"You want me to do what? When?" Kuwabara asked, slightly baffled. It was seven in the morning; he was still in his pajamas, telephone in one hand and holding his toothbrush in the other. On the other line, voice hoarse and raw sounding, was his best friend.

"I said, c’mon over and cook me some soup."

"Wh- I got a life, you know! Call Yukimura!" Gesturing with his toothbrush, the redhead cursed loudly when toothpaste splattered on the kitchen tiles and only paused when the coughs from Yuusuke’s end got worse.

Come on, youkai didn’t get sick!

"What, you catch a cold?"

"Nah…Think it’s something else. Got a rash an’ all…"

A sigh,"Call Keiko, she’ll be happy t’take care of you."

"I don’t wanna. Besides," Another pause and more coughing. "She’s at some class or something. I know you ain’t got anything to do on the weekend."

"I do too! Maybe I was gonna go out, you know, HAVING A LIFE?"

"God–All I do is ask a favor an’ you just gotta be a jackass, huh? Fuck you!"

Ear ringing from Yuusuke’s shouting, Kuwabara felt slightly guilty as the other line went dead. Favor? Sounded like every other time Yuusuke spoke to him; demanding and rude. Not a favor. Urameshi asking for something was unnatural. Maybe Kuwabara had never heard him ask for anything, and that wasa request. He had sounded like warmed over crap…

Guilty conscience getting the better of him, Kuwabara finally hung the phone up, loathing the day he’d met Yuusuke and walked straight to his room to dress. At least this way, Yuusuke would owe him one.


Against his own resolve he would not do something as stupid as buy soup, Kuwabara stopped by the convenience store near Urameshi’s apartment building; a bowl of instant miso soup, cough medicine and a box of tissues were paid of out of his own pocket.

It wasn’t fair how much power that idiot held over him. This wasn’t like…Well, Yukina-chan, doing all this for HER would make sense! Truth be told, Kuwabara probably caused any sway Yuusuke had over him by himself; Even if the days of following the other teen around just to be acknowledged by the Urameshi were over, in the back of his mind, Kuwabara still felt a bit honored and touched Yuusuke put any kind of faith in him.

That didn’t make him any less angry over this, especially after he spent ten minutes banging on Yuusuke’s door. After that, Kuwabara had tried one more thing- Just turning the doorknob and was surprised that it opened. "Urameshi?" He called into the apartment, closing and locking the door behind him. The lights were off, and he had to step over a few bags of trash, looking around for his friend.

Leaving the bags near the front door, Kuwabara went right to knocking on Yuusuke’s bedroom door got no response. A quick peek inside, however, showed his best friends’ figure sprawled out on the bed.

Slightly alarmed over how red Yuusuke’s face was, Kuwabara should have deduced from Urameshi wearing nothing but his boxers and a tee-shirt, a quick touch to his forehead proved he had a raging fever.

Yuusuke let out a groan in his sleep once Kuwabara touched him, rolling over on to his side and grumbling in his sleep.

"Urameshi, wake up."

"Go away…"

"CHH! You called ME here, so wake yer lazy ass up!" Kuwabara snorted, pulling the blanket from where it was around his friend’s legs. An incoherent mumble preceded Yuusuke rolling off the bed, and was followed by a shout, the raven haired boy sitting up to swipe at Kuwabara’s leg.

"Asshole, what’cha do that for!?"

Moving to crawl back onto the bed, Yuusuke let out another sound of surprise; Kuwabara had grabbed him around the waist and was trying to pull him back away from it.

"Let go!"

"No! You got me over here, an’ you’re actually sick so I’m gonna feed you!" Kuwabara was struggling, Urameshi had grabbed onto the bed frame and the red-heads’ attempts to pull him off only resulted in dragging the bed and Yuusuke across the floor.

"Stop actin’ like my mom, Kuwabara!"

"Yeah, no disrespect but yer ma probably wouldn’t notice if you WERE sick."

Yuusuke’s snarl turned into a fit of coughs, leaving Kuwabara a chance to haul Yuusuke to his feet, one hand bunched on the back of his shirt to keep him from running off.

"I swear I got less trouble getting’ Eikichi to take a bath." Yuusuke just glared at him, and for a moment Kuwabara was reminded of said cat. The way she looked at him for hours after he gave her a bath, this caused him to imagine (however briefly) Yuusuke as a cat-youkai, complete with ears and tail.

"What’s with that look? What’d you mean by ‘feed me’?"

"I ain’t got a ‘look’," Kuwabara tried to sound fierce, but failed. The idea of Yuusuke as a cat was oddly appealing. At least then he’d be nice to look at… "Yeah, feed, I bought something’ for you to eat." He added, pulling on Yuusuke’s shirt again so the red-head was maneuvering him towards the apartment’s tiny kitchen.

"…What’d you get?" Yuusuke asked, seeming to perk up at the mention of food, and from the look of that room, Kuwabara could understand why. Besides a few dirty dishes in the sink, it didn’t look like there was any food in this place.

"Chh, don’t you even shop???"

"Yeah! Just, got busy and then felt like crap."

Kuwabara choose to not say he doubted if Yuusuke ever even ate at home, probably ate those horrible 150 yen bowels of ramen from the Yukimura diner every night. Setting the wobbly legged teen into one of the two chairs around a itty bitty table, Kuwabara retrieved the bags and plopped them on the table.

Setting the tissues and medicine in front of Yuusuke- Who pulled the bowl of miso from his hands almost as soon as he saw it. "–I gotta heat that up!" Kuwabara stammered, watching his friend rip the packaging open, "…How longs’ it been since you ate?"

"Uh…Maybe a few days?"

"Maybe? How can you not keep track?"

"I dunno, I was sleepin’ most of the time!"

Snatching the miso back away, Kuwabara shook it so Yuusuke could hear, "It’s dried, idiot, I GOTTA heat up water for it." All that got was another snort that turned into a cough and the red-head took that as a cue to find a kettle.


Being (mostly) raised by an over controlling sister had embedded the reflex of cleaning up any mess he found, and Yuusuke’s kitchen was a war zone.

The dishes in the sink were moldy, a pan in the stove that had something that smelled dead and looked worse, not to mention the fridge- That was horrible beyond words.

Now Kuwabara understood why Keiko had complained about the Urameshi family’s way of keeping house. Yuusuke tended to keep his place cleaner though, at least any time Kuwabara had visited before, he had never worried about being attacked by some mutant bacteria or mold.

As the other teen ate his bowl of soup with enthusiasm, Kuwabara reluctantly washed some of those dishes off and at least sprayed the inside of the fridge down with cleaner. Yuusuke cackled as he cleaned, "You're really like a parent! Hey, mom, seconds?" He held his bowel out to Kuwabara, who took it with a grumble. "No- An’ don’t call me that! Take some of that God-damn medicine!"

"But you’d look nice in’a apron, ma." The shorter man laughed, knocking back a lid full of that cough syrup.

"Chh." Kuwabara simply sent another glare Yuusuke’s way and rinsed the dishes off, the quiet clinking filling the air. As he stacked them haphazardly in the dish-rack, he sighed. "You know, I wasn’t even gonna come over here? Sorta glad I did though, without me, you might have starved t’death…I did miss you, too. We ain’t really seen much of each other with my stupid school an’ yer job…Urameshi?"

The silence was suspicious, and a glance over his shoulder had Kuwabara shaking his head. Yuusuke was asleep, head propped up against his arms, letting out soft, little snores. "...I ain’t that boring." Kuwabara dried his hands then walked around to his friend’s side; he looked dead to the world.

Instead of trying to wake him, Kuwabara wrapped one arm around Yuusuke’s waist and lifted the dead-weight teen up, only getting a sleep-grumble from the other.

After lowering the sleeping boy onto his bed, Kuwabara tucked the blankets around Yuusuke’s legs. He looked so…Non-threatening when he was asleep; Kuwabara was surprised. Most times he’d caught this guy sleeping; Yuusuke looked like he could kill someone in his sleep. Right now though, he looked really peaceful…

Brushing the hair away from Yuusuke’s face, Kuwabara forgot how angry he had been.

This…Wasn’t such a bad way to spend the day, really. It wasn’t over yet, so he had time to go home and…Do whatever he wanted.

Yuusuke mumbled in his sleep, pulled the covers up around his chin and Kuwabara smiled. Carefully tugging the blanket down a little so his friend didn’t smother, the red-head leaned over to press his lips against Yuusuke’s hot forehead. He could always play that off as checking his temperature– but, yeah, there were worse ways to spend a day.

"He’s late…" Waiting outside some little, too frilly to be believed café, Kuwabara glanced at his watch then to the sidewalk full of people. The holiday season had descended in full force on the city, lights and decorations graced nearly every store window; signs boasting to beat any prices. So on and on, here he was, in the same spot he’d been waiting the past hour out in.

And for who? Urameshi. That asshole…

Another phone call, and another almost-favor, "C’mon, Kuwabara, I just got to pick a few things up! I’ll buy you a beer or two if you come along an’ don’t start shit!"

What was that? It was unnatural; Yuusuke asking for anything, even that way… Something had to be going on. Kuwabara had been torn between crawling back into bed and wasting his day off (a Saturday, the freest day of the week!) sleeping, or, getting bundled up and waiting around in the low-double digit weather for God-knew how long.

No surprise he had chosen the harder thing. Choices were one of the few things Kuwabara hated about growing up.

When you were a child the important things were watching your favorite cartoons, if your favored crayon was going to be in the box next time.

As he entered his young adult-hood, all that Kuwabara had worried about were grades and beating Urameshi at something, anything. Even fighting youkai for the fate of the world wasn’t a difficult thing in matter of choice; you did what was right, protected those important and saved the day.


Now that he was older, everything was suddenly difficult. Take the bus, or walk? Is the subway worth the effort today? Exams and finding work and living on ones’ own; why was growing up so difficult and so full of questions…

There was one thing in his life that was never a issue, the one thing that- if Kuwabara had thought ahead- he would never have expected to be his ‘rock’, his ‘safe haven’ as it were; and that was Yuusuke. Seeing him, talking to him, any and all interaction with the other man was what he looked forward to every day.

‘When did this happened?’ Kuwabara would stop to think, on his way here or there, between everything and in the silent moments before sleep. ‘When did I start thinking…Of him?’

Although it was true he had been just short of obsessed with Yuusuke when they were younger, this wasn’t the burning fervor to beat Urameshi’s smirking face into the ground and it had started the month before. With that visit when Yuusuke was ill, and that…Kiss.

No matter what way he looked at it, Kuwabara couldn’t deny that it had been one and oh, how he had tried. No excuse he could think of explained it away; he had given his rival of so many years a kiss, and was now unable to stop thinking about him.

That…Wasn’t right, it wasn’t! Even if Yukina wasn’t around any more- she had returned home, and he understood why she needed to go back- he still loved her, right?

This sweet and sick feeling that twisted up his insides whenever he thought of Urameshi wasn’t…Love. Love was the over-the-top excitement and giddy joy Kuwabara felt when he had first met Yukina. Wasn’t it?

Jostled back into reality by a sharp jab on his side, Kuwabara glared down at Yuusuke- Red faced and grinning up at him. "I said, hey!"

"Don’t sneak up on me like that! Almost stopped my heart!"

They were standing so closely Kuwabara could feel Yuusuke’s body heat, how had he never noticed how nice Urameshi’s laughter was- Oh, God damn it, what was wrong with him?

The red-head ‘humph’ed , turning away to try and rub feeling back into his cheeks as Yuusuke snickered behind him. "Stop yer heart? You getting’ that old, huh? "

"Eh, shut up." Kuwabara grumped, stuffing his hands back into his pockets. "So where’re we supposed to go?"

"Oh, yeah, that place." Yuusuke grinned again- AN ARROW THROUGH KUWABARA’S HEART- and turned away from the window display, already starting down the sidewalk with Kuwabara grumbling yet trailing behind. "Jus’ follow me, geezer."

"Shut up, shut up and shut up!"


‘That place’ turned out to be a small, tucked away used clothing store. How Yuusuke knew about such a place was beyond Kuwabara. Maybe Keiko had dragged him here before or something. It didn’t really matter though! At least he thought that, some kind of giggly joy was bubbling up inside the red-head. Even if it was a clothes store, even if he had no idea WHY Urameshi had asked him out, he had asked Kuwabara out!

Okay, sure, it wasn’t…Like a date or anything, no.

Of course not, but…It was really nice, in the way they were spending time together without fighting or due to some saving-the-world shit. Watching Yuusuke smile and wander around the little store, laughing at a rack of girl’s clothes and pointing out a bin of hats. "Aha, look’it this!" He held up a blue knit hat, the kind with flaps to go over ears, little yellow cats poorly knitted into the edge.

"Looks like it’d suit you just fine." Yuusuke snickered, swiftly putting the hat over Kuwabara’s head, tugging the flaps down and giving the end of Kuwabara’s nose a playful flick. "There, now ya’ won’t get all red-faced from th’cold anymore." And the red-head felt like his feet were suddenly insubstantial, he was going to float right away–Oh God, seriously what was wrong with him???

"O-oh yeah? Well this one suits you!" He tried to alleviate his sudden onset of butterflies by rummaging around the bin and pulling out a hot pink one with a white puff on top. But when he turned, hat in hand, Urameshi was already gone- Off among some racks of clothing and calling out for Kuwabara to join him.

The next half-hour was spent letting Urameshi toss things into his arms and listening to rambles about things Kuwabara didn’t really understand; stuff about cooking and people he had never met, but somehow it was…It was so nice, they hadn’t even argued all day!

"And I swear, if that old man had stayed alive, I coulda’ taken him!"

"Huh? Who?"

"Ain’t you listening? Raizen, moron. Y’know, my ‘youkai ancestor’? Yeah…I could’a taken him if he hadn’t croaked..." Yuusuke snorted, holding out some ugly, brown sweater to study it. "I ever even told you about him?"

"Nah, Kurama mentioned him a few times but you ain’t ever."

"Well, he liked humans," Yuusuke said, putting that ugly thing back and rapidly looking through the rest, "Used to eat them- but then, he fell in love with a human woman and didn’t wanna anymore."

"Y…You come from human eatin’ youkai?" Kuwabara had to stammer, amusing Yuusuke with the look of horror on his face as the dark-haired man laughed and glanced over his shoulder at Kuwabara.

"Yeah, but I ain’t ever wanted to eat anyone. What," Yuusuke asked with a smirk, "wouldn’t you be my friend if I did wanna gnaw on people?"

"I…You’d still be you an’ all…But it’s people, Urameshi, how’d I choose?"

"Ahaha, jeez, calm down before your brain breaks!" Looking more pleased by this than Kuwabara thought he had right to, Yuusuke turned away. "Come on, geezer, let’s go THEN we’ll get a few cold ones."

Regularly, Kuwabara wouldn’t even dream of thinking about drinking- Shizuru would kill him before he could explain it- but if it meant spending more time around Urameshi NOT fighting, then he’d risk it. And so, he wasn’t really paying the best attention while the cashier added up the purchase, until Yuusuke nudged his side; smiling and holding out his hand, the smaller man quipped, "You got any cash on ya’?"

"Wh- What? Why?" The way Yuusuke was looking at him, sort of puppy-dog eyed combined with, of course, how nice he was being had Kuwabara suddenly doubting his motives. "Wait…Did you call me out just to bum money off’a me!?"

"Well I ain’t got paid yet and I gotta get Keiko somethin’ for Christmas…" Kuwabara gaped as Yuusuke said this, mouth working with no words coming out until he dropped the clothing from his arms onto the counter, tearing the hat from his own head and throwing it at Yuusuke.

"So go bum off of her!"

"She’d know!"

"Then…Then, Kurama, he’d be glad t’help!"

"He’s on some vacation thing with his family! What’s th’ big deal, it’s just money!" Yuusuke fumed right back, what was Kuwabara’s problem? Yuusuke hadn’t hit him or anything! Yet here he was, acting all indignant.

"MY money! Not yours, not…Yukimura’s! Mine!"

"Stop yellin’," Leaning away from Kuwabara, Yuusuke spared a glance around the store; it was weird not being the one causing the trouble. Now he knew how Keiko felt when he made a scene about trying on clothes and such- "I’ll pay you back!" Not to mention how pissed off Kuwabara looked, it was a little surprising. "You didn’t wanna spend time with me at all! All that bein’ nice was just t’get money off of me!" The red-head was steadily growing redder, his voice reaching a pitch that had it cracking.

"W–Why’re you acting like such a damn pussy, ain’t like you’re good for anything else!" Somehow, Yuusuke realized that wasn’t the right thing to say as soon as it left his mouth, and that was without seeing Kuwabara’s whole demeanor suddenly collapse and then rebuild out of rage. But, to his -again- surprise, Kuwabara didn’t even say a word back and simply stormed out of the shop. Yuusuke had expected him to explode in some flurry of righteous anger like he always did. After all, he didn’t mean that, it was just to piss Kuwabara off…


He wasn’t going to cry. If he cried…Eikichi would loose all her fur! If he cried, when he got home, Shizuru would have repainted his room pink or something. Kuwabara repeated these (made up) reasons why shedding a single tear over this shit would only end horribly.

He would much rather be fighting with Urameshi right now; Getting his own ass handed to him, sure, but that would be better than how tongue-tied he had been and...How horrible he felt. Of course Yuusuke wasn’t nice to Kuwabara for any reason other than to get something, he was Urameshi. That asshole just wasn’t a nice guy, he was always…Well, an asshole.

So why was it that hearing that bullshit had hurt Kuwabara’s feelings so much? ‘I’m turnin’ into some weepy chick! That goddamn asshole jerk-wad!’ It wasn’t fair! No, and…And, when he got home, he was going to never think of it again! Maybe Shizuru would help him see Yukina again, or (heaven forbid) set him up with some girl she knew.

"Hey, Kuwabara! Wait for me!" Yuusuke shouting out to him broke Kuwabara’s train of thought, but the red-head simply kept walking even as he heard Yuusuke catching up. "Hey, didn’t you hear me?"

"…Go away." He huffed, pointedly not looking towards Urameshi. The sidewalk was MUCH more interesting!

"Oh, come on. You know I didn’t mean that!"

"Oh yeah, you never mean the shit you say to me." "…Not usually."

"Yeah, right. Only time you’ve even talked to me lately was to ask me fer shit!"

"Well, yeah! I mean, who else would do it?" Now Kuwabara stopped cold, turning on Yuusuke to jab a finger in his face. "Yukimura! She’s your girlfriend and all. Or, yer ma, she’s your MOM."

Yuusuke laughed, genuinely grinning up at Kuwabara and ignoring his attempt to be threatening. "C’mon, neither of them would come as fast asyou do. You’re like…a loyal dog!"

"I ain’t your pet!"

"That’s not what I said," Yuusuke rolled his eyes, grabbing the taller man’s wrist as he tried to walk away again. ",I just haven’t met anybody else that was so loyal to his friends, any of ‘em! I mean…I’d call you first if I was in trouble ‘cause you would one-hundred percent show up right away."

"…Bumming money off me isn’t the same."

"Tch, can’t you get over it?"

"No! You- I just wanted t’spend time with you-"

To this, Urameshi raised his brows, wasn’t like Kuwabara to say that, at least. "What’s that mean?"

"Means I missed you! Yeah, I said it," He suddenly blurted, brushing Yuusuke’s hand away and grabbing the others’ coat collar,"I missed yer stupid ass. All that time you spent in th’makai, and now…It’s like we reached some fork in the road, and you’re takin’ the one I can’t follow you down." Then he released his hold and looked away, feeling sort of ashamed to actually say it.

Yuusuke was silent for a few moments, only adding to Kuwabara’s discomfort. "Here," Kuwabara started at the break in the silence, and was confused as Urameshi shoved something into his hands. It was that stupid hat. ",I paid for it myself, so you don’t gotta make a scene."

"…Thanks…" Holding that badly made, ugly thing in his hands, Kuwabara felt like he could start crying at any moment; one way or another they really were drifting apart. He was changing all the time, and apparently, Urameshi was too. It…Just, really hurt to think soon, the one person he’d had in his life nearly every day for five years could suddenly disappear from his sight.

So he tugged that hat over his head, face still down turned so he didn’t have to look at Yuusuke as the other man cleared his throat, "Plus…I wouldn’t ever go far enough that you couldn’t follow me."

And Kuwabara had to look at Yuusuke; red-faced from the cold and looking very somber, he was sure nothing in the history of anything had looked as nice. "Not like I could ever stand to loose my loyal dog. I’d be pretty lonely if I couldn’t turn ‘round and see you th–"

That was it, without knowing what or why he was doing it, Kuwabara had stepped in closer; one hand touching Yuusuke’s face and leaning over to touch their wind-chapped lips together. And time seemed to stand still. Or maybe it was stretching out, longer and longer and filled with the soft sensation of Yuusuke’s lips, the way he smelled and felt- until it ended with Urameshi pulling away, time snapped and everything was moving normally again.

Dark brown eyes wide enough to be rimmed with white, Yuusuke was actually gaping at Kuwabara, speechless, but Kuwabara knew soon enough he’d probably start yelling and hitting and…Everything else.

"S-s-sorry, I’m sorry!" So he was already backing away, dashing the opposite direction, not sparing a look back. His lips still had that lingering warmth on them, and Kuwabara was sure he had just made the biggest mistake of his entire life.