I was a little freaked out. He told me to meet him here and he wasn't here.
Yes, I was almost a half hour too late. I deserved to not find him here; I deserved to be forced to apologize to him. I deserved a lot of things right then.
But having a hand dropped on my shoulder and me practically jumping out of my shoes isn't something I would consider myself needing or deserving.
And wouldn't you know the person standing right behind me is him? I could've just… well, I was thinking I could've slapped him, but this is Kurama and I wouldn't quite dare.
So I ended up saying something lame. "You scared me!"
He smiled just slightly, his expression benign. "I apologize. I thought you weren't coming so I wandered around the garden a bit."
"Are you in the gardening club?"
He shook his head. "Only student government."
Of course, he was our new treasurer, remember that?
I certainly did.
"I apologize, I hadn't intended on it raining. The benches are, unfortunately, wet."
I nodded. Yes, I'd discovered that already. There was a faint wet spot on my butt and I wasn't really thrilled about that.
"Kurama…" I started. "I just…"
"Please, allow me to do the speaking."
His voice was soft, but at the same time commanding and so I shut up. I wanted to know what he had to say anyway.
"Perhaps my attentions to you were sudden. I confess I expected you to come even if you didn't return my interest in you."
Expected me to come? Well, it would've been rude not to and… I didn't interrupt.
"You're too kind a person to be bothered with someone with whom you aren't interested in." He reached and took my hand between his and then brought it to his lips. He bowed over it and kissed it softly. He was so… sweet. "Please tell me at once you if you would like not to see me."
"Not see you?"
He smiled slightly. "Socially."
See him socially… that was like…dating, right?
He cleared his throat. "Courting, if you would prefer I didn't court you?"
I nodded. "I'm sorry."
He dropped my hand and stepped back a pace. "I understand. I appreciate your directness."
"No! No. I don't mean I don't want you to court me. I mean, its fine I just… it feels… it just feels sudden."
"Of course, I went about it in a way you are unaccustomed to. I've been thinking of it. Then, I would like to extend an invitation for you to dine with me."
"You want to have dinner?" I asked dumbly. I felt so stupid right then, obviously that's what he meant. I cursed myself for acting like a moron.
"Yes. We could take in an event or just dine together," he offered.
I really wanted to sit down and there was no logical reason for the feeling.
"Okay," I said. Simple, to the point.
Would 'yes' have been better? Maybe. I needed to get away from him. He made me over-analyze life in general.
"This evening then?"
Wow, that was sudden. He wasn't messing around, was he?
"Uh… sure, that would be okay."
I was going to be home alone anyway.
"In an hour, would that be suitable time?"
Time? Uh? Was this super formal or something?
"This isn't going to be expensive or really, really formal, is it?"
"Not if you don't want to."
I shrugged. "Not super-formal, okay? I don't think I have a dress for that kind of occasion."
"Of course, whatever you think is best."
He offered to walk me home and I declined. I wanted to get there and start agonizing over my clothes. I really didn't want him beside me as I agonized before I even got there.
I would see him in an hour; I assumed he'd call me.
At the school gates, we parted.
Anxiety coiled tight in my belly as I began to walk home.
I hoped the more I got to know Kurama this feeling went away.
When the official time came, I was in a panic. There were so many things I didn't know, so many things we hadn't talked about.
I mean, I didn't even know where we were going. Was he coming to my door? Was I going to his?
When the clock chimed six and then I heard the knock on the front door, I thought he'd come to pick me up.
When I opened the door...
The boy had the world's most amazing timing, I swear.
"So, I hear you and Starbutt are going out tonight, looking hot, Keiko."
He breezed past me and headed on inside. He ended up dropping himself down on the couch and propping up his feet.
"But before you go, we need to have a talk."
He sounded so serious, I thought he was. So I went over and sat down on a chair by the couch.
"You're getting older now, Keiko..." he started. "And with this being your first official date with a boy, I think there's a few things we need to talk about."
He was joking again, wasn't he?
I kept my mouth shut and let him continue, determined that once this swirved into inappropriate territory, I'd slap him.
Of course, I could always just let him prattle on and not react at all, maybe that would discourage him from doing it in the future.
I didn't have high hopes, but wasn't everything worth a try at least once?
Okay, I take that back, weren't most things worth a try once?
"...going out with that boy, Starbutt and we both know how girls are with him. They're willing to give their arms, legs and anything else if he so much as glances at them suggestively."
Apparently, I had missed half his speech.
"But I don't want you thinking just because you're dating a popular boy you have to compromise your morals to-"
"What!" I screeched.
He curved a glance my direction. "I'll boil it down for you. No sex on the first date."
I glared at him, not sure what to say.
Was he serious?
He sounded serious, he really did.
He even looked serious. I couldn't believe it.
When there came another knock at the door, Yusuke went to answer and I let him.
Don't ask why.
Maybe I just wanted him out of eyesight for a moment.
I never did like answering the door when I was home alone. I don't think any girl does really.
I rolled my eyes.
At least I knew who was at the door.
Kurama came inside, I could hear his footsteps.
"What are you doing here, Yusuke?"
"Just giving Keiko some pointers. Don't want you getting fresh with her or anything."
I turned around in my chair. "Yusuke!"
"Hey!" he turned back at me with a stern glance. "He's a youkai under that pretty human face and the only thing Youko's thinking is 'mate' and Youko is a big part of Kurama these days."
I scowled at him, both confused and irritated at his intervention.
Was Youko really thinking that? How much of Kurama was Youko? Was he all Youko under that face like Yusuke said?
I stood up, feeling self conscious. Especially now that Yusuke had to come along and start talking about sex so... well.. blatantly.
Mind you, I wasn't dressed extravagantly or immodestly, but... I was wearing a skirt. Somehow the image of myself being pressed against a brick alley wall with Kurama's hands under my skirt was the first thing to pop into my head when Yusuke told Kurama not to "get fresh".
What an imagination I had...
"Yusuke, don't you have something better to do?"
He scoffed. "You should be thanking me for thinking about you. I know youkai a hell of a lot better than you do."
I couldn't argue there and how was I supposed to snap at him when he made it sound like he was worried about me like that?
"Right, well, shall we go?"
I grabbed Kurama's arm and for reasons unknown to me, he started grinning.
"I assure you I shall be a gentleman during the duration of our date, Keiko."
I paused at the door. "Does that mean you're not so much of a gentleman after the date is over?"
His smiled widened. "Only if you want me to be."
The date went... well, it went, let's put it that way. We had dinner and he brought me home.
It wasn't really that boring. The problem I had with the date was simple. I couldn't stop having little daydreams about Yusuke's comment and Kurama's behavior.
No, he didn't do anything inappropriate, but I imagined him doing inappropriate things.
You know what the problem was?
I'll tell you what I think...
I think there was something on those seeds that Kurama placed in my room. And when I touched them, it got all over me.
I think I'm infected.
With what? Now that part I'm not sure about...
Of course, yes, I know I'm being ridiculous and paranoid again.
When we were sitting at the table and he reached for the salt... I'm not sure I even want to remember this...
I was wearing this blouse and it had this little key hole at the front with a button. It was like a circular cut out showing my flesh, nothing revealing and nothing dirty, just a little elegant design.
This is embarrassing even to remember...
I imagined him taking the salt shaker and ...
Right through the keyhole of my blouse and down my shirt. Worse yet, I imagined him getting up and trying to get his tongue far enough down the key hole to lap at the salt.
Why was I fantasizing about salt?
Maybe it was that weird sweat fantasy from the journal, maybe I was weird.
Anyway, the night only got stranger from there...
I also imagined him sliding his foot between my thighs underneath the tablecloth, it didn't happen.
Giving me suggestive glances and smiles, this may have happened, I wasn't entirely sure.
When we left, there was a resurgence of the hands under my skirt, back against a brick wall fantasy, only I imagined him doing a lot more than just touching.
I was out of my mind when we reached my doorstep. I was jittery and well... hot, let's say that.
My skin felt literally hot.
On my doorstep he leaned forward and gave me a chaste kiss.
"Chaste" wasn't the word for it really, "elementary", "school yard kiss" were really better terms.
It was a brief smack of lips and it was over.
Yusuke had opened the door and was staring right at us like an angry father.
I wanted to kill him.
In fact, once Kurama left, I tackled him onto the couch. Didn't get anywhere, but I made the effort.
He just laughed at me.
He actually spent the night crashed on the couch. I could hear him snoring when my parents got home.
I sighed. It was Saturday morning and I was insane.
He was in a park, away from the city, with school people and worse, Asuka was with him.
Now don't get me wrong, Asuka was okay. Moderately okay.
Did I trust her with Kurama?
Not by a long shot.
Asuka had the kind of sweet, clingy personality that defined "fan girl" and I wasn't about to let her have her way with Kurama. I was beginning to … well… what I was feeling wasn't the issue.
I could see her kneeling down on the ground with him as they stared at plant leaves. She would ask him how he knew so much and gush over his botanical knowledge and I would feel like gagging.
They would walk through the woods and she would hear a noise and grab onto his arm, clinging to him.
I growled lowly and laid back on the couch.
They would pass under high trees with low hanging branches and find themselves a tiny little oasis away from the others.
Kurama would see no one around and push her back against the tree as Youko urged him, 'mate!'
I leapt off the couch.
What if he was really feeling that way?
I didn't want to be abandoned.
I wanted Kurama to continue to court me!
Sure, maybe I hadn't been thrilled at first, but really, was it so bad? I mean, how many people got to experience something like this anyway?
I ran for the stairs to grab my bag and then ran back down for my shoes at the door.
That little hussy!
That horny bastard!
I would see for myself if it was really happening.
Otherwise, I was checking myself into a psychiatric institution for monitoring.
Deciding to go after Kurama and his classmates proved to be an ill-conceived plan. I had no money, no lodgings, and no one knew I was coming here.
Fantastic planning on my part.
There was one thing in my favor though, the park turned out to be amazingly popular and well-known, so I found it easily.
The bad thing?
There's always a good thing and a bad thing, by the way.
The bad thing was that Kurama and his friends weren't the only people there.
There were people everywhere.
And why shouldn't there be, it was a weekend after all, another thing I hadn't considered.
Kurama's group was small, consisting of four people.
How was I going to find a group of four in a gigantic park?
I didn't know, but there were too many people milling about in the open grassy section, so I took a detour and headed toward the wooded path. There was a sign there, 'wooded path', and that was helpful. I walked along, and it got quieter as it got deeper. I didn't see many people around actually. It wasn't encouraged to leave the trail, it was too easy to get lost. 'That had been on the copious rules boards out front. I remember that one especially. There was also a 'no swimming rule'.
I could suddenly see poor Asuka having fallen in tragically and requiring rescue, the poor girl's clothes clung to her body.
Youko would howl and-
Yeah, I was getting out of hand, wasn't I? Some people never learn and some never listen and some were just crazy.
Anyway, the woods smelled nice but the ground felt a bit soggy. Maybe it had rained here as it had the day before where I lived. Seemed reasonable.
Although the day had been sunny it was shady and still damp out here. I stopped to touch my hands to a dewy leave near the foot of the trail off to one side.
I thought I was alone, so the sudden voices surprised me.
"Oh, Minamino-san! It's so hard! Can I touch it?"
"Of course, Asuka-san. Touch it all you like..."
That was Kurama!
What was he letting her touch?
"Ooooh. Thank you so much for showing this to me, Minamino-san." "Please, call me Shuichi, won't you, Asuka-san?"
The girl sighed with wonder as though he'd just given her a precious wonder or something. "It would be an honor to call you by your first name... Shuichi."
I had just about had it. It seemed like all my worst fears were on the brink of being realized and all he could do was smile, no doubt he was smiling, and over her free, casual use of his first name?
Were they gonna strip down and do it against the tree while they were at it? She was already touching something hard, wasn't she?
I growled and almost leapt out of the bushes at them but stopped when Asuka continued.
"Shall we catch up with the others now?"
Kurama's response was delayed only momentarily. "Of course."
I, being a super-sleuth for the day, followed along behind them.
I was really getting into this now. I was irritated and suspicious and feeling like a cross between a detective and a superhero. I was here to save Kurama from the sticky fingers of evil man-stealing super villainess Asuka.
Yeah, see, I told you I was getting out of hand.
Apparently, I hadn't eaten enough for breakfast or something.
Foliage crunched pleasantly underfoot, but no one seemed to notice me.
I ducked behind trees and peered around leaves and branchy outcroppings. Only when I was down on my knees, crouched behind a strange looking hedge and about to fall over because part of the ground behind me was wet did I realize I probably looked like a complete idiot.
"Hey, Minamino-san, what's up with you and Yukimura?"
All the muscles in my back and shoulders seemed to tense up. I yelped and slapped a hand over my mouth and lost my base of support as the hand I was using to keep my knees from getting wet… Ugh, let's just say, I tipped over.
It was so comically un-funny.
I had wet leaves sticking to my legs and wet spots on my uniform when I got back onto my feet again.
By some insane kind of miracle the others had started to laugh and missed my bout of clumsiness entirely. Only now I was worried because I hadn't heard what they were laughing about and I feared it was me.
"So you are dating then, right? She's like your girl?"
There were three boys in this group and one girl, Asuka, lucky girl. Or at least that's what some of the girls at school had been saying. The ones that weren't cursing her existence, of course.
I hadn't really thought anything about it, or was trying not to, until … well… yesterday or so.
They finished whatever they had been examining, and as they straightened, one of them tossed something casually away and straight toward me.
If something weird or bad can happen, it will.
It was an acorn.
Yeah… I was silently cheering I hadn't gotten bonked on the head by an acorn and they were walking away.
I hurried to catch up discreetly.
I was gonna get caught, I just knew it.
I was feeling so pessimistic lately.
Kurama hadn't replied to the dating question, I wasn't out of it enough to know that. I'd been listening this time.
They weren't getting any more free laughs at my expense.
"Keiko and I are exploring our options," Kurama answered at length.
"Exploring your options… Heh…" the two boys laughed. "Exploring the mysteries beneath her skirt maybe?"
Asuka had wandered away a bit and the last comment was muttered, I, however, had still managed to hear it.
I started to stand up and march over and punch him in the face, but stopped short when I heard heavier footsteps approaching from another direction.
"Che, nah, that means he prances around acting like some perfect boy toy boyfriend and Keiko gets to stare at his ass, right Starbutt?"
What was he doing here?
I hunched down further afraid he'd followed me here.
If he called me out of the bushes and I had to crawl out dirt-smudged and semi-wet I'd be mortified.
The young males exchanged watery smiles, not sure if they were supposed to laugh or not laugh.
They backed up several paces as Yusuke closed in.
Kurama crossed his arms, his mouth thinning into an impersonal frown. "What are you doing here, Yusuke?"
Yusuke returned the frown with a glower. "Keiko's mom called me in a fit of panic because Keiko isn't answering the phone and she's supposed to be home all day."
"What brings you out here?" Kurama asked coolly.
Yusuke cocked his head to the side. "You know damn well what brings me out here." He turned a sharp glance toward the cowering young males that were Kurama's classmates. "Get lost."
They took off.
Asuka had wandered off beyond sight and I forgot about her for the most part as I observed my two friends about to engage in a stare-down or something.
Were they really, I wondered, about to fight or something?
It was looking anything but pleasant.
"Yeah, hey, don't do anything I won't have to kick your ass for on Monday, got that?" Yusuke warned, his tone clipped and raised.
Kurama merely stared back at him impassively. "I have no intentions of doing any such thing."
"Don't bullshit me and no kidding around. Call Keiko's mother as soon as you get back to the hotel."
Yusuke turned on his heel to go just as abruptly as he'd showed up.
I took a brief glance around as I noticed him do the same. I was just darting my eyes around the area when…
I spotted eyes.
Brown, bright eyes…
Looking right at me.
I swear my heart could've stopped right there.
It was Asuka.
She was standing behind a tree not more than a few feet away, eavesdropping as I was.
I stared at her, she stared at me.
We seemed equally frozen until footsteps, again, interrupted.
I looked up, but it was too late.
Kurama's voice was soft and urging.
"Come out now."
I didn't move.
Did he mean me? Or Asuka? No doubt he knew both of us where there, right?
Oh crap, that mean he'd known the whole time, didn't it?
I was so lame…
I looked up.
Yusuke was gone and Kurama was not where I had last seen him. In fact, he was now directly between me and Asuka and staring… you guessed, at me.
Wasn't I lucky?
I was stupid.
What was I thinking coming out here like this?
Staring into his tender green eyes, I couldn't think of anything.
I felt like the biggest, ugliest skin boil on the planet.
I was in agony.
And he could greet me so casually?
Me, hunched down in the dirt, wet and with pine sap between my fingers?
Behind him, Asuka moved so she was just to the side of us.
"Um… I'm gonna go find the others, okay?"
She didn't wait for an answer, she just went and I was grateful; the less people about to witness one's humiliation, the better.
He came forward to help me up, but I felt offended and rejected his offered hand, standing on my own.
I felt self-conscious and vulnerable and… well… stupid.
"Your parents are worried," he stated.
"Yeah. I should've called before I left, I wasn't thinking."
I mentally slapped myself.
Wrong thing to say!
"What brings you so far out of town?" he asked his tone perfectly even.
"Um…" I shifted nervously. I was going to lie and say 'sightseeing', but then I met his eyes and I couldn't. "I sorta got out of hand with something. It was silly."
"What was that?"
How could he ask me that so directly?
I sighed. "Just the whole trip thing. I mean, the you and Asuka, I mean… I know, she's like… clingy, that's mean of me to say I don't mean in that way I just… I worried a little."
"So you came to spy on me?"
How could he stand there and act like we were talking about next week's weather?
"Yes. I behaved like a complete juvenile and followed you here, I didn't call my mother, I didn't bring the things I needed, I did something stupid because of some stupid delusional jealousy and, wow I shouldn't have said that out loud."
"So then… " He took a step forward. "This is your formal acceptance of me? Your mad-dash here to save me from the clutches of another female?"
He was definitely smirking.
Figures that he'd be entertained by this, I thought.
"I wouldn't call it a mad-dash…" I started hesitantly.
He took another step forward.
He was close enough now to take my hand and he brought it up to his mouth, breathing across the back of my fingers. His lips followed, kissing my knuckles gently.
I brought a hand up to fan my face feeling my cheeks flame slightly.
He was so amazing sometimes!
Why didn't other guys act so sweet?
He brought his eyes up and grinned at me.
I frowned and pulled my hand back. I wasn't one of his flustered admirers.
"But you were driven here in a rush to save me from Asuka-san weren't you? To protect your claim on me?" he paused as he straightened up, smiling. "I'm flattered, truly."
I crossed my arms, feeling insecure. "I guess… this whole thing, I mean. It's okay. I'd like to."
His grin widened fractionally.
"I mean! Not the mating part, that we'll have to go slow with. I mean, you know, the courting/dating part."
He nodded. "Of course. I apologize for my unorthodox approach to wooing you."
There was something about the way he said that that had me smiling. Don't ask what, it was the kind of thing you had to be there for.
But I was happy.
I mean, I wasn't about to head off to a temple and get married or hop into his bed or anything, but I'd like to date him I think. After all, this is Kurama…
I spent the rest of the afternoon with the group. The others had been surprised to see me; the boys had kept away to some extent. I really didn't mind.
Asuka bounced along happily as though nothing at all had happened.
As the afternoon wound down and we headed back to the hotel where they were staying, Asuka pulled me aside. Kurama said he'd wait for me in the lobby and Asuka and I headed back outside.
The overcast sky was making me feel kind of iffy about the weather, but I didn't think it would rain before we got back inside, but maybe not before I got to the train station. I had told myself I was going home.
"Hmmm..." I looked toward Asuka curiously.
"Is everything okay with you?" the girl asked, her tone soft, questioning. "I mean, earlier, with you hiding in the bushes and all…"
I shook my head, trying not to blush. "Yeah, I guess I was being silly. But you were hiding too."
Asuka smiled. "I didn't mean to. I was just coming back when I realized he was talking to someone and I didn't want to interrupt."
It sounded believable and I didn't really have any bad feelings for Asuka, I realized, as I stood in front of her. She was just a nice classmate.
She smiled at me.
"So, you and Minamino-san are a couple, right?" She clasped her hands together. "That's so wonderful! But be careful at school. Some of his fan club members are whacky."
I smiled. "Yes, I know. Thanks for the warning though."
She teased me a little about catching the school stud and we headed back inside. Kurama was waiting near the check-in counter. He smiled and waved to Asuka as we headed upstairs.
"You're going to call your parents now, right?" he asked.
"Yeah, I need to tell them I'll be a little late," I answered.
"You could stay here," he offered. His back was to me so I couldn't see if he was grinning or anything.
"Um… I think I'll go home, but thank you."
"You're sure you wish to travel alone? It's going to storm."
I shook my head. "I'll be okay. I traveled here alone this morning and it isn't that late."
Nature took the opportunity to make itself known. It rumbled eerily outside and I walked to the window and peeked out. The sky's gentle overcast had turned fierce and dark.
I could see the wind blowing the trees and hear it against the building.
"Perhaps you could stay a while?" he suggested.
I sighed. Well, I didn't see the harm in that, so I agreed.
I would stay a bit, how long could it possibly storm?
I glanced around. I was more than a little surprised to see greenery in the hotel room. I know they didn't belong to the hotel.
I was astonished he brought his own plants. Who did that kind of stuff?
I took a seat, not on the bed, but in a chair. But the chair was close to the bed, so I got up and moved it toward the window. I pulled open the drapes and peered outside.
He was on the 30th floor, we were up there. I could see the trees down below and the rain against the windows and... the building felt like it was moving just a little and... well, it was semi-creepy.
I wondered if the electric would go out.
Kurama sat himself on the bed and faced me.
"I think this all ended quite splendidly," Kurama remarked.
I looked up from the carpet where I'd dropped my eyes.
Do you know I just realized something? I was in a hotel room with Kurama alone.
Now, let that sink in a moment.
Alone and he was on the bed!
I found myself looking away again, just so I wouldn't have to stare at him there.
"Um... I suppose so."
What did that mean anyway?
Why did I feel like making a mad dash toward the door?
Was I letting this get to me?
I thought I saw something move. I glanced toward the head of the giant western bed. Did that plant just twitch?
Kurama stood and walked toward the night stand. "That reminds me. Since it came up earlier, I had wanted to demonstrate for you."
I looked toward him. I suddenly had goose bumps.
What did he want to demonstrate?
He curled his fingers beneath one broad leaf and tilted it up as though lifting its chin and stroked it on the underside.
"This is a Calla."
"A Calla?" I asked. "Like... the Calla Lily?"
He seemed a bit surprised and I was a bit offended. Did he think I knew nothing about plants?
He nodded slightly. "It is related, yes, to the Calla Lily."
"Um… well, what does it do?"
He smiled thinly. "Come closer, I want you to see the bloom."
I didn't see a bloom, but I came closer anyway. After all, I trusted him. I came up next to him and leaned down, reaching out to touch it, looking for the elusive bud in the foliage. I didn't see one.
"Be patient, lovely one," Kurama murmured. "You have to wait."
Should I contest that or just let it go?
He pulled back a leaf and a green bud appeared. Slowly, it opened.
"Smell it, it has a lovely fragrance."
Hesitating slightly, I did and he was right. It had a beautiful scent, so soothing and…
I stood up and suddenly everything seemed to shift.
I reached out to grab Kurama and I felt the fabric of his shirt slip through my fingers as I moved. Backwards… down…
My vision dimmed.
What was this?
My vision of the room dimmed to two pin points and then disappeared. I never felt myself hit the floor. I thought I felt the warmth of hands.
Maybe I didn't.
I woke sometime later. How much later I couldn't say, I just knew I had passed out and then I was awake. I wondered briefly if Kurama had sinister motives and then reconsidered that. Why would he want to knock me out on purpose? The whole mating thing took place when I was awake, right? My eyes fluttered and opened slowly.
There was a body next to me on the bed. I didn't have to think about who it was, I knew… oh, did I ever know… my gosh! Kurama was on the BED with me in a hotel ALONE. I suddenly thought of all those girly shoujo mangas and the "love hotels" and sex. My gosh, my gosh, my gosh! I needed to get up, immediately.
Only, I couldn't.
There was a hand pressed to my abdomen. It was a strange possessive gesture, almost protective; something a mother would do if she had a baby growing in there.
No, Keiko, no thoughts of babies OR how babies are made.
"K-Kurama?" I asked tentatively.
"Yes, Keiko?" he sounded so casual. How did he do it?
Something from much earlier suddenly reoccurred to me.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Of course." He shifted behind me bringing his mouth near to my ear. I could feel his breath. "Ask anything."
"H-how much of you is Yuko?"
"What would you say if I said all of me is Youko?" he asked without hesitation. In fact, his voice was kind of breathy.
"Is that possible?"
I felt his lips curl into a smirk. "Youko and I are… merging. We no longer have specific boundaries of personality and power. Everyday our personalities coil tighter, but I very much doubt you'll ever notice a difference."
"So does that make what Yusuke said true? That all the Youko part of you thinks about is sex?" I was very hesitant about approaching this point and I thought he seemed a bit hesitant to answer.
"There are other things we think about, but we have been rather preoccupied with the courting lately. Don't let it worry you; it is normal course of nature for us."
I sighed and bit my lip. "Okay, one more thing. Is the… now that I've… accepted… you, does that mean we've reached the last stage of the courting?"
"No, there's one stage left. It can sometimes be the longest." I could swear he was grinning again.
"What stage is that? Or am I not allowed to know?" I asked cheekily.
"The last stage of the courtship is consummation, as it is in all courtships."
I sat up. "I see."
He sat up beside me; he was uncomfortably close and got even closer right at my back. His hands came to rest upon my hips and he rested his chin on my shoulder and I didn't know what to do.
"Did you purposely knock me out with that plant?" I asked a harsh tone to my voice. As harsh as I could muster at least, I was so nervous my hands were shaking. I pressed them down against my legs.
He wasn't upset by the question that I could tell. Actually, I think he was amused and his answer afterwards seemed to indicate it. "Why? So I could have my naughty way with you? Of course not Keiko," he murmured thickly. "I promised you I would be a perfect gentleman. The mating is a two person activity and is not effective if one of the mates is… ah… unresponsive."
"What do you mean 'not effective'?" I stiffened. Was he trying to get me pregnant or something? It wasn't a magic youkai ritual or anything, was it? Why didn't he ever give me any details?
"Poor choice of words, I apologize. It would not be polite, certainly and it would not be proper. No part of youkai culture calls for the taking of a mate by such means, at least, not among foxes. I cannot vouch for other species."
"Charming," I replied.
I scooted away from him and walked toward the door.
Air, air, precious air… I needed some. Kurama kept getting closer and closer to me and I wasn't sure I was comfortable with where it was leading. I found myself "caught" before I reached the door.
Actually, I found myself against the door and Kurama in front of me, tall, imposing, and beautiful. His eyes glinted. He leaned closer and closer until his nose just barely touched mine and I could feel his breath against my lips.
"I won't rush you, Keiko, but if you're going to run, I'll warn you now…" he tilted his head and leaned even closer so his lips were against the shell of my ear. "I'll chase you."
He stepped back and I pulled the door open and almost fled into the hall. As far as I could tell, he didn't follow.
I wasn't sure what I was doing or where I was going. I knew Asako was in the building but I didn't know which room, I wasn't sure if the person at the desk would tell me. I supposed I could always go down and ask. I started heading in that direction when turning a corner, I thought a saw a flash of red behind me. I turned back to see the hall was completely empty.
Then I recalled something that had some fifteen minutes earlier made my heart pound in fear or excitement, I never was quite sure, Kurama said if I was going to run that he'd chase me. Did… didn't I run from the room?
Run, literally, take off down the hall?
I stopped cold.
But he hadn't followed me, right? He wouldn't be stalking around the corridors of the hotel, there wasn't any place that he could hide and that hair would give him away so easily and yet… I didn't see him, I didn't have any real reason to suppose he had followed me only those parting words and…
My problem with my reasoning was that he would stalk down the corridors and chase me.
Running, catch, eat…
Except he didn't want to eat me and I was sure I was stumbling upon some silly cliché by assuming but he was a fox, right? I thought again of shoujo mangas and silly storylines and love hotels. Except stories of this nature usually included wild runs in the forest and equally wild rutting on the ground once the girl was caught.
I shook my head.
For berating it so much I certainly knew a lot about it, didn't I? Clearly, I was pathetic.
"You need to get out more, Keiko. Less studying, less reading of girly mangas." If talking to myself helped, I wasn't quite sure but I liked the sound of my voice. It made it easier to ignore the fact I thought I could hear my heart beating.
That was creepy.
I decided to take the stairwell.
Not a smart move if someone was following you, but I suspected that I was being silly again and that he wasn't following me and if he was I'd have a better chance of catching him doing it.
And if he was following me, I did want to catch him doing it. I pushed open the stairwell doors and it creaked.
That simple detail made me absurdly happy. I walked down a few steps and stopped and waited. I was out of sight of the door but I could hear him should he open it.
I waited and waited and waited and felt like an utter fool so I started down. I decided that I'd get to the next floor and then step out and grab an elevator. I had scarcely reached the 29th floor exit when I heard the loud creak of the door above me and light footsteps on the stairs.
Quickly, I ducked down a few more so that I would be hidden. I saw, to my amazement and excitement…
He opened the door to the 29th floor and stepped out. I quickly dashed up, waited a few seconds that felt like positive years and then pulled open the door.
The halls were deserted.
They were long, open halls! There were no alcoves, nothing! Where the heck did he go?
He was stalking me wasn't he? Blending in like an absolute chameleon and I couldn't see him.
I turned around, pulled open the stairwell door and flew up the stairs to the 30th floor exit and pulled that door open. I ran toward Kurama's room.
It was 3025.
A completely insignificant number, why did I remember it so well?
Because it was Kurama's a voice in my head whispered.
I tested the door knob. It was unlocked. I pushed open the door and gasped.
My heart was thudding so hard it felt like it was beating against my rib bones. It could've exploded right there.
Sitting on the bed… was Kurama.
He looked so innocent sitting there. So nonchalant, as though he hadn't been stalking me in the building. I stepped in and closed the door staring straight at him. He met my gaze unflinchingly.
"Kurama…" I murmured. "How did you get back here so quickly?"
"I beg your pardon?"
I narrowed my eyes and leapt.
Bodily leapt straight at him.
I landed on the bed, on him, on both very clumsily. My forehead knocked his and it hurt but my frustration was at the boiling point. I would shake answers out of this secretive fox if I had to.
"How'd you get back to the room so quickly after chasing me around the building?" I asked, straightening my body so I was straddling him. He had fallen backwards and was now laying on the bed sideways the pillows to the left of us.
I thought he'd deny it, I thought he'd play innocent.
He licked his lips and I thought his teeth gleamed at me. "I'm a fox youkai, Keiko," he murmured.
For a moment, his eyes flickered gold and I pounced.
There were no words to describe me then. I was ravenous.
I wanted to consume him and it was overwhelming and astonishing and I wondered if it had something to do with him and this whole youkai business because I'd never felt like this in my entire life. I all but threw myself at him, my mouth crushed down upon his.
He certainly didn't seem to mind, his mouth and body as responsive as my own. His hands came up and tangled in my hair and I moaned. I was so gone on something; I was high on lust… I wondered, briefly, how I'd rationalize this later. Even more briefly I thought of Yusuke and repressed laughter.
No sex on the first date indeed… what about the second?
His hands slipped from my hair and then they felt like they were everywhere. I wanted to melt, I could have, I was sure of it. Suddenly the thought of "love hotels" wasn't quite so icky. My whole body felt hot. I thought of lots of things while he kissed me, the notebook entries, the date, the seeds, Yusuke and those ridiculous names…. When his hands settled at the hem of my blouse and he pulled it over my head, those things all disappeared, my mind blanked.
All I could see was Kurama, his eyes burned.
He shifted, moved beneath me, he sat up and I was shifted backwards. The hands at my back traveled up and my bra clip came undone. I thought absently he handled that a bit too easily but then, didn't Kurama do everything well? The fabric loosed about my ribs and I grabbed at it pulling it away. My skin was flushed. I felt odd, hot and odd, and somehow I knew something was different but I couldn't stop to think about it.
He leaned forward and pressed his mouth against my shoulder, my clavicle. His kisses were wet and open-mouthed against my skin. I could feel his teeth.
Why had I been resistant to this before?
Too much waiting.
I pushed back and he conceded falling back onto the bed. His eyes were a lit, his mouth turned up at the corners. He didn't look the slightest worried that I was about to walk out on him. Not that it had crossed my mind but…
I would've bit him if I could've.
I looked up to see his eyes were now fully golden, no flickering.
"You're ready for me, aren't you?"
"Kurama… now… stop… waiting…"
He lifted his head and stared. The eyes weren't gold anymore but green with wild golden streaks.
I wondered how far along they were but then, at that moment, I didn't really care. I wanted Kurama.
He licked his lips again as he sat up. Was it to draw my attention to his mouth?
"Kurama…" if it was a plea or a command I don't know.
When I woke up I was still in the bed. Evening had fully set, Kurama was snuggled behind me.
"What's a rutting heat?"
He grinned against my neck. "That's the first thing on your mind?"
"Of course it is. I jumped you like a wild animal. I didn't have time to be properly ashamed of myself at the time, so clearly I have to make up for that."
I'd actually been awake several long minutes contemplating how to talk to him about this. I suspected he knew that. He'd mentioned it to me before in the midst of things and I'd simply been too... "preoccupied".
"You needn't be ashamed at all. It's perfect and natural in the course of the courtship. The rutting heat typically affects the female and is brought about by numerous things, but it's triggered sometime after the female acceptance in stage three."
"So you knew this would happen?"
Why did that bother me?
I thought it over.
Yes, it did. It was Kurama keeping more secrets! We needed to have a talk about that.
"No, actually. With humans one can never tell how it will affect them, that's part of what makes it so fun."
Was that part of Youko's personality there?
Ah, well this was going to be an adventure, wasn't it?
"Does it happen more than once?"
I felt strange suddenly, amused, and it wasn't my own amusement. My goodness, where did the side-effects of this thing stop! Was it his amusement I felt?
"Very perceptive of you, Keiko. Because you are not a youkai and you have no youki of your own, your rutting heat is triggered by my youki."
I suddenly went very still. "Does that mean you can do this to me whenever you want?"
He shifted so his face was leaning over mine, he was grinning. "Oh yes."
I wanted to push him away from me and rail about how horribly unfair it was… but his eyes were glinting and my body was slightly tingling. I suddenly wanted to kiss him.
Later, I determined, I was going to give him a tongue lashing that would sting for weeks!
AN: Heavily edited, I hope edited enough. It should be okay since nothing actually happens up there. A higher rating version is available but not yet posted anywhere, maybe at the Keiko's Demon's ML.
Is this the end?
No. The story starts over with Kurama and you get to learn about all the stuff that was left out. It will pick up as part 5 following this chapter. See you next time around.