Author's Note: This is the sequel to Between Death and Reality. While it isn't required that you read that first, some things referenced here may not make a whole lot of sense.
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu Yu Hakusho. I am not making any money from writing this. I do, however, own my plotline.
Back to Normalcy… Or So It Seems
Kurama smiled at the sight of his friends around him on the train ride home from Genkai's temple. What had seemed like an innocent gathering of reunited friends had turned into much more. Genkai had told the group she was leaving the temple and the surrounding grounds to them when she died in hopes they would make it a haven for humans and demons alike. Though she was only partially turned toward them when she spoke, Kurama could have sworn the psychic had given him a small wink at this, though no one else seemed to have noticed.
And when they had gone to the shore, one boundary of Genkai's property, the unthinkable had happened: Yusuke had returned. A romantic kiss on the beach under the sunset had left no doubt that Keiko still loved the ex-Spirit Detective. And while that had been the most noticeable kiss of the evening, it had not been the only one. While everyone else had been having a water fight, Botan had pulled Kurama in with them and knocked him flat in the shallow shoreline and had given him an equally loving kiss which the red-head had returned.
Now, on the train ride back, Yusuke sat beside Keiko, her hand intertwined in his; Kuwabara and Shizuru sat opposite them. Botan had agreed to ride back with the group, so she sat with Kurama in the seats behind their friends. Shizuru snickered at her brother's disappointment that he had not been able to share his own romantic moment with Yukina. Such was life.
Turning back from watching his friends, Kurama idly wondered if this was the beginning of the end for the former Reikai Tantei. No, Kurama decided, the invitations to Demon World two years ago had sewn the seed for the drifting of the group. With Hiei choosing to remain in Demon World to patrol the now Kekkai-free border between the worlds, there were only three of the four former Tantei left. Kurama smiled a bittersweet smile as he looked out the window.
Botan squeezed his hand, her eyes asking if something was wrong. Kurama gently shook his head. No, he was just thinking. The ferry girl nodded her understanding. The fox turned back to his thoughts.
With there being no barrier, Kurama would easily be able to take short trips to Demon World when necessary. He would certainly check up on his fighters; Chuu, Rinku, Jin, Touya, Shishi, and Suzuka had all chosen to stay and train for the next tournament. He sighed. Kurama knew he would never truly be able to leave his past as Youko behind, so trips to Demon World might serve to soothe his soul and cleanse his spirit. And in that case, he would be able to visit Hiei. Kurama knew his best friend was happy where he was. Mukuro was a good match for him. The fox was happy for his friend; love had been so hard for him to find in his life up until this point. And the same could be said of Mukuro. Kurama was happy for both of them.
"Kurama?" Kuwabara's voice pulled the fox from his reverie. The red-head looked over the seat at his friend.
"I… uh…" Kuwabara flushed slightly. "Nevermind." Kurama frowned slightly.
"Nevermind, okay?" Kurama blinked.
"Alright." The other four had looked up to watch the exchange. Kuwabara buried his face in his sister's copy of the newspaper and Kurama shook his head.
Some things never change," Yusuke commented. Kurama smiled.
"It's kind of nice to know, isn't it?" he said. Yusuke smiled as well.
"Yeah, it is."
The friends stood idly at the train station as their train left. None of them knew when they would next see each other.
"Is this it?" Shizuru asked suddenly.
"It doesn't have to be," Kurama replied, holding hands with Botan. Keiko perked up.
"Of course," she said. "We'll have to get together often."
"And keep in contact," Kuwabara added. Everyone nodded.
"We can have dinner at my place sometime," Keiko continued. Yusuke grinned.
"Owning a restaurant has its perks." Keiko smiled back.
"Sometime soon," she said.
"Soon," Kurama added with a nod. Botan shifted slightly uncomfortably. "What's wrong?" Kurama asked her with a frown.
"It's just, well…" She bit her lip.
"Botan?" Keiko asked worriedly.
"What's wrong?" Kuwabara's turn.
"It's just, you guys can see each other whenever. But I'm in Spirit World so often that I'll rarely get to visit."
"We'll schedule a time when you're visiting Kurama," Shizuru said simply. "That way, you'll be here already." Botan nodded hesitantly.
"Well," Shizuru said after several moments of silence, "I guess this is it."
"For now," Keiko said and Shizuru smiled.
"Right. But Kazuma and I really do need to be going."
"This was fun, but I should get back to the shop," Keiko agreed. Smiles and hugs and handshakes were exchanged before the group split into three pairs going in different directions. Walking to the parking lot, Kurama noticed Botan looking slightly downcast.
"What is it really?" he asked gently. She blinked and looked up at him.
"Oh, nothing," she said, trying to shrug it off with false cheeriness. Kurama frowned.
"Botan, you're a horrible liar." She flushed.
"Yes. Now what's wrong?" She stopped walking, causing the red-head to do the same.
"I don't know how often I'll be able to come back anymore," she replied after a moment.
"What does that mean?" Kurama asked gently, though inside he was slightly alarmed at what this could mean.
"Now that there is no Spirit Detective, there is no need for an assistant, so Koenma doesn't feel I need to spend my time in Human World, except for work. He feels it's clouding my mind and affecting my work," the ferry girl explained.
"That doesn't sound like Koenma," Kurama said. "He knows you have friends here."
"And that I have you," she finished and the fox nodded. "I think he's worried."
"That you might not remain dependable," Botan explained in a hurry. Kurama blinked.
"And what does that mean?"
"He's worried you'll return to Demon World for good when your mother passes and you'll return to your old ways."
"He honestly believes that?" Kurama said incredulously.
"That's what I said, but…" Botan trailed off.
"He's just being over-protective," Kurama sighed. "But I love you, Botan. I would never abandon you."
"I know that and I told him that, but I'm still worried," the blue-haired girl replied.
"Do you want me to…" Kurama began but Botan cut him off.
"No, that wouldn't work." Her eyes flashed mischievously. "But if there are problems, I know who to get to speak to him."
"Who?" Kurama asked, nonplussed.
"That's my secret," she whispered, pecking him on the cheek.
"You know I specialize in getting information," the fox teased. Botan giggled and took off running toward to lot.
"Try me," she laughed and Kurama gave chase with a grin.
Kurama opened the door to the Minamino/Hatanaka residence and was immediately assaulted by the smells of his mother's home cooking. He grinned at Botan as the pair removed their shoes. The ferry girl followed Kurama into the kitchen, where he was summarily assaulted with a hug from his mother. His step-brother also embraced him, albeit less enthusiastically than Shiori, and his step-father, Kazuma Hatanaka, waved from his seat at the table with the newspaper.
"Suuichi, it's so good to see you. We don't see you as much anymore with all of your traveling," Shiori told her son.
"And I've missed you wonderful cooking," Kurama told his mother with a kiss on the cheek. She flushed happily.
"You flatter me too much." Kurama grinned. It was only then that Shiori noticed Botan in the doorway. "Botan! It's a pleasure to see you again. Please coming in and join us," Kurama's mother said, pulling Botan into the room.
"I appreciate your hospitality, Mrs. Minamino – erm, Hatanaka – oh dear," Botan replied, becoming flustered. Everyone laughed.
"Minamino is fine dear," Shiori said with a smile. Botan nodded gratefully.
"Do you need any help, Mother?" Kurama asked, offering to do anything that needed to be done. Shiori shook her head.
"No dear. Everything's about set. Shuichi," she said, turning to her stepson, "would you get another place setting for Botan?" He nodded.
"I'm on it."
"I really do hate to interrupt a family affair," Botan said quickly. Kazuma chuckled and Shiori blinked.
"Dear, you aren't interrupting," Kazuma said.
"You're practically family," Shiori added. "It's been what, two years already?" She looked over at Kurama, who nodded. "If that doesn't make you family, I don't know what does." Botan flushed – yet again – and Kurama chuckled behind a hand. After a moment, Kazuma snorted.
"It seems the alien sightings in this paper have changed. Now they're calling them demons," he said, amused. Kurama and Botan exchanged sudden glances.
"Could I see that?" Kurama asked his stepfather as he walked over to the table.
"Sure," he replied, handing it to the red-head. Botan peered over Kurama's shoulder. The center page was the same as the one Shizuru had mentioned that afternoon on the train. A caricature of Hiei sat in the middle, but the page oddly enough called him a demon.
"What do you think?" he asked her softly.
"Coincidence?" she offered, equally soft. He shrugged.
"It could be nothing," he said and she nodded, just in time for dinner to be served. As they sat around the table, Shiori turned to Kurama.
"How was your visit with Genkai?" she asked.
"It was nice," he replied. "Saw some old friends and reminisced. It's very peaceful out there as well."
"It must be, to have to take the train all the way out," Shiori said.
"It's nice to be away from everything," the fox continued. "It really gives your mind room to think. The calm and quiet among nature is very nice."
"Too bad our friends aren't quiet," Botan said and Kurama smiled at her.
"And you're one to talk," he teased. "You never speak."
"Only when necessary," she replied with her own smile.
"If the occasion calls for it," Botan replied smoothly and Kurama laughed. Shiori beamed at the couple.
"Suuichi, you really need to come by more often," she said
"I suspect settling in is taking a lot of time," Kazuma said with a wink to Kurama. The red-head smiled.
"Of course." Botan looked at Kurama.
"You have a new place?" Kurama blinked then smiled sheepishly. It was true Kurama had his own place now. Among other arrangements he made during his brief returns home from Demon World, the fox had been working on getting his own apartment. It took only a few weeks after he had returned for good for him to get one.
"Yes, I have an apartment close to the university," he replied. "I've only just barely finished unpacking"
"I'd like to see it," the ferry girl said.
"Me too," Shuichi chimed in.
"I think we all would," Shiori finished. "But only if you are ready to have company."
"No, that's fine," the red-head replied.
"How about after dinner?" Kazuma suggested and everyone nodded their agreement.
Kurama pulled his key from his coat pocket and unlocked the door as Botan and his family waited behind him. Stepping inside and slipping off his shoes, he turned on the light. He stepped into the apartment fully so his company could come in as well. The family looked around with a smile as Kurama studied his home. The furniture was modern yet comfortable and everything was neatly put away except for a few boxes that still littered the floor. Botan grinned at him.
"It suits you," she told him. "I like it."
"Glad to have your approval," he teased.
"It's very nice, Suuichi," Hatanaka said.
"You've done a very nice job with it," Shiori said proudly.
"It's not quite finished yet, but thanks," Kurama replied modestly.
"Can I come and visit sometimes?" Shuichi asked. Kurama smiled at his stepbrother.
"Any time." Shuichi grinned. Botan headed to the kitchen.
"Tea anyone?" she offered. Kurama followed her in.
"Let me help."
"You won't run it, will you?" Botan teased.
"I may," Kurama replied lightly, "but you don't know where anything is."
"I could find it!"
"By then they will have left."
When Kurama's family had left, Kurama and Botan curled up on the couch, each with their cups of tea. Kurama picked up the remote and turned on the television. The two sat contentedly watching different snatches of shows. Kurama paused when the news came on.
"In other news," the reporter was saying, "there was another demon sighting in the woods today. Misao Yatakana has more." Kurama's eyes widened as he turned the television to mute. Botan had sat upright. Green eyes met an alarmed amethyst.
"The paper, too," Kurama reminded her.
"Coincidence?" she asked.
"I don't believe in coincidences," Kurama said with a frown. "I don't like this."
"It sounded like this has been happening for awhile now," Botan mused. "We've all been so concerned with the Demon World Tournament that we haven't been monitoring Human World as well."
"Except Kuwabara," Kurama said. "Whenever I came back, I spoke with him and he never mentioned anything." Botan frowned at the muted reporter.
"But it's in the news. People must be taking it seriously." Kurama looked at a clock.
"It's too late to call Kuwabara. I'll talk to him tomorrow."
"And I'll speak with Koenma," Botan added. She made to summon her oar, but Kurama caught her wrist gently.
"Just make sure you can get back."
"I'll be back, don't worry about that," she said determinedly. She summoned her oar, but then hesitated.
"What?" Kurama asked. Botan looked at him, expression torn. After a minute, she pulled out a device that looked like a compact and handed it to him.
"The extra detective's communication mirror," she explained. "In case I need to stay longer than I thought or I have important information. Yusuke broke his in Maze Castle and this is the extra. I have a feeling you'll be more careful."
"Of course," the fox agreed from his position on the couch. Botan leaned over and kissed him.
"I'll be in contact soon."
"Be careful," Kurama called after her as she left through the window. He turned back to the television screen. "Something is going on here," he said before turning it off.
"So what's so urgent, Kurama?" Kuwabara asked as the two sat down at a restaurant table for lunch. Kurama related the two incidences concerning demons from the day before to the orange-haired boy.
"Has this been going on for awhile?" the red-head asked when he finished. Kuwabara frowned thoughtfully.
"I guess it really started after all you guys left for Demon World," he said slowly. Kurama opened his mouth to speak but Kuwabara cut him off. "I didn't tell you when you came to visit because it didn't seem like a big deal. It just started out in that center page thing that is always devoted to alien sightings. One day alien became demon, but no one ever believed in that stuff anyway."
"Apparently people started to," Kurama said.
"Yeah, that's what was weird. About six months ago, when all you guys were gearing up for that Tournament of whatever, there began to be things on TV about demons. I figured it would be like when they aired stuff about aliens awhile ago, so didn't pay any attention to it. I figured they were just trying to give the alien stories a new angle so people would get interested.
"And people seemed to be interested after all." The conversation paused as the two gave their order. When the waitress left, they began once more.
"People seem to be buying it if it's on the news," Kurama pointed out.
"Yeah, I'm not sure why it caught on so fast, but is been gaining steam for awhile now," Kuwabara continued.
"What does Genkai have to say about it?"
"Well, she's been getting more guests it seems, convinced she can help them. She's been turning them away, saying demons aren't real."
"But she's worried."
"More and more with all the guests she's been getting." Kurama frowned.
"But why would people be convinced demons were real? If aliens didn't make it, why demons?"
"Maybe because they are real?" Kurama gave the boy a level stare. "Okay, bad joke. I know. Honestly, I don't know."
"But there must be something tangible for so many people to believe such stories," Kurama mused.
"I really couldn't tell ya, Kurama. I'm just as confused as you are." He dropped his voice to a whisper. "But I think you're safe."
"Thanks," the fox said dryly.
Author's Note: Looking back over it, this chapter was kinda boring, but it was necessary to really set up the outline for the rest of the story. But it took me forever to come up with a title for the story, so let me know what you think about it and the first chapter. And for those of you who reviewed the last chapter of BDAR, the responses are at the usual place (link in profile or in any of my other stories, really). Anyway, let me know what you think. Up to snuff from the last one? Tell me anything, please!