December 4, 2007 – Hi, all! For those who have been following my fics recently, you know that I've been in the process of overhauling most of them after some MUCH needed lessons from my excellent beta, MyAibou. This one is no exception. Originally posted as a single fic in two chapters, I started breaking down each half and realized that it would be too awkward to leave it as one fic. So, the story is reposted in two parts, each a (short) chaptered fic in itself.

For those of you newly reading, I apologize in advance. These first few pages cover a lot of background (read: lots of exposition!). There are two reasons for this. The lesser of the two is that I enjoyed covering things specifically from Kurama's point of view, exploring his thoughts on certain aspects of the events. More importantly, however, is that this is my very first serious fanfic and, when I first started writing this, I had not discovered and figured the only ones who would ever read it were friends and family who were not necessarily familiar with the characters' backgrounds. The way I wrote it, I figured that if my mom could follow what was going on, anyone could. LOL I've thought about re-writing this first section, but I don't think I could really pull off doing so. Ah, well. Hope you can forgive me and give this story a deserving chance. Thanks!!!

Disclaimer – "Yu Yu Hakusho" and all known related characters do not belong to me. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.

"Partners, Friends: Part One - Kurama"
by DragonDancer5150

Chapter 1 - Rumination

Kurama tried to lean over for a glimpse at the clock on the dashboard but there were too many balloons in the way. He knew Hatanaka, his soon-to-be stepfather, was having a hard enough time seeing out the rearview mirror without the balloons being pushed around the back seat of the car. He sank back, then turned to see young Shuichi-kun gazing at him.

As the adults continued their conversation in the front seats, the boy motioned for Kurama to lean over, then whispered conspiratorially into his ear, "You're late to meet with your friends, aren't you?"

Kurama sighed, then gave the boy a grin. "Yes, but . . . it's all right. They can wait."

"Are you sure you can't stay home this time, just once?"

"I wish I could, believe me. I have made a commitment, though, and you know that it is important to keep the commitments you make."

Hatanaka's son, Shuichi - a name Kurama had no problem remembering - had just turned ten years old earlier in the week and his birthday party was tomorrow, Saturday. Kurama vividly remembered when he was that age. He could not be there so the group - Hatanaka and his son, Kurama, and his mother Shiori - had gone out for an early dinner to celebrate together before Kurama left that evening. The wedding between Shiori and Hatanaka would not be for several months but already the foursome considered themselves a family. Kurama felt indebted to Hatanaka, who had helped him care for Shiori all those months she was in the hospital, only leaving her side when he had no choice. The couple had been talking about the possibility of marriage before her illness. Upon her recovery, they eagerly announced their engagement. Never could the happy couple have guessed the part Shiori's son had played in her miraculous healing. It was best that way.

"Yeah, I guess," Shuichi-kun finally murmured, bringing Kurama's attention back to the present. He bent forward, reaching into the gift bag at his feet. "Here, take this with you." He held up an action figure. Kurama recognized the character from an American movie that had recently reached Japan. He could not recall the movie's name just then.

Kurama shook his head. "Shuichi, Mom just gave that to you at dinner. Are you sure you want me to take it?"

Shuichi-kun was nodding. "M-hm. So you'll think of me while you're gone. That way you can still be at the party, sort of. We can play with him when Dad and I come over again next week and I'll take him home then."

Kurama accepted the toy, his heart full. It was moments just like this that made it easier for Kurama to leave every weekend. He could never forget why he had done what he had nor did he regret it. The thought made him look at his mother, Shiori, sitting in the passenger seat in front of him.

Hatanaka pulled into the driveway of Shiori's home and she and Kurama climbed out. As they waved good-by, Kurama turned to her. "Mom, what time is it?"

Shiori glanced at her watch. "Almost six." At the look on her son's face, she asked, "You were expecting it to be earlier?"

"I . . . must have miscalculated. I told Hinageshi that I'd be meeting her about now. I had better get going. The bus - "

"Not so fast, Shuichi." Shiori caught his arm. "Come inside a moment. I have something for you." Kurama followed obediently. Unlocking the front door, she led him into the kitchen, where a satchel waited on the counter. "You never take anything with you on these weekend excursions of yours," she fussed, handing Kurama the bag. "Not food, not even a change of clothes."

"The trainers take care of us," he protested.

"Well, let your mother worry anyway," she grinned. "It's my job. There's enough food to share a little. I bought you some Hershey chocolate bars, too. I understand they're very popular."

Kurama shook his head with a grin, thinking, She must have stopped by that new little American market on the corner by her work.

Shiori gazed at him a moment longer before commenting, "Be careful, Shuichi. You know it worries me that you always come home so stiff and sore."

He shrugged it off. "Not as much as I used to," he replied with a tone of reassurance he did not quite feel himself. He glanced at the clock on the wall. "I have to go now or I'll miss the bus." He let himself be pulled into a quick hug before sprinting out the door and down the street.

He reached the bus stop just in time to catch the attention of the driver. He took a seat, the satchel perched on his lap, and sank back with a heavy sigh. He hated lying, especially to his mother but, then again, his whole life to this point had been one long lie in itself. The human woman who had given birth to this human body had no idea of the truth behind the spirit within it. And she never will, not if I can help it.

Shiori believed her son was taking part in a weekend training camp for a marathon that was to be held for some charity. The date had not yet been set but it was at least another two years off. One could never start the rigorous training for such a thing too early, however.

The truth of the matter was far different. Shiori did not know that her son had been arrested for a crime the very night of her miraculous recovery. She did not know that he had been party to a theft of magical items from another realm of existence. She did not know that it was one of those items which had healed her. She did not know that her son had been on the verge of giving his life for hers. He would never tell her that he had not expected to live through that evening. It was only by the intervention of the very person who had been sent to capture him and reclaim the magical mirror that he had survived. An extraordinary human named Urameshi Yusuke had been with him on the roof of the hospital when Kurama had activated the mirror, knowing that it would require his life in return for granting the wish he would request of it. Yusuke had been horrified to discover the price and jumped in, telling the mirror to take his life instead, or at least take some from each of them, to fulfill the requirement for Kurama's wish - health and happiness for the human Shiori.

Though the human body had been named Minamino Shuichi at birth, his real name was Kurama - or, more correctly, Youko Kurama. He was originally a youkai, a denizen of the Demon Realm. He was also a notorious thief - or had been until a hunter had caught up to him on a botched theft. Mortally wounded, he had taken a spirit form and escaped into the Human Realm, finding an unborn human infant with which to merge in order to recover his strength. If he could deal with living as a human for ten years, he would regain his memories and his powers and could then return to the Demon Realm.

At least, that had been the plan.

Kurama's "father" died when he was still very young and Shiori had raised her son alone. As a youkai, he had never had a mother before, not one that he could remember. He had never dreamed that he could ever become attached to a human, especially one who could order him to such menial tasks as cleaning his room and brushing his teeth. The lessons she taught him in her gentle way, however, were ones that would stay with him for the rest of his existence - lessons of sacrifice and of a mother's love. His tenth birthday came and went. One reason after another - one excuse after another, he recognized now - had come up for him to wait "just a little longer." He recalled when he was eleven, he had come home from school and wanted a coffee can for a gardening project. Shiori was busy cooking dinner so he pulled a chair over from the table and climbed up to reach one on the top of the cabinet. He overbalanced and fell, knocking some plates off the shelf in the process. They shattered. Shiori gasped and leaped to catch her son, seeing that he was going to crack the back of his head on the floor right in the center of the broken porcelain. Kurama remembered hitting the floor hard but something had cushioned his head. He turned to look into his mother's eyes. He sat up quickly, noting with horror the amount of blood smearing the tiles as Shiori pulled herself back onto her heels. Both forearms had been gashed open but she only smiled in reassurance at her son, relieved that he was unharmed. After that, every time he thought of leaving, he remembered her smile and the terrible scars she proudly bore even to this day. Then, she fell ill and Kurama's mind was decided - human or youkai, he was a son who loved his mother. He would not, could not, leave her.

It was very shortly after that incident when Kurama had first met the skilled swordsman mercenary, Hiei. Missing persons' reports had risen sharply over a period of just a few days. Kurama was walking a female classmate home after cram school one afternoon. He recalled that the girl had a terrible crush on him, much to his chagrin. Having a heightened Reiki awareness of her own - possibly awakened and strengthened by long proximity to the hybrid - Maya clearly saw the youkai that appeared to taunt Kurama before fleeing. Then the swordsman appeared. Hiei sensed the high amount of Yoki in him and realized that he was not fully human. Mistaking him for the youkai lackey he had been tracking, Hiei attacked. Kurama drew him away from Maya, thinking to protect her. He could not have known that the other youkai had still been in the area - nor that Maya had been his true target, bait to lure the former thief to his master.

Kurama learned that an old enemy of his was in the neighborhood when Hiei accused him of being in league with the vile, flesh-eating youkai. "What?! Yatsude? Are you saying he's here?" "You mean you're not working for Yatsude?" Inclined to believe Kurama based on his expression of shock and anger, Hiei lowered his sword - then succumbed to terrible injuries he had previously suffered. He awoke in Kurama's room several hours later, completely healed. Having long regained most of his Yoki and abilities, Kurama had summoned powerful healing herbs from the Demon Realm to use on his patient. A phone call from a concerned classmate revealed that Maya had not yet made it home. Kurama joined Hiei in tracking the carnivorous youkai, who gained strength from eating the flesh of humans and youkai alike - especially females. Hiei had heard that he had feasted on a Koorime maiden, fearing her identity to be his missing twin, Yukina. The fight was hard but the two, working together, managed to defeat Yatsude and rescue Maya. Kurama had used another plant, the pollen of the mugen flower, to erase her memories. He could still recall Hiei looking at him, puzzled by the hybrid. "Tell me your name. I'll remember it." " . . . Kurama." It was the first time in twelve years that he had spoken that name, let alone identified himself by it. Over the next few years, their paths crossed on many occasions. Hiei learned Kurama's true identity but kept it to himself. In return, Kurama would help him find his lost sister.

Shiori had been ill for many long months, the doctors unable to do anything more than keep her comfortable, when Hiei approached Kurama with a proposition. In the Spirit Realm, King Enma was going on a vacation, leaving his son, Lord Koenma, in charge. Hiei had discovered that the Imperial Vault would be guarded less than usual, as the personnel were currently stretched thin. The swordsman and another youkai were going to break into the vault and steal the three Artifacts of Darkness but they needed the thief's help to get past some of the defenses. Kurama's initial reaction was to refuse. Talented and capable though he was, he no longer had any desire to return to his old ways. Then he remembered what the three artifacts were. One was said to be capable of granting any wish desired by the wielder, though it demanded the wisher's life in return. Still reeling from the doctors' news just earlier that day - Shiori only had weeks, maybe days, left to live - Kurama was willing to do anything to save her. He agreed to get Hiei and his companion into the Imperial Vault. In return, he laid claim to the Mirror of Forlorn Hope.

When Kurama learned that a Spirit Realm detective - a Reiki-talented human employed by Lord Koenma to capture youkai in the Human Realm - had been sent after him and the others, he decided to make the first move. Perhaps he could convince the human to give him a little time, assure the detective that he would readily give up himself and the artifact once he had completed his task. After all, it was the truth - or at least partially. The detective could have the mirror once the wish was made. Kurama had been surprised to find that the human detective was a boy of about his age, a teenager. He was even further taken aback by the human's interference on his behalf. He repaid that debt when he helped the detective and his ferry girl assistant against his friend Hiei, saving the human's life. Kurama had come to know Hiei rather well over the intervening years since their first meeting but that friendship did not override the fact that what Hiei was doing - what Kurama had helped him to do - was wrong.

The bus had crossed town with Kurama hardly noticing and he nearly missed his stop, lost as he had been in his musings. He stepped off onto the pavement and followed the high cement wall around to the front of the Kasane Shrine. He paused at the gate, paying his respects to Emperor Enma, ruler of the Spirit Realm, before beginning his ascent of the long flight of steps up to the shrine.

Emperor Enma. Just thinking on the name took Kurama back to his trial over seven months ago. As promised, Kurama let the detective's ferry girl assistant, Botan, take him back to the Spirit Realm to stand trial. He shook his head at that. Youkai trials were not like human trials, at least as practiced in some countries of the Human Realm. The question was not of one's guilt but of one's innocence if the defendant even bothered to contest that fact. Most did not. He had not. The trial was merely a formal means of sentencing the prisoner. For Kurama, there had been one point of contention before the sentencing could be decided and that was how to deal with him. Was he human or was he youkai? That was a very important point because it decided under whose jurisdiction he fell, Emperor Enma's directly or his son, Lord Koenma, who administered matters pertaining to the Human Realm. Unfortunately for Kurama, the decision was that, since he had all or at least most of his youko memories, his energy was Yoki rather than Reiki, and he had long regained the use of his special youkai abilities, he would be treated as a youkai and therefore fell under Emperor Enma's more rigid - which was to say, crueler - discipline. The reason for Kurama's involvement in the first place and the fact that he stepped forth to help the human detective against his partner were both taken into consideration. However, those and the fact that he had been known for some fifteen years now as the human Minamino Shuichi did not change the fact that he was also the celebrated youkai thief, Youko Kurama. His own admission and the fact that he had the same memories and abilities confirmed it. The theft would not have happened at all, or at least could never have been successful, without his involvement.

His sentence was light, all things considered. In order to keep the humans around him ignorant of any problems, Kurama was allowed to live at home in the Human Realm during the week. He was on a sort of house-arrest, however. Unless on exception such as an errand for his mother, he was to go straight to school and home again - no after-school activities, no friends. It was the weekends that were the harder part of the deal.

At that thought, Kurama suppressed a shudder and kept climbing, shaking from his mind any further mental consideration on the matter. What was done was done. Now all he could do was serve out the remainder of his time . . . and hope he survived it.

Author's Notes: Please be sure to check my bio page for any updates, etc. Thanks!