Disclaimer: I don't own Yu Yu Hakusho. Never have, never will.
"I just think it's stupid. I mean really, if you can't tell he likes you then he probably doesn't."
I leaned back in my chair and waited, watching Keiko for a response. She was scrubbing down the counter of her family's ramen shop. Or, maybe I should say, her ramen shop. Keiko had taken over her parent's restaurant a few months after our high school graduation, when her parents decided it was time for them to move out of the city. There had been no official exchange of deeds and the shop's name hadn't changed, but everyone knew the place was Keiko's now. Hers and her boyfriend's.
"I don't know, Shy. It isn't as easy as you think to read a guy. Most of the time they want to be all mysterious, keep you waiting on the edge of your seat, you know? They have to keep up their image after all. God forbid, they seem sweet or caring."
I rolled my eyes and tossed the magazine that had sparked our debate onto the counter. Keiko dropped her washcloth and picked up the magazine, scanning the article.
"Read number six, the one about being flirtatious. Seriously, are they kidding? Guys flirt with everything that moves, it's not exactly a sign of love. Horniness, maybe? Love not so much." I leaned forward, propping my chin in my hands, and watched Keiko.
She glanced up at me and read out loud the part I was referring to, "'Reason Number 6: He's flirtatious. Guys get playful around women they like. It's a little dance he's doing around you to show his interest and his daring. However, he's not just being flirty, he's also probing. He's putting on a little show for you to see if you'll reciprocate. The more you play, the more he stays. Now shake that tail feather.'"
"You see what I'm saying?" The whole article was like that, putting all sorts of significance behind stupid, little things.
"Kind of, but I think the writer has a point. Guys flirt when they're interested. Yusuke was flirting with me back in junior high, long before either of us even realized how much we cared about each other. It's like their way of showing they care without having to be emotional."
"Or it's just a way to get in a girl's pants." I laughed as Keiko waved me off, dropped the magazine, and resumed cleaning. Behind me the door chimed and someone entered the restaurant.
"Sorry, we're closed for the night," Keiko said, without glancing up.
"I live here, and I'm pretty sure my house can't close for the night."
I glanced over my shoulder to see Yusuke sliding off his jacket. Inclining his head to me in greeting, he approached the counter and vaulted it in a single, fluent move. He pressed a kiss to Keiko's neck, murmuring sarcastically, "Good to see you too, babe."
"Sorry, Yusuke, I didn't realize it was you." Keiko turned into her boyfriend and kissed him.
"Alright, I can see when I'm not wanted," I joked. I slid from my seat and grabbed my magazine off the counter. "See you tomorrow, Keiko."
My friend pulled away from Yusuke and said, "Night, Shy, we'll continue this debate tomorrow."
Laughing, I tugged on my light, spring jacket and replied, "You aren't going to change my mind. Goodnight, guys."
As I left, the bell tinkling overhead, I heard Yusuke ask, "Change her mind about what?"
I headed for my car, which was parked half a block away. Keiko's parents had been nice enough to give me a job working at their restaurant back when we were in high school and three years after graduation I was still a Yukimura employee.
I liked the job and, while I don't see myself working forever as a waitress in a ramen shop, it will certainly get me by until I decide what I want to do with my life. I like the people I work with, after all my boss is my best friend, and the costumers tend to be good people.
I fumbled in my jacket pocket, pulling out my car keys. I unlocked my car and climbed into the driver's seat. Tossing the magazine into the passenger seat, I started my car and quickly backed out of my spot. Yet another perk of working at the Yukimura's was the commute, just ten minutes without traffic.
Turning up the radio, I allowed my thoughts to wander to the magazine article. I wouldn't have ever seen the magazine if my mother hadn't bought me a subscription last Christmas. What made her think I would like the magazine I wasn't sure, usually she did a good job of judging my interests.
I've made an effort to read the magazines, seeing as my mom spent money on them, but for the most part the articles just make me laugh. This article in particular, called 'Ten Ways to Know if He's Into You,' had just seemed too dumb to be real. Apparently, my opinion wasn't shared by Keiko.
I figure that, if I really liked a guy, I'd know if he liked me too. I wouldn't need some writer giving my guidance. Sure, I'd probably use the same reasoning as the article outlined, but I'd know he liked me without analyzing every little thing.
Or, at least, that's how I assume it would work, because my experience in the romance department had been rather limited. Have I dated? Yes. Have I been in a serious relationship that I thought might last forever? No.
So, maybe Keiko was speaking from experience and I was speaking from, well, inexperience, but I'd still like to think I could figure out if the supposed love of my life cared about me without the help of some writer.
Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I parked my car and pulled the key from the ignition. With a sigh, I locked the doors and headed for my apartment building. Why the hell was that article getting to me so much?
I was never as aware of my humanity as when I was around Yusuke Urameshi. He was so vibrantly alive that everyone else seemed dim in comparison, as though they were on the verge of dying.
I don't mean I see him as some kind of light; rather, it is as though Yusuke overshadows all others with his presence. He is the kind of person that I simply can't see the world without.
For years I had only heard stories about the mysterious Yusuke Urameshi. It seemed as though everyone I knew had something to say about Yusuke. Teachers passed on the stories they had heard from their junior high counterparts, boys murmured their thanks that they would never have to fight him, girls conveyed their disgust over his violence. But there were two people who I truly listened to: Keiko Yukimura and Kazuma Kuwabara.
I met Keiko during our freshmen year of high school, when she was still reeling from the sudden disappearance of Yusuke from her life. She needed a friend and I was more than willingly to provide her with one. My friends from junior high had gone to different high schools, leaving me in just as much need of a companion as Keiko.
It took very little time for me to realize that, though he was physically absent, Yusuke was still very much a part of Keiko's life. I would have been blind not to see how much he mattered to her. I learned in just that first year that Keiko would wait as long as she needed to for Yusuke to return because, quite frankly, she didn't know how to do anything else, how to live without him.
It wasn't until our sophomore year that she revealed the complete truth about what Yusuke was. I guess she just couldn't keep it to herself anymore. She worried about him all the time and until she explained that he was a half-demon, a hanyou, I hadn't understood why. I'd always thought he had moved or been sent to reform school, I'd assumed that with time Keiko would find him again because he clearly meant so much to her. The day she explained everything I was finally able to understand her worry. She couldn't find him; he wasn't even in our world. She would have to wait and pray that he would come back to her.
That same year she introduced me to Kuwabara, the only other person who could truly understand how she felt. Just as had happened with Keiko, I saw almost immediately how much Yusuke meant to Kuwabara. The half-demon was his best friend and, despite the front he put up, Kuwabara worried about Yusuke. Everyday that Yusuke remained in the Makai was another day that he might be killed, another day that might prevent him from ever returning.
When Yusuke finally came back to the Ningenkai and the time came for me to meet him, I had a hard time separating the stories I had heard from classmates and teachers from those Keiko and Kuwabara had told me. I'd seen pictures of Yusuke, I knew what he would look like, but I had no idea what he would be like as a person.
I wasn't even truly sure how much I could trust the opinions of my friends. Keiko had grown up with Yusuke and she loved him. Would she be able to separate her feelings from the truth when she talked about him? Kuwabara and Yusuke had risked their lives together, how much would that color Kuwabara's depictions of the hanyou?
In the end, Yusuke was exactly like Keiko and Kuwabara had portrayed him. I'd been nervous when I parked in front of the Yukimura's that day. What if Keiko didn't need me anymore? What if I didn't like Yusuke or, even worse, what if he didn't like me? Needless to say, my worry was pointless, within minutes of meeting him Yusuke had made me feel like we'd been friends for years.
In the years since I've met him, Yusuke has proved every story I've ever heard about him true, but rarely in the way I'd expected.
He had no respect for authority figures, but all the esteem in the world for those that had proved themselves to him. His respect wasn't something he simply handed out to all those that asked, it was something that had to be earned.
He was most definitely violent, but only when defending those he cared about. I came to see that Yusuke would do anything for his friends, even if that meant putting his life on the line. In particular, Yusuke lived for Keiko. I'd always had the sinking suspicion that Keiko cared more for Yusuke than he cared for her, but I was wrong, incredibly wrong.
The point of my ramble? I wanted what Keiko had. I wanted a man that would give so much for others, a man who lived for those he cared about, a man who would give his life for me.
Pulling into the parking lot outside the ramen shop the next morning, I realized immediately that my spot was taken. For six years I had parked in the exact same spot, it was habit, and now some nobody upstart had taken my spot. Grumbling to myself, I pulled in beside the car and noticed a familiar SUV parked on its other side.
So Kuwabara was here too, interesting. Usually, the big lug didn't show his face until noon time. He claims he's sleeping, but personally I think he is secretly training in hopes of one day beating Yusuke. For some reason I think telling him to 'keep dreaming' would crush his spirit.
I locked my car and headed for the ramen shop with every intention of informing Keiko about the annoying spot stealer. The bell chimed overhead as I entered and Keiko glanced up at me. She was standing behind the counter, preparing for the day's costumers, Kuwabara sitting across from her.
"Morning, Shy," Kuwabara yawned halfway through his greeting, distorting the words.
I waved and snapped, "Did you know some stupid, no good ass stole my parking spot?"
"There's no name on it, so it isn't your spot," Keiko said, smiling slightly.
"So, it's not my spot per se, but I'm still pissed off. Don't people have any respect for others?"
"How would not taking that spot show respect for others?"
I glared at Kuwabara. "If I had been able to park in my spot, I wouldn't be irritated, we wouldn't be arguing, and this whole morning would be going a whole lot better."
Kuwabara turned to Keiko and said, with the utmost seriousness, "I think she's hungry."
Nodding sagely, Keiko replied, "Feed her quick, before she attacks us."
"Haha, very funny. You two think you're comedians, huh?" I plopped onto the seat beside Kuwabara and tugged off my jacket. "Whose car is it anyway?"
"Kurama's. He and Hiei are upstairs talking to Yusuke."
"Go tell him to move his car."
"Shyle! Jeeze, does it really matter that much?"
I grinned at Keiko. "Nah, I just wanted to see how riled up I could get you."
"Now, who thinks they're funny?" Kuwabara muttered sarcastically.
Rolling my eyes, I asked, "So, why are you here this early anyway?"
"Keiko said something about me deciding a debate for you guys."
"Whoa, wait a second." I looked at Keiko, who had paused in her preparation. "You bring in Kuwabara to settle our argument. There is no person in the whole freaking world more obvious about who they like than Kuwabara."
"First of all," Keiko replied, "I wouldn't call it an argument." I acknowledged her comment with a dismissive wave of my hand and waited for her to defend her choice. "Think about it, though. Yeah, Kuwabara's really obvious, but Yukina was still oblivious until just a few years ago. What more perfect person is there to help us decide?"
I frowned. Keiko had a point. Yukina could not have been more ignorant of Kuwabara's affections, but that didn't make Kuwabara the right choice. "I see your point, but using your logic don't you think Yukina herself would have been a better moderator?"
Keiko sighed, "It is a lot easier to have Kuwabara come and help us decided, than to get Yukina all the way from Genkai's."
Further debate was cut off by Yusuke emerging from the stairs that led up to his and Keiko's apartment. "Damn, she's here already?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Yusuke was joking, I knew that, but we always pretended to bicker with each other. It was part of what made us friends.
Kuwabara grinned and rocked his stool back on two legs. "I'd watch it, Urameshi. Shy could kick your ass."
"I'd like to see her try," Yusuke grinned at me and dropped into a fighting stance.
"What the hell, Kuwabara? You trying to get me killed?"
He laughed at me and asked, "Where's Kurama and the shrimp?"
I had to admit, I was wondering the same thing. Even after all these years, I'd never met either of the two demons, which was no fault of my own. I'd always assumed that the others would introduce me to them eventually, but it had taken far longer than I had expected.
"Actually I have no idea," Yusuke answered, glancing back up the stairs. "Kurama, Hiei, what the hell is taking so long? Shyle won't bite and, even if she did, you could kick her ass."
I stuck my tongue out at him as he glanced at me to see my reaction. I started outright laughing when Keiko turned and whacked him on the back of the head. "Yusuke, for goodness sake. They've never even met Shy and you're making her look bad."
"Sound bad, actually." His smartass comment was met with a glare and he grinned like a kid with candy.
"Sorry, I had to grab my jacket." My gaze turned toward the handsome young man coming down the stairs. I recognized him from group pictures I had seen as Kurama. Behind him came Hiei, who seemed entirely uninterested in what was going on.
Yusuke commenced a useless round of introductions. "Shy, meet Kurama and Hiei. Guys, meet Shyle Iraheta." Kurama inclined his head in greeting and Hiei glanced impassively at me.
I waved and returned my attention to the issue of the magazine article. "I left the magazine in my car and since I assume Kuwabara needs it I'll go get it. Be right back." I stood up and had made it to the door when Yusuke spoke.
"Hey, Kurama's in your spot!"
"No shit, Sherlock."
"No need to be grumpy about it." Resisting the urge to flip him off, I let the door fall closed behind me and headed for my car.
The first thing Kurama said when I returned, magazine in hand, was, "I can move my car if you want."
I shot Yusuke an annoyed look and said, "No, don't bother. Yusuke is under the impression that he's funny."
"Hey, I am funny."
"Not really, Urameshi," Kuwabara said, grinning at the hanyou's outrage.
"You stay out of this," Yusuke snapped.
"Enough. Just give Kuwabara the magazine," Keiko sighed, returning to her work.
I flipped through the magazine until I found the article and then handed it to Kuwabara. "Remember to remain impartial," I instructed sternly. "You're no good to us if you take sides. While he is reading, I'm going to make a breakfast run ––"
"Told you she was hungry," Kuwabara interrupted.
"I thought you were reading," I snapped. "Anyway, if anyone wants anything…"
All speaking at the same time, Yusuke, Keiko, and our moderator, who clearly wasn't concentrating very much, told me what they wanted.
"Yeah, um guys, I have one set of ears and can therefore only understand one person at a time." They repeated their orders and I turned my attention to Kurama and Hiei. "Do you guys want anything?"
Smiling politely, Kurama said, "I'll just have a bagel and a coffee."
"Sure thing. You?" I asked Hiei.
"Hn. I am not interested in your ningen breakfast." Well, okey dokey then, no need to be snarky. I kept my annoyance to myself and prepared to make yet another trip to my car.
"Wait," Keiko called out to me and I paused at the door. "I'll give you some money." She was already scrambling to get her purse and find some money.
"I've got it, don't worry."
"No, I want to give you some money."
"I work here, you pay me. I'm pretty sure you're already giving me money. I'll be back in a little while." I ducked out of the shop and headed for my car only to find Yusuke already there waiting for me. Damn him and his demonic speed. "I'm not taking money."
"I'm not giving money. I figure you'll need help bringing everything in."
"Ah, good thinking." I slipped into the driver's seat and waited for him to climb in on the passenger side, before pulling out of the spot and heading for the closest breakfast place.