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April 2007
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aoshis_toy [userpic]
Knowing of You pt.3 (Keiko/Kurama, Yu Yu Hakusho, #7)

Title: Knowing of You pt.3
Author: Aoshis_toy
Fandom: Yu Yu Hakusho
Pairing: Keiko/Kurama
Rating: NC-17
Theme: #7 Orange Sunset
Summary: An unhappy marriage, a wish made, the past revealed.
A/N: The final part of a 3part story. Also written for 30_Lemons
Warnings: Violence, sexual content, language, angst
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu Yu Hakusho or the characters. I do not profit from the writing of this fanfiction.

The evening was extremely warm even for this time of year. Kuwabara didn’t want to look upon the sorrowful faces of those surrounding him. How could they give up? The only ones still searching were him and Kurama, even Urameshi had called the search off. Three months the girl had been gone. No traces, nothing to indicate where she’d gone. The only conclusion was that someone had gotten rid of the body and soul. Finally, her parents had decided that it was time to let go. A service was being held in her memory. Yusuke had insisted that it be held at the temple so all their friends could attend.

Dozens of employees, friends and family huddled in the large room. It felt wrong to hear them talk of the girl as if she were really gone. His eyes turned to Yukina that sat huddled a chair, the koorime barely speaking these days. Kurama was sitting near the large photo placed above the empty coffin. How they hell could they be burying her without a body? This was a scene he didn’t want to bear witness to yet he had to stay for their sake. Yusuke was trying to hold up but the slightest thing could cause the man to break. The same thing couldn’t be said of Kurama, the man having distanced himself even further. He wasn’t crying which was worse than witnessing the man sobbing like a babe.

Keiko’s parents were walking around talking to those that had come to pay their last respects. The mood was so fragile and heavy Kuwabara felt like he was choking. They all didn’t want to accept that the girl was gone. What else could they do? Time went on and so did life, they’d go on without her. How Yusuke or Kurama would mend after this he was unsure. Shizuru nodded in his direction her eyes swollen from crying. She was strong, she’d make it through. Not knowing Keiko’s fate was worse than having to tell her goodbye. He needed a breath of fresh air to clear his mind. It would also help stop the tears that threatened.

He didn’t bother shutting the door as he stepped out. It was raining, a steady downpour to mock those crying within. The suit was going to strangle him along with the lump that refused to go down. Why did this have to happen? Urameshi might not have been the perfect husband but didn’t deserve this. Neither did Keiko wherever she was. The sun was beginning to set, the orange glow appearing saddened by the loss within the wooden building. His shoe scuffed across the wood as he kicked an imaginary rock. He felt the need to hit something instead his eyes lifted up to stare across the drenched grounds. The sky was crying for the missing girl, so much it was conjuring up her image. He blinked rapidly seeing the figure staggering in the distance. It couldn’t be, the fates weren’t that cruel. Was the image here to haunt him because he’d failed her as a friend? Seconds passed as it neared and his heart dipped, it couldn’t be. "It can’t be."


Laughter broke into her thoughts as she picked up the empty pitcher from the table. Miliya waved to her over the crowd. Keiko returned the wicked grin as a patron snorted at the next table over. How many days had passed since he’d left her with the promise of returning? Maybe not even three days but it felt like an eternity to her. She was being foolish but missed him already. It had to be three months since she’d left her old life behind. She was even starting to reply to her new name. Was the old Keiko gone only to be replaced by Siaki? The name brought her joy when it was spoken by the silver haired fox.

How many nights hadn’t they laid upon her bed, him crying out her name? No words of love or feelings had been spoken yet. She liked to think she’d earned a place in his affections. They hadn’t been sleeping together long but what little time they’d spent together meant something to her. He seemed to enjoy it also so much that he came back almost every night for a repeat performance. Which was what was nagging her now. Shouldn’t he be back already? She’d heard whispers of the fox going to steal an artifact for someone. It was just rumors but she knew there had to be some truth to it.

The only thing that kept her from pulling her hair out was knowing the future. The fox would live for centuries to come and wouldn’t die anytime soon. Facts kept juggling around in her mind, would this change the future? Kurama had never mentioned knowing her in the past. So either her coming here was changing it or she actually meant so little to him that after her death here he would forget about her completely. That didn’t sit well, not now. She had loved him in the future and loved him now. Could she accept the obvious lack of impact she’d make upon his life? Was she just another one of his conquest in centuries of bed notches?

She hadn’t gotten him to open up about himself yet but had hope. Hope for a short future with the fox even one as his kept woman. Hope that the customer sitting at table number three would soon learn how to bathe. She grimaced as she strolled pass to carry the empty dishes to the kitchen. The chores helped to occupy her time until her fox dropped in. The cook greeted her as she set the pitcher down. "Do you smell something? Or is that a lingering effect from the parlor?" The rank smell of smoke and urine was enough to make her cough. Whatever it was, it was getting to her empty stomach. Perhaps everything smelt foul now and all she preferred was the crisp scent of Youko that reminded her of pine. Spending almost all her nights in his bed was playing havoc on her senses.

"Ye be right girl, something does smell amiss." The fat man placed the large knife on the counter before strolling to the back door of the place. Keiko looked to see how much room was left in the heated water. Some of these needed to be watched before another wave of customers arrived. A high pitched scream and her head spun around in time to see the usually cheery cook fall to the floor with a large spear sticking out of his chest. The servant next to her roughly shoved her aside and rushed to the man’s aide. The noises began to fill the place all at once, coming from the parlor and in Madam’s office. Keiko shook in fear as the first man walked into the open door. He had to be over eight feet, having to bend in order to fit into the framework. She didn’t waste time to see the outcome.

Screaming propelled her to find help and into the parlor. The guards were now fighting against over dozen armed men. The women were running around frantically, those that weren’t already lying dead upon the once clean floor. Miliya came out of nowhere seizing her hand in a hurry. Time seemed to stand still as their feet found the stairs. Chaos was everywhere as they ran for safety. Out the corner of her eye she saw Madam laying in the hall, a pool of blood coating her chest and throat. "Oh gods, what’s happening?" Two youkai came out of the room the woman had used as an office, a large bag draped over one’s shoulder. It was a robbery, a merciless slaughter all for gain.

Keiko heard the scream of outrage as a black blur tore across her vision. She felt the air being knocked out of her lungs. The sound of breaking wood then the floor came up to greet them. A gurgling sound made her blood run cold. She didn’t want to look or hear the youkai that was standing at the edge of the stairs laughing at their misfortune. A hiss escaped her parted lips as she tried to move her arm. The pain centered in her shoulder, spreading down to her fingers. She managed to reach and remove the large splinter of wood. Blood began to seep as she righted herself upon shaky knees. Tears stung her eyes seeing Miliya laying unmoving, a large piece of railing sticking through her neck.

A cough ran through her chest as smoke began to fill the room. They were burning the place down after taking what they wanted. Her vision blurred as she got back to her feet, she had to make it to their room. If she was to die then it was to be there. With the ward in place she couldn’t leave the place that was about to burn around her. If the flames didn’t take her life then the fumes now filing her lungs would. Not to mention the large green man stalking her way. She could no longer see the one standing above. No one stopped her as she found the stairs once more. Her breathing was the only sound she could make out as she ran.

She found her door moments later as smoke swirled down the hall. It slammed shut behind her cutting out the horror taking place below. The heat was getting unbearable the longer she stood in the center. The blanket was snatched off the bed and placed over her face. How long before it ended? Three ways to die, which would claim her life? Would she die from flame, smoke or blood-loss? The pain in her shoulder was second to her lungs as the smoke seeped through the cracks. This was it, her death.

This had all started with a wish, one that had been granted. A slight smile appeared behind the sheet. She’d wanted to find out where she belonged, her place in life. Now she knew where it was. Her place had been by his side and she’d been a fool not to see it before now. Past or future she loved Kurama. Loving him had given her life purpose if only for a short while. She could go happy having known him. A single tear slid down her cheek as the world began to spin and everything went black.


She woke up feeling cold and sore but alive. Had she somehow managed to survive the fire? Wetness streaked across her face as her mind began to focus. The only thing she was sure of was that she was cold and wet. Her hand reached up to push a strand of drenched hair from her eyes. The pain made her wince, her shoulder was throbbing. It hadn’t been a dream but what was in her other hand? Something smooth was pressed into her fingers. She blinked at the stone now resting in her palm. Hadn’t it been in the temple?

Realization dawned on her as the rain pelted her face. It was late evening but why was she in the woods? Her eyes scanned the clothing, the blue dress hanging loose and torn. Some of the edges were black as if burnt. How had she escaped the fire? Was she back home? The need to survive made her stumble to her feet. Her body ached and she had to look like hell. The wound pinched as she took her first step. Where was she? The sky was blue so she was no longer in the Makai. She was back in the human world but what time frame?

Branches snagged her hair and palms, the pain went ignored. It was hard to see anything in the downpour. Just when she was ready to take a break and wait for help a large structure appeared in the distance. It was Genkai’s temple, she was home. Her pace quickened as she stumbled across the yard. Spots appeared as she tried to rush, please let someone be there. The place had never looked so sweet or welcoming. Lights burned in the place, someone had to be inside. Elation filled her seeing the large figure on the steps. Kuzuma was standing there looking in the other direction. Please let him look her way before she collapsed into the mud.

"Keiko!" Hearing him scream her name made her pause in her stride. He was real, she was home. With a new burst of energy she moved faster, towards the man running in her direction. Her foot slipped out from under her sending her to the ground. Her name was being shouted by others, she had to get up. The hole was stinging from the pressure of her weight as she lifted herself off the ground. As soon as she righted herself strong arms wrapped around her shoulders.

"You’re real, you’re real." Tears streamed down her face feeling the warmth radiating from his strong chest. Voices she recognized called to her, this couldn’t be a dream. Somehow she’d made it back, back where she belonged. Another pair of hands gripped her shoulders sending her brain into overload. The pain was too much, the fingers were digging painfully into the open wound. Her vision turned red and her stomach pitched. Had she come home to die? Her legs felt limp as Yusuke whispered her name. In the thick haze she looked to the left to see the red hair standing behind Shizuru. He was here, she’d gotten to see him one last time. "Kurama," the darkness that had brought her home surrounded her once more.


"You want to tell me why the fuck she called your name?" Yusuke shrug off the hand holding onto his elbow. He didn’t care about the people gawking at him. Keiko had appeared only to cry out to the fox before passing out. Genkai and Yukina were in there attending to her while they were forced to wait. His wife was in there injured and he didn’t understand how. "I swear if you had something to do with her disappearing."

"I did not." Kurama leaned against the wall unwilling to look the toushin in the eyes. No, he didn’t have anything to do with the girl being gone but he now knew where she’d been. The why and how were still unknown but he’d get his answers soon. When he’d heard her name being shouted he’d rushed out right behind Kuwabara. His shock and dismay had kept his feet planted to the ground. Walking towards him wasn’t Keiko but Siaki. Wearing the gown he’d purchased for her, looking exactly like the last time he’d set eyes upon her. How was that possible? Could Siaki have been Keiko? "I was as shocked as you to see her show up."

"Dammit how long are they going to take?" Yusuke frowned hearing the door open and Genkai stepped out giving him a scolding look. "Don’t glare at me you old hag. How’s Keiko?" Please let her be alright. It hurt to know that she hadn’t noticed him being there but had called out for the redhead. It was his fault but the dismissal stung all the same. Where had she been for so long and how had she escaped? "Can I see her?"

"She’s resting and she will be fine. The wound wasn’t life threatening and has been taken care of. Most of her fatigue comes from blood-loss and whatever she’s been through. If she wishes to speak about it then she will. I warn you now, do not go in that room and show your ass. She’ll need time to recover. As to where and the why I can’t answer but I can tell you how." Genkai tossed the stone towards the toushin. "This was in her hand. It was locked up in one of my chests, I’m not sure how she got a hold of it. Wherever she’s been that is most likely responsible."


Keiko grabbed the hand resting on top her own. "Why do you cry?" The koorime was letting the stones hit the floor without care. "I’m fine and back, you needn’t worry Yukina." Yes, she was home and felt fine. She was a little tired but felt alright. Genkai had healed her wounds and some of the fatigue had lifted as well. "Remind never to make any more stray wishes. Just deal with things as they are." She smiled trying to cheer the smaller girl up.

"It’s my fault, I did it." Yukina released the hand that felt too warm. "I felt the magic as I made my wish." She could see the confusion crossing Keiko’s features. "I did it! I wanted him for myself, don’t you understand. You were in the way, as long as he was married to you. I stood there and wished you were gone. Then it happened and I was so scared. I knew it was my fault but I did nothing. I could have told them what happened but I kept silent out of fear of making him hate me. I took the stone and tossed it into the woods. I watched while he mourned your loss, knowing I had caused that pain. How can you forgive me? How can you not hate me?"

"I see, it was you." Keiko reached for the cold palm fisted in the koorime’s lap. Guilt shone through the sheen of tears. "I’d always suspected Yusuke of having someone else but a part of me didn’t want to accept it. I don’t hate you Yukina. If you are responsible for what happened then I am grateful. Besides now that I think about it, it wasn’t your wish that sent me away. As soon as my wish came true I came home. It had granted my wish, see if it was my wish that brought me home then it would have to been my wish that took me away. There is no need for you to feel guilty."

"But I didn’t tell them what happened when I knew. They searched for you and came back believing your were dead. I comforted Yusuke as he cried out of loss." She was a horrible person, one that didn’t deserve the man she loved. "Maybe if I’d told Genkai she could have brought you home sooner. This is all my fault, I’m to blame."

"Perhaps but you are being too hard on yourself. You and Yusuke should have been honest with me about things but I forgive you. I can understand how hard it is to be honest when you believe that doing so will hurt someone you care for. Yusuke isn’t the only one guilty of the act. If I’d been honest with myself then that wish wouldn’t have been necessary. Please, don’t do this. I am back and I am better than fine. Once everything is cleared up you and Yusuke have my blessing. Now if you will excuse me there is someone I wish to talk to." Keiko gave the koorime a quick pat on the shoulder before rising.

The hall grew quiet as she walked out into the main room. Yusuke was standing there screaming at Genkai, it was good to be home. Her husband turned in her direction and took a step forward. Her hand lifted signaling for him not to move another inch. "We will talk later Yusuke." Her eyes sought out green that was near the door. The fox stiffened when her gaze landed on him. What was he thinking? Had he known all these years whom she was? "Did you know who I was?" The question came out forcefully, emotions fueling the need to know.

He stood rooted to his spot unable to deny the truth. What could he say? Everyone was watching them wondering just what the girl was talking about. It wasn’t up to him to appease them. "I did not, not until just now. I noticed a resemblance when you got older but didn’t think it possible. I had no reason to believe that you were someone else. That happened to me over eight centuries ago and has become nothing more than a faint and almost forgotten memory. I hadn’t thought about it until you showed up again. That is the past for me, I swear I had no idea that you were her. Not that it makes a difference."

"You’re right it don’t." It really didn’t make any difference not for either of them. "Then I shall forget as you have." She’d try even if it took the rest of her life. Shizuru called her name as she turned to walk into the bedroom. Yukina was standing at the door looking at her with interest as well. A startled squeak made her feel somewhat better as the door slammed on the koorime and those on the other side. The thick robe did nothing to ease the chill creeping into her soul. A forgotten memory, she’d told herself so but hadn’t wanted to accept it. She’d been nothing more than a quick fling for him, one of many. Three days had gone by and he hadn’t returned then for a reason. He’d had walked out on her then but she’d been too stupid to see it. An ignorant little girl hoping for something she couldn’t have. She’d been denied it in the future and had tried for it in the past.


More clients came in to welcome her home as she tossed the papers back on her desk. It felt strange sitting in the chair. The desk no longer gave any comfort as Shizuru laughed out in the salon. Tears threatened as she eyed the laughter through the glass. Two months and it wasn’t getting any easier. At least everyone had stopped asking her questions of where she’d been, what had happened. She’d been given a chance only to have her heart torn asunder. Yusuke had tried to deny his affair at first. He’d cried seeing she knew the truth but it was time to let go. To let go of her childhood love and the man she’d loved as a woman.

Things began to settle down with only two women left sitting while their perms took hold. Shizuru and Aiko were standing in the corner speaking amongst themselves. The silence gave her time to think. Everyone knew she was alive and home. Yusuke was now staying with Yukina at the temple. Shiori called her every evening but Kurama had went back to his hidey-home. She hadn’t meant anything to him in the past. Now in the future he just knew that he’d fucked his friend’s wife at one point in time. Eight centuries he said, a forgotten memory. Someone unimportant, just another whore.

She ran her hand through the short locks before straightening up her desk. A week ago she’d asked Shizuru to cut it and remove the dye. It took re-dying it back to it’s natural color to get rid of the blonde streaks. It was too painful to wake up every morning and see that image of herself. That name kept ringing through her mind. Youko might have lusted after Siaki but Keiko meant nothing to him. It was the best way to forget, to move on. The shrill of the telephone broke across the room, "Yukimora Designs, Keiko speaking."

"How are you feeling dear?" Shiori’s voice came across the ear pierce. Keiko assured her like everyone else that she was doing great. "That’s good. I was calling to see if you could do me a favor. I just got a promotion at work and have decided to have dinner to celebrate. Shuuichi is spending the weekend with a friend and my husband is still away on his business trip. I tried to call Shuichi but like usual I get no answer. I know it’s short notice but I really don’t want to eat alone. It’s nothing that expensive, just a little dinner. Please say you’ll come, don’t make an old woman sit by herself it’ll be too embarrassing."

"I guess I can make it." The woman sounded desperate and lonely. Keiko agreed to make it on time before hanging up the phone. She’d have to rush home and get ready. Shizuru would lock things up so she could leave. Dinner would be great, she wasn’t in the mood to cook tonight. She also knew how much Shiori had been wanting this promotion. Shame her family wouldn’t be there to celebrate it.


The atmosphere was hushed as she was being escorted into the backroom. Shiori was pulling out all the stops it seemed. The waiter took her to a table in the far back over looking the park. He withdrew the chair allowing her to take a seat. The menu was already open on the opposite side, Shiori must have went to the restroom. She thanked the man and got comfortable against the leather. It felt strange wearing her own clothes after so long. The black dress was one she’d bought for her and Yusuke’s first anniversary. Another instance when the man hadn’t shown up for their dates.

Keiko looked up to spot Shiori being escorted towards their table. Wait she was coming from the wrong direction. She didn’t have time to ponder as the older woman embraced her in a tight hug. "It’s good to see you." Shiori scooted over to the edge of the seat almost eating the window. "Am I missing something? Are we expecting anyone else?" Or are you scared of having a drink spilt on you? Keiko glanced around the room for any sign of the woman’s husband.

"Oh no, sorry. Shuichi returned my call at the last minute and said he’d come. I hope you don’t mind. There he is now, he must have went to the restroom." She smiled seeing the look cross the girl’s eyes. She also noticed how her son paused seeing that they weren’t alone. This would do them both good. Now that Yusuke was out of the picture then her son could stop being a ninny and tell the girl how he felt. This was just a motherly push in the right direction. It meant being a little untruthful but they’d thank her in the end. "Look who decided to join us son."

"Hello Keiko," The greeting was forced between tight lips. He’d have to have a talk with his mother later. She’d gone too far this time. So much for her having to eat dinner alone. He could deal with half an hour before finding an excuse to depart. "Will anyone else be joining us?" He didn’t miss the way Keiko’s shoulders tensed and she didn’t bother returning the greeting. Was she still pissed over what had happened? Was she blaming him? He hadn’t know who she was but the other way around.

"No, you two are the only ones that agreed to come." She patted the seat beside her and her son sat down. These two needed some serious alone time to talk. They could be happy if only they’d work out whatever was keeping them apart. "I hear the seafood here is excellent you should try some Keiko. I’m so glad you both came, I hate eating alone. So dear, you never told me what happened with the salon. Were you able to keep it after the divorce or did he get part?"

"That was debated but he gave up all rights to it. It was something he didn’t want, it was what I wanted. Besides the business we really didn’t have much else to split." Keiko groaned seeing the way Kurama’s eyes glanced in her direction only to find something interesting out the window. So he hadn’t known about the divorce, why would he? He’d have to give a shit to ask about her. His disinterest spoke volumes, it didn’t matter if she were free now. She was surprised Shiori knew that the divorce had been finalized three days ago. Keiko had made sure not to blab her business to the woman. After all it was no one’s business but her own.

"That’s great, so what are you going to do about child support? I mean has that been planned out or are you waiting until after the babe is born?" Shiori saw the girl’s pallor drop a few shades at the remark. Was the rumor true? The girl Shizuru had been a fountain of information. More than she’d ever get from these two. The only thing she wasn’t clear on was who the child belonged to. Now things were out in the open and she could pretend to be the concerned friend over a divorced single mother.

"What makes you say that?" Oh, this was definitely bad. The redhead was no longer looking out the window. She could feel the heat of his gaze upon her skin. Okay, best to deny everything. She hadn’t told anyone about the baby yet. So there was no way Shiori could know. The woman was merely bluffing over something she’d guessed. "Why would you think I was pregnant? Has someone been spreading rumors about me?"

"I had a lengthy talk with your one friend. I called the salon yesterday and she said you were in the bathroom, again. I was concerned and asked if you were ill. She replied it was just a little morning sickness. I asked her if you were and she laughed it off. We got into a discussion about your poor health as of late. I took one look at you as I walked in and guessed." Shiori was only guessing as to the girl’s pale skin and sickness. "It’s okay, I understand you not wanting to tell anyone yet. Just divorced and alone, having to raise a child alone. Makes me sad to think that a man doesn’t want to help raise a child that is his."

"Yes, well I don’t have to worry about that. It was just a virus that’s all." Definitely all, nothing more because she didn’t want to die. Could he glare any harder? Would he demand to know if it was true? Would he accept it if she were to tell him it was Yusuke’s? "Don’t concern yourself over my welfare. I’m not expecting I assure you. So, why don’t you tell us about your promotion." The woman looked disappointed at the denial. Why would Shiori want her pregnant? There was no way for the woman to know that it was her son’s.

It was hard to listen to his mother speak to the girl as they waited for their meal. Was she pregnant? If so was it his? It felt odd even pondering the question. She hadn’t slept with Youko in over eight centuries but might be carrying a result of it. Though it hadn’t been that long for her. As soon as his mother excused herself he had a few choice words that needed to be said. Is that why the divorce had occurred? Because she was carrying a child that didn’t belong to Yusuke? His anger boiled as the minutes ticked on until finally his mother excused herself to make a call. If he knew the woman she was giving them a few minutes to talk alone. "Is it true?"

"Are you deaf? I just said it wasn’t. So you can stop your worrying. I have no intention of intruding on you. I wouldn’t have came tonight if I’d known you were coming also. As soon as it’s acceptable I will take my leave." She’d leave and make sure never to speak to him again. At this rate she’d have to leave the city since Shiori was taking it upon herself to keep track of her. Another couple weeks and she wouldn’t be able to deny her condition. No doubt Shiori would eventually spread the news to her son.

"Good, it’s the last thing I need right now." He didn’t want to sit around for months wondering if he was about to be a father. A child would mean constant contact with Keiko, he wouldn’t abandon his child. It would kill him to be around her but it would be done. Some of the tension eased from his shoulders. "Perhaps you should excuse yourself now and I’ll make your apologies to my mother when she returns. We both know this is her way of playing matchmaker. No need to give her any false hopes where we are concerned."

Why didn’t he just grab that spoon and cleave her heart out across the table while he was at it? She felt the sting of tears, "You’re right. I’ll head out now, I hope you enjoy dinner. Tell Shiori congratulations for me as well." It stung as he nodded but turned to stare out the window again. She was being dismissed, just like that. Her hand shook but she managed to withdraw her keys as she stood. Had she been brought back only to endure this pain? What was worse she couldn’t fault him for it. She hadn’t meant much to him then, how could she expect for there to be anything after so much time had passed? "You know, I don’t blame you. It’s fresh for me but so much time has passed for you. You had no idea who I was but I can’t say the same for myself. I knew who you were the second I bumped into you and I still let things happen."

"Why? Why did you do it?" The question had been plaguing him since her return. He hadn’t known what she’d mean to him one day, in the past or the future. Had she done it only because she’d felt lost without much choice? It hurt to know she’d known him already. Why would she sleep with him willingly when there was a chance she’d return to the present? Was it only because he’d been a familiar face? Her reactions to him, the look that had once appeared in her eyes. She hadn’t feared him because she knew him.

"Honestly," Keiko shrugged unsure if she could give him an answer he could accept. An admittance of feelings would cause guilt on his part. Just another complication that he didn’t want or need. Would he even care about the answer she gave? He had no feelings where she was concerned so it really didn’t matter how she replied. She spotted Shiori coming back across the room. She gave him her back but would tell him the truth."I’d made a stupid wish and it was granted. I loved you here. Being with you there where you didn’t know about Yusuke or about what friendship we had at one time, I took advantage of it. It was wrong, I know that now. I saw a chance to be with you and took it. I shouldn’t have let it happen, that was my mistake."

"What mistake?" Shiori caught the word as she came to stand beside the girl. She looked close to tears causing the older woman to become concerned. Had they worked things out? The tension in the air was thick enough to slice with a knife. "Are you leaving? Dinner should be here any minute."

"Yes, I’m sorry I’ve got to be going. I made a mistake of agreeing to come when I have so much to do. Shuichi is here, so I think it’s best that I take off. Besides this should be a family dinner, I don’t want to invade." She didn’t want to start crying before she made it out. She wouldn’t cry in front of him and strangers. "Please, I’ll call you later this week." Keiko managed to give the woman a quick hug. She didn’t want to turn around and see the indifference that would surely be on his face. It was hurting too much just to walk away.

Shiori watched the girl walk out leaving her alone with Shuichi. As soon as the coast was clear she spun on her heels ready to demand why he was being such a pig. That girl was hurting and he was the cause of it. His eyes were glued to the entrance, unmoving long after she was gone. A deep sigh escaped as she contemplated what to do. "Do you want to tell me about it?" At his negative shake she continued, "I didn’t think so. Look, I don’t know everything and I’m not going to pry. I just don’t want to see you make a mistake. How long do you think she’s going to wait? The girl has been waiting for over two years Shuichi. It was understandable while she was married but don’t blow this chance. Go after her, don’t let her go."


"It’s beautiful isn’t it." Yusuke threw the rock counting the skips across the water. He’d found this place months ago while training. The natural hot spring was one of the many things left on Genkai’s land. The trees easily concealed the place from prying eyes. "So are you going to tell him about the baby?" It pained him to know that he was finding happiness while Keiko was still hurting. She’d been the innocent one in it all. Hearing that she’d actually become the lover of Youko in the past had been a shock.

"I don’t know, I already told him I wasn’t. I don’t think he’ll appreciate me lying to him. Besides it was so long ago for him. Eight centuries is plenty of time to forget about someone, much less hold onto to whatever might have been there. I know you don’t want to hear this but I was his whore, nothing more. I’m sure I was but one of many women he’d paid for on the side. He’d left without saying goodbye before the fire and my return. I’m not going to hold on, I can’t. I’ll need to do what’s best for myself and the baby. I’m not going to have a child growing up in a situation where her parents can’t stand to be around one another. I don’t want that, can’t you understand." She didn’t want to cry again, she was tired of bawling like a baby. These overactive hormones had to stop sometime.

"I get you, I just don’t know if it’s the right thing to do. Shit Keiko, it’s for Youko not Kurama. You know what I mean, it’s going to be half youkai. You know it’s going to cause some questions when your child is born with fuzzy little ears. How the hell are you going to explain that to some doctor? You’ll be lucky if he doesn’t toss the kid against the wall and call for a priest. You need to stay close for the birth. Try talking to him, is that so hard? If I remember correctly you two use to talk all the time. What the fuck happened besides you going to the past? Hell I was jealous most of the time. You’d sit up with him for hours leaving me out in the cold. Why the sudden dislike of each other?" It confused him, something was wrong. Why would two people that seemed so right for each other suddenly start clawing at each other’s throats?

"I know I know, I haven’t really thought about that part. Perhaps I could speak to Genkai and she would come to me when it is time. That way no one has to know. Shizuru could run the business most of the time, she’s great at it. At least until after the babe is born but then I’d have to worry about a babysitter if I did want to work. But I could just keep my office locked." She stomped her foot as things were showing themselves to be so complicated. "Bloody hell, ugh. What am I going to do? Be some never seen business owner and stay locked up in an apartment somewhere? Do you mind giving me some time alone? I need to think." She plopped down on the plush green grass and sighed. Yusuke sensing her distress nodded and walked away.

What was she going to do? Shiori had stated at dinner this evening that she suspected the pregnancy. If she didn’t want to leave everything she knew behind then she’d have to confess the truth. How would he take it? He’d be pissed, she knew this. He didn’t want a child with her. She had no idea what kind of life he had. Before her disappearance he’d kept to himself, away from her. The Kurama she’d spent so much time with had grown distant and cold. He’d never explained why he suddenly moved away and didn’t bother to contact her. At the least she’d thought them to be good friends. But wouldn’t he have called or something? Her chest clenched and her eyes stung. She was going to cry again. It just hurt to know she hadn’t meant anything to him in the past and she meant even less to him here.

She closed her eyes willing the emotions to calm. She definitely had to be containing water, if not she’d have dried out from all the weeping. What she needed was to soak in a hot bubble bath. To let her worries melt away. She’d figure something out, she always did. If she survived being tossed in the past, sold and playing a whore there was nothing here she couldn’t handle. The image of fury filled green eyes made her cringe. Maybe everything but that. Oh gods, how was she going to be able to stand there and tell him the truth. Why did she even have to look at him when she told him? Couldn’t she just make a phone call. That’s if she could get his number. He’d seen fit to make sure she hadn’t known it for over two years now. Would Shiori give it to her if she asked? It was worth a try.

Decision made she looked at the sparkling water. It looked so inviting. Would Genkai care if she took a dip in the heated spring? There were plenty of trees around hanging over for protection. No one would see her unless they came right to the spring. Yusuke was the only one that knew she was here and he would most likely be returning to Yukina’s side. If he did come back to check on her she’d tell him to leave again. If he caught a glimpse, big deal. Not like he hadn’t seen everything before so faking modesty was out of the question. She really wanted to take a dip.

The black dress quickly came off along with the stockings. She tried to set the folding clothing on top of her shoes. It only took a minute of debating before the bra and underwear came off also. If she was going to go swimming she might as well go all the way. She made it to the edge before pausing, it didn’t contain flesh eating fish did it? Her big toe touched the surface rippling the smooth top. So far so good, nothing was attacking her foot. Now she was in up to her knees. The temperature was a little hot but felt wonderful. Yep, she could feel her bones melting under the heat. If only she had some bubbles it would have been great.

With a deep breath she dived underneath. It startled her slightly but she let it the water surround her. It felt wonderful, she’d have to come back here often. She’d need a soothing bath once she started handling things. First she had to severely scold Shizuru about commenting on her trips to the bathroom. Then she’d have to tell Kurama the truth, by phone of course. That way she could hang up on him and jump in her car if need be. She’d just have her things packed up in case he was too upset. If he threatened to tear out her throat she wouldn’t stop until she hit the next town. Then it would only be to throw up and refuel. If things went well she’d just tell him how things would be. She’d raise the baby alone, she didn’t need him. She wanted him to be part of the babe’s life but absolutely did NOT need him.

He’d made it clear though, he’d said enough tonight. It was the last thing he wanted right now. Probably had some hot chick shacked up with him. Instead of mourning her for the last three months while she’d been presumed dead he’d been off boinking some tart. She was shocked he was even at her wake, that had to have been Shiori’s doing. Put in an appearance to please the other’s right before spitting on her empty coffin. He hadn’t missed her in two years why miss her when she was forever gone? But she hadn’t been, he didn’t know that though. Why was she even stressing over it? She should be enjoying her swim, not worrying over him.

She hadn’t put a gun to his head and told him to fuck her. NO, he’d been the one to set up the arrangements. Not like she could have told him she was from the future and they knew each other there in his human form. He’d have thought her crazy. Her pregnancy was the outcome of their fornicating. She’d deal with it, it was her child. No one would have to know who it belonged to, except their close friends. Shiori need never know or whatever chick he had. She was financially set to take care of it. There would be some difficulties due to it’s heritage but she’d make it through. This baby was the only thing she had left, she wouldn’t get rid of it. She’d give it all the love and affection she held for the father.

She surfaced to take a deep breath. Water dripped down her face and into her eyes. They were no longer stinging with the need to shed tears. Fingers wiped at the moisture. She almost screamed when someone cleared their throat from behind. Instead she sank in the water before confronting the unwanted company. Her first thought was Yusuke had returned. Spinning around proved her wrong, it wasn’t her exhusband. What was he doing here? Had he not believed her story? Was he coming to fight? She really didn’t feel up to it right now. Not to mention she wasn’t going to admit anything to him in person. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to talk." He found the words hard to say as she sunk deeper into the spring. The water was up to her neck already. If she sunk any lower she’d drown. It’d taken him three hours after leaving the restaurant to track her down. He’d called her home, then Shizuru, who suggested the shop. No answer there so he’d driven by to find it closed and all the lights out. Then he’d driven to talk to Kuwabara, who hadn’t been too happy. He told Kurama he had no idea where Keiko was but to go ask Yusuke who was living with Yukina. That had come as a shock to the fox. When had those two gotten together? The drive had been tedious and too long. He’d been elated to see the koorime waiting outside.

She’d told him that Keiko was there but had went walking with Yusuke. Knowing so had caused displeasure but the small woman hadn’t seemed upset. He’d met Yusuke half way during his search. The toushin hadn’t seemed pleased to see him and had told him to leave. All he asked was where to find the girl. Yusuke hadn’t wanted to part with the information. Still he wouldn’t leave until he’d spoken to her. He wouldn’t let the man stand in his way. He shouldn’t have let her leave the restaurant but perhaps that had been best. Her words had stunned him. Did she love him? Is that why she’d been so accepting of Youko? "Do you want to get out before you get cold?"

"No, I want you to say whatever it is then leave so I can continue with my swim. I think we’ve said all that needs to be stated earlier this evening." She turned her back, dammit she was going to cry again. They had nothing to discuss now. If he was going to condemn her then he could keep it to himself. She wasn’t going to apologize again. Nor was she getting out, not when she was naked. Would he take the hint and leave? Silence greeted her, she could always hope. A splash caught her attention, "What?"

"If you won’t get out then you leave me no choice." His jeans were soaked already, his shirt was getting there as he closed the distance. They’d settle things now, be it work things out or decide to part ways for good. She looked on the verge of panicking. "Don’t be modest, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before. It might have been centuries but I can still remember what you look like." A look between shock and confusion crept along her features. Where would he begin? Would she let him explain himself? He’d hold her down until he said what he’d come here to say. "I was honest that day you returned. I had no idea you two were one in the same, how could I? I returned several days after the fire to learn that everyone had been slain and the place burnt to the ground. You became one of my many regrets. I noticed a small resemblance when I first met Yusuke but that was it."

"If you recall that after Yusuke went to the Makai I did not see you during that time. It amazed me when I saw you at the train station that day. I watched you on the trip to Genkai’s that day, astounded by how much more you resembled a woman from my past. Yusuke returned so I pushed it aside, knowing that no matter how much you looked like her, she’d died long ago. You married Yusuke, what could I do? Except befriend you, there was no other course of action I could take. The more time I spent with you the more I wanted to confuse you with Siaki. Then the feelings began to return. This time it wasn’t just based on lust." He placed a hand on her shoulder. She wasn’t looking at him, he wasn’t sure if that was a good sign. "I craved you as Youko, I fell in love with you as Shuichi. I left because you were married to one of my best friends, I would not interfere. Not when I wasn’t sure if all my feelings were real. For some time I assumed they were there because of the resemblance. Because you greatly resembled and acted like the first woman to touch my heart."

"You have no idea how it felt to learn that the only two women I have ever cared for are one in the same. Yet, finding it out I was at a loss. I couldn’t understand why you let it happen. Or what to do about it. You may have been free back then to pursue a relationship with me but in this time you were taken. What could I do?" He wished she’d look at him, so he could try to see what she was feeling. Did any of this matter? Would she want to be with him? Could they move on from here? "Were you telling the truth earlier? Did you mean what you said?"

"Yes and no." She wanted to bawl again. Here he was telling her that he really did care and she didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t be happy about it, she’d have to admit the truth to him. Not only had she lied earlier but had been keeping this secret from him since she’d gotten back. He wouldn’t appreciate it, no matter her reasons for doing so. She backed away from him, he let her go. He’d admitted things to her, a simple phone call was out now. It would be easier just to show him. With the black dress on it hadn’t been apparent. It had been snug on the top but flowed from the bust down. She’d been making sure she wore loose clothing for the last two weeks. It wasn’t too noticeable if one didn’t know just how slim she was. But he did, he’d seen her naked many times, he’d notice the tiny telltale sign. The water was now below her breast but she walked towards the bank. "I was being honest when I told you why I did things. But I wasn’t completely honest about everything."

"You lied to me." Anger flared seeing the slight curve of her abdomen. Why hadn’t he seen it earlier? He’d taken a good look at her, taking in every detail. She’d looked slightly pale in that black dress. It wasn’t obvious but he’d ran his hand along her flat stomach enough to know that she was pregnant. There was no excess weight on the rest of her body to explain it otherwise. She had to be over four months. "You are not large enough for it to be Yusuke’s and too far for it to be his. You knew it was mine and didn’t tell me." She had to have gotten pregnant while in the past.

"Of course I didn’t." She stormed out of the water. Her anger was the only thing keeping her from crying. "I didn’t know before I came back. Do you actually think I would tell you? You made sure I knew my place as soon as I got back. A faint and almost forgotten memory I believe you called me. Did you even care that I was still alive? At least the others appeared happy to see me still breathing. You just stood there acting as if it were any other day of the week. Then two months go by and I don’t hear anything from you. So you can go to hell. You want to stand there and spew bullshit about caring. Since when?! I seriously doubt you shed a tear for me when you thought I died in that fire. You left without saying anything to me for two years. No explanation, just gone. You didn’t care enough to miss me then. Fell in love my ass, you most likely saw the whore you used. And you got the balls to be pissed that I didn’t tell you. A child is the last thing you need right now, remember. Let’s not give your mother any false hope, does any of this ring a bell? I may have not told you and it’s because I refuse to depend on you. You made it clear already you don’t want me or a child."

"Is that what you believe?" He treaded through the steamy water ignoring the way his clothes tried to drag him down. She was already reaching for her clothes. He wasn’t going to let her leave. She swung at him, not liking his hand catching her arm. The nails scraping against his hand didn’t phase him. He spun her around to force her to face him. "I’ve always wanted you." He captured her mouth, willing her to give in to the kiss. The lips remained tight and taut beneath his own. Couldn’t she see, just how much she did mean to him. "It killed me to walk away for so long, I had no choice. It was either leave or do the unthinkable and make you mine. I didn’t want to hurt a friend, especially when I didn’t think the feelings were returned. I love you Keiko, do not doubt that."

"I don’t believe you, I’m sorry. Your pretty words mean nothing. I know what I saw, I know how you made me feel. You were at my wake, I was dead to you and you felt nothing. Even when I arrived, I looked into your face. How can you lie to me? Don’t do this just because of the baby. I do not want false emotions or promises. I didn’t ask them of you before and I won’t start now. Just don’t tell me you care when we both know the truth." Even now she couldn’t see any emotions on his face. He might have been reciting the dictionary for all the feeling he was putting behind it.

"What you saw was shock Keiko. Let me inform you of something." He tightened his grip on her arm. "You were not dead to me. Your parents and Yusuke might have given up on finding you but I hadn’t. Hiei and I were searching for you up until that day and I only went to your wake for the sake of my friendship with Yusuke. Another thing you may ask Yusuke if you want but I decided that after you were found I would no longer be stepping aside for him. I informed him of this the day I found out you were missing. I wasn’t sure how to handle seeing you again. All I heard was Kuwabara yelling your name. I ran out to see Saiki arriving not you. Everything slapped me at once, knowing you were both women. Seeing you as you were, appearing in the gown I’d brought you. I knew instantly why you’d been gone so long. What emotion would you like to see Keiko?" He brought a hand up to cup her cheek. The smooth skin pressed into his palm. His chest swelled at the simplest touch. "Should I show you my elation that you’ve come home? Or my anger finding out that you kept something from me? Or my desire to take you, just to prove to myself that you are really with me? I have no idea how to proceed with you. Do I show you my hurt? Would it make you feel better if I’d shown you the pain I had to endure watching you with Yusuke? Would it have been fair to let my anger be seen when neither of you could understand the cause? If you want the truth Keiko, then look at me."

His heart fell to his knees as she lifted her eyes to his face. The glossy sheen of tears were present, threatening to fall. "I’ve had to hide my feelings for so long. I believed that you would always love Yusuke, that there was no chance for me. It tore at me to spend time with you during the day knowing you were going to go home and into his bed. You have no idea how many nights I was tempted to kiss you, to see how you’d respond to my touch. The last evening we were together I almost let it slip so I left. I think you know which evening I’m referring to. I stopped by and you were making dinner. I sat with you until Yusuke called claiming to work late. I wanted to share your evening with you and not just dinner. To tell you that if it were me in Yusuke’s shoes I’d be rushing home. I don’t just want you for a lover, or because you carry my child. I want to come home to you. To know that you are waiting for me. I need to feel you in my arms as I drift off to sleep. I want you for my wife. I love you Keiko and I’ll tie you up if necessary to ensure that you don’t ever leave me again."

He couldn’t be telling the truth, she would have known. It was too much to believe that he’d been wanting her for that long and she hadn’t known. He lowered his mouth, lightly brushing it across her own. The touch was barely felt, she heard this intake of breath. The lips didn’t move, he was waiting for her reaction. Fingers entwined in her hair as she returned the pressure. She gasped as his tongue came out to taste her lips. The kiss deepened, his mouth began to dominate hers. So many emotions rushed through stunning her. He broke away placing chaste kisses along her jaw. His hand caressed her neck, the motion gentle. "I’m sorry, I didn’t know."

"You don’t have to apologize, I made sure you didn’t. I knew that if you returned even the minimum of emotions or lust that I felt I would have done whatever it took to have you. Part of me didn’t want just care, if I had you I wanted all of you." He was thankful for the soaked jeans as she threw herself against him. She took the next kiss, sweeping him up in a play for control. A moan escaped him unchecked, her body rubbing against him being the cause. A hand was playing with the buttons of his shirt. "Stop Keiko, it’s been too long for me. I don’t want to hurt you and this isn’t the place. I want you, oh gods Keiko." He closed his eyes as the hand cupped him over the jeans.

Keiko smiled as his mouth began to trail down her throat. The proof of that want was evident in her hand. She could feel the thickness straining to be released. Teeth scraped across her nape, raking the scar. He didn’t protest as she undid the last of the buttons. The damp shirt was tugged off of his shoulders. No time was lost before her fingers were on the button keeping the soaked material in place. The man sucking on her throat paused as it came unsnapped. The zipper went down allowing his cock to spring free. "Nothing underneath, I wasn’t expecting that. I took you for the silk boxer kind of guy. Do you always go without?"

"Yes," the word came out hissed as her fingers enclosed around him. He was sure his eyes were rolling in the back of his head. This wasn’t the place nor the time for this. He didn’t want her to think this was what he wanted. Oh gods, he wanted it. He wanted to thrust into her body, to see if it was as good as his memory claimed. It took a lot to wrench his cock from her grip. She pouted as he took a step back but he removed the jeans and placed them aside. There was one thing he couldn’t recall, the way she tasted. He’d never bothered with the act until after he’d lost her the first time. His cock jerked remembering being shoved down her hot throat.

A tremor of remorse filled her as he sunk to his knees in front of her. Arms went around her waist forcing her feet to move. His cheek pressed against her stomach as he held her. What was he thinking about? "Are you still angry that I didn’t tell you?" Did he want the baby? The long hair tickled the skin but she refrained from laughing. His left hand came around to caress the small bump already forming. A kiss was placed on the rise as he shook his head in denial. "Are you sure? If you don’t want a family."

"Stop, I’m sure. It was the last thing I needed at the moment. It would have bothered me having to be in constant contact with you and not being able to have you. It was the last thing I was expecting but it is our child. Though I’d like to know how it occurred. Madam informed me that all her girls took precautions against such things. Didn’t she give you something to take?" He placed another kiss on her stomach. Her fingers went into his hair as the next kiss was placed lower than the last.

"Um," She couldn’t think with what he was doing. His mouth was treading lower and was now on the top of her mound. "She gave me some pills to take once a week. I wasn’t sure what they were for so didn’t touch them." His tongue ran along the top of her sex. Heat filled her core, his hand was lifting up her leg. She blushed when he placed it upon his shoulder. Hot breath caressed her folds. Would he go through with it? Would it be like the time Yusuke had done so? She hadn’t cared for it then. "Kurama, I... oh my." Her voice choked in her chest as the wet muscle hit her jewel. A hand skillfully brushed across the now damp petals. Two fingers pushed the folds apart to expose her clit.

He ran his tongue over the swollen nerve enjoying how she tensed above him. Nails were starting to dig into his scalp as he suckled lightly. His lips latched over his target, he went to work on heightening her pleasure. A finger pressed into her body, dipping into the wet heat. He almost lost it feeling the walls clamp down. Why hadn’t he tried this with her before? Her taste lingered on his tongue as she cried out. Her breathing picked up and he inserted another finger. She was as hot and tight as he remembered. His name slipped pass the parted mouth and he ended things. "Not yet, I want to be inside you first."

She had no complaints until he seemed to be taking his time spreading his damp shirt on the ground. Her body ached for release. She didn’t care how they did it or where. He stretched a hand out to her after sitting down. She almost skipped into his lap, more than happy to oblige. The way there gave her time to judge the difference between his old form and this one. His erection was standing proud, waiting for her to climb onboard. It didn’t appear to be as long, perhaps two inches shorter but still nice. It meant not having to worry about it hurting if things got rough. She’d been sure Youko had been spearing her innards at times. The given was still at least three inches longer than what her husband had been. There wasn’t much difference in the girth that she could tell.

He let her climb over his hips, his legs straight out. His hands were placed at his sides helping to balance himself. He didn’t want to give into the temptation of pulling her down forcefully on his cock. Dainty fingers wrapped around him to guide the weeping tip to her opening. He knew almost nothing about her pregnancy. Was it a normal one? So many things they needed to discuss but right now the only sounds he wanted to hear from her were her moans as she rode him. His balls tightened in anticipation as she decided to tease him. He brushed against her tiny nerve and his hips bucked. Every nerve sprang to his cock as she rubbed it against the wet entrance, denying him what he needed. "Don’t test me Keiko."

She smirked seeing him trying to remain still. Would he let her set the pace, take control? Her senses screamed as she began to lower herself down. One hand gripped her waist forcing her down further. He cried out once she had most of him embedded inside her passage. There was no other movement for his part as she began to move up and down. Her eyes closed and she focused on the sensations she was causing. It wasn’t enough, so she leaned back and placed her hands behind her using his legs to help support some of her weight. "Ah yes," she bounced over him, impaling herself with each thrust. The tension coiled in her center with every stroke of him against her walls.

"Don’t stop," he reached between them to run a thumb over the slick folds. His eyes were glued to where they were joined. He was so close, at this rate he’d find release before she did. The muscles contracted around him when he rubbed the jewel being exposed. His cock was stretching her open, the petals clinging to his length every time she lifted herself. There was no way for him to last much longer with her wrapped around him so tight. Her warmth was squeezing him, the liquid heat coating him as she quickened her pace. His name came out as a harsh cry as the first signs of release began. He moved to pull her against his chest, his mouth capturing the one moaning out her pleasure. She shoved her tongue deep as she began to contract around him. Her hips grinded as his cock started throbbing in time with the quivering walls. "Keiko."

She held onto his shoulders as the last wave ebbed off. Hands were rapidly stroking her back as his breathing came in harsh pants. He remained semi-erect but she placed her head on his shoulder. A kiss was placed on her forehead. His weight shifted beneath her suddenly. "Mhmm, I don’t want to move. Can’t I just sit here for a few minutes?" She wanted to lay here and savor the feel of him so close.

"I’m afraid not. Seems Yusuke didn’t trust me out here with you. As far as I’m concerned he’ll never see you nude again. You belong to me now and I prefer if we went somewhere private. There is much we need to discuss and you will need some rest soon." He ignored the snort against his chest. He planned on discussing things on the drive to their destination. Wherever they ended up he was going to make up for loss time before falling asleep beside her. "I suggest we head to your place for the night until we figure out where we are going to end up living."

"No figuring about it," She glanced up at his confused look. "My business is here and so is our family and friends. Not to mention I doubt your mother will allow you to take the baby to another city. Then again I have no idea where the hell you do live since you made sure I didn’t know. Thinking on it, where have you been stashing yourself for the last two years? Or is it still going to be a secret?" She didn’t want to move too far away. But if it came to it she would. Anything to be with him.

He smiled and almost laughed. "Actually I live only about thirty miles outside of town, I didn’t go far. I just knew your life so it was easy to be avoided. I have a three bedroom place that’s large enough for us and the baby and you wouldn’t be that much further from your salon. I never went that far Keiko." He nuzzled her neck sensing that their unwelcome company would be there in under two minutes. "Get dressed now or I’ll have to apologize to Yukina for killing Yusuke. The sooner we leave, the sooner I get you completely alone. And I’m sure my cell phone has about a dozen messages on it by now. Shiori was quite insistent about me not acting like an ass. But you are warned, she’ll have you on the phone talking about wedding plans before the end of the night."

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