hurrah. it's done. i've finally got it to work that way i wanted it to.
yu yu hakusho belongs to yoshihiro togashi. my references sway back and forth between the manga and the anime. you have been warned.
demon the superman
Kurama idly swiped his rail pass and joined the mass of students, workers, and travelers on the platform. One of these days I'm going to drag Hiei onto the train. It'll give him fodder for his anti-people rants. He's been getting repetitive lately. He grinned at nothing in particular, sent a few nearby schoolgirls into full-on swoons, and checked his watch. And if I don't want a broken window, I should probably get back before it rains. I'm pretty sure Hiei's still camped out here...Koenma was unclear on whether or not we were off duty after that last time. Hiei's going to be cranky about it, but he'll probably stay...ah, there's the train. Excellent.
He joined a few tourist-looking people in thronging into one car, then grabbed a place to stand a respectable distance from them. He then pulled on his best I-only-speak-one-language-and-it's-not-yours expression and gazed blankly at them whenever they looked his way. This expression had served him almost as well as all fifteen languages he spoke combined. Spoke, in his case, generally meant that he could flirt, order drinks, or talk his way out of being arrested in said language.
One of the tourists approached him and read something out of a phrasebook at him. Kurama blinked, assessed it to be a plea for directions couched in three different forms of politeness at once, and merely smiled and nodded. I think if I spoke, I'd confuse them worse.
The tourist looked annoyed and repeated the phrase. Kurama smiled even more sweetly and told the tourist in exacting terms to go to the devil. In a rather lesser-known Makai language that he'd picked up around Demon City a couple hundred years ago, back when Suzaku had first started a bid for power. And had also had a large number of small and interestingly shiny things. The tourist backed down in a hurry, looking thoroughly perplexed. Normally I'd be nicer, but I keep feeling like there's something wrong. I really do have to wonder if it's them. Or maybe I'm just getting paranoid in my old age. He looked at his hands – of course any body he inhabited, human or not, would be beautiful in every regard – and smiled again. Old age. Heh. No one would ever guess...I must say, if this body starts to deteriorate, I've got to do something about it. I categorically refuse to age like a human. I laugh at their life expectancies.
...what is that noise? I'm really getting a little unnerved. Kurama glanced out the window and almost burst out laughing. It's just another passing train. I am so paranoid. Honestly, I really need to relax in my human life, just a – oh...my...god...
We're going to –
Everything dissolved in a splash of hot red liquid and screaming metal.
I'm bleeding, aren't I? My...my chest...
Kurama blinked and pushed himself up off the floor, where he'd been curled on his side. It...hurts... His breath caught and bubbled in his throat as he looked down to behold a piece of plastic driven through his chest. Hurts...so much...
The tourist-looking person who had approached him had their head torn off. Limbs and blood were scattered around the car, as well as small fires and shrapnel everywhere. A slow boom rocked the car again. In his first look around, he didn't see anyone alive. There was a young boy, maybe a few years his human body's junior, crushed under some of the torn-up seats. His fingers were ink-stained.
Moaning finally reached Kurama's ears. He turned slowly to behold two university-age students, a boy and a girl. The girl was holding the boy on her lap. The boy's head had a visible dent in it, and the girl's legs were shattered. There was a hole in her chest, just like him, but it was smaller and had gone through her spine rather than past everything vital at an angle. She was paralyzed from the break down, it seemed. Both of them were dying. The boy might already be dead.
"Please...help us..." said the girl. Her eyes were large and terrified. "You're moving around and you're that hurt. You're...you're like a super-human." She giggled abruptly. "You can save us. Can't you save us?"
Kurama backed up one step. Two. "I don't want to die..."
"Why don't you save us?" the girl screamed. "Why don't you help me?"
"I don't...want to die..." Kurama backed up again.
"But you're not human," the girl said with disconcerting clarity. "So you should help us!"
"That...that doesn't make sense," Kurama breathed. "I don't want to die here. I don't have to die here."
"Neither do I!" the girl screamed back.
"But I have the choice," Kurama realized, looking at the broken window next to the girl. "And...I can't carry you both out of here." He looked down at his chest with a wince. "I don't know if I could carry anything like this..."
"Then why won't you save me?" the girl whispered.
Kurama wobbled on his feet. "He's dead," he said, motioning towards the boy on her lap. "Everyone here is dead."
"I'm still alive!" the girl said fiercely, blood running from her mouth. Kurama recoiled back as she hacked up vomit and gore. "I'm...still..."
Kurama considered closing her staring eyes. He considered looking for other survivors. His considerations were interrupted by the roof of the subway caving in.
One desperate leap at the broken window and scrambling up the walls, blindly climbing upwards. I want to live...!
Fingers scratching on the walls, back arched to keep his injuries safe, plants coiling around his wrists and arms when his hands gave out. I want to live!
Roots and vines gently deposited him on the broken pieces of street that had been displaced by the explosion. Kurama dragged himself up out of the holocaust of the wreckage, using the swirls of fire to keep himself hidden. I don't know how I did it, but I'm up here and still alive.
I don't want to die...
Hiei had a slender piece of metal clenched between his teeth and two more in his hands as he worked quietly at the lock on Kurama's window, rain pouring down over him. Blighter knows his locks. Why am I not surpris – ah...there. Hiei pushed the window open and hopped inside, water trickling down from his hair and over his face. Slamming the window shut behind him, he looked blankly around the room as his hair and skin heated up enough to dry off. A quick survey of the house revealed it to be empty. Could've sworn he was supposed to be back. Interesting. He blankly switched on the television downstairs and started channel-surfing, an art which was not lost on him, for all his less-than social tendencies and anti-human rants.
" – I KEEL YOU!"
" – and then we add the onions – "
"Just this moment, hundreds of people may be wounded or dead in the most spectacular crash in recent history..."
Hiei blinked and put the remote down as footage of a large building exploding showed up. "Earlier today, as two trains passed each other, a bomb in the northbound train detonated and destroyed both trains and the building above. Hospitals have been overwhelmed, and barely any help can be spared to the nine-car pileup due to the sheeting rain..."
Hiei rolled his eyes. Humans are such masochists. Always want to know the worst that's happened to their own kind. He then refused to reflect on the disquieting similarities between humans and demons.
Well, he did have standards to maintain.
"Hospitals are being plagued with the frantic calls of people desperate to find their subway-going loved ones..."
Now you'd never see a demon doing that, Hiei thought scornfully, looking around. Then he paused, an odd look on his face. How very...interesting. He quietly picked up the object of interest and looked at it. What was that? His attention was instantly diverted by an odd sound from outside the window. He moved over to the window, shoved it up, and looked out. Nothing...? Impossible. I know I heard something and...blood. I'm smelling blood. I'm smelling...I know that blood.
The key turned in the lock and the door slid a bit forwards across the jamb, then stopped. Hiei drew his sword, hooked it through the handle, and jerked the door open as Kurama fell in.
Hiei stared as Kurama slumped to the ground. "Oh...Hiei." Hiei didn't say anything, but merely pushed the door shut on the rain streaming in.
Kurama made a slight explanatory gesture at the television. "Just came out of that."
Hiei looked at the bit of paper that had fascinated him earlier. "I'd wondered if you might have been there."
"My old rail card," Kurama confirmed. "The room is moving. That, or I'm dizzy." His voice sounded oddly lucid.
Hiei stared a bit blankly at Kurama. A jagged piece of plastic had gone in just shy of the redhead's spine and was pushed out through what seemed to be his breastbone on the other side. Pieces of shattered metal were stuck into one side of his throat and left hand, and one of his legs had been thoroughly carved up by some unknown object.
"I'm the only survivor, I bet," Kurama announced. "Lucky I'm a demon." He made an attempt to stand back up, looked mildly perplexed when he couldn't, and settled for sitting where he was. "Probably should get this plastic out before I heal up around it. I mean, piercings are cool, but a massive one through my chest isn't going to get me any good attention." With that, he tried determinedly shoving at the plastic. "Ahn...this is...ah...going to be hard to..." Kurama stopped and gasped for a second, face white with pain. "...can't do this..."
Hiei sighed. "You're going to kill yourself if you don't do that right," he pointed out. "You could tear out your heart or your lungs if you're not careful."
"I'm fine," Kurama said. "I'm perfectly..." He then trailed off with an involuntary whimper.
Hiei sighed again. "Idiot." He then put one hand on the plastic sticking out of Kurama's back and one hand on the bloodied end protruding from Kurama's ribs. "Here. Don't move."
Kurama's eyes widened as Hiei started moving the plastic, then quickly bit down on one of his own hands with a muffled scream, tears coursing from his eyes. "Stop it stop it stop it..."
"It won't help you to keep this in," Hiei pointed out. "You can't extract it yourself."
Kurama pulled his hand from his mouth, his breath making an odd bubbling sound. "Stop it..."
Hiei sighed and drew one finger down the plastic sticking from Kurama's back, melting off most of it. He then repeated this procedure on the plastic protruding from Kurama's chest. "There. Now there's less of it." He slid around to sit in front of Kurama, blood soaking into his pants. "Now stop moving around. You're not going to be able to pull this out of yourself without opening the wound wider, and I would prefer that you not die on me."
Kurama smiled and wiped at the blood on his mouth. "How kind."
Hiei's eyes narrowed. "Don't say I'm kind." His fingers moved to the ends of the plastic and found them down to a normal temperature. "You'll be cursing my name in a few seconds." He didn't give Kurama time to process this, as he would tense up and make it worse. He merely started working the plastic out, trying to get a good idea as to where Kurama's vital organs were and if he was disrupting any lucky new configurations that were keeping the youko alive.
He noticed when Kurama grabbed his upper arms and dug his fingernails in and when the redhead bit his shoulder to stop the screams, but doing something about it wouldn't have helped. However, when the foot-long piece of plastic was finally extracted, Hiei felt moved to order, "Teeth out of my shoulder, now."
Kurama sat up slightly, his breath still bubbling alarmingly and blood dripping from between his teeth onto Hiei's neck. "I'm sorry."
Hiei thought over all the times he'd irascibly taken a nip at whatever of Kurama was closest when the redhead had doctored him with something that stung without warning and decided he'd been thoroughly repaid. "How is it?"
Kurama's bitten hand moved tentatively to his chest and his jaw clenched with expected pain. "There's some broken bones," he said, inhaling carefully, "and one of my lungs...it hurts. Badly. But I've had worse. I don't suppose that, since I'm already streaming blood all over you, I could borrow your cloak?"
Hiei considered this a reasonable point and handed the garment over. Kurama clutched it to the rent in his chest and took a couple deep, thoughtful breaths. "Thank you. I don't suppose you have anything else within reach that works to stop bleeding."
"I don't care if you're on your deathbed. I'm keeping my pants. Find something else," Hiei felt he had to put this point out quickly.
Kurama smiled, a bloodied face under crimson hair. "There's a plant that grows under my house. I'll call it up through the floorboards, but I don't guarantee it won't hit you. My control...is a little off."
Hiei looked at green eyes, shadowed and sick with something he couldn't put a name to. It was an expression he'd seen before when Kurama had been mutilated, skin stripped off in patches by explosives he couldn't see and his tormentor telling him he'd keep his face clean for its beauty. It was pain, yes, but it wasn't so much physical pain as some creeping dark mental insinuation.
The floorboards were wood, and so easily creaked aside, making way for long spiky tendrils that curled around Kurama's ankles. Blood dripped through the space in the boards softly. The vines slowly snaked up Kurama's body, twisting through and around the hole in his chest. Fingernails bit into the skin on Hiei's arms again as Kurama began to collapse again. "What sort of plant is this?"
"It's one of the vetch plants," Kurama said. "Instead of invading the body, it reconstructs the body. The plant matter is eventually assimilated into my flesh and my youki."
"I've never heard of such a thing being done," Hiei told him.
"I'm the one who...ah...came up with the idea," Kurama replied into his shoulder, speaking around the gasps of pain whenever the vines probed something painful. "I always meant to cultivate a version that had nng," he broke off, taking a shaky breath, "...anesthetic."
"What does it feel like?" Hiei asked, purely from curiosity.
Kurama closed his eyes and thought about it. "Like some creeping disease," he finally ventured. "And yet...by letting it into me, I'm part of it. All of it. The roots, everything."
Hiei unhooked Kurama's nails from his arms and looked at the redhead, with blood-soaked black cloth held to his chest with his elbows and delicate flowering vines springing from his back and arcing through the air like strange skeletal wings. His eyes were still full of shadows and there were still pain-tears soaking his cheeks and clinging to his lips. "What happened in this accident?"
"There were humans...dying all around me," Kurama said softly, after a pause. "And I thought maybe I could save some of them. Maybe I was strong enough. It didn't matter if I had bits of plastic through me or anything, because I had demon strength. And I thought I...but I didn't save them. I watched them die, and I could have saved them. I just...watched them die. I've never really seen humans die that close. I've seen demons die by the handful, but humans dying...it's different. And I thought I should save them. They're just stupid animals and can't save themselves. I thought I had that much pity in me. But I didn't. They begged me to help, and I didn't. And when the ceiling began to fall in again, I climbed out and ran away. I left them all there to die. I left them..."
"Why do you care about humans?" Hiei asked roughly. "You could have died, and all you can think about is them?"
"Maybe before I became human myself, I would have saved them," Kurama mused.
"You're a demon. You can't escape being a demon."
"I didn't want to die," Kurama said softly. "I saw humans dying all around me, and...I didn't want to die."
"That's new for you," Hiei said. "You've been more than ready to die to further a cause you wanted before."
Hiei sighed. "You've done a lot of crazy and suicidal things, few of them for your benefit. I was starting – no. I'd completely lost faith in your less selfish side. You never seem to want to live."
"I never seem to want to live..." Kurama repeated thoughtfully. "What makes you think that I am more selfish for wanting to die?"
"You had no thoughts for the consequences," Hiei said. "You simply did not want to die. It was instinct."
"Was it instinct?" Kurama asked, tilting his head curiously. The vines growing from his back feathered out and wobbled with the motion, sending petals into the slowly draining pool of blood on the floor.
Hiei hesitantly reached out and pressed his cloak against the rip in Kurama's chest before it fell to the ground. "You should hold on to that, not me. I'm not going to stop the bleeding by magic. Yes, it was instinct. You've been willing to die before, thought about it long and carefully. But every time, you only thought about it from one angle. Your own angle."
Kurama blinked at him. "But it was for other people."
"Would killing yourself for Karasu have done anything for anyone?" Hiei demanded, leaning forward.
Kurama sat back slightly, holding the cloak against his chest. "No one knew I was going to do that."
"You think I didn't know how much youki you had?" Hiei asked. "I knew just as well as you did. I was calculating that fight, just like all the others. I had to know our odds, I had to know how badly everyone was exhausting themselves so I knew how good I had to be in compensation. I knew that you were trying to expend the last dregs of your youki to kill him. I miscalculated and you miscalculated. But if you hadn't gotten that extra bit of power...you would be dead. No youki means no youko form. There would be nothing left of you. I knew the second your blast of power was over that there was nothing left of you but a shell. I recalculated it over and over. I knew I didn't have to do that, because we were in the last match. You would have no opponent that I would have to find a way to cover. But I couldn't stop calculating your youki to try and find a way that you were alive. And I knew it was intentional. You were so disgusted and ashamed and afraid of what he might do to you if you survived and he got you alone that you would have done anything to make it go away. You're the famous Kurama...nothing behaves like that to you. And then something did. And you would have died to make it stop."
"And I didn't think of the repercussions correctly?" Kurama asked.
"No. You didn't."
"And why is that? Who would have known...or cared?"
Ah. This is why I have refrained from having this conversation, Hiei suddenly remembered.
In the silence, they could both hear clearly the newscaster's voice. "To the nation's sorrow, it has been confirmed as of two minutes ago that there are now no known survivors of the tragic rail accident. There is only one missing person, say paramedics after an extensive search through the wreckage and a comparison with tickets sold..."
"No survivors," Kurama said as the phone rang. He dropped the cloak from his chest, showing the vines twisting through the wound in their blood-soaked glory, shaking with soft laughter. "No survivors...I can't believe humans are so frail."
"Kurama!" The two demons both jumped at Yusuke's voice, then relaxed when the presence of the answering machine registered. "Holy freaking crap, if you're there then talk to me. I don't care what you're doing, but pick up this phone right now! Kuwabara saw you in that rail accident. You were definitely on the news. No one mentioned you, but we saw you and we saw the plants moving. If you don't pick up this phone we're searching the city for you!"
Hiei detected an escape and lifted the phone from the hook. "You want something?"
"Where's Kurama?" Yusuke screeched into his ear.
"Bleeding all over the floor and all over me," Hiei replied truthfully.
"Now how'd you figure out he was in that wreck?" Yusuke asked.
"I didn't. I was just here," Hiei told him.
"You were, now," Yusuke said thoughtfully. "Now, why – ?"
Kurama took the phone from Hiei and asked directly, "Yusuke, why are humans so fragile?" Kurama smiled again, that same disorienting resigned smile. "He hung up on me."
Hiei shrugged and studied the floor, with the small slender vines twisting around Kurama's limbs intruding distractingly upon his thoughts and upon his vision. His clothing had been shredded and burned away, or some of it demolished by the vetch vines, and Kurama's skin was marbled by streaks of blood, tiny vines, and a dusting of delicate dark red petals. "Humans. Do these vines stop growing?"
The vines were up to Kurama's neck now, knotting like strange pale necklaces. "They eventually separate from me." Kurama's fingers moved over the fingernail marks in Hiei's arms to the bite on his shoulder. "If you're not careful, they'll invade you too."
"Then maybe you should move," Hiei reasoned, though there was no conviction behind it.
"I never think of the repercussions when I do a thing, do I?" Kurama asked. "Yet I'm supposed to be the strategic one."
Hiei tilted his head back to look at Kurama, who knelt next to where he sat with murky eyes fixed on his face. "You almost died today."
"Like so many other days," Kurama said easily, though his eyes were shadowed. "When someone wants you for something that you are not, it makes you willing to do anything to escape."
"And who was that someone, and what did they want you to be?" Hiei asked.
Kurama said, "A human girl," took a deep painful breath, "and she wanted me to be her savior."
Hiei almost laughed. "You? You're but a youko. You have too much pride, like me. A savior is someone who won't want to die rather than have something done to them. You and I couldn't be relied upon in any life-or-death circumstance."
"We have been," Kurama pointed out.
"And did it suit you?" Hiei asked. "Or did it make you feel...trapped?" He leaned closer to Kurama. "Didn't a part of you want to win the Dark Tournament, not because of Yusuke, but because it was the Dark Tournament and you're the youko Kurama and you love a bloodbath?" He and Kurama were so close their breath was mixing between them. "I saw how you hesitated when Sensui tried to open the hole between the worlds. You wanted that...and you hated me, just for a second, when I walked away, because you couldn't. I know you hated me because I felt it burn in me. You hated me and Yusuke and your mother and Koenma and most of all yourself, because you wanted oh so much to be able to go home and to some aching dark real part of you, the fate of the human world was nothing." Hiei smiled.
"Didn't you want to win the Dark Tournament too?" Kurama asked.
"Of course," Hiei agreed easily. "Not with them. You and I, perhaps. The other people in our team had their own purposes and their own strengths, but you and I were the material that was made for the Dark Tournament. We're not the kind of demon that was made to watch it and have our bloodlust sated. We're the sort that could have created our own teams and led them against each other."
"Do you ever wonder what would have happened if we had done so?" Kurama asked, his breath hot and reeking of blood to Hiei's finely tuned senses. "Strategically, we'd have never fought, but if it was a power struggle, I think we'd have gone at it tooth and nail in a wrestling match if we had to, just because we were...curious. Not your style nor mine, but it would be a fight nonetheless."
Hiei knew Kurama understood. "I know you envy me, sometimes, because I let them know in no uncertain terms that I'm in it for as far as it suits me and no more. They think you do it because you're good at heart and you're kind, and you won't break a bargain or a trust or a friendship. And maybe you are like that, but it's not what defines you. You want to be able to tell them, 'You know, this doesn't benefit me in the slightest, and to be on the other side might really be in my best interests in the long run, so I'll be going now', just once, just to see the look on their faces."
"If you and I teamed up again and ran off into the sunset...have you ever wondered what their faces would look like then?" Kurama asked.
"Yes," said Hiei, because although he could cheat and lie and deceive until the world ended he more often than not saw no point in not being truthful and having a semblance of fair play to counteract a world that had no such thing.
"We should," Kurama decided, and mostly because it was the obvious conclusion to such a conversation Hiei leaned forwards about two inches and kissed him, because they had been both dancing around this point for what had to be years by then and they had both been startlingly reminded of their own mortality that day, a thing they had both previously forgotten in their ability to count their ages in the hundreds.
And it was burning and tasted of blood and oddly sweet for it being them, and the vetch vines twisted and moved around both of them now. When their tongues met, they both froze, because right then they both figured out what exactly it was they were doing and how much the other wanted it.
Hiei's fingers were tangled in Kurama's hair, the only thing on his body that the flowering vines hadn't invaded. Kurama's hands had fallen at Hiei's collarbone and his fingertips curled around his clavicle, and he had shifted to be kneeling with one knee planted on either side of Hiei's hips. They were both staring at each other as though the other would vanish without warning, and the vetch vines were twisting their way into the bite mark on Hiei's shoulder.
"I had wondered if that might happen," Kurama finally spoke. It felt like disease and creeping death to Hiei, who had not experienced the first and had secret dark nightmares about the second. "I can remove it, if you'd like."
"Leave it," said Hiei, who found that he meant it.
"Very well," Kurama replied. "I'm not quite fit to run off into the sunset, so will you have me as I am?"
"I'm the only one who knows you," said Hiei, and their lips met again. They both tasted blood and desire, and if Hiei's scorching fingers broke some of the vetch stems on Kurama's body away neither of them noticed or minded, because each of them had thief's fingers and an age of veiled want, and their clothes had been ruined anyway.
And this time when their tongues met, they knew what they had figured out before and didn't have to wonder if it was all right, and didn't have to stop before clothes and bits of vine were all over the floor and bloodhot kisses passed back and forth between them like the disease neither of them knew.
And if later Koenma was informed that Kurama and Hiei flatly refused to help him with their latest case due to Kurama's injury, to the outside world there was no connection.
and that was all
please oh please review.