A/N: This is the sequel to The Wreck of My Memories. It's another story from Hiei's POV. There is mild shounen-ai.
Okay everyone, this is the last installment. Thank you to everyone who reviewed. I'm very glad that you enjoyed this and Wreck. Be safe.
Disclaimer: All rights belong to Yoshihiro Togashi and Shonen Jump. No infringement intended, etc etc all that jazz. I'm poor so don't sue.
Rating is M for language.
The Voice of Your Eyes
By Terri Botta 2005
The sun shines down on the old temple complex, lighting on the thriving gardens and clean swept paving stones. It is the end of summer and it is hot, but a pleasant breeze makes the day more bearable.
We are outside, sitting comfortably in the shade, the remnants of our dinner piled in empty bowls and bento boxes. Uma rests with her back against the ever-blooming sakura tree, her hand idly stroking the trunk as she sends her energy up into the higher limbs to sprout more blossoms. The air is heavy with their fragrant scent. Kurama watches her and gives her an appreciative smile.
They are a matched set, these two. Both are never happier than when they are puttering around their gardens and fussing over their plants. Having Uma come live in this place surrounded by forest as far as the eye can see was a stroke of pure kitsune brilliance. I doubt this place was so well tended even when the old woman was alive.
I feel a small stab of regret. I didn't know when Genkai died. I was in the Makai with Mukuro and word didn't reach me until months later. I would have liked to have been able to pay my respects to her. She had always been kind to me, had even fed me on numerous occasions, and she was a strong and skilled fighter. She taught Yuusuke almost everything he knows. I think we all miss her, but I imagine that she would be happy knowing her special place is being tended so diligently.
Per Genkai's request, the surrounding land will never be sold or developed. It will remain wild and untamed as it has always been, and with four demons among the legal heirs, it's unlikely that it will ever come out of our possession. Genkai hoped it would become a sanctuary for demons and humans alike, and Uma living here and loving it is part of that legacy.
It's been several months since I discovered that Uma was still alive and took her from the Makai in order to keep her safe. I don't think she misses the old shack with its leaky roof and drafty windows. Compared to the hovel she was living in, Genkai's temple is a palace full of luxuries like indoor plumbing and hot running water. No, I doubt she misses the Makai at all. No one bothers her here, and she is free to garden and grow her herbs as much as she wants.
She lives here alone about half of the time. The other half, she is joined by Yukina who tries to spend at least one week a month here, and Kurama and I visit often; Kurama more than me, but he lives in the Ningenkai while I do not. It is not as easy for me to slip away unnoticed, although Mukuro knows I have strong ties to the human world, and accepts that I like to spend as much of my free time here as I possibly can. I think she suspects that my relationship with Kurama's 'herbalist colleague' is more than mere professional courtesy to a friend, but she is shrewd and keeps her mouth shut.
Ch. Both of us have our secrets.
She didn't even question me when I asked of there was something that could be done to help Uma's injuries. At her raised eyebrow, I explained that Kurama owed her a debt, and I in turn owed Kurama a debt, and so the fox had brought Uma to me. I'm pretty sure Mukuro knew there was more to the story than I was revealing but she helped as much as Uma would let her.
Uma's new robotic leg is the result.
The leg is all she would accept. Mukuro offered a set of hands but of course that would have meant cutting off the ones she had, and, as burned and scarred as they were, Uma wasn't willing to part with them. As for her throat, a cybernetic voice box would have restored a voice but it would have sounded artificial so she turned that down too.
She does fine with her mind-speech with those who are telepathic like Kurama and me, and Kurama has taught her sign language so she can communicate with those who aren't. Now she signs as she speaks mind-to-mind almost as if it is how she has always spoken. I like to watch the graceful movements of her hands as she forms the patterns in time with her thoughts. I've learned the silent language myself just from observing her but I haven't revealed that little fact. She and Kurama like to 'talk' about me with it because they think I can't understand what they're saying. It gives me insights on their latest scheming.
In that they are also a matched set; always trying to wheedle something out of me that I'd rather not do or admit. They managed to convince me to tell Yukina that I was her brother, even though I had previously told her that her twin was dead.
In truth, it was more Uma than the kitsune. She made me understand the depths of grief a mother can go through when she suffers the loss of a child, and how much a twin would be affected in the same way if one of them died. Her heartfelt account of how helpless and bereft she felt after I was taken from her made me realize that I had wronged Yukina and caused her terrible pain with my lie.
She also helped convince me that I deserved to have a sister like Yukina; that I deserved to have my adoptive mother, my family, and my friends in my life. The kitsune was instrumental in this as well, helping me come to terms with my past and allowing the people who care about me to be part of my world. For so long I thought myself tainted and unworthy of love or friendship, regaining the first person who ever cared about me went a long way to helping me understand how much I needed the ones I called 'friends.'
Imagine my surprise when Yukina smiled at me and told me that she already knew I was her twin. Apparently she'd always known, or at least she'd known for certain after the Dark Tournament. She told me that she knew it was me because she could feel me, and she'd just allowed me to go on thinking that I had her fooled because she thought it was what I wanted.
When I told her the real reason I had kept the truth from her, she actually started to cry. Then she hugged me and said she was so relieved that was all it was because she had been so afraid that I was ashamed of her because she was weak and allowed herself to be captured by that pig bastard Tarukane.
How could I ever be ashamed of Yukina? All along it was me who was the one who was ashamed. I never knew she felt that way, and it made me feel even worse for lying to her for so long.
She, like Uma, forgave me. They both forgave me without reservation. It is something I am not sure I could do myself, but maybe someday I can learn it from them. I forgave Kurama for betraying me to Yuusuke, but in hindsight I had decided that it wasn't a betrayal so much as a rescue so my forgiveness didn't count in that instance.
I have been able to learn from my friends in the past. Yuusuke taught me what it meant to be part of a team. The Oaf taught me that pure human stubbornness can overcome the greatest obstacles. And Kurama… Kurama has taught me love. Not the kind of love I have for Yukina or for Uma, but the kind one shares for a partner… and lover.
The last reason these two are a matched set is because they are both unconditionally mine, and they both love me with all that they have to give.
After much coaxing from Uma, the kitsune stepped up his efforts to woo me, and I, also with much coaxing from Uma, allowed myself to be won. It has been an… adjustment and an… awakening. I'm still reeling from it but I'm starting to get used to being loved, and I'm beginning to enjoy it as much as Kurama does.
Even now as we sit here, he is sprawled on the ground with his head on my lap. We would never do this in public, or even around Yuusuke and the Oaf, but here we are safe within the old temple walls and Uma knows we are lovers. Kurama is still more physical than I am, his kitsune nature making him much more tactile than me, but I have been known to fall asleep on top of him when we're on the couch together in Kurama's apartment.
As I look down at him with his cheek on my thigh, he lets one green eye slide to peer up at me, then he smiles and blows a soft sigh that tickles the underside of my knee through my thin pants. The action makes me shiver but not with cold.
When I first accepted his advances, I believed that a physical relationship would be something I would have to endure, something I would suffer through in order to reap the other benefits pairing with him in such a way offered me. Oh how wrong I was. I continue to be shocked by the depth of the emotions he makes me feel and the strength of my desire for him. I have come to crave his touch and revel in the pleasure he brings me, and I am extremely grateful that he managed to get his own place to live otherwise our private lives would be significantly curtailed.
For all the soul-bearing and long diatribes about not keeping secrets from those you love, my hypocrite kitsune still hasn't told his ningen mother about her son's demon nature or his choice of lovers. Not that I blame him for it, but I just find it amusingly ironic. Yukina has complained that he should at least reveal me as his lover if nothing else, but I understand his reluctance there as well.
I haven't told Mukuro that Kurama and I are lovers, but that is different. That is a matter of protecting our privacy from my rivals in Mukuro's ranks. Although I am getting to the point where I'm about ready to say they can have my place if they want it so badly. The only thing that has kept me from resigning is my respect for Mukuro, and Kurama's insistence that we keep our options in the Makai open for an eventual return. But I don't want to rule and my pursuit of power seems so petty in light of what I have gained and learned. I still train and I still push my limits, but now it is so I am strong enough to protect that which has become precious to me.
Kurama's continued silence with his mother is his own way of protecting her as well so it isn't a matter of him not wanting her to think that he is gay. He isn't gay. At least, not in the way ningens think. Kitsune are much more discerning about who they are with rather than the sex of the partner. Kurama has assured me that he would love me no matter what gender my body possessed because it is my soul that he adores.
I almost cried when he told me that… almost. Instead I ended up grabbing him and…
The memory makes me shift uncomfortably and the green eye fixed on me twinkles with mischief. I turn my head away and look at Uma who is pointedly ignoring us.
Ch. It's not like she cares that we're lovers. She practically tied us together and shoved us in a locked room. Uma has no problems with my sexual orientation as long as I am content and well treated.
Hn. My sexual orientation… I don't have one. Kurama is the only one I've ever been attracted to or made love with so I guess that makes me Kurama-oriented. No matter what form he takes, whether it be his human or his youko form, he's the only one I've ever been interested in; the only one I've ever been with and he had to teach me practically everything because I was woefully inexperienced. He was so patient and understanding with me when we first began to explore a more physical relationship. I couldn't have asked for a more tolerant and sensitive mentor to show me what we could be together, how good we could be for each other. We both fill the empty places inside each other in ways no one else can.
And he makes me happy. They both make me happier than I have ever been, my matched set.
Sometimes I wonder how it is possible for someone like me to feel so much joy when all I knew for so long was pain and anguish. Sometimes I wonder what to do with this wild love I have inside me. It makes me do things I would never do otherwise. It makes me viciously jealous and possessive to the point where Kurama's had to thwap me a couple of times just to bring me out of it.
It humbles me. It weakens me even as it makes me stronger, and sometimes it scares me to my very core. I don't know… I don't know what I would do without the people I have come to love in my life. These two. Yukina…
There are days when I loathe myself for feeling the things that I do, and days when I know I would die before I gave them up. And I fear that one day I will lose them, that they will be taken from me. I keep waiting for the pain to come back, for my fate to rear its head and strip me of the happiness I have found. I lost Uma once. What will I do if I lose her again? What will I do if I lose Kurama? Yukina? Could I go back to being what I once was now that I have found this? Now that I know what it is like? I don't know what I would do…
A blooming rose is shoved into my face, snapping me out of my downward thoughts, and I look at my kitsune who smiles at me. He's rolled to his back, the nape of his neck now supported by my leg.
"You're brooding again," he scolds.
"Hn," I reply half-guiltily, looking away.
"What were you thinking?"
"Nothing. It's not important."
He gives me a smile that tells me that he believes me about as much as he can pick me up and throw me.
"If it's not important, then stop brooding about it," he sighs, flicking the rose so the petals caress my cheek before putting it back in his hair.
He rolls so that his chin is resting on my knee and I trace the curve of his neck and spine with my eyes as he heaves a sigh.
"We're not going to leave you so stop worrying," he states simply, shocking me with his insight. Am I that transparent? Then he stretches and yawns before adding, "Besides, it's too beautiful of a day to brood."
I huff but say nothing.
'I agree. Kurama, let's go check on the Makai garden. The sun will be going down soon and the night bloomers will be opening. I think there might be some early seed pods ready for collection,' Uma suggests, her hands signing as she broadcasts her mind-speech so both of us can hear her.
Kurama has been teaching her some of his techniques on how to make plants into weapons and she seems to have a knack for it. He's also been brewing up numerous potions from rare herbs geared towards helping her regain her energy faster. I must say that I am very pleased with the results.
"I think that's a wonderful idea, Uma-san," Kurama agrees and rises to his feet.
Uma stands, her robotic leg clicking and whirring as the joints move, and brushes some stray sakura petals from her skirt. I look at her and smile softly. She looks so much healthier now, not nearly as thin and wan as she had been, and she's letting her hair grow again.
Kurama goes to the tool shed to get a bucket and a spade while Uma collects the leftovers from dinner and takes them to the kitchen. I stand and wait for them in the courtyard, my hands folded behind my back.
Uma is the first to return and she brushes the side of my cheek with the back of her hand affectionately. I look up at her without inclining my head and snort. She says nothing but then there isn't any need for her to say anything at all. Everything she feels and wants to tell me is right there in her eyes.
Kurama joins us and Uma takes the bucket and spade from him as they begin to walk towards the long stairs that lead down to the surrounding forest.
"I wonder if the Blood Vine will be ready soon," Kurama muses. "I could definitely use some of that during the Makai Tournament."
'I'll see about cross-breeding some with that Makai Ojigi you have,' Uma offers.
"What a brilliant idea, Uma-san. I wonder what would happen if we crossed in some carnivorous Sundew…"
'We could try to make the sap poisonous…'
"Blood Vine, Ojigi and poisonous Sundew, what a combination!"
I sigh. Once they get started in the gardens, they'll fuss for hours. Not that I mind. Watching them can be very entertaining (and sometimes I can get a good nap in while they're weeding) so long as they don't ask me to be a volunteer when they test the final result.
During our battle in the first Makai Tournament, Mukuro accused me of longing for my homeland. She was only partially right. I didn't want to go back to the floating glacier of the korrimes; back to a place where the slaughter of innocent infants was condoned and life was a constant monotony of frigid isolation. Even my twin agreed that the korrimes deserved to be punished for what they did to me.
Yukina is not as sweet and innocent as everyone thinks she is; at least not when it comes to me. I am certain that she would kill to protect me if she absolutely had no choice. Her time as a prisoner of Tarukane changed her and I know Genkai made teaching her self-defense a priority. I'd like to see someone try to kidnap her now. Of course, I will never allow her to be placed in a situation where she would be forced to fight, but it's nice to know that she could if she had to.
But Mukuro was right about me longing for a home. The child in me remembered what it was like to have a place of safety and comfort. Those who knew me thought I was depraved, but there is a fundamental difference between being depraved and being deprived. Depraved means that you have never possessed something in the first place. Deprived means that you once had it but it was taken away. I think deprived is much worse. At least with depraved, you never had it so you can't miss it.
Deep inside I missed my home, and my rage and hate stemmed from that loss. I filled my life with purpose in order to find a reason to continue living, and I fought and lived for that purpose until Mukuro summoned me and I thought that there was nothing left for me but an honorable death.
Kurama has since learned the truth about that fateful day. I told him during one of our long nights of soul-bearing and forgiveness. I have never seen him cry so much or sob so deeply as he did that night, and he swore that he and Yuusuke, and even the Oaf, would have avenged my death if Shigure had truly killed me. He swore that they would even have gone after Mukuro. With the white rage of revenge behind Yuusuke's fists, I have my doubts that Mukuro would have won that battle.
He wept and kissed the non-existent scars where my katana sliced off my own arm and Shigure's bone blade disemboweled me. Then he made me swear that I would never do anything so stupid again. He made me vow on his life and our love because he knows I value his life over mine. I swore because I never want to see my kitsune cry like that again. Not ever.
But I can't say that things haven't turned out for the best. In dying and rising again, in becoming Mukuro's heir, I eventually found my way back to that which I most desired: a home. Only my home isn't a country or a particular place.
My home is a green-eyed, red-haired kitsune with a silver-haired alter-ego. It's an ice maiden who shared a womb with me. It's a half-demon, cocky-assed, stupid idiot and an overgrown, stubborn oaf. It's a mute demoness who showed me that not even death could kill a mother's love.
That is my home, where I belong. It is where I am loved, and needed, and cherished. It is where I will never be abandoned and left alone again. If everything I suffered and lived through finally brought me to this place, then there is nothing I would change. I'd do it all again without reservation. Anything worth keeping is worth fighting for, worth suffering for, worth risking everything for. Kurama taught me that.
"Hiei? Are you coming?" Kurama asks me, tossing a happy glance over his shoulder.
Both faces in my matched set pause to wait for me, giving me expectant looks, and I realize that I'm still standing at the top of the stairs. I'd been so caught up in my thoughts that I hadn't realized that I'd stopped walking.
"Hiei?" my kitsune repeats.
"I'm coming," I answer, shoving my hands in my pockets to hide my embarrassment.
Kurama raises an eyebrow and gives me a come-hither look. 'Not yet… but maybe later,' he teases, a secret smile on his lips.
I gasp at his mental caress then growl. 'I'll get you for that kitsune.'
'Oh, I'm counting on it.' He turns his head away and offers his arm to Uma. "Uma-san? Shall we? I'm sure Hiei will catch up once he's done woolgathering."
My adoptive mother smiles and gives me a wink before talking Kurama's offered arm and the two of them continue down the stairs together.
I chuckle and shake my head, then move to follow wherever they lead.