taps fingers together Bring out the shotguns. If not for me, for...well, you'll see.
The gay is plentiful and merry. People complain if I don't warn ya'll beforehand, for some reason.
I also can't take this story seriously. Sorry. So there will be less of the wangst and more of the wtf.
Did I mention how very not-mine they were? puts back
chapter one: in which there is no advance warning
"Of course I'm not going to faint. I don't faint," Hiei said with a vaguely puzzled air.
"Mm. Of course not," Kurama agreed, turning to face the window. Someone with a sharp eye and a knack for reading lips might have caught the words 'Dark Tournament' in the motion.
"That time didn't count," Hiei said on cue.
Kurama looked at the ceiling thoughtfully. "That point aside, your ice maiden of a sister is officially Kuwabara's girlfriend as of...twenty hours ago. Yusuke thought you should know before Kuwabara brought it up in your presence. I told him that there was no rush, but he didn't listen. Apparently it hasn't occurred to him that the last time you so much as glimpsed Kuwabara was several months ago and under duress."
Hiei looked at Kurama suspiciously. "And yet you are the one telling me this."
"Yusuke called me, hyperventilated a bit, and begged me to do this. According to him, I can say the most outrageous things to you and you won't hurt me." Kurama was still busily studying the paint on his ceiling.
"I have a feeling that there is more."
"I lost a bet with him. This is half the payment. None of this is even approaching the point. Not only is Yukina dating Kuwabara, but you have neglected to inform both interested parties of your stake in the matter. Yukina has a pretty shrewd guess at what you're not saying. Kuwabara has none of this. On behalf of Yusuke and my own curiosity, what now?"
"I could faint," Hiei said expressionlessly.
"You," Kurama said severely, "are making this absolutely no fun at all."
Hiei seemed to take this into consideration. "So they're dating like humans." At Kurama's energetic nod, he continued, "When humans say 'dating', am I supposed to quietly translate that into 'rutting'?"
"That entirely depends on what sort of mental images you want," Kurama said. "I never pegged you for incest."
Hiei made a noise that sounded very much like "Argh."
Kurama relented and began to pace around the room. "You underestimate Kuwabara's honour. He sees Yukina as young and fragile and in need of protection. Besides, in this society, it's practically tradition for a girl's male relatives to threaten her boyfriend's life if he breathes on her in an overly meaningful way."
The look Kurama received over that statement was one that, on anyone else, would have been of unending patience. On Hiei, it simply looked bizarre. "Kurama, he may be stupid, but I think he figured out that there are no male ice maidens. Then again, I lost all faith in his ability to comprehend what he hears when he tried to interpret Quest Class."
"Be kind to his subconscious," Kurama said. "Humans can be touchy about that sort of thing. I will take your dodging of the subject to mean that you don't know what to do."
There was a meditative pause before Hiei finally said, "Well, I suppose he might have actually had something there, considering how much flirting was going on up there."
"I suppose Yusuke could, in a rather roundabout way, warn Kuwabara," Kurama said, blithely ignoring Hiei. "Or perhaps Yukina could warn Kuwabara. That might stick a bit more. By the way, we seem to be having two separate conversations at the same time."
Hiei glared. "You're all acting like I am going to kill someone in short order."
Kurama coiled himself onto the top of his desk, cheerfully putting himself within stabbing range without a qualm. "It's traditional."
"For humans," Hiei reminded him.
"All right, fine. It's expected. Kuwabara's older sister and Yukina have already had a small sit-down. Apparently the purpose of this meeting was to discern if Kuwabara would one day be confronted by a protectively angry demon who did not like having a human dating his sister." Kurama looked expectantly at Hiei. "Yukina gave a tentative maybe, which got back to Yusuke. Hence this conversation."
Hiei fidgeted slightly. "I thought I made it clear that it was a no."
Kurama followed this mental leap with the ease of practise. "If your attempt to convince her was anything like your attempt to convince me, you certainly did not."
"And here I thought you were painfully trusting," Hiei retorted.
"I probably am...for a youko," Kurama concluded sweetly.
Hiei looked rather pained. "Hasn't stopped you from getting soft, now, has it?"
Kurama blinked gently. "When did this conversation get around to casting aspersions on me? I'm not the one courting your sister. Besides, I have no excuse to be anywhere else. The best thing for me to be doing right now is emulating a human as well as I can. Which, you will admit, is very well."
Kurama and Hiei both jumped. Hiei looked at the window longingly while Kurama stared at the door in panic. "Come in," he said after a pause.
Shiori opened the door and propelled Yusuke before her. "Here you are," she announced, her eyes wandering to Hiei. "Do you ever use the door? I mean, ever?"
Kurama kicked Hiei to forestall a response. "Hi, Yusuke," he said quickly.
Shiori sighed. "I will leave you boys to do your boy things. Shuuichi, we're headed up north. Your brother said he wanted to see us off and spend some time with his friends afterwards, so I expect he'll be back in a few hours. If he isn't, call us and we can all harass him for being irresponsible."
"The familial love here is quite striking," Kurama observed. "Have a lovely trip, then. Forget you have children as we will forget that we have parents."
Shiori laughed. "Of course. However, I do expect to have the house standing upon our return at the very least."
"Do you trust me that little?" Kurama asked pleadingly.
Shiori softened visibly. "Of course not. You have a good week, now."
As soon as the door closed after her and her footsteps had receded, Yusuke said cheerfully, "Oh yes. You're so good at being human that you can talk about pretending to be one without a qualm." At Kurama's horrified look, he said, "Okay, fine, I'm pretty sure that I was the only one to hear that."
"Please don't do that," Kurama said. "I like my heart rate just fine where it is."
Yusuke dropped onto Kurama's bed and looked expectantly at Hiei. When nothing was forthcoming, he finally said, "Well, what's it going to be? Dismemberment? Disembowelment? That sketchy dragon thing? And give me a time frame, I need to tell Kuwabara when to leave the country."
Kurama examined his feet. "I'm still trying to convince him that this is a done thing."
"Then again, neither of us are in any way objective over this," Yusuke said thoughtfully. "I suppose you just smiled at your mother's boyfriends and they just left. Well, except for this last one."
Kurama looked startled. "Now how did you know that?"
"You have a creepy smile and a bit of an Oedipus complex," Yusuke said bluntly. "We seem to have lost our audience."
Hiei looked over from the window on cue. "Yes?"
"Lord," said Yusuke. "Are you still pretending that you're not related to Yukina?"
"She doesn't need to know," Hiei said dismissively.
"You," said Yusuke severely, "are just being lazy about it. This is a very bad habit of yours, this not expressing your thoughts on personal relationships."
"Habit?" Kurama perked up. "What, you've got more siblings that I don't know about?"
Yusuke threw his hands into the air. "All right, I'll concede that sometimes it's not entirely your fault. What, should I delicately hint to Shizuru that she should delicately hint to Kuwabara that if he breaks Yukina's heart, fiery death will be his? Or do you want to practice your poisonous glares? I recommend against the latter. Kuwabara is convinced that you're eyeing Yukina under the qualifications that she's the only girl around as demonic and midgety as you."
Kurama bit his lower lip to stifle what sounded very much like a giggle. "I really never pegged you for incest," he finally managed, then dissolved into laughter.
Hiei's expression was the facial equivalent of backing away slowly from an overly friendly clown. "Why can't I just leave this alone?" he finally asked.
"Because I am going to make you be nice to the people close to you if it kills me," said Yusuke mutinously. "Because they too are nice people and deserve it."
"Are you telling me Kuwabara gets off on me not liking him?" Hiei demanded, sounding outraged.
"No," Yusuke said sternly, "Yukina deserves to know that you harbour at least some protective feelings for her. I am well aware that you would cheerfully shred Kuwabara if he puts a foot out of line, and I trust that she would do it herself before feeling the need to call in a favour. But it's always nice to feel that someone will quietly put your boy out of the way if they hurt you, no questions asked. It fills one with warm fuzzy feelings. Now stop deliberately misinterpreting me. It's amusing, but the clueless demon approach can only do so much." Yusuke wheeled on Kurama. "And you. I have a test tomorrow and you owe me."
Kurama shrugged. "Fine. What is it?" he added to Hiei, who was standing at the window with an odd expression on his face.
"The person is gone now," Hiei said slowly, "but there was something wrong with them. They moved wrong and they smelled wrong. I didn't like it."
"And it's your problem, isn't it?" Yusuke asked cheerfully. "Weird things spilling over the borders, that is?"
Hiei shook his head obstinately. "It wasn't a demon. I want to see where it goes."
"You are not following him," Yusuke said severely to Kurama. "You are going to help me with European royalty. I will never need to know anything about European royalty aside from current news. Besides, do you have any idea how many countries there are in Europe? That's a lot of royalty for me to memorize. Why don't we ever learn anything useful? I will never need to know this sort of thing, and if by some miracle I do? I'll go and look it up."
"It makes a good conversation piece," Kurama said. "Look how long you've been going on about European royalty."
"Argh," said Yusuke expressively. "Look, just come help me out for a few hours. You coming?" he asked Hiei, who was still staring critically out the window.
"No," said Hiei. "It's going south," he added cryptically before disappearing from the sill.
"If I can resist the temptation to see what's going on, so can you," Yusuke said to Kurama. "Come on. Lend me some of your perfect-student vibes. Keiko will love me for it."
"Ah," said Kurama knowingly.
There was a certain point in the city that was a good many miles away. This point was a relatively quiet outdoor café where a boy with thoroughly gelled orange-red hair and a girl in traditional garb that seemed rather out of place against her vivid blue hair were having coffee.
"So then she just fell over me, and of course since I was standing at the top, she fell all the way down. It was just awful," said Yukina brightly, and took a sip of her coffee.
"You've never seemed to wear shoes with treads," Kuwabara said thoughtfully. "No wonder."
"You look at my shoes?" Yukina asked curiously. "That's kind of...sweet. In a kind of stalkerish way." She blushed nevertheless.
"I look at everything," Kuwabara said gravely. "I mean, not that I ogle. But I can ogle if you want me to. Er. I don't mean ogle, really." This only caused Yukina to blush harder.
"More coffee?" their server asked cheerfully before refilling their cups. "I hope you won't think this an impertinence, miss, but can I ask what brand of hair dye you use? I've been looking for a new colour and I really like yours."
"Blue Haired Freak by Special Effects," Yukina said promptly. "I get it from a cousin in America."
Their server made a little scribble on the back of his hand, smiled, and sailed away.
"It's a good thing we looked that up," Yukina said. "I'm glad you thought of it."
"You remember the name of the contacts?" Kuwabara asked anxiously.
"Mm. And the name of the shop where I get my clothes," Yukina answered. "Humans can be so odd sometimes. I think I understand why Botan always talked about going undercover."
"Well, I suppose we could go on a date to the demon world sometime," Kuwabara said thoughtfully. "The question is, where?"
"I know a bar," Yukina said. "Well, it's not really a bar. People only die there once or twice a month. But the drinks are good. And I don't think you'll have to go undercover there."
"I could wear a fake moustache. You know, just to make sure," Kuwabara offered.
While Yukina was giggling, a young man weaved his way through the tables, pushed his glasses up higher on his nose, and sat down with the careful deliberation of someone not entirely in control of their faculties. When the server scurried over, he ordered a double chocolate espresso and chocolate covered espresso beans, pulled out his maths homework, and went to bleary-eyed work.
Yukina paused in the middle of icing her latest cup of coffee. "Kazuma," she said softly. "The boy at the table next to us?"
"I see him. Is he looking at you the wrong way?" Kuwabara asked, even though it was obvious that the student had eyes for nothing but his multivariable calculus.
"No," Yukina said, an odd tone to her voice. "He's dead."
This appeared to be too much for Kuwabara. "Yukina? He's moving. He's alive."
"He's not breathing," Yukina said. "And...he's decomposing. I know what the process looks like."
Kuwabara surreptitiously studied the student. Yukina had a point, what with his not breathing. And he did smell rather off, but Kuwabara had seen enough male college students to know that hygiene wasn't a universal priority.
"Hey," said the student, looking up. "You, uh, you need something?" he added nervously.
Apparently Kuwabara's surreptitious study had not, in fact, been surreptitious enough. "No," he said unconvincingly. "You seem to have excellent control over your breathing, is all. I was...wondering if you were all right."
The young man shoved his glasses farther up his nose and turned terrified eyes on Kuwabara. "Y-yes. Yes. I'm fine. I just...I needed some coffee. And food. I had to get out of my room. It was...so cold. And close. I felt really sick. I thought maybe I'd taken too much of my headache medicine and it was making me feel cold. My head, it had hurt so badly, and I'd forgotten how much I'd taken. I needed the fresh air, but I still had to study." He nodded emphatically, then went back to his books, munching on another chocolate covered espresso bean.
Yukina looked at him with dark eyes, then turned to Kuwabara. "When you learn to heal, you also learn to tell when people are...beyond it. I think he died maybe six or seven hours ago, probably from an accidental overdose of his medicine. And I don't think he knows it."
"The fact that he doesn't know that he's dead aside, if he's dead, why is he walking around and talking to us?" Kuwabara demanded.
"There are necromancers out there, but I've never even heard of a human one," Yukina said softly. "This is new to me. And even if it is a demon, necromancy is only practised in the context of a cheap alternative to torture or for amassing lots of very obedient slaves. The resurrected ones aren't allowed to just...walk around."
"Well, there are zombies," Kuwabara said practically. "But he's acting very...animated for one. And articulate. Usually they just go around eating brains and biting people, which makes more zombies. You have to shoot them to get rid of them."
Yukina looked sadly at the studying boy. "He's very young. It's a pity. He shouldn't have died."
Kuwabara eyed the boy as well. "I think he agrees with you." They both raised their cups and drank in silence.
A few minutes later, the boy picked his hands up and looked at them, startled. "My skin...it looks a little funny to me," he said conspiratorially to Kuwabara and Yukina. "But my eyes can be a little weird. Do I look all right?"
Yukina said kindly, "For a dead man, yes. You're in very good condition."
The young man laughed politely, then looked at Yukina with cloudy eyes. "You're serious." He pushed his glasses up a little higher. "I am dead, aren't I?" His voice had gotten high and shaky. "I did take too many pills. And now I'm dead. This is like the afterlife. Maths and coffee and nice people."
"Something like that," Kuwabara agreed. "I mean, we've been to the afterlife. Or that general area. They're a little low on maths, and I don't remember too much coffee, but the company was okay."
"Well, I can do without the maths," the man said, tucking his books away. "I suppose if I'm dead, I don't have to go to class any more."
"Probably not," Kuwabara said, also giving in to the urge to gently mother the poor dead sod. The student was the sort of person whose every movement demanded that response, and being dead had not changed things much.
The young man automatically dropped some cash onto the table and stood. Yukina and Kuwabara exchanged glances, then did the same. "We should go with him," Yukina murmured.
"Exactly what I thought," Kuwabara replied and was treated to a dazzling smile.
The three of them walked in companionable silence towards one of the larger universities nearby.
"I feel a little weird," the boy said at last.
"It's to be expected," Kuwabara said reassuringly. "You know, what with the dead thing. Stiffening up?"
"N-no," the boy said shakily. "I mean...I feel...hungry. And...like my blood is boiling. I-I need to sit down." He sidled carefully into an alley, slid along the wall, and leaned his full weight on the grimy bricks. "I feel...oh God what's happening? He wants me to do something..."
Yukina and Kuwabara stared in consternation as the boy collapsed in on himself, then surged to his feet with a new light in his eyes. "He wants me to kill you," he repeated, and sprang at Kuwabara, his glasses flying off to the side.
Kuwabara dodged easily, his aura sword flaring to life as more of a reflex action than conscious thought. "Hey, I don't want to hurt you," he said pleadingly. "It's all right, we can help you."
The boy shook himself slightly, as though trying to get a grip on himself. "My glasses," he murmured, his eyes clouding back over, then clearing again as he jumped for Kuwabara again. This time he was quicker and managed to knock him over, mouth opening as he closed in on Kuwabara's neck.
Kuwabara knew that he could stab the boy now – what harm could it do? He was already dead – but he hadn't seemed dead. He had just seemed like a spacey college boy who had accidentally poisoned himself and had incidentally died from it. And, fine, he hadn't looked terribly alive, but Kuwabara had seen deader. And he was trying to bite Kuwabara, and having seen all the literature on zombies, Kuwabara wasn't sure how he felt about it.
"Kazuma!" Ice blinded Kuwabara and startlingly cold air wrapped around him, spiked with rage. He felt his aura soaking back into his arm and flexed his fingers, then reached up and brushed the ice from his face. Someone knelt next to him and assisted, their touch gentle but frigid. "Kazuma, can you sit up? I tried to keep from hitting you as well. I've never known at what temperatures humans freeze, so I just...well."
Kuwabara wobbled to his feet and looked around. Yukina silently turned his head until he could see the college boy, who had fetched up against a Dumpster. He was frozen solid and his head had been knocked off of his shoulders. "His glasses?" was all he could manage.
Yukina handed them to him. They were untouched. "He was already dead," she said softly. "It's not an excuse, of course, but after what you said about bites from the undead...I wasn't going to take chances." When she looked at the boy a second time, her red eyes glittered in a way that Kuwabara thought was frighteningly familiar, but he just couldn't place it.
"I think we should talk to Koenma about this," Kuwabara said slowly. "And maybe get a hold of the others too. Because I've been doing this for a little while, and I've gotten to know that these things tend not to just sort of happen once and then go away. I'll call Yusuke while we're on the way."
"Good idea," Yukina said, taking Kuwabara's hand in her cold one and leading him from the alley.
As soon as they left, Hiei stole down from an unused fire escape and looked at the dead boy. "This," he said meditatively, "is not right." He then rifled the young man's backpack and frigid pockets for spare change and espresso beans before betaking himself to parts unknown.
It always was the little things that made people despair of introducing Hiei to polite society, really.
While this was going on, Kuwabara was having absolutely no luck reaching Yusuke. All he could hit was a cheery message from Kurama of all people saying merely, "I'm sorry, but Yusuke is so indisposed that I need to leave this message for him. You see, I've got him suspended upside down from the ceiling while he studies. It's good motivation, really. Do leave a message, won't you? Bye now."
Kuwabara, having endured three months of Kurama and Hiei tag-teaming his tutoring in fighting (and being thoroughly and clinically pounded into the ground as a result), had a sneaking feeling that Kurama wasn't being facetious in the least.
He was right. While Kurama browsed placidly through Yusuke's extremely racy manga collection, Yusuke was thrashing around and yelling from his position of being hung feet-first from the ceiling. "This isn't funny, Kurama! I wanted you to help me!"
"I am," Kurama said without looking up. "Go on. Kings of England. Start with Alfred the Great. I mean, look how far you've gotten already. You've already done all of southern Europe and most of the east, and it's been only a few hours."
"That's because I'm being hung upside down by plants that shoot my own aura back at me! I don't have much of a choice, now, do I?"
"That's the point!" Kurama flashed him a beatific grin. "Oh, honestly, what were you expecting? I mean, Kuwabara had to have complained to you. And you did study under Genkai."
Yusuke flailed ineffectively. "But you're so nice," he finally said.
"Mm," Kurama agreed and turned a page. "Alfred the Great," he prompted.
"Alfred the Great. Edward the Elder. Athelstan. Weird name, that. Edmund the first of many, many Edmunds. Edred. Edwy the Welsh. Or sounds like the Welsh. Edgar. Why don't any of these people have last names? Edward the Martyr. Ethelred. Edmund number two. Why do they all start with an e?"
"I don't know," Kurama murmured. "Maybe there was a rule."
"You are far too fascinated by that book," Yusuke told him severely. "It's kind of kinky."
Kurama very deliberately put the book down and laced his fingers together with a dazzling smile. "Who's after Edmund the second?"
"Buggered if I know," Yusuke said gloomily, "the top of my head's about to pop off. Ow!" he screeched as the spiky vine around his ankles tightened. "Canute! Harold the first! Harthacnut! Mercy! You're worse than Keiko! At least she only smacks me!"
"Mm," Kurama said again, looking as though the window had completely distracted him. "Anything else?"
Yusuke saw his chance and seized it. "Let me down?"
"Sure," Kurama said vaguely. Yusuke was about to be thankful when he realized that he was plunging with nothing to break his fall. "Dammit, Kurama! I wanted you to help me study, not give me a concussion! Are you listening to me?"
"Yusuke," Kurama said. Something in his voice brought Yusuke to rapt attention. "That strange man in your front yard...I think he's dead. But he's walking around and...Yusuke, he's looking at me, and I swear, he's dead."
Yusuke darted to the window and elbowed himself in front of an unresisting Kurama. "You've seen more dead people that haven't been cremated than I, so I'll trust your judgement on that. But how can he be dead and walking around?"
"Quiet," Kurama said as the man stared at them more intently.
There was a long pause before the man curled his lips back and hissed. Yusuke's hand on the sill started to glow in response.
"We're safe," Kurama said conversationally. "How nice that no one seems to have mowed for about two months."
"It's not our lawn," Yusuke informed him, "and I don't think you need to send some half-dead weeds into a murderous rage to keep a dead man from killing us through a glass window with his bad teeth."
"True," Kurama said, turning away from the window. "Some place you live in."
"Yeah. I'm really feeling a 'what the hell' bubbling inside me," Yusuke agreed.
Kurama shrugged. "I don't think that hell could tell you."
"Thank you. You are so damn reassuring that I don't know what I would do without you," Yusuke said flatly.
A loud thump startled them both into turning back to look at the window. The dead man was standing on the other side, knocking his head on the glass.
"Shit," Yusuke breathed. He and Kurama looked at each other before Yusuke finally said, "Well, hell, I needed a new pane of glass anyway," and fired straight through it.
Kurama leaned out of the window and looked at the now-headless zombie lying there and twitching faintly. "Would you like me to dispose of this?"
"I'll get it," Yusuke said, scrubbing his hands over his face. "Ugh. Go home, make sure your people are all right. If you see Hiei, make him stick around. If you see Keiko, bring her here."
Kurama nodded. "One thing to be said for all this. You don't have to worry about studying now, do you?"
Yusuke brightened visibly. "An excellent point." He watched the door close after Kurama, then danced an impromptu jig before going to deal with the corpse outside.
Hiei, actually, passes out a lot. Liar.
Watch the bets. Round and round and round they go...THEY'RE IMPORTANT, LIKE RED. Except I'm not using red like that.
The subtitles for Kuwabara's attempt to follow Kurama and Karasu's conversation is delightfully apt, as he hears Quest Class as Queer Club. His brain is so flamboyantly gay.
Yukina's opening line is based on a line from a similar situation in the X-Files.
I use Special Effects hair dye. I am fond of it.
This is not IoV-verse. Shiori is alive and kicking.
Will write more for reviews.