Title: Joy Bleeds
Pairing: Kuwabara/Kurama
Rating: PG/PG-13 for minor language & character death
Notes and Warnings: Character Death. This is a different style from what I normally write, so hopefully it's not too strange or convoluted. Originally written for 30kisses, challenge #11: Gardenia.
Disclaimer: YYH and all related characters are the property of Togashi Yoshihiro. They shall never be mine, and no infringement is intended.

Joy Bleeds

The tree is small, with grey-green bark and small green leaves. They were sharply pointed at the ends, which Hiei didn't like, but Kurama never minded on the rare occasions when he scratched or pricked his hands. Kuwabara had once remarked that he hadn't thought plants would hurt Kurama, but it wasn't the plant's fault if he wasn't cautious enough while pruning, was it?

Some believe that gardenias symbolize joy. Some brides believe gardenias are good luck to have at weddings, along with bluebells and roses and fragile white baby's breath. Not all at once, of course.

The idea that flowers had meanings was an alien one, when he first began to learn about human world plants. In the makai there was no such foolishness. A janenju tree was a janenju tree, and all it meant was that you didn't want to get trapped inside its grasp. The association of virtues or emotions to a plant would not have occurred to a demon.

Trapped in a child's form, his youki slowly returning as his new body matured, Kurama had undertaken the study of local plants. His store of demon world seeds was long gone and replacements would not be attainable until he was much older. It had seemed like surrender, at the time, to resort to manipulating sakura trees, and knotwood and maple. The grasses were slender and fragile, the trees stationary and plain. He'd been used to far deadlier varieties, and the plants of the human world had seemed… childish. Harmless.

Over time, of course, he'd overcome that hesitance. He'd made the plants of the human world into as formidable an arsenal as his makai plants had ever been, and in time had even combined the two. Some of his favorite plants were native to the human world. The rose, for example. Soft and beautiful, but with a hidden sharpness.

Gardenias, he did not care for.

He had planted them for Shiori, when she was recovering from her long illness, back in the days when Urameshi Yuusuke was still a relative stranger to him. She'd thought they would look lovely by the front step, and she liked the way they smelled in the greenhouse when she took him to buy seeds and bulbs, and could he plant some for her, while the weather was still warm? How could any son deny a request like that? He'd been so relieved at the time he'd have agreed to anything, from painting the house to an arranged marriage, because he knew how terribly close he'd come to never having the chance to do anything for her again.

Funny, how doing something for someone was so important to him now. Helping and supporting his mother, his friends. It had never been that way in the makai, when he was only Kurama with no Shuichi mixed in.

But the gardenias had been bought and planted. He'd infused them with a touch of his youki, making them straight and bright and perfect. They'd bloomed longer than they should have, and the scent had been sweeter and more noticeable than had he not interfered. Shiori had loved them.

But to Kurama they were too closely tied to the near loss they had so narrowly avoided, and he never found any interest in them besides what tending they needed to remain healthy.

There are some browning leaves, and a few of the flowers are wilting. Kurama carefully tends to the plants, concentrating on the sharp prick of the leaves against his fingers, and the moist soil, and he inhales the fragrance and hates it. He scratches himself, a long, rough cut along the back of his hand, already dotted with blood.

He remembers Kuwabara's belief that plants could not hurt him.

Not the plants, no. But what they remind him off.

He presses the soil gently around the base of the plant and does not think about how Kuwabara was the only one who had understood what they represented to him.

It had amused Kuwabara that Kurama could remember plants better than people – which was not to say that his memory for individuals was faulty. But the average human teenager was not a source of great interest to him, as Kurama had once pointed out, whereas all plants intrigued him for their possible uses.

"Even the most average human's got a trick or two up their sleeves," Kuwabara had argued, perhaps a little insulted on the behalf of his peer group.

"That is true," Kurama said. "But still, I prefer plants over people." He'd waited a heartbeat, just to be evil about it, then added, "Though your company is always welcome."

It would be several years yet before they reached the point where that would be considered an invitation. Years to let Kuwabara's age and body catch up with his maturity, and to let him get used to the idea.

It had been five years, actually, before Kuwabara had kissed him, and by the end of it Kurama had nearly lost track of why he was so determined to wait until the human approached him. They'd spent three days tracking a hellbeast through the mountains, alone because Yuusuke was with Keiko, awaiting the birth of their first child, and Hiei was – well, no one really knew where Hiei was from day to day. It had been cold and raining, and the beast had been stronger than Koenma had warned. They'd both taken their share of damage, and by the time the creature was dead, Kuwabara had flopped over in the grass and refused to move.

Kurama had tended the wound in his side; a shallow bite that would heal quickly as long as it did not become infected.

"Your hands are cold," Kuwabara complained.

"It's raining," Kurama replied. "I think you'll live through a little chill." He'd wiped the wound clean with what scraps remained of Kuwabara's shirt but there wasn't much else to do for it without a first aid kit, or a healer. If it needed further treatment, Yukina could see to it upon their return. He'd sat back on his heels, pushing rain-damped hair out of his eyes, intending to bully Kuwabara to his feet so they could get out of the cold and the wet, but he didn't get the chance. Kuwabara sat up, cupped the back of Kurama's head in a large, calloused hand, and kissed him.

Kurama had been waiting five years for that kiss. It didn't disappoint.

"Birch," Kurama said much later as they made their way down the mountain.

Kuwabara looked at him funny. "What?"

"The tree you were lying under. Birch."

Kuwabara rolled his eyes. "You and your plants."

Kuwabara died two years later, when a man with a gun put three bullets in his back. That wouldn't have been enough to kill someone like Kuwabara, except one had entered the back of his neck, severing his spine and killing him instantly.

Kurama had felt the death of his lover while he was in a board meeting. One moment they'd been discussing a merger with a rival pharmaceutical company, the next he'd felt something that had once been cease to be. He'd made some excuse and left, but it was too late for him to be of any use.

"A fucking cop," Yuusuke snarled at him from the door of Genkai's temple. "Why the hell would someone like Kuwabara become a fucking cop?"

Yuusuke was the king of not dealing well. Kurama had known that already, from past close encounters. But apparently actually feeling someone die inside his mind was something the half-blood had not been at all prepared for. Yuusuke had paced the temple, snarling and snapping and generally falling apart.

Many years ago, during the Dark Tournament, Kuwabara had gone to what he'd thought would be his death, and he'd said his goodbyes to each of them. A brief touch of mind-to-mind and a few heartfelt words had been all he'd given them before leaving for what he'd thought would be forever. Afterwards Yuusuke had been pissed that Kuwabara hadn't warned them, and then teased him for days about all the things he'd said. Kurama remembered every word, and wondered what, if anything Kuwabara would have said this time, had he been given the chance.

"Shuichi?" His mother's voice pulls him out of his thoughts. "It's time to go."

She is standing on the porch, looking concerned and sad for him. Shuichi-chan stands beside her, offering a smile for his stepbrother. Kurama wishes neither of them had decided to come.

"Yes," he says, crushing a white flower in his palm. "The plants just needed watering."

Shiori's voice is gentle and filled with too much understanding. "They can wait, dear."

"You cut yourself," Shuichi-chan points out. "Brother, you're bleeding."

"Joy bleeds," Kurama says, and goes into the house to wash his hands.

c&c always appreciated!