The tall, muscular young man shuffled down the sidewalk of the local neighborhood towards home one cloudy, Friday afternoon, his mind currently musing upon the subject of his name. To most, he was referred to as Kuwabara – his family name. Seldom and only by a handful was he ever called by his given name, Kazuma, and even then, he did not regard all of those among that "few" as close. It had never occurred to him why even those he considered to have formed a greater bond of friendship with, such as Yuusuke Urameshi, called him by his last name. When you referred to an individual by their last name, you were being formal, but for Kazuma Kuwabara, being called by his last name was being both formal and informal, and on most occasions, it would be the latter.
Normally, the youth would not dwell upon such trivial subjects, but his mind had been idle since classes had ended. He had forsaken his band of followers for the day in order to return home and retrieve more comfortable clothes for dance practice.
Dance practice? Kazuma Kuwabara?
He could almost laugh at that, but even Hiei, the most withdrawn member of the Reikai detectives, was attending this fiasco. He would undoubtedly have been the first in line to vouch that that was the most absurd thing he'd ever heard of – Hiei dancing. But as it was, that was the very plain truth. The prince of Reikai was turning 600 years old, an average of perhaps eighteen human years, and to celebrate, he was holding a grand ball where certain invitees were to dance in his cotillion. As a member of the Reikai detectives, Kazuma Kuwabara could not have declined the prince's request.
So continued his musings upon why there was a preference to calling him Kuwabara.
He had barely reached the corner of the street when he heard a frightened scream, a non-verbal plea for help, followed by malicious laughter. Curious and instinct bolting in, he ran in the other direction towards where he had heard the noise.
Rounding another residential street, he began to make out the silhouettes of a few, sniggering figures hovered above something that he rightly assumed was helpless. He stopped his run and transitioned himself into a casual walk, and closing in, he discovered that the figures were just sophomore boys from his high school bullying a poor freshman. He rolled his eyes. It figured. Some kids just had nothing better to do on Fridays except to pick on other defenseless kids, but then again, he did go through a similar phase a few years ago before he matured and prior to becoming a detective.
When he was a mere few steps away from them, and they still did not acknowledge him, he cleared his throat. His towering figure and stoic expression alone produced a slight dilation of the eyes and a minor tremble of the bodies of the three young men who turned at the sound of his throat. He was not even able to utter a single word before one of the boys suddenly stepped forward and spoke, and because of this, they would have never known for certain if the bigger boy's initial words would have been friendly or menacing.
"Kuwabara, sir," the first boy squeaked. "Please don't hurt us."
"We were just gonna leave." The second lad's voice came in various tones and pitches as his words stumbled out in a stutter, while the third stood behind the first two paralyzed into silence.
He couldn't help it. The smirk that now graced his lips had certainly came on their own volition. Kuwabara was not about to touch a single hair on any of their heads without them throwing an instigating blow upon him. He would only have socked one of them in the eye if he needed to, but at the sight of their pleading when he had yet said or done anything seemed to do wonders on his male pride.
He waited until he could no longer see the trio before shifting his attention towards the lad still on the ground. Comparatively timid to his harassers, this boy was much more petrified as he looked at Kuwabara's looming shape. Poor boy could not even find his voice. Apparently, Kuwabara's physique and past reputation had managed to reach the ears and gossip of the younger class, even down to this poor soul.
Arrogance aside, he was about to offer a hand to the boy on the floor when his conscience suddenly prevented him from doing so. Instead, he heard his own voice speak.
"Wrong place to be hanging out alone, kid." He motioned his head down the sidewalk, simultaneously jamming his fists into his pocket. "You better beat it."
For a moment the boy just looked up at Kuwabara, no longer shaken by fear but by surprise. He must have thought he was as good as dead what with one of the district's notorious bad-asses in front of him, but he shook his head and immediately scampered off not caring to even throw a glance back. Kuwabara's clear, cerulean eyes simply watched the boy disappear down the street. Though his heart had compelled him to physically help the freshman, his pride only allowed him as much as words, but even then, the comfort in them was subtle, making sure to camouflage the tenderness with superiority through tone and choice of vocabulary.
Turning in the other direction, Kuwabara, once more, began his trek home.
--"Bye, Shizuru. I'll catch you tomorrow, okay?"
A wry smile twisted itself upon his lips as one of Shizuru's girlfriends left his house. He hardly ever heard anyone refer to his older sister by her last name the same way he hardly ever heard others call him by his first name. She momentarily gave him a startled look when she realized that he was standing within a short distance from their front gate before putting her usual mask of nonchalance.
"Hey, little bro," she greeted carelessly, lighting a cigarette. "Botan's inside waiting for you."
He walked up the steps of their porch and before walking in the front door, he turned and asked, "She's already here? How long…?"
"A while, and she's here with Shuuichi though so don't get worked up over making them wait."
His blue eyes bore into her hazel ones in disbelief before shaking his head. "I wasn't getting worked up over anything," he grunted.
Shizuru allowed her eyes to roll about while a tiny smirk rooted itself onto her pale lips. "Whatever."
"Tch." He passed the threshold into his home and plodded into the living room where he heard a light chuckle and familiar giggling. Shuuichi and Botan, no doubt. Ever since the demon fox had found the courage to court the deity of Death, it was near impossible to find one without the other in tow.
He cleared his throat when he approached the arch leading into the living room where Botan was holding up a magazine and her wallet filled with pictures. "Hope you kids are being good," he teased.
"Kuwabara!" Botan greeted, completely ignoring the magazine to get up and throw her arms around the taller youth. "Took you long enough."
Slowly releasing his friendly embrace from the shorter girl, he smiled nervously in accompaniment to his response. "Sorry. There was… trouble."
Botan looked at him, a crease having formed on her forehead to indicate a very unbecoming frown while Shuuichi gave him the slightest hint that he was concerned. "Trouble?" Botan squeaked. "What…"
Kuwabara merely waved them off while walking down the hallway to the kitchen in order to retrieve a glass of lemonade. "Don't think in terms of demons or anything," he explained. "It was just a bunch of these kids picking on some dweeb." He took a moment to pause, tactfully taking a sip of the glass of lemonade in his had to think of the words he would say next without really saying what he wanted to. "These younger kids sure do have the weirdest perceptions of us, huh?"
The young couple said nothing. Botan turned her head up and gave Shuuichi a questioning look, as if he would possibly have an answer, and all he gave her was the tiniest of smiles. She doubly looked at Kuwabara, who was now back in the living room gulping down his lemon-flavored drink, and the girl could only wonder at what it was that Shuuichi knew but was not telling. There were some things that she knew Shuuichi would probably know more of regarding the carrot-topped psychic due to the bond they shared as Koenma's detectives.
Her lavender irises once again captured Shuuichi's emerald ones, silently asking if he'd let her in on what he knew. A sliver of a smile appeared on his well-defined features, and bending down, whispered, "We all have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome, don't you think?"
Botan put on a pout. Sometimes she hated the fact that her boyfriend had a decent brain because he could use it to encrypt things he didn't really feel like elaborating on, and even more irritating was that he loved to use this ability often. "Hey, Kuwabara, are you ready? Cotillion practice starts in half an hour."
The pair heard a grunt and then the sound of heavy footsteps going up the stairs.
"I can't take this anymore," Koto groaned, removing herself from Kuwabara's hold. "He keeps stepping on my feet. I need a break. Koenma, your Highness, if you don't mind, could we just sit around for a few minutes or something?"
The Reikai Prince eyed her warily and looked about the ballroom at his other dancers before shifting his gaze towards the rather ornate clock against one far corner. They had been practicing for nearly two hours without rest, and his pair of royal feet were beginning to feel the pressures of pain themselves. The prince looked back at Koto and shrugged. "I suppose." Snapping his fingers, he immediately ordered one of the ogres, who stood off along the walls, to get him a drink and to announce a short break.
Kuwabara let out a long sigh, and invited himself to a small glass of fruit cocktail. Why, of all the women, human or not, in the three worlds, did he get stuck with Koto? Hell, how the hell did she even get invited? Lord only knew how annoying she had been as an announcer during the Black Tournament. And if he remembered correctly, she had had the wildest infatuation for Shuuichi's demon half, but he really did not need to worry about them; he knew well enough that Shuuichi could take care of himself, and if by some super-natural power he was suddenly rendered helpless, Botan would surely come into play. The deity's soft features and charming personality was surely deceptive for he knew for a fact that she could fend off any woman, or man for that matter, who came so much as fifty feet within her boyfriend with the intention of more than just a friendly conversation. Kuwabara snuck a glance at the couple, currently in a friendly bicker, and from the way that Shuuichi laughed while Botan pouted, he easily surmised the redhead had teased the deity.
Sipping at his fruit cocktail, he moved from the crowd of invited dancers towards the balcony. Kuwabara figured he needed some cold air to cool him down. Learning the steps to one of Reikai's most difficult native dances was a workout, and it didn't help very much that his partner happened to be someone he disagreed with. If he could have had it his way, he would have preferred to have Yukina be his dance partner, but the choreographer that Koenma had chosen had said their major difference in height would not give the dance the correct aesthetic appeal. Therefore, he was paired with Koto while his beloved Yukina was being held by Touya, the ice wielding ninja.
He was not jealous; he had no need to be. After all, as far as he knew, Touya was not interested in Yukina, and it wasn't like he, himself, and Yukina were official… at least, not yet. Each time they met, he had wanted to court her, but it was a little difficult now knowing that Hiei was her elder brother. There was also the matter of her naivety to take into consideration. As sweet as that could possibly be, it also posed as one of his biggest challenges. Yet it was her gentle innocence that attracted him. How ironic it all was.
Kuwabara leaned against the cold marble of the balcony and left his drink to sit atop it. He stared into the vast darkness of the sky, the moon and the stars the only source of light out there. The fog was beginning to disappear off into the distance. Normally, it would be thick around this world, but these past nights, it seemed to understand that it was the Reikai prince's birthday celebration and would be appreciated if it were not present.
He shook his head. How appropriate that fog seemed to compare to his personality. His rough front was never wanted in the presence of something so beautiful as Yukina, and whenever he saw her, it seemed to understand that it was not wanted. His guard always seemed to drop and his tough-guy image would always ebb.
His thoughts would have continued to meander along this same path had it not been for a gentle tap on his shoulder. Turning around, he had expected to see Koto probably ready to drag him back in but was surprised to see Yukina standing there with the sincerest of smiles playing on her lips. Her eyes seemed to twinkle as she spoke, "Kazuma?"
Yukina was the only one in their close circle of friends who ever called him by his given name.
"It's a very beautiful night, don't you think?" she asked with the softest of laughs.
"What are you doing out here?" Kuwabara wondered aloud, a soft blush now painted on his tanned complexion. Realizing what he had just said, he quickly shook his head and attempted to correct himself. "I mean, why aren't you inside with the others?"
"I was having the most interesting conversation with Touya about where he came from, but he excused himself to have a word with Jin." Her bright crimson eyes seemed to sparkle as she cocked her head to one side with a smile. "And it looked as if you were in need of some company."
A soft but deep, throaty chuckle escaped his lips as he took off his jacket and gently placed it on the petite girl's shoulders. "It might be a beautiful night, Yukina, but it's still cold."
Yukina blushed at the taller boy's kind action, gently pulling the sides of the coat tighter about her small frame. That alone would have been thanks enough for Kuwabara, but her verbal politeness always seemed to override all of her already courteous physical acts. "Thank you, Kazuma."
Kuwabara turned around and leaned against the balcony rail, gazing at the horizon once more. "Why do you call me that, Yukina?"
His query posed a whir of sudden befuddlement on the ice maiden. Was Kazuma not his name? Did he not want her to refer to him by that name? She did not understand and so took a tentative step forward, focusing on the horizon as well. "I beg your pardon?"
Kuwabara's shoulders moved up and down in a slow, fluid fashion and merely replied, "Why do you call me Kazuma instead of Kuwabara like everyone else?"
There was a short pause after his clarified question came out, and from the corner of his eyes, he saw Yukina's figure with her head slightly bowed down and her delicate fingers fiddling with one another in, what seemed to him, apprehension. He was on the verge of kindly telling her to just forget that he even asked his question, but her tiny voice interrupted him before he could voice them out.
"Kuwabara sounds too hard a name for someone as gentle as you."
Yukina had said this so confidently, so matter-of-factly, that had it not been for Kuwabara's discipline and self-control, he would have surely burst out in a mad fit of laughter. Next to the idea of Hiei dancing, him being classified as gentle would have been the next most absurd thing he's heard in a very long time.
Again, he wanted to speak – wanted to tell the mistaken young lady that her statement was false. Maybe she had not seen all the gang fights he had been in, and perhaps, she was not there to witness all the youkai he had slaughtered, but what about the Black Tournament? Hadn't she been there watching? Didn't she see how brutal he could be? Couldn't she see that he took his equal share of beatings like a man? Kuwabara was most certainly fitting for his being, his existence, and so in this particular train of thought, he realized that this was probably the reason why so many called him by his surname than his first name. There was simply a much stronger essence in the name Kuwabara, a name people had decided to call him long ago up until today, and it was only this girl who dared to break tradition and address him by his first name.
"I don't think that's you, really," Yukina went on, continuing to put her companion into something akin to shock. "That's the you that you want almost everyone to see, right? But I think there's another you, and I think that's… real." It was only at this point since she fist started her small speech where she raised her eyes to make contact with a pair of shocked cerulean ones.
"You're a sensitive human male, Kazuma. A characteristic not too many possess anymore." She smiled warmly at him before walking back inside the dance room, but before she took that final step past the gold-rimmed, glass double doors, she paused to look at him over her shoulder, his coat still resting upon them. "And I think that's what I like about you the most."
Kuwabara was left speechless at what he wished to call just her innocent talk, but it struck him that she had a point. For all the naivety she seemed to exude, she had an eye for what seemed to be the minutest things. He laughed to himself, not knowing if he should have taken what she said as an insult or praise. Unconsciously allowing the muscles that controlled his lips to move them ever so slightly upwards, his eyes looked out once more at the now clear, Reikai night-sky.
The same yet…
So different, you and I.
Author Notes: maniacal laughter Even if this was not centered around Kurama and Botan, I still had to find some way to give them a cameo as a couple, huh? Tee-hee. Anyhoo, this was my first ever Kazuma Kuwabara fanfic, and even though it didn't really make too much sense, I guess you could call it my tributary fic to him – I seriously don't think he gets the credit he deserves. You shallow, shallow people! Just kidding. x But he seriously is a great character! Think about it, eh?
This is also the first of any of my pieces of fan literature that closely stays within the confines of Yoshihiro Togashi's original series. Woot! Go me! But shoot, it was hard! They might still be a little out of character (especially with Yukina, me thinks), but hey at least, the detectives are still detectives and Koenma's still the spoiled prince, right? ;
What else? Oh yes, I'm trying to get back on track with my writing. You can refer to my bio for new and upcoming fics, but please don't get your hopes up too high because, as some of you might know, I'm "le terrible" at updating. hides But moving on, anyone interested in co-writing a fic with me? If you are, e-mail me, and I'll give you the gist of the idea bouncing around in my head. You might be asking why I need a co-writer. Well, I need a co-writer because it's complete comedy, and I don't know how to do comedies… well. Plus, I just feel like doing a fic that's a collaborated effort. So if you think you've got the right kind of humor, just e-mail me. :D
And if there are any Shuuichi (Kurama) x Botan fans reading, and you're suddenly wondering what the hell happened to the clique, fear not! I'm in the middle of moving in to a domain. le gasp The webbie? Moving? To a domain? Yup. Dude… the site is seriously getting too big for GeoCities. I'll finish final updates tonight and I'll have the new link posted on my bio and the old site tomorrow.
Disclaimers: Yuu Yuu Hakusho and its characters belong to Yoshihiro Togashi, Shueisha, Fuji TV, Shounen Jump, etc. Don't sue. You are cool.