DISCLAIMER: Don't own. Never will. Read the chapter.
AN: Well, this is the epilogue, people! After this it's over! tear
When Kurama woke up the next morning, he was momentarily confused over where he was. His surroundings were unfamiliar, but not in a way that made him feel uncomfortable or frightened. Rather, he felt that this place could become like a home, if he let it.
And this couch was comfortable.
Yusuke and Kuwabara—and Hiei. This is their apartment, Kurama realized suddenly, and with that thought came memories and a feeling of immense joy, the latter of which only became more pronounced when he discovered that he was not alone on this couch. Hiei had not gone into his own room when Kurama had fallen asleep. Instead, he had climbed up next to him and stayed there, and sometime during the night Kurama had shifted until he held Hiei close to his chest.
He wasn't actually sure when he had fallen asleep. He remembered that the group had stayed very late—so late that paid programming came on TV—but they finally tore themselves away, amid many protests from Kurama, when Hiei noticed the exhaustion he was trying valiantly to hide and kicked them all out. He didn't remember anything very clearly after that—only that he had half-woken when Yusuke spread a blanket over him, and that he had a vague thought that he should go home instead of taking over the couch. He might even have said as much, but that thought had been swiftly and effectively scrunched, if he remembered correctly, by all three owners of the apartment ganging up on him at once.
And now sunlight was streaming through the window over the couch, so it must be day, and from the looks of things, the rain was taking a break.
Kurama lay there and savored the feelings coursing through him. He had been happy enough before, but this…it held a wonder that he had never known before. He had his life and his friends back, he was solid again—not being able to touch or affect anything at all had nearly driven him insane, and not having a body just plain sucked—his team was a team again, and he had Hiei.
"You think too loud, K'rama."
Kurama started slightly as Hiei shifted in his arms, mumbling sleepily. Then he smiled. "Good morning, love. Did I wake you?"
Hiei rolled over and hid from the bright sunlight by burying his face in Kurama's shoulder. "You know, I never had any trouble waking up before—only falling asleep. Now that's changed. All I want to do is stay in bed with you…"
"So it's good?"
"Then what is it?" Kurama asked, feeling a strange inclination to laugh at Hiei's confusion.
"Well, the 'with you' part rocks…"
"Where did you learn that phrase?"
"Shut up. As I was saying, the actual sleeping thing is a little weird."
He felt Hiei shrug. "I'm just not used to it, I guess. I still half-worry that I'll be killed in my sleep." He took the edge off his words with a chuckle. "Stupid thought in the Ningenkai, but old habits die hard."
Kurama smiled and pressed a kiss to the top of Hiei's head. "I like your habits. But you should sleep more, so I can't say I'm unhappy about that."
"I don't exactly hate it, either. It's nice not being tired all the time. I never even realized I was…"
"I know. I remember the first time I got a good night's sleep, when I was a child in this body. I—"
"GOOD MORNING, TOKYO CITY!"
"YOU MORONIC DETECTIVE!"
"WAKEY, WAKEY, EGGS AND BACY!"
"SHUT UP AND COME OUT OF THE KITCHEN!"
Yusuke appeared through the kitchen door at Hiei's screamed order, laughing. "That was fun."
Hiei glowered at him. "How long were you in there?"
"Since about an hour before you woke up."
Hiei wrinkled his nose. "Were you cooking?"
"Don't worry, wouldn't dream of it. I got take-out. You hungry, Kurama?"
Kurama hadn't noticed until Yusuke mentioned it, but he was famished. He hadn't eaten a thing since the morning he and Hiei went to Makai. And, okay, so being dead he didn't need to, but one did miss food.
His face must have answered for him, because Yusuke laughed again and said, "Well, breakfast is in the kitchen."
"Where's Kuwabara?" Kurama asked as Hiei got up off the couch, grumbling. He had just noticed the peculiar absence of the tall carrot-top.
"He's on his way to your mother's house," Yusuke replied, as if this was the most obvious and natural place in the world for the friend of a dead-man-returned-to-life to be.
Kurama stumbled and nearly fell over Hiei. "W-what?" he spluttered in disbelief. "You're telling me this now? B-but she…and he…she's not supposed to get back until tonight!"
Yusuke shrugged and pushed open the door to the kitchen. "She got back early, I guess."
"But…how did Kuwabara know?" Kurama asked, hardly knowing what he was saying. "To go to my mother?"
"Hiei told me last night that you wanted him to tell her about you being alive so that she wouldn't lose it when she saw you, and I talked to Kuwabara about it this morning. He said he'd be glad to and then he went to call and leave a message telling her to call when she got back. But she was already home, so he left about ten minutes before you guys woke up."
Kurama tried to think of something else to say, but nothing came to him, so he just walked over and began to fill a plate with take-out breakfast. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew that he should thank Yusuke, but that thought was crowded out by all the others screaming things like, She's going to hate you!
Some of his worry must have been palpable, because before a second passed he felt Hiei come up behind him. A pair of arms slid around his waist, and Hiei leaned his head into his back. "It's going to be all right."
Kurama sighed and put his plate down before turning to face Hiei. "How did you know?"
"Fox, you may be good at hiding your emotions as Yoko, but in human form your face gives you away more often than not."
"That's not true!" Kurama protested.
"Maybe not to the people who don't know you, but it is to me. I don't know how you managed to keep your secret from Shiori for this long. She knows you as well as I do, if not better."
Kurama shrugged and turned to pick up his plate again. "I'd say she knows me as well, not better—you know my past, after all, but—I don't know why she never figured out how often I've lied to her. I always counted it as a blessing, but maybe…" He shook his head and walked with Hiei over to the table. He began to eat mechanically, paying little attention to his food. "It's so confusing! I want to stop lying to her—I've wanted it for so long now—but I'm afraid of it at the same time. And I've spent so much time trying to figure it out that it's all tangled up in my mind and I have no idea what I want!"
"I know, Kurama, but we agreed that this was the best—no, the only—way. And it'll be fine. I know it."
"Yeah. Kuwabara is more than capable of handling this," Yusuke cut in, setting his own loaded plate next to Kurama's half-filled one. "He won't tell her your secret, but he'll manage to convince her that there is one—and that it'll come as a shock—without even hinting at it. So she'll be prepared for something, at least."
"How do you know? How can you be sure he can handle it?" Kurama instantly felt bad for questioning his friend's capabilities, but it was true that Kuwabara hadn't been any better at talking to people than any of them four months ago—had probably been worse at it, in fact, if such a thing were possible. Things couldn't have changed so much in only a few months…could they?
The question was answered in Yusuke's reply. "You'd be surprised, Kurama." When Kurama raised an eyebrow questioningly, he explained. "When you died…things were difficult for us. I'm sure Hiei told you." He paused and waited for Kurama's affirmation before continuing. "But obviously, whether or not we were willing to admit you were dead, someone had to take the message to your mom. No one wanted the job, and we argued for about half an hour before Kuwabara finally said he'd go just to shut us all up, and left. He was gone for a long time, and when he came back, he wouldn't say what went on. But Shiori called later to thank Kuwabara for being so kind to her, and she was…well, certainly not fine, but…calm. She…she asked if there was a body. When Kuwa told her 'no' she just said, 'All right. Thank you.' And then she hung up, and after the memorial we didn't hear from her a single time. But Hiei says she's dealing, as far as he could tell."
"I'm glad," Kurama said softly.
"I'd like to know what he said," Hiei said irritably.
"Anyway," Yusuke said, ignoring Hiei in a manner that told Kurama the subject was not new between them, "I guess Kuwa discovered something that night. Not…a talent, per se, but more…a calling, I guess. He changed his major from physics to psychology, and now he's working toward being a counselor. It happened fast, but…it's right for him, ya know? It's what he's good at. And he really does care, unlike some. I'm…proud of him."
"Gods, you aren't going to cry, are you?" Hiei snorted.
"The point is," Yusuke said, whacking Hiei over the head—Kurama was mildly shocked when he didn't withdraw a bloody stump—"that you shouldn't worry. What will come will come. And what will come will be good. For everyone. I know it, and Hiei knows it, even if you don't. Now eat your waffle."
Kuwabara ended up being gone for about two hours. In that time Kurama managed to do every mundane thing known to man. He read five magazines cover-to-cover. He finished ten of Yusuke's mangas. He watched entirely lame daytime TV, made out with Hiei on the couch until Yusuke forced them apart and said to save it for the bedroom, and sparred with both Hiei and Yusuke—he had been pleased and pleasantly surprised to find that his physical strength and skill hadn't diminished; Koenma really had made him good as new—and still he could not get his mind off of that must have been going on at his home that very second.
Finally, though, the front door opened and closed again, and footsteps sounded in the kitchen. Kurama leapt up from the couch as Kuwabara came in, and when he crossed the room and skidded to a stop in front of the redhead, Kuwabara smiled slightly at him and murmured, "Hey." He looked sad, and tired.
Kurama's stomach plummeted. "Well?" he demanded. When Kuwabara just looked at him, he asked, in a loud, slightly panicked voice, "How'd it go?"
Kuwabara smiled wider, and the mischievous glint in his eyes made Kurama want to smack him. "It went fine, I think. I mean, I don't think she really believed me…I think she was scared to…but I think you can see her now, without any explosions. I told her that you were staying with us for a while and you'd be along soon."
Kurama took a deep breath. "Okay. Okay. Thank you so much, Kuwabara. So this…this is good. I should go then, right?"
"Do you want me to go with you?" Hiei asked, reaching over and taking his hand.
Kurama gripped it, face slightly pale. "That would be nice."
Yusuke came up behind him. "We'll be here. Give us a call later. And Kurama?"
Kurama, who had been about to open the door to the kitchen, turned. "Yes?"
"It's really good to have you back."
The walk to the Minamono house seemed to take forever and only a moment at the same time. Kurama alternated jogging and walking at the slowest possible pace, both anxious and terrified—anxious to see his mother and terrified at the idea of finally sharing his long-kept secret.
Hiei didn't say a word the entire time. He just kept hold of Kurama's hand and tried to keep his fox from flying apart. This was quite a challenge, because Hiei was rather tense himself. Which was weird, because when you think about it, what did he have to be concerned about? Shiori was only another human, after all, and as such, her opinion should not matter to him.
And he had another worry, too—this one not about himself at all. Something he had not thought about before—had not wanted to think about—had made itself heard.
What if she really doesn't accept him?
What if Shiori, despite the unconditional love she had always shown her son, simply wouldn't—or couldn't—accept him for what he was? What would happen to Kurama then? Would he be able to learn to live with that? And where would he go? Would he stay in the Ningenkai, or would he want to go back to Makai?
Well, one thing was certain: he would not lose Kurama again. Wherever the fox went, that was where Hiei would be.
But as unwilling as he was to admit it, the idea of going back to Makai shook him, and badly. He had been comfortable there once, but he knew now that he had never loved it. He had been in constant danger there, and had never known a moment's peace.
And then he had come to the Ningenkai.
It had seemed such an awful place at first—so new and strange, with its annoying human inhabitants and loud, screaming machinery. Oh, how he had hated it! But now that hatred seemed so old as to have belonged to someone else. Now, for the first time in his life, he had friends—though he never admitted aloud that he labeled them such—and he even had a sister nearby. And best of all, he was safe here. No more looking constantly over his shoulder to check for enemies, no more being afraid to sleep at night, no more hidden fear.
He could be happy here.
He could be home here.
But Hiei's mind wasn't on himself at the moment. It was focused on Kurama. He wanted the fox to be happy so badly, and the thought of his heartbreak if things took a turn for the worse today nearly made Hiei physically ill…
They reached Kurama's house around noon, but they stood outside the door for a long time before Kurama took a deep, steadying breath, reached out, and slowly turned the knob, still holding fast to Hiei's hand.
The house was ominously quiet as Hiei stepped inside after Kurama. It was so silent that at first Hiei wondered if anyone was actually home, but Kurama seemed to sense something he didn't, because he immediately headed for the living room.
Shiori was sitting on the chair across the room, facing the doorway. Her hands were folded in her lap, her back rigid, her face blank, her body utterly still. She had the unmistakable manner of one who had received the shock of her life and was rendered completely immobile because of it.
When Kurama and Hiei appeared in the room, though, this changed. The eyes lifted, the hands dropped to her sides, and her body went limp with still further shock. However, she did not scream or flee—just sat there and stared at her son's face, as if memorizing every feature all over again. The stunned silence seemed to have a life of its own, and it rang in Hiei's ears, joining with the pounding of his own heart and Kurama's.
Then the moment ended, and Shiori leapt to her feet and hurtled forward. Kurama dropped Hiei's hand to receive her embrace, and Hiei backed out into the hall to give them some semblance of privacy, though he couldn't help hearing what they said.
This wasn't a problem for the first few minutes, because all Shiori did was cry and mutter incoherent words. Hiei could picture the scene very clearly without the help of his Jagan: Kurama standing a few feet into the room, his mother held close to him, standing almost a head taller than she. The image brought a powerful sort of ache inside him, and he wished he could see it with his own eyes.
After about ten minutes, Shiori's sobs diminished, and her words could be made out. "Shuuichi…my boy…" she kept saying. "Son…my son…"
Kurama gave a choked laugh, the tears evident in his voice. "I missed you. I'm sorry…"
Shiori's voice became clearer, and from her next words Hiei guessed that she had stepped slightly away from Kurama to look him over. "You look all right…" She sounded uncertain, her confusion obvious. "But if you weren't injured…"
"Then what took me so long?" Kurama asked gently. Shiori didn't answer aloud, so she must have nodded in reply. Kurama sighed heavily. "That is difficult to explain, Mother, but…well, let's sit down, and I'll try to tell it properly…Hiei? Where'd he get off to…? HIEI!"
Hiei jumped slightly and hurried into the room. "Yeesh, fox, you don't have to yell! I was only trying to give you some privacy!"
Kurama smiled, though his face was still pale. "Thank you, but I don't like it when you disappear on me, love. You're so silent. It's…disconcerting."
Shiori's look of puzzlement matched her tone exactly as she looked from her son to Hiei and said, "Fox? Love? Where did he…who…are you two…?"
Kurama sighed again and ran a hand through his hair. "Mother, this is Hiei. He's…very much a part of all of this. And 'all of this' is…a long story. One I can't keep from you any longer."
Shiori sat back on the couch and stared at Kurama, her face slack with surprise. "So…you…you're not…"
"Human, right," Kurama confirmed. Well, not completely.
He had just finished explaining things to his mother, from his life as a demon to his death in Makai to his rebirth in human form to his second death. He was amazed that he had gotten through it all, though Shiori had made things simpler by not interrupting once—though that may have been due to shock and nothing more. He had paced all over the room while telling the story, but when he had finished he finished he sat down next to her on the couch and waited tensely for her to start screaming.
Only she hadn't. In fact, for a while, she hadn't said or done anything at all. When she finally did speak, it was to ask this question in a very soft, very shell-shocked tone.
"And you've been a…demon…since you were a child."
"Since I was born and before."
"And…when you disappeared four months ago…you were actually…dead."
"And you came back because the Prince of the Reikai felt guilty for offing you."
There was a silence, during which Kurama fidgeted, Shiori stared at him with her mouth slightly open, and Hiei just stood there looking like an idiot. He jumped when Shiori turned and addressed him directly.
"And you…you're a…a demon, too?"
Now, Hiei wasn't used to being addressed directly by anyone besides Kurama, Yusuke, Kuwabara, Koenma, Yukina, Shizuru, Botan, Genkai, or Keiko. Despite his small frame, his trademark scowl was intimidating enough to put most people off. And yet, here Shiori was, asking him a question and obviously expecting an answer, even though he could feel the scowl deepening on his face as she withheld any opinion and kept Kurama in this nervous state—though undoubtedly she was unaware that that was what she was doing.
I like her.
"I am. A fire demon, to be precise."
"And…how did you come to meet my son?"
Hiei swallowed nervously and looked at Kurama. Trust Shiori to come up with the only line of questions Kurama didn't explain…
Kurama shrugged so slightly that Shiori didn't notice, and gave him a look that said clearly, Your choice.
"I met him here, ten years ago," Hiei said, quickly deciding to give her the short version rather than trying to avoid the question altogether. "I had come here from Makai to find my sister, Yukina, and not five minutes after I stepped through the portal I found your son." He used those two words on purpose, placing careful emphasis on them to remind Shiori that Kurama was her son. "To make a long story very short, I attacked him, he dodged, we stared at each other for a while and then he invited me here. He didn't ask me a thing about why I was in the Ningenkai, which is probably why I ended up telling him the truth. Then he offered to help me in my search and we've been…friends…ever since." Here Hiei looked at Kurama again, trying to judge whether or not Shiori should know about their true relationship.
"But…he called you 'love,'" Shiori said uncertainly. "Or at least…I thought he did…did he?"
She wasn't even looking at Kurama out of the corner of her eye now—all of her attention was on Hiei. He shifted uncomfortably. "Um…well…well, yes," he said in a rush, hoping Kurama wouldn't be angry with him. But she made him want to tell the truth…how did she do that?
And more importantly…
How did Kurama get away with anything as a kid?
"So you and Shuuichi—Kurama—are…boyfriends?"
Kurama's eyes snapped to Hiei at that, and there was a sharp hurt in them that wrenched Hiei's heart.
"No, we're not…boyfriends," he repeated. "We're lovers. Since yesterday. But we had feelings for each other long before that—I was just too stupid to recognize it until he was already dead, and so Kurama thought his feelings were one-sided."
Shiori's eyes widened at the news that her son was, apparently, very much a gay man, but she said nothing for a long time. Then…
"You do realize that everything you've told me is completely insane?" She asked the question almost conversationally, as if they were discussing the weather.
Kurama looked like all he wanted to do was run, but his voice was quite even. "Yes, I realize that's how it must sound to you."
"I've never believed in demons or Makai or anything of the sort. It's not possible…" She shook her head. "And yet…here I am, believing every word of it." She looked at Kurama again, and spoke softly, with just a hint of hurt in her voice. "Why didn't you tell me before?"
"I was afraid to," Kurama said simply. "I didn't know whether you'd be willing to accept me. It was cowardly, but please believe that I only lied to you out of love. I just…couldn't stand the thought of you hating me. But I realize now that the time for secrets is past, and I will do anything to regain your trust. Just…please forgive me. Please. I—"
"Shuuichi, please, just…stop."
Kurama's mouth snapped shut with an almost audible crack, and he watched his mother fearfully, waiting for the rejection and the "Get out of my house."
"Didn't you hear what I just called you?" Shiori asked gently. "I called you Shuuichi. I know your rightful name—Yoko Kurama—and yet I choose to call you Shuuichi, the name I gave you when you were born as my son. My son. That is what you are and that is what you'll always be to me. There is no love or trust lost between us because you're my son, and our bond goes deeper than that." She smiled at him, and leaned over to hug him again. "I just wish you'd realized that before you decided to go off and die on me."
Kurama seemed to have a hard time believing what he was hearing for a moment, but slowly what she was telling him sank in, and then, quite suddenly, he let out a very un-Kurama-like whoop and scooped Shiori up as he stood, whirling her around in a circle and laughing, completely abandoning his dignity.
Hiei stood back and watched them, with a small smile on his face. He knew that this was far from over—there would be many talks over the next few days, many questions as Shiori got used to this new information about her son. And then there was the question of whether or not she would accept his relationship with Hiei, but somehow Hiei got the feeling that that wouldn't be too big an issue—after all, what's "my son is gay" compared to "my son is a once-evil reformed demon"?
Everything was going to work out for the best. Watching Kurama hug Shiori with a smile on his face that looked able to crack it in half, Hiei knew that, with a bone-deep certainty that surprise him, for he had never felt sure of anything before.
And maybe…just maybe…even for the Forbidden Child, there could be such a thing as a happy ending.
After all, I'm watching one right now.
cries It's over! Another fanfics over and done with! As all you readers probably know by now, I hate these moments! But everything's gotta have an end, I guess…sigh
Anyways, don't be mad at me, guys, but my next fic isn't gonna be a Yu Yu Hakusho fic. The next one will be a two-or-three-shot Supernatural songfic, but PLEASE, if you can stand the show at all, read it! PLEASE! And after that will be a one-shot Supernatural fic, but THEN I plan to write a Supernatural / Yu Yu Hakusho / Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Angel crossover! So all Yu Yu is not lost! I promise!
Shiva-iceflame: Thanks for the review! And I guess it seemed longer to me than it actually was…
kikira-chan: Aww, thanks so much! I'm glad to know I didn't completely ax-murder the scenes, since they were supposed to be all heart-warming and stuff.
Deannamay: Thanks! And I hope you enjoyed this particular reunion, too, though I gotta say, the Hiei and Kurama reunion was my personal favorite…of course.
Kooriya Yui: LOL, yeah, that kind of thing happens in my head, too…when you forget you ever thought something. And…well, thanks! Really! I never thought my work would keep someone up 'till after midnight…should I feel sorry about that, or gratified? …Think I'm gonna go with gratified. Hope you enjoyed this chapter, too! (Which I did NOT feel forced to write, by the way…I really did want to.)
The Sylver Kitsune: Thanks so much! I'm sorry for making you cry, but at the same time I'm happy that I'm able to bring out emotion with my fics. So right now guilt and happiness are sort of contending for first place in my already very busy head…makes things hard. And about the characters…yeah, keeping them in line was probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. The only reason I was able to do it at all was that this fic was so short—most of the time, I just give up entirely. Really. Ask anyone. Anyways, please review for this chapter, too, and hope you enjoyed!
Catie-brie: Well, there ya go, Shiori Kurama reunion! I hope it lived up to the incredibly nice things you wrote…like I said to Kitsune, I love that I was able to bring out the emotion of the story line. That's one of the harder things about writing for me. But I digress! Please review and I hope you will read my next fic!
Shadowbright: Thanks lots! And yeah, I've read those fics, too, and somehow it just doesn't seem right to forget everyone else…except Keiko…growls I hate Keiko…but you don't need to hear THAT rant, so I'll just say thanks for the review and hope you like my other fics, too! …I made a rhyme.
AND A BIG GINORMOUS THANK YOU TO ALL OF MY READERS WHETHER YOU DROPPED A REVIEW IN THIS CHAPTER OR NOT! YOUR SUPPORT MEANS THE WORLD TO ME!
evil alien chickens
The Sylver Kitsune
"Hope is a thing with feathers that perches in the soul,
And sings the true without the words
And never stops at all."