The Kaleidoscope Syndrome
Kuwabara had forgotten how the Ningenkai felt like. Back in the Reikai, he and the others spent their time in endless fields of nature. The weather was always perfect and everything was simply sublime. Kuwabara would have gotten very bored if it weren't for the fact that Koenma would occasionally call upon him or the other fighters to help out on some missions with Botan. But other than that, the afterlife was pretty dull. He couldn't even count how many times he had wished he were back in the Ningenkai during the years.
And now that he was, Kuwabara was not going to waste anymore time. He took in all his surroundings like an excited preschooler on his way to the playground after lunch.
The Ningenkai was not what he remembered.
"Look at these gadgets! Man, what else will they come up with?"
That was what he said as he passed by each store window. Jin walked alongside him a bit sheepishly as passersby stared at them. He had done his best to hide his horns, but all he could manage to do was wrap a long scarf around his head until it became a strange sort of turban of plaid greens and blues. Kuwabara would have had a heart attack from laughing so hard if it hadn't been for the fact that he was already dead and thus, immune to such trivial things. Yusuke had directed him to change into other clothes to make it less obvious, but Jin still felt extremely uncomfortable. It was one thing to observe the humans, but another thing completely to actually mingle with them.
"I wonder what those two are doing now," he said aloud wonderingly.
"Who knows?" Kuwabara replied offhandedly.
Right after Yusuke had fallen back asleep following their mysterious message that came flying through the window, Hiei had turned on both him and Kuwabara with such resolution that even they—known for being outspoken and argumentative—could not speak back. For some reason or another the fiery youkai had wanted them to leave the apartment. "Explore the city. Don't come back until after midnight," were his exact words. Jin had been flabbergasted, but amazingly enough it was Kuwabara who nodded immediately and dragged him out of the apartment without a word.
And now here they were—in the heart of Shinjuku with only a couple of more hours to spare until midnight. Jin dug his hands into the pockets of the jeans he borrowed from Yusuke. Human clothing was so constrictive—how in the world did they manage to wear these outfits every day? And these were only the men's clothing. He couldn't even begin to fathom how women wore those dresses and skirts and all those accessories that just dangled from their arms and ears like extra appendages.
"Humans," he muttered to himself for the third time in the last half hour.
Then he bumped into Kuwabara, who had stopped right in the middle of the street. Jin looked at him curiously. "What's up?" he asked.
"I think I know why Hiei wanted us to leave."
There was something mischievous in Kuwabara's tone. He sounded almost too eager to have stumbled upon this revelation. And the glittering in his eyes only spurred that thought. Jin arched an eyebrow warily.
"You haven't noticed anything, huh?"
Jin was seriously confused now. And he didn't bother hiding it. Kuwabara snickered.
"Hiei and Yusuke of course. Kurama was talking about it with Keiko yesterday. I didn't understand why but now…I do. So that's why he wanted us to leave… Heh… That Shorty is slyer than I thought!"
"What the hell are you going on about, Kuwabara?" interjected Jin finally, frustrated and quite annoyed at being left out in this monologue.
Kuwabara faced him slowly with a grim expression. "Hiei wanted us to leave," he began dramatically, "to confess his love for Yusuke!"
"Oh. Right…wait. WHAT?"
Hiei stared at the clock hanging by the door. Yusuke had been sleeping for close to three hours now without stirring. Hiei had made himself a small but adequate dinner from the sandwiches left in the refrigerator and then spent the remaining time watching the sleeping youkai. The poison in Yusuke's system seemed to be relatively nonvolatile, but apparently it drained him of all his energy within a short span of time. Fortunately, that was all it did—so far at least. Hiei could watch over a sleeping patient better than a violent and thrashing one.
Another four hours to go. Hiei intended for Yusuke to get as much of his strength recovered by that time before heading out. If it had really been up to him, however, he would have rather sedated the other youkai for the whole night than endanger his life even further. But reasoning and logic took over. Hiei would not allow his emotions to get in the way of this. He had already allowed them free reign over his actions for far too long now.
"Are you going to come out now or are you still playing your games?"
A low chuckle sounded behind him. "Perceptible as ever, Hiei. It's good to know you're not taking this lightly," came an all too familiar voice.
Hiei scowled as Koenma entered the room, cloaked darkly in his teenage form. The pacifier was still present, but there was also an uncanny look of seriousness in the god's eyes that stayed Hiei's words.
"What are you doing here?"
Koenma's gaze flickered once over Yusuke's form. "He's done so much for all three worlds. It seems rather sick that they would have destined for such a thing."
"What do you mean?" Hiei demanded.
The death god looked at him sternly. "I'm putting myself at a great risk by doing this, Hiei. But it's the least I can do for a friend I suppose," he said. "This quest…it will end tragically for you and Yusuke—especially Yusuke. He will die—this time for good."
Hiei felt his insides freeze. "Is that so?" he said tightly.
Koenma nodded wearily and folded his arms. "I guess it's because he's escaped us one too many times. Either way, the Reikai wants him—and there is no escaping it."
"So why tell me?" growled Hiei, tightening his fists in anger.
Koenma looked up sharply. "Because I can help. Just by me telling you what will happen to Yusuke is changing the course of his fate. I cannot tell him personally, but I most certainly can tell you—you, who are one of his closest companions. And we can change his fate—that is…if you're up to it," he explained with a hint of a smirk.
Hiei relaxed his grip. "A man's fate cannot be changed. Isn't that what you said?"
"Normally, yes. But tell me—how many people have the god of death on his side?" retorted Koenma dryly.
"Why did you say it would end tragically for me as well?"
Koenma remained silent for a while. There was nothing written in his eyes. Hiei knew for a fact that the god could very well be as detached as he when the situation called for such a thing.
"The circumstances revolving around Yusuke's death… Suffice to say, it will push you over the edge."
Hiei narrowed his gaze on the death god. "But we can change this."
Koenma nodded. "Yes…yes, we can," he said. Then with a sigh, "I can't tell you everything that will happen—nor can I offer you any real help per se. All I can do is guide you. A man's fate is something not so easily altered after all."
"Are you really doing this out of camaraderie?"
"I'm not here for any ordinary business, Hiei. I have many duties to perform at the Reikai—my visit here hardly fits into my schedule," was the harsh response.
Hiei looked at Yusuke's sleeping form. "You're doing this for him."
"Please. I'm not nearly as soft as that. Besides…there is something else amiss. Yusuke, as far as I can remember, was never meant to die until a very long, long time. Something changed in his destiny—something I cannot identify. But it has shifted the balance dramatically. And until I find out what that is exactly, Yusuke must stay alive."
"When was his death due?"
Koenma gave a humorless chuckle. "Tonight—right after your midnight escapade."
Surprise made Hiei stare at Koenma openly. "And you give me the warning now?" he asked.
"Yes. So be on guard," the god replied airily. He tossed his cloak over to the side. "And good luck on this mission—you'll need it. Might I also add this small piece of advice: think outside the box. It's never really been one of Yusuke's specialties—though he has improved greatly since his days as a Reikai Tantei. And speak your mind—no matter how outrageous or incredible it may seem. He's not nearly as thickheaded as he appears and can be quite open-minded about many things."
With that Koenma bowed slightly and tossed a small ring to Hiei. He didn't say anything as to what it was for and only nodded once before leaving the room and apartment altogether through a bright portal. Hiei stared at the ring in his hand for a while, letting Koenma's last words sink into his head. "Speak your mind." There seemed to be some other message lurking underneath those words—something that reminded Hiei a lot of a certain silver-haired kitsune's advice on his dealings with Yusuke.
It seemed everyone was out to make him open up to his feelings for Yusuke. Hiei frowned deeply.
"Tonight—right after your midnight escapade."
The same icy grip latched itself onto his heart as Hiei balled his fist so tightly that his whole arm began trembling from the pressure. "Not if I can help it."
The fiery youkai turned around and saw Yusuke staring at him blearily as he mussed his hair messily. "Help from wondering how long an idiot can stay asleep."
Yusuke yawned. "It's not my fault."
Hiei stared at him. "And you give me the warning now?" He silently thanked Koenma. The god, despite his meddlesome personality and ongoing sarcasm, was a true comrade. Hiei couldn't imagine losing Yusuke again so soon—without any answers at all. But Koenma's message disturbed him. Originally, the case seemed relatively straightforward, despite its many complexities. Someone was after Yusuke. That was it. And now it was quickly turning into something greater—something that involved changing destinies. Hiei didn't like it at all.
"Hiei, if you frown anymore your face will be stuck in that expression forever. You don't want to scare people anymore than you already do."
The fiery youkai started. Speak your mind—no way. Hiei shuddered inwardly at such a proposition. "You can never stay quiet when it's good you for you," he said distractedly.
Yusuke blinked innocently. "Nope!"
It was as if Koenma had installed the mantra into Hiei's mind. Now all he could do was try in vain to keep it from overriding his verbal capacity and spill out something he didn't wish to let out just yet.
"Are you okay, Hiei? You look…stressed."
Brilliant observation as usual, Detective. But those words didn't come out. Instead, Hiei found himself saying, "I'm worried about you."
Yusuke stared at Hiei for a moment. Then the words began to sink in. Worried, was it? He almost laughed. Well, that much he knew from the beginning. But he never imagined Hiei would actually vocalize his concern. Yusuke smiled. The gesture warmed him greatly.
"Well Hiei, don't worry. Because I'll jump right back up soon enough!"
The shorter youkai's gaze never wavered. Hiei was almost possessed. "Yusuke…I'm not worried about you only as a friend," he said pointedly.
His demeanor was hard and unfeeling. Hiei had no control over what was happening to him as he walked over to Yusuke's bed and leaned down over the other youkai. Yusuke watched him with shock and in the back of Hiei's mind, he screamed at his body to stop. But still he bent closer down until his lips met with Yusuke's for the briefest of seconds. Then Hiei regained his body. He snapped back, controlling his face to maintain a calm expression while mentally he was in utter turmoil. Yusuke didn't even move from his spot—he only looked at Hiei with the utmost surprise.
What the hell just happened? Hiei steadied himself. "Precisely, Detective." He then fled through the open window.
Now Hiei was angry. Angry with himself. Angry with whatever force possessed him to do such a thing. He stopped on the rooftop of a nearby building, trying to recollect his composure. But why had that happened? Hiei knew it was not of his own doing. Something had taken control of his mind and body.
Eventually, though, he calmed down enough to realize it wasn't his actions that really worried him—it was Yusuke. He hadn't said anything after Hiei kissed him. He merely stared at him with that stunned look in his eyes, something that scared Hiei considerably. But like a coward he had run away before even giving Yusuke a chance to recover. He snorted bitterly. What a perfect prelude to the midnight fiasco that would no doubt occur.
"Ah, Hiei…you weren't supposed to run away. But I guess my charm wasn't strong enough."
The youkai turned around sharply. Then, the revelation sank in. "You," he spat out, "you were in charge of that…weren't you?"
The ferry girl from the Reikai hadn't changed in regards to appearance. Only now she was adorned in a dark blue kimono. Her oar remained the same and most importantly, the impish glint in her eyes remained the same as she smiled winsomely at Hiei.
"And a nice to see you too, Hiei!" she greeted brightly. "I do hope you liked my gift. I swear, when Kurama told us what was going on between you two, I never imagined it to be so bad. I just had to take matters into my own hands. And besides…it wasn't like I made you lie. You are worried about Yusuke—and I know you care about him as more than a friend. And goodness knows what else you wanted to do to him than just kiss!"
Botan laughed gaily to herself. Hiei glowered at her dangerously. "You had no right to control me like that, Botan," he snarled out.
Years ago, the ferry girl would have been too afraid to try anything so bold on Hiei. But centuries had gone by and now, it seemed, Botan had assumed it safe for her to try her little pranks on him. Hiei had to suppress his urge to strangle her.
"Please, Hiei. You have no idea how tiring it's been for all of us. Happiness is what you want, right? Well, telling Yusuke was the first step towards that goal. I just…nudged you into confessing. And the kiss was so short! But I think it had enough impact," continued Botan, winking. "Now I'm not supposed to be here but I just couldn't resist when I heard Koenma was paying you a visit. You know everything now. So I just want to wish you good luck. And remember, Hiei, no matter how hard you try to imagine it didn't happen, it did. So live with it and just wait it out. Yusuke cares about you a lot too, you know."
And then she disappeared before Hiei could even think of a proper reply. He stared at the nighttime sky. So it had happened. In the most unconventional way ever, he had finally told Yusuke—or shown him rather—how he felt about him. Hiei shook his head to himself. What an anticlimactic confessional. He hadn't even been in charge of it. Originally, he had never even thought about telling Yusuke. Or if he did manage to gather enough galls, Hiei would have at least done it with proper setting and atmosphere. What Botan did…was purely unexpected and completely unromantic.
Hiei froze. Unromantic? He sighed. Kurama had been much too influential on his life. Such ideologies and gestures had been borrowed from him entirely. Damn that kitsune.
"What did I tell you about frowning, Hiei?"
He almost jumped. Almost. Instead Hiei froze momentarily before resigning himself over to fate. "You should be resting," he said indirectly.
Yusuke grinned. "I feel much better than before. I guess love has a way of rejuvenating its victims, huh?"
Hiei looked at him. "No teasing. Or else I will have to hurt you."
"Now, now, Hiei. I'm just teasing you on your delivery. I was very taken back. But…it was nice," said Yusuke, "and cute. Typical. Only you can pull off such a thing."
All Hiei could do was listen. He had no idea what Yusuke was going at. Nor was he in particular need of wanting to know. So he listened halfheartedly until something Yusuke said finally garnered his full attention.
"…so what now? Can I call you my boyfriend?"
Yusuke looked at Hiei with what could have been mistaken as seriousness—if not for the ridiculously goofy smile plastered onto his face. Hiei blinked.
"Is that the term your humans created? Pathetic."
Yusuke laughed heartedly. "Hey, come on! I'm trying to be serious. So you mean to tell me after all that you really don't want me? That it was just a joke?" he said, arching an eyebrow.
Hiei contemplated to himself. Yusuke always was a master at provocation. He knew exactly what to say to get his opponent to spill. And it made Hiei feel vulnerable—and somewhat mad.
"Are you the one who's joking."
This wiped the amusement off from Yusuke's face. He took a step closer to the shorter youkai and smiled as Hiei glared darkly at his approaching form. "Well… No," he replied. "I'm just trying to add a little humor to a very awkward conversation."
"Then cut the humor and let's get straight to the point," snapped Hiei. He placed a hand out before him. "Shake if you reciprocate."
Yusuke had been on the verge of laughing when Hiei's severity stopped him. He coughed back his chuckles and placed his hand in Hiei's, finalizing in a firm shake. "Is this how the youkai do it or what?" he asked.
"I'm beginning to think you aren't very serious about this."
"Au contraire, my little Squirt. I care very much," countered Yusuke, "but I still insist on calling you my boyfriend."
"I will not be subjugated by such terminology."
"Well then what would call us?"
"We don't require a title, Yusuke."
"Man, you're such a stiff! I can see now why you and Kurama broke up."
"Kurama and I have nothing to—you knew about us?"
"Don't be so surprised, Hiei. It wasn't that hard to tell."
Hiei and Yusuke were standing face-to-face now. To the former, it seemed a very surreal situation. Unintentionally showing Yusuke how he felt was the last thing on Hiei's mind and yet when everything was said and done, it had proved to be not nearly as intimidating as he thought it would. Despite all the urging and encouragement from Kurama, Hiei was simply not the type to "confess." Even when he knew he probably had a high rate of success. It was that one moment of stripping away all facades and being utterly true to yourself that scared Hiei.
And now it was over.
With no damage to his pride Hiei had prevailed. It was as if a wall between himself and Yusuke had finally been broken down. There was no hiding now. The fiery youkai felt a sense of peace overcome him. Yes, it was all over.
"Hiei, it's almost time. We should get going."
The shorter youkai glanced at the pocket watch Kurama had given him years ago. The kitsune had said something about him being late too many times as he handed the little mechanical device to Hiei. Now all he could do was snort scathingly. Dependence on technology was hardly Hiei's idea, but it did come in handy every so often.
"Twenty minutes is a lot of extra time," he said.
Yusuke shrugged. "Better early than later."
He began to move out when Hiei grabbed his arm. For a moment, everything seemed to freeze. Hiei didn't bother to hide his concerns anymore—there was no point, really. Yusuke always knew what he was thinking. It was an alarming talent.
"No rashness. If you can help it, avoid physical combat."
Yusuke's face remained blank. And then he smiled to himself. "Now that's funny coming from you," he replied. He sighed. "Fine, almighty one. I'll listen to your selfish requests this time."
Hiei only smiled.
Yeah, this was a fluffy chapter. I couldn't help it. XD Happy Holidays!