
Koenma resisted the urge to bop both of them on the head.
"I didn't do anything..."
At the regret in his tone, everyone became silent. Kuwabara was wondering what had happened. Yusuke was plotting his next question. Kurama was reading. Hiei was grousing and keeping an eye on the grill.
"There has to have been a reason. Botan isn't the type who'd break up with you over nothing."
Koenma looked up from the ground and changed into his toddler-form. It was tiring for him to stay in teen form for too long and besides, for some reason. It seemed easier to tell the story if he was in this form.
"We just decided...that it would be better if we went back to being friends. Simple as that."
"No. That's not all is it?"
He turned to Kuwabara who was watching him closely. It was rather unnerving. For someone Yusuke and Hiei called stupid all the time, there were few things he missed. Well, except of course for the Yukina-Hiei sibling relationship but that was intended...
And the Genkai incident...
Hell, they'd be here all day if he kept this up. It would be much easier if he just told them the whole story. Although, at the moment, he couldn't recall why he was even telling Yusuke and the others. Maybe because he needed a man-to-men talk.
"Maybe there is that little matter of me falling for someone else."
Kurama dropped his book, all good intentions tossed in the wind and even Hiei drew a little closer. If only just to tease Koenma later on.
"He's in love with Ayame? Isn't she that dark-haired ferry girl you told us about? The one who helped out during the whole Sensui incident?"
"Yes. That's her."
Shizuru cracked her knuckles.
"Want us to castrate him for you?"
Botan blushed and shook her head in the negative though she couldn't stop a giggle from slipping through.
"No really. It's all right. I mean, it hurt me. But it didn't hurt as much as I thought it would. Am I making any sense?"
Yukina shook her head.
"I'm afraid not."
Botan closed her pinkish eyes.
"Hmmmm.....I don't really know how to explain it. I mean, I can't say I expected it. I thought we were good for one another. And I'd liked him for so long really. But remember when I got my vacation a few months ago? I wanted him to come with me. But he couldn't. Said he was too busy but told me to have fun. I didn't want to leave, but he insisted and so I went. He needed someone to fill in for me while I was gone. Enter Ayame."
She was startled to notice a few tears sliding down her cheeks but she continued her story.
"Anyway, that vacation lasted a good two months. Remember Keiko? I helped you go shopping for baby clothes, and we all had that 'girls-only' party at my temporary apartment? Oh and the trip to the carnival with the whole gang?"
After their nods in the affirmative, she rambled on.
"Yeah well, all the while, Ayame and Koenma were getting closer and closer. And he and I were fighting more and more. Then when I got back, he told me. He was up front and honest about it, which is saying something because you know how he can be sometimes..."
She trailed off when her voice broke. After a few sniffles and a hug from Yukina, she finished her story with a wavering voice.
"So he told me what happened. And I cried, of course. I mean, I did love him, after all. But for some reason, it didn't hurt me as much as being betrayed by your soul mate is supposed to hurt you. Like I said, I cried, and I still do sometimes, but in the end, it was pretty much a mutual break-up. And that's it."
"And that's it?"
Yusuke waited one minute.
And then punched Koenma in the face.
He held back his strength, and hit just hard enough to hurt the demi-god, but not hard enough to bruise.
Koenma had been the one who brought him back to life after all. But that didn't mean he could hurt one of Yusuke's few friends and get away with it. Especially since this particular one was like the annoying little sister he never had.
Koenma rubbed his cheek gingerly.
"Well I guess I don't have to ask what that was for."
"No, I guess you don't."
Hiei, Kurama and Kuwabara watched impassively. The last two were digesting everything they had just heard. Hiei turned and walked away, sick with the whole affair. Human emotions meant little to him and he didn't understand their complications and idiosyncrasies. He idly wondered how the woman felt about all of this. He could never bring himself to even think of her using her given name. To him, she was just the one who had assigned them their missions and gave out relevant information. He had never bothered getting attached to her, like Yusuke, Kurama and Kuwabara. He wasn't soft.
Koenma's voice broke into his train of thought.
"Well, I hope you'll all be on your best behavior today, no matter what you think about the situation."
"Because Ayame's going to be here a little later."
"He's proposing to her? HERE?"
Shizuru shook her head and resisted the urge to take out a cigarette.
"That's what he told me. What? Don't look at me like that!"
Yukina, who had been silent for a while, looked at Botan with pity. When the ferry-girl saw her expression, she grimaced.
"Yukina, don't feel bad for me. I don't need you all to worry. I'll be fine. So when she does come, be nice to her and give her a chance. She really is a lovely person."
At that, she stood up, smoothed out her blue and white kimono, and walked to the bathroom, no doubt to freshen up.
The minute she was out of earshot, Keiko burst into tears.
"Where is he? I don't care if I'm pregnant; I'm going to castrate that cheating jerk with a plastic spoon!"
Shizuru shook her head and calmed Keiko down, mentally noting to stay on her good-side. Although she shared Keiko's desire, she knew it was for Botan to decide how to deal with Koenma and Ayame.
"Keiko, you have to calm down. Think of the baby!"
Keiko looked at Shizuru with all the tears Botan had refused to cry in her eyes.
"Didn't you see it? She's trying so hard to be strong and happy. But this is killing her!"
A clink on the hardwood floor told them that Keiko wasn't the only one feeling Botan's pain.
Botan slipped outside to check on the progress of the food and the swing-set. When she saw Koenma holding an ice-pack to his cheek, she knew that he had told them. She only wondered which one of them had given him the bruise. It was wither Kuwabara or Yusuke, as Kurama wouldn't have resorted to such "crude" technique and she found it hard to believe Hiei even cared. A few moments later, she found her enveloped in a strong pair of arms.
"I'm sorry about what happened Botan, but I gave him a pretty bruise to always remember you by."
She turned, gave him a kiss on the cheek and ruffled his un-gelled hair playfully. But when she looked at him, there wasn't a trace of humor in her eyes.
"When she comes today, be nice to her...ok? She's a nice person. Give her a chance?"
The tinge of red in her eyes almost made him hit Koenma again but he decided against it. Keiko would no doubt have his head.
But then again...
No. He wouldn't do that. This was Botan's problem to confront and he'd help only when she asked.
He gave her a small wave and walked back to the still-unassembled swing-set. She walked to the end of the large backyard, and near the entrance of the small greenhouse and was instantly confronted with a mass of red.
"Kurama! You started me!"
He gave her a small smile in response.
"I've got something for you."
Her eyes lit up at the prospect of a present.
"Really? What is it?"
"Close your eyes and hold out your hand."
When she did as he asked, he presented her with a single perfect white rose. No doubt grown with the help of his special green-thumb.
"I know what happened with you and Koenma and if you need someone to talk to, Shizuru and I are always here. Meanwhile, I've always found that walking among greenery is one of the best ways to sort out one's problems. I'll tell everyone where you are all right?"
"All right. And Kurama?"
He was watching her. Her eyes were sad as she gently cradled the rose in her hand and walked amid the wild vegetation Kurama had "installed" as a safe guard against any unwanted visitors. His eyes followed her every move. He had never noticed the grace with which she carried herself or the smoothness in even her simplest movements. He tensed when her eyes fell on his hiding place near one of the trees, but instantly relaxed when she shook her head and presumably attributed her unease to imagination.
She stopped in the center of the garden and inhaled the delicate scent of flowers.
"Kurama was right. A walk here certainly takes your mind off of things..."
A deep sigh followed.
"I know it's considered odd for someone to talk to themselves like this but in this case, I think I have the right. I mean, what do you when someone you were in love with for two years falls out of love with you and in love with someone new?"
She started to cry again, the tears she had tried to stop coming back full-force.
"He was my everything....at least I think he was... And yet, I'm crying not because of the break-up... but because I don't know how else I'm supposed to react. He's going to propose today. I don't know if I'm crying because it isn't me he's proposing to, or because I've just gotten so comfortable to him being with me. It's like I don't love him, but I do. I'm so confused... But none of this makes any sense! Does it? "
Of course, no one answered.
Botan gradually stopped her tears and stood up from where she had been kneeling. She wiped her face and used her compact mirror to check her appearance. Then, she walked out of the greenhouse, promising herself, that she wouldn't cry again.
She didn't notice the man who followed her, eyes trained on her figure.
The food was all set up when she got back to the patio and Yusuke and Kuwabara were putting the finishing touches on the swing-set.
A sudden "pop" attracted everyone's attention to the living room. That only meant one thing. Ayame was here.
There was a split second in which everyone didn't quite know what to do. Then, Koenma walked inside to greet his (hopefully) fiancée, followed by Yusuke and the others. Botan was last, still thinking about her mixed emotions.
"...and finally, this is Kuwabara."
Ayame smiled at him. Kuwabara looked her over with his "man's eye". She was pretty, but he was sure that Botan was definitely prettier. Served Koenma right for breaking her heart anyway. But he wouldn't take out his resentment on Ayame.
"Nice to meet you, Ayame."
It was definitely awkward. Everyone except Hiei seemed to be walking on the proverbial eggshells and that was only because he didn't show that much emotion to begin with anyway.
The purple-haired ferry girl turned to Koenma with a quizzical expression on her face.
"Lord Koenma? Is there a reason you asked me to come here?"
The prince's eyes widened and he tugged at his red scarf. Keiko would have normally giggled, but she was still too angry to notice the demigod's nervous actions. Shizuru, Kurama and Yukina watched impassively. Botan smiled cheerfully, but it lacked its usual luster and didn't quite meet her eyes.
"U-um....A-Ayame, there is a r-reason I asked you here. Will y-you...t-that is...will you..."
He took a deep breath.
"Will you marry me?"
Botan's heart shattered when Ayame lit up and hugged the life out of Koenma.
The others had warmed up to Ayame and offered their congratulations. Keiko was a little friendlier and Shizuru talked to her a bit. Yukina was just being the darling she always was. Botan had said her peace, and walked outside, hoping for some solace from the night wind. She shivered with the cold and something else that she couldn't quite identify. The door creaked open behind her and she turned to see Koenma looking pensive.
"Why aren't you inside?"
She gave him a bleak smile and turned around to face the backyard.
"I'm not in the mood for celebration. I don't want to pull anyone's mood down."
She looked down at his fourth left hand finger, knowing that in a few months it wouldn't be bare anymore. The thought made her queasy.
He looked at her one last time, shook his head and turned away. As he walked inside, he said, in a soft voice that Botan had to strain to hear...
She looked at him and when she was sure he couldn't hear her...
Kurama and Hiei excused themselves from the festivities to get some air. Well actually, Kurama excused himself. Hiei just left. When Keiko saw that they were headed for the backyard, she decided to follow, wanting to see how Botan was doing. So with Yusuke's help, she hoisted herself up from her sitting position on the couch and walked into the night air. Kurama waited for her and Hiei walked ahead, already outside by the time Keiko was still walking through the doorway. Kurama and Hiei walked to Botan as she conjured her oar.
"Botan, might I ask you a question?"
Botan blinked at Kurama.
"I mean, I realize it's none of my business but I've been quite curious since you came—"
Now this was odd. Kurama seemed almost...flustered. Kurama was never flustered.
"Just ask the question Kurama."
He bent his head near her ear and whispered it to her. Her eyes went wide and her face turned pasty white.
"Of course not!"
Hiei said nothing but Keiko could almost taste the disbelief.
At the hard look on his face, Botan's resistance crumbled.
Now Keiko was thoroughly confused. What were they talking about?
Then, what Botan said next made Keiko feel faint.
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