Whew! Well, it's been awhile, hasn't it? Did you all miss me in my prolonged absence? Did you? Of course you did, naturally.
…okay, I'll stop catering to my ego now.
Shattered Twilight: Chapter IV
Yuusuke sat at the kitchen table, his chin in one hand and a pen in the other. He frowned at the piece of paper in front of him, tapping the pen against the paper. In his messy scrawl, he had written out names and motives.
-Botan has a crush on him…annoyed?
-Jealous of Botan?
-thinks Kuwabara has a crush on her?
-Jealous of Yukina?
His frown deepened, and he chewed on his lower lip. He would have known if he himself was the one going around killing people. Unless his demon side was possessing him, but he had learned to control that. None the less, he added "possessed" under his own name. He sighed. He had to be missing something.
His senses alerting him to someone behind him sent him whirling, a ball of ki already forming at the tip of his index finger and ready to shoot. He faltered, catching sight of a very startled redhead, who still had one arm extended as if to touch Yuusuke's shoulder. "Oh, it's you." Yuusuke sighed. The ki dissipated, and he slumped back into his chair. "Don't sneak up on me like that. I could have killed you." He realized too late that that might not have been the best wording. "Uh…"
Kurama smiled thinly, waving the explanation off. "I know, Yuusuke, it's fine. What are you working on?"
Yuusuke handed him the paper. "Just trying to get a better grip on things."
Kurama's brow furrowed in concentration as he read, emerald eyes scanning briefly, and then re-reading carefully. "Hm;" he murmured. He glanced up at Yuusuke. "May I borrow your pen?"
He handed it over. "It's yours anyway. I grabbed it out of your bag."
Kurama laughed lightly. "I'll make a thief out of you yet, Yuusuke. Too bad you didn't live in Makai twenty years ago." He wrote for a few moments, and Yuusuke fell silent. Finally, he handed the paper back.
Yuusuke stared. Added under his notes, in Kurama's naturally fluid script:
-knows Yuusuke loves both Botan and Kuwabara and would be upset to lose them
-still holding a grudge against Yuusuke for beating him
-killed Yukina to lead others off-guard
-Used the Jagan to control Shizuru to kill herself and make it look like an accident
-Botan has a crush on him…annoyed? Very
-Kuwabara? Annoyed with Kuwabara's constant questioning and occasionally blatant idiocy
-Yukina? Vying for Hiei's affections, Yukina in the way
-Knows a lot about torturing methods/painful death sentences
-Jealous of Botan? Noticed Botan dancing with Yuusuke on first night?
-thinks Kuwabara has a crush on her?
-Jealous of Yukina?
-Dislikes Kuwabara because he encourages Yuusuke's fighting
-Yukina's association with Kuwabara
-Botan? Association with Koenma, whom Yuusuke dislikes
-Kuwabara? To lead others off-track
-Yukina?Suspected Hiei, and therefore tried to take revenge
-Knows everyone's strengths and weaknesses
-annoyed with people leaping their problems on him
And then, to Yuusuke's surprise, at the bottom of the paper:
-knows that Kuwabara had a crush on Botan
-thought Kuwabara no longer loved her
-Koorime are well-versed in ward-drawing and torture
Yuusuke looked up at Kurama. "How…did you come up with this?
Kurama shrugged, taking a seat next to Yuusuke. "I've been doing some thinking, much like you." He ran his hands through his hair, eyes serious when they looked at his younger friend. "Yuusuke, seriously—how are you holding up? Are you okay?"
Yuusuke cracked a slightly forced grin. "With the exception of wanting to just tie everyone down in one room where I can keep an eye on them? Yeah, I guess."
Kurama smiled. "I completely concur. Good luck keeping Hiei down, though."
Yuusuke shrugged. "I'm sure he'd stay, if you asked him." His smile faded. "Speaking of Hiei…how is he?"
Kurama's smile vanished and he closed his eyes. "He's…coping." He sighed, shaking his head. "Truth be told, Yuusuke, I really don't know. He won't let me near enough to talk to him." Slender, pale fingers ghosted over closed eyes. "I feel so helpless;" he said softly. "I just want to be there for him, but I can't if he doesn't trust me."
The dark-haired boy nodded slowly, slightly surprised. He was getting a completely different look at Kurama, learning more about him in five minutes than he had in almost five years. For so long, he had pictured Kurama as a perfect being, who helped others with their problems but had none of his own.
For only the second time, he was glimpsing Kurama's vulnerable side. The first time had been after Kurama's fight with Karasu, when Yuusuke had helped the bleeding, trembling redhead from the ring and known that the damage to his friend was more than physical. Now, all he could do was listen. Kurama had no physical hurt this time—only the emotional pain that the man he loved was pushing him away. Yuusuke reached across the table and took Kurama's hand. "Hey;" he said softly. "It's going to be okay." He ran his thumb lightly over the back of Kurama's hand, a soothing gesture he had used for Keiko countless times. "Kurama?"
It was Kurama's turn to be startled, now. "For what?"
"For being so…calm through all of this." Yuusuke groped for the right words. "I don't think I could have handled it if you…if you had lost it, too."
Kurama chuckled bitterly. "I promise you, Yuusuke, I've been 'losing it' mentally ever since we found Botan's body." He squeezed Yuusuke's hand. "For everyone's sake, I've been trying to keep my head. Although…" He tilted his head ever-so-slightly to one side. "Maybe you've forgotten, but Hiei's kept quite a level head about this, as well."
Yuusuke bit his lip.
"Ah. You still suspect him?" Yuusuke nodded, and Kurama sighed. "I won't sway you from your opinion, Yuusuke, but I honestly don't think it's him."
"Who do you think it is, then?" Yuusuke asked, almost defensively.
Kurama stood, his hand withdrawing from Yuusuke's. "I'm not the one you should be comforting, Yuusuke."
Yuusuke's eyes followed the redhead as Kurama walked towards the door, not failing to note the change in subject. "And who is?"
Kurama looked back at him. "Keiko."
Keiko, surprisingly enough, was sleeping when Yuusuke entered the bedroom, curled into a little ball of blankets. Yuusuke nearly smiled when he saw the serene expression on her face, and was loathe to wake her. He settled for sitting down on the edge of her bed and simply watching her, taking relief in the gentle rise and fall of her chest with her even breathing.
She stirred, after a few moments, and her sleepy brown eyes met Yuusuke. "Oh;" she said softly, as if surprised to see him. Her eyes narrowed in slight suspicion. "What were you doing?"
He raised his hands shoulder-high in mock-fear. "Nothing, I swear!"
Keiko laughed quietly and sat up. "I believe you, Yuusuke." She sighed. "I was having a nice dream."
Yuusuke scooted over to slide under the blankets next to her, pulling the slender brunette into a one-armed embrace. A week ago, he knew Keiko would have slapped him for being so bold. Now, it didn't seem to matter.
She snuggled against him, laying her head against his chest. "Such a nice dream;" she continued, as if never interrupted. "You and I were there. Yukina and Botan were there, and Kuwabara and Shizuru, too. We were all at the beach together. Oh—and Kurama and Hiei were there, too…it was nice, all of us together." She closed her eyes. "Everyone seemed so happy. So in love…"
And Yuusuke could almost picture it, even as she spoke. He could picture the radiant smile on Kurama's face as he goaded Hiei into the ocean, and the reluctant smile tugging at Hiei's lips as he gave in to the one person he could never refuse. He could see Botan and Shizuru laughing and playfully splashing Kuwabara as he attempted to place a kiss on a blushing Yukina's cheek.
He could see Keiko, her laughter like music as Yuusuke scooped her up, running with her into the waves, only to set her down and kiss her. A perfect world, a perfect moment that only a dream could hold. He tightened his grip on her, lowering his head to press his face into her hair. "Keiko;" he whispered.
She stopped talking. "What?" She seemed to detect the subtle change in his tone, and shifted to look up at him. "What is it, Yuusuke?" When he didn't speak right away, she reached up, gently laying a hand on his cheek. "Please talk to me, Yuusuke."
Yuusuke hesitated, but her eyes were wide and trusting and he gave in. "I'm scared;" he confessed. "I don't know who I can trust anymore. Hiei won't talk to me, and I know Kurama's hiding something, and for all I know my demon side could be possessing me and making me kill everyone, and you—" He cut himself off.
Keiko looked up at him, eyes searching. "And I what?"
He shook his head, pressing his lips against her forehead. "I don't know;" he murmured into her skin. "I don't know. I'm so confused."
"Yuusuke." The calmness in her voice startled him, and he looked at her. "I love you very much. You know that, don't you?"
He nodded. "I know." Suddenly he wanted to kiss her, kiss her the way Hiei had kissed Kurama, with no regard to the rest of the world, caring only for the here and the now and the beautiful creature who loved him. But Keiko was different than Kurama, and Yuusuke was different than Hiei. So he settled for holding her, and whispered quietly in her ear; "I love you, too. More than anything else." If it hadn't been true, he would have smacked himself for being so cliché.
It was enough for Keiko, and she snuggled into him. "I'm scared, too." She said softly. "But I know you'll protect me. I trust you, Yuusuke."
He bit his lip, holding her close. "I will protect you;" he promised. "You'll be safe with me. I promise."
A hand slapped down on his shoulder without any semblance of gentleness, jolting Yuusuke awake. He took a second to remember where he was—he couldn't remember falling asleep. His searching eyes landed on a pale, panicked Hiei, and it didn't take long for him to realize the cause of the jaganshi's terror. "Oh, no."
"I can't find him." Hiei said, breathless and frantic.
It was all the explanation that Yuusuke needed. He struggled to detangle himself from Keiko, jolting her awake as he did so, and fell out of bed, scrambling to his feet to follow Hiei out the door. He was aware of Keiko behind him, and would have told her to stay behind, if not for the fear that something would happen should she be left alone.
The sky outside was misleadingly clear, the sun blinking innocently as if all was right with the world. Yuusuke wished it would rain. At least then, it would be as if the world would be crying with them, instead of acting as if it was happy that their friends were dying.
He looked at Hiei. "Where…where do you think…?"
Hiei shook his head. "I don't know." His voice was hoarse. Yuusuke wondered if he had been crying. "I checked the…the oak tree. He wasn't there."
Yuusuke felt a twinge of hope. Maybe…just maybe… "What about the hot springs?"
Hiei looked taken aback, but nodded. "Let's look." He made a movement, as if to flit away, and then hesitated, falling to Yuusuke's pace as the Yuusuke broke into a run.
Steam was still rising from the hot springs, and Yuusuke could hear the soft trickle of water. Squinting through the steam, he caught sight of a familiar head of red hair. He sighed in relief. "Kurama!" He called. "Man, you scared us. We thought—" He stopped. Kurama hadn't moved, or responded at all to his calls. "Kurama?"
Hiei ran ahead, and Yuusuke followed, the familiar feeling of dread now sinking into his skin.
It was only when Yuusuke was standing right next to the pool did he see the blood staining the water a sickening red. "Oh, god." He groaned.
Hiei wasted no time, pulling Kurama's limp body out of the spring and wrapping his cloak around his lover's naked form. He cradled Kurama's shoulders with one arm, and Yuusuke flinched at the way Kurama's head lolled lifelessly back, sightless green eyes half-lidded, as they often were when the redhead was deep in thought. Hiei reached over, and closed them with a trembling hand. As if clinging to a fruitless hope, Hiei's hand moved downwards to rest against the now still pulse.
"Hiei…" Yuusuke swallowed. His voice sounded raspy, even to his own ears. "Is he…"
Hiei made no reply. He bowed his head, burying his face in Kurama's hair as he pulled the slender body against his in a desperate grip. His shoulders shook with silent sobs, and Yuusuke knew.
Kurama was gone.
The realization hit him like a blow. Kurama was gone. Their voice of reason, their steady thinker, their peacemaker. Gone. Yuusuke took a staggering step back.
"Yuusuke?" Keiko's breathless voice startled him, and he felt, more than heard, the hitch in her breath as she took in the scene. "No. Oh, no."
Yuusuke barely had time to whirl around and catch her as Keiko's knees gave way beneath her. His own legs seemed to betray him and he fell to his knees, holding Keiko against him. She started to cry, clinging to him. He held her fast, but he couldn't cry. He nearly laughed. It had hurt so much to cry before, but now, it hurt to not cry, when all he wanted to do was cry.
He heard a dull thud, and his head snapped up.
Kurama's arm, held against his body by the fabric of Hiei's cloak until moments before, had slipped down and hit the ground, and Yuusuke realized, for the first time, what had killed his friend.
Slender, but nonetheless deep cuts had been sliced into Kurama's arm, from his wrist to his elbow. Yuusuke counted three, the middle one running along the vein. An icy hand gripped his heart.
Had Kurama killed himself?
He remembered what Kurama had written under Yukina's name, when he had added to Yuusuke's idea list. "Suicide". Suicide, after killing the person she loved.
Could Kurama really have…
"No;" he said out loud.
Hiei's eyes, bloodshot and red, lifted to meet Yuusuke's. "No what?"
Yuusuke whet his lips before speaking. "Do you think…could Kurama have been the…"
Hiei looked at him, and Yuusuke knew that Hiei was considering the idea for what was probably the first time. After a moment, he looked down at the still body. "He could have been;" he said softly. "But he wasn't."
And he spoke with such certainty, that Yuusuke knew he was telling the truth.
A bandaged hand brushed through the soaked crimson tresses. "I've lost both of them, now." Hiei said quietly, seemingly more to himself than to Yuusuke. "He was never supposed to die. He wasn't supposed to die."
And Yuusuke, for the first time in his life, had nothing to say.
To be continued.
Evene: Because I know you guys like it, and it's my job to give the readers what they want. I'm glad you think I'm good at it, in any case. (pokes you) Ah-ah-ah, no asking for spoilers. That's bad.
Lady Starlight2: …You people spend a lot of time thinking these things up, don't you? God. Poor Keiko. I tell you, everyone suspects the poor thing. She's almost as antagonized as Lance in Majikku no Seirei. Here's your update! Hope you liked!
JewelValentine: (snaps fingers) Dammit! I KNEW I forgot to do something…is that Ten Little Indians thing a book or a movie, because I meant to go out and get it…Aww…you're flattering me. Thank you so much! Hooray for correct spelling and grammar. …I don't have a plot bunny. Well, my FWB gives me some ideas, but not that often. And why can't real men be like what?
BlueSpark: An excellent point. But Kurama's obviously off the list, although Hiei clearly isn't. Note his last line. And yes, you're biased. But that's okay.
godssentangel: Well…no. GAHHH! (runs to scrub out eyes after mental pictures of George belly-dancing) THERE IS NOT ENOUGH ANTISEPTIC IN THE STATE OF MA TO SAVE MY CORNEAS RIGHT NOW! (calms down) Ahem. Anyways. LOL. I don't understand the game Clue…maybe I'm just bad at it. And Yuusuke is starting to take into consideration the fact that maybe he's the killer without ever knowing it. Kudos to your ferret. Hehe. Yes, Kurama/Hiei-ness is cute. Too bad it got cut off…
KyoHana: I'm glad. Yeah…well, it's kind of emotional for the writer, too.
Miss Kyoshi: …ah, Kyoshi-dono, if it's not too much to ask, would you mind using capitalization in your next review? It makes it much easier to read…And you know I'm not allowed to say anything regarding your theory because that would be spoiler-y.
Kuranga108: Well…yeah. It is confusing. I don't really know what I'm doing, I've never written a multi-chapter horror fic before. And you might want to reconsider your suspects again. Sorry for the long wait.
AngelKitsune: Go me, I brought out your hyper side! (is quite proud of herself)
theamazinghollowgirl: Yeah, alright, go me! I can write mystery! LOL. Well, now Kurama's dead, too. Aw, and you think I'm an amazing writer? (brushes away tears of joy) You guys are too good.
Twilight's Shadow: Uh…Maybe I should run…you seem like the kind of person who will get quite angry if I torture Hiei…I always answer my reviews, silly. I just think it's a nice thing to do. It makes the readers feel more involved, and besides, it's a chance to sort of "talk" to you guys. Humor my self-esteem, I like to think I'm making friends. And wasn't that (and I quote) "stupid crappy joke" from that movie "Mean Girls"? I hated that movie…
purplehairedwonder: …oops. Did I forget to put a yaoi warning on this? Gah. I'm really sorry. At least you're sticking with the story.
Nikki: Yay for suspense! Hehehe. Ooh, "deliciously frightening". I love the way you word things like that. Sorry for the wait.
SunStar Kitsune: Hehehe.
Blue Moon Fox: (falls over from force of begging) Well…I can't tell. Sorry! Don't hurt me!
Sarde Ladyloonatic The last two chapters are coming. I'm not a speed machine, here. (pokes you) Patience is a virtue. See, I updated. I just need to take my time with these things.
Yunaresuka: Hey babe! I'm glad you like it. I updated, see? (is very proud of self) And as for dragging yourself to my house…is that a threat or a promise? (grin) Heh. Y'know, I had to think for a few seconds about that comment you made at the end, and then I remembered what I said in that review I left you. I'm a baka. Don't hit me with the fan, Sanzou! (ducks)
Okay, guys. We're reaching the climax here. One more chapter to go! Excited yet? (grins) And I gotta say, you guys pay pretty nice compliments. (tries to fit her swollen ego through the door)
Important: As of June 27, there will be NO UPDATES on any of my work until late August, as I will be leaving for summer camp and won't have access to a computer. Sorry. I promise, when I come back, I'll have plenty of stuff for you guys.
See you all next time!