in which kurama avoids being arrested

Yukina was bouncing impatiently in the Cthulhu car with her eyes fixed on the door and her hands pressed to her mouth. In a way, it had almost been more reassuring to have fire gouting from the windows and bits of the building being blown off in comparison with the lifeless silence. The sound of the building's back door opening was so loud that her blood ran cold with shock.

The first person out the door was Kuwabara. He was smeared liberally with blood, but none of it seemed to be his. He didn't look drained or half-dead, merely relieved into fatigue. "Yukina," he called hoarsely, going over to her and clutching her hands. "We have a few problems."

"What kind of problems?" Yukina asked, slipping from the car and looking to the door, which Hiei had just wandered from.

Kuwabara followed her gaze. "That kind of problem."

"That's a singular problem," Yukina said, knowing she wasn't going to like this. "Where are the other two?"

"Hi, Yukina," Yusuke said wearily, kicking the door shut after him and depositing a very unconscious Kurama on one of the back seats. "Help," he added, practically falling into the car after the demon.

Kuwabara booted him into the car with the ease of someone who does such things on a regular basis and has learned to not comment on it. "Please be able to do something."

Yukina pursed her lips and thought, though her eyes tracked Hiei's bloody progress. "I can do some. These are very extensive injuries and I have done much with my youki lately. I shall have to hope that their ability to heal quickly is still at least functioning."

"Hey, I have a question." Every conscious person looked at the speaker. "If you're here, acting like you've won, why am I still alive?" There was a pause. "Er. Dead, I mean."

"Wait," Kuwabara said, staring at an equally bemused Weed. "So did his death not kill you after all? Or did he just...?"

"I don't know," Weed replied, exasperated. "Do you?" he asked Toshi.

Toshi looked around the inside of the car thoughtfully. "I can't tell you that, but I think this might be the Kremlin's old pimp car. I missed that during World War Three over there."

"Don't make me hit the tentacle button," Weed warned, his fingers drifting to an area under the ignition. "I will if I have to."

Toshi looked boot-faced and turned the radio on instead.

Weed turned carefully to face the windshield, suppressing a smile. "Let's talk about my other function. Would you like me to drive you somewhere?"

Yukina jumped up into the back of the car. "Bless you," she said gratefully to Weed. "I have an idea. In these past few days, have you ever heard of Genkai's temple?"

"Yeah. If you don't want to be undead, go see her. Word gets around universities quickly," Weed said, putting the car in gear. "If you give me directions, I'll go wherever you want."

"We will," Yukina agreed. "And please don't crash."

This was as far as Yusuke followed the conversation before he fell asleep on one of the bench seats. It had, after all, been rather a while since he had gotten any real rest.

When he dreamed, they were beautiful figments where the dead roamed the streets with their pretty waxen faces like one saw on television, going about their business without a flicker of life in them. Yusuke ran mindlessly through the streets, looking at his own thrice-dead hands, and cried formaldehyde tears when he was lost.

The tears were still in his eyes when someone prised open an eyelid, hissing urgently in his ear, though they were only of the ordinary saline variety. "What," he ground out with a mouth that tasted unpleasantly of old blood, "are you doing?"

"Checking for any sign of bleeding in your brain," Genkai said gruffly.

Yusuke sat upright with a scowl. "And with your myriad powers, you couldn't do that while I was asleep?"

"You didn't seem to like your dreams," Genkai informed him while he blinked and looked around. "I was right, however; your skull is far too thick for some necromancer to have cracked it."

Scrubbing at his eyes and hesitating to wonder who had dumped him into the main room of Genkai's temple, Yusuke retorted, "My dreams were very pretty, thank you."

"But you didn't like them," Genkai said astutely, and it was then that Yusuke realized that his eyes were still watering. "Besides, if you can function, you can be useful. Up."

"I," Yusuke said pitifully, making no move to obey, "hurt."

Genkai stood and gazed down at him unrelentingly. "It serves you right, letting yourself get pummelled by some skeleton dancer. You've had worse."

"Argh," Yusuke moaned, stumbling to his feet and looking around. It was much darker than he had remembered it being outside, with Shizuru sitting on the railing of the porch and blowing smoke rings into the still air while Kuwabara regaled her with tales and baited his kitten into chasing miniature aura swords across the deck and back. Weed was placidly sweeping the other side of the room while Keiko crawled around in a most appealing position with a bucket of something pungent and chemical, mopping at blood stains and things that Yusuke quietly filed away under 'dead juices' and refused to think on more. "I thought you were taking in scads of zombies," he finally said. "I don't see them."

"Their souls have departed," Genkai said. "The bodies we disposed of. Since you got here, no other undead have arrived, excepting your companions."

"Kuwabara is there," Yusuke continued in his attempt to comprehend his environs. "Where is Yukina?"

Genkai looked a shade repressive. "Bathing. You missed the original excitement, which is why you ought to go over there and help with the washing up. All that crawling around on the floor will do your stiff muscles good."

Yusuke's mind was still failing to come up with a complete tally. "Mum. Hiei. Kurama. Freak-ass zombie with a filthy mouth."

"They're here," Genkai said, exasperated. "Help Keiko and then look for them yourself," she added, turning him around and steering him towards the girl.

Yusuke slouched over, dropped to the floor next to Keiko, and said, "Hi."

"Good to know that you're all right," Keiko said evenly.

"Oh lord," muttered Yusuke. "No, I didn't keep you informed, and I am sorry, but what was there to tell you? I was barely keeping track of the people I was actively working with! I didn't even know how many people were involved in this until I passed out in his car," he added with a nod at Weed. "But I wish I could have...talked to you," he said, though his voice broke. "It's not that I've done things. It's that I can be devastatingly passive about things until it's too late. I think things that I physically couldn't say. I let people die, and I let people get away, and it's all to further myself." He hadn't meant to say all of this, but it had come gushing out under the influence of Keiko's bleak eyes and the reek of the antiseptic. The first made him desperately garrulous, the second made him dizzy.

"Hm," said Keiko. She then picked up her sponge and planted it squarely on Yusuke's head, sending burning rivulets down his scalp. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself," she ordered. "Yes, you have the capacity to be a horrible person! And sometimes you are! But you're careful with it, and the fact that you know when to use it says more than if you never did. And I love you for it," she added, touching his face with grimy fingers, "and those you think you have betrayed may not love you as I do, but you have their command and their respect, and from them, that would be more than any love they could spare you."

Yusuke's brain had been about two words behind throughout this entire speech, having taken a short break at the sponge-dumping stage. "Wait," he finally gabbled. "'Love they could spare me'?" he demanded.

"Well, I'm not blind," Keiko replied, plucking the sponge from his head. "Oh dear. Erm. Yusuke? I reiterate that I love you and trust you to be a good person when such behaviour is needed."

Yusuke's heart had decided to relocate to his large intestine sometime during this speech. "What have you done to my hair?"

"This is very strong," Keiko said evasively, hefting the sponge. "You have a bit of a greeny-gold splash on the ends of your hair now."

"Christ," said Yusuke, wanting to beat his head on the floor but not daring.

"I can take your mind off it," Keiko suggested primly, setting the sponge down. "At least for the time being."

Yusuke scanned around for a disapproving Genkai or a far-too-approving mother. "Help."

After the first minute or so, Weed made a face and went back to sweeping out the corners for Keiko to scrub, if she ever managed to divert herself. "Is everyone around here getting action but me?" he finally asked the room. "And me with my girlfriend much more alive than I am and very far away. Hell," he said miserably, and retreated into a corner to sweep the same patch of floor morosely and to brood.

Weed had reckoned without Toshi, but that zombie had recently gotten enough (very abusive) action to be perfectly content with his lot in life, and was instead making his way onto the back porch on his fifth chain-smoked cigarette, having been chased from the temple by Genkai. "I'm hoping," he explained to the porch's other occupant, "that if I smoke enough, it will all just...go away."

"Not enough nicotine in the world," whispered Kurama. He was sitting against the side of the temple in a manner that managed to convey that he had no energy to speak of and would thus be there for a very long time. The flayed patches on his skin were scabbed over and wriggling at the edges as they healed, though the nail marks on his neck and the scratches from being twice slapped remained. The bruises like two skeletal hands wrapped around his neck, matching the tone of the skin under his eyes.

"And you look like hell," Toshi said conversationally. "Tell me, if you're good enough to be up and about – I use the term loosely, but that's not the point – only six or so hours after your horrible, screaming near-demise, why is it that you're still bruised?"

"Worst injuries first," Kurama said softly. "Why waste energy on small things when I'm endangered by the large? I've never understood human repair systems. Everything so slowly, and always at the same pace. I'm tapped out; I've got very little to heal myself with. I have been branded by worse."

"I was lucky," Toshi realized. "I could just go and have myself healed."

Kurama looked at him, noticing how most of the clothes he wore had been blown away. "I suppose that makes the point of changing back moot," he murmured aloud. "Were you badly hurt?"

"I was..." Toshi swallowed. "I knew I was dead, but I thought I was going to die again. But you were hurt worse, I think." He leaned on the railing and exhaled, though doing so did nothing for him. "You're very quiet now. In volume, not in quantity of speech."

"I can't be any louder," Kurama replied. "Talking is painful."

Flinging his cigarette down and stepping on it, Toshi crossed over to sit next to Kurama. "All right," he said. "Now that I can hear you, I want you to tell me just how you killed him. Everything. Every little scratch you inflicted. Every last detail."

Kurama's eyes shifted to the right, delving into memory. "I can do that for you."

Toshi had learned to demand explicitness in promises. It didn't make the promises any less broken, but he didn't waste time cursing himself for a fool when they fell through. "Will you?"

"Yes," Kurama said with an odd half-smile. "Yes, I will."

As Kurama began to explain in precise detail his altercation with Karasu from beginning to end, a small conclave was gathering in the front room with the recently-arrived Botan as its centre of attention. "So," she finally said, noticing that a rather large number of eyes were fixed on her. "Er. I. Uh. Koenma-sama sent me to come get you he said there's a letter for you he wants to talk it's really bizarre I don't think he's very happy!"

There was a moment of bewildered silence in which many a person attempted to parse that sentence. "Did I miss the memo on no longer including punctuation in speech?" Weed finally guessed.

"I think Botan is excited," Yukina said gravely. After her bath, she had been left with very little in the way of usable clothing and now wore the most incredible mishmash of clothes that could only have been produced by three people of unsuitable size all proffering outfits at once. To her credit, she wore them well. "What is this about a letter?"

Botan drew a long breath, then said in measured tones, "There is a letter addressed to Yusuke in care of Koenma-sama. We are waiting for you to come and open it."

"Koenma is a nosy sod," Yusuke said unflatteringly. "Why didn't he just open it himself?"

"Koenma-sama suspects letter bombs," Botan said primly. "The Sovereign State of the Locust People sent him one just yesterday."

There was a pause as everyone tried to assimilate this. "And?" Kuwabara finally asked.

"It went off," Botan said, hesitating over the words apologetically, "but as it was from...well, locusts, it wasn't very...big. But if one came from the other group inclined to send him ticking mail, it probably would be of an appropriate size."

Yusuke blinked. "So I get to open the ticking mail instead."

"I'm not sure that you should be opening letter bombs," Atsoko said thoughtfully. "Remember that anthrax stuff?" Yusuke deigned to look greatly put-upon rather than to answer.

"Well, we don't know that it's ticking," Botan reassured him. "It wasn't when I left. Very expensive-looking paper. Lovely handwriting. No return address."

"Oh, good!" Kuwabara burst out. "So we only just narrowly escape being blown halfway to kingdom come, we kick the required ass, and yet here Koenma is, inviting us to get ourselves blown up. Again."

Botan surveyed the group. "I only mentioned the bomb because Koenma-sama did," she defended herself. "I'm sure it's just a letter. But now that you mention it, is this everyone?"

"No," Yusuke said. "We're missing three people."

"Oh," replied Botan. "To be honest, I'm only looking for four of this very large party. Two of whom are conspicuously absent. Hence my question."

Rising from the floor on which he had been sitting, Yusuke offered, "I'll have a look. They've got to be at least conscious by now. I think. I hope. I pray."

"Oh," Botan said again when he had gone. "So they're badly off. I wouldn't have thought, to look at you," she said frankly to Kuwabara. "It looked like it had been Yusuke's fight."

Kuwabara puffed up. "I served an important part," he announced. "I navigated. I held the doors. I was everyone's second. I dodged things. I mocked people. I helped Yukina. I carried all the unconscious people around."

"He made threatening overtures beautifully," Yukina agreed.

Botan eyed Kuwabara. "You're getting really sick of this," she assessed.

"I never get the good stuff," Kuwabara agreed. "What the hell?"

Gnawing on the inside of her lip, Botan finally hedged, "You could ask Koenma-sama for something to do."

"He does have the locust people to worry about," Kuwabara said wisely.

By then, Yusuke had investigated his way to the back porch, whereupon he struck gold. "Kurama. Hiei. We're leaving," he announced, leaning out the door.

"Waugh!" Toshi screeched, looking around wildly. "Where are all these people coming from? There was only us here last I checked!"

"He showed up when I started explaining how I'd killed Karasu," Kurama explained, pointing to Hiei, "and Yusuke just got here. Where are we going once we leave?"

"Koenma's," Yusuke said shortly. "There's a letter for me. I've got a damn good idea who it's from."

Kurama radiated innocence. "Was there any mention of jail time and me in the same sentence?"

"I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that," Yusuke said. "Moving on. Is this party back here done yet?"

"I had finished, yes," Kurama said, slipping to his feet with a wince.

There was a very long silence. "Kurama," Yusuke finally said, looking the fox demon over for the third time and still not quite believing his eyes. This was, after all, the first time he'd seen Kurama since he'd carried him dripping with blood from the wreckage of Karasu's body. "What on God's fucking green earth are you wearing?"

Kurama flushed as well as he could, being down a few pints of blood. "'t exactly...think about it..." and quietly slunk into the temple without further comment.

Yusuke raked him with his eyes one last time, said, "Oo-er," and decided to desist ogling Kurama before the speculative looks from both sides got to be too much.

"I thought you had a girl," Hiei finally said.

"I do," Yusuke said weakly.

There was another pause. "I see." With this enlightened statement, Hiei left as well.

Toshi watched Yusuke turn a funny shade of magenta, mutter something to the floor, and hoof it back into the house. It was only when the door was firmly shut after him, however, that Toshi allowed himself to burst out laughing.

After the past few days, he had a right to be paranoid about such things.

Once Yusuke set foot in Koenma's office, however, he completely forgot about such things as the attire of comrades, though the guards were all still gawking. "What letter is this?" he demanded in lieu of a greeting.

"What have you done to your hair?" Koenma shot back.

Yusuke coloured. "Keiko hit me with a sponge. Give me the letter so I can blow my head off and be done with it."

Koenma poked a thick, cream-coloured envelope across his desk with a stick. "It's all yours. Do you want to step back in case it explodes?"

"Haven't we had enough explosions?" Kuwabara asked plaintively. "Oh, and speaking of explosions, how are the hells?"

"Closed," Koenma said shortly.

"Mmph," Yusuke said as he wrestled the envelope open and shook out the paper. "I had a feeling I'd be getting this," he said, scanning the contents. "'On behalf of the severely diminished office of El Zorromancer, we would like to congratulate you on your success and thank you for a lovely fight. We hope the four of you recover well so that we might meet again on some other auspicious date. You were correct that the year in the Calendar of the Great Twonk is in actuality 686, but it was amusing to El Zorromancer to see if you could find that small mathematical error. As you may surmise, this office has a way to see and hear the goings-on of the room in which you most likely now stand, but we regret to say that we will not be giving you more information on that point. Again, our thanks for a truly challenging battle. I remain your faithful servant, Julian West.'"

"Figures," Kuwabara said gloomily.

Koenma sighed. "I'll keep it in mind. Jorge! Have the office searched for bugs again!" he bellowed into a nearby corridor. "Now!"

Jorge emerged, looking flustered. "Koenma-sama, there's this young woman," he started ineffectively, as the creature in question had irritably followed him into the room.

"Not another one," Koenma muttered, glaring at the girl. "No. No live humans. None! I don't care how unequal you find it!"

The girl pouted. "Hmph. See me doing you a good deed again. I'm here because you told me to be."

Yusuke turned slightly mauve. "Oh no," he said with great trepidation. "Not you."

"Hello, little man," said the succubus. "You're looking well."

Koenma looked a bit martyred. "Right. That. I was hoping to avoid that. Kurama."

"Yes?" Kurama inquired blankly.

Koenma glared. "Don't do that. You know what I'm talking about."

"No," Kurama replied with the perfect amount of bewildered confusion as to when he should have entered the conversation. "No, not really."

"You used a venias plant," Koenma said. "Which falls very neatly into the 'thoroughly illegal' category."

There was a good deal of chaos that ensued here. Kurama merely deigned to look confused. Kuwabara and Yusuke both tried to outshout each other in asking about the plant's properties before realizing they were after the same thing, then both decided to yell at Koenma instead when answered by Jorge. Botan looked studiously blank, Hiei muttered, "Figures," and the succubus took advantage of this mayhem to steal a perch on Koenma's desk.

"Oh shut up!" Koenma finally bawled. "I know you used it, you know you used it, and I know you're not sorry!"

Kurama looked up from examining his nails. "Pardon?"

"There's a reason I like you law-abiding," Koenma said. "You're a pain in the ass when you're not. I really ought to toss you in jail here and now."

"But you won't," Kurama replied, going back to his fingernails. "I really haven't done anything."

Koenma huffed. "I think you're missing the point. The reason I wanted you to behave during this entire operation was because I am new to this post and don't relish being knocked off it for indulging your whims."

"What whim was this?" Yusuke decided that this was the important point.

The succubus shifted impatiently on the desk. "He summoned me and bade me to eat a soul from its dead bones," she complained. "I did this thing as I was bound to do. I am not, to wit, angry. Why am I here?"

Kuwabara blinked. "Okay, whoa. First off, Koenma, you did not see those bones running around on their own. If you had, you would agree with all of us that we don't give a damn what had to be done to make them stop running around on their own. I don't have a second."

"I knew it," Hiei muttered.

Koenma looked a bit thrown. "Would someone please see this from my point of view?" he asked plaintively.

Kurama looked at him curiously. "Oh? Am I supposed to care about your point of view? I am sorry; I'd forgotten about that in the midst of my incredibly criminal doings."

Groaning, Koenma went teenager-shaped for the exclusive purpose of dropping his face into his hands and yanking on his hair. "If I arrest you, I will be shot, stabbed, and otherwise harmed," he predicted. "Even if I managed to get past that, in five minutes you would walk into my office to bid me goodbye before calmly going back to the human world, having quietly killed all my guards. If I actually got you so completely warded so that you no longer could figure out which way was up, which just might be the only way of keeping you, I don't doubt that your equally criminal-minded friends would do something about this."

"Hey," protested Kuwabara. "I was never criminally minded."

"And you're the worst of all of us," Hiei shot back. "It doesn't seem like you have much to be proud of."

Yusuke glared. "Shut up, will you? I told you, if you're going to do this at the most inopportune times, I deserve alcohol! Koenma! What, exactly, did Kurama do?"

"The venias plant," Koenma said dryly, "is the crudest and most powerful summoning mechanism in existence. This succubus here was the target. It was all over her when she walked in to report to me on her other exploits. I have hired many of her number to clean up the border. Not only does the plant not require anything in the way of coordinates, but the one who summons also can have one request that the summoned cannot deny them. I leave it to your imagination to think about the repercussions that unlicensed use would give. Requests for this plant have to come through me. Before you protest that he would have asked, I must tell you that I never would have let Kurama have it."

Yusuke turned his furious gaze to Koenma. "Even if it killed him?"

"You say that like being dead has stopped him before," Koenma pointed out. "You should know that, Mister I've-Died-Twice-Already-And-I'm-Not-Showing-Any-Sign-Of-Stopping-Now."

"You know," Yusuke said, "people just call me Yusuke these days."

Koenma harrumphed. "Anyway," he said pointedly. "Its use carries jail time. A lot of it. The problem with that would be the above list I just ran off. So you tell me what the hell I'm supposed to do! The entire palace knows about it! And if word gets out that I'm just letting Kurama run around doing whatever he wants, I'm going to be getting more than letter bombs from a lot of scared people in positions of power."

"You don't have to let me," Kurama said thoughtfully.

"There's a point," Yusuke said. "Oi, Koenma, you have a desperate criminal about two inches from bleeding all over your floor. I got him single-handed. Can I have a raise?"

The succubus giggled. "If you don't want to deal with him, I'll have him," she offered Koenma, crossing her legs under her tattered skirt. "They don't escape after that."

Koenma dropped his head onto his desk. It seemed like the only acceptable end to the conversation, unconsciousness. When none was forthcoming, he finally said to the wood, "Jorge. Hire someone to open my mail for me. Someone I really don't like."

"Score," said Yusuke. "You can chalk it up to the fact that Kurama borrowed his clothes off a vinyl-loving call boy. You might get less letter bombs over that one."

Kurama put one hand over his eyes. "Yusuke, please shut up."

"Good lord," said Koenma, blinking at Kurama. "I suppose I could. Get gossiping," he said in a motion that encompassed Botan, Jorge, and the nameless succubus.

"Yessir," said Botan brightly, apparently committing Kurama's attire to memory.

Kuwabara looked unhappy. "Am I the only person in this room who likes girls and girls alone?"

Kurama blinked at him through his fingers. "You...wait. You mean you aren't...?" He looked from Yusuke to Kuwabara, then back again. "Are you sure you aren't...I mean, I thought it was sort of obvious."

Yusuke and Kuwabara exchanged glances of dawning trepidation, then both hurried into confused denials and assertions of loving their respective girlfriends very much.

Botan shook her head. "Well, that's woken them up. I wondered when someone would tell them that even their lady friends were picking up on the sexual tension. Oh, did I say that out loud?" she asked when Yusuke and Kuwabara both turned intriguing shades of maroon. The colour clashed horribly with Kuwabara's hair and Yusuke's bruises. "Sorry. I forgot I was supposed to be gossiping about other things. I'll be going now."

"Can we go?" Yusuke squeaked. "I think we're done here."

Flapping a hand at the door, Koenma said, "Go away. Sort out your personal relationships, put your respective home worlds back together, and try not to talk about what happened here or in the recent past. I'm sure that it's a good story, but I really, really don't want to hear it."

"Bye now," Kurama said with what was left of his voice. "See you again sometime."

Koenma watched them leave. "Potential political chaos on one hand and a necromancer threatening to return on the other. I yearn for the days when you people got things done."

"Why are you talking to the closed door?" Jorge asked curiously.

"He's feeling repressed," the succubus predicted. "Poor baby. I can help."

For the second time in about five minutes, Koenma's forehead met his desk with a resounding thunk.

As they navigated the intricate hallways of Koenma's palace, Kurama said quietly, "You owe me money now, I think."

Hiei raised one eyebrow. "Don't you think that you have enough money that another form of repayment could be worked out?"

"Ooh." Kurama's expression went thoughtful. "It was a lot of money, too."

"It was," Hiei said. "I can't believe I was wrong. It should have been one of those bets that had to eventually go in my favour."

"Like another one that I think Yusuke is rather close to winning?" Kurama asked mischievously.

Hiei's eyes flickered. "Yes, about that one..."

Ahead of them, Yusuke and Kuwabara were busily assuring each other that they were each quite devoted to their respective girls. "I mean, in our business we have to look at a lot of mostly-naked guys," Yusuke said desperately. "You get so used to it that you do it even when off-duty."

"Exactly," Kuwabara agreed fervently.

"I only keep that kind of manga because Keiko secretly likes it," Yusuke continued.

Kuwabara nodded. "Precisely."

"Besides, Kurama is the only guy I've ever come across who doesn't artfully tear clothes when fighting," Yusuke added. "He's worn short sleeves once. Of course I'm going to stare."

"Totally," Kuwabara colluded.

"And he looks kind of like a girl," Yusuke pursued. "In a really sexy boy kind of way."

Kuwabara put up a fist of agreement. "Definitely what I was thinking."

"And we're just good friends and the world has such a dirty mind it doesn't know how to handle it," Yusuke decided. "When we fight, it's just for fun and not because we don't know how to be physical and are completely repressed. Or when you do something stupid."

"Completely," Kuwabara repeated, then blinked. "Oh, come on, you're the one who doesn't know how to handle jokes except by beating on me. You know, your hair looks really funny like that."

When the resultant scrap behind her reached Botan's ears, the ferry girl simply smiled knowingly. "Men," she said expressively to the gate guard. "When they finish up, let them out."

"Really?" the guard asked. "I thought there were going to be arrests and chaos and flashing lights."

Botan plumped herself down next to the guard. "Well, there was. It's a bit of a long story and I guess I shouldn't tell's a secret thing, you know. Information isn't supposed to leave that room..."

"It would be well if you told me," the guard said. "So I know that it's all right to let them leave."

Botan beamed at him. "When you put it like that, I suppose I'll just have to say." Having thus secured that this information would be shortly all over the palace, she launched into her story.

And if in the original version there had been no pink fluffy handcuffs, no one else needed to know that.

"Good God," said Shizuru when the four reappeared on Genkai's front lawn. She, Yukina, and Keiko were all sitting on the railing, Kuwabara's kitten frolicking from lap to lap. "I thought Kazuma was supposed to be in the best shape of all of you."

"Weeble," said Kuwabara.

"Oh, Kazuma," said Yukina sadly. "Here, let me help." Kuwabara allowed himself to be led into the front room, whereupon he submitted to tender ministrations.

"I don't know where he found her," Shizuru said, petting her brother's kitten absently, "but she's doing him a world of good in more ways than once."

"He commented on my hair," Yusuke said plaintively.

Keiko beckoned him over. "I'll buy you some hair dye," she promised.

Yusuke buried his face in her shoulder. "I need female loving right now. I'm surrounded by half-naked attractive boys."

Shizuru looked Kurama and Hiei over while Keiko decided that Yusuke needed to be reminded exactly who he should have eyes for. "Cor," she finally announced, having absorbed just what knives, explosions, and wearing other people's clothes had done for the two demons. "Why are all the not terribly human and thoroughly scarred people the lookers?" she asked wistfully, thinking of a certain owner of a Dark Tournament team with faraway eyes. Unwinding herself from the railing, she hefted the kitten onto one shoulder and headed inside. "Coming?"

"I think," Kurama said as he and Hiei drifted into the house, "that we have terms to work out."

Toshi blinked through a cloud of cigarette smoke when they both wandered back onto the porch. "I thought you were leaving."

"It wasn't permanent," Kurama answered, gingerly sitting on the railing and wincing when some of his wounds cracked open and started to ooze. "As you probably can tell."

Toshi sighed and stomped his cigarette out. "I'm leaving, I'm leaving," he protested after one glance at their eyes. "I know that look." He turned and sulked through the door, closing it with a bang. If either demon caught the muttered "Have fun, why don't you?", neither showed it.

"So about this bet," Kurama said. "Really quite a long-standing one."

"Which one?" Hiei retorted. "Yusuke, disturbingly enough, made his at roughly the same time we made ours."

Kurama gingerly brushed his hair from his face. "Looking back on how we acted then, I can't say I blame him. It was mostly your fault, though. I just translated when you felt like being difficult."

"We still act like that," Hiei pointed out.

"And see how we have proved Yusuke right."

Hiei had to admit the truth there. "This, however, isn't the subject. I owe you now."

"Yes, you do," Kurama said. "And you seem to be torn between offering me something I have much of and offering me something...which I am wondering if I would already possess."

"I said I didn't want to pay you," Hiei said. "I owe you, yes, and I don't think you care about extorting money from me."

Kurama smiled. "It's not extorting when I win. But you're correct; there are things I want more. But would I have them if Yusuke had not raised a point about his own bet? Had I never made my own point and thus won?"

Hiei blinked. "How the hell am I supposed to know? I owe you; you have the advantage of me. Collect what you will, because I would give it you. Maybe."

"If I collect what I will," Kurama pressed, "I don't think I would be satisfied. You know what I want from you. You know how I would have you repay me and you know how I have thought. You know your own mind and you know right now that I do obey your whims. Mostly. So I am tame; pronounce."

Hiei rubbed his eyes. "You're trying to dazzle me with pretty words."

"You're capable of the same," Kurama said, his eyes lazy and half-lidded.

Hiei's fingers drifted to Kurama's neck. When Kurama tensed from having the bruises touched, Hiei kissed him, slow and painful and very much wanted. "You would endure pain and humiliating memories for me, then?" Hiei asked.

At that distance, Kurama's whispery remains of a voice sounded almost normal. "What are you talking about? I do that all the time for you."

"Just checking," Hiei replied, and kissed him again. Neither of them were entirely healthy and both of them bled where fingers clutched, but such things had never stopped them in any other thing before.

Inside, Yusuke sighed dreamily before turning to Kuwabara. "I told you, I won. Pay me."

Kuwabara sank down from the window that gave those inside a decent view of the back porch. "Werg."

Yusuke propped his elbows on the windowsill. "This," he said placidly, "is revenge for making me have to watch you and Yukina. This is also really kind of hot."

"Oh la," said Toshi, passing them in the corridor and peering over Yusuke's head. "I never get that kind of attention. Just 'fuck me now' or 'harder, pretty boy', or 'I'm going to blow your fucking head off!'" He then continued down the hall.

"I feel so violated," Kuwabara moaned, clutching his eyes. "So very violated. And I thought you said you only kept those comics because Keiko liked them."

"I'm gathering blackmail material," Yusuke explained hastily. "And besides, she'll want details. Now pay up or I'm keeping you here indefinitely."

Kuwabara scrunched up his face in distaste and took out his billfold. "Here," he said grudgingly, emptying it. "I'll get you the rest when I have it."

Yusuke smacked him on the head with the handful of cash. "I trust your incredible honour. You may go."

Swatting Yusuke on the leg, Kuwabara hauled himself to his feet and scuttled back to the salvation of his lady friend, horrified look still firmly in place.

When Yusuke looked up, Kurama and Hiei were still entwined on the railing, but they were both grinning wickedly at him. "You're very loud," Kurama explained when he walked out to join them.

"I thought you might get a kick out of it," Yusuke said, handing the cash straight to Hiei. "Your cut, damn your secretiveness."

Hiei rifled through the money and passed half to Kurama. "I lied. I am paying you."

"I thought so," Kurama said, looking incredibly smug. "You always do, even though you say you won't."

Yusuke raised one eyebrow. "Really."

"Every time," Kurama assured him cheerfully.

"And what is this exchange of money about, pray tell?" Yusuke said, detecting subtext that was a bit more than having a third person cut into his bet.

Kurama blinked at him innocently. "Yusuke, not everyone feels the need to announce bets that hinge on behaviour. But I will tell you that it was contracted when we saw Kuwabara and yourself interacting for the first time. And that I won, owing to your horrified perplexity today. I knew you actually could be that oblivious."

Yusuke felt obscurely insulted. "You should talk," he finally said inadequately.

"No, not really," Hiei said. "You won, didn't you? Or did you want to join in?"

Yusuke turned a funny shade of puce. "I'm going to go make out with my girlfriend now," he said pointedly, and stalked from the porch.

Hiei watched him go with a laugh. "Like he thinks we can't tell."

"Like he thinks Keiko wouldn't like it," Kurama corrected him. "He'll learn."

Weed, walking through the hallway inside, paused for a long gawk, then headed for the nearest phone and dialled a familiar number. "Hey," he said hesitatingly when the phone was picked up. "Touya?'s me. I'm...I'm still here. Touya..." He listened to a long burst of speech, sinking to the floor and taking the phone with him. "You will?" There was an affirmative babble. "I don't know when I'm coming back," Weed said, the words spilling from his mouth. "I think I need some time, but Touya, please let me come back." There was another affirmative babble. "Promise?" A third affirmative babble. "Okay. Tell them I'll be back soon. Study for your test. I love you."

When he hung up, he found himself confronted with bare feet. "You," Toshi said, standing over him. "So we're dead. So what? I'm going back into business, and trust me, if I can do that, you're not going to get dumped. Smile and be la-de-fucking-da merry."

Weed obeyed and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet as well. "All right."

"Want to be la-de-fucking-da merry right now?" Toshi offered. "Special deal, because you're getting me my nicotine fix. Ow!" he added when Weed cuffed him on the back of the head. "It's just a question!"

"Thank you, but no," Weed said. "Better?" When Toshi nodded sulkily, Weed said, "There's Pop-Tarts in the kitchen. I'll split a pack with you."

Toshi made a startled moue. "Sure," he said. "Pop-Tarts it is."


"I am tame; pronounce" is a quote from Gaudy Night, which in turn is from Hamlet. Good books, those. There's another quote in there too from some other source. I forget what.

SO MANY BETS. AHAHA ZOMBIES ZOMBIES I AM DONE. Many thanks to those who have had bits of this story flung at them (or the whole of it), as well as sources of inspiration such as Conan O'Brien, Ghostbusters, the car in Friendly Hostility, long road-trips, a variety of zombie movies, everyone who has ever reviewed, and the Pop-Tart company.

I'm not only done with this story – I'm retiring from

This does not mean that I'm going to stop writing. I am going to be ficcing merrily onward, just...not in two different places at once. I rely too heavily on my eljay for networking and posting fic anyhow.

To that end! I'm not taking anything down from It'll all still be here for your reading pleasure. However, there will be new fic, including one brand-spankin'-new flaming-subtext Kurama/Hiei called String that I just wrote and posted in the wee hours of this morning. Most of the older fic is also in my memories. I know, it's a dashed inconvenience, but...lawks, I haven't posted anything here but Skeleton Dancer in ages, and I've been writing pretty consistently lately.

Therefore: I am now to be found on eljay. All of Skeleton Dancer is there too, I promise. My name

is evilsimon, or (if this works), http/ is the link. I try to not babble about my life that much, since the original point was for it to be just a fic journal, but...well, every so often bizarre things happen.

I love you all; you've been wonderful to me, and I would love it if you followed me as I go dramatically into the sunset. You don't have to mention how I tripped over the cactus, though. No, really. You're too generous.

See you again!

Aithril the Elf-Maiden: I'm sorry! Would you like an after-dinner mint? Happy Christmas!

Kooriya Yui: I love El Zorromancer too much to kill him. Now you know my secret shame.

KyoHana: Oh, of course not. They're out of practise.


Katia-chan: Lelola rocks. I have not been there in ages.

Kurama'sGirl88: A romantic moment for you! Happy Christmas!

kikira-chan: El Zorromancer is fixated.

Evene: ...if you make me miss Karasu, I will be unhappy.

Muse 9.5: I've never heard of The Forbidden Game before – who wrote it? ...I might have written about this, but I sort of cobbled him together from him doing my dream job, the multitude of strange cross-naming and name-adoption that makes up that brain-candy flick Tomb Raider (I derive my name, Simon, from it. And Julian. And West. And the blonde hair. Oh, my shame.) I don't remember. I meant to. Thanks!

Nyte Kit: Kurama is just that mellow.

sukini: We loves us some grammar.


A lilmatchgirl: I AM KARASU-KILLING GENIUS LIKE CHARLIE – aw, hell, wrong fandom.