Disclaimer: Yu Yu Hakusho and all related characters are the property of Yoshihiro Togashi, Funimation and miscellaneous other parties, none of whom are me.

Notes: Sche over on LJ wrote me a little snippet for a fanfic meme. That fanfic inspired this story.

Warnings: Death of a canon character; some violence.

The Bounty Hunter
It had never occurred to Yuusuke that there were demons who hunted demons. In hindsight it made perfect sense; demons weren't exactly known for their love for their fellow youkai, after all. And with all the backstabbing political intrigue certain demons seemed to enjoy it only made sense that they'd want to eliminate their rivals. Or, you know, thieving youko bastards who stole their favorite shiny toys.

It kind of took them all by surprise to find out the guy was actually after Hiei. Even Kurama hadn't seen that coming. Yuusuke thought that maybe the youko had been kind of put out. After all, he was the one with the reputation in the Makai.

They should have expected what came next, but they didn't. Yuusuke still wasn't sure why. Too used to dealing with demons like Mukuro and Yomi and their rules of conduct maybe (oh, Mukuro would stab you in the back if necessary and Yomi'd have your whole family killed, but they'd make sure you deserved it). Or maybe they just got cocky and thought they could handle anything.

The bounty hunter knew more than they thought he did. He knew enough to go after Yukina when Genkai was away. And he knew enough to leave behind her tear gem along with several strands of hair and several puddles of purple-blue Koorime blood.

It was Kuwabara who went after her first. Yuusuke's cell phone had started ringing in the middle of a movie and Keiko and a theatre full of strangers had glared at him while he sauntered out into the hallway.

"Yeah, what?" he asked. He made a point of sounding put-out even if it was some stupid Sandra Bullock movie. Subtitled. God. And the whole plot about seeing the future was, in Yuusuke's opinion, boring as dirt. He had friends who did that shit all the time and he didn't see them getting all worked up about it.

"Yukina's been kidnapped." Kuwabara's voice was tense and he was a little out of breath. Wherever he was, he was moving fast. "It's that fucking bounty hunter. He's gotta know she's Hiei's sister."

"It's really not that hard to figure out," Yuusuke pointed out, on principal. They'd never, ever, let Kuwabara live that down once he finally knew. "Where are you? Where did he take her?"

"He left a message for Hiei at the temple." Kuwabara hestitated a moment, just long enough for Yuusuke to get really tense and start running for the door. "He wants Hiei to meet him somewhere. The guy's directions are crap, but I'm pretty sure he's waiting near the gate outside the warehouse district. I'm almost there now."

"I'll get Hiei and be there in ten minutes."

"Yeah." Kuwabara had sounded distracted, like he was trying to remember something. "Hurry, all right? I think Yukina's in real trouble."

Ten minutes later, Kuwabara was dead.

The son of a bitch had pinned Kuwabara's body to the wall opposite the warehouse door, arms spread out and toes pointing to the floor. He was the first thing Yuusuke and Hiei saw when they arrived.

Shock had made Yuusuke stupid. "Kuwabara?" he called, his steps hesitating. He'd paused just inside the door, poised on the balls of his feet, staring with wide eyes at the thick red gash across Kuwabara's throat.

Hiei had crossed the empty space while Yuusuke was still waiting for a response that wasn't coming. They'd both known he was dead - even if the wound hadn't been deadly, there was no reiki remaining. Kuwabara's spiritual energy had been bright and loud and intimately familiar after so many years. They'd both felt its absence instantly.

But still, it was Hiei who stood before the body and spoke the obvious while his fingers clenched white around the hilt of his swords.

"Yukina?" Yuusuke asked. His throat was tight and dry, he felt like he'd choke just trying to get the name out.

"Not here."

"Bounty hunter." Yuusuke latched onto that, felt his father's blood start to burn under his skin. "Where?"

Gone. The gate to the Makai had been recently activated and there was just the lingering scent of Yukina in the room. No more hair or blood, but it was easy enough to realize where he'd taken her.

"Take care of him," Hiei had said, jerking his head toward Kuwabara's corpse. "I'm going after Yukina."

"Not alone." Yuusuke put ten years of being the (largely nominal, mostly disrespected, but still) leader into his voice. "We'll get Kurama and-"

And he couldn't leave Kuwabara there like that but Yukina was in danger now and Kuwabara himself would come back and haunt them both if they let anything happen to her because they were fussing over his dead body.

Hiei snarled at him but spun on one heel and stalked away. "Five minutes."

Yuusuke couldn't remember a word of what he told Kurama. Across the room, Hiei was pulling the metal spikes out of Kuwabara's wrists and shoulders, and Yuusuke's world went red and cloudy as Hiei caught the body.

Hiei was staring at the empty place where the gate would be once it was opened, his arms folded across his chest, his cloak wrapped around him. He was still and silent, and his youki was flaring bright enought to be seen a mile before Kurama got within sight of the warehouse. He turned briefly as Kurama entered and they exchanged a quick glance.

Yuusuke was sitting on the floor beside Kuwabara, his arms wrapped around one knee, watching the body with a blank expression. There were fist-sized holes in the wall behind him, and several smashed crates. Kurama eyed the scraped skin on Yuusuke's knuckles as he approached.

He knelt and pressed the fingers of his left hand against Kuwabara's cheek. The skin was still warm and Kurama smiled sadly as he smoothed a hand over Kuwabara's hair. "I've called Genkai. Yukina needs us now."

Yuusuke nodded, his eyes dark and hooded. Kurama wanted to reach out to him, but Yuusuke youki was thick and hot, and Kurama felt that reaching into that aura would not be the best idea at the moment. "When we find this guy, we're going to kill him, right?"

Yuusuke's voice was oddly human, oddly young. It didn't match the killing aura surrounding him at all.

"We'll destroy him," Kurama promised. He combed his fingers through Kuwabara's hair. "We'll make him regret this."

"Good." Yuusuke smiled; it was full of teeth. "I've never ripped anyone's heart out before."

"It's easier than it sounds."

Hiei stirred. It was no more than a shifting of his weight from one foot to the other, but it signaled his intent. He was done waiting for them. Time to go.

Kurama held out a hand to Yuusuke, pulling the younger man to his feet. He half expected Yuusuke's youki to sear his skin on contact.

The gate flared to life, a sudden maelstrom of blue and black light in the middle of the warehouse. Hiei shrugged off his cloak and tossed it to Kurama. It was too small to cover Kuwabara entirely, but Kurama did what he could.

Hiei dove through the gate at full speed, his katana drawn, Kurama and Yuusuke only a few steps behind. But as soon as he vanished the gate shut down, leaving Kurama and Yuusuke in the suddenly dim warehouse, staring into empty space.

Kurama got the gate open again, but it took long minutes that they couldn't afford to spend. Its energy was rough and unstable and it took a few more minutes for him to stabilize it. He waved Yuusuke in ahead of him.

The gate took them to a corner of the Makai that was either barely inside Yuusuke's Kingdom, or barely inside Yomi's Kingdom, depending on who you asked and how ornery Yomi was feeling that day. It was a desolate cliff overlooking the Makai equivalent of a forest. Which is to say that there were trees there, most of the time, unless they decided to get up and go looking for food.

Yukina and Hiei were at the edge of the cliff. Yukina clutching her brother in her lap, her face pressed against his chest.

Kurama felt disbelief more strongly than grief, just for that moment. Minutes. It had only been minutes.

"We'll destroy him," he said again, through numb lips. But it didn't sound like enough.


The snippet that inspired this story:

They finally found the bastard. It's taken them over fifty years, but when Yusuke looks at Kurama beside him, they share a cruel smile because that waste-of-existence bounty hunter is going to pay for what he did to Kuwabara and Hiei.

He never sees them coming.

c&c always appreciated!