25. View

It was very hot. Unusually so for a day in the middle of May. Beads of liquid formed at the boy's hairline, and the thin layer of sweat he felt all over made him uncomfortable under his uniform. He almost always skipped gym, but today he picked a damn good day to do it. Yusuke did not envy his classmates - running laps around Sarayashiki's small track for almost an hour. He peered around the corner, relieved to find himself alone, before stalking to the back of the building.

Yusuke frequently danced on the edge of expulsion, so this might not have been the best idea, but then again, he was not usually known for having good ideas.

Yusuke Urameshi came with a long list of vices. He had a low threshold for starting fights and an even lower one for going easy on those punks once he had. He was a horrible student and close to failing every one of his classes (including gym). Started smoking when he turned twelve years old. Wouldn't deny he'd stolen a dirty magazine from the convenience store once or twice…

The delinquent felt sure he wasn't the first, and he wouldn't be the last, to discover the little window with the flimsy pop out screen to the girl's locker room... so he had no reservations about adding voyeurism to that list.

The gaggle of chatty schoolgirls filed in, and Yusuke's eyes glinted mischievously. Snippets of separate conversations reached his ears; typical girl stuff from what he could tell - from homework to crushes to how unfair it was of coach to make them run an extra kilometer on such a swelteringly hot day. Nothing interesting, of course; he was more interested in his female classmates who were all too eager to change out of thin sweaty t-shirts and tiny gym shorts.

As chests and stomachs and thighs came into view, Yusuke thought himself less of a degenerate engaged in anti-social and borderline criminal behavior and more like those guys on nature documentaries that played on TV observing a herd - one fully occupied with humming ear-wormy pop songs and sharing sticky lip gloss. His interest piqued, watching the girls tilt their heads back to hydrate and bend at the hips to stretch out sore calves; although, it did disappoint to learn that most middle school girls didn't bother to match their bras to their underwear.

His lips turned in a lopsided smirk when he caught sight of Keiko's tall friend with the blonde ponytails trapped in her shirt, both her elbows stuck halfway through pulling it over her head.

But, his eyebrows shot up when he recognized the person beside her.

She pulled thick, chestnut locks into two familiar sections, and Yusuke paled - all too familiar with those damn pigtails. He watched them bounce and taunt every time he walked her home; made it a point to pull the ends as often as he thought he could get away with, trying to emphasize that she wasn't in elementary school anymore and should stop wearing her hair that way. Yusuke didn't claim to know anything about fashion sense, but they were the worst. The pigtails made her look deceptively sweet and innocent, when the stupid girly hairstyle belied the annoying, violent, rapidly developing young woman she really was underneath.

Shiny strands fell across her fair shoulders - fairer than the rest of her skin from the lack of sun. His throat suddenly dried up, and Yusuke forced himself to swallow. The boy felt inexplicably unsettled and tried his best to focus on the baby hairs at the nape of her neck, damp from running laps.

Mahogany eyes wandered, unable to help it, following the column of her neck down her slender frame - shoulders tapering into ribcage into narrow waist before widening back out to hips he swore didn't look that full the day before. The gentle curve of her spine - interrupted by the stark white line of her bra strap - underscored perfect posture. Fluorescent, artificial lights cast subtle shadows under her ribs and highlighted the vertebrae in her back. She had a mole, just to the right of center and above the waistline of her skirt, he never knew existed.

Yusuke's pulse picked up, beating like a drum in his neck and sending a flush of heat into his ears, disturbed that in a room full of cleavage and panties, Keiko's back provoked his body to react. The teen had already caught dozens of glimpses underneath her skirt and was more familiar with the swell of her breasts than he had any right to be. Why the anxiety?

He acted like an asshole all of the time; why decide now to feel so much like one?

Something vaguely uncomfortable panged around Yusuke's stomach - a weird prickly feeling he couldn't shake easily. He'd never seen so much of her private skin all at once - at least not without being followed by the punishing whack he knew he deserved. The rest of the girls he could care less about, but when it came to Keiko…

Yusuke Urameshi: fourteen years old, cocky punk, near middle school drop-out, newly found to possess a little bit of a conscience.

The young woman turned so the slope of her breast peeked into view, but Yusuke looked away before he could see her face.

Backing away from the window, the delinquent reflexively reached for the pack of cigarettes in his pocket. He scowled, seeing only one left, but plucked it anyway and held it between his teeth, tossing the cardboard box unceremoniously away onto the grass before fishing for his lighter. A cicada hopped on top of the box, and the bug made for a much more interesting subject than the locker room girls. He took a long drag; tobacco smoke filled his lungs.

The burning in his face must have been from the hot spring day and the lit cigarette. Yusuke Urameshi had no reason otherwise to feel so hot because he was thinking about pachinko, Takenaka's stupid brown suit, that Kuwa-something guy, and not the perfect dark little mole on her back.

Tendrils of smoke curled lazily toward the sky. Just second period, but… time to ditch. In the middle of the morning, the pachinko parlor would be nearly empty. Also, he needed cigarettes.

Yusuke leaned against the wall of the building, pulling again at the cigarette and shut his eyes.

That was a mistake; Yusuke only saw the birthmark again. He would never be able to look at his best friend again without remembering it.

Probably best if he skipped tomorrow as well.

xxx

Author's Note: The English dub for YYH is the crowning achievement of cheesy 90's English anime dubbing. So many liberties taken with the script, so many fake accents and bad puns… and yet the cast is pretty spot on, they're all able to deliver emotion really well, and I find myself enjoying the stupid, glaringly dated jokes in spite of myself…

This chapter inspired by a gem of a line I found on my most recent re-watch – "Now I know I'm being watched. How creepy is that? I owe a major apology to the locker room girls after second period gym." Yusuke, Episode 80.