Kurama + Botan

Dinner For Two

By: Ryquest


"And the winning ticket is….number 108934!"

Koenma and Botan paused as the announcement blared over on the mall's speaker system. Koenma shrugged disinterestedly, while Botan fumbled in her purse to check her ticket. Koenma's paperwork had finally reached a manageable level, and to celebrate, he decided to take a quick break in Ningenkai. He'd taken Botan with him, and Botan had dragged him to the mall for window-shopping. They'd both received a ticket as part of the mall's promotion, since the ticket give the customers a chance to win various prices. An announcement for winning numbers was given every hour or so. Koenma had no interest in whatever price the humans may be handing out, but Botan seemed to be anxious enough, having already checked her ticket number twice to no avail. Koenma merely watched Botan finally fish her ticket from her purse. If it made his assistant happy, that was fine with him.

Botan stared at the ticket, her face breaking into a huge smile. Koenma peered at the ticket, and found that Botan's matched the number that had been announced earlier. Botan beamed at the Reikai Prince and dragged him to the nearby claim booth. She presented the ticket to the announcer and was given an envelope in return. Botan opened the envelope and was surprised to find a "dinner for two" voucher at an exclusive restaurant of her choice, dated a week from then. Botan sighed and tucked the envelope in her purse.

"Nani, Botan?" Koenma glanced at his assistant. "Didn't you like the prize package?"

"Hm? Oh, it's fine, Koenma-sama," Botan replied, "sore demo…who do I take along with me? You'll probably be busy again by next week, and I'd hate to have to dine out alone."

"So desu," Koenma muttered, frowning at Botan's disappointed expression. He wanted to give her a break from her duties, but he knew he might not be able to accompany her given his responsibilities. Then he thought of something and smiled. He laid a fond hand on her shoulder. Botan looked up in surprise.

"I know," Koenma began, "you could ask one of the Rei Kai Tantei to go with you. I'm sure one of them will agree. And…they're basically a fine bunch of guys…even Hiei."

Botan stared at Koenma then nodded slowly. A dinner date with one of the guys? That really wasn't such a bad idea.

"Um, I could ask Yusuke, but he'd probably on a date with Keiko-san," Botan mused, "Kuwabara-kun will be visiting Yukina-san…soshite Hiei-san…ano…" Botan bit her lip in amusement. She wasn't exactly close to the Koorime, and frankly, he scared her a bit with his anti-social ways and curt attitude. Besides, Hiei wouldn't be the ideal companion in a dinner date, since the fire youkai might end up unleashing the Black Fire Dragon in a fit of irritation and burning a place down.

Which left Botan with one alternative…

"Maybe I could ask Kurama to go with me," Botan said. Actually, the idea intrigued her. She liked the kitsune--he was certainly polite and well-mannered, not to mention attractive. He was tricky to be certain, being the cunning youko thief, but it did make sense to ask him out since he was familiar with ningen proprieties. She secretly hoped that he'd agree.

"Not a bad choice," Koenma nodded. He knew that Botan rather liked the erstwhile-youko thief. In his incarnation as Shuichi Minamino, the Reikai Prince supposed that Kurama make a good companion for his assistant. Even if Koenma did find the guy too damned charismatic for his own good. "Pay him a visit and ask him. If he doesn't agree, tell him I'd consider it a personal favor if he accompanies you to that dinner, ne?"

"Hai," Botan agreed, her thoughts on Kurama. A more or less ordinary dinner date. What could go wrong?

"Shuu-chan, Botan-san's here to see you," Shiori called from the door.

Kurama's ningen mother had answered the knock from the door to find the pretty blue-haired girl outside, smiling at her with a slight blush on her cheeks. She knew the girl to be Kurama's friend who often came by quite once in a while to visit her son. She surmised she was a high school girl like Shuichi's other friends--Yusuke and Kuwabara, both of whom appeared to be close friends of her son, even if they came from a different high school. She'd only met Shuichi's friend Hiei once, and he was an enigma to her, being distant and tight-lipped. Shiori found Botan to be nice and sweet, and her son was always appropriately polite and respectful around her. Then again, that was no surprise, since Shuichi was in general always well mannered.

"Coming, okaa-san," Kurama called from upstairs. Shiori motioned Botan to be seated, and the girl nodded with a smile. Shiori made her way to the kitchen to prepare a snack for Shuichi's guest. She peeked from the door to see her son making his way down the stairs from his room.

"Ohayo, Botan-san," Kurama said as he saw the Deity of Death seated in their living room. He lowered his voice as he glanced in the direction of the kitchen. "There isn't a problem, is there? I mean, no urgent mission or anything of that sort?"

"Oh no, nothing like that," Botan replied reassuringly. For some reason, she felt flustered as she stared into sparkling green eyes. She lowered her head to avoid his inquiring gaze. Why was she nervous about Kurama all of a sudden? "Uh, there's a favor I'd like to ask of you, actually. It's okay if you decline--"

"Botan-san," Kurama said gently, seating himself beside her. He was surprised when she inched away slightly and turned her face away. She'd always been open and outgoing. She was also kind of cute, even if she did personify Death. "You know we're friends. If it's in my capacity, I'd be happy to assist you in any way."

"I-I'd like to invite you…to dinner," Botan finally stammered, producing the envelope from her pocket and handing it to Kurama. "Ano…I won the prize at the mall, and…I thought maybe you won't mind going out?" She steadfastly averted her gaze from the kitsune. Why was she blushing, anyway? This was Kurama, and she'd known him for quite a while. I shouldn't be nervous around him, should I? I mean, he's good old congenial Kurama. He won't flame me on the spot like Hiei.

Kurama glanced down the contents of the voucher Botan had handed him and smiled. So this is what the fuss is all about, he remarked to himself, amused. He'd known Botan to be slightly scatter-brained at times, but he liked the fact that she was perky and cheerful most of the time. He smiled as he folded the voucher and replaced it in the envelope. A dinner date, eh? Well, why not? It gave him a chance to do a favor for one of his friends.

"Sure, I'll go," Kurama said. Botan jerked around in surprise, and he smiled at her reassuringly. "I'd be honored to escort you, Botan-san."

"Honto?!" Botan said excitedly as Kurama handed her back the envelope. "Arigato, Kurama-san!" She smiled at him happily, as her thoughts shifted to what she'd wear. Koenma-sama did give her the authority to buy a new dress…

"By the way, what restaurant do you plan to dine in?" Kurama suddenly piped in. "The voucher says you're to choose the place."

"Nani?" Botan exclaimed, her thoughts jerked back to the present. "Oh…um…there's this new restaurant not far from here called Kamemeshi House…the food there's supposed to be good. Yusuke told me he worked there part-time once."

"So desu," Kurama nodded. He glanced at Botan and smiled wryly as he saw Botan fidget about excitedly. She didn't act like the Diety of Death--not exactly. She was too jovial, so seemingly light-hearted. Not to mention that she was certainly pretty with bright eyes that shifted from pale pink to light purple…Kurama shook his head at the thought. Why was he suddenly seeing Botan in a new light?

"Dinner will be ready soon, Shuu-chan," Shiori called from the kitchen. "Will you ask Botan-san if she'd like to stay and eat with us?"

"Huh? Arigato, Shiori-san," Botan called back, "demo…I have this job…and I'd better get going." She glanced meaningfully at Kurama, who nodded. "Well, Kurama-san, I'll see you a week from now. Let's just meet outside the restaurant, ne? Dewa, sayonara!"

Kurama watched as Botan smiled at him and headed for the door. He shook his head sadly as he knew what job Botan was referring to. Escorting souls…that couldn't be an easy job, Botan-san. He felt a wave of sympathy wash over him as he thought of how Botan must've coped up with her job for many, many years. For how she has kept loneliness at bay and maintained a cheerful exterior.

"So what did Botan-san want, Shuu-chan?" Shiori said. Kurama turned and gave her a fond smile and kissed her forehead.

"She wanted a dinner escort, okaa-san," Kurama stated, shrugging. "I guess I got appointed somehow. I'll meet her next week for dinner at the Kamameshi House."

"So you're finally going on a date, Shuichi," Shiori exclaimed. She smiled at his slightly embarrassed expression and embraced him. "I'm glad, really. She seems to be such a nice girl. But won't you be picking her up at home?"

"Oh, no, okaa-san," Kurama almost laughed aloud at the idea. "Botan lives…quite a distance from here. It was her idea that we'd just meet at the restaurant."

"If you say so," Shiori nodded. She'd always wanted to see her son show an interest in girls her age. He'd always smile and shrug evasively whenever she'd ask if he had a girlfriend or a girl he was interested in. Then he'd answer that he still hadn't found a girl who was as perfect as his mother was. Shuichi had a way with words, but Kazuya had hinted that he was worried that her son might not be interested in women at all. She'd shrugged off his doubts, and firmly believed that her son was merely looking for the right girl for him. She idly wondered if Botan just might be the one.

"I'll help you set the table, okaa-san," Kurama offered. "Otou-san and Shuu-kun might arrive at any moment, and they'll probably be hungry."

"So desu, Shuu-chan," Shiori replied. But her thoughts were on her son's date a week from then. She hoped it would be the beginning of something special for him.

"Kurama-san! Over here!" Botan called from near the restaurant's entrance. She'd spotted Kurama wearing a black tux, which fit perfectly to his slight, lean form. Kurama caught her eye and smiled. She noted that he always seemed to move with grace, and made an ordinary thing like watching him walk toward her seem like some sort of show.

"Konbanwa, Botan-san," Kurama greeted her as he handed her a bouquet of red and pink roses he'd grown personally. He noted that she looked pretty wearing a sleeveless Chinese-style satin gown that clung nicely to her figure. She was wearing her hair swept down, and he thought it suited her rather nicely, framing the soft lines of her face. "Have you been waiting long?"

"No, not at all," Botan replied. She caught the admiring glint in Kurama's eyes, and it made her uncomfortable yet truly flattered for some reason. "Sore de…let's go in?"

"Hai," Kurama said, extending her arm to Botan. The blue-haired girl gingerly took it as they entered the restaurant.

They were greeted by the usual chorus of "Irrashaimase"'s as they entered. Botan gave the voucher to the waiter who bowed politely and let them to a table for two near the far corner of the restaurant. Kurama noted that the atmosphere was dimly-lit and cozy, and he spotted a few couples on dinner dates. He glanced at Botan and laughed inwardly. We're on our own official date, actually. Wonder what Yusuke and Hiei would think if they saw us here.

Kurama seated Botan before taking the seat opposite hers. For a restaurant specializing in Japanese cuisine, it had a surprisingly Western atmosphere. There was even a candle in the middle of the table. Kurama recalled that Westerners had a fondness for the "dinner by candlelight" concept. And he supposed it wasn't a bad setup at all, since it lent an atmosphere of both mystery and familiarity to a date.

"We'll serve the food soon," the waiter said. "We also have a fine selection of wines. Would you care to try some?"

"We will, domo," Kurama replied. Botan nodded as well.

The waiter smiled politely and left, thinking the couple might want to be left alone then. They were a young couple, he noted. Probably about to graduate from high school, since he saw quite a number of pairs of the sort dining in the restaurant. They also looked good together, he observed. The girl appeared to be shy and sweet, and her partner was apparently good-looking. After all, the guy had managed to draw glances from young girls when he entered, all of which he'd steadfastly ignored. The waiter surmised that the two were a young couple taking advantage of the voucher for free meals. He took one last glance at them and attended to other customers' orders.

"Thank you again for coming, Kurama," Botan began, suddenly not sure of what to say to the kitsune. He has such emphatic green eyes that it's impossible not to look into them without being entranced and wondering what he's hiding within his soul. That might be part of what makes him so dangerous, as Koenma-sama said. Under his calm, composed surface is a dangerous fighter of a thief.

"The pleasure is mine, really," Kurama replied. For some reason, Botan seemed more reserved than usual tonight. Less…ditzy, as Yusuke would put it. She almost seemed nervous and flustered, like some of girls who'd asked him to go out to watch a movie or eat lunch or something. But while they amused him more than anything, Botan intrigued him for some reason. I never thought she was this pretty before, he thought as he stared at her slightly flushed face. Come to think of it, I'd never looked at her long enough to really notice.

"I hear Keiko-san has invited Yusuke to dinner over at her place," Botan said, searching for something to talk about. "Yusuke seemed upset and nervous, but as usual, he gave in to her after she pleaded then threatened never to speak to him again if he refused."

"Poor Yusuke," Kurama laughed, shaking his head. "This is one battle he can't win, for all his power. And no matter how much he'd try to deny it, he isn't even fighting. He cares about Keiko-san too much to risk hurting her feelings deeply."

"Have you…ever felt that way…about anyone, Kurama?" Botan blurted out. She flushed as her companion's eyes widened in surprise, then regard her thoughtfully. His face had become impassive. "Demo…if it's too personal a question, you don't have to answer! Really! Gomen ne for asking--"

"No, no, don't worry about it," Kurama replied quickly. "Just surprised me, that's all."

The kitsune stared at the flickering flames of the candle, wondering what prompted Botan to ask the question. Still, she did tend to blurt out things in the spur of the moment, so it shouldn't have surprised him. Yet the question sent a pang of pain and regret through him. It had been too long since he'd felt the need to love anyone that way. Because aside from the love he felt for his mother and close friends, he'd shied from ningen affection in general. But even as Youko Kurama, he'd never been too fond with emotionalism. For he knew how feelings could be manipulated in order to hurt. A potent weapon that he'd used more than once in his youko life.

"Kurama-san?" Botan whispered, following his gaze. She noted that his eyes had become hooded and that he was somehow lost in thought. She knew that Kurama could be introspective, but his easy-going manner and amiable ningen personality belied the silent, deliberative youko he really was. Now, however, she felt that the person before him was in the borderline of being Shuichi Minamino and Youko Kurama. He was both, she knew. But she'd been infinitely more acquainted with his human side. "Daijobu ka?"

"Hn? Ah, daijobu desu," Kurama replied, frowning at her concerned expression. Had he been so lost in thought that he had her worried? "Just thinking about what you asked…"

"I mean, it's probably a senseless question, ne?" Botan said, attempting to use "perky" mode to mask her concern. "I mean, you've been alive for such a long time that you probably have, and--"

"Actually, no, I haven't," Kurama said quietly. He saw Botan's eyes widen as her expression changed from embarrassed to distinctly curious. "I mean, aside from okaa-san, but that's parental love. I suppose it's different…"

Riveting green eyes met pale purple, and Botan found herself subject to one of Kurama's most intent gazes. Now I know why he can use his stare to intimidate opponents. He can be so intense… Then, Kurama reached across the table and took her hand in his. His grip was gentle yet firm, and Botan felt her heart skip a beat when Kurama gently squeezed her hand. He was regarding him with an oddly curious expression, as if he was inwardly arguing with himself over something. Finally, he withdrew her hand, and Botan wondered why she felt so disappointed yet relieved at the same time. Koenma-sama was right…beware of that youko's charm, he said. He's tricky underneath that nice school-boy image of his, according to Koenma-sama. Kurama might be, but now…he seems to be so…lonely…

"There was Maya," Kurama began in a soft voice, and Botan strained to catch his words. His eyes once again took on that distant, hooded expression. "I pushed her away, knowing that being around me would just endanger her. She'd already been kidnapped by a youkai once. And…what could I really offer her? I only have a fleeting ningen life…what if she learns of youko? Can she still accept me…love me?

"There were others too, in Makai, but I can't say I really loved any of them. Some of them I merely wanted…for one purpose of another. Some of them wanted me…" At this Kurama let out a wry, resigned chuckle. "I made use of that too, I guess. I had some friends I trusted and admired…Yomi, Kuronue…but then again, no one really special like the way Yusuke regards Keiko-san…"

"So desu," Botan mumbled. This was one side of Kurama she'd never seen before. He seemed so vulnerable somehow. Yet he'd been strong enough to withstand long years of loneliness, danger and pain. "Arigato…for trusting me enough to share your thoughts with me."

"Um, have you, Botan-san?" Kurama asked, regarding Botan with a wistful smile. "I mean, Kuwabara-kun's been wondering about you and Koenma-sama--"

"Nani?!" Botan exclaimed, a huge sweatdrop beading from her head. The shock almost caused her to fall out of her seat. "There's nothing there, really! I'm just his assistant and appointed Diety of Death! It's my duty to be of service to a Prince of Reikai, and he can be so nice, but…no…I've never felt we're for each other."

"Then…was there anyone you ever felt was "for you," Botan-chan?"

Botan-chan?! Botan started at Kurama's sudden change of address. She felt a thrill building up within her, as she hoped the drop of formality wasn't incidental. But knowing Kurama's penchant for planning and strategy, it probably wasn't a slip of the tongue or anything like that. Which means that he'd grown more familiar with her, was being more friendly, and maybe--

"Minamino!" a voice suddenly called from behind her. She glanced behind to find several boys of high school age glaring at Kurama. One of them had stepped forward and was regarding Kurama with a sneer. Kurama merely returned his gaze evenly. "So this is where you've been hiding your girlfriend all along, you sly bastard!"

"That's right," another boy with wavy hair and freckles piped in. "Keeping her to yourself so the rest of us won't have a chance at her, huh? What a waste of a cutie!" He regarded Botan with a malicious leer that made Botan angry. She was about to stand up to tell him off when Kurama stood up first and placed a placating hand on her shoulder. The rei kai detective faced the boys who were apparently from his high school class.

"That's right, she's mine," Kurama said in a low, edged voice. "If you have any objections, I'm prepared to take up a challenge from any of you--anytime. But for now, we'd like to be left alone. Or if you don't get the point, I can make the point--forcibly, if necessary."

The boy with wavy hair almost stepped forward, but something in Kurama's stolid gaze warned him to stay away. The boys in school had always thought Kurama was some sort of smart sissy, even if he was in some of the school athletic teams. He'd never fought outright, always preferring to talk his way out of things. The look on his face now spoke of murder, however, and he stared behind him looking for support. The others had backed away long before, however. With one last scowl at Kurama, he hurriedly turned and rejoined their posse. The group turned to leave as some waiters hurriedly approached to head off potential trouble.

"Sorry about that," Kurama hastily said to Botan. He'd reseated himself and smiled reassuringly at the waiters. The observers had begun to disperse and find other areas of interest. "As you'd probably guessed, those were from my class. That brash guy was Kentaro, and he does have a reputation for being a troublemaker."

"Daijobu," Botan hurriedly assured him just as the waiter arrived carrying a tray of food and a champagne bottle along with a couple of glasses. "Ano…arigato…for…for standing up for me."

"I'd do it for any of my friends," Kurama shrugged, then was puzzled when disappointment flashed through Botan's face. "And…Botan-chan?"

"Hai, Kurama?"

"You're not just any friend. You're a special person."

"Y-you mean that?"

"I do. I hope you'll always remember that."

"It's such a lovely evening," Botan stated happily, her good mood having reasserted itself after a sumptuous meal of tempura and sushi.

"So ne," Kurama agreed, glancing up at the pale moon and the dozens of twinkling spots in the night sky. A Makai evening had never been like this. It was usually a lot more dull and dreary.

After the unfortunate interruption from Kurama's classmates, the evening had gone along well enough. The food was good, but Kurama had particularly enjoyed the champagne. It had a bubbly, brisk flavor to it that reminded him a lot of his companion for the evening. Even Botan had seemed to like the drink, having had more than a couple of glasses. In fact, Kurama was worried since Botan seemed a bit tipsy by the time they left the restaurant. She'd wanted to ride her oar to return to Reikai, but Kurama had steadfastly refused to allow her to do so and invited her for a walk through the park. Botan had almost immediately agreed.

"Ne, Kurama-chan?" Botan said as she skipped merrily beside the silent kitsune. "Being here in the park…does it remind you of your life in Makai?"

"Hn? Well, yes, somewhat," Kurama replied carefully, glancing at the "cute Deity of Death". Certainly justifies being cute, but she seems more…bubble-headed now than normal. Wonder if the drink had anything to do with it? Have had too much? He averted his gaze to the towering trees around him and felt the whispering of the breeze as the leaves rustled overhead stir something within him. "I've always liked being in a forest, or a glade of trees. Being around plants gives me this feeling of power. And most Makai plants were rather beautiful, if deadly. Especially the roses."

"I can imagine, seeing you looking at plants, how you must've been as a youko," Botan remarked, smiling at him brightly. She glanced at the blossoms overhead just now starting to open as the gentle fragrance from the flowers wafted through the air. "In the midst of the foliage and all its beauty…you were probably the most beautiful."

Kurama blushed, his face suddenly matching his hair color. He'd never imagine his date with Botan would be like this. She was so easy-going that he thought it'd be just a casual sort of thing, not unlike the dates he's had with his classmates. But here she was, touching recesses of his soul he thought he'd locked away, making him look at her in a new light. Making himself look at himself in a new light. Yet here he was with a person who has known what it was like to have lived for such a long time--and to have faced the burdens and joys of a prolonged life.

Kurama found himself speechless for once, facing the blue-haired girl before him. Suddenly, a wild gust of wind rushed through, blowing her loose hair across her face. Kurama gently wiped the loose strands away from her face, and suddenly he found himself stroking her cheek gently, marveling at how attractive he suddenly found Botan to be. Botan stared at him in bewilderment, but her expression was replaced with one of contentment as he pressed her cheek against his hand.

"Kurama, what you said earlier when those boys arrived…did you mean it?"

"Hn? That you were with me? That they should really leave you alone?"

"I recall your exact words…you said…'she's mine'…demo…did you mean it?"

"Botan-chan…" Kurama stared at her helplessly, at that hopeful face with shining pink-purple eyes. And Kurama had never felt so distressed before in his ningen life.

He'd never admitted to having felt romantic life ever since he'd become Shuichi, and even years before. He'd kept himself distant, knowing he wasn't ready for commitment, nor will ever be, really, because he'd always been sure he couldn’t find a partner who'd accept both aspects of himself--the intelligent ningen student Shuichi and wild crafty Youko Kurama. But Botan knew he was both, and even with that knowledge, she seemed to trust him. She trusts me enough, and dare I guess--no, hope-- she cares for me?

Suddenly, Botan turned away, walking away from the kitsune, her head bowed. I won't let him see my cry. Koenma-sama was right…I was caught unaware by his charm, and though it binds me now to him…how can I hope to bind a restless kitsune to me? His silence had struck her like a savage blow. She'd hoped in her heart that he'd meant what he said. But for all his being nice, was he playing with her? Will she be one of those who wanted him only to be used?

"Botan-chan, listen--" Kurama laid a hand on her shoulder, which she promptly jerked away. He looked at her in shock and disappointment, and Botan almost regretted what she did. But her reason reasserted itself, and she waved him off.

Botan hurriedly dragged her oar out and prepared to soar away, trying to make herself oblivious of Kurama's shocked, sad stare. No more, I won't be tricked again, youko thief…not even when I suspect you've already stolen my heart… Botan swifly mounted her oar and it began to lift her with the wind. Soon I can soar away and spend time in Reikai, and forget about this dinner, this night…

Kurama stood frozen on the spot as he watched Botan mount her oar. A thousand conflicting thoughts raced through his brain as he watched her tear-streaked face, as he that she was about to get away from him. Can I ask you stay, Botan? How can I let you go, knowing in my heart that I'd like to stay? But how can I make you stay, since I know being around me could just cause you pain? But as he saw the oar begin to lift her to the air, Kurama felt something within him snap. He reached for his hair and swiftly produced a rose.

Not now, not until you hear what I have to say. And if you can accept me, not ever will I let you just go! "Rose whip!" The whip of vine and thorns lashed out into the air and snagged Botan's oar. Botan gasped in surprise as she felt herself hurled from the oar and about to be thrown to the ground. Just then, a streaking figure snagged her out of the air and cradled her in his arms while the figure almost effortlessly landed on the ground. She found herself staring into fiercely gleaming green eyes and a sad, imploring face.

"I meant what I said," Kurama stated, watching the astonishment and awe that flashed across Botan's face. "Only, it isn't true…yet. But I hope you will be, Botan…I hope you will be mine."

"K-Kurama?!" Botan stammered, unsure of what to make of the situation. She debated with herself about whether this was just one of his tricks, but the profound sincerity in his eyes made her sure he wasn't kidding in any way. Somehow, she felt a wave of relief carry her, and she felt as if she had been drifting across a sea of disheartenment, only be to have been rescued by a huge wave that sent her crashing into his arms. "Honto?! Are you sure about what you're saying? About…what you feel about me?"

"I know I am," Kurama whispered, lowering his head so that their lips almost touched. "I can only hope that you feel the same…or at least will think about the affections from this unworthy youko thief."

"Unworthy? You?! Hardly!" Botan exclaimed, suddenly breathless. Then she caught his impish smile. "Kurama! What was that all about?"

"Just that dinner this evening was great, but…I forgot to ask for dessert," Kurama replied, holding her tighter against him, enjoying her warmth. "Demo…the restaurant didn't offer the kind I had in mind."

"What was that, Kurama-chan?" Botan felt her heart flutter as she found herself being held against the kitsune. One advantage about him is that he always seems to smell of roses…and the scent is so sweet…

Kurama didn't reply but gently pressed his lips against hers. He felt Botan stiffen slightly in amazement, but then her arms wound around his neck and he deepened the kiss. Kurama admitted to himself that he did enjoy physical intimacy, and had come to miss it during his ningen life. And yet what he felt for Botan went beyond his physical need for closeness. The affection he felt for this oft-perky and sometimes-ditzy girl went beyond that--for he loved her for being strong in her own way, and for being devoted, loyal, gentle and accepting. At last, he sighed as they pulled apart, momentarily breathless.

"Oh dear, what do I tell Koenma-sama?" Botan murmured, still feeling flushed as she stared at Kurama. "About us, I mean?"

"That he'd better give you less duties," Kurama said with a smile, "because we are going on more dinner dates. My treat this time."

"Are you sure about this, Kurama?" Botan inquired, knowing that she had to know for certain what transpired between them would extend beyond this night. "Knowing I'm the Diety of Death? Knowing my job is to ferry and guide souls…that I can't always be there for you, that the grief I sometimes bear you may have to share?"

"I am sure, Botan," Kurama stated firmly. "It doesn't matter to me. I mean, if you can accept that I am Youko Kurama--that dangerous, feared youkai thief--and if you can still care for me beyond my ningen life as Shuichi, I feel we'd make quite a pair." Kurama suddenly laughed. "Besides, I'd always been worried that if I ever loved anyone, I'd just live her behind after a couple of decades, but I think that doesn't apply to you."

"And your mother? What will she say?"

"I think she rather likes you, so I won't worry about that. Besides, I'll be graduating high school soon. I'll be able to support myself and a family, even if I study in college. I can always work part-time. "

"Demo…life still wouldn't be 'normal' for us, would it?"

"No. Demo…would you really like it to be? Part of what makes us who we are…is what we are, what we do. Being able to accept our differences…that binds us together."

"Hai," Botan said. Then she kissed him on the cheek and pulled away. "Demo…I have to get back to Reikai. I can't be away for too long, not until we complete the training of more spirit guides like Hinageshi."

"I'll wait for you when you get back," Kurama replied, sighing. "You know where to find me."

Botan smiled as she mounted the oar. This time, there was no rose whip to snag her out of the air, and she flew away with one last glance at the kitsune. She never thought dinner would be this eventful, and yet she was glad that she had asked Kurama to be her date for the evening. That had been quite a dinner for two.

Kurama watched as Botan soared away, feeling that she had taken a piece of his soul along with her. That was what he'd been afraid of about loving--the emptiness, the regret of letting go. But she will be back, he knew. And they'd have more dates when she did get the chance to stay long. He chuckled as he thought of how Yusuke, Kuwabara and Hiei would react. Probably won't take it too badly. And hopefully they'd even be happy for me and Botan. I just hope we won't have a tough time dealing with Koenma-sama…

Kurama stared into the sky until he could no longer see Botan. Then he peered at the trees and the blossoms hanging overhead. He smiled as he began his journey home. Being human has changed me, but I never thought it would affect the capacity I have to love so deeply. Yet it makes me glad. For the solitary kitsune may no longer have to always roam alone.

There you have it--my first Kurama-Botan fanfic. I think the two of them make a good pair, but that's my opinion. No offense intended to K+H fans. To each his/her own. For any comments or suggestions, sign the guestbook or send e-mail!

Yu Yu Hakusho is a copyright of Yoshihiro Togashi / Shue Isha Fuji TV, Studio Pierrot. This fanfic is for non-commercial, entertainment purposes only.

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