Disclaimers: Inuyasha and Yu Yu Hakusho belong respectively to Rumiko Takahashi and Yoshihiro Togashi.
Notes: Okay… I'm going to come right out and say that I have an odd dichotomy going as far as my need for manga and anime in purest form. While I love the stories that pull off alternate pairings, universes, etc, I cringe at hearing dubs and seeing the butchery of translation that happens to almost every story that comes to the U.S. The main inconsistency seems to be that the American versions seriously tone down the language and violence to make it more acceptable for kids, so pay attention to the rating. I don't intend to make such alterations.
Other things like colors and whatnot… (like Kurama having black hair in the manga and red in the anime) I'll bite my tongue and go with the anime.
As for the rest of this… It's going to be total creative license on the fanfic author's part, baby, just for the enjoyment of the darling person who talked me into it. (This means that OOC and plot-holes may be required as the bunnies command them) Crossing over two series already makes it a bit A/R, so I'm just going to take a liberty here and there as I see fit. So… my Christmas gift to a dear friend who has been snapping at my heels to write a story with Kurama. :coughKazusacough: I'll give it my best. *Salutes*
~*~*~*~By Any Other Name
Souta couldn't say what about tonight felt so much different than every other night for the past four years, only that there was something in the heavy air that was calling to him. The house was silent, almost eerily so, like the world was holding it's breath as he made his way silently down the stairs and pulled his kimono closed with practiced, expert motions. The more formal robes felt more comfortable, more appropriate for the feelings humming down his spine, and he couldn't help but frown as he tied the pale blue hakama in place, Do you feel this where you are, nee-chan? Are you awake and sensing such strange auras?
There was never any answer, not that Souta expected one from his long-missing sister, but it comforted him to "speak" with her in such a way, imagining that wherever she was, she was feeling the same things he was. It had been the reason he'd finally started listening to his grandfather's stories more seriously, asking his mother to start training to take over the shrine someday. As expected, his grandfather had been in tears, and even his mother had looked suspiciously shiny-eyed at the request he'd made, even more so when he told them that when Kagome returned, he could help her. After all, if she was a great miko, shouldn't her little brother develop his holy powers as well?
He knew they didn't have any faith in his ability to develop even a fraction of what his sister had under her control, but that wasn't the point. If he closed his eyes when he was in training, meditating alone… he could imagine her beside him, her voice coaching him through every mistake, every frustration until he had felt something inside him shift and change. He could still remember the day it happened, startling his old instructor with the way his aura swelled and practically overwhelmed him.
Souta had never been more excited or proud when he heard the monks whispering that such an awakening had not been common since ancient times, and never with so little training. He'd spent most of that night in the well house, sitting on the rim and whispering about his accomplishments in hopes Kagome would somehow hear and know he could help her when she returned from the past. His mother had to practically drag him to bed, scolding him the whole way that the well would still be there in the morning and he could talk to his sister's spirit all he wanted…
Souta shook his head violently, dispelling the old memories with effort and blinking in surprise as he realized his hand was resting on the shoji of the well house door, That's strange… I came all the way here without realizing it? Is it something about the well? Something coming through?
He bit his lip nervously, fingers curling around the worn wood and sliding it open slowly before he stepped inside and reached for the matches beside the entrance to light the ornate lamps. He closed the door to prevent the soft glow from going farther than a few feet and possibly rousing the other inhabitants of the house, respectfully bringing his hand up in a prayer position for a moment before he walked down the familiar stairs to the empty well.
Souta could feel his heart start to race, swallowing hard against the inexplicable feeling of premonition, that twinge setting his hair on end with the anxiety pouring through him, Kagome?
A firm push against his calf had him almost jumping out of his skin, dragging an alarmed shout from his throat as he jerked around and found Buyo trying to twine between his legs only to give up and rub against the outside again when the hakama failed to part. "Goddammit, Buyo!" Souta let out an exasperated shout, turning his back on the well and bending down to scoop up the rather obese animal with a scowl. "Animals are supposed to be sensitive to auras and feelings, how in the hell can you so casually break my focus like that?"
A loud meow was his answer, and Souta felt his shoulders slump with defeat as he muttered a few choice words under his breath and set the cat back down, only to freeze when he heard a soft chuckle break the silence behind him.
Impossibly, a gust of cold wind seemed to wrap around him for a moment, tugging at his robes as it curled and made it's way behind him, back to the well and producing a hollow, sucking type noise very quietly with the pulse of an oddly empty aura at the back of his senses, But the shoji is closed…
"I suppose some things never change," that quiet voice snapped his head up, eyes wide and pupils contracting as he scarcely dared to breathe, fearful of finding this another illusion, a meditative dream. "You should know better than to come to the well at night unless you've somehow managed to stop being such a 'fraidy-cat."
Souta turned back around ever-so-slowly, throat closing as he found deep blue eyes laughing at him out of a painfully familiar and long missed face, older now and much more serene than it had once been, but completely unmistakable, "Ka-Kagome-nee-chan…"
Kagome tilted her head to one side, lips curling in a smile as the thick curtain of glossy black hair shifted in that unnatural breeze, prompting her to lift a hand and brush it back impatiently before she reached out and thunked him on the forehead, "Hell, Souta, you look like you've seen a ghost."
If he hadn't been watching her so closely, he would have missed the look of uncertainty that skated across her luminous eyes for a moment, testifying to the almost awkward fear that she was going to be rejected. Kagome, his time-traveling miko sister, was afraid of his reaction to her reappearance.
This was no hallucination.
Souta felt the tears rise, tried to blink away the way that warmly smiling figure blurred under the sudden onslaught, but finally gave up with a wail that would have set birds to wing had it been any earlier. He had flung himself forward the moment the sound left his throat, wrapping his arms tightly around her waist and burying his face in her lap. It's really her… All this time…
Kagome felt a pang of remorse go through her, letting out a low sigh as her own arms wound around her brother's shoulders and pulled him up for a more proper embrace. For a long time they sat together like that, not speaking as they let the reality of the homecoming filter into their stubborn heads and erase the rest of their intangible fears. Finally she smiled, whispering soothingly in his ear to try and calm him from the sobs that shook his entire frame, "It's all right, Souta, I'm all right. I'm going to stay this time. Really stay."
"They thought you died, Kagome!" he choked out against her neck, arms tightening enough to make her grunt in mild surprise at just how much her brother had grown in her absence. "They tried not to let me hear them talking, but I did… but I never believed it! I knew you would come home. I've waited… Did you hear me? I would come here; I talked to you everyday so you wouldn't be lonely. Did you ever think of me here?"
"I always thought about you, moron," she leaned back and ruffled his hair, eyes searching over his face to take in every feature and laughing helplessly at the way his words started to run together with his growing enthusiasm. "My bratty little brother… When did you get so damn big and handsome, hn?"
Souta let out a rather watery sounding laugh, straightening with what could really only be called masculine pride to let his idolized sister admire him, "I wasn't going to be some little punk when you came home. You told me all those stories about Inuyasha, Sango, Miroku… I wanted you to be proud."
Kagome closed her eyes for a moment, trying to hold back the wave of emotion that swept through her with that simple statement and letting out a shaky breath as she reached up to touch his cheek, "Souta."
"I've been training!" he shot to his feet, suddenly all energy as he gestured to himself rapidly with his hands, letting the depression melt away. "After you were telling me about Miroku and all the things he could do as a monk, I asked Okaa-san and Jii-chan to help me find a temple and start training. You're a miko, so why couldn't I have some skills too? It's not like I could just up and be a hanyou, and no one's around to teach me to be a taijiya, so… "
She lifted a hand to her mouth, eyes practically sparkling at seeing the personality she remembered had lived on undistorted by maturity, "Really now? Jii-chan must have cried." At least Miroku would have cried to know he was the third choice in whose footsteps to follow.
"Constantly," Souta's grin was so wide she thought it might actually split his face if he wasn't careful. "They're so proud! And the monks that were training me… I had to stop going to that temple because they said they didn't have the capabilities to handle what was in my soul."
Kagome laughed at the way his chest puffed up, preening at having such distinction and obligingly doing some heartfelt praising of her own, "I'm very impressed."
"Probably nothing like yours, but still-!" he continued, gesticulating randomly as he continued to rattle on so rapidly that Kagome had to stand up and remind him to pause and breathe. That only lasted long enough for him to comply before he started right back in again, but with his focus redirected at her, "What happened? Why were you gone for so long? Did you beat Naraku? What happened to everyone in Sengoku Jidai? Where's Inu-nii-san? Were you hurt? Where's the Shikon-no-Tama? What did you wish for? Did you shrink?"
That last one earned him a half-hearted smack upside the head, "I'm a girl, Souta, I wasn't going to be taller than you forever unless you ended up being very unlucky."
"Oh right," he rubbed at his head, smiling ruefully but with no less excitement.
"You're the one who got big," Kagome's smile softened with a wistful edge, brushing that sleep-tousled hair out of his face and just breathing in the feel of her little brother so close. "And we won… but… there were things I had to do before I could come back."
"The jewel?" Souta's brows rose.
To his surprise, she shook her head no, "I… well, that's a long story, but it wasn't the jewel on its own that made me stay. It was something much more important."
"Then what-?" he turned his head to one side, following her gaze in confusion when she turned a melancholy, but almost regal smile back on the well. More important? But… the jewel was what she kept returning for. The reason she decided to stay in the past once she finished school. What could be more important?
"I made a promise," Kagome murmured softly, almost too softly for Souta to hear, and making him frown as he saw her hand curl into a fist against her stomach, the other reaching out to trace the edge of the well with a slow precision that spoke volumes. "A promise to a very, very dear friend."
Souta was quiet a moment, regarding the distant look in her eyes curiously, but respecting her lapse into silence to try and puzzle out what had put that old knowledge in his sister's eyes without disturbing her, It was something serious that happened to her since she went away. She looks… she really does look like a great miko.
"But I'm back now, Souta," Kagome's determined exclamation broke him out of his thoughts, bringing his eyes up to the smile on her face just as she took a step forward and wrapped her arms around his chest. "The jewel brought me back… We couldn't use it until everything was ready. Just in case."
"Will you tell me about it?" Souta rested his chin on top of her head, well aware he probably had the most ridiculous smile on his face and not giving half a damn. "If you can't right now, it's okay, but… at least some time? Please?"
She laughed and nodded, snuggling her face against him and pushing back the rush of warmth reaching out for the power she could sense inside her little brother, "I'll tell you… but Okaa-san and Jii-chan are coming. I don't- I can't tell them this yet. I don't know how they'll take it."
Souta was instantly nodding in agreement, his heart swelling with excitement at being in close confidence, "I can keep a secret, I promise."
Before they could say more, the shoji was yanked open hard enough to snap resoundingly against the wood as their grandfather managed to get one step inside, lips forming the beginning of Souta's name. The moment his gaze landed on the young woman practically burrowed down against his grandson's chest, he faltered, the words dying in his throat in favor of a strangled gasp. He didn't have the strength or the inclination to stop himself from going to his knees when his daughter ran into his back, clasping her robe closed over her night clothes and calling Souta's name in a voice heavy with fear until she too was rendered speechless in shock.
"O-oh… my gods," she whispered shakily, reaching out to grip her father's shoulder to support herself when her children leaned apart, Souta grinning like he'd just hung the moon and- "Kagome?"
"If this is some sort of twisted joke that Youko half of your head cooked up, you can tell him I don't appreciate his humor," Hiei didn't bother to open his eyes or unfold his arms from behind his head as he lounged on the railing of Kurama's balcony, senses open to any signs of disturbance in the almost stagnant summer air.
"Youko happens to think it's pointless for me to even consider listening to her wishes," Kurama shook his head, eyes turned up to the full moon with a touch of irritation adding to the vibrant, emerald green. "He says it's a human concern, and I'd be a fool to make myself vulnerable like that."
He made a faint sound of deprecating amusement, "Fox doesn't want to pass on those nimble little fingers?"
'He liked those nimble fingers well enough in the past,' Youko muttered in the back of Kurama's mind, taking offense to the little demon having fun at his expense. 'Besides, what the hell would we do with a baby? We still owe service to Rekai, and last I recall, human females don't particularly like it when the male that impregnates them is always gone. There'd be questions we can't answer, and all because your mother wants grandchildren? You don't even have the time to find us a fuck buddy!'
Kurama could feel his eyebrow twitching, biting back a less than polite remark when he heard Hiei tried to hold back a snicker, "Do you mind?"
"Actually, I do," he finally opened his eyes, slanting a smug look at his friend. "I've been bored as fuck lately with how quiet everything's been. So if that means I need to amuse myself by listening to Youko lament your sexual prowess, then I don't feel a pressing need to give you privacy."
"Why don't you go bother Yusuke or Kurabara?" Kurama braced his weight on one arm and leaned up to frown at him. "I'm certain you could find something entertaining about their interactions."
"They're human," he shrugged as though that made all the sense in the world.
"You're such a little youkai snob," he rolled his eyes and stared back out over the quiet night. "One of these days I'm going to tell them how much you talk when humans aren't around."
"Go ahead, they won't believe you," Hiei smirked, his tone full of confidence. "Humans are stupid that way… Now as much as I hate to agree with him, the fox is right. There's no chance for you to live a normal human life, especially not with the way the two of you are blurring together. You don't have a distinct separation anymore, and I bet in a few more years you won't even have that obnoxious schizophrenic thing going for you."
'He's right about that,' Youko offered a mental shrug. 'We're blending more and more… sometimes I'm speaking and don't realize it's coming from both of us until something calls our attention to it.'
"I'm aware of that," Kurama rubbed at his head, exasperated that both Hiei and Youko seemed to think he wasn't aware of his own body or behavior. "Youko and I both know we're the same person… just on opposite ends of the spectrum. We have to mingle back together some time."
"So how would you explain that to a human wife?" Hiei pointed out. "Even without working for Rekai, you have to find a girl who won't scream when she wakes up and her husband has gone blond."
'Silver,' Youko growled.
"Same thing," Hiei's eyes narrowed slightly as he taunted the kitsune.
'That little-! Ooh! Hit him, Kurama,' Youko hissed out impatiently. 'Silver is not so common and simple as "blond" and he knows it!'
"Shut up," Kurama closed his eyes. "Both of you. You're not helping my headache and I still have to figure out what to do about this."
'You could always tell her that you prefer the company of men,' Youko pointed out a little too innocently. 'Hiei could pretend to be our boyfriend and-'
"Don't bring me into this," Hiei cut him off before he could really get going on that particular idea. "I refuse to pretend to have romantic attachments just to save you from your human expectations. If you're going to tell her that you'd rather be with a man, find a man to be with."
Kurama just barely stopped himself from banging his head on the railing, taking a deep breath and speaking as calmly as possible, "I have yet to find a man that I'd like to have a long term relationship with, and frankly I'd prefer a girlfriend, but apparently kitsunes don't really differentiate gender in their desire."
'That's unfair discrimination,' Youko expounded on the topic happily, glad to finally have his other half talking about his inhibitions and why they were so ridiculous. 'If the individual is beautiful and desirable, what difference does it make if they're a girl or a boy?'
"Procreation for one," Hiei inserted dryly.
"Stop it!" Kurama snapped out in a rare show of temper, smacking his hands down on the railing. "We prefer women, stop being difficult, Youko, or I'll see to it that the next thing you want to do never happens!"
'You can be so touchy,' Youko pouted. 'Who would have thought I had such a prudish side?'
YOUKO! Kurama warned.
'All right, all right,' Youko acquiesced reluctantly. 'Maybe I was worried that you'd decided to swing that way with as few partners as we've had given your age. You have to admit that we're overdue for a partner.'
"We've been busy," Kurama defended.
'Not that busy.'
"It has been quiet, Kurama," Hiei's expression stayed perfectly bored as he added to his friend's little torment. "Maybe you should make your mother happy and take the edge off Youko's frustration… find yourself a girlfriend."
'Your frustration too,' Youko reminded him. 'Everything will look better once we've had a nice, relaxing fuck.'
"Should I leave you two alone?" a smile tugged at the corner of Hiei's mouth.
"If I say yes, will you go?" Kurama muttered out, folding his arms and taking a step back until he could rest his chin on them and still keep his back straight.
"Didn't think so."
'Maybe if we-?' Youko started.
"No," Kurama definitely felt an eyebrow twitch that time.
'You didn't even listen to what I was going to suggest!'
"I can imagine," he let out a heavy sigh, burying his face in his arms. "This means a lot Okaa-san, but… I don't know how to pull this off. How do I find a girl who'd be willing to put up with all the Rekai nonsense when I can't tell her anything about what's going on?"
'And we still have to like her.'
"And that," he shook his head.
"Relax, Kurama," Hiei cut in, a hint of disgust coloring his voice. "You realize that you're getting carried away, don't you? Human girls are always falling over themselves to have a chance with you, you just have to convince one of them to have a child for you. It shouldn't be that difficult."
"I grew up around them, Hiei, I know a little more about what goes through their heads than you do," Kurama shook his head, glancing back at the shorter demon. "If I want a baby, they want a commitment that I can't give them. That's a mess waiting to happen that I refuse to put my mother or myself through."
"Hn," Hiei shrugged, leaning back more comfortably and turning his own gaze up to the sky. "Then what do you intend to do?"
Kurama was silent for a long time before he finally sighed, "I don't know."
'You're serious about this?' Youko sounded more than surprised at that.
I wouldn't be so stressed out if I wasn't serious, Youko, he frowned, closing his eyes and trying to take some measure of comfort from the light breeze that picked up. She's our mother, and this means a great deal to her. Besides, aren't you old enough that it's time for us to think about kids and a wife? Or at least a serious girlfriend?
'That's boring,' Youko snorted. 'Why would I want to participate in something that detracts from my fun? There's too much responsibility for me in starting a family, and it's too complicated being like this to find a pretty girl we like who we would trust to have a kit for us.'
You're making yourself sound lazy, Kurama pointed out dryly.
'I have high standards,' Youko gave every impression of turning up his nose primly. 'Especially if you expect us to actually breed with her. We have to be even more selective with whomever we select for the other half of our offspring.'
Youko, I know you like kids more than you pretend you do, Kurama accused him in exasperation.
'Maybe if it was mine and I could teach it what I wanted,' he replied thoughtfully. 'But I don't know, I've never really been around them. Isn't it supposed to be some weird bonding thing when you make it yourself?'
Kurama slanted a curious look over at Hiei, arching an eyebrow and making a slight sound of contemplation.
"I am a bad example," Hiei informed him in a bland tone. "Even if the mother rejected a child with your blood, you would still take it to raise. You can't make a comparison."
"True," he sighed again, shifting his weight again on the railing. "And my mother would be more than happy to take care of her grandchild when I was away on… 'business.'"
"Hn… " Hiei opened his eyes again, staring at Kurama for a long moment before he sighed and looked up at the sky again. "I suppose there's not going to be a way that I can talk you out of such an asinine pursuit."
'He's just jealous because our offspring would be more attractive than his,' Youko scoffed. 'If it would mean so much to her, I suppose it's the least we can do… And you're the one with more control of our body so far.'
"Right," Kurama rolled his eyes. "I know it's a human thing, but I've made up my mind. She's never asked us for anything, never asked questions… she's always been there for us, Youko. She wants to know that we're going to have a family and be happy."
Hiei could feel himself starting to smirk again, cocking his head to one side, "So when are you going to start looking for a suitable human girl? We've been in and out of Ningenkai so often that you've lost touch with even your former classmates."
Kurama set his jaw, hands curling into a fist against the railing as he pushed himself back up to stand, "The sooner I find one, the sooner this will be over. I'll get started as soon as possible…"