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"Hey, you with the big fish ears, I got a bone to pick with you. How does a dead guy win!?"
--Yusuke

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On the Line

by Ryoko

Epilogue

The snow gently fell around Yusuke as he made his way up the sidewalk to the Yukimura ramen restaurant. The heavy snow of the day had caused the cement to become a slippery danger. Today was Christmas Eve and this sort of weather was just perfect for the occasion. Perhaps Christmas would bring a bit of cheer back to Keiko. Not that she was extraordinary gloomy or anything of the sort, bust since the incident occurred she hadn’t been exactly herself. She would become quiet at times or lose her train of thought. This was not a Keiko-thing to do and Yusuke knew it was because her mind was wondering back to events of the past. And when ever this would happen Yusuke could see a sadness and fear deep in her eyes. He had thought she would be all right after what had happened. It had seemed like she would be directly after the event…but now he just really wanted her smile to return and to see the genuine her again.

Yusuke pondered a bit more on what had happened. He and Keiko had gone to Genkai’s and been fixed up. The old woman had not asked what had happened. Perhaps she saw the warning in his eyes and thought it best not to say a word. He had later called the police anonymously and had told them the whereabouts of Yamato Miyazaki. The news of Yamato’s capture reiterated on every major channel the following day. Yusuke suspected that Kurama had realized that he was the anonymous hero the news raved about. The fox boy was more than intelligent enough to put the pieces together: the house shown on television of where Yamato was captured was the same place Kurama had led Yusuke to; Keiko had reappeared the following day; and Yamato was captured. Oh, yes, that cunning fox had figured it out, but, thankfully, had chose to remain silent. Kuwabara, however, Yusuke believed, had no idea of the connection. When Kuwabara had asked Yusuke what had happened when Keiko was found Yusuke had not answered and warned him not to ask again, especially not around Keiko. The rest of the gang knew nothing about Keiko’s disappearance and reappearance once so ever.

The days that followed the incident were awkward. Neither Keiko nor Yusuke spoke of it, but it rushed to both of their minds whenever they saw another. The nightmare of that day was still fresh in their minds. Since it was winter vacation they saw each other often, but the time they spent together was in silence. They would shoot quick glances at each other and open their mouths to speak, but little or no words emerged. The few conversations they did in fact hold were short and dull. She would not even reprimand him when he was foolish or annoying. It was not in her character to be silent and this gentle towards him. It was not of her to be so sad. Yusuke, however, would end that today! Somehow…he hadn’t really figured out how yet. Somehow he would return her smile; make it true again. He would make her forget the pain. He was suppose to protect her from pain and needed to be there to make it cease.

Yusuke opened the door to her family’s ramen shop and was greeted by the door’s familiar jingle. Keiko’s parents glanced up from their tasks to look upon who had entered. They greeted him with a smile when they realized who it was. “Hello, Yusuke,” welcomed Keiko’s mother as she returned her attention to cooking.

“Looking for Keiko?” her father questioned. They were the same as always. But they were not aware of what had happened a few nights ago and probably would never hear of it.

Yusuke gave a small nod and even before he had begun this action Mr. Yukimura was off. The couple knew quite well that the only reasons Yusuke came to their restaurant were to eat or visit Keiko, with Keiko being the primary reason. The man quickly walked over to the stairs that led to the living quarters above and pulled aside the curtain. “Keiko!” he shouted. “Yusuke’s here to see you!” He walked back to his work soon after. He knew soon customers would be arriving in search of meals and he had to be prepared. Mrs. Yukimura had all ready begun boiling ramen and performing other tasks. As she worked she tried to bring up a small conversation as they waited for Keiko. “How are you today, Yusuke?”

Maybe she saw the worry hidden deep in his eyes and she was attempting to bring some light back into him. Mothers always seemed to catch things like that; things that disturb a person even though he or she may try to hid the feelings. At least most mothers. He doubted his mom would take notice. “I’m fine,” he answered. He didn’t say it coolly or dully, but just with a little impatience. He needed to set his plan-whatever it was- into motion so he could bring that joy back to Keiko as soon as possible.

The woman opened her mouth to respond, but Yusuke was saved further interrogation by the sounds of footsteps echoing from the room behind the curtain Mr. Yukimura had recently put his head behind to call to Keiko. Yusuke’s attention fell quickly to the curtain and Mrs. Yukimura closed her mouth, realizing it was useless to say a thing when he was no longer paying any heed to her. Soon now Yusuke would bring that smile back to Keiko’s lips. Today was the day and he wouldn’t leave her side until that goal was accomplished. Keiko appeared in a matter of mere seconds at the bottom of the stairs and pushed the curtain out of her path. She looked around the room and smiled when she saw Yusuke. This, however, was not her true smile. This one was weak and emotionless. It was not filled with the love she felt for who she gave it to. Soon, however, Yusuke vowed internally, it would be.

“Hey,” Yusuke called to her. He said it with as much love and gentleness as he dared to put into it in front of her parents. He smiled at her, in hopes her spirits would rise. “You want to go out for a bit?”

“Sure,” she answered. The reply, however, did not fulfill Yusuke’s hopes. There was a bit of dullness in the tone, but Yusuke knew it was only really hiding her fear; her memories. For the moment her eyes fell upon him she had remembered. The events of the past had once again been replayed inside her mind. The time was drawing nearer. Soon she’d forget this pain; better memories would replace the heartache.

In a few moments the two were bidding Keiko’s parents farewell and heading out the door. The snow gently enveloped them. The white matter was everywhere and so the two wore thick jackets to protect themselves from the weather. Their walk, as like the other ones before it, was eerily silent. They did not speak to each other even with any kind of body movement. Yusuke shot glances at his companion, looking for a change in her behavior. He tried to think of something to put his plan into action, but that was the fault of his scheme: figuring out how to start it! And thus his mind remained empty. Every time he looked her way he saw her eyes dull with thought. Oh, how he wished she would say something! She didn’t even notice him staring at her! She just continued to look on in front of herself. She was the one good at this sort of thing, not him, but he needed to be this time.

Suddenly she stopped in her tracks. Yusuke too stopped. He wondered what had caused her to cease walking. She hadn’t noticed he was looking at her and they had not spoken so it couldn’t had been from an offending comment. He noticed she was starring down an alley, which was blocked off with yellow tape. It was the same alley, Yusuke realized, that he had fought through a crowd to see a deceased girl from his school and had thought for a moment that girl was the one who was standing beside him now. The body had been long removed, but the area was blocked off for further investigation. Yusuke starred confused at Keiko. Why were they here? Why had she stooped?

“You’re probably wondering what happened,” came Keiko’s voice after awhile. Not once did her gaze leave that spot. Her voice was cool and a hint of morose hung in the air. Yusuke stared at her a moment. The sorrow was still in her heart. But what could he do to fill it with cheer? “Aren’t you?” Keiko said after she realized he was not listening to her. Neither did she turn his way nor did her voice change in tone. Yusuke jumped a little. He had forgotten entirely that she had spoken, for he was far more concern with her happiness than anything else. But now as he paid her heed he realized that without a doubt that she was referring to when she had been captured by Yamato Miyazaki and that this was a matter he needed to hear if there was to be any hope of joy to ever fully return to her soul. Intrigued he was. How was it that she had been captured? The idea had come across his mind several times, but he had never once dwelled on the matter. He was much more concerned with saving her or making her happy. But now mentioned, he pondered. She was a strong willed girl. Her slap hand certainly knocked him through a loop numerous times. What had happened?

Now sure he was paying attention she told her story. She did not need his confirmation to know he was listening, for that was the depth of their bond. The words came out with indifference, but Yusuke heard it; he heard the lingering gloom hidden in a strong attempt.

“I had gotten up early for school,” she began, “to finish the plans for the upcoming school trip. You know me, I had to get it done early. I took the route you and I always take to school.” Her eyes narrowed and darkness filled in them. “I heard someone snickering as I was walking pass this alley, so I turned to see who it was.” She paused and took a deep breath, and then continued at a slower pace. “There was a man…and a knife was lying next to him…It was covered with blood. And in front of him was a girl…lying dead and there was blood all around her…”

Her voice quickened with a tremor. “I was absolutely terrified. I was about to run away for help but then he saw me. He started running toward me and he was smiling. I was so afraid I couldn’t move. He took a piece of cloth out of his pocket and the next thing I knew he grabbed me and covered his hand and the cloth over my mouth. I guess I fell unconscious. There must have been chloroform on the cloth. The next thing I remember was waking up in the attic of that house.”

She stopped talking and looked quickly at Yusuke, giving him a weak smile. Then she turned back to stare down the alley. Her eyes continued to be narrow and filled with dark ghosts of the past. Then to Yusuke’s shock a few tears twinkled down her face. At the sight of these water drops he instantly froze. It was awful that she had seen such bad things and gotten kidnapped, but the worst of it, Yusuke believed, was that she was crying now. What could he do to stop these tears? Feeling his gaze she wiped the tears away with the back of her hand and smiled weakly at him.

“Keiko…” he heard himself say. She looked at him questioningly. He wanted so badly to make her feel better. She needed to be happy again. He needed her to be happy again. At that moment he wanted to wrap his arms around her and tell her everything would be okay; to hold her close to him. But he resisted the urge. That was much too embarrassing to do. There was other ways to bring her happiness. There were other ways to show he cared.

She began to walk away and Yusuke followed her. He understood that this place held bad memories for her and getting away was one of the main things on her mind. Yes, she needed to get away. Only then could she forget. She didn’t say anything to him, but she admitted to herself that she was a little disappointed. She had secretly wanted him to do something, anything. She wanted him to hold her close. Then the cold of the bitter winter air would vanish and only warmth of love would remain. She needed his touch. She sighed internally. She knew Yusuke would never do something like that, but she wished he would have.

What he did next was not what she had in mind.

Soon the two were in a park. Snow glittered upon the ground and on the top of the trees as far as the eye could see. The playground equipment was also covered with the white matter, making the metal slippery and far to dangerous to play on. The land was nearly bare of life. Only a few children were building snowmen or creating snow angels in the white matter. A few vicious snow fights were taking place not far from the two. Keiko was quiet when they arrived, as she had been on the journey over. Her eyes were still dim and shadowy. Still was she sad. Yusuke was planning something and the snow gave him a slightly devious scheme. Yes, he had an idea. Perhaps it wouldn’t completely cheer her up, but it would at least lighten the mood.

Suddenly a cold mushy matter seeped down Keiko’s back causing her to shiver. She froze and stiffened. A gasp escaped her lips. She remained tense as the snow melted into a liquid, wetting her shirt and dripping down her back. She slowly turned around to glare at Yusuke, who was snickering slightly. He hand dumped snow down her backside. “Yusuke!!” she growled. She quickly raised her right arm with her palm open and swung it down at him, but he managed to barely dodge her slap, all the while still laughing. She attempted the attack again, but this time he grabbed her wrist before it made contact with his face. She stared wide eyed at him. It was rare when he tried to stop a hit from her, even though he probably could every time if he wanted.

He held her hand gently and stared at it as he said quietly, “It’s just…” She stared at him and it seemed like the moment lasted for hours, with only the wind whistling and the snow gently falling. “I don’t want to see you like this anymore,” Yusuke continued and looked up at her as he did. Then he did something he had never done before and shocked her. He let go of her hand and instead wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close to him. Keiko’s mouth opened slightly and she let out a small gasp. Soon the shock subsided and she was content in his embrace. She had for so long wanted him to hold her. Here, in his arms was where she felt safe and happy. This was where no harm could come to her.

After what seemed like forever she pulled away and looked up at him with loving eyes. For a moment they stared into his others eyes. But soon Keiko broke completely away and walked a few feet away to where a rather large amount of snow was and quickly gathered some and formed it into a ball. Yusuke watched her, only able to see her back. She turned around and smirked and the next thing Yusuke knew was a snowball was hurling his way. He ducked it and it skimmed the top of his head. “Hey, what was that for?” he asked as he regained his posture.

“What do you think,” she laughed, slightly disbelieving he was even asking that. She threw another snowball at him. This time it hit its mark. He smiled and muttered something to the affect of, “So that’s how it’s going to be.” He quickly grabbed some snow and struck back. Soon a giant snowball fight had begun between the two. The white matter was being thrown back and forth, being dodged, and hitting its mark. Laughter rung in the air. Keiko giggled as she hit Yusuke in the face. He laughed also after he recovered from the shock. He enjoyed a good fight, but what made him the most content was seeing Keiko happy again. There, on her lips, was the true smile he had been waiting to return to her.

Keiko had heard the tone in his words minutes ago. It was a kind and sincere tone that came from the depths of his heart. He truly did want her to be herself again. His little prank was a way of cheering her up in the only way he knew how and he had succeeded in raising her spirits. He was right. He didn’t want to see her this way anymore and neither did she! She couldn’t feel sad and be gloomy and be lost in thought anymore. The past was the past and only that. The future was the only direction anyone was heading. Yusuke saw the change in her. As soon as she laughed he knew all would be how it used to be again; Keiko would be herself again. He saw it in her eyes. The sparkle of happiness and meaning had returned to them. He smiled. The best Christmas present of all was just to see her happy again and forever.

The girl began to run from him, evading the flying balls of fluff that were soaring her way. She laughed harder as she heard the snow hit the ground behind her. Yusuke began to chase after her. The game continued, with only small breaks by each to pick up more ammunition. The balls were loose from being quickly thrown together and only flew a feet before making contact with the ground. Even so there spirits didn’t die and the fun and glee continued. They both knew in their hearts everything would be all right for they were together.


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