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Writing >> Yu Yu Hakusho Fanfic >> Masquerade

Disclaimers: The following is my poor attempt at fan fiction. Yuu Yuu Hakusho is a copyright (c) of Yoshihiro Togashi / Shueisha Fuji TV., Studio Pierrot. The characters of Yuu Yuu Hakusho do not belong to me. This story is written without permission, for fan purposes only. This story is mine. Please do not reproduce without permission. Copyright (c) 2000

Author's Notes:

One fine day, I stumbled accross K + B, a web site dedicated to two characters of Yuu Yuu Hakusho, Kurama and Botan. Now, I KNOW that pairing Kurama and Botan together really isn't in continuity with the original TV series. To be honest, it never even occurred to me, not even after I'd watched both movies and 50+ episodes.

But the wonderful stories on K + B, have inspired me to try my hand at writing K + B fan fics. If the pairing seems weird to you, just think of this as an Alternate Universe type of story. This is just my third attempt at writing fan fiction. Please be patient with me.

Please enjoy. C&C are much appreciated. Flames will be ignored.

Regards,
Shawny Wong
shawnywong@yahoo.com

January, 2000

Masquerade: A Kurama and Botan Story
A Yuu Yuu Hakusho Fan Fic by Shawny Wong

CHAPTER 2

"Where is she?"

The three soft spoken words carried more menace than any war cry. In the silence of the chamber, they were the equivalent of a death knell for the unlucky demon being interrogated.

"Where. Is. She."

This time the question was punctuated by howls of pain as the bonds on the demon clamped down even more harshly. The numerous thorns adorning his prison mercilessly drew blood, the dark fluid splashing onto the handsome face of his tormentor. At an unspoken command, the solid vines that held him captive relaxed a tiny bit.

"I will ask you one more time."

"I don't answer to humans!" the demon spat.

"Then you are a fool," said his captor scornfully. "Did you really think that a human could have defeated you and yours?"

The demon cringed, for around him lay the destruction of his pack. From his vantage, he could just make out two others who were trapped as he was, in the barbed vines that had sprung suddenly out of the floor. But he could sense no motion, no struggles from them. They hung as limp as the corpes they were. Just behind his captor were the remains of yet another, scorched black by a mysterious poison. His green hide took on an olive coloring. How was this possible? The human before him did not appear very strong even by human standards. He was too slender, too weak! He should not have been a match for ONE demon, let alone an entire pack!

"Who are you?" the demon asked with a mixture of fear and dread.

"Youko Kurama," came the ominous reply. "Now, where is she?"

***

Three weeks ago:

"Are you even LISTENING to me?"

Of course he wasn't.

But considering infuriated spirit girl standing before him, Kurama decided not to tell her that.

"Of course I am, Botan," he said absently as he made another notation on the clipboard in his hands. The 16th century vase his stepfather had just aquired would need to be cleaned before it could be put on display. A pattern of flowers had been etched onto the sides of the vase and dirt had gotten into the crevices that formed the petals. The next item on his list, a turn of the century ornate jewelry box, was still in excellent condition and ready to go. "Just give me a moment. I'm almost done with this week's inventory."

"Hmph!" Botan gave him one last irritated glower before falling silent. She crossed her arms and tapped her foot impatiently. She wasn't finished with her lecture on "reasons-why-Kurama-should-NOT-introduce-Botan-to-all-of -Shotoku-University-as-his-GIRLFRIEND." She had a very impressive list. One, he nearly gave her heart failure. Two, he callously crushed countless hearts, especially those in his fan club. Three, what would his mother think? Four, lying was a sin. The list went on.

But most of all, it wasn't true.

And it hurt.

She froze and reexamined her last thought with a touch of trepidation. It hurt because it wasn't true. What did that mean?

"I'm done," Kurama annouced quietly, interrupting her thoughts. "We can talk in my office in the back."

Kurama led the way past the shelves and crates of imported antiques in his stepfather's musty storeroom. His stepfather's love of restoring art from bygone eras had prompted him to start his own import/export business specializing in the revival of relics from those eras. Kenji Hatanaka, Kurama's stepfather, would import worn and forgotten curios and restore them to their former glory. He would repair broken phonographs, clean Victorian clocks, preserve first edition texts, and polish rickety rocking chairs. Surprisingly the rejuvenated artifacts sold very well as novelty gifts, making the business a very successful one. But while Kenji was an excellent artisan cum repairman, he was a horrible bookkeeper and relied heavily on his stepson to manage that part of the business. Kurama enjoyed cataloging the odd pieces of craftsmanship that passed through the shop and stoically took up the task of keeping the account books in order. Kenji willingly relinquished the task to his stepson with profound relief.

So the tiny storage closet behind the storeroom was transformed into Kurama's office. Out went the miscellaneous boxes, cleaning supplies, and layers of sawdust. In went the desk, the chair, and the file cabinets. Although the makeshift office was cramped, it served its purpose well.

"You shouldn't have done that," Botan said reproachfully, hands on hips and feet planted firmly apart. "That was not a nice thing to do."

Unfortunately, the close quarters of the small office forced her to tilt her head back slightly in order to look Kurama in the eyes, which effectively ruined the intimidating pose she was trying to achieve.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time," Kurama explained apologetically. It had been the perfect solution, or so he'd thought. By pretending that Botan was his girlfriend, he'd hoped to discourage the gaggle of females that comprised his fan club once and for all. Well, it would had been the perfect solution if he hadn't overlooked one tiny detail.

Getting Botan's cooperation first.

"It was a stupid idea," she muttered, irritably.

"Sorry?"

"You give me no warning and no explanation, make me worry, put me in an awkward situtation, and you didn't even ask!" she exclaimed, ignoring his weak apology. She poked him in the chest for emphasis.

"I'm sorry Botan," he said sincerely. "Would it help if I asked you now?"

"Hmph! Is that all?"

"What do you mean?"

"You're supposed to say you're sorry and that you'll never do it again," Botan said, spelling it out for him. She rolled her eyes at his male obtuseness and waited expectantly.

"Actually, Botan, I can't do that."

"Why not?" she demanded imperiously.

Because given the chance, he'd do it again. He LIKED shocking those silly girls, a fact that he attributed to the fox in him. Nope. Not sorry at all, he concluded decisively. But he could imagine just how well THAT rationale would go over with Botan. Besides, he'd enjoyed holding her close.

"Because I need your help." He gave her his best impersonation of a forlorn puppy.

Botan's heart sank at the tragic plea in his wide green eyes. He was unfairly manipulating her, she realized. He KNEW she was a sucker for cute, defenseless creatures.

"You are one devious fox, you know that?" she grumbled.

"Please, Botan. I need your help to get the Shuichi-Minamino-Fan-Club out of my hair! Tomiko Ogata and those girls are driving me nuts!" He placed his hands on her shoulders. "Please?"

Botan remained silent, trying not to let his nearness distract her. She closed her eyes, losing herself in the fragrant scent of roses that was always a part of Kurama. Her ire had faded somewhat in the face of his sincere apology. She honestly wanted to help Kurama. But... what he was asking of her... She couldn't do it.

She couldn't pose as his girlfriend.

If nothing else, the brief interval in which she had pretended to love Kurama had revealed one important truth. It had been far too easy. Loving him had felt like the most natural thing in the world. But he was Youko Kurama, cold and ruthless, and the most infamous thief of the Demon World. It wasn't safe. The experience had unnerved her. HE unnerved her.

"Botan?" asked Kurama a little uncertainly. He gave her shoulders a little squeeze. "Would it be so horrible? We'd only need to pretend for a few weeks."

Botan shook her head. "Why me?"

Why indeed? Why WAS he so insistent? Could it be he wanted more excuses to hold her close? He gave himself a mental shake.

"Well, I can't ask Keiko. If I did, I'd find myself on the wrong end of Yuuske's Spirit Gun," Kurama argued. "I can't ask Yukina, either. Hiei and Kuwabara would make life rather unpleasant. Kuwabara would try to impale me with his Spirit Sword. And if he didn't get me, Hiei would roast me alive with his Black Fire," Kurama joked, semi-seriously.

Botan giggled at the mental image of the spiky haired fire demon basting a mostly charred fox for dinner. Hiei was VERY protective of his twin sister.

"So that leaves either you or Shizuru," he concluded with a shrug.

"Then maybe you should ask Shizuru," suggested Botan, thinking of Kuwabara's elder sister.

"I can't. I already told half the school that YOU were my girlfriend. Remember?" Kurama pointed out. "Besides, for a human, Shizuru can be very intimidating and unsympathetic."

"Well, I guess that's true," Botan conceded, reluctantly. "Shizuru DOES torment Kuwabara mercilessly, doesn't she?"

"But most importantly, she's not my type." He placed a hand over his heart and winked. "You are."

Botan raised a disbelieving eyebrow. That single gesture conveyed more skepticism that someone who had just been told that the sky was falling or that pigs really did fly. She looked at him as if he had grown another head. Kurama grinned and retaliated by donning the disposition of Cupid's victim and waxing poetic.

"You are the sun, the moon, the stars. You are the light in my dark existence." He enveloped her in a crushing bear hug, really warming up to his role. "Where love reigns even the impossible may be obtained!" he declared dramatically.

"Enough," Botan interrupted, extricating herself from yet another embrace. This was really becoming a habit, she thought bemusedly. "You shouldn't make jokes like that, Kurama."

She looked skywards, asking for divine intervention to spare her from his theatrics. Oh wait, she WAS divine intervention. Nevermind.

"I swear, if you don't help me, I'll do something drastic."

"Something drastic, hmm...?" Botan asked amused at his dire prediction.

"I NEED some peace and quiet. So I figure there are two ways I can get it. One, I make myself unavailable. That's were you come in. We pretend you're my girlfriend and 'Presto!'" Kurama said snapping his fingers. "I'm off the bachelor's market."

"What's the other way?" inquired Botan curiously.

"I make myself unattractive."

"Why don't you try that?"

"I'd have to cut my hair!" Kurama exclaimed with exagerated horror. "Yuuske has deduced that it's the cause of my current predicament."

Botan stiffled her laughter.

"Or, I know! I can pretend to be a lecherous pervert. Girls HATE that don't they? I could go raid the girls' locker room for panties!"

This time she burst out laughing at his absurdity.

Kurama smiled at the sound of her laughter.

It was like the tinkling of silver bellflowers from Makai.

Once when he had been very young, his master had taken him up into the mountainous region of Makai. It had been a treacherous journey into Tengu territory. The Tengu thrived on conflict. The only thing the large, beaked-nosed demons hated more than the thought of peace, was the thought of tresspassers in their mountains.

"Are we going to search for treasure?" he had asked.

"We're going to search for something better than treasure," his master had replied. "But we can't take it with us."

Kurama had puzzled over that mysterious reply until they reached their destination, a mesa full of rare silver bellflowers that only grew in that one area of Makai. His master had been right. The music of the bellflowers had been better than treasure. That night, the young fox fell asleep to the lullaby of silver bellflowers chiming in the wind. Before they left, Kurama saved a few of the seeds. But his master had been correct again. The flowers wouldn't grow anywhere else, not even with his powers over plants.

But he could make her laugh again.

"Well, we can't have you raiding girls' locker rooms, can we?" Botan's eyes twinkled with mirth.

"Then you'll help?" he asked hopefully.

Botan considered carefully. I hope I'm not making a mistake, she thought, taking a deep breath.

"Yes."

*~*~*

Shiori walked sedately down the street with a covered basket swinging gently on her arm. The route she took was a familiar one that brought her past a tiny playground full of memories. On an impulse, she approached the faded green bench beside the much used sandbox. How many years had it been, since she last set foot in this very park? She sighed wistfully as she placed the basket at her feet and settled herself on the bench. The late afternoon sun warmed her face. The smell of recent rain tickled her nose and the squeak of rusty swings swaying in the cool spring breeze chafed at her ears. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, letting a wave of nostalgia wash over her. In her mind's eye, the faded red slide had a new coat of paint, the worn swings were freshly oiled, and the recently installed jungle gym vanished to be replaced by a decrepit see-saw painted in a rainbow of colors. As she opened her eyes, the ghostly image of a five year old redhead playing quietly in the sandbox evaporated in the hazy light.

She thought fondly of her eldest son. He had grown up to be a wonderful young man, always considerate and thoughtful, ever the consummate gentleman. In her eyes, he was still her little redhead. Although, he wasn't so little anymore, she admitted sadly. In those days, it had been just her and Shuichi. The two of them depended solely on each other and looked out for one another.

Since then, her tiny family had grown to include a loving husband and a mischievious stepson, little Shuichi, who absolutely adored his older stepbrother, big Shuichi. In return, her son spoiled his little namesake rotten. When she had first introduced her son to Kenji, she had apprehensively anticipated conflicts. But her fears had been unfounded. Her son had simply looked Kenji in the eye, offering an unspoken challenge. Take care of her, or else. She supposed Shuichi had been reassured when Kenji had returned the challenging gaze without flinching. In the end, he had even offered to work parttime for his stepfather while he was in college.

"All I want is for you to be happy, Mother," he had said later with a smile. "I can tell that Kenji will take very good care of you."

She had gotten so teary eyed at his unconditional acceptance that she had almost missed his next words.

"Which is good," he had murmured, a shadow appearing in his beautiful eyes. "I might not always be around to take care of you."

The darkness in his eyes coupled with the ominous implication that her son would be absent from her life had distressed her. But no matter how she questioned him, he wouldn't say anything else regarding the matter.

She smiled and shook off her melancholy. It was problably nothing. She silently thanked the gods for blessing her with a wonderful son and a caring family.

A nearby clock tower chimed the hour, breaking her reminisce. With a start, Shiori jumped to her feet. She had been so lost in thought that she had not noticed how much time had passed. She scolded herself for forgetting her purpose and hurried on her way.

*~*~*

"Thank you, Botan," Kurama said warmly.

Botan sniffed and tossed her head. "You owe me for this one!" she admonished wagging a finger at him.

"Not a problem," he replied blithely. "What would you like?"

Botan blinked, slightly taken aback by the quick acquiescence. He must REALLY want to get rid of those girls, she mused. For a moment, she was lost in contemplation. There was nothing she really needed. But if she was going to pose as his girlfriend, she could at least get SOMETHING out of it!

"Hmm... I've never been on a real date before," she said wistfully. As a denizen of the Spirit World, she could only watch human customs from afar. But in her heart, she had always yearned to experience this particular human custom. It looked like so much fun. A mischievous gleam appeared in her eyes and she eyed Kurama thoughtfully. "I want you to take me on a REAL date!"

Kurama's eyes widened at her announcement. Of all the things she could have asked for... treasure, power, wealth. And all she wanted was a date!? His eyes softened as he noticed her slight blush.

"But only if you want to," she added hastily when he didn't say anything immediately.

He shook his head.

"I would be honored if you would join me for dinner on Saturday night," he said gallantly.

"Really?" Botan's face lit up immediately. Then a thought occurred to her and her face fell. He was asking only because he required her help. By asking him for a date, she was being no different than all the girls he was trying to avoid. She sighed dejectedly.

"What's the matter?" asked Kurama, noticing her change in mood.

"It's okay, Kurama. We don't need to go out on a date."

Kurama frowned in puzzlement.

"Don't worry about it," Botan said trying to reassure him. "It was a nice thought. But I'll help you anyway." She flashed him a cheerful smile that didn't quite reach her eyes and looked away.

"You didn't answer my question, Botan." Kurama put his hand under her chin and tilted her face towards him.

"It doesn't count if it's forced," she said softly.

"It's not," he blurted, more than a bit shocked at his own vehement denial. It seemed that today would be his day of revelations. First he missed her, and now he WANTED to take her on a date!? Was he becoming more human? He struggled with his own confusion.

"It's not?"

"I would love to take you out, Botan," he said earnestly, trying to erase the skeptism he saw in her eyes. He leaned forward until he could see himself reflected in her large violet eyes and he could feel the warmth of her breath fanning his face. The scent of roses in their vicinity intensified in response to his agitation. "Would you like me to prove it?"

"Prove it?" Botan echoed his soft whisper. Alarmed by the intensity of his gaze, she tried to a step back, only to bump into the file cabinet behind her. Her pulse quickened. Whether it was from his proximity, or from the tiny, still coherent part of her consciousness warning her that she was effectively trapped, she couldn't be sure.

But before she could decipher his enigmatic behaviour and her own equally inexplicable response, she received the shock of her life.

He kissed her.

Her eyes slowly closed of their own volition. The rational part of her mind gave a tiny, half-hearted protest before surrendering to the inevitable. Pure physical sensation overode all other considerations. Her entire world diminished until she was only aware of one thing. His warm lips were brushing against hers. Then he was nibbling at her lower lip, tracing it with the tip of his tongue. The pounding of her heart reverberated in her ears and drowned out all external sounds but the instinctive moan of pleasure escaped from her lips. Only later would she realize that he had reached up to undo the tie that kept her hair bound. Free of the customary restraint, the silky, pale blue strands tumbled over her shoulders like a cascading waterfall.

Kurama buried his hands in her silky hair. He sipped at the sweetness of her lips repeatedly, unable to help himself once he'd started. His instinct for self-preservation clamored loudly in alarm for his attention. It was dangerous how she filled every corner of his mind. But soon the claxons receded to be replaced by the scent, feel, and taste of HER.

It was many long moments before he could wrench himself free of the kiss. He took a ragged breath, and noticed with primal satisfaction that her breathing was just as labored. Her unfocused eyes were clear testimony that she was at least as shaken as he was.

"Do you believe me now, Botan-chan?" Then he closed the miniscule gap between them and kissed her a second time.

Shiori stood frozen, at the open doorway of her son's tiny office, hardly daring to breathe and unwilling to disturb the intensely passionate drama unfolding before her. She had nearly dropped the basket of cookies that she had brought for Shuichi. Upon rounding the corner and witnessing her son locked in a passionate embrace with a young lady, the cookies were promptly forgotten.

She knew her son did everything in his power to spare her from worry. For the most part, he was successful. But as his mother, she could not keep from fretting over his happiness. She worried that he had too many admirers for his own good. She worried that he was almost 20 and had yet to find the girl of his dreams. She had often resolved to ask him about it. Yet somehow, the subject had never been broached.

Now her worries were put to rest. The love she had just seen reflected in her son's eyes was more than enough to convinced her that Shuichi had already found the girl of his dreams. The obvious adoration in his gaze was almost painful to look at. But that was not the final proof.

Her son was the most perceptive person she knew. She even fancied sometimes that her son must have been supernaturally attuned to his surroundings. She had NEVER been able to approach Shuichi without his knowlege. Now a full minute had passed, and Shuichi had yet to notice his mother's presence. For Shiori, that was the final proof of her son's devotion to this girl with the pale blue hair.

Shiori ignored the sharp sting of happy tears in her eyes and blinked them hastily away. She offered up a silent prayer of thanks to the gods. Her final wish for her son's happiness had been granted. A sudden premature hope joined the joy she felt in her breast.

Should she start planning for grandchildren? Oh, my!

By the time her son released the young lady, Shiori was beginning to feel uncomfortably like an interloper. She coughed discretely to make her presence known.

Both heads whirled at the unexpected sound.

"Mother!" Kurama flushed with embarassment, running a nervous hand through his hair. He berated himself on his carelessness. How could he NOT have heard her approach? Being more than human, his senses were usually much more alert. He glanced at Botan. Just moments ago, she had been his world. How could this one girl befuddle him so?

"I didn't hear you come in," he confessed weakly.

"I know, Shuichi," Shiori smiled serenely. "You were busy."

Botan came slowly out of her daze and realized with dawning mortification that the kind woman standing in the doorway was Kurama's human mother. This was NOT making a good impression. She wanted to evanesce into her spirit form which was invisible to humans. But it was too late for that. Shiori had already seen her.

It was really very unfortunate that one could not die of embarassment. Then she could escort herself into Reikai.

Shiori turned her attention from her son and got her first good look at the young lady that held her son's affection. The young lady in question was very pretty and blushing furiously. Shiori hid a smile, instantly liking what she saw.

"Hello, dear. I'm Shuichi's mother," she said kindly, introducing herself. "And you are?"

"Botan. I'm very pleased to meet you, Mrs. Minamino," Botan stammered.

"I'm very pleased to meet you, too, Botan-chan. But please, call me Shiori." She leaned forward conspirationally. "Don't mind my son. He usually has better manners."

"Mother!" Kurama protested indignantly.

"And just WHEN were you going to introduce me to this charming young lady?" Shiori demanded. She waited expectantly with raised eyebrows.

"I... "

"Exactly." Shiori pinned Kurama with a disapproving stare when he faltered. A tiny hurt took root in her chest at the slight apprehension she felt. Would Shuichi cease to confide in her? Was there an unbridgeable chasm growing between them, now that he was older?

His expression was a composed as ever. But she could read the turbulent emotions hidden in her son's eyes with all the expertise of a mother's intuition. Panic, alarm, and confusion clashed and mingled with love and passion, confirming her suspicion. He was completely clueless to the one thing that was so patently obvious to her. He was in love. The tiny hurt was quickly assuaged by his utter bewilderment. She regarded her normally astute son with a touch of sympathy and more than a touch of amusement.

"Please come have dinner with our family Saturday evening, Botan-chan. I'd love to have you come visit. I know my husband and little Shuichi would love to meet you, too."

Botan glanced uncertainly at Kurama.

"Thank you, Shiori-san," she finally replied. She offered Shiori a brilliant smile. "It would be my pleasure."

***

BEEP! BEEP!

He fumbled for the communicator in his pocket, withdrawing a silver device the size of a credit card.

"Yes?"

He winced. The curt reply had come out sharper than he had intended.

At least the voice-activation system in the communicator still recognized his voice despite his altered timbre. The adorable picture of a precocious toddler complete with a large purple hat and blue pacifier flickered to life in the palm of his hand. The worry and exhaustion in the child's wide brown eyes were oddly out of place in the eyes of one who looked so young.

"I'm sorry. There's still no trace of her anywhere. I still have our sorcerers scrying for her. But..."

"I understand."

He understood. But he didn't like it. He silently gazed out over the forests of Makai, fighting his mounting dread over their lack of success.

A storm was approaching.

How long could one defenseless spirit girl survive being hunted by a sentient predator in the Demon World?

Chapter 3... in progress

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