So... this story was inspired by a conversation many, many months ago (hey, it takes time for the seeds to germinate) around the following theory: that the reason Kurama always wears long sleeves is that he's a cutter. Given that starting point, this cannot be anything but a complete and total crack fic. It's not my normal fare, but I got a kick out of writing it and I hope you get a kick out of reading it.

Warnings: this fic will contain... Drinking of blood! (Not too much.) Self-inflicted injuries! (Again, not much.) Yaoi! (Oh yes. This one there's more of. You know me.)


(Part One: Blood)

In all fairness, Yusuke supposed he shouldn't have gone into Kurama's room without knocking. But when he saw when he barged in made him stop cold, staring in total shock.

Kurama glanced up. "Hello, Yusuke," he said calmly; then, dryly, knowing the answer, "Did I miss a knock, or did you deem it unnecessary?" As he waited for Yusuke's response, he casually licked away a line of blood that had been steadily making its way down his left arm. The blood was coming from a series of rather deep cuts all along the inside of his forearm. In his right hand, he was holding a pair of scissors.

Yusuke stared dumbfounded for a moment; Kurama stared back, waiting for Yusuke to say or something, also looking a bit dumbfounded. He made no attempt to explain or to hide or to act like anything was out of the ordinary. And it was that, more than anything else, that caused Yusuke to suddenly break out of his stupor and take a flying leap at Kurama, ready to fight him for the first time. He wanted those scissors.

It turned out to be more a scuffle than a true fight, since Kurama didn't really resist him, but even so the kitsune's instinctive response meant that Yusuke was hurting in half a dozen places by the time he retreated, scissors clutched in one hand. By then, he had grown angry. "What the hell is going on?"

"That's my line," Kurama shot back, pushing himself to his feet. He looked more bewildered than angry.

"What are you doing?!"

Kurama hesitated, still looking bewildered. "Bleeding?" he finally ventured.

"Well, I can see that." The shock had worn off, and the fury was too, which meant it was worry's turn. "Kurama--what's going on?"

"What do you mean?"

"Why are you doing this? Why didn't you ask me for help? You don't have to do this."

Kurama continued to stare at him in complete lack of comprehension for about twenty more seconds. Then, suddenly, he burst into laughter.

"Oh, Yusuke," he managed to choke through the laughter. "You're a good friend." His tone was condescending. He reached out a hand for the scissors, but Yusuke held them out of reach. Kurama didn't press the issue; still chuckling and smiling, he moved over to his desk and pulled gauze out of the drawer. Briskly and casually, he began bandaging his own wounds. "You're very kind, Yusuke, but you're forgetting that I am not a human teenager. I'm a demon."

"So, what's that got to do with it?" Yusuke asked crossly.

"A demon doesn't--well, no, I can't make a blanket statement like that, and claim that no demon ever injuries himself just for the sake of being injured. But blood has very different meanings to demons. I'm not trying to cause myself pain or deal with any sort of emotional problem, Yusuke. If anything, I'm training."

"You're not making sense."

Kurama didn't reply for a moment, because wrapping one's own arm was complicated and he was using his teeth to hold the end of the gauze in place. "Haven't you ever noticed demons like the taste of blood?" he finally muttered around it.

Yusuke was thrown off guard. "Well… not really… I mean, I guess I've seen demons like lick their swords and stuff but it's… kinda gross. I figured it was something just monsters did, you know, like low-class demons."

"But you've seen Hiei and myself do it," Kurama objected gently. "Or maybe not. Maybe you pretended not to, if it bothers you. Yusuke? I need the scissors to cut the gauze."

Yusuke stared at him for a moment. Then he walked over and cut the gauze himself. Kurama looked a little amused, but he didn't object. "Thank you. Now, let me explain myself a little better. Demons can tell quite a bit by the taste of someone's blood. Think about how many things you can tell about an opponent by looking closely at them; whether they're healthy or sick, whole or injured, alert or tired, calm or upset. You can do that because sight is a human's primary sense. Demons rely on scent and taste. The taste of blood will tell you all those things I mentioned, and more. It lets you know the state of another's body intimately. During the Dark Tournament, when I regained Youko's body, it was exhilarating--and familiar. I didn't realize until then how very little I understand Shuichi's body. I thought that tasting my own blood, like I would taste a stranger's, might help."

"So… you're cutting yourself because you want to understand your own body?"

Kurama looked both sympathetic and amused; his reply was simple. "I must ask you again, Yusuke, to remember that I am not human."

They stood in silence for a few moments, while Yusuke tried to accept everything Kurama'd said. "Won't your mom notice your arm's all cut up?" Yusuke finally asked.

"Again--not human. These cuts will heal by the time she gets home. I'm really not doing myself any harm, Yusuke," Kurama added, his tone gentler. "And I appreciate your worry. But you need to understand I don't have a reason to lie to you."

"It's just--" Yusuke exhaled. "Damn, you gave me a shock."

"I'm sorry. But perhaps if you knock next time, you won't see something that requires a half-hour explanation."

"Are you sure you're okay?"

"You're the one at loose ends now that the Tournament's over, Yusuke, not me. I'm perfectly content to be back home."

Yusuke reddened, squirmed, and changed the subject. "So--this blood thing, is it like a--" Yusuke struggled to come up with an analogy. "Like a business card or something? Like 'hey, how ya doing, let's be friends, mind if I drink your blood to get to know you?'"

Kurama looked divided between amusement and affront; he settled on amusement, though he was visibly shocked. "No," he said with a laugh. "That would be unthinkably rude."

"I don't get it. You just said it was a way to get to know someone."

"Their body. Demons generally prefer to keep the knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses to themselves."

"So not even with a friend? Like, would you do it to me if I was a demon?"

"No. Tasting someone's blood gives you knowledge about them, which gives you power over them, which means to do it is basically to state your dominance over them. It's also--crude. There's many sexual overtones associated with it, and drives some people into sexual frenzy. It would be--like punching someone and groping them at the same time without provocation for either."

"So that's a no on the friendship thing."

"Sorry. Maybe you can find a human with a fetish."

Yusuke cuffed Kurama's head, or tried to, but Kurama ducked it. "All kidding aside, Kurama, are you really okay?"

Kurama looked on the verge of getting well and truly exasperated for a moment, but he calmed himself. "Your protectiveness is touching, Yusuke, but annoying at times. I'm really, truly okay."

"Cause if you needed to talk about anything--"

"You would be the last person I would go to, because you don't listen, as proved by the fact that you're not listening to me now. But if I need anything else, I'll be sure to come to you."

Kurama smiled to take the sting out of his comment. It was Yusuke's turn to decide whether to get miffed or not--he decided on not, because Kurama had basically made a promise. He could be evasive with his words, but he meant what he said, and he'd said he'd ask if he needed anything. "You scared me," Yusuke muttered, trying to explain/apologize for his insistence.

"I can tell." Kurama put a hand on Yusuke's shoulder to lightly push him towards the door. "Let's go outside and talk about something else, agreed?"