Disclaimer: Yu Yu Hakusho © Yoshihiro Togashi.
By Zelia Theb
- - "...You're all I've ever wanted. You're amazing...your loyalty, the mysterious glimmer in your eyes, your touch... You've been here for me through everything... How could I have forgotten all of these things about you?" - -
"So what," said a heartless Yusuke, "I'm sure he can take care of himself." Botan's shout of anger brought him back to that memory, that evening where the sky cried in roaring pain, just as he had done.
"I need you to come with me, Yusuke. I've become too soft and weak after living in this world for so long."
Having not heard a word the apparition said, he remarked, "Whatever. I've got people coming over and don't feel like dealing with this right now."
Kurama's heart weakened; why was Yusuke closing himself down? Did he feel guilty over their hardly-intimate night already? No, he simply wanted to avoid the pain that he had gotten over already.
Kurama sighed, shaking his head regretfully as Botan watched him. Yusuke had since left the room, and started the coffee on his own. Kuwabara knocked on the apartment door minutes later, and soon the whole gang knew of Hiei's situation.
Botan left the apartment in a hurry. She had places to be, places that no one could know about, and having the gang occupied with carpeting and Hiei's situation made them less likely to follow her.
So she flew, careening along the winds, high above the city until she was out of its limits. She skimmed the tree-tops, careful not to catch the highest branches with her shoes, taking in the scent of pines as she sped toward the town set amongst nature.
She passed house upon house upon until she reached the clearing in the center of town: the park. It's there that she descended upon the land, losing her oar to blend in with any of bored youths that may be wandering the streets. Fortunately for her, none were to be found.
A meeting of the utmost importance. But how to deliver the news? She approached one of the few deciduous trees in park.
And then, Hiei's voice. He jumped beside her in the shadows. "Hn. You didn't ramble, did you?
"Uhhh..." Botan knew she had. "It came off as concern."
She heard the 'thank you' hidden in the grunt. "Your Jagan's lost its power, hasn't it?"
He stepped out. Sure enough, the ward wrapped around his head now covered a bandage. "Just another gift with no purpose. No one cares. Why should I?"
Botan bit her lower lip. Why had Hiei asked her to lie to Yusuke? To everyone? "You could just go back."
"Pfft. A weakness. There's no point to show it. There remains only one place where I haven't been defeated."
Terror struck her heart. "Hiei!"
"Tch. As if. I'd rather stay here than let Koenma have the pleasure of finding another way to crush me." He looked to his side. This return to the old felt better. More comfortable than love. "His reaction?"
"Ahh...ummm, he didn't really..." Botan struggled for the words.
"So Yusuke has also returned to his former self. How fitting that he doesn't care."
"But what happened? Was all of it a lie?"
"It's far less dramatic. I fought and lost. The Jagan is wounded. It might have been enough to know that Yusuke would seek vengeance, even though I don't need it."
Botan knew she was a bad liar, especially when it came to Hiei. She tried to cover up what she knew. "I think he would, Hiei. Your lie made it seem hopeless."
"And Yusuke is known for being thick-skulled and reckless enough to not care."
"And you! You left him!" Botan balled her fists. "How selfish of you! Don't you get it?"
Hiei growled. "How selfish of him! How dare he deny all that makes me who I am!"
"I..." That stopped her. Hiei had a point. Yusuke did not bother to compromise. "He...Hiei, he's trying to move on."
Hiei's glare came quick and sharp. "Kurama," he said.
And before Botan could answer again, Hiei shouted, "Kurama!" A fit of rage and jealousy. Hiei sped away from the park, the lights of the town turning red as the blood that pumped fast through his body.
Dawn. Kurama woke up on the sofa, Yusuke barely asleep on his shoulder. Something had him on edge.
"Yusuke," Kurama said. "Are you awake?"
"Yeah, kinda," Yusuke answered. "Do you feel that?"
Yusuke referred not to the warmth and feelings between them. Kurama knew that. "Something unnerving, Yusuke. Getting closer. I—"
Yusuke shot up, the blanket on his body falling to the floor. "Hiei!"
A gust of wind swept their hair about. The window had opened. Misdirection. Hiei stood behind their gaze. "You're like poison, fox."
Kurama cautiously stood, knowing that casual behavior might give Hiei's temper the edge it needed to strike. "Hiei," he said, "your energy...it's different."
Hiei said nothing as stared hard into Kurama's soul.
Yusuke, on the other hand, fought the mix of anger and joy in his heart. "Hiei, your head."
"It's fine," Hiei said.
Yusuke approached him carefully. "Botan said you were hurt. The Jagan—Hiei, what happened?"
"More importantly," Kurama added, "why aren't you dead?"
Yusuke gave the redhead a dangerous look.
"It's a fair question, Yusuke," Kurama said. "It's my understanding that should the Jagan be severly injured, Hiei's life would be at risk. It's no ordinary procedure." He looked back at Hiei. "You should be dead, Hiei."
"I'm healing. Not for you concern."
Yusuke, without thinking, put his hand into Hiei's hair. So greasy, as if Hiei'd been travelling without a break since he left. "If you're dying...Hiei. You have to tell us. We can help you!"
Hiei snarled. "I'm not dying!"
Now Kurama dropped his caution. Those few moments to gain his bearings helped. He could subdue Hiei if he needed. "You had Botan lie to us." He crossed his arms. "Why, Hiei?"
"I owe you no explanation, Kurama."
"What about me?" asked Yusuke. The hand in Hiei's hair moved to his shoulder. He felt Hiei tense, then relax under the touch. "Why lie to me? Why?"
"Hn. You had to come with me somehow, Yusuke."
"So you lied to me?" The anger in his heart toppled that joy. "After everything you've done, you think a lie is going to make things better?"
Hiei's hands balled into fists. Yusuke would understand, one way or another, the urges of a demon. "You denied me everything that I am, Yusuke. You should be happy that it wasn't worse."
Kurama breathed deep, calculating several scenarios and their outcomes in his head. "Don't you threaten him, Hiei."
"I can handle myself, Kurama," Yusuke shot back.
Kurama stayed still, keeping his own temper in check. The things Yusuke said, he should have known they meant nothing. How silly of him to believe that he might have someone to love.
Hiei kept his eyes on Kurama as he spoke. "You have a choice, Yusuke. Make it. I'm sick of waiting on your slow human tendencies."
The tense pressure in the room felt thick, palpable. Sunlight broke the horizon, filtering through the room almost too perfectly upon Yusuke, as if the heavens themselves were putting him on the spot.
He made his choice: recklessness.
"No, you two make a choice! How about that? Because if we're all gonna brawl, I need to know now. Either make up and be friends and have things go back to how they were, here in the human world, or just mess everything up!" He cracked his knuckles, punching his own hand to intimidate them.
"Yusuke," Kurama said, trying to be a voice of reason, "please, this isn't necessary."
"How forgiving of you, fox," Hiei taunted him. "How despicably human."
Kurama let the insult sit. He knew better than to let Hiei and Yusuke start a battle. The building might very well collapse. Someone had to be the mature one. He wondered where Kuwabara was...at least he'd be able to back him up on this front. Not that he needed it.
"I'm waiting," said Yusuke, foot tapping impatiently.
"You're acting like a child!" Hiei yelled.
"So what!" Yusuke screamed. "You really think I want to live in the demon world? Really? I've got news for you, Hiei, I belong here. No matter what happens, no matter how many times I get the urge to punch someone, I belong here. There's no telling when we'll be needed to save the damn city again!"
"So you enjoy playing hero."
"I have to play hero! Who else is going to do it!"
"Pfft," Hiei said. "Let Kuwabara handle it."
Yusuke poked Hiei in the chest. If that didn't provoke him, Yusuke would downright throw him to the ground. "You want me to respect your heritage? Maybe you should respect mine!"
Hiei hissed. The provocation worked. "You selfish ass."
"Yeah? Well you can take your eternal snowflake and shove it!"
Rage. Hiei threw Yusuke into the couch, gentle for what he could have done. The couch toppled backwards, rolling Yusuke to the floor behind it. A lamp fell to the floor, shattering on impact.
"Yusuke! Hiei!" Kurama pleaded. The two didn't stop their predatory stalking of each other. "This is not the answer!"
"Either fight or get out, Kurama!" Hiei roared.
Suddenly, a high-pitched whistle bounced off the walls of the room. "Boys! Cut it out!"
Botan, short of breath, hovered just outside the open window. She'd struggled to keep up with Hiei all night. Slowly, she stumbled in.
"Not a great time, Botan," said Yusuke.
"Your energies are spiking through the roof!" she scolded. "Do you know what that means? You'll be attracting all sorts of apparitions!"
"Hn," Hiei grunted. "So? Let them come."
Botan, knowing well that Hiei might cut her arm off, grabbed Hiei's wrist tightly. She didn't miss; Hiei hadn't expected her to actually do it. "You are in no condition to fight, Hiei." Contrary to her own concerns, she didn't bother being gentle. She tugged him to Yusuke. "And you, mister! You can't just ignore everyone else's feelings and expect them to understand yours! How do you think you lost Keiko? You want to lose these guys too?"
"Bite me, Botan."
With her free hand, she slapped him. Hard. "Don't you remember when you died? Watching your mother grieving? What happened to all of that empathy?"
Kurama uncrossed his arms, still maintaining his observations of the other's movements, no matter how slight. He knew Yusuke to be capable of empathy—it was how they'd shared that kiss—but Botan had a point. And Kurama's heart broke, for he knew that he'd have to step aside again. He cherished Yusuke, and valued Hiei as a friend, no matter how many times they fought.
Yusuke didn't answer, but he dropped his shoulders. Hiei too, dropped his.
"Botan, Kurama, go." Yusuke waited a moment, then said, "Now."
Reluctantly, she let go of Hiei's wrist, and followed Kurama out of the apartment. Sticking with him was a priority, just in case any trouble did happen to show. However, as soon as they closed the door behind them, she felt a drop in their energies. Kurama nodded at her, and they made their way to the stairs, safe enough of a distance to give Hiei and Yusuke their privacy.
"I'm sorry, Hiei," Yusuke said first. His recklessness yet to fade completely, the words still felt awkward on his lips. He hoped the feeling would dismiss completely. If there were any time to not be a jack-ass, it would be now.
"I can't stay here forever, Yusuke."
"I know that. Maybe we can...I dunno, get a summer house or something."
Hiei wasn't expecting that. In fact, the idea was so absurd that it brought a smile to his lips. He remembered why he'd fallen for the detective in the first place. Yusuke broke his shell in a way that no other could. "You actually want to split your time. How uncharacteristic."
"Hey," said Yusuke, drawing closer again, this time not to throw a punch. "We can drop it now."
"Winter, then," Hiei said. "I hate your winters."
A smile, then a laugh, then a giant bear-hug of an embrace that lifted Hiei right off of his feet. "I've missed your misery," Yusuke chuckled.
"Mmph!" said Hiei, muffled by Yusuke's shoulder. "Put me down."
"Not a chance!" Yusuke danced with the Hiei to the point of annoyance—his plan all along—then fell on top of a stray cushion knocked to the floor earlier. "We'll check it out once you get healed. I promise." He kissed him on the cheek. "You will heal, right?"
"Yes," said Hiei. "Stop worrying."
"Yeah, yeah, nuisance and all that." Yusuke sat them up, then said, "I'm really sorry, Hiei. I mean it. Just try to be nice to Kurama."
"You're pushing your luck."
"Whatever." Yusuke swept his hair back. "Do we need to wait for a special portal?"
"Koenma won't refuse us," Hiei said.
Yusuke's brow perked. "I guess you're right. Babyface owes us."
A knock. "Can we come in?" Botan said through the door. "Your energies have been dropped for a while."
"And I can't detect any danger coming," Kurama said.
"Yeah," Yusuke shouted. "Come on in."
They entered. Kurama met Yusuke's eyes, knowing what had transpired. All of those words, all of that romance, wiped clean.
Botan noticed the gaze. She moved to the window, avoiding the broken glass, and waved to Hiei. "Come on. Koenma said I could bring you over for treatment."
"And leave Kurama alone with Yusuke? Not a chance."
"Hiei," Yusuke said. "Please? I'm not trying to hide anything from you."
"Oh Hiei," said Botan. "Don't be a spoilsport. He's doing this for you!"
Hiei murmured a curse and took Botan's invitation, leaving Kurama and Yusuke alone in the semi-trashed room. Silence took over for several moments.
"I didn't think he was coming back," Yusuke finally said.
"I'm not a replacement, Yusuke," Kurama said. "Those things you said, are they untrue? Has all of this been a move to fix you and you alone?"
Yusuke's face contorted. How could he explain something so complex? "No, it's just that...I mean. Hiei plays it all cool, but he's the weakest of all of us."
"So your love for him is merely pity?" Kurama blinked for effect. "I doubt Hiei would appreciate that."
"It's not pity. It's just that I know what you and I could have could be as deep as what we have. But for Hiei, there's nothing else. No one else. You'll survive, Kurama. You can do it."
"I have yet to see how that isn't pity."
"Fine, it's like a balance, you know? You guys would be equal, but I can't have both of you. I mean, how rude would that be? You and Hiei just aren't compatible, and how the hell do you even work with one of those relationships anyway? I just don't know how it'd work. Truth is, right now I love him more. We've got all these memories and crap made together. I'd be starting all over with you."
Kurama sighed. "You certainly haven't stopped being blunt, have you?"
"No, I guess not."
Kurama put a hand on Yusuke's shoulder and squeezed. How he wished that gesture could be more, be one last kiss or something greater, before they parted for good. "I will always be here for you, Yusuke. Whenever you need me. Whatever you need me for."
"Don't say that, Kurama."
"Tough," Kurama said, fire in his eyes. "Your happiness is paramount. I will step aside, allow your love with Hiei to flourish, but I will not stop caring for you. You have my word, Yusuke. Even if I should find another to give my heart to, I will not stop."
Yusuke bit his lip. As if this wasn't difficult for him. Botan's words about empathy echoed in his mind. He made a note to work on his selfishness. "Yeah, well...okay. Maybe we should get to Spirit World now? Make sure everything's fine?"
"You mean, get there fast so that Hiei doesn't suspect something and react poorly?"
"That's a delicate way of putting it. I would've said 'murderous rampage' myself."
Kurama laughed. "That may have been more appropriate." He held out a hand—a friendly, non-romantic hand—and asked, "Shall we, then?"
Yusuke took it. "Yeah, we shall."