Disclaimer: YuYu Hakusho belongs to Yoshihiro Togashi.

Set during episode 94, after the end of the battle with Sensui.

Appearances

He brushed strands of soft brown hair out of her face tenderly, and he smiled gently at the girl asleep in his bed. But as his hand pulled away from the blanket, his eyes were sad.

"Are you certain her parents won't mind if she stays here?" Kurama stood in the doorway, his own eyes unreadable.

His fingertips lingered over Keiko's forehead. How long ago had that first mission been… and how things had changed. But she was a constant in his life, a sense of normalcy—a sense of a home to return to whenever he finished satisfying his fighting spirit. Someday, he had always believed, he would finally be content. Then he would marry her, and make sure no one ever made her cry again.

But now, Yuusuke was not so certain.

"Yeah, the Yukimuras know us too well. If I actually ever tried anything, man, but has Keiko got a damn good right hook."

The fondness lighting his eyes could not erase the sadness.

"I'm amazed she's such a sweet girl," Kurama murmured thoughtfully, "considering she has been exposed to your influence long enough to recognize your cocky smirk on any face."

He landed a playful punch on the other's shoulder as he left the room, purposely putting no force behind it. Yuusuke did not know his own self right now. "Hey, shouldn't you be going home or something? It's getting kinda late…"

"You seem like you shouldn't be left alone right now," he teased, but his eyes were sincere. Yuusuke was slightly taken aback, but he supposed after all the times he had been reluctant to let Kurama struggle alone with whatever was bothering him, he should have expected the same, especially as the fox was so much more perceptive.

He slumped dejectedly in a kitchen chair before a sudden thought perked him up. "Guess I can't go to school looking like this, and Keiko can't even rag on me for ditching."

"Actually," Kurama was going through the drawers for some reason, and Yusuke wondered what he might suddenly find he needed to replace tomorrow, "the marks will fade once your energy levels stabilize and regain their equilibrium, probably by tomorrow morning. But your hair will have to be cut off." The fox reemerged with a pair of scissors… the kiddie kind, which strangely enough had the name "Kuwabara" inked on them.

Green eyes flickered between the small blades in his hand and the mane on Yuusuke's head. By now, the punk had learned to be wary of that look. "Hey, by 'cut' you mean with scissors, right? …Right?"

Too late, Kurama had already moved behind him, out of sight, hefting the copious mass of hair into something like a ponytail. "Don't worry, Yuusuke, I'll be careful, I always am."

"If you're trying to reassure me, then… don't."

There was a funny sound, and then Kurama stood in front of him, with what looked suspiciously like a long leaf of grass in one hand and an armful of black hair in the other. "I'm not dead again?" he asked flatly. The blade suddenly appeared scant millimeters from his nose, so Yuusuke decided to helpfully point him in the direction of the trash can.

A few minutes later, they had fallen into a rhythm of quiet snips.

"So how does it feel, to be one of us now?"

A hand absently crept to that empty feeling in his chest. "I dunno… not that different, I guess."

"But you're still worried," the scissors never faltered, nor did Kurama's calm voice, "that now somehow you are. You are afraid," the accusations pierced through his own easy mask like knives, all the sharper for their accurate truth, "that you will no longer be able to control yourself… your blood."

He crossed his tattooed arms defensively. "Yeah, I'm suddenly a demon, it's kinda hard to take in. If I pull another stunt like that one with Sensui, who knows who I'll hurt?"

"Oh? I was under the impression that this demon was in your blood. Logic would follow that you've always been a half-breed. Why has it changed?"

"Because I know now." Strands of black hair decorated himself, the chair, the floor. "And I know now that I have to watch out for it… control it."

"Meaning you haven't already been doing such your whole life? Meaning your appearance dictates your behavior? You'll let a mirror's reflection tell you who you are?"

"Damnit, it's not like that, Kurama, you know what I mean."

The fox's fingers were gentle in his hair. "Yuusuke, don't move so much. I don't want to hurt you." Funny, the way that sounded to him like a double meaning. "But maybe you should think before you speak, because what I hear coming out of your mouth is not true. If you had known all along that you had demon blood, you would not have saved that child? If you had known, you would not have trusted me and saved my mother's life as well as my own? Or perhaps you would have joined that group of thieves who threatened innocent lives? Is Yuusuke the demon really so different from the Yuusuke I've always known? A few tattoos and you act more violently than Hiei?"

"Shut up."

The sound of two cheap metal blades in his hair filled the silence, but he knew better than to think that the other had given up. No, Kurama was simply waiting for the opportune time, or for Yuusuke to make his next move. And he knew the punk was not that patient.

"It's just… I've never had access to this power before, okay? How do I know I've got the restraint not to use it?"

"Ah yes, just as you abused your powers as a spirit detective when they first developed, I'm sure," he murmured sagely.

Yuusuke pulled a face. Why could he never manage to win an argument with the fox? Granted, he did not particularly want to win this one… but he could not seem to accept his reassurances and logical points. "Ha ha, very funny."

"And yet I am the one who knows myself well."

It was like a game of chess. Kurama declared check, and Yuusuke scrambled to regroup, refusing to admit that he had lost, refusing to give in to the inevitable checkmate. Snippets of his hair rained down like sand in an hourglass—once time ran out, Kurama would stop playing with him, and demand that he face the truth, whether he liked it or not.

"Hey… I know you can be pretty ruthless in battle, but even you don't act like a demon around your mom, so you can't tell me you aren't a slave to appearances too."

His voice was cold, as icy as the golden mask of Youko Kurama, as unyielding as the metal of the scissors as they brushed against his ear. "Do you think that if anyone tried to harm her I would not kill them instantly, even if she was watching? Or do you believe I am simply incapable of kindness?"

"Sorry, I didn't mean it like that," Yuusuke winced. That tone of voice always made him worry; whether for his own sake or Kurama's, he never could tell.

"Then think before you speak." He sounded gentler now, as if nothing had happened. "Learning of your demon blood certainly has not changed that aspect of you."

Kurama fluffed his hair while Yuusuke shut his eyes and tried to spit stray clippings out of his mouth. Hands ran over his face, sweeping strands from his forehead, his eyelids, his nose, his cheeks. Hard to imagine that earlier those same hands had been angrily trying to steal his fight with Sensui. But then, they had all been upset and angry, even Hiei. And the day Hiei was genuinely upset and trying to avenge him was the day Hell froze over. Maybe someone should check on that…

Kurama would have said Hiei had always cared about him, but never shown it. A slightly scary thought… but then, Hiei was nice to Yukina. There was no reason for him to be; it was not as if he were trying to impress her, because he was never going to tell her that he was her brother. And he gained nothing, because Yukina would have liked him even if he was a jerk.

So maybe ancestor-possession thing aside… maybe Yuusuke was not really any different?

Maybe, if Keiko kept waiting, she would marry the same Yuusuke who always promised that to her to end their fights.

Maybe Yuusuke needed to stop thinking, kick his ancestor's ass, and be done with it.

"There, you look the same as always now. Will you take my word for it, or do you need to consult a mirror and believe whatever it shows you?"

"Shut up and go home." Yuusuke snatched the dustpan and broom from the fox's hands and gave him a kick toward the door. "Your mom's waiting for you."

He laughed softly, "Good night, Yuusuke," and shut the door.

Yuusuke began sweeping up the mess, but it seemed that every time he turned, more stubborn little hairs would appear. He tossed the tools back in the cabinet, promising he would clean tomorrow. Maybe. Probably never. Perhaps after his mom saw it and yelled…?

His eyes widened slightly, and he ran to the door, throwing it open and jumping down to the empty street. Cupping his hands around his mouth, he yelled into the dark night.

"Hey, take your own advice, damnit! If your mom really loves her precious Shuuichi, she won't give a damn that he was really Youko Kurama all along!"


Owari

-Windswift