"Christmas Day Confessions "
"What is this Keiko?" Botan asked as she sat on the brown leather couch in front of the bay window in the Yukimoto living room, her amethyst orbs full of surprise as she took the three large wrapped boxes from her friend's outstretched hands before returning her gaze to Keiko who smiled happily.
"Merry Christmas Botan." She said with a joyful voice, her eyes twinkling as she sat down next to the deity. "Well," She added with a gentle nudge of her elbow. "What are you waiting for? Open them."
The deity had watched the Yukimoto family open their gifts with a smile, sharing in the joy that flooded the room, content to simply be with such a caring family. She hadn't expected to receive anything for the holiday. With a childlike smile, Botan sat the boxes to her left, lifting the top one off the pile and gently began to tear at the edges of the green gift wrap. "What is it?" She asked as she peeled more and more of the paper.
"You'll just have to open it completely to find out." Keiko replied, watching with a delighted smile as her friend continued her tearing.
At last the deity completed her task, pulling off the top of the box, a surprised gasp escaping her lips as she reached in and removed a lilac Cable knit Turtleneck sweater. She held it up and inspected it, instantly liking the design and the length.
"Do you like it?" Keiko asked.
Botan nodded. "Very much so." She replied, folding it neatly and sitting it on the glass coffee table in front of her while gathering the torn paper only to stop when Keiko spoke.
"Don't worry about that Botan. We'll pick it up later. Open the other two presents."
Botan sat the box beside the sweater and twisted sideways to pick up the next box wrapped in red which ended up containing three turtlenecks in solid shades of white, pink and lavender respectively. And the final box adorned in flashy gold paper held a new pair of blue jeans dyed in a light blue hue. The deity thanked Keiko profusely, giving her a quick hug before resting the jeans on top of the rest of the clothing.
"Everybody should have something to open on Christmas, Botan," Keiko said with a smile. "Besides, I know you don't have a lot of human clothing so I'd thought I'd help you out a little."
"You didn't have to." Botan countered as she began to pick up the torn paper and stuffed the stray pieces into the boxes on the table.
"I'm your friend remember?" Keiko said in a light tone, "And friends give gifts on the holidays."
Botan frowned, "But I didn't get you anything."
Keiko rolled her eyes. "And I didn't expect you to Botan. I know you've never participated in gift giving or receiving for that matter so stop worrying about it okay?"
"Okay." Botan conceded, a happy smile upon her lips as she looked at her new gifts. Keiko was right. The deity thought. It is fun to open presents.
An sudden ringing noise erupted in the kitchen, causing both the deity and Keiko to turn their heads in the direction of the sound.
"I wonder who that could be?" Keiko murmured as she rose and rushed over to the portable phone situated on the kitchen counter top a small distance away. "Yukimoto residence, Keiko speaking." The brown haired girl said in a polite voice, her eyes brightening and a smile lighting up her face as she listened to the caller speak. "Yes of course. One moment please." She said, walking back into the living room towards the couch.
Botan watched her friend approach, her features curious and her eyes questioning as Keiko stopped before her.
"It's for you." Keiko said with a teasing smile as she held out the phone which the deity took and brought up to her ear.
There was a slight pause on the other end, before a soft yet masculine voice spoke. "Good morning Botan."
Instantly, Botan's face brightened, recognizing the one speaking to her. "Good morning Kurama." She sang in a cheerful voice. "How are you?"
"I'm fine Botan. And you?"
Botan smiled as she replied, "I'm great."
"Good." Kurama said, pausing once again as if to collect his thoughts before continuing. "Are you doing anything important this morning?"
Botan frowned. "No not really. I was just watching Keiko open some presents. Why?"
Another pause, an intake of breath and then Kurama spoke once more. "I was wondering if you would like to go ice skating at Katagoi park."
Botan held her breath, too afraid to speak. That by doing so, she would break the spell that enchanted her thoughts and heart. That this was real and not some wonderful dream where Kurama was hers and they had all the time in the world together.
"Botan?" Kurama's voice filtered softly through the receiver when the deity didn't respond. "I mean you don't have to." He said with a uncertain tone, as if doubting she was still listening. "If ... there's something else you're doing, I understand."
Botan came out of her daze, realizing she was daydreaming when she should have been talking to the kitsune. Say yes! Her mind shouted and the deity had to bite her tongue from shouting her answer into the phone. "Yes." She started then stopped, shaking her head to correct herself. "I mean, no. I have no plans right now. I'd love to go."
"I'll see you in about 40 minutes then." Kurama said with a slight sigh of relief that didn't escape the deity's ear. "If that's not too soon."
The deity stifled a giggle at the sweet and boyish tone of his voice. A voice that made her want to reach through the phone and hug him. "That sounds fine. I'll see you then."
Keiko eyed the deity with a questioning gaze as she watched her shut off the phone and hand it back to her. "Well, what did he say?"
Botan looked up at Keiko. "He wants to take me ice skating."
"Oh?" The brown haired girl murmured softly, her features turning to concern as she noticed the thoughtful expression cross her friend's pretty face. "Do you know how to skate Botan?"
The deity shook her head. "No."
Keiko smirked. That's great! She thought, stifling the urge to rub her hands in glee. All the better for Botan to grow closer to Kurama! She had always felt if anyone should give Botan the happiness she deserved it would be Kurama. Some may harp that the two seemed the complete opposite of each other but that wasn't what the brown haired girl saw. The truth was that Botan and Kurama complimented each other. Opposites yes, but not completely. There were similarities as well. And they will make a great couple! I just know they will! "Well, It's not that hard to learn Botan. I'm sure Kurama will be more than willing to teach you the mechanics of ice skating." Keiko said in a reassuring tone as she wave the deity to stand up. "Now then, why don't you get dressed and I'll see if I can find you a pair of ice skates that will fit you."
"But I'm already dressed." Botan said, looking down out her yellow sweatshirt and dark blue jeans.
"I meant your new clothes silly." Keiko replied, pointing down to the new clothing she had received for Christmas.
"Oh. Yes of course." Botan said with a smile as she picked up her gifts and headed to the spare room to change while Keiko smiled and shook her head before heading to the garage in search of a pair of ice skates for the deity.
Kurama walked briskly up the pathway that led to the Yukimoto residence, stuffing the keys to his car in the right pocket of his black squall jacket, his matching hiking boots crunching through the snow that had accumulated the night before. He got within the steps of the door when it opened slowly, revealing a smiling Botan decked out in the same powder blue parka he had seen her wearing yesterday, a pair of white skates tied at the laces slung over her right shoulder. His eyes took in the light blue jeans and light brown leather hikers, a smile lighting up his face. Now matter what she wore, she always looked good to him. Do you have any idea how beautiful you are? He longed to ask her as his gaze returned to her breathtaking countenance. Do you have any idea what I feel for you at all my deity?
"Um .. Kurama?"
The kitsune blinked, the spell broken by her soft voice. He shook his head slightly, clearing his thoughts, mildly abhorred that he had not only been staring but had been caught doing it. "I'm sorry Botan." He said apologetically. "Are you ready to go?"
The deity nodded and with a shy smile walked down the steps and onto the snow laden ground while a chagrined Kurama followed. He wanted her to have a good time. To enjoy some of the more simpler things that humans did. Not only because he secretly loved her, but because she deserved some fun and play. Lord knows she does so much and with so little thanks or reward. He thought as he opened the passenger side front door for her before shutting it and walking over to his side and hopping in. He started his vehicle, sliding his seat belt on before putting the car into drive. Kurama drove through the congested streets and fast paced lifestyle of Tokyo, heading towards the more heavily forested areas to the north where Katagoi park awaited their arrival.
Katagoi park was situated on a heavily forested parcel of land a half hour drive outside the city borders. But it was best known as a travel destination for ice skating enthusiasts, boasting one of the largest public access lakes that froze during the winter months. Today was no exception. Skaters of all ages were decked out in colorful winter attire. Some more proficient in their abilities than others. Couples held on to each others hands, throwing occasional affectionate glances as they traced the shorelines of the frozen lake, while kids laughed and squealed in delight as they played around, their smiling and patient parents close behind to keep watch over their charges.
Botan sat upon a wooden bench near the shoreline of the lake, bent at the waist as she struggled to lace up her skates. She tried to remain calm, but her hands wouldn't comply with her mind, shaking with every loop around the hook she made. What is wrong with me? She thought in frustration. Why am I so nervous? It's just ice skating for crying out loud! I can do this! A frown appeared upon her face as another thought entered her consciousness. Is it because this is the first time I've been alone with Kurama without some impending threat?
The deity stopped her struggle when Kurama's hand came into view and rested upon her shaking hands. With widened eyes she turned her gaze to the left where the kitsune sat beside her, his skates laced and tied, ready to go.
"Let me help you." He said with a kind smile as he slid off the bench to crouch in front of her feet and lowered his head to study the laces for a few seconds before he began to complete the job the deity had started on the right skate.
Botan stared at the fiery crown of the kitsune, a tender smile gracing her lips. Her heart lightened at the thought of him. He was so considerate and kind. I only wish I could look upon his face, just to see if any emotion beyond kindness lingered there. She thought as she watched him tie up the right skate then move over to the left.
"You know Botan," His voice came out calm and even as he laced up the left skate. "I realize this is your first time ice skating."
Botan stared at him in surprise. "You knew that?"
Kurama nodded, tying up the other skate as he leaned back on his haunches so that his emerald orbs met the amethyst ones of the deity. "And I promise to be gentle."
Botan blushed. She couldn't help it. The thought that entered her mind at that instant had nothing whatsoever to do with ice skating. Oh dear. She thought as she cast her eyes downward.
Kurama noticed her reaction to his words and looked at her in concern. Did I embarrass her again? He wondered, though his voice was light, almost teasing. "Don't tell me you're afraid to try something new and different?"
Botan's blush deepened. I've got to get a hold of myself. We are not dating. We're just good friends. She rationalized. "No." She said softly as she tilted her head back , her eyes meeting his. She wanted to drown in his eyes. Stare and stare again until all that remained was an emotion as intense and pure as the one she was feeling right now. To look upon him with the eyes of a lover without shame or guilt. Gathering herself, she continued. ""I'm just a little nervous that's all."
Kurama gave her a comforting smile. "I assure you, there is nothing to be nervous about. I will be by your side the whole time." He replied, rising to his feet, maintaining perfect balance while holding out his left hand to her. "My lady." He said softly, looking down at her with warm eyes.
Botan drew her eyes reluctantly away from his handsome face to his outstretched hand. With a shy smile, she clasped his hand and nodded.
Kurama pulled her gently to her feet, clasping the deity's other hand as he noticed her struggle to maintain balance, aware this was a new experience for her. He led her slowly onto the ice, an encouraging smile still upon his lips as he made sure she could stand without too much assistance.
Botan continued to move forward in baby steps, her legs wobbly and unsure as she continued to look down at the ice below her feet, trying to maintain her balance.
Kurama released her hands, moving up to her forearms, keeping her steady while gliding gracefully backwards, pulling her along with him while giving her instructions on the basics of ice skating. "See the jagged metal at the front of your skate Botan?" He asked in a gentle tone.
The deity nodded.
"That serves not only to propel you forward but to stop your momentum as well." He continued. "I want you to take your right foot and tilt it downward at a slight angle."
"Like this?" Botan asked, following the kitsune's directions.
"Yes. Now push off with that foot, repeat the process with the left then go back to the right and so on and so forth."
Botan did as she was told, a child like gasp of delight escaping in a burst of vapor as she found herself glide easily forward. "I'm doing it!" She cried in joy moving forward at a much faster rate than before, Kurama still leading her along.
Kurama nodded, a warm smile upon his lips as he spoke. "You're doing great Botan."
The two of them practiced for several more minutes until Kurama asked, "Ready to try on your own?"
Botan cast her gaze downward, her confidence still not up to the way her heart felt. "Do I have to?" She asked in an almost pleading tone that struck a chord within the kitsune's heart.
She has so little faith in herself. He thought sadly. Kurama didn't understand it. Well, I won't allow her to doubt herself anymore. He vowed as he stopped his movement. "Come here Botan." He said softly before drawing the deity gently into his arms.
Botan was startled to say the least. She had only been in Kurama's arms on a few occasions and each time had been a life or death situation that left no room for formalities. And now here he was with his arms wrapped around her, his chin resting on top of her head, holding her close to him as if that was were she belonged. The deity rested her head against his jacket, closing her eyes as she drew strength from him and the words he spoke.
"I don't know why you doubt yourself so much. But Botan, there is something I want you to know." He paused, making sure she was paying attention before continuing. "I have faith in you. I believe in you. I know you can do anything if you set your mind to it. So what do you say? Give it a try."
Botan pulled back slightly, daring to look up into those pools of green, a sense of awe filling her as she saw that same tender look from yesterday. Kurama believes in me! Her mind cried as she straightened her frame and smiled. "I will do my best."
Kurama loosened his hold, already missing the warmth of her body against his as he skated about forty feet away, giving her plenty of room to practice. Turning around, he faced the deity and waited for her to begin.
Botan pushed off one foot, then the other, just as she had practiced. With each push she made, the more her confidence grew. I'm really doing it! She cried mentally as her speed increased. The deity laughed in merriment only to let out a cry as she suddenly found herself going way too fast, heading straight for a wide eyed Kurama.
The kitsune could have easily dodged the speeding deity but he held his ground, not wanting to see her hurt, so he met her and took the full brunt of the impact.
Botan crashed headlong into Kurama, letting out a gasp as they both rocketed towards the icy ground.
Kurama reacted instinctively, wrapping his arms around her waist, cushioning her fall with his body as he landed onto his back, undamaged by the fall. He held her tightly against him, not daring to move, allowing Botan time to recover from the shock.
The deity lay on top of the kitsune, her face buried in his chest, mortified by her action. I can't believe I ran right into him at full speed! She berated herself. He probably thinks I'm a klutz. Still, she didn't want to move. The feel of him against her, erasing any embarrassment she felt. The deity drew in a breath, smiling at how clean he smelled. Clean yet masculine at the same time.
A low rumble erupted from Kurama's chest.
Botan's features twisted into confusion as she brought her head up, resting her chin on his chest as she stared up at him, her eyes registering a surprise that her ears already acknowledged.
He was laughing. Kurama was laughing!
Botan couldn't believe it. Never before had she heard Kurama laugh. He always seemed too serious and reserved for such silly things. And yet here he was, laughing, his emerald eyes full of mirth as he sought out the deity's awe struck amethyst orbs.
"Well you certainly know how to go, I guess I need to teach you how to stop eh?" He said though his chuckle.
Botan stuck her tongue out at him but her features were amused. "Yes, it seems my instructor neglected to mention that important information."
Kurama let out a sigh and gave her a reassuring hug. "So I did."
Botan blushed, turning her head sideways, her eyes widening as she witnessed several skaters looking at them as if they had lost their minds. "Kurama?"
"Don't you think we should get up now? People are beginning to stare at us."
Let them stare. Kurama thought, enjoying where he was at the moment. But his emotions soon gave way to reason. He didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable or awkward. And I'm embarrassing her again. He thought with an inward sigh. "Of course." He said softly, releasing his hold, freeing the deity from his grip.
Botan rested her palms on the kitsune's torso, taking a mental note at the toned muscles she could feel beneath the fabric of the jacket as she pushed gently off him and onto her feet.
Kurama followed a few seconds later, straightening his jacket around the waist of his light blue jeans.
Botan did the same, her features apologetic as she spoke. "I'm sorry Kurama."
Kurama gave her a tender smile. "There is nothing to be sorry about Botan." He said softly as he reached out and tucked a few strands of stray blue hair around the surprised deity's ear. "You can run into me any time."
A sudden silence lingered as the two gazed into each other's eyes, neither able to put into words what was going on in their hearts. Kurama retracted his hand, caressing the deity's cheek with the back of his fingers, before returning his arm to his side.
Botan opened her mouth, about to speak, when a sudden cry erupted through the air.
"MY CHILD! WHERE IS MY DAUGHTER! YUMI WHERE ARE YOU!"
The kitsune and the deity whipped their heads in the direction of the voice.
A dark haired woman dressed in a snow white parka and black jeans was skating frantically around, her frightened brown eyes darting about as she searched the crowd of skaters for her child. "YUMI! ANSWER ME!"
"Where could the little girl be?" Botan asked as she looked away from the frightened woman, and the other skaters who began to call out the girl's name, to the kitsune.
"I'm not sure." He replied as he sought out any distressful chi with his spirit awareness. Kurama tilted his head to the side, his sensitive ears picking up the faint sound of ice being scrapped from below the surface and an even fainter heart beat. He closed his eyes, his handsome features a mask of concentration and urgency as he shut out all but that particular sound, isolating it, shifting his body to his left as he finally located it. His eyelids snapped open and he skated forward at a blinding speed towards the center of the lake, paying no heed to the shouts of skaters warning not to get too close. Someone already has! His mind snarled as he came to a stop, his eyes searching the ice before him, the precarious ground beginning to crack under his weight. A flash of purple caught his eye then disappeared.
There! His mind shouted. Raising his spiritual energy, he brought his right skate up and then down on the ice, breaking through the glacial barrier, his lean body falling into the icy water from the size of the hole his attack had created. A frigid stab of pain, like thousands of needles, wrapped around the entirety of the kitsune's body but he quickly stifled the urge to scream. Any normal human would have succumbed instantly to the icy grip of hypothermia but Kurama was not normal, and certainly not about to give in to a little pain and discomfort. Not when someone's life was on the line.
He swept his gaze around the clear water, darkened by the ice above, searching for some sign of the child's whereabouts. He had seen her pass by, where could she have gone? Remembering the direction of her movement, Kurama swam at a slight angle to his right, looking every which way for the girl. At last he spotted her floating under a patch of ice, her little frame still. With a frown, the kitsune swam over to her, the pain becoming more unbearable with each stroke. His lungs were starved of air and his vision was becoming blurred.
Come on! Almost there! He told himself as he put more energy into one last stroke, reaching out to retrieve the child. He cradled her close to him with his right arm while clenching his free hand. With a powerful thrust , he struck upwards with his left fist, blasting a hole through the ice, his hand erupting through the glacial barrier. He sought purchase with his left arm, bracing himself halfway out of the water, gulping greedily for air as he pulled the girl out of the water and gently laid her on the ice in front of him, pushing her a few feet away from the hole before sliding face first out of the frigid liquid. He shivered violently, a weary sigh escaping his lips as his tired emerald orbs studied the still form of the little girl.
Gathering more spiritual energy, Kurama braced himself, bringing his legs forward, resting briefly on his calves as he reached out and touched the girl's blue tinged neck, frowning when he felt no pulse. He could sense her life force fading. With no more time to waste, he closed his eyes and concentrated, passing his hand over the girl's chest. A coughing sound erupted from the cracked lips of the child, water gurgling out. Kurama quickly turned her to the side, the water escaping her lungs as she fought for air. That's right. Breathe little one. Breathe. He encouraged mentally, turning his head to the side as caught sight of a group of people skating towards him. Botan in tow.
"Kurama!" She shouted, the fear and anxiety in her voice drawing his attention to her, the concern she exhibited for his safety warming his heart and lifting his soul as he swept the child into his arms and slowly rose to his feet. He made his way to the safer shore line, handing the girl over to the weeping mother who gazed in fear and concern at her child, before collapsing on his knees in exhaustion.
"Kurama?!" Botan cried, falling beside him, wrapping her arms around his shivering body, holding him tightly against her, concern gripping her heart as she felt how cold he was. She held him all the tighter, ignoring the wet clothing that clung to his skin, offering the warmth of her body in return.
"I'm ... Fine Botan." He said in a hoarse whisper, resting the back of his tired head against her shoulder as he looked over to the mother who cradled the child in her arms.
"Yumi?" The woman whispered in a pained voice, shaking the child gently, her features brightening in relief as the little girl opened her eyes several seconds later.
"Mother?" She murmured, her skin returned to a normal hue, free of the effects of the frigid water thanks to the kitsune's healing powers.
"Oh my baby! My baby!" The woman cried, kissing her child repeatedly on the forehead and head, crushing her close to her chest as she turned her gaze over to Kurama. "Thank you! Thank you!" She sang, tears streaming down her face.
Kurama nodded, some strength returning to him as the effects of the icy water began to fade. His body began the process of repairing itself as he watched the woman carry the child off the ice onto the sidewalk of the park, several onlookers and family members in tow.
Those that remained looked at the kitsune with a mixture of awe and reverence as Botan helped Kurama to his feet.
The kitsune wrapped his left arm around the deity's neck ,just as Botan wrapped her right arm around his waist, allowing her to lead him back to shore.
Applause and shouts of "Good job young man! Good job!" Erupted around him as he made it to the bench and collapsed onto it, letting out a sigh as he leaned back and closed his eyes. God he was tired. So very tired. His eyelids fluttered open as he felt the light caress of fingers upon his right cheek. Turning his head to the side, his eyes met the worried ones of Botan.
"Yes Botan?" He said in a sleepy voice that caused the deity to frown.
"You need to get out of those wet clothes. You'll catch cold."
Silence reigned for several seconds before Kurama spoke. "There is no need to worry." He answered softly, his voice reassuring as he returned his gaze to the veiled sky above. "I'll be fine in a few moments."
Botan bit her lip, wanting to believe him. But the fear in her heart would not abate. Reaching out, the deity rested her hand upon Kurama's, caressing his skin with her thumb. "But I do worry about you Kurama."
The kitsune, tilted his head downward, his emerald orbs brimming with surprise and delight at how the deity held onto him, reveling in the contact of her skin upon his. He said nothing. Merely waited for Botan to continue.
"I was so scared when I saw you drop through the ice. I thought ...." Botan's voice trailed off, unable to say the words, to talk about the situation she dreaded more than anything else.
"You were afraid I would die?" He asked softly, understanding crossing his features as he looked over to the deity who nodded.
"Yes." She answered in a pained whisper as she leaned sideways to rest her head upon his shoulder. "I know it was silly to think you wouldn't survive, but still .. "
Kurama gently removed his hand from under the deity's.
Botan's face grew pensive, her heart hurt as she imagined how bubble headed he must think of her only to gasp as she felt his arm go around her back and pull her close to him. She ignored how wet his jacket was, ignored thoughts that told her she shouldn't be doing this, shouldn't be getting to close to the kitsune. But my heart wants this, needs this. She countered, snuggling into his chest.
"I'm not ready to leave this world just yet Botan." He whispered as he rested his head against hers. "There are many things left undone and people to share experiences with." He paused, his tone turning lighter as he continued. " Although I could have done without that last incident." He added, reaching up with his free hand to brush away the strands of hair mopped upon his brow, smiling as he felt his strength return completely.
"Were you afraid?" Botan asked softly, "Afraid you might die saving that child?"
"No." He answered without hesitation, though a wiry smile lit up his face as he added. "Because then I'd get to see you on a more regular basis."
Botan smiled but her tone was serious as she replied, "That's not very funny Kurama."
"I suppose not." He conceded, releasing his hold around the deity though his eyes remained upon her face. "Well, I guess we should get out of these skates and head back home. I sure you have things to do before you get ready for the party tonight." He paused, noticing the look of concern on her face. "You still want to go don't you Botan?"
Botan nodded slowly.
"Then what's wrong?" He asked. "You seemed troubled."
Botan sighed. "It's just that .. " She started, then stopped, looking away from him.
"I don't know if I should." She said in a soft tone, turning her gaze back upon him. "After what happened today ..."
Kurama silenced her with his index finger, pressing it gently upon her lips. "I'm fine now Botan. So it will be no trouble escorting you." He replied, lowering his hand to gaze at her reverently. "Besides, I like spending time with you."
Botan blushed. "And I like spending time with you."
"Then it's settled." Kurama replied softly as he bent over and began to unstrap his laces.
Botan did the same, replacing her skates with the boots from the black back pack they had used to store their footwear before handing Kurama his boots.
Once ready, the two returned to the car and headed back to Tokyo to prepare for the party.
Kurama arrived at the Yukimoto house around 7 PM, shutting off the engine to his car as he checked the black banded watch strapped around his left wrist. I'm a little early. He thought with a frown as he lowered his arm and turned his attention to the long black velvet box resting in the front passenger seat. His features softened as he thought about the gift he would be giving her. But will she like it? He wondered. He didn't want to move too fast, didn't want to overwhelm her with the feelings he had been carrying for so long. But who knows how many more chances I'll have to tell her. He countered, his features going determined as he took the key out of the ignition. Full of resolve, he reached out and gently clasped the box, cradling it against his side as he opened the door to his car and quickly hopped out. He slid the box into the right side pocket of his navy top coat as his black dress shoed feet walked across the now shoveled walkway, ambling up the steps before reaching out to push the buzzer on the left side of the door. He stood patiently, clasping his brown leathered gloved hands behind him as he waited. A few seconds later, the door opened and a dolled up Keiko greeted him with a friendly smile, her brown hair styled, her slender frame attired in a simple black evening gown which matched the color of the high heels strapped upon her feet.
"Good evening Kurama," She said in a cheerful voice. "You're a little early but that's okay."
"Good evening Keiko." Kurama greeted in return. "You look nice."
"Thanks, I hope Yusuke agrees." She said walking past the kitsune as he removed his shoes, sitting them in the appropriate spot before taking off his top coat, revealing a tailored single breasted black suit with an equally tailored white dress shirt and red silk tie. He slung the coat over his right forearm, walking his black dress socked feet through the entryway towards the living room, his eyes admiring the well lit tree that still stood in the open corner.
"Why don't you have a seat on the couch Kurama." Keiko offered as she headed towards the stairs, "And I'll go see if Botan's ready okay?"
Kurama nodded, lowering himself down onto the leather clad couch while Keiko disappeared upstairs.
Keiko rushed down the carpeted hall as fast as her high heeled feet would go, coming to a stop in front of the closed door that marked the entrance to the bathroom. She brought up her right hand and tapped gently on the door. "Hey Botan, are you ready yet?"
"Almost." Botan's muffled voice answered. "I'm just deciding whether to wear my hair up or down."
"Wear it down." Keiko replied, "I bet Kurama will love it down."
"Are you sure?"
"Why don't you ask him?" Keiko replied with a wiry smile, "He's here right now."
A rustling sound could be heard and suddenly the door opened, an surprised Botan sticking her head part way out the door. "Really?" She asked.
Keiko nodded. "He's waiting for you downstairs as we speak. So hurry up will you?"
Botan stuck her head back inside and shut the door. "Tell him I'll be right there."
Keiko nodded and headed back downstairs. Her brown eyes quickly spotted the red haired man upon her couch. With a smile she spoke. "Botan will be down in just a minute."
Kurama nodded, his features calm although his heart was racing. Racing at the thought of spending an evening with the deity. At the thought that tonight was the night he was going to tell her. To confess his love openingly and without fear. His heart began to race even faster as Botan rounded the corner, a vision that took his breath away. Her blue hair hung in lush arcs around her bare shoulders, accenting the strapless pink evening gown. The tailored material fit wonderfully around her slender frame, the space between the bodice and along the bottom of the dress tastefully decorated with white lace adorned in a floral design of lavender shaded roses. Roses. Kurama thought with an awestruck gaze that traveled up and down her body. She was simply breathtaking. My beautiful deity. His mind sighed in enchantment. "Botan, you .. Are simply stunning." He managed to sound out from his parched throat as he rose to his feet.
Botan cast her gaze downward to hide the blush that was surely upon her face. "Thank you." She whispered shyly.
Keiko frowned. At this rate they'll never confess their feelings for each other. She thought with a shake of her head. Clapping her hands together, she got their attention. "Why don't you two go on ahead and Yusuke and I will catch up with you at the party."
The deity and the kitsune nodded in unison, heading towards the entryway, Kurama to slide his shoes back on and the deity to retrieve the long black dress coat that belonged to Keiko's mother. The pair headed silently to the car, getting in and heading off to Sarasaki High where the Christmas party was being held.
"Hey you guys over here!" Kuwabara's jovial voice shouted above the music and conversing that filled the darkened auditorium decorated in piles of fake snow and artificial pines, the words : WINTER WONDERLAND spread out like a welcoming banner above the DJ that was complying with the latest request of the dancing crowd, a fast moving number that energized them in a frenzy of complicated moves, some tasteful others tasteless, on the wooden floor.
Kurama offered his arm to Botan, walking gracefully over to the white clothed table the orange haired man was seated at, a smiling Yukina sitting to his left, a pretty pale green dress accenting the mint tinged locks that flowed around her bare shoulders.
"You guys look nice." The ice demon said with her usual soft voice as she brought her left hand to pick up the cup of soda in front of her, the tennis bracelet shining upon her wrist.
"You too." Botan replied, shifting her gaze over to Kuwabara who spoke.
"Man Botan, that's a really fancy dress, it looks great on you!" The tall man said with a smile as he adjusted the sleeve to his navy suit jacket as he sat back down.
Kurama looked at Kuwabara with guarded eyes as he took a seat opposite the larger man, Botan to his right.
Kuwabara noticed this and held up his hands. "Relax Kurama, I'm just giving her a compliment."
The kitsune shook his head, frowning at the tinge of jealously that struck his heart. "I understand Kuwabara. And I agree with your assessment. She looks very nice in that dress."
Botan blushed furiously, not used to receiving so many compliments.
Kurama reached out and clasped her hand in his, giving her a gentle squeeze as if reassuring her it was true. That he really did find her attractive.
"So you guys," Kuwabara began, "Where's Urameshi and Keiko? That jerk better not have bailed on her. Or I'll have to pop him one." He said only cry out in pain as something smacked into the back of his head. "What the hell ... ?" He growled, snapping his gaze behind him, while rubbing the back of his throbbing head. His eyes widened at the sight of an irritated Yusuke decked out in a simple black suit with a white shirt and a blue silk tie.
"I'm right behind you doofus!" He growled back.
"Well you didn't have to hit me Urameshi!"
"Maybe that will teach you to not talk about people behind their backs!" Yusuke countered, glaring down at his friend.
"Whatever," Kuwabara grumbled, lowering his hand, his dark orbs searching the area for some sign of his best friend's girlfriend. "Where's Keiko?"
Yusuke shrugged his shoulders. "She said she had to go to the bathroom, so I guess that's where she is." He answered as he took a seat to the right of Kuwabara. His brown eyes shifted over to the kitsune and the deity, a smirk gracing his lips. "Well, now. Looks like the beautiful deity of death has netted herself a live one." He said in a teasing voice, that caused the deity to glare at him, her features darkening even further as the spirit detective let out a laugh. "So when's the wedding date?" He added, shifting his amused gaze over to the kitsune who studied Yusuke with narrowed gold hued eyes. "Whoa Kurama," He said, raising his arms defensively. "Relax will ya, I'm only joking around."
Kurama let out a sigh, his gold flecked orbs returning to their emerald hue. "It was not amusing Yusuke."
The dark haired spirit detective let out a sigh. Man, Kurama really is protective of her. He thought as he studied them. He must truly love her. A smile tugged at the corners of his lips and this time it was a happy one. He shifted his gaze behind his shoulder as he saw Keiko approach, a cup in her right hand which she sat on the table to Yusuke's right.
"Hello guys!" She said cheerfully, looking around the table with twinkling brown orbs that rested at last upon her boyfriend. "Hey handsome." She whispered, leaning down to kiss his cheek. "How about a dance?"
Yusuke grinned ear to ear, rising up out of his seat. "You got it." He replied, snaking his arm around her waist as he led her out to the dance floor.
Kuwabara rose as well, holding his hand out to Yukina. "Come my love, to the dance floor we go."
Yukina giggled at his silly way of address, taking his outstretched hand and rising from her seat and following him to the dance floor.
Kurama smiled, shaking his head as his male friends tried their best to dance to the beat while holding onto their partners. Oh well, he thought with a sigh as he looked back to Botan. They love them, that's all that matters. His smile fell as he noticed how quiet the deity had become. Reaching out he tapped Botan's shoulder. The deity brought her gaze up, her eyes full of worry. "Botan what's wrong?"
The deity bit her lip as she looked away from him. "I don't know how to dance very well."
"Well that's nothing to be ashamed of." Kurama said in a gentle voice. "If you look out there most of the other people here don't know how to dance yet they are having a good time."
"I know it's just .. I'm a little nervous."
Kurama rose to his feet. "Then I will show you how to dance and you'll no longer be nervous." He said softly, holding out his hand for her to take.
Botan looked up at him, into those emerald eyes that promised her the world and nodded, taking his hand and following where he led.
Once onto the dance floor, Kurama turned to face Botan, placing his left hand upon the deity's right hip while clasping her left hand with his right. He pulled her closer to him and spoke. "Place your hand on my left side Botan and we'll be ready to go."
Botan nodded and complied, her heart racing as he began to twirl her around the dance floor, leading her through the steps, studying her foot work, gently correcting her until she began to get the gist of it, flowing along with him, as they continued to dance for several minutes. They took a breather for a few seconds before starting up a new, dancing through the next five songs before the music began to slow down. The couples drew closer to one another, women draping their arms over their boyfriends shoulders while the men wrapped their arms around their date's waists and pulled them close.
Botan looked around, wondering if she should do that as well when Kurama answered for her, pulling the deity close to him, his words gentle and tender. "It's okay Botan. I won't hurt you."
Botan smiled shyly, lifting her arms and wrapping them around Kurama's neck, her heart beating frantically as he gaze into her eyes with such love and affection she didn't know what to say.
No words were needed. Everything they wanted to say was reflected in their eyes. And so they remained until the end of the song. The lights brightened and the DJ announced a break while the dancers returned to their table for a much needed break.
Kurama pulled reluctantly away from the deity, a smile upon his lips as he led Botan back to the table, holding onto her hand the whole time.
They spoke lightly on several different subjects, chatting with their friends and dancing for a while longer before the hour grew late and it was time to return.
Kurama walked Botan up the driveway towards the steps of Keiko's, casting a glance every now and again over towards the deity who would catch him and smile shyly.
Finally unable to stand any more she asked, "What?"
Kurama smiled, turning away from her. "Nothing." He said softly.
Botan wasn't buying his innocent act. "Come on. Tell me."
Kurama shook his head, a wiry smile upon his lips. "Nothing." He repeated in the same soft tone that was driving the deity crazy.
Why won't he tell me what he's thinking about? She wondered as she walked up the steps, stopping to turn around, her eyes full of questions as she studied the man before her. "I had a wonderful time this evening."
Kurama smiled. "I'm glad." He said evenly, but inside his heart was screaming at him to tell her how he felt.
They stared at each other for a few moments, neither wanting to leave the sight of the other.
"Okay then," Botan said, the disappointment evident in her voice. She had hoped for some sign of affection from Kurama. Some words that spoke the truth of his heart. She had believed she had been reading the signals right, that he had some interest in her above the level of friendship, but every time it seemed they were growing closer, something would happen or Kurama would pull away. As if he wanted to tell her something but was afraid to do so. And what does that make me? She wondered. How can he express anything for me when I haven't told him how I feel? With a shake of her head she cleared her thoughts and gave him a polite smile to hide the confusion and uncertainty in her heart. "I guess we should call it a night." She added, turning to open the door only to gasp as she felt Kurama's arms wrap around her.
"Wait," He whispered softly, his breath brushing against her exposed neck, the contact causing a pleasant shiver to run down her spine. "There's something I must give you." He added, releasing his hold slowly as he pulled away and backed down the step.
Botan's heart raced as she turned around to face him. Could this be it? She wondered as she waited for him to continue.
Kurama swallowed the lump in his throat, his heart threatening to jump out of his chest as he tried to find the right words to tell her, the right way to let her know he cared about her, desired her, loved her. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the box and presented it to her.
"What is this?" She asked, looking down at the box she took out of his hands.
"A gift. From my heart." He said softly, trying hard to appear calm when all he wanted to do was sweep Botan into his arms and kiss her to within an inch of her life.
Botan flipped open the lid, curious eyes studying the red cloth as she began to part it. A gasp escaped her throat as her amethyst pools gazed down in shock at the piece of jewelry before her. "Oh my God." She whispered in awe and amazement. With trembling hands she scooped out the necklace, dropping the box as she held it up to inspect it.
"Do you like it?" He asked, his strained voice betraying his erratic heart beat as he waited for her to reply.
Botan didn't know what to say. Her eyes brimmed with tears. An Amethyst jewel. A jewel that matched her eyes. No one had ever given her such a gift. No one. "I ... Love it!" She cried, running into his arms and hugging him fiercely.
Kurama hugged her back, sharing in her joy. They remained this way for several seconds until at last the deity pulled away.
"Kurama? .. Why did you give me this gift?"
The kitsune willed himself calm, gathering the courage to say what was in his heart. "Because I love you. I've loved you from the moment I laid eyes on you."
Botan gasped. Did I just hear that right?!Her mind cried in surprise, her knees going weak from his confession. She fell towards the ground but was caught by a concerned Kurama.
"Botan? Botan are you all right?" He asked in a pained voice as he pulled her up to her feet, lending her strength.
Botan tilted her head back, searching his face, making sure this was real, that the words he spoke were sincere. "You ... Love me?" She murmured.
Kurama stifled a laugh at how shocked she sounded. "Is that so hard to believe?" He asked, reaching out to caress her cheek with his right hand. "Is that really so hard to believe my beautiful deity?"
Botan cast her eyes downward, "Yes."
Kurama frowned, not expecting the answer he received. "You don't think I love you?"
"I don't doubt your word," Botan said, her legs gaining strength as she stood unsupported once more. "I just don't understand how you could find me beautiful when there are so many other woman more attractive than me."
"Not in my eyes." He whispered in a loving tone that almost caused the deity to collapse again. "And not in my heart." He added as he reached out and tucked the index finger of his right hand under her chin, tilting her head up until their eyes met. "There is no other woman in any of the three realms that compares to you. You are the light of my soul Botan. The one who drives the loneliness away from my heart. The love of my life. The woman I want to as my wife. You are all to me. You and you alone. I love you."
Tears fell down the ferry girl's cheeks. At last the gift she had always wanted had been delivered, her wish granted. No longer did she feel alone and unloved. The man she had loved all this time, truly loved her in return. "And I love you." She whispered softly.
Kurama's heart soared as he lowered his hand and reached out, wrapping his arms around the ferry girl's waist and pulling her towards him. He lifted her off the ground and began to twirl her around. "Say it again for me please." He said with a joyful laugh.
"I love you! I love you Kurama!" Botan sang as the kitsune twirled her around, her laughter mixing with his until at last the red haired man lowered her slowly onto the ground, his eyes full of desire and affection as he leaned down and brushed his lips against hers, gentle at first, sweet and innocent only to deepen as the deity responded, unleashing all the pent up emotions and longing that had accumulated over the three years they had known each other. They stood like this for sometime, reveling in each others touch until at last the need to breathe became essential and they broke apart, looking at one another in surprise and delight.
Kurama pulled the deity close to him, leaning down to rest his forehead against hers as he spoke. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner." He said softly. "I've wanted to for so long, but the time never seemed right to tell you."
"I understand." Botan said as she reached out and traced his jaw with her right hand. "I'm just sorry that I didn't have a gift for you."
The kitsune beamed at her, no longer in need of a mask to hide his emotions as he gazed down into the eyes of the one who had cured him of his loneliness. "Your love is the only gift I need." He replied and with that he brought his lips upon hers and kissed her again.