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One prologue from an old plotbunny. Yuu Yuu Hakusho/X-Men crossover. If interested, go ahead and take it (or whatever parts you want of it). Feel free even to cut out the X-Men bits and make it whatever kind of crossover you want, just let me know in a message and credit me in your author notes.
Xavier was not a man overly bothered by what other people would consider to be 'strange.' On the contrary, he rather thrived upon whatever oddities the Universe decided to throw his way. Still, he was intrigued at the obvious discrepancy in the boy's profile. He focused upon the screen of the small, black laptop, reading through the file once more and wondering what he had missed. The death certificate was certified, official in every way, and there was even mention of a wake in one of the more obscure files Xavier had acquired, yet there were equally official records of the boy's life dated years after the supposed 'death.'
Yes, quite the puzzle indeed.
He opened a different file, this one a short list of names, addresses, and phone numbers. After a moment of pondering, he highlighted the entry for Urameshi Yuusuke and dragged it to the top of the list. Alphabetical order was all well and good, he decided, but sometimes a mystery was just too intriguing to put off.
'Logan, I've compiled the last of the files. Are you ready to go?'
A wave of unconcealed irritation filtered down the mental link. 'If I said 'no', would it make a difference?'
Charles Xavier smiled.
'Your plane leaves in an hour. Have a nice trip.'
Walking the last block to his apartment, Yuusuke stiffened as he felt the subtle ripple of a disturbance in his wards.
He frowned, glancing up and down the street, stretching out his senses to their limits. All around him the burning white sparks of human reiki continued on about their lives, the rarer, colored flares of low-class youki scattered among them. Kuwabara, Genkai, Yukina, Kurama… Hiei was nowhere to be found, but that was expected; even if he were in Ningenkai, the reclusive jaganshi was a master of masking his energy. Yuusuke tallied each unnaturally bright signature, searching for anything out of place.
There, just ahead at the edge of his wards…
Reiki, but certainly more than the average human. Much more. It was almost as much as Genkai possessed, now that she had passed on her Spirit Orb to Yuusuke, but it held an odd 'flavor' unlike anything he had felt before.
No death-taint, and no trace of seikouki. He smiled humorlessly as he continued forward. At least it's not a Hunter from Enma.
Reikai, it seemed, had no use for him now that they no longer felt they had a firm hold of his leash. His rebirth as a demon had sent the spirit realm into a frenzy and Enma into a rage. Upon his return from Makai, not a day after he had defeated Sensui, he had been relieved of his duties as Spirit Detective and 'strongly urged' to relocate himself back to Makai… permanently.
He refused, and now it was not uncommon for him to feel unfamiliar flares of reiki shadowing him, as subtle as any of Enma's security force ever got. Yuusuke wondered when the day would come when Enma's mistrust of Yuusuke's demon nature outweighed his caution and he sent more than just a few spies to monitor the reborn demon.
Yuusuke nodded to one of his neighbors –familiar face, unknown name, owner of that damn dog that growled every time Yuusuke passed by—as he entered the run-down lobby of his apartment building, making for the stairs.
The reiki signature remained at the edge of his wards, occasionally moving back and forth as though pacing, energy spiking in what felt like irritation. Yuusuke smirked. Had he not known for a fact that a) Kuwabara was across town at his part-time job as a kendo instructor and that b) each of his old team had a spare key to the apartment anyway (as if any of them needed a key to get in), Yuusuke would have though it was the impatient swordsman who was skulking outside his apartment door.
However, the man waiting in the dimly lit, mildew-stained hallway bore not even the remotest resemblance to anyone that Yuusuke knew. Strolling nearer, he took stock: dark hair swept back from a scowling face, broad nose (obviously broken at least once before), stocky build, and square jaw complete with five o'clock shadow. The man stood tensely, leaning back against the wall beside Yuusuke's apartment door, hands in his jacket pockets and shoulders hunched, dark eyes scanning the hallway.
He caught sight of Yuusuke and straightened, eyes narrowing. Yuusuke caught his scent over the pervasive odor of old carpet and mold: metal, cigar smoke, leather… and human.
Definitely not from Enma.
Drawing his keys out from his pocket, he passed the man and set about unlocking the apartment door. It swung open with a loud creak, and Yuusuke flipped on the light, reaching out with his energy at the same time to disable the more violent layers of his wards.
He glanced over at the stranger. "You coming?"
The man eyed him, scowling, for a long moment before pushing away from the wall and following Yuusuke wordlessly into the humble interior of the apartment.
Yuusuke stripped off his jacket, dropping it over the back of one of the four mismatched chairs around his dinner table (a folding card table), and turned to watch as the stranger pushed the door closed and took stock of the rundown apartment.
"You always so trusting?" growled the man, eyeing the lumpy couch and stained carpet.
Yuusuke smirked. "You wanted to talk to me, right? I've got time."
"Pretty cocky, kid. It'll get you killed."
It has. Twice. But who's counting?
"You planning on murdering me in my sleep?"
The corner of the man's mouth twitched, though whether he was repressing a grin or a sneer was anyone's guess. Yuusuke bet it was a sneer.
"… You smell like blood."
Yuusuke quickly reassessed the human, surprised. He was accustomed to odd little observations like that from Kurama and Hiei, but he had very low expectations when it came to the abilities of humans, not including Kuwabara or Genkai. Or Shizuru, come to think of it.
"Nice nose." Yuusuke held up one hand, showing the faint scatterings of rust-colored flakes clinging to the backs of his knuckles and beneath his nails. He glanced at the stains, vaguely remembering that humans were not as blasé about such things as demons. Feeling the need to appease the man's sensibilities, he offered, "Would you feel better if I told you it wasn't human blood?"
"Hm. Wait here."
He left the stranger standing in the living room while he went to change his clothes and wash the oni blood from his hands. Genkai had complained about a particularly violent gang of low-level demons wreaking havoc in the shrine woodlands, and Yuusuke took it as an opportunity to renew his hold over that particular section of his territory. It would do no good if the low-levels forgot who was at the top of their food chain, after all.
A quick once-over found two scratches that he did not remember receiving, but they bore no scent of poison or venom and were already sealing over with shiny scar tissue, soon to fade back into his normal tan skin. His markings had faded, now visible only as slightly more tan sections of skin if one knew exactly where to look. He brushed a hand through his hair, dislodging flakes of bark and fragments of leaves, and checked that his eyes had faded from blood-scarlet to their normal garnet brown.
The battle-rush had long worn thin, and in its wake came the lazy, agreeable contentment of satisfied demon instincts. As with cats, hunting brought out the pleased, playful side in many demons. Yuusuke counted it as a bonus.
Now I know why Kurama was always so mellow after a youko moon.
He returned to find the man eyeing the ceremonial sword mounted on the wall above the couch with an expression of deep interest. "An heirloom of my father," said Yuusuke. "Hundreds of years old, if you believe the family history."
"It's not from Japan."
Smiling, Yuusuke said, "The demon realm, Makai… if you believe the legends."
The man squinted at him, mouth pinched into a frown. "Right."
Yuusuke hoped that the man would not be stupid and try to touch it; the sword was temperamental, and bound by blood to Raizen's line. It made a good grounding point for his wards, but it was downright hazardous to wandering fingers. Kuwabara had nearly lost a hand to it once, and Hiei glared at it every time he happened to pass through.
He continued on into the small kitchenette, opening the refrigerator. "Wanna' beer?"
He plucked out two cans, tossing one to the man who caught it with ease. Yuusuke popped his open, watching the man's eyes narrow at the loud snap-hiss. "Does it matter?"
He took a quick swallow, savoring the chill as the bitter liquid settled in his stomach. I can't get a buzz off of anything short of diesel fuel anyway.
The man set his beer, unopened, on the small table at the end of the couch. "Apparently not."
Leaning back against the counter, Yuusuke rubbed his thumb along the condensation-slicked side of the can, watching the man watch him. "What d'you want?"
"You're Urameshi Yuusuke?"
"The one and only. Come on, you can do better than that."
The muscles down the man's forearms tensed and twitched, his hands balling into fists. "Look, kid, I don't normally get sent out on these trips, but no one else woulda' worked, so here I am. The name's Logan."
Yuusuke tilted his head in a casual mockery of a bow (learned from Kurama). "A pleasure."
"Mm-hmm." The man, Logan, drew in a deep breath. "I'm here on behalf of the Xavier Institute for Exceptionally Gifted Youngsters," he continued in a half-growl, half-sigh, sounding as though he were repeating a prearranged speech, "which specializes in aiding young people like yourself hone their special skills. We would like to extend to you an invitation to attend the Xavier Institute for the upcoming year and for any period of time after that should you desire to do so."
Yuusuke waited. After a long moment, he set the beer to one side and straightened. "Run out of script?" he asked wryly.
A snort, and a trace of blush across the man's cheeks that only demon eyes would have noticed. "According to the Professor, you've recently shown signs of mutant powers. I'm here as the follow-up."
"Mutant…" Yuusuke drew the word out as though tasting it, feeling how it lay atop his tongue. "I've been called a lot of things, pal, but I've never heard that one before. You're running a little late, too. I got my 'powers' when I was fourteen."
"When you died."
Yuusuke blinked, regarding the man with new respect. "You guys do your homework."
Logan reached into the pocket of his jacket, pulling out a folded sheet of paper. It crackled loudly as he opened it and read, "Urameshi Yuusuke. Age 19. Photo unavailable. Graduated from Sarayashiki Junior High School at age 16, a year after the arranged date due to poor performance. No records found of any high school enrollment. Excessive absences. Disrespectful. Poor grades. Delinquent. Write ups. Counselor's notes. Detention. Detention. Detention…
"Died at age 14. Death certificate certified by coroner at the local hospital. Wake held at home residence on June 25. No record of a funeral." Logan folded the paper. "We were wondering about that."
Thoroughly intrigued, Yuusuke said, "I did a good deed, and shit happened. Can I see that?" He gestured at the paper, and the man held it out. Yuusuke walked forward and took it, opening it to scan down the small, cramped font. It was in English, but he knew enough to make most of it out aside from a word here and there. He let out a low whistle.
Known addresses. Phone numbers. School records. Grade reports. Physical description. Family history. Arrest record.
Only thing they're missing is my birth sign and species.
"I'm impressed," he admitted. "Stunned and totally creeped out, but mostly just impressed." He read further, and his eyes narrowed, charitable mood evaporating. "… Kuwabara… and Minamino, too. You guys really do your homework."
"You know them?"
"… you might say that."
And it reeks of Reikai.
Yuusuke smelled her before he saw her: mist, dry bones, flowers, and death. He exhaled a long stream of smoke into the night air, snubbing out the cigarette on the ledge circling the top of the apartment building.
"I didn't know you smoked, Yuusuke."
"New habit." He turned, and there she was, just as he remembered, right down to the pink kimono and battered old oar. He could not help but grin. "I figured you'd show up. Whenever my life takes a turn for the weird, you're bound to stop by."
The reaper frowned at the crumpled remains of the cigarette, threads of smoke still rising from it. "You'll rot your lungs out with those. I should know."
"I'm a demon, remember? Makai air is more deadly than a little smoke."
"They're for headaches, Botan." He leaned back against the wall, shoulders hunching and mouth tightening in a frown. "Forget about that. What's going on? What's the toddler scheming now?"
Yuusuke frowned when she would not meet his eyes. "Botan?"
Her reply was so quiet that even his demon hearing had a difficult time picking out the words. "It's not Koenma."
The muscles across his shoulders tensed as every danger instinct he possessed leapt to attention. Everything around him snapped into clearer focus, the scents stronger and the sounds louder, his invisible marks burning. "Not Koenma. Why don't I like the sound of that?"
"It… Well, it's not that bad, Yuusuke."
"Koenma is second-in-command of all Reikai. The only one over his head is Enma himself." Small spider-webs of cracks spread through the concrete wall beneath his grip. "What would possess the God of the Dead to make him think I would do anything for him?"
"He's willing to reinstate you. All of Reikai's resources will be at your disposal. Your team will have seniority again, and freedom to travel between all worlds."
Yuusuke smirked. "So basically, we get zilch."
Botan fidgeted with the trailing ends of her sleeves, picking at the stitches. "Well, travel between the worlds…"
"I can fuel my own portals. You know that. Kuwabara doesn't care, and Hiei and Kurama have their own ways around Reikai regulations." Yuusuke sighed and tilted his head back, looking up at the matte black expanse of the night sky. A new headache was growing between his temples.
Too much energy, and not enough to do with it.
He chuckled ruefully. "Well, what's the mission?"
"You'll do it?"
"Not for that 'travel between worlds' and 'Reikai resources' bull. Call it curiosity." He rummaged through his pocket, retrieving a pack of cigarettes and tapping one out, placing it in his mouth. Botan watched with a disapproving frown as he pinched the end of the cigarette between his thumb and forefinger, concentrating his energy until there was a flare of orange light and a trail of smoke spiraled up from between his fingers.
He rubbed his fingers together, brushing away the ashes. With the first inhale, the stabbing pulse of his headache died into a dull throb. Removing the cigarette from his mouth, he exhaled a long stream of gray-white smoke. He grinned at the ferry girl.
"Don't look so grim. I gotta' know what sort of harebrained crap you want me to pitch to the others."
Reclining back on his elbows, Yuusuke stretched his legs down the jagged slope of the shrine stairs, absently reading the flickers of tension showing plainly in the auras of his three companions –or rather, showing plainly in the auras of two of his companions; the aura of the third member of the party was visible only as a vague sort of violet-black smudge overhead and to one side. Against the gray-white of the early morning sky, the paper wards strung over the stairway trembled in the passing breeze, like strands of tethered birds struggling to free themselves.
He sighed. "It's a bum deal, no way around it."
"I thought bureaucracy crap like this was something humans did, not the Reikai," grumbled Kuwabara.
"You obviously have no prior experience with the Reikai justice system," said Kurama. "Bureaucratic power games like this are nothing new. How did you think Hiei and I were assigned to your team? We certainly didn't volunteer."
"A choice between Ningenkai and Meikai is no choice at all," growled Hiei, his voice filtering down from his perch out of sight in one of the trees. "Slavery or death. There's always the chance of escape from slavery."
"Enma wants us all back under his thumb." Yuusuke's fists clenched. "God, what a pain! We saved the world how many times, again? What happened to gratitude?"
"I wonder if this is another 'save the world' mission," said Kuwabara.
"Some demon causing trouble over in America." Yuusuke shrugged. "Botan said he wants us undercover at a school of mutants, see what we can sniff up. Forget about it. I shouldn't have even bothered you guys. It's a load of crap."
"I wouldn't say that." Kurama straightened, eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "Enma has given us quite a bargaining chip."
Yuusuke and Kuwabara both turned to look at him.
"Say what?" asked Kuwabara.
"A bargaining chip," repeated the fox demon with a small smile. "He needs us. Why else would he try to make a deal with us?"
"You mean the 'Reikai resources' crud he sent Botan with?" Yuusuke sneered. "That's no deal. He might as well have sent us a box of paperclips."
"You're thinking like a human." A gust of wind set the wards to rippling, and Hiei appeared on Kurama's other side. "The Fox is right."
Kurama's smile grew ever-so-slightly smug. "Yuusuke, all of us know that Enma wants nothing more than for you, Hiei, and me to relocate to Makai—"
"Or die," offered the fire demon.
"—or die," Kurama agreed. "Koenma told us as much. Enma has no use for overly powerful demons within Ningenkai. Why, then, would he bother making a deal with us, the team which basically amounts to an embarrassment to his rule?"
"It's an impossible mission and we're all going to get ourselves killed?" suggested Kuwabara.
Hiei snorted. "Toushin-sama is a baby as far as S-classes go, but nothing in Ningenkai will kill him anytime soon, including whatever blundering fools Enma might send after him."
"We're the last resort," continued Kurama. "No one else will do. He needs us. Do you see?"
A slow smile spread across Yuusuke's face, sinister and predatory. "I get it. Oh, this day just got so much better. Feels like Christmas, almost. Hey, Kuwabara, what d'you want from Santa Claus?"
The swordsman clenched a fist and thumped it on the stairs, expression fierce. "I want those spies gone! You know how hard it is to teach a bunch of kids kendo when you're getting tickle feelings every ten minutes? In the middle of sparring? I nearly summoned a spirit sword during a kata lesson!"
"I can agree with that," said Kurama, "to begin with. The watchers are certainly annoying. The travel between worlds would be convenient, as would authorization for living in Ningenkai. Authorization to purchase and cultivate Makai and Reikai plant-life would not be amiss, either. What else did Botan tell you about the mission?"
"Not a lot. I don't think they have much information to go on." Yuusuke frowned. "Some rogue lesser-A-class. According to Botan, he's gathering an army of mutants, planning some sort of rebellion."
"They would make an impressive power-base," said Kurama. "Their own government wants nothing to do with them; they are a valuable untapped resource."
Yuusuke snickered. "Yeah, and doesn't that sound familiar?"
"Indeed, it does. But we, at least, will be paid in full for our services."