DISCLAIMER: If I didn't own anything in the other fics, why would I own anything here? I ask you…

AN: Sorry this story took so long to put up. I had it finished earlier but I had NO Internet access, which, by the way, very nearly killed me. But here it is now!


Chapter 1

Sorry I never told you

All I wanted to say.

And now it's too late to hold you,

'Cause you've flown away,

So far away.

It was a very bright morning in Tokyo. It was about that time of year when the world began to wake up from the long sleep of winter, but it was too early for true, wild, hyper spring. Everything seemed caught in drowsy rain and drizzle and gloom.

"I hate being caught inside," Yusuke Urameshi announced to the two people sitting at the table in his kitchen, one sipping coffee and the other just sitting. The black-haired Spirit Detective looked boredly out the window of their apartment's kitchen fair-sized kitchen, wishing desperately that things would clear up. He had wanted to spend the weekend outside, having already spent far too much time—in his opinion—in college classrooms. "I hate the rain!"

One of his companions, the violently orange-haired Kazuma Kuwabara, who shared this apartment with him, took a drink of his coffee and then swirled the cup thoughtfully. "I don't know. I think it sounds kinda nice."

The third guy spoke up then, surprising the others for no other reason than that he hardly ever said anything at all. "You know, Kurama always loved the rain. He used to tell me that he could feel the green things growing. It made him so happy."

Yusuke and Kuwabara exchanged slightly alarmed, but mostly sad, looks. Hiei Jaganshi didn't notice this, though. His eyes were glazed and his thoughts faraway. "He loved snow just as much, though. He said the plants liked it, too, because that told them that they were able to rest from their long season. I don't think he could ever decide which was better. He told me once that when he was little, he imagined snowflakes and raindrops talking, and all the conversations they would have. I should…go…there are some things I need to do…I'll be back, though, don't worry…"

As Hiei wandered out the door to the apartment, Yusuke and Kuwabara exchanged another glance. After a moment of silence, Yusuke said, "He isn't getting any better."

Kuwabara sighed. "Did you really expect him to?"

Yusuke collapsed into a chair and ran his hand through his hair. "I don't know. I mean, it has been almost four months since Kurama…died…but I guess it's stupid to expect him to just…get over it. It's just…he's so hard to be around now, ya know?"

His mind drifted back to when Hiei had begun acting this way. If I had seen this coming, could I have done anything? he wondered for about the zillionth time.

Three months, three weeks, and four days before, Suuichi Kurama Minamono had been killed by a demon on the job. He had had only Hiei with him at the time, and so only Hiei knew the full story of his death. And he wasn't talking.

Three months, three weeks, and two days before, the delayed reaction to Kurama's death had started to set in. At first, it was as if everyone expected that it was all a big joke and at any time Kurama could just walk in, laughing at how thoroughly he had fooled them. No one wanted to remember that this was not his way.

But after two days, the realization finally hit—and it struck Hiei the hardest of all. It was at that point that he began to slip away—almost unnoticeably. At first it had just been a couple of memories of Kurama here and there, spoken in completely lucid tones. But then things started to go downhill. Hiei started to speak of Kurama all the time, and mostly they were completely random memories that had no bearing on the conversation at all. This was painful enough for the listeners, but Hiei's face when he talked of Kurama was worse. The Jaganshi didn't seem to be there at all. His eyes would be clouded over, and anybody could see that while his body was in front of them, his mind was thousands of miles away.

And then, worst of all, he began to talk about Kurama as if he was still alive and right there in the room. That didn't happen all the time, but when it did, there was no telling how long it could take him to get out of it. And if someone tried to snap him back to reality with the harsh truth of "Kurama is dead," all they were likely to receive was a black eye.

Kuwabara, who had taken up residence in Yusuke's spot by the window while Yusuke had been remembering, now commented, "He's headed there again."

Yusuke leaned over and pounded his head on the table. "Damn it, Kuwabara, we have to do something."

Never had I imagined

Living without your smile,

Feeling and knowing you near me.

It keeps me alive.

Alive.

"They're worried about you, you know."

"Why the hell should I care?"

"Well, you did promise to take care of them."

"So? What's your point?"

"It means you shouldn't worry them, carrying on like this. That's the opposite of what Kurama wanted."

"Don't talk about him."

"Oh, one of those moments, is it?"

"Yes. Now shut up."

But Hiei knew that it was no good. The voice in his head never obeyed him anymore. It said what it wanted, when it wanted, and the only way Hiei could stop it from talking about painful things was to say those things aloud. When he did that, the voice subsided for a short time.

But never for long, and always, when it came back, it was even more persistent.

"I'm going crazy."

"Not going. Gone."

And Hiei, as he climbed up the tree outside Kurama's window, couldn't help but agree.

And I know you're shining down on me from Heaven,

Like so many friends we've lost along the way.

And I know eventually we'll be together.

Together.

One sweet day.

"He's getting worse, Koenma, and if he keeps on this path, he's going to die."

Koenma, who was in his teenage form today, seemed to be trying to stay calm as he looked into Yusuke's pale, sad face, but his hands shook very slightly as he shifted his papers around. "Yusuke, I understand that you're worried, and so am I, and so is Kuwabara, and so is everyone else, but what exactly do you think I can do about it?"

"I don't know. Just…I can't…I can't stand by and watch him waste away like this," Yusuke said, his voice so small and lost that Koenma ached inside. "Please, Koenma, can't you do anything for him?"

"Like what? Talk to him?" Koenma laughed, but there was no humor in the sound. "You know that would accomplish nothing. He's opened up more since it happened, but he still blames me. He hasn't said it, but all he has to do is look at me, and I know. I can only make things worse."

Yusuke sat down across from Koenma's desk, his shoulders slumped. "I thought miracles were supposed to help, but Hiei's newfound sensitivity toward us only seems to be hurting him. And I still don't understand what changed him. He's been this way since that day—more talkative, less jumpy, more willing to share, more trusting—but I don't know what caused it."

Koenma looked thoughtful. "I don't know for certain either. And I don't think we ever will. That's Hiei's concern and his only. But I think Kurama may have had something to do with it."

Yusuke's body jerked oddly. "What makes you say that?" he asked, almost accusingly.

Koenma didn't notice his tone—he seemed deep in thought. "I don't know. Hiei told me about the fight, but…I think he left something out. Something important. Something that might account for this new behavior."

He didn't tell Yusuke that he was pretty sure he knew what had been left out and what it meant. If Yusuke found out that he knew, he might put two and two together and come out with four and find out exactly what was behind Kurama's death, and if that happened, nothing would have stopped him from killing the Reikai prince.

"Well, whatever brought it on—do you think this will last?" Yusuke asked. "Because…I really don't know if I want him to stay this way. It's better in some ways, but worse in more. Do you think it'll go away?"

"You know, Yusuke…I don't think it will," Koenma said softly.

Darling, I never showed you.


Assumed you'd always be there.

And I took your presence for granted.

But I always cared.

But I always cared.

And I miss the love that we shared.

Koenma sat at his desk for a long time after Yusuke left, his head in his hands. His limbs were shaking and it was plain to see that he was very rattled. Yusuke hadn't said one thing against him, but just the same, he didn't think he could survive another encounter with the Spirit Detective's grief.

"It would be hard enough if he had shouted and blamed me, but this is a thousand times worse. Because it is my fault, more than anyone realizes." Koenma pounded his desk in frustration and paper flew everywhere. He didn't bother to pick them up but instead buried his face in his hands again. After a few moments, he muttered, "I can't do this. It's all gone so wrong…OGRE!"

After a moment's pause, the doors banged open with the force of an explosion and the tall blue ogre George rushed in, looking harassed and a little crazed. "Yes, Koenma, sir?"

"I need you to find someone—someone who isn't Botan—to bring me a soul…"

And I know you're shining down on me from Heaven,

Like so many friends we've lost along the way.

And I know eventually we'll be together.

Together.

One sweet day.

Yusuke trudged home from the portal that had taken him back to the Ningenkai, walking slowly, head hanging. He was depressed. Now, granted, the emotion was not new to him—he had felt it almost daily since Kurama was killed—but today seemed worse than usual.

Visiting Koenma had brought a whole new torrent of emotion over the current state of affairs. He hadn't seen the Reikai prince more than twice in the last four months, and those times had been strictly business. Koenma had seemed unwilling to see any member of the Reikai Tentei or anyone associated with them.

And meanwhile, the old gang, which had been so close once, was breaking apart. Except for Yusuke, Kuwabara and Hiei, no one even spoke much anymore.

Botan hadn't been seen in weeks or maybe months, burying herself in work and trying to forget the experience of ferrying her close friend's soul along the River Styx. Shizuru still turned up because of Kuwabara, but this happened rarely and when it did she hardly said anything and smoked more than ever. Yukina, the most sensitive of all of them, couldn't bear to see her brother the way he was, and so, unable to help him, she avoided him instead, and everyone else. Genkai had taken refuge in avoiding everyone and living in utter seclusion. This wasn't out of spite or self-pity, but just because she had already been growing weak, and Kurama's death had dealt a blow that she would never truly recover from. She could tell that her weakness worried them, and so would see no one but Yusuke, who went to her home every week and came back more depressed than ever.

Yusuke only talked to Kuwabara about these unhappy visits—and everything else, really. Never one to overshare, the young Spirit Detective never talked to anyone anymore, except for his best friend. He and Keiko had broken things off long ago, and he had stopped really speaking to her over a year before Kurama died. She had attended the memorial, of course, but even then they had avoided each other diligently. There was no bitterness between them—it was what it was, that was all. So sharing with her was pretty much out of the question.

And as for Hiei—well, in Yusuke's opinion, he was pretty much stark raving mad half the time and the other half he was completely unwilling to talk about anything. Mostly the Jaganshi just stayed close to him and Kuwabara, listening and not speaking, until he made one of those startling speeches of remembrance. He seemed happiest when he was with them—the closest people to Kurama besides himself and Shiori, who hadn't been seen once since her son's death—and so they never expressed their worry over him when he was near. Not anymore.

But how long could that go on? Hiei was getting worse all the time. His heartbreak had been complete, an almost tangible thing, and his regret was even stronger. Everyone had always wondered what would happen if Hiei was pushed over the edge—well, now they knew. He didn't lose control of his power or destroy anything or anyone—it would have been better if he had.

Why didn't I make Kurama tell him? Yusuke wondered, not for the first time. What difference it would have made Yusuke didn't know. All he knew was that Kurama had died not knowing if Hiei loved him, and now Hiei had to live wondering the same thing about Kurama. It was no longer a question to Yusuke—Hiei and Kurama had been in love, had been for years, and now they would never know how happy they almost were.

It was so frustrating—and sad.

And nothing could be done about it, or anything else.

Will things ever be back to normal?

Yusuke nearly laughed at that—would have if he was able to laugh anymore, but he couldn't even smile these days.

Of course it won't.

Although the sun will never shine the same,

I'll always look to a brighter day.

Lord, I know when I lay me down to sleep

You will always listen as I pray.

It was almost four hours after Koenma made his decision that he finally made his way into the room where Kurama waited.

He had spent the last four hours arguing with his father, something he only rarely had the courage to do, and now his throat hurt from shouting and his heart pounded wildly in his chest, but he didn't care. He had triumphed over his father, and that was worth minor discomforts any day.

But the victory had some sting in it. King Yama's voice kept ringing in his ears—dire warnings of failure and death, the smug "I knew this wouldn't works" scattered throughout the conversation, and, worst of all, the subtle slip of the fact that Koenma never should have taken the risk he had sending Kurama with Hiei.

But damn it, I was out of options! Koenma thought, gritting his teeth in frustration. And it did work…or partly, at least…

Hiei had started fighting better than ever before after Kurama died, which had been the whole point. He had wanted Hiei to get over Mukuro and regain his equilibrium—after she died his skills had gone so sharply downhill that he became a hindrance to the Reikai Tentei when he had been the best of them all—and that had worked, big time, so that Hiei had actually gone beyond his power. But the cost of that seemed to be his gradual parting with reality. Koenma understood exactly what was going on—Hiei's mind, already so well-acquainted with loss, had simply become tired of this world, and was slowly, without Hiei's conscious knowledge, creating a place where there was no loss, and escaping into that reality. If it kept up, Hiei would never leave the comparative safety of his thoughts again. He would never find his way back.

But this was all happening very gradually, and that, at least, gave Koenma a chance to rectify things, to repair the damage he had caused.

Which was what he had spent the last hours shouting at his father.

How could I have been so wrong?

And I know you're shining down on me from Heaven,

Like so many friends we've lost along the way.

And I know eventually we'll be together.

Together.

One sweet day.

When Koenma pushed open the door to the room, he didn't even see Kurama at first. He shut the door behind him and looked around in confusion and slight irritation. Had the idiots put Kurama in the wrong room?

"Hello, Koenma."

"YEEAHH!" Koenma shouted wordlessly, jumping a foot straight in the air and turning before he even hit the ground, to behold Kurama himself—or Kurama's soul, anyway—standing in the corner next to the door. "Yeesh, Kurama, give me a heart attack!"

Kurama chuckled, but it was very forced. It stopped quickly, and silence reigned. Kurama was watching him, but Koenma found himself unable to look the kitsune in the eye, and stared fixedly at a spot just above Kurama's left shoulder.

While normally a soul would have been only a small, beautifully colored light, Kurama's soul had been transformed into a non-corporeal image of himself for the purpose of talking with Koenma, and now he looked exactly as he had the day of his death. He looked neither happy nor sad about being dead—only regretful and slightly wistful for the world he'd left behind.

"I've missed you, Kurama," Koenma said softly. Strange, he hadn't meant to say that…he had meant to say something quite different…but the words were out now. "And so has everyone else. We've all missed you…so much."

"I've missed you, too," Kurama said. "Of course I have, and of course I'm glad to see you, but…why have you brought me here? It will only hurt us both."

"I needed to talk to you. I should have done this months ago, but…I couldn't. Now, though, I have to." Koenma suddenly forced himself to look Kurama in the face, and his voice got stronger. "Kurama, four months ago you sent me a message through Hiei. You told me you 'understood.' I've been trying to figure that out. What did you understand?"

Kurama looked slightly surprised that Koenma hadn't figured it out, but he didn't comment on it and instead replied evenly, "I understood why you had to have me killed."

Of all the replies that Koenma had expected, that certainly wasn't anywhere on the list. He was struck dumb, and simply stood there and gaped at Kurama like an idiot. After about thirty seconds, he managed to splutter, "You knew?"

Kurama met his eyes and nodded once.

"B-but…you…you're still…you're not mad at me…"

"No, I'm not," Kurama agreed.

Koenma found himself walking over to lean on the wall next to Kurama for support, and there was another silence. Then he said, "I'm sorry, Kurama." He knew that Kurama was about to speak but he went on, determined to explain everything. "You may understand why you were killed, but you don't know all of my crimes. You may have forgiven me for what I've done, but you'll never forgive what I've caused."

He felt Kurama putting information together for a split second before the sharp inquiry came. "What's wrong with Hiei?"

Koenma gave a ragged laugh. "You always were quick."

"What's wrong with him?"

Koenma sighed. "He isn't—he isn't taking your…death…very well. I mean, obviously everyone's unhappy. There's been a cloud over all of us lately, actually. We can hardly stand to be around each other anymore. But Hiei's…different. Not only can he stand to be around people, but he's practically physically attached himself to Yusuke and Kuwabara. He barely manages when they go to classes, and as soon as they're done for the day he's at their apartment. There are times when he leaves them, but…well, where he goes isn't really what you'd call healthy. Now, it's all very well and good that Hiei's become closer to his team, but…his grasp on reality is slipping."

"What do you mean?" Kurama asked, a bite of fear in his voice that made Koenma's stomach churn.

"I mean Hiei's forgotten how to be without you in the last ten years. So his mind is sort of…creating a place where he isn't. And if it continues he won't ever be able to come out of it. We'll lose him. He'll still fight and work for me but he won't be here."

"How could you not consider this?" Kurama asked quietly, his voice full of the same disgust that Koenma had felt toward himself lately and no less terrifying for all its calmness. "Or did you consider it, and decide that it was more important for him to keep being your lackey than for him to remain sane?"

Koenma winced. "I know I deserve that and much worse, Kurama. But please understand. I swear I didn't see this coming. I thought your death would make things…clear for him. I thought I knew him by now, and I assumed he would want to make you proud, and give your death meaning. I thought it would allow him to stop grieving over everyone he's ever lost in his life. I thought I was helping him." His voice softened. "I'm such a fool…so stupid! I didn't think! Now that I'm telling you all this, I realize how plain crazy that plan was. I can't even remember what twisted road led my mind to this conclusion!" Koenma's voice became thick with tangled emotion. "I'm so, so sorry, Kurama."

Kurama looked at Koenma's earnest face, sighed, and said, "I know you are. But that doesn't help anything."

Koenma turned to him. "Yes, it does. I can help Hiei."

Kurama snorted, looking very like Yoko all of a sudden. "Oh, yeah? And how do you plan to do that, O Great One?"

It must have been that attitude that did it. Suddenly it wasn't at all difficult for Koenma to look Kurama straight in the eye. "I can bring you back."

And I know you're shining down on me from Heaven,

Like so many friends we've lost along the way.

And I know eventually we'll be together.

Together.

One sweet day.

Hiei was pacing. Kurama knew that the second he entered his house. Thud. Thud. Thud. Left, to right, across the ceiling above him. Kurama stood in the kitchen below his bedroom for a long moment, listening to the footfalls as a feeling he couldn't explain rose suddenly in his chest. It was a thousand joys mixed in with all the sorrows of the ages. Joy at being back at home, able to touch and smell and know his own home again, knowing that later he would see his mother—although he had no idea how he was going to explain any of this to her—and that very soon he would see Hiei, his soon-to-be-lover, if he had anything to say about it. And sorrow because of what he knew about that soon-to-be-lover.

Kurama stood frozen for a long moment, unable to move and not sure why. Then the footsteps stopped, and suddenly Kurama couldn't seem to get to the stairs fast enough. He took the steps three at a time, his feet silent for all his excitement, and skidded to a stop in the doorway to his room. His breath hitched in his throat as he set eyes upon Hiei for the first time in four months.

Hiei was sitting, facing the window, in the exact center of the room, which had been emptied of all of Kurama's things. (Kurama felt a twinge at this, but it was only a momentary one—he knew Shiori, and knew very well that she had simply put everything into storage. She would never let go of her memories.) He had no expression at all on his face as he gazed out at the tree that had served so faithfully as a ladder for the last ten years, but there were tears coursing silently down his face, hardening into gems and rolling away into the corners of the room as they clattered to the floor. The gems were priceless and could have bought Kurama a new house for himself, a new house for his mother, vacation homes out the wazoo, and anything else he or his friends could ever want.

Kurama hated the sight of them.

He didn't say anything—couldn't say anything past the lump in his throat—but something must have alerted Hiei to his presence, for the Jaganshi game a cry that was quickly bitten off, leapt to his feet, and turned around.

His eyes widened slightly. His mouth formed a perfectly shaped "O" and the tears stopped flowing abruptly, though one still stuck fast, halfway down his cheek, not hardening into a tear gem yet but determined to stay right there until someone brushed it away. Kurama longed to, but he was utterly paralyzed.

Then suddenly Hiei's face hardened, and he turned away and looked out the window again. "Go away."

Sorry I never told you

All I wanted to say.


AN: Well, what did you think? Reviews muchly appreciated! looks suddenly worried You…do remember how to review, don't you? points to little purple box in the lower left-hand corner Clickie that!


Reviewers' comments:

evil alien chickens: Well, I gave you what you wanted! I hope you're happy with the results! I was going to keep him dead—I was planning on it—but I can never seem to commit to leaving my characters dead! Well, at least not Hiei or Kurama. I hate seeing them suffer! Thanks for reviewing!

KyoHana: Well, there ya go, Koenma didn't let Kurama stay dead! That was actually a conflict for me—see above reply to "evil alien chickens"—and also it's very difficult for me to make Koenma NOT the villain because he bugs me so much. But finally my great love of Hiei and Kurama won out. Hope you liked it and thanks for your support!

Shadowbright: Does that answer your question of what the sequel will be about? reads chapter again Well, maybe it doesn't…I can't tell…anyway, I'm glad to know I did the death scene well—I've never been too great at those because it causes my characters pain and I have a hard time doing that—again, see reply to "evil alien chickens." Thanks for the review!

Black Water Fox: I know, I know, I'm not too happy with myself either! But...but look—happy! points at now-living Kurama See? I'm not COMPLETELY evil!

Nikkler: See above reply to "Black Water Fox." But then again, you did say you liked it, so…THANKS! I happy! Huggles

kikira-chan: Thanks so much! That means a lot. I feel bad for depressing you, though…but hopefully this will lift your spirits a little