22. Turquoise

"Okay, try to concentrate your energy here."

Light from the television splayed in flashes along the Spirit Detective's profile. Teal, white, blue - cutting across the angle of his jaw and filling in around the deep set of his eyes. He squeezed his hands around hers, as if to underscore his point, and Keiko hoped the light from the forgotten wrestling-whatever-show was doing something to mask the color rising in her cheeks.

Keiko frowned, trying to push her blush aside. Even after Botan told her everything (and there was a lot to tell), from spirits to demons and humans all across three realms, the ferry girl couldn't exactly convey what spirit energy felt like. Keiko could accept the draw of power, that tapping into it allowed Yusuke to take his love of fighting to previously unfathomable heights, but that didn't mean she really got it.

The girl sniffed. "You haven't told me how."

Yusuke's dark eyebrows drew closer together, like he'd never considered it before. Not surprising. Yusuke didn't give much thought to anything, but given his performance in the tournament, even with all the practice, wielding spirit energy came as naturally to him as breathing.

"That's really all Koenma gave me to go on the first time I tried it. I've never thought about how to explain it before."

Keiko waited as he tried to collect his thoughts. Her eyes fell to consider her hands in his again. Against Yusuke, hers looked soft and petite - short nails painted a dainty shade of purple since it was the weekend. His already tawny skin was tanned from the months training in Genkai's compound, knuckles still bandaged from injuries sustained in the final, cut and bloodied after grating against Toguro's unnatural gray body. Not to mention, his were much grabbier than hers were.

"It's like…" he began, "when you close your eyes, but you still know where all your body parts are. Spirit energy's kinda like that, I guess - you know it's there even if you don't see it. Just try to imagine it's circling all throughout. It'll be warm when you find it, and you want it to focus it into your fingers."

It was Keiko's turn to knit her thin dainty eyebrows together. This was silly. Maybe closing her eyes would help, but that would only make her feel sillier and awkward in front of Yusuke (he was still holding her hands). Nothing was going to happen. Keiko lacked awareness like Kuwabara and Shizuru, and she'd never died and gone to Spirit World like Yusuke. Based on Botan's explanation of it, humans shouldn't be able to see spirit or demon energy at all, and while she couldn't exactly explain away that one, Keiko had no doubt she was just a normal girl.

She did wish she had some sort of power to will away the heat flushing her collarbones. She didn't even really know why she was blushing; it wasn't like he was groping her or anything, but Keiko was still aware of the relative intimacy - sitting together in his bedroom with the door closed while Atsuko wasn't home - after not really having any privacy on Hanging Neck Island. The Spirit Detective waited unusually still, taking care not to move lest he impair her concentration or something.

Even though he was hard and calloused, Yusuke felt warm. That he was capable of any gentle touch always surprised Keiko, but even more so after witnessing the extent of raw power and violence he could inflict with only his fists. Maybe he found it weird, it felt strange, casually catching up in front of the TV, when less than a week ago he'd happily sank his heels into knives to trounce a drunk man with a mohawk and delighted in sending a demon shinobi one hundred meters in the air.

She normally ran chilly; there was no warmth in her hands.

"Yusuke, nothing's happening."

"Yeah, I guess," he conceded. "The first time Kuwabara did it, he had a special stick...thingy... that drew it out." Keiko doubted there was another one of those lying around. "Probably for the best, you know," he continued, "I wouldn't wanna have to deal with a spirit-powered super-slap." The boy offered his best shit-eating grin, squeezing her palms fondly.

Keiko glared and pulled away. "I do not have a super-slap."

Yusuke only grinned wider, breaking into that snicker that both annoyed Keiko and annoyingly endeared her to him.

She tsk'd and tugged his wrists into her lap (watching to make sure he didn't do anything perverted), holding the backs of his bandaged hands the same way he had. "You do it."

In less time than it took to blink, a perfectly round, blue sphere gleamed into life at the end of his index finger. Three identical shapes followed at the tips of his remaining fingers - the show off.

Keiko pulled Yusuke closer, handling him gingerly. The light flickered slightly - like the flame of a candle - but glowed with a warm, steady intensity, and such a pretty, brilliant aquamarine. The glare coming from the television couldn't even compare; Yusuke's spirit energy might as well be the only source of light in the room.

She had been honest with Botan, when she said giving Yusuke space during the tournament felt like the right thing to do - happy for him and happy he could belong somewhere for a while, after being so angry and so lonely for such a long time.

But truthfully, she also felt surprised and confused and worried and even upset after watching Yusuke fight. He was a delinquent and got into trouble a lot; he always took on opponents twice his size - rough boys that carried knives and didn't play fair. It was quite another thing to challenge beasts who command lightning and revel alongside blood-thirsty demons in violence and impossible power.

Many (too many) people misunderstood, and even cowered in front of, Yusuke, but never Keiko. And yet, for a moment, the boy in the ring was totally unrecognizable as her troublesome best friend.

She sought him out in the forest, not because he wanted to see her, but because Keiko needed assurance he was still him. And sure enough, when they did meet, Yusuke whined and bickered and played his stupid pranks. He irked every nerve in her body, but the worry in Keiko's heart dissolved because he would always be her personal pain in the ass, and that would never change.

Yusuke had changed though.

Her friend's strange new ability didn't make him violent - he had always been that way. Yusuke used his fists to beat down an entire world rooting against him, with the goal of standing at the top of the pile where no one could hurt him.

And even though Keiko knew what Yusuke could do to the world now, if he wanted to, his hands were still inviting. Because he wielded it to help friends he'd grown to really care about, fighters he'd never met; he defended the world from people like Toguro. She'd experienced the warm, vivid, beautiful light, Keiko realized, many times before; washed over an entire stadium even as it threatened to crumble, shielding her and Botan from a deadly horde led by her least favorite teacher, surrounding them both when escape seemed impossible in his burning home. Even in death, way back then, it was that power Yusuke used to keep others safe.

The lights winked out. Fingers closed around her chin, pinching softly and giving her head a little shake. "Hello? Earth to Keiko." She blinked up at him, the same white, blue glow from the screen slanting across his features. "You get hypnotized or something?"

Her pink lips turned down, and she could feel the splotches of color on her face again. She hadn't meant to drift off like that, caught up in thoughts about Yusuke when he was right in front of her. "Cut it out," she managed, pushing his hand away.

"Sure you're okay? You look sweaty."

"I'm fine!"

Yusuke squinted, as if deciding whether pushing the issue was worth it. Before he could, she continued, "Really, I'm fine. Thanks for trying to show me, Yusuke."

That seemed to be enough. Even though the skepticism lingered in his eyes, he shrugged noncommittally and turned to face the TV again, sitting a little closer together than he had when they started.

Keiko smiled softly to herself, letting it go as well. It would be her secret - the new reason blue was her favorite color.


Author's Note: Always wondered how Keiko (and Atsuko in the manga) could follow what was going on in the Dark Tournament when it's established that normal humans can't see spirit energy. So… let's say Atsuko can because she is also a descendent of Raizen, and Keiko can because of Conjuring Blade shenanigans.

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