A/N: Well, this is the last of it. I couldn't bring it to any other conclusion. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter Seven

(Flashback: 2 months ago)

The party was raucous, as might be expected when a group of hard-fighting demons got to drinking together. There was loud quarrelling, louder laughter, and increasingly sloppily worded toasts to the relative peace the last few months had seen between the lands--for all the demons at this particular party were committed to keeping human world safe. And they were all old friends.

Kurama left the party early on, and if anyone noticed his departure nobody said anything; everyone understood. He stood on the deck holding a glass he was not drinking from, not really looking at anything but aware of everything around him. The only place in human world this many demons could safely gather was Genkai's land. The grave was so close.

It took less than five minutes--Kurama timed him--for Yusuke to thread his way out of the party and join him on the deck. "You can go back," Kurama greeted him. "I'm fine. I just don't really care for that crowd anymore."

"Why not?"

"Because they all watch me like they're getting ready to catch me the next time I keel over," Kurama replied bluntly. Yusuke smiled faintly. "I'm serious. Half of them won't even talk in front of me anymore; not that I can blame them, with the way Touya stands at my elbow and shushes people when he thinks they're about to say something that will upset me, and--"

"And Rinku interrupts himself every other sentence to ask if I'm okay now, and Jinn touches me way too much like he's thinking about hugging me or punching me but can't decide which would make me feel better. What makes you think I'm any more comfortable with them?"

"At least you didn't attempt suicide in front of most of them. They won't ever forget."

"So what? We'll never forget, either. They're different, we're different, life's different. Don't be mad at them for trying too hard."

"I never said I was mad. I said I wasn't comfortable. And that you should go back inside."

Yusuke made a face. "I'd rather be out here."

Kurama exhaled softly, tension reducing somewhat. "Do you think we can justify going home yet?"

"Sure. Who the hell cares what they think?"

But Kurama only looked out into the forest, making no move to leave, and held his untouched glass tighter. Yusuke wished they hadn't come. It had been his idea, of course--getting Kurama to socialize was next to impossible but Yusuke kept trying, no matter how many times it wound up like this. With the two of them in orbit around and outside the others; looking in and wondering if they dared spiral down.

They stood on the deck for a moment, silent, listening to Chuu bellowing inside and the fainter murmurs of whoever was arguing with him, and music playing somewhere--aware of everything around them, but only aware enough to know they weren't part of it. Then Kurama smiled, a half-second of warning before Yusuke found himself wearing Kurama's drink. The fox waited to make sure he was being chased before fleeing.

Yusuke gave pursuit gladly, grateful that Kurama had found some way to break the stillness--even if it was a sticky way. Grateful because the fox's antics had brought them quickly back into their own world, and it was becoming the only place that was safe. Yusuke chased Kurama into the forest, the two of them playing under the shelter and comfort of shadow until Kurama's strength was exhausted. Then he stretched out on his back on the forest floor and Yusuke lay next to him, watching the shifting canopy of leaves above them. They lay like that, listening to the night noises around them, palms grazing without really holding hands, for the better part of an hour. They were both silent, because when someone spoke it would have to be to suggest they go back. And neither of them wanted to go back.

(Present)

The room was quiet, the sound on the television still turned down to next to nothing. The figures on it no longer flashed black and white, but pastel as cheerful women in business suits chirped about the morning commute; dawn was seeping in through the window. Yusuke had not slept.

Kurama was sleeping--and, as Yusuke had predicted earlier, was sleeping on top of him so Yusuke couldn't move. That suited him just fine tonight; he had plenty to think about. Kurama, on the other hand, looked like he didn't have a care in the world. He was sleeping very deeply, completely relaxed and apparently content in his dreams, for a small smile remained on his lips. He looked more peaceful than Yusuke was used to seeing him. Yusuke was suddenly overwhelmed by Kurama's trust in him.

And it didn't make sense to be overwhelmed. This wasn't some new level of trust he had tapped into here--Kurama often slept like this. Notexactly like this, true, not without the barrier of clothing between them, but still close. Yusuke was amazed by how much more of Kurama's warmth he could feel without that thin layer of cloth, even now, hours and hours after the kitsune had fallen asleep. He'd thought he was already as aware of Kurama as it was possible to be--he'd thought he had every part of his trust that it was possible to have. He was wrong. There was something more, a level of knowledge that simply couldn't be obtained any other way than what had happened between them last night.

Kurama had not stopped him. Not once, not even when Yusuke felt himself becoming frenzied, felt the old panic sweeping through him. Caught in the need to be close, closer, to hold, seize, capture. Still--always--trying to catch Kurama before he could fall, to hold him so painfully tight that he couldn't leave Yusuke, not ever. Kurama had matched his frenzy, accepted every movement he made, not complained when Yusuke knew it must have hurt, and lain completely limp against him afterwards, too exhausted to lift his head, much less his body. His entire weight was still resting against Yusuke, and it was so slight he barely noticed it--it was the heat, not the weight, that reminded him Kurama was sleeping there.

Yusuke's state of mind was a far cry from Kurama's peaceful expression. He couldn't understand. It should have been better than that; or at least, different. They should have reached for each other at the same time, without hesitation, it should have been--he couldn't put his finger on what it should have been. It had been the most amazing experience out of his life, he had felt like he was drowning in pleasure and heat and love, but what there had been of love was lacking in--lightness. Resolution. Everything ought to be okay now.

This should have been the one thing, the magic key, that made it all go away. Not more of the same pattern over and over again, Yusuke sheltering and demanding and Kurama acquiescing without so much as a whisper, willingly giving everything to him. That was why Kurama could sleep peacefully now, and Yusuke hadn't closed his eyes yet.

Yusuke realized that in the back of his mind, he had truly believed he would someday, somehow, heal Kurama. That eventually he would be able to give enough, provide enough, and suddenly Kurama would be healthy again. And as long as their relationship hadn't progressed to this point, Yusuke could harbor that belief--that it would be the last piece of the puzzle, the catalyst for everything to be fixed. It was the only thing that Kurama hadn't given him yet. Now Yusuke had everything the fox could offer, and he couldn't afford the illusion of healing any longer.

He should have waited longer before doing this--he should have been gentler. He had relied on Kurama to stop him if it went too far, but when did Kurama ever stop him anymore? When did Kurama ever deny him anything he wanted? And there was nothing he could do about it now.

Nothing but follow through--nothing but lie here as still as stone while Kurama slept with his body shaped against Yusuke's, and dawn crept through the window. Nothing but kiss him when he woke up, make sure he ate before he left for school, answer the phone when he called and say that no, he wasn't busy. That wouldn't ever change.

None of it would. Yes, it would get better with time--Kurama would take care of himself with less prompting, hurt less when others unknowingly touched his bruises, smile more when he actually meant it. But the crux of it--that he couldn't survive without Yusuke--was something that Yusuke realized with sudden clarity would always be true. Kurama wouldn't regain his connection to the rest of the world; he had voluntarily cut it off. He had been wounded too deeply to ever completely heal, he had given everything in Yusuke's hands, and that was where his life would always be.

And finally knowing that, or rather finally accepting it... changed nothing.

Nothing. Except that Yusuke finally moved for the first time all night. He drew Kurama closer, resting one hand protectively on his back. And he spoke, knowing that the kitsune couldn't hear him but feeling that he was making a vow nonetheless. "I don't care how many times you let go," he said simply. "I won't ever do the same."

He settled back, watching sunlight slowly fill the room, and waited for Kurama to wake.

the end