Title: Cornered

Author: Veronica

Rating: G

Spoilers: takes place after the end of Episode 22

Pairing(s): Kotoha & Mako frienship with a bit of Takeru & Kotoha

Summary: Mako just couldn't let the expression on Kotoha's face go. She wanted an explanation.

Mako sat on her futon in the Shiba mansion and stared up at the ceiling, deep in thought. She was remembering earlier when she had walked up to a troubled looking Kotoha. Frowning, Mako sorted through the memory of earlier in the day, trying to make sense of Kotoha's behavior.

Earlier in the day, Kotoha had been masquerading as a Bocchama's fiancée. Takeru, their leader, surprisingly took it upon himself to masquerade as her manservant. This had shocked everyone on the team as well as Ji-san. Genta had explained to them that Yoshibou, a young Bocchama, had met Kotoha at his stand one time and that he, meaning Yoshibou, wanted Kotoha to masquerade as his fiancée to keep the gold diggers away. Apparently that wasn't the only reason though. He actually liked her and was using that as an excuse to get to know the sweet natured Kotoha.

It was while waiting at the stoplight beside her other teammates that Mako had watched the exchange between Kotoha and Yoshibou as they parted ways from across the street. She watched the emotions play across Kotoha's face as Yoshibou said what was on his mind. At first, Kotoha had looked confused. She had then proceeded to try to deny whatever Yoshibou had said to her. Yoshibou had been facing away from Kotoha when Kotoha had made her denial, so he turned to face her and smiled understandingly.

Yoshibou said one thing more and got into the parked limo beside them. Mako still wasn't sure what all had happened between the time Kotoha had been convinced to play the part and when they had come in just before they fought the Gedoushu for the last time, but it had affected the young Shinken Yellow and something had definitely changed. At the time, Mako had just watched as Yoshibou left in the car, leaving a troubled Kotoha behind in his wake.

That was when Mako decided to intervene and made her way across the street as swiftly as she could, leaving her male teammates behind. She walked up to Kotoha and asked her if she was okay. Kotoha shook her head and denied that anything was wrong. Kotoha looked away from her and faced forward, a hint of a smile coming to her lips. Mako remembered being momentarily confused by Kotoha's change in demeanor and had decided to look to see what had caught Kotoha's attention.

The sight that greeted her was of Takeru, Chiaki, Ryunosuke, and Genta walking their way with smiles on their faces. Brow furrowing, she remembered the warm expression on Takeru's face and the nod of approval he gave Kotoha as he paused ever so briefly in front of the two girls before walking passed them, the other three guys trailing behind him.

Kotoha's sweet smile and whispered words of, "tono-sama is tono-sama," replayed in her head. Kotoha's tone at the time had been one of awe, though whether that was for Takeru or whether it was related to what Yoshibou had said, Mako was just beginning to understand.

Dark eyes widening in shock, Mako smacked herself in the forehead with the heel of her palm. How stupid can I be? she asked herself, annoyed that it had taken her this long to figure it out. She had all the pieces and her conclusion was that Kotoha was in love with, or at least had a crush on, Takeru. This will certainly complicate things, she thought to herself as she used the same palm to massage the newly red spot on her forehead.

Mako sat up abruptly from her position on the futon with a determined look on her pretty face. "I won't leave it at that," she said quietly. She was pretty sure that her conclusion was correct, but she wanted to know for sure. Especially since, if she was right, Kotoha's affections for Takeru would eventually affect the team dynamics. Whether the affect would be positive or negative remained to be seen. She got up from the futon, slid the door open and made her way to Kotoha's room in the mansion.

Two minutes later she found herself standing outside of Kotoha's room. With a sigh, she tapped lightly on the wood of the frame and slid the door open. "I'm coming in," she announced and entered the room to find Kotoha seated cross legged on a cushion near her futon. Kotoha greeted her with a smile. "Hello, Mako-chan."

Mako smiled apologetically and said, "I'm sorry for just barging in, but I wanted to talk." Kotoha nodded and her smile brightened considerably. "Okay, Mako-chan. What is it that you wanted to talk about?" Kotoha asked as she motioned Mako to have a seat on one of two cushions on the floor. Mako slid the door closed and sat down on the offered cushion.

Mako worried her bottom lip a moment, not knowing how to start this particular conversation. With a shake of her head, she decided to just come out and ask her questions.

"Kotoha, what did Yoshibou-san say to you?" She asked, already pretty sure what he had said, but still wanting confirmation before going any further. Kotoha looked at Mako in surprise, then blushed and looked down at her hands. Mako rested a hand over Kotoha's clutched ones and when Kotoha looked up, she smiled kindly. Kotoha smiled back, albeit a bit uncertainly, before telling Mako what she wanted to know.

It's as I expected, Mako thought, as she listened attentively and watched the expressions play across Kotoha's face as she told her exactly what Yoshibou had said to cause Kotoha to be troubled. Once Kotoha had finished, Mako stayed quiet for a moment or two and just studied her friend. She touched Kotoha's clasped hands lightly and Kotoha looked at her with troubled eyes.

"What are you going to do, Kotoha?" Mako asked, somewhat hesitant.

"I don't know, Mako-chan. I just realized today that I have feelings for tono-sama. I'm not even sure if what I'm feeling is love. I had myself convinced beforehand that I admired him because he is kind, and most importantly he is tono. What if it's just a crush?" Kotoha looked at Mako with trusting eyes that pleaded with her to tell her what to do.

Mako couldn't stand those eyes, so she pulled her into a hug and brushed her fingers through the younger girl's hair. "It is okay, Kotoha. You don't have to try to make sense of your feelings right now. You'll figure them out eventually and if they're true, hopefully those honest feelings will be reciprocated." She whispered softly as she continued to hold Kotoha close. Tears of dismay and confusion fell from Kotoha's eyes as she clung to Mako in return.

A little while later, after a few more tears and Kotoha opening up to her about everything that had gone on while she'd been masquerading as Yoshibou's fiancée, Mako exited Kotoha's room and closed the door softly behind her. It was almost dinnertime now, but after such an exhausting hour of talking things over with the girl she thought of as her little sister, Kotoha had fallen asleep for a little bit. This left Mako in charge of notifying the Kuroko's, her teammates, and Ji-san that Kotoha would be late for dinner. With a determined look in her eyes, Mako had come to a few decisions.

One, that she would keep a closer eye on Kotoha and Takeru's exchanges in the future, especially Takeru's reactions to her friend, to determine whether he would be open to a relationship with Kotoha. She had seen a brief glimpse of the possibility of what could be earlier today when Takeru's eyes met Kotoha's. There was a chance that he could, if he didn't already and just wasn't aware of it yet, return Kotoha's feelings. Then again, she thought with a sigh, he could have just been really proud of Kotoha. She had, after all, done a really good job at improvisation earlier today.

Mako grinned in amusement at the memory of Kotoha's delicate hand slapping Takeru across the face. Oh, if only she'd had a camera. Considering how badly he had treated Kotoha in the beginning, Mako thought the slap to the face and the slaps to the head afterwards were karma coming to bite him in the backside. Or in his case today, the head.

If Takeru is open to the idea of a relationship with Kotoha, Mako decided she would do all she can to encourage the match. If he can't, well, she'll encourage Kotoha to find someone else who will reciprocate her feelings because she doesn't want Kotoha in an unhealthy relationship with someone who isn't going to feel even a small fraction of what Kotoha feels for him. It wouldn't be right.

Two, and she scowled darkly at the thought of Takeru causing her friend any grief, if he hurt Kotoha in any way he was most definitely going to pay.

-The End-