Title: In the Wake of the Dragon
Fandom: Yu Yu Hakusho
Pairing: None (can be read as Yusuke/Kurama or Hiei/Kurama, if you squint)
Summary: Hiei defeated Bui. Six hours later, Kuwabara fought Toguro Ani. In between, there were long walks, long talks, and comas.
Warnings: Graphic descriptions of injuries
Author's Notes: Can be read as a companion piece to Hard Day's Night.
The match was over.
Juri was sobbing into her microphone, the stadium was falling apart, Koto was announcing a break until the ring could be prepared, and Yusuke would have cried if would have cried, had it not been completely beneath him.
As the crowd began to file out of the stadium, Yusuke released a pent-up breath and surveyed his team. In retrospect, he thought, it was a wonder they were all still alive, considering that last fight.
Well, he thought with a pang, remembering Genkai, most of them were still alive.
And alive was pretty much the only positive word he could use, really, given the state of their injuries. Hiei was unconscious, slumped on the ground against a piece of rubble, black-and-blue bruises already darkening on his skin. Kuwabara was flushed and sweating from his encounter with Toguro Ani (who had already left, cackling, on his brother's back.)
Frankly, Yusuke was amazed that Kurama was still conscious, never mind standing. His skin was a ghostly white, his clothing almost completely red, and his eyes were out of focus, glazed and too-bright. Yusuke was no doctor, but he knew when someone needed medical attention—and Kurama definitely needed medical attention. Hiei too, probably.
Right, then. He sighed. Time to be the leader.
"Okay," he said loudly. Kuwabara and Koenma looked at him, and Kurama blinked slowly, his eyes flickering toward him. Yusuke waited until his eyes had focused before continuing. "Alright. We've got a break until they fix this place, so that'll probably be a couple hours."
"At the least," Kurama murmured. His voice was faint.
"At the least," Yusuke agreed. "So, I say we go back to our room, patch ourselves up, and get ready for round two. What do you say?" There were nods all around, and Yusuke clapped his hands. In the corner, Hiei twitched. "Alright, let's go. Someone take Hiei."
"I will." Kurama took a step toward the smaller demon and promptly pitched forward, slumping toward the floor. Yusuke leapt to grab him, catching him before he could hit the floor. Kurama's fingers found his arm and clenched there. "Or maybe not," he said, and Yusuke could hear the audible pain in his voice.
Yusuke snorted. "Try definitely not." He straightened, carefully pulling Kurama with him, and slipped one arm around his waist. "Kuwabara, can you take Hiei?"
Kuwabara shrugged, reaching down and easily (but still somewhat gently) slinging Hiei's limp body over his shoulder. He turned to go, glancing back at Yusuke. "You coming?"
Yusuke hesitated, glancing at Kurama. The redhead's skin was still unnaturally pale, his eyelashes flickering with the effort of keeping his eyes open. "You go ahead. We'll follow you."
Kuwabara paused for a moment, his dark eyes lingering on Kurama. Brow furrowed in concern, and then he nodded, glancing at Koenma. "Let's go."
Koenma scrambled after him, and Yusuke turned to Kurama. "So," he said. "Are we walking, or should I carry you?"
"I'll walk." Kurama's voice was still laced with pain, but there was strength in it, too; determination shining in his eyes. "I don't plan on being carried out of this stadium until I'm dead, Yusuke."
There was a fierceness in his voice that made Yusuke grin in spite of himself. "Good man," He said, slipping his arm around Kurama's shoulders. The motion looked casual, but he kept his arm taut and his grip tight, offering almost invisible support. Kurama flashed him a grateful, if exhausted, smile, and Yusuke returned it. "Ready to go?" Kurama nodded, and Yusuke squeezed his shoulder. "Alright."
Something flickered in Kurama's eyes at that first step, something deeper than pain, a stronger sort of hurt. Yusuke watched him warily, eying his body for any signs of wavering, but he walked steadily, pointedly, his face impassive. Despite the determination on his face, Yusuke could sense that something had broken in him, something more than bones and sinew. He made a mental note to ask him about it later—assuming, he thought grimly, that there would even be a later.
They made it out of the ring area, moving agonizingly slowly, emerging into the common area. The hallway was packed tightly with demons, talking, shouting and fighting. To Yusuke's surprise they fell silent as they passed, stepping to the sides of the hallway. They didn't jeer, didn't catcall, just watched them silently, almost respectful. Yusuke glanced at Kurama to comment only to see that something had changed in Kurama's face—his eyes were cooler, narrow, flecked with gold. Yusuke pulled in a sharp breath—this wasn't Shuichi Minamino anymore. This was Youko Kurama.
Kurama laughed softly, breathily, as if hearing Yusuke's thoughts. "It's still me, Yusuke," he said quietly. "I just needed a little extra help."
"Help I'm okay with," Yusuke said, shifting his grip on Kurama's shoulder. "But if you start growing ears, I'm leaving you here. I saw what Youko did to Karasu, I'm not fucking with moves like that." Kurama stiffened, presumably at the sound of Karasu's name, and Yusuke winced. "Sorry."
Kurama gave him a faint smile. "Don't worry about it."
"I am worried." Yusuke adjusted the arm around Kurama's shoulders to better support him. "I've known you for a long time, Kurama, or at least long enough to know that it's pretty fucking hard to scare you. And I also know that you'd never fight as sloppy as you did today if you weren't scared." Kurama's eyes flashed angrily and Yusuke stopped walking. "No, listen. I've watched you fight, Kurama, and I'm not stupid. You always let in a few shots to give them a fake advantage, but not like this. Not with Touya, and not with this. So." He set both hands on Kurama's shoulders, turning him to face him. "What did he do?"
For a long time Kurama was quiet, staring at the floor, trembling slightly in Yusuke's grip. With every second of silence Yusuke grew more and more worried, picturing scenario after graphic scenario, until finally, Kurama spoke. "He touched my hair."
Yusuke felt his jaw drop. "You…you got this freaked out because he touched your hair? Shit, Kurama, I touch your hair all the time and you're always fine!"
"Because I let you." Kurama raised a shaking, bloodied hand to the hair in question, running his fingers through his bangs. "He snuck up behind me and I never saw him and—" he sighed heavily, and Yusuke heard a slight whistle as the air left his lungs. "It's been a long, long time since someone's touched me without my permission, Yusuke. I don't intend for it to become a regular occurrence ever again."
There had been something in his voice for half an instant—a youngness, a vulnerability. But then it was gone, replaced by cool ice. Yusuke sighed. "Come on," he said, feeling suddenly very tired. "Let's go."
Kurama nodded, face composed once more, and took a step forward only to crumple, his knees buckling. Yusuke swore and caught him, helping him lean back against the wall. "Fuck. Are you okay?"
"Leg," Kurama bit out through gritted teeth, and Yusuke dropped to his knees, carefully lifting the bloodier of Kurama's legs off the floor, guiding the knee to bend. He inspected the wound, wincing, feeling bile rise to his throat.
Skin and muscle had been completely blown away by the trap-bomb, leaving bare, cracked bone exposed to the air. Blood was still pulsing from the wound, weakly, and Yusuke swallowed hard, reaching through the blood to press the pulse of Kurama's ankle. He could feel the bones of the ankle shifting before he even found the pulse, and bit his lip. When he finally found the heartbeat it was sluggish and slow, and he craned his neck to look up at Kurama. "You should have said something if it was this bad. And how the hell are you not screaming?"
Kurama pointedly ignored the first question. "Practice," he said, reaching down. Unthinkingly Yusuke took the offered hand, and Kurama pulled him to his feet with barely a wince. "See?"
"That you're a suicidal idiot? Yeah, I'd have to be pretty fucking blind not to see that." Yusuke scowled, slipping one arm around under Kurama's, wrapping it around his upper body and leaning down to get his other arm under Kurama's knees.
Kurama stopped him with a glare. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Carrying you." Yusuke scooped him up, adjusting for a better grip. Despite his height, Kurama weighed no more than Keiko. "You can't keep walking on that leg, Kurama. Or on the rest of your body, for that matter."
"Yusuke, listen to me." Kurama's eyes bored into his, too-bright and intense. "I will not be carried while I have the capacity to walk. Put me down."
"No," Yusuke said stubbornly.
Kurama's eyes flashed gold. "Put. Me. Down."
Yusuke was a brave guy, but he wasn't brave enough to mess with that look. Carefully, he set Kurama back on the floor, but kept an arm around his shoulders, steadying him. "Fine," he said, trying to keep his voice stern and not worried. "But we're going slow."
It was almost painful, how slowly they moved, but when he saw the pain on Kurama's face, Yusuke knew it would hurt far more to move any faster. So they kept going, step after halting step, and when they reached their room to see Kuwabara waiting for them, he almost cried with relief.
"What took you so long?" he asked, coming forward and holding out a hand to Kurama, who took it and let Kuwabara help him the last few steps to the room. "We were getting worried."
"He's missing half a leg," Yusuke said crossly, closing the door behind them. "Cut us some slack."
"It's not as bad as he's making it out to be," Kurama said, glaring pointedly at Yusuke and sitting down on the cot next to Hiei's sleeping form. "He hasn't woken up yet?"
Kuwabara followed his gaze. "Hiei? No, out like a light."
Kurama said nothing, only reached down and very gently brushed a few strands of hair from Hiei's forehead.
Yusuke leaned against the wall. "It's weird," he commented. "I don't think I've ever seen him sleep before." He looked at Kuwabara. "Have you?" Kuwabara shook his head, and Yusuke glanced at Kurama. "You probably have."
Kurama smiled. "Plenty of times." His gaze shifted to Hiei's right arm, battered and bruised, where the Kokoryuuha tattoo was back in place. "This should be covered. Yusuke, do we have any bandages?"
"Yeah, but you're not using them on him until we patch you up." Yusuke jerked his head toward the door and Kuwabara nodded, leaving to get the first aid kit. Yusuke reached out a hand and pulled Kurama gently to his feet, helping him sit down on the other cot. "For once, it'd be pretty awesome if you could try not toget yourself half-killed in some suicidal mission to save the rest of us." He nodded at Hiei. "He'd be pissed if you died, you know."
"You think so?" Kurama winced as Yusuke began untying the clasps at the top of Kurama's tunic. "I seem to recall him trying to kill me."
Yusuke snorted. "And I seem to recall watching him panic every time you get hurt." He eased the tunic own over Kurama's shoulders and got to work on his shirt. "He does care, even if he is a tiny little asshole."
Kurama laughed. "Oh, trust me, I know he cares. He'd just kill you if he knew you knew. Hiei makes his living on being an uncaring asshole."
"True." He pulled what was left of Kurama's shirt away and hissed through his teeth. "Fuck, man, you're more blood than skin!" Kurama gave him something halfway between a smile and a wince and Yusuke scowled, standing and crossing to the sink, dampening a towel and bringing it back. He pressed it gently to Kurama's torso, trying to soak some of the blood away. "Kurama…seriously. I didn't save your life so you could keep trying to kill yourself."
"I know." Kurama closed his eyes, and Yusuke could see the faint lines of pain that seemed permanently etched into his too-beautiful face. "I'm sorry, Yusuke. Really. I just…" he opened his eyes to meet Yusuke's, smiling faintly. "I lived for nothing for so long. Fighting with nothing to lose is just something I became used to."
Yusuke went to the sink and rinsed the towel, watching the water run red. He soaked it again and came back, pressing it against a still-bleeding wound. "I get that. But that was then, and this is now. There are people who care about you. Me, your mom, Kuwabara, the girls, Hiei…shit, especially Hiei. You should've seen him during your match, man. He was livid."
Kurama gave a breathy laugh. "I'm sure he was. I'm a very good investment for him." Yusuke frowned and Kurama took his hand, squeezing it. "We all show affection in different ways, Yusuke. And whatever the case, I'm happy to have yours."
Yusuke let Kurama hold his hand and his gaze for a few seconds before dropping both. "Well, good," he mumbled, feeling a faint flush on his cheeks. "Because you're stuck with me."
He didn't see some of the ever-present pain ease itself from Kurama's eyes, or see some of the lines smooth themselves from his skin. He did, however, receive possibly the brightest, most genuine smile he'd seen on Kurama in a long, long time.
It was enough.