This story takes place in Yu Yu Hakusho, and is basically about a young woman in Sarayashiki High School that nobody notices, finally being noticed by Kurama (I know he goes to a different school than Yusuke and Kuwabara, but in this story they all go to the same one!!) He quite accidently meets up with her, and becomes quite curious about her self conscious and detatched personality... only later to find out that she is living her life in fear of her abusive alcoholic father.

Disclaimer: I do NOT own Yu Yu Hakusho. The only thing I own is my character, Kasumi.

The noon bell rang in Sarayashiki High, and many students breathed a sigh of relief. This bell signaled their lunch hour and they were free from the demands of the teachers for at least forty minutes. Suichi Minamino rose from his seat calmly, relieved only by the fact that he could now spend his noon hour visiting with Yusuke and Kuwabara. He found school to be rather tedious and boring, considering he had the great intelligence of Youko Kurama within him to ensure he received 'A' grades. He found the teacher prattling on about subjects he knew everything about to begin with to be rather tedious. Yusuke and Kuwabara, on the other hand, while they may be immature and even somewhat crude and brutish at times, could at least give him a good laugh.

Stepping out of the classroom, he made his way to his locker, calmly putting away his books and pulling out his lunch that his mother had religiously prepared for him every day for school for the past twelve years. Then he started off again, foregoing the pleasures of eating in the chaotic cafeteria and was prepared to find his companions in the back of the school.

There were several twists and turns and hallways he had to traverse before he reached the exit where they would be waiting for him. When he suddenly heard the annoyingly familiar sound of giggles and feminine whispers and catcalls coming from behind him, he stifled a moan. Casting a glance behind him, he saw a crowd of about twenty girls from his Fan Club (he hated that term, but it was sadly appropriate) approaching him at breakneck speeds.

Sighing inwardly, he decided that Yusuke and Kuwabara were going to have to enjoy this noon hour on their own as he spent the next forty minutes trying to avoid being molested by the mob of rabid women. He shot off.

Come on, Red. You know you'd enjoy it... Youko said, grinning from within his mind.

Suichi rolled his eyes. Not even YOU want those women to catch me and you know it, Youko! I cannot wait until I have graduated and can forego this lovely experience! I appreciate the sentiment, but they really do take this too far! The women in this school are absolutely hopeless!

Come on, just let one of them catch up with you! I've been waiting eighteen years to get laid!

Forget it! It's not happening! When I find a woman that I believe is right for me, then I will handle it! But it most certainly is NOT going to be some drooling woman who wants nothing more with me than to get into my pants!!

Rounding a corner with his superior reflexes, Suichi spotted a janitors closet and dove for it. He had never stooped to this level before when it came to trying to escape his fans, but he was seriously getting sick of running throughout the halls of the school, and just once, wanted to spend his lunch hour eating in peace and quiet.

He was greatly relieved when the door opened and he quickly ducked in, closing it as quickly and quietly as he could under the circumstances. He held his breath, his ear pressed against the door and breathed a sigh of relief when he heard the mob go running by, obviously not having a clue that he had just ducked in here.

Finally, he could have peace and quiet.

He turned, intent on finding a place to sit, and froze, seeing a girl seated on some sandbags looking up at him. She had long light brown hair... so light, in fact, it could almost be classified as being blonde. It hung down on either side of her face, almost concealing it. But he saw bright azure eyes, full lips and a creamy complexion. She had a book in her hands and a backpack on the floor at her feet. Beside her, on a shelf, he saw a bottle of diet coke and a partially eaten sandwich. Her expression was void as they regarded each other.

Hey, Red, isn't this that quiet girl that always sits by herself in the back of the classes?

Suichi blinked, recogizing her now that Youko had pointed it out. In all his years of attending school, he had never seen this girl say so much as a word or hanging out with anyone. She was really quite antisocial, now that he thought of it. He had never seen her amid the mobs of women that usually chased him.

She was the first to break the silence between them in the small room. "Don't worry. I'm not one of your fan girls, Suichi. I'm not going to try attacking you." He found her voice was soft and actually pleasing to the ear.

The boy breathed a massive sigh of relief, hearing this, and was actually surprised that the girl had spoken at all. "I'm sorry if I am interrupting you, but I was rather... desperate and needed someplace where I could lose them. I find their attention to be rather annoying, to be quite frank." Then he blinked. "What are you doing in here? You're name would be Kasumi, right?"

The girl blinked, showing surprise. "You mean someone other than a teacher bothered to remember my name? Wow, I'm shocked..." Then she shrugged. "I come in here every lunch hour. It's relatively quiet, and nobody bugs you. The janitors don't use this room until after school is out, and so nobody comes in here." She indicated an old chair that had some rags thrown on it in the opposite corner of the room. "Feel free to sit and eat in here. Those girls are probably roaming the halls trying to find you right now. I'm sure Yusuke and Kuwabara have gone through lunch without you before."

He blinked in surprise now. "How did you know... that I'm friends with Yusuke and Kuwabara?"

She shrugged. "When you're as quiet as I am, you hear a lot... sometimes without even realizing it. By the way, if you're wondering who stole the boxers out of your locker last week, I suggest you talk to Nabiki Obunaga. She snuck in there while you were in gym and stole them. I heard her bragging about it in the girl's locker room two days ago."

Suichi got a defeated expression on his face and moaned, seating himself on the indicated chair. He shook his head. "That... is easily the worst thing any girl has done to me..."

She snorted. "Believe me, it's not. And you don't want to know."

Suichi tried to think of something worse than a woman stealing his boxers and doing the God's only knew what to them, and decided it was best to leave such contemplations for now. Best to change the subject before he wound up giving himself nightmares.

"I believe I will take you up on your kind offer to let me stay here. You don't mind, do you?"

She shrugged, returning to her book. "I wouldn't have suggested it if I did."

He blinked. "What are you reading, if you don't mind my asking?"

She wordlessly held the book up so he could see the cover and was even more interested to see it was a book on flowering plants and horticulture. "You like plants?"

Kasumi nodded again. "I'm thinking of putting in a garden. There's some small spaces for gardening on either side of the front door to my home, and I figure it would make our place look a little more inviting. Our place looks pretty shabby right now, but paint costs too much and we'd never have the time to fix it up properly anyway. So I figured I might start a flower garden instead. It would only take a few minutes out of my day to take care of it, and it's less costly."

He smiled. "Have you decided what flowers you wish to plant? I know a great deal about plants and horticulture myself and may be able to offer some advice, if you'd like."

She shrugged. "I'm not sure what I'd like to plant yet. That's why I'm doing a little research first. I want to make sure that the plants I choose don't require a huge amount of care, because I'm actually pretty busy at home, and don't have much time to dedicate to it. I don't want any flowers I plant to die on me, and at the same time, I want the flowers to be brightly colored so our yard and house doesn't look like it's condemned."

Suichi opened his lunch, taking out a dish with a sandwich of his own, and a can of iced tea. "Perhaps your mother could help you to look after the garden when you put one in."

He blinked when he saw a flicker of sadness in her eyes that was gone almost before he noticed it. She shook her head. "I... don't have a mother. And my father works all day, and probably wouldn't be interested in putting in a garden in the first place. He would consider it a waste of time."

Suichi's eyes went wide. "You don't... have a mother?"

She shook her head again, her hair swinging gently with the movement of her head. "She died while she was having me. I've never met her."

He took in a sharp breath and wisely decided to change the subject before he shoved his foot in his mouth. "I'm sorry."

She shrugged. "It's okay. I've never met her, so it's not like it's painful or anything."

Suichi was trying to think of something to say to this quiet and obviously withdrawn young woman, when she reached up to grab her bottle of diet coke off the shelf beside her. Her hair fell back from her cheek and his eyes went huge, seeing a large bruise that had been concealed.

He was on his feet and at her side in an instant. "Kasumi! How did you get this?" he asked in deep concern, his fingers brushing the dark bruise.

She blinked and shrugged again, smiling a little weakly. "I fell out of bed this morning and landed right on my alarm clock. I had a late night last night."

Suichi blinked, hearing this, and considered. He supposed, from the size of the bruise that it was possible, and so he decided to acquiesce amicably enough.

"Are you sure you're okay? It's rather swollen. Maybe you should get some ice from the nurse..."

Kasumi shrugged again. "I'm not worried about it. The swelling will go down by tonight. Besides, I'd rather not draw attention to it. People tend to jump to the wrong conclusions when they see a girl with a bruise on their face. My hair hides it well enough."

I find it odd, Youko said, that a woman as beautiful as her would keep her lovely face hidden behind all that hair. I think she would look absolutely doable if she put it up in a style.

Youko... now is not the time... Suichi said, trying to hide his annoyance at his counterpart's comments behind a face of neutrality. Then he gave the girl a gentle smile. "If you're sure it's not necessary. I just want to make sure that you're okay."

She shrugged. "Your concern is appreciated, but I'm fine." She took a long swig out of her pop before replacing it on the shelf at her side once again. Then she reached for her own sandwich and took another few bites from it.

Suichi sat back for a moment and focused on his own meal for a few moments, contemplating the woman that sat across from him.

I don't think I've ever met a woman as quiet as she is, Youko mused, watching her through Suichi's eyes. Although it is a nice change from the typical girl who would talk your ear off about nothing, it would be a little more entertaining if she was a little more talkative and... enthusiastic.

Suichi wondered about that as well, but it wasn't something he felt he could ask the girl right out. She certainly didn't seem the type that you could ask personal questions of. From what he had seen of her in school, she never associated with anyone, and actually seemed to avoid contact with others at all times.

The girl stole a glance at her watch and started packing up her things. "Class starts in ten minutes." she said simply.

Suichi blinked, and looked at his own watch in surprise. He was amazed at how quickly the time had passed. He quickly ate the rest of his sandwich and drank the rest of his iced tea, before rising with the girl and giving her a gentle smile.

"Thank you for allowing me to remain with you this noon hour. I do hope that I didn't intrude on your privacy in any way..."

She shrugged and shook her head. "You didn't. It was actually a nice change to have someone visit with me."

Then she opened the door, poked her head out, and the two of them left the storage room. Before Suichi could blink, the young woman was making her way down the hall wordlessly, heading to the science class. Suichi would have followed, but realized that he had left his books in his locker and he would have to retrieve them. By the time he got to the class, there would be several students in there, probably including Yusuke and Kuwabara who would more than likely be wondering why he never joined them out back.

He soon found he was correct, when his friend questioned him the moment he walked into the room, and he found himself explaining the mob of girls with his subsequent introduction to Kasumi.

Yusuke blinked. "Who?"

He smiled, not really surprised that they didn't know who she was. It wasn't as if she had any reputation for them to have heard of her. "Do you see that really quiet girl that always sits in the back of the classes, usually in the corner? The one with the light brown hair that's always hanging in her face?"

The two boys blinked and looked back. They saw the girl he was talking about, her head hanging down as she quietly read a book in the back of the class, patiently waiting for the teacher to come in and start the daily lessons.

Kuwabara blinked. "Oh, the quiet girl, huh? I never even talked to her once before... So her name's Kasumi, huh?"

Yusuke grinned evilly. "Uh, oh... you were alone in a closet with a girl? Anything interesting happen?"

The boy rolled his eyes. "You know me better than that, Yusuke. We just... talked. Or at least I tried to talk to her. She's a very quiet and self conscious girl, from what I can tell. She's rather nice, actually. Although... I was a little concerned about something for a few moments..."

Yusuke lost the grin in an instant. "A little concerned? About what?"

"Well, you can't see it because her hair is concealing it at the moment, but she has a rather large bruise on her cheek. She told me she fell out of bed this morning and that is how she got it. For some reason... I think she's lying."

The two boys' eyes narrowed dangerously hearing this as they cast a glance back at the girl. She hadn't moved so much as an inch, except to turn a page in the book she was reading. Then they looked back at the kitsune. "What do you think? You think someone hit her or something? Like her mom or dad? Maybe a boyfriend?" Kuwabara looked like he was ready to wage war. None of them liked the thought of any woman being harmed by a man.

"I don't know. I know for sure it's not her mother. She told me she never met her. And I don't believe she has a boyfriend. She doesn't talk with others, so I don't think she'd take the time to meet one. I suppose it is possible she got it the way she said, considering the size and coloring of the bruise, but... something just tells me that her story was a lie."

Yusuke blinked. "And... she spends all noon hour in that one room... by herself?"

He nodded. "Yes, that's right. I believe she likes the quiet solitude."

Kuwabara grinned. "I know! Why don't we invite her to join us for lunch tomorrow at noon? If Suichi c'n make it, that is..." he added with a grin.

The red haired boy rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "I honestly tried, but when those girls start... there's not much you can do to stop them..."

At that moment, the teacher entered the room and all conversation stopped immediately. The class passed quickly enough, Yusuke and Kuwabara not really paying any attention, and Suichi just bored as he listened to the teacher prattle on and hand out homework assignments and the results of tests.

When the bell rang, the boys blinked, noticing for the first time that the quiet Kasumi was the first out of the door, never lifting her head up once, and seemingly ignoring everyone around her.

They went to their final class, history, and saw her already sitting in the back of the class, a book open in front of her once more, as if she had been there for hours instead of only a moment. Aside from her and the detectives, the classroom was empty.

The three of them exchanged a look and nodded as one. Taking the lead, Suichi approached her desk, his friends close on his heels.


The girl blinked and looked up from her book, and blinked again, seeing Suichi and his two companions. "Yes, Suichi?"

He smiled at her gently. "I was talking to my friends, Yusuke and Kuwabara, and we would like to invite you to join us for lunch time tomorrow. Are you interested?"

She blinked again, this time in surprise, and she considered for a moment. "Um... sure. You guys eat out in behind the school, right? Under the Sakura tree?"

Yusuke blinked in surprise. "Hey, that's right! How'd you know that?"

A trace of a smile came to her lips. "As I told Suichi earlier, when you're as quiet as I am, you hear a lot. By the way, look out for Nashuma-sensei. He's planning on planting a baggie of drugs in your locker next week to try and get you expelled."

The boy's eyes went wide and his hands balled into fists. "That fucking asshole! He just doesn't know when to give it up, does he?! When did you hear that?"

She shrugged. "He was talking about it with Rikuto-sensei yesterday in the parking lot. I don't think they even noticed I was in hearing range. If you want to catch them in the act, Rikuto said his brother deals and is going to get it from him the day after tomorrow. He plans to plant it in your locker on Monday. I suggest getting a camera, going to the alley behind Fransisco's on 124th street and snaping a photo of him getting it. Then inform Yamamoto Sensei and both be waiting out of sight by your locker fifteen minutes before the students arrive."

The three of them stared at her with slacked jaws.

Ooohhhh... I like her. She's devious and sly! Hey, Red! She's not drooling all over you or asking you out or anything like that! You shouldn't have any objections to going out with a girl like her!

Youko... Suichi warned silently.

Then the students started arriving and the boys quickly left the side of her desk, having a feeling she didn't want any attention drawn to her.

They went through their history class with the same boredom as usual before the dismisal bell rang, telling them they could all finally go home or do whatever it is that they wanted.

As they left the school, they saw Kasumi again, getting ready to head for home, already strolling down the street.

Suichi raced to catch up with her. "Kasumi-san?" he called out, his friends right on his heels.

Blinking, the girl turned around and saw the boys approaching her again. She seemed to stiffen somewhat before relaxing. "Yes?"

He smiled at her gently. "I couldn't help but notice that you didn't have a great deal to eat at lunch. Would you like to join me and my friends in the restaurant today? I would be more than happy to treat you."

The girl blinked, and then immediately shook her head. "I'm sorry, but I can't. I have a tonne of chores to do at home today. I'm the only one who can do them since my father's usually out from nine in the morning to ten at night. Sometimes he's out as late as one in the morning. I have to have something ready for him to eat when he gets home and make sure he has clean clothes for work in the morning. As I said... life at home is rather busy. But I'll still eat with you guys tomorrow at lunch, if you really want me to."

Yusuke blinked. "Yowza! Your dad's gone all day! What does he do for a living?"

"Shipper receiver. It's pretty busy at his work this time of year and he can get as many as twelve trailers a day. There aren't many people working there right now either, so he usually doubles up on his shifts." She looked at her watch. "Well, I've gotta get going. Bye."

Without another word to them, she turned on her heels and quickly walked away.

Kuwabara sighed. "Poor thing. She seems more like a wife than a daughter. She should be out having fun. Not busting her ass to keep their house looking nice."

"Who was that girl?" asked a familiar voice off to the side. Blinking, they turned and, sure enough, Hiei stood there, his arms across his chest as his eyes followed her.

Suichi smiled. "It's a bit of a story. Why don't I treat you to some food and we'll tell you about it."

Shrugging, Hiei fell in step with them as they made their way to their favorite hangout.

Kasumi sighed, entering the house twenty minutes after having left the school and thought back on her day. When Suichi had walked into the closet, she had thought she was going to have a heart attack. But then again, he looked just as nervous as she felt. She hadn't really wanted him to stay with her, but she had known he wanted to, and experience taught her that contradicting a man equalled a swift and sure beating.

She had been even moreso startled when he noticed the bruise on her face. She was used to questions like that, though, and had lied as always... it was practically second nature for her. The occassional teacher noticed injuries on her on more than one occassion, and she was pretty sure she had convinced the majority of them that she was just a klutz.

She didn't really want to go to lunch with them tomorrow, much preferring the quiet solitude of the janitor's closet, but with Yusuke and Kuwabara's reputations... she didn't want to risk angering them in the slightest.

But she had had little choice but to refuse their invitation to the lunch after school. She had far too much to do and if her father found even the slightest flaw in her cooking or cleaning... she shivered and shoved the thought from her mind.

Time to worry about all this later, she thought. Right now she had to get her things put away and get to work.

She ran up to her room, quickly changing out of her school uniform and getting into a pair of faded jeans and a plain white t-shirt. Then she quickly ran back down stairs, throwing the dirty laundry into the washer, starting it, folding the clean laundry that had been in the dryer and folding it and putting it away. She was a little behind in the laundry, but she figured she should be able to catch up.

After putting away the dried load, she set about doing the dishes and cleaning off the tables and counters, making sure everything was nice and clean. Once she had the dishes finished, she quickly returned to the washer and dryer, folding what was in the dryer and reloading it, before grabbing more dirty laundry and throwing it in. She decided while that was working, she was going to sweep and mop the floors on the bottom floor, and then vaccuum the carpeted floors on the second level.

That job was completed in about an hour's time, and she took a few seconds to glance at her watch, wincing when she saw it was seven o'clock. She had to get a move on and get dinner started soon. If it wasn't sitting on the table nice and warm when her father got home, it was going to be hell for her.

She started cooking, relieved to find another package of hamburger sitting in the freezer. It looked like there would be enough for the both of them to eat tonight. She was going to have to go into her father's wallet after he went to sleep tonight and steal a few dollars so she could get more food for them for tomorrow's dinner.

She had the table set and the food ready by ten o'clock, eating her portion and carefully keeping her father's nice and hot for when he got home. She quickly washed her plate and utensils, and continued on with the housework until midnight, when she heard the door open and close, and the all too familiar sound of slurred curses.

"Kasumi! Ge' yer ass in here!"

She took in a deep breath and quickly entered the room, putting a welcoming smile on her face, despite the smell of vodka that now filled the kitchen. "Hello, Dad. I have hamburger, nice and hot on the stove. Would you like some?"

He simply grunted and sat down at the table. She suppressed a relieved sigh as she quickly scooped up the meal for him and set it in front of him.

He ate in silence for a few minutes, and when he seemed to be satisfied with the meal, Kasumi was about to return to her earlier chore.

"Didjya wash the couch covers?" he slurred, and the question made Kasumi stop in her tracks and her stomach drop.

She turned, her face going a little white. "Not yet, but I will..."

His fist slammed down on the table with a loud bang, making her jump and hamburger go flying off of his plate and onto the floor and tabletop. "I thaw I told ya to wash it before I came HOME, you dumb bitch!! What the fuck's the matter with ya? Ya can' even do one little simple fucking chore?! Don't ya listen to me anymore?! I wanna sit and watch some TV before I go ta bed tonight!!"

Her face was now white. "I... I'm sorry... If you like I could get a clean blanket to cover it for you. I just did the laundry and..."

Her father got to his feet and took several quick steps toward her, his expression angry. Kasumi cringed, knowing what was coming next.

"If ya were doin' the fuckin' laundry, then why didn't ya wash the fuckin' couch covers with them, you worthless whore?!" he roared, backhanding his daughter. Kasumi stumbled and fell against the wall. She didn't have time to move before he had her by the arm and threw her to the floor. Then, before she could even think to run, she felt a crushing pain in her side as her father kicked her. She just felt relief that he had taken his steel toed boots off before sitting at the table. She was out of breath for a few seconds and tears brimmed in her eyes. Then she felt her father grab her by a handful of hair and drag her to her feet.

"Get me a fuckin' blanket and set up a spot on the couch for me to sleep. I want those couch covers washed and dried and replaced by the time I get home from work tomorrow, or I'll give you a beatin' you'll never forget!"

She nodded wordlessly and rushed off the second he had let her hair go, one hand holding her aching ribs.

She got the blanket and quickly and neatly put it on the couch just as her father entered the room.

She wordlessly handed him the remote, and once he was comfortably settled down, she scurried out of the room, trying to ignore the horrible aching pain in her ribs as she made her way to the kitchen to clean up the spilt hamburger.

She still had to start on her homework yet, and she was only thankful that she didn't have that much to do.

After doing her homework, she saw it was two thirty in the morning. She went back into the living room to see that her father had passed out on the couch, leaving his wallet on the living room table. She quickly snatched four thousand yen from it, sticking it deep into her pocket to put in her own wallet later. She wordlessly grabbed another blanket, drapped it over him, and then, finally, went on up to bed.

Kasumi was sore the next morning, and was trying not to wince with each step that she took. Her father had simply been hungover this morning and not in the mood to even insult her, thankfully, as he headed off to work a half hour before she left the house. She was continually reminding herself to make sure she washed the couch covers first thing when she got home from school today.

She was also deeply relieved that his backhand last night had left only a small bruise at the back of her cheek, in front of her ear, so it was doubtful that anyone would notice it, or think much of it. But her shoulder ached where she had slammed into the wall, and it hurt her to breathe. One hand gingerly touched her side and she winced noticably, and reminded herself to be careful not to brush up against anybody if she could help it at all.

She rushed through the halls quickly, making her way to the first class, which happened to be gym. She ducked into the girl's locker room and grabbed her shirt and shorts from the locker and quickly slipped into them.

She simply sat quietly as usual and listened to the instructions given by the teacher, noticing that a certain red haired boy, along with his two friends were watching her out of the corner of her eye. She didn't acknowledge them.

Kasumi went through the physical ed. class as well as she could, considering the fact that both her ribs and hip were hurting today, running laps and playing soccer. The moment class was over, she was in the change rooms once more and back into her uniform, on her way to the math class before any of the other girls could so much as blink.

She did the usual... she sat in the back corner of the classroom, immediately pulling a book out of her bag and started to read, ignoring everyone around her.

Then when the teacher came in, she would calmly put her book away and do the assigned work, and leave as quickly as possible when the bell rang.

This time, however, when the bell rang, she was surprised to see Suichi standing beside her desk. She blinked, realizing for the first time that the boy had seated himself close to her this time.

He smiled at her gently. "Are you ready for lunch?"

She blinked, and then nodded. "Yes."

"Then let's go. Yusuke and Kuwabara are going to be waiting for us."

The girl took in a deep breath and got to her feet, following the red haired hearthrob out of the classroom. She made sure as she trailed behind him, that she left a few feet between herself and him, so the other girls didn't get the wrong idea. The last thing she wanted was for all the girls in the school out for her head because they suspected a relationship between the two of them.

Not that she thought Suichi would ever have an interest in her like that. He was too popular, handsom and sweet for him to have an interest in a girl as antisocial and uninteresting as her. Nobody had an interest in her. She was sure that this interaction was going to be passing... she gave it a week at most, before she was back to her regular solitude.

Yusuke and Kuwabara were waiting for them under the sakura tree and waved them over with smiles on their faces.

The toughest student at Sarayashiki High School smiled at her. "It's nice to see you came! Have a seat!"

She quickly and quietly sat beneath the tree with them, folding her legs beneath her and holding her backpack on her lap. She started rummaging around in it, looking for her lunch. All she had today was a single apple and a juice box. She ate it wordlessly, half listening to what the boys were saying, and when she was finished, she put it in a plastic baggie from her backpack and returned it to the bag.

Kuwabara blinked, looking at her. "Is that all you're going to eat?" he asked a little increduously.

She shrugged and nodded. "That's all I was able to bring with me for lunch."

Suichi smiled gently. "Well, I can't have that." He reached into his own lunch bag and handed her a sandwich. "Mother packed me two today, so you can have one."

Yusuke nodded, looking at his own lunch and tossing her a package of chocolate pudding. "For desert!"

Kuwabara nodded, handing her a container that had what looked like fruit salad in it. "I don't like this stuff, but most girls tend to. Sis packed it with my stuff before I left for school this morning. It's all yours."

She blinked in surprise, totally not expecting this. Then she gave the three of them a small thanking smile and a nod when she saw they were serious. "Thanks." She made a start on the salad, deciding to get it out of the way so Kuwabara could have his container back.

Yusuke smiled at her. "So, Kasumi... we don't know anything about you. What sort of things are you into?"

She blinked. "Into?"

He nodded. "Yeah. Into. You know... like music, TV shows, stuff like that."

She shrugged, taking a bite of the salad. "We don't have a stereo at home so I can't listen to music, and I'm too busy to watch TV, so I don't know what kinds of shows there are to watch."

The three of them blinked and exchanged a few looks. "You... don't own a stereo? And you don't watch TV?" Kuwabara asked. "Well... what do you do in your free time?"

She almost snorted. The only time she had free time was at lunch at school. "I read." she said simply.

Yusuke blinked. "That's it? You read? Don't you ever go out and have fun? Like go to parties or stuff like that?"

She shook her head. "I don't have time for that sort of thing. And I don't have any friends houses to go over to in the first place. I've never been to a party or any sort of a get together."

Kuwabara blinked. "Man... talk about deprived." Then he grinned. "What about the internet? What's your favorite site?"

She shrugged again. "No internet either. We don't own a computer."

Yusuke's jaw was half to the ground. "You mean all you do with your life is clean the house and read books?"

She nodded, finishing off the salad and handing the container back to Kuwabara who accepted it somewhat numbly. "Yeah, that's about it." The girl then let out a yawn, and winced slightly as a shooting pain ran up her side.

Suichi looked at her. "Are you all right?"

She nodded. "Another late night last night. I never went to bed until three in the morning. This is normal for me, so don't worry about it."

Suichi cast a glance at his two companions and could tell from their expressions that they had seen the wince as well. However, now did not appear to be the time to question her about it.

Instead, the red haired boy smiled at her gently. "So, you like to read? What sort of books interest you the most?"

She shrugged. "Mystery, horrors, fantasy... stuff like that." she said simply, turning now to the sandwich. She found it was a tuna sandwich... one of her favorites. "I also like to read philosophical and historical books, such as Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, and the Illiad by Homer."

Yusuke shook his head slowly. "I've... never heard of either of those last two..."

Suichi smiled. "They're actually quite interesting... although for the two of you, I suggest having a dictionary or thesaurus at hand if you read them. They both have quite complex writing styles and long words that you're probably not familiar with."

Kuwabara scowled slightly. "Sounds like too much work. I think I'll just stick with my comics." Then he brightened. "Hey, what's your favorite comic book?"

She shook her head again. "I don't have any. I've never read one before, so I don't know."

Kuwabara gaped. "Nope! No way! That's it! I'm bringin' manga to school tomorrow an' you're gonna borrow them!"

She blinked. "Well... if you're sure you wouldn't mind... but it'll take me a while to read through them. I don't have much free time..."

He waved it off. "Don't worry about it. I ain't in no rush."

The girl opened the pudding now and shivered in pleasure with the first spoonful of chocolate pudding. She couldn't remember the last time she'd eaten chocolate.

Suichi caught the movement and gave her a knowing smile. "Enjoying your lunch?"

She nodded, a shy smile on her lips. "Yes, very much so. Thank you."

Kuwabara blinked and then looked at Yusuke. "Hey, how come Keiko doesn't come out here with us anymore?"

He shrugged. "She's volunteered to tutor one of the students in the school. That's usually what she spends her noon hours doing now a days." Then he grinned at Kasumi. "Hey, what are your grades like?"

She shrugged. "A's and B's." She finished off the chocolate pudding and put the finished container in her backpack to discard properly later.

Suichi smiled. "And what are your plans for after graduation?"

She shrugged again. "I don't know. I'm pretty sure I'll be moving, so I guess I'll just be getting a job and see what happens from there."

The boy looked at her. "Well, what about post secondary?"

She shook her head. "I don't have near enough money for something like that. If I got a loan, I'd be in debt for the next ten years."

Kurama thought for a moment, but before he could inquire further, the girl looked at her watch and quickly packed up her things. "Class starts in ten minutes." she said quietly, getting to her feet. "Thank you for letting me eat with you." Then she was off, her head bowed as she walked swiftly away.

Yusuke and Kuwabara blinked slowly at her sudden exit. "That was... unexpected..."

Kuwabara nodded in agreement. "Yeah... I thought she would visit with us a little longer than that..."

Kurama looked after her retreating form. "I think she's uncomfortable interacting with others. I suspect she's not used to it."

Yusuke shrugged and got to his feet. "Well, what're ya gonna do? I guess there's always tomorrow, then. We should get going, too, I guess."

Nodding, Kuwabara got to his feet and stretched the kinks out of his legs. "Yup. Just a few more hours of school, and then we're free."

Kurama frowned even more, thinking of the young woman that had just left them. At least we're free. But that girl still has a mountain of work to do at home. It hardly seems fair to her.

Well, it's not like there's much we can do about that, Youko said back to him. We've got plenty of time to get to know her better. Let's just follow her example and get ready for class.

Nodding, Suichi started off, Yusuke and Kuwabara right on his tail.

They went through the rest of school quickly, and uneventfully, and none were very surprised when they saw Kasumi was the first to leave the classroom at the end of the day.

Suichi made a mental note to simply do as she did every day and bring his satchel with him from class to class along with all his books so he could keep up with her, knowing he wouldn't stand much of a chance of catching up with her today. He had to go to his locker to pick up the rest of his homework.

Little did he know, however, that a certain koorime was going to do him a little favor.

Kasumi quickly left the school and started for home, remembering that she had to clean the couch covers when she got there first thing. She had almost completely caught up on the laundry, so it wouldn't put her behind much in her regular housework and her father would be happier when he got home. Or at least she hoped he was going to be happier.

Her head was bowed as usual, her eyes only lifting briefly to make sure she didn't make an ass of herself by crashing into someone as she walked. She noticed a boy shorter than her own five foot three, out of school uniform on the sidewalk ahead of her as she was leaving the school property. He was dressed in all black and had gravity defying hair... black with a starburst of white up front. He wore a white headband around his head and had his hands stuffed in his pockets.

She just walked past him, but only got a few steps past where he stood before he started to talk.

"You're Kasumi, aren't you?"

She froze and turned a little warily, not recognizing this boy at all, and having no clue how he knew her name.

"How... do you know my name?"

The boy smirked. "Suichi, Yusuke and Kuwabara are friends of mine. They told me about you yesterday after school. I heard you saved Suichi from a mob of screaming fans."

She shook her head. "I didn't do anything. He just happened across me in the janitors closet. All I did was tell him he could stay."

"Hn. If you hadn't, he would have spent the next forty minutes being chased through the halls. Suichi's not the sort of person to invite himself." Then he blinked and looked back. "And speaking of the devil..."

Kasumi blinked herself and looked past his shoulders and saw Suichi approaching with Yusuke and Kuwabara right on their heels. "Hiei! You showed up early!"

The boy shrugged. "I had nothing better to do. I was just talking to your new friend."

Suichi blinked, seeing Kasumi standing there, looking more than a little awkward. He gave her a gentle smile. "Kasumi, this is Hiei. He gets a home education and doesn't attend public school."

She just looked at the vertically challenged boy and gave him a small nod. Then she looked at the others. "I've got to get going."

"Same time tomorrow." Suichi said. "Under the Sakura tree."

She blinked and cast a glance back. "Okay... if you're sure."

The three of them all nodded as one. "We're sure," Kuwabara said. "And I've gotta bring you those manga tomorrow."

Yusuke nodded. "Yeah!"

She shrugged. "I guess... I'll see you tomorrow, then." She cast another look at the short darkly dressed boy. "It was nice meeting you, Hiei." Then she quickly turned and started off once more, not saying another word.

The next few days passed mostly like that first... the boys hung out with Kasumi at noon hour, visiting with her and trying to learn more about her... but getting any real answers proved to be a bit of a challenge. They noticed her occasionally wincing with this or that movement, but didn't question her about it, even though the three of them had suspicion in the back of their minds that something was, indeed, going on in the life of this quiet and self conscious girl.

Four days after that first time under the Sakura tree (and the day after Yusuke got Nashuma-sensei and Rikuto-sensei fired from their jobs, following the sound advice of the surprisingly shrewd woman they had befriended) Kasumi came to school, her head hanging so low that the boys couldn't see her features at all. She cast a bare glance up and, to their surprise, seated herself as far from them as she could. Once the first class was over, she was on her feet and out the door before any of them could so much as blink.

The second class was exactly the same, and once it was over, they were even more surprised and curious when she never showed up for their regular lunch under the Sakura tree.

Kuwabara blinked. "What's goin' on? Did we do something to upset her or something?"

Shuichi shook his head. "I don't know. I think something might be bothering her. Let's see if we can't find her."

The first place they checked was the janitor's closet, and they found it empty... which probably meant she had been expecting them to look for her. They searched the roof, to no avail, and the classrooms that were open during the lunch hours, but they could find no trace of her anywhere.

She showed up in the third class, but seemed no more inclined to seat herself close to them. As before, she never lifted her head once and was out the door almost the second the bell rang.

In the final class, Suichi made sure he had his satchel with him, and Yusuke and Kuwabara (who didn't really care if they had their bags or not) were fully intending to catch the girl as she was heading home.

When the bell rang, she was out the door. Seconds later, Yusuke, Kuwabara and Shuichi were right behind her.

Outside the school, they saw her headed for the street, taking her usual route to head for home. Kuwabara wasn't going to have it, this time. He charged forward. "Kasumi!!" He quickly cut her off, and she stopped dead in her tracks. "What's wrong with you today? How come you've been avoidin' us and you never..." As Shuichi and Yusuke watched, as well as an approaching Hiei, they saw Kuwabara's eyes go huge as he looked at the girl who had looked up in surprise at his action of cutting her off. "Ho-lee SHIT!! Kasumi, who did this to you?!"

Shuichi and Yusuke were there as well, and their own eyes went wide when they saw what their friend had. And Suichi felt Youko seething with anger instantly.

Kasumi's right eye was sealed shut, and was covered with a huge shiner that extended down to her cheekbone and up to her eyebrow. They could tell just from looking at her that she was very nervous and most certainly not looking forward to the next few minutes. Hiei, who had seen the injury as well, stood off to the side, his arms crossed, and his mouth set in a deep frown.

Kasumi took in a deep breath. "It's nothing. Just don't worry about me." She quickly stepped around Kuwabara, but Shuichi frowned deeply and cut her off, holding her by the shoulders.

"Oh, no you don't! Not this time! I was willing to accept that one story, but this is where I'm drawing the line, Kasumi! We all suspected something was happening with you, and this only confirms it! You're going to tell us what's going on!"

She shook her head, her features going hard for the first time that he could remember. "Stay out of my business, Shuichi! This is NOT your concern!" She broke away from him and started off once more.

He looked after her, a frown on his face. "If you walk away from us right now, then I'm going to march straight to Yamamoto-Sensei and report this myself. And you can explain what is going on to the police when they show up at your door."

He struck a nerve, and they all knew it. She stopped cold dead in her tracks and stiffened. When they heard her voice once more, it was low and filled with a threat. "Don't you fucking dare, Suichi Minamino. It's not your place to do that."

"I beg to differ. Whether you like it or not, Kasumi, the three of us consider you a friend... and friends do not let friends suffer behind closed doors. Now, through a process of elimination, I think it's safe to say that the person responsible for your abuse is your father, am I correct?"

"This is between me and him. It has nothing to do with the three of you." she said quietly.

Yusuke's eyes narrowed dangerously. "So it IS your father, then?!" he asked, his teeth clenching, and fantasizing about meeting this man so he could beat the crap of him himself.

Kuwabara growled. "How long has this been goin' on?!"

Kasumi knew they weren't going to let this rest. But she didn't want her father to go to jail... she didn't want anyone to take her father away from her. She loved him... in spite of the way he treated her. So, she sighed, and turned around, seeing the set features of the four boys.

"You want to know what I go through every day? From school, I head home. I immediately start on the housework. I scrub the floors, do the laundry, the dishes, and generally clean up the house. Come eight o'clock, I get started on supper, in case my father happens to come home by ten or eleven... which rarely happens, but sometimes, he does. I continue my work until my father comes home, making sure that when he gets home from work, his food is in his place at the table. He comes home, normally at around midnight or one o'clock, drunk out of his mind, having gone to a bar or strip club with his buddies after work. He eats, inspects the house, and then, depending upon how good his day was, how drunk he is, and how well I did maintaining a clean house for him, he'll beat me. I go upstairs, do my homework, finish around three or four in the morning. Go downstairs to make sure my father is sleeping on his side in case he happens to throw up in the middle of the night, and then I go to bed. I wake up at around seven in the morning, make up breakfast for my father, possibly call in sick for him if he's too hung over to go in to work, and then I go to school and the cycle repeats itself. It's been like that since I was seven."

Suichi's expression was stony now... which was usually a VERY bad sign. Yusuke and Kuwabara both looked like they were ready to go on a killing spree, and Hiei, although his eyes had narrowed somewhat, still maintained a cool exterior.

"And you put up with it?" Shuichi said, his voice deceptively calm. "All these years and you've never informed anyone? You've never called the police? You never tried to get away from it?"

She shook her head. "And I still have no intentions of going to the police. I've lived with it for ten years. I'll survive the last six months up till graduation."

Yusuke shook his head in shock. "If you called the police, you could live those six months with a family that loves you! You deserve better than that, Kasumi!"

She shook her head. "That's the reason why I refuse to tell anyone. I don't have any other family than him. My aunt died when I was seven, and she was the only blood relative I had left other than my father. I know he treats me like shit... and I have no pretentions of changing him. I know he hates me, but that doesn't change the fact that I love him... and I will NOT let anyone take him from me. He needs me. I can't tell you how many times I've had to steal money from his wallet because he wasn't paying attention to our finances and we would have lost the house or phone or the power. I can't tell you how many times I've had to roll him over onto his side to keep him from choking in his own vomit. I can't tell you how many times I've had to buy food because the cupboards were empty and we had nothing to eat. If I wasn't there with him... he'd be dead by now."

Kuwabara's hands were balled into fists now, and he was struggling to control his anger. "That... isn't your responsibility! It's like he's the kid and YOU'RE the parent! Except your a parent who's getting the crap kicked outta you because the kid's not getting his own way!"

Yusuke shook his head. "Why does he hate you? You're his DAUGHTER, for fuck's sake!"

She shrugged, as though it was obvious. "Because I killed my mother coming out of her. He's always resented the fact that I lived and she died."

Suichi looked offically ready to blow his stack hearing this... a sight that was incredibly rare and often one that was dreaded. Because they knew that meant that Youko Kurama must be irate as well.

She sighed. "Don't tell Yamamoto... and don't tell the police. I've lived with this for ten years... I'll survive six more months. The moment I graduate, I'll be booted out and I'll be free of him." Then she looked at her watch. "I've got to get home now." She turned and started off.

She cringed slightly when Suichi cut her off. His features were stony, his eyes hard as he looked at her. She could have sworn for a moment that his eye flickered golden. "For the time being... we will keep silent, Kasumi."

"Suichi!!" Yusuke and Kuwabara shouted in disbelief.

"HOWEVER..." he continued, ignoring the shocked cry of his friends. "We do this VERY hesitantly... and only for these reasons: First, you make a valid point that you will only have to tolerate this disgusting treatment for another six months. Second, informing any authority figure at this point in time would only result in you hating us, and we don't want to damage the friendship that we have developed with you. And Finally..." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pen and paper. He jotted something down on it and handed it over to her. "This is my phone number and address. I want you to PROMISE me, Kasumi... promise me that if you need help... no matter what time it is. I don't care if it's four in the morning and we have a final the next morning! If you decide you need help, then you come to me, and I will do everything I can to help you. Only if you agree to that final condition, will we keep silent about it."

The girl blinked slowly, and then accepted the paper. "I promise." she said quietly.

He nodded. "All right. Go on home, then. We'll see you in school tomorrow. And this time we expect to see you under the Sakura tree at lunch."

She nodded. "I'll be there." Then she quickly hurried off once more.

Yusuke was in the kitsune's face an instant later. "What are you DOING?! You're just going to let this go on?!"

He sighed. "Yusuke... even if we DID inform the authorities... she would only deny it. She could think up a thousand and one different excuses for the injuries she sustained. She's probably been doing it for the past ten years. I'm sure we're not the first to notice her injuries. But I'm certainly not going to just leave it at this." He turned to a certain koorime. "Hiei... can you do something for me?"

Hiei smirked and nodded. "I know what you're going to ask. I'll observe her."

He sighed. "If her father starts when he gets home... don't interfere. Unless you believe her life may be in danger. And when you're finished, come and report what you saw to me."

Hiei nodded and started off, vanishing from sight.

Kasumi continued walking towards her home. It was about six blocks from the school, and with her fast pace it took her only ten minutes to reach it. Had she been the kind of person who walked with her head up, she just MIGHT have noticed the dark blur that jumped from tree to tree at her side.

She reached home and her routine started once more. She brought her things up to her room, changed out of her school uniform, making sure to empty her pockets first. She blinked when she saw the slip of paper Suichi had handed her, considered, and slipped it into the pocket of her jeans. She doubted she was ever going to take him up on his offer, but she may as well keep it on her at all times... just in case.

Then she headed down stairs, starting on the laundry, determined to catch up with the rest of it. While she had a load washing and another drying, she started bustling around the house, cleaning up as usual, even taking the time to clean the shelves and all the items on the shelves that had gathered dust over the past few months. When she saw the time was seven o'clock, she started on supper, taking a chicken she had bought on her way home the day before from the freezer and started defrosting it before putting it in a roaster and slipping it into the oven, checking it occassionally and adding a few spices to give it more flavor.

Her father never came home until twelve thirty, and he greeted her with his usual cold look and grumbles, eating his dinner quietly as Kasumi rushed off to continue her housework, trying to find anything else that might require her attention.

Her father's excuse for hitting her tonight turned out to be that his favorite mug, strategically placed on the back of the counter, had not been washed by her. Her punishment was a usual banter of insults and put downs, followed by a hard slap across the face and a shove into the wall, before he sauntered into the living room to settle down on the couch, reeking of vodka and whatever else he'd partaken of in the bars tonight, as he snatched up the remote and started to watch his shows.

Kasumi quickly cleaned off the table, putting the dishes in the sink to wash when she got home from school tomorrow and putting the leftovers in the fridge before she was finally able to head upstairs to start on her homework. It was almost one-thirty at this time.

She almost jumped out of her skin when she saw Hiei standing in her room, his arms crossed as he looked at her cooly. Her heart rate skyrocketed and then settled when she recognized him, and then she blinked curiously, wondering how the hell he'd gotten in her room.

"Hiei! How... did you get in here?"

He shrugged. "Your window was open. I climbed the tree outside it."

She blinked again. She knew that the tree didn't have any branches closer than eight feet to the ground, so he must be one hell of an acrobat for him to have accomplished THAT feat, she decided. "What... are you doing here?" she asked a little warily.

"Suichi sent me to assess for myself just how bad your situation is. I followed you home from school."

She blinked, a little at a loss now, and quite honestly, she wasn't sure if she should be flattered or freaked out. She decided to settle for being flattered for the time being, and just hoped that this whole 'let's spy on the abused girl' thing was a one time thing only.

"I told you, I'm okay."

"Is that usually as bad as it gets? If you say yes, I'm going to have to point out an obvious injury."

She sighed. "This was a good night. He hit me with an open hand and shoved me into a wall. There won't be any marks, and no pain for me tomorrow. Last night was rated about a four or a five... medium. It very rarely goes beyond that."

He snorted. "Well, he did it for a stupid reason. Not washing a mug? That's pathetic on his part."

She blinked in surprise once more. This guy was shocking her left and right. "You actually HEARD that? How could you hear it from outside the house?"

He smirked and she felt a chill race down her spine at the almost malicious glint he got in his eye. "Suichi told me that observation was your strong point, as far as he could tell. Well, it's MY strong point as well." Then he snorted and turned. "I'll leave you so you can get that homework of yours done. I've got to go talk to Suichi." He cast a glance back at her. "I may drop in on you guys under the Sakura tree tomorrow. Goodnight."

Then he was down the tree and gone.

Kasumi blinked a few times, her mind still trying to catch up with what had just happened. Then she just shoved the matter from her mind, and took her homework out of her bag. She had to finish this before she went to sleep tonight.

Suichi was lying awake in bed, reading a book when he sensed the familiar presence of Hiei outside his window. It was just after one thirty in the morning, and he got up to open the window and let the koorime inside.

"Well?" he asked, the moment he was inside.

Hiei's arms were crossed and his expression impossible to read. "She reached home within ten minutes of leaving us. She immediately put her school books up in her room and spent the entire time cleaning the house, running around like a good little housemaid, and cooking dinner. Her father came home at twelve thirty, ate his meal, found she had forgotten to clean his favorite mug, of all things, and used that as an excuse to slap her and shove her into a wall. Then he went into the living room to watch TV and left the kitchen to his daughter to clean up. She cleaned it, and was up in her room to start her homework only about five minutes ago. I was in her room waiting for her." He smirked. "She almost had a heart attack when she saw me in there."

Kurama sighed. "Hiei..."

His smirk widened. "I questioned her about the incident that occurred tonight, and she said that this was classified as a good night for her. And don't worry. There's a tree right outside her window, so she doesn't have any reason to suspect that I'm anything other than a human."

Kurama frowned slightly, but didn't pursue the matter about Hiei speaking with her and what possible ramifications it might hold in the future. "Was there anything else?"

Hiei shrugged. "Not really. Though, if you want my own opinion, her father is an asshole, through and through. If it weren't illegal for demons to kill humans, I'd take it upon myself to be rid of him."

The kitsune knew exactly what his friend meant. Kasumi was a very self conscious and shy girl, and thinking that a man that was supposed to love and care for her was looking for excuses to hit her every night... it made his blood boil just thinking about it.

Hiei shrugged. "Well, I did as you asked. I'll be dropping in on you guys under the Sakura tree tomorrow. And before you ask, the ningen woman knows as well. I told her before I left her. See you then, Kurama."

Then, before he could blink, Hiei was gone, little more than a blur as he leaped out of his bedroom window and vanished from sight. Suichi frowned slightly, his thoughts centering around Kasumi once more. He looked at the book he had been reading, knew there was no longer a point to reading it tonight with his mind being distracted the way it was, and decided to simply turn in for the night. Putting a bookmark in his place, he set the book on his nightstand, and shut off his light. Taking off his shirt, he climbed into his bed and tried to sleep.

The next day, Kasumi acted more normally, although she very carefully tried to keep her face out of sight when others were around. And at noon, she joined them once more under the Sakura tree.

Suichi smiled at her, reaching into his bag. "I have just the thing for that eye, by the way. I know a great deal about the healing properties of plants, and put this together for you this morning," he said, taking out a small container with a cream of some sort inside.

Kasumi tentatively leaned forward to look at the concoction, and caught the smell of it. She made a face. "Yuck! My father's shoes smell better after a twelve hour shift!"

Suichi chuckled. "I wouldn't doubt it. But, fortunately, this is meant to be used externally only. You don't have to ingest it."

Yusuke grinned. "You can trust him. His stuff really does work."

Hiei just sat under the tree, leaning against it and looking bored.

Suichi took some of the salve on the tips of his fingers and gently applied it to Kasumi's still swollen shut eye. When he finished applying the ointment, he replaced the lid and put the salve into his bag once more. He gave her a gentle smile.

"By tomorrow, the bruising should be almost gone, and your eye should open just fine."

Kasumi blinked in surprise hearing this. "Are you serious? That soon?"

He nodded. "Yes. I can assure you, my remedies are quite potent and very effective."

The girl seemed to digest this information for a moment, clearly surprised and a little skeptical, but she would see for her self come the next morning. Suichi just hoped she didn't have another contrusion on her face when next she woke up.

Then he smiled at her. "The Sakura Festival is next week. Do you plan on going?"

She shook her head immediately. "Definitely not. I've never gone to a festival before. My father works on holidays, as well, and someone has to stay at home and keep the house in order. I'm the only one who can do it. Besides, I don't even own a kimono, and I don't have the money to buy one."

Yusuke looked at her, one eyebrow elevating. "You'd think with your dad having the job and income that he's got, that you guys would have a higher standard of living, you know?"

She almost snorted. "My dad spends it all on strippers and booze for his buddies after work. If I didn't go in his wallet after he passes out, we'd be in serious trouble."

Suichi sighed inwardly. He knew there was no point in trying to talk to her about getting away from her situation. She wouldn't listen. He knew it would take something big to make her change her mind... and he hoped that if something did happen... that she would give him a call as she'd promised.

They continued visiting, wisely dropping the subject of her father and her home experiences for the remainder of the time under the Sakura tree. Then they got up and headed for classes, following Kasumi's example when she announced that lunch was over in ten minutes.

After a night with being thrown across the room and getting a few well placed kicks in the ribs, Kasumi woke up and was pleasantly surprised to find that her black eye was now gone. She touched it tentatively. There was only a hardly noticable greenish tinge around her now open eye and she smiled inwardly. Wow, she thought. Suichi's remedies really DO work...

That day, under the sakura tree, the boys all noticed that she was wincing noticable with almost every move that she made, and she quietly told them of what had transpired the night before, refusing to meet any of their gazes.

Kuwabara and Yusuke looked like they were going to say something, but whatever it was died in their throats at the look that Suichi gave them.

But little did any of them know, that her situation was going to come to an end sooner than any of them expected.

Three days after her black eye had healed, Suichi was up in his room, Hiei sitting on his windowsill, his arms crossed. The koorime was being silent and Suichi wondered, not for the first time, why he bothered visiting when he never said a word.

"Have you nothing better to do?" he asked, a little annoyed. Despite his best efforts, the presence of the koormie was distracting him from his studies.

Hiei smirked and shrugged. "Hn. Like what? I'd much rather be here than at Kuwabaka's or Yusuke's. I don't feel like watching that sister of Kuwabaka's beat the crap out of him again, or put up with Yusuke's mother's drunken antics."

Kurama sighed and tried to focus on his homework again. He cast a glance at his clock and saw that it was almost two in the morning. He wasn't concerned, though. There was actually no school tomorrow, the teachers all attending a conference in Kyoto. But Suichi just wanted to get his homework over and done with.

His mother was gone right now, away on business in Okinawa. She wouldn't be back for another week or so... at least.

He tried to focus on his History homework, when he saw Hiei move out of the corner of his eye. Looking up, he saw the koorime's expression was dead serious.

"Someone's coming." he said.

Blinking, Suichi was about to ask who, when he heard a faint knock on the door downstairs. Even more curious now, he got up and made his way downstairs to see who his unexpected visitor was. But then, as he neared the door, he felt a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach, that told him that this was going to turn into a VERY long night.

Opening the door, Suichi felt his eyes go wide at what stood there.

He almost didn't recognize her. There was a cold rain falling from the sky, so her hair hung in wet mats. Her face was black and blue. She was holding her side while trying to breathe in short gasps. Her legs were trembling, straining to keep her up.

When she lifted her head and her eyes met Suichi's, tears started streaming down her cheeks. Kasumi was standing on his front step... hurt, and very afraid.

"Suichi...?" she asked, her voice sounding strained, her eyes a little unfocused. Her legs unexpectedly went out from beneath her and the kitsune quickly caught her, scooping her up into his arms in one swift motion.

He shut the door quickly and turned. "Hiei!! Get my med kit!!" he shouted, quickly making his way up the stairs, holding the trembling woman in his arms.

The koorime met him in his room, holding the med kit ready. Suichi gently set the girl down on his bed.

"I'm... sorry..." She said. "I... know it's... late... but I... didn't know... where else I... could go..." she said between gasps.

"Sh... It's alright. You have nothing to apologize for..." Suichi said gently.

She shook her head, tears still streaming down her face. "I've... never seen him like that before... He just... he went insane..."

Suichi continued to hush her gently as he looked her over. As he looked her over and saw nothing life threatening, although her condition definitely required a hospital, and his concern was being taken over by a cold rage.

Hiei stood off to the side, his arms crossed, his eyes squarely on the young woman, his mouth set in a thin line.

Struggling to keep himself composed, Suichi looked at Kasumi. "I know... you're not going to like this, Kasumi. But this time your father has crossed the line. You need a hospital, and this time the police HAVE to be informed. I know it's not something you like, but..." he sighed.

She took in a shaky breath and slowly nodded. Suichi's hand took a hold of her own gently. "I understand..." she said quietly.

He nodded, getting to his feet. He cast a look at Hiei. "Stay with her for a few minutes, please, Hiei. I have to call an ambulance and report this."

The koorime nodded wordlessly as the kitsune left the room.