Disclaimer: I do not own Yu Yu Hakusho or any of the characters therein.
"Eikichi!" Kazuma Kuwabara called. "Shizuru, I can't find Eikichi." The cat had disappeared yesterday afternoon; this morning she was still missing. Kuwabara was currently tearing apart the laundry room of the house he and his sister shared, even though deep down he knew it was useless. Eikichi was gone.
"Kazuma, what's the matter?" Shizuru asked, as she came to stand at the laundry room door.
"I told you, I can't find Eikichi; she's been gone all night!"
Shizuru rolled her eyes. "Did you look under the begonia?"
"Yes, I looked under the begonia," he said, mimicking her tone of voice.
"Did you look behind the refrigerator?"
"Yes, I looked behind the refrigerator," he snapped. "And under my bed, and on her favorite window sill, and under the couch, and in the tree, and in the neighbor's yard. I've looked everywhere she might be, and she's just not here!" This couldn't be happening. Not now. After Yukina had gently -but firmly- told him that they would always be friends, but nothing more than that, Eikichi had been his only comfort. He couldn't lose her as well; not now.
With that thought in mind, he rushed off to his room to start printing out "missing pet" posters on his computer.
Aiko finished her tea and placed the cup in the sink to be washed later. If she didn't leave soon, she'd miss her train. That wouldn't be good; she couldn't afford to be late for work again.
As she slipped on her shoes at the door her cat, Yuki, came to see her off. She purred as she rubbed against Aiko's leg affectionately. This was their morning ritual. After the rub, Aiko always picked the cat up, nuzzled into her fur, and then put her back down with a kiss between the ears and a warning to be good. After which, Yuki would settle in for a nap on Aiko's bed.
Aiko stepped outside and paused for a moment to enjoy the spring morning. As she turned to let the gentle breeze blow through her hair, a new poster on the lamppost caught her eye. It was a poster for a missing cat. As she glanced up the street she saw a guy with curly red hair putting up another poster. Presumably he had put this one up as well.
'Poor guy. I hope he finds her. I don't know what I'd do if I lost Yuki.' She glanced at her watch, then gasped and hurried off to the train station.
Yuki stirred, then gave a jaw-cracking yawn and stretched as only a cat can. She jumped off Aiko's bed to patrol 'her' house. First, the living room. Anything under the recliner? Nope. Duck under the curtains; see what's behind them. Nothing. How about the back of the couch? Nothing up there either. On to the bathroom. Bathtub's empty; what about the toilet? Nothing happening here either. Oh, well. Swat at the roll of paper; make a nice big pile on the floor for Aiko. Now the kitchen. Nothing special in here either, except for the food. Speaking of food…
Now sated, Yuki entered the back yard via a cat door Aiko installed for her. Almost immediately, she scented an intruder. She fluffed up her fur and growled a warning. The plaintive meow that answered sounded lonely and frightened. Not a challenge, then. Yuki chirped an invitation. There was a rustling in the bushes, and then her visitor emerged: a very disheveled cat. Her fur was ruffled and dirty, and covered in burrs. Yuki sniffed at her, and decided she was no threat. She rubbed her head against the newcomer's and purred, to show her acceptance. Following cat protocol, the newcomer rubbed against Yuki and started to groom her, acknowledging her dominance. Introductions finished, they spent the rest of the day playing, grooming, and that world-famous cat pastime, napping.
The setting sun painted the sky in beautiful shades of red, purple, and gold. The glorious show went unnoticed by a despondent Kuwabara. He had spent all day searching for Eikichi and putting up posters, not stopping even to eat. Now he lay on his bed exhausted, and close to tears. Facing a second night without his cat, he had to concede that something had probably happened to her.
"What if she got hit by a car, sis? Or attacked by a dog?" he sniffled. "It's my fault; I should've looked for her when she didn't come home last night."
Sitting on the bed beside him, Shizuru sighed. "It'll be okay, Kazuma. Remember, she's not a defenseless kitten anymore. She'll be fine."
Kuwabara was silent for a moment, and then whispered, "What if she didn't get hit by a car or anything? What if she ran away?"
"Why would she run away?" Shizuru asked, alarmed at the direction his thoughts were taking.
"Maybe working with Yusuke and the others as a Spirit Detective took me away from home so often she thought I didn't love her any more."
Kuwabara was unable to hold back his tears at that thought. Shizuru rubbed his back, and asked herself why her brother had been cursed with such a tender heart as he cried himself to sleep.
Aiko sighed as she unlocked her door, vowing never to let Hana near a teapot again. She thought she might start coming in to work through the back, too. She'd made it to work on time, but her supervisor had had it in for her anyway.
She shook the thought off, preferring to think instead about how nice it was to have someone to come home to. Plus, tomorrow was Saturday; she didn't need to think about her job for a couple days.
"Yuki, I'm home!" she called. She froze as she was answered by not one, but two meows. Two different meows. She hurried into the bedroom, where she found Yuki curled up on her bed with another cat.
'What the hell is this?! Is this a habit of hers, bringing strange cats into my house?' The other cat was dirty and disheveled, with burrs in its fur. It did look oddly familiar, though. Aiko looked at the tag on the cat's collar and found a name: Eikichi.
'Now where have I heard that name?' she wondered. Then she realized she'd seen a poster earlier. She ran outside, tore the poster off the lamppost, and ran back inside to compare.
'I was right, it is her! I knew I recognized that name.' And now that she had the poster, she knew where Eikichi lived. She really didn't want to go back out now; she just got home. Aiko decided to take the cat home tomorrow morning. In the meantime, she could clean her up, and give her a good meal. Not to mention changing her bed sheets.
Alone. That's how Kuwabara felt. Completely and utterly alone. Shizuru was away at her weekend lessons to improve her psychic abilities, and without Eikichi the house felt like an empty wasteland.
He puttered around the house, unsure of what he should do. After some thought, he decided his best course of action was to start calling animal shelters. He didn't hold out much hope, but it seemed his only viable course of action.
'Although, it couldn't hurt to put up just a few more posters…'
Kuwabara's thoughts were interrupted by the doorbell ringing. He frowned. Who would come to his house at this hour? He supposed there was only one way to find out, so he shuffled across the room and opened the door.
On the other side, he found a young woman with shoulder-length black hair. She was wearing a white T-shirt and a pair of jeans. She looked happy, but oddly nervous. Her spirit felt nice, too. That didn't tell him why she was here, though.
After staring at her blankly for a few moments, she seemed to realize the problem, and held up a bundle he hadn't noticed before.
"I found your cat," she said.
Aiko wasn't sure why she was nervous when she rang the doorbell. She was just returning a lost cat, right?
The door opened to reveal the same man she had seen yesterday, though she didn't remember him being quite that tall. He looked exhausted, and it was obvious he'd been crying. She felt her heart clench in sympathy for what he must have been feeling.
'Well, I'll fix that'
As the moments ticked by and stretched into a rather uncomfortable silence, she realized he'd somehow failed to notice the cat bundled up in a small blanket in her arms.
"I found your cat," she said, holding her bundle up for emphasis.
The reaction was immediate; he gasped, his eyes widening. "Eikichi!" he cried, grabbing the cat from Aiko and holding her close. He buried his face in the cat's fur as he started to cry, but Aiko could tell they were happy tears. For her part, Eikichi seemed just as happy as he was.
Aiko had expected all this, and was prepared. What she wasn't prepared for was the heavily-muscled arm that grabbed her and pulled her against a rock-hard torso and squeezed her for all she was worth.
"Thank you, thank you so much!" he said, still hugging the daylights out of her. She hugged back, not knowing what else to do. However, after a couple minutes of this, she started to squirm a little.
He understood, and released her.
"Sorry about that," he said, "I guess I got a little carried away."
"That's okay," Aiko replied, only wondering after the fact why being suddenly grabbed by a large man didn't alarm her the way it should have.
They stood awkwardly, until the man ventured "I'm Kazuma Kuwabara,"
"Aiko Tanaka," she replied. They were interrupted when Kazuma's stomach growled. Loudly.
After their laughter died down, Aiko said something about not wanting to keep him any longer and made to leave.
"Aiko wait," Kuwabara said. "Have you eaten yet?" he asked, hoping not.
"Well, no," she admitted, "I wanted to come straight here."
"Please, join me," Kuwabara offered. It was the least he could do after what she had done for him. Besides, now that he'd gotten a good look at her he realized she was pretty cute.
Aiko hesitated for a moment, and then accepted.
As Kuwabara made a bowl of food for Eikichi, he pondered on Aiko. He could feel that she had a kind spirit, and a sense of humor to match. He wondered if he'd made too bad a first impression for her to consider going out with him. After his earlier behavior, not to mention his appearance (which he was keenly aware of now that Eikichi was safe), he thought his odds weren't very good.
'After all, just because she was nice enough to bring your cat back, that doesn't mean she wants anything else to do with you.'
"Are scrambled eggs and sausage okay, Aiko?" Kuwabara asked her. If this was his only chance to spend time with her, he wanted to make sure she enjoyed it.
Aiko nodded. "That sounds good," she said.
As he cooked, he learned a little more about her. She told him that she lived nearby, and also had a cat of her own named Yuki. She also mentioned seeing him the day before.
While they ate, Kuwabara told her about his job as a safety inspector, and other random topics. He was quite amused by Aiko's account of how she found Eikichi.
As they talked Aiko noticed Kazuma's eyes. They were a bright blue color, made even brighter by the compassion shining in them. She considered his features. Some people would call them ugly, but she didn't think so. They weren't ugly, just…rugged. And the body she'd been pressed up against certainly made up for it.
'Now that was an inappropriate thought. Still, I wonder if he has a girlfriend.' She blushed at that.
Kuwabara noticed her blushing. He also noticed the way her eyes kept wandering across his arms and torso. Interesting. 'Well, if I didn't know better…' He flexed his pectoral muscles intentionally, watching as her eyes became glued to his chest. Very interesting.
"Did I get something on my shirt?" He asked innocently. He normally wouldn't tease like that, but somehow he just couldn't resist.
"Wha-?" Aiko's head snapped up to meet his gaze. She turned as red as a tomato and looked down quickly,
looking terribly embarrassed that he'd caught her staring.
Kuwabara smirked. He would definitely ask her out.
Once they finished eating Aiko offered to help clean up, but Kazuma politely declined.
"I, um, I should probably be going then," she said. Mainly, she just wanted to get away before she really embarrassed herself.
As Kazuma walked her to the door, Aiko thought 'What's wrong with me? I'm acting like a schoolgirl on her first date.'
At the door Aiko said a quick goodbye and turned to leave, but Kazuma caught by the hand and stopped her.
She turned back to him while trying to push down the fluttery feeling in her stomach. She mostly succeeded, until he smiled at her. Then a whole squadron if butterflies took off.
Kazuma hesitated. "Aiko, can I take you to dinner sometime?" he asked.
"You mean like a date?"
"Yeah, like a date."
She thought for a moment. She did like him. And with his cat she knew they at least had something in common. What did she have to lose?
Aiko smiled. "I'd like that."