"Damn it, Kuwabara! Do I have to break all your ribs all over again?!"
"Gimme a break, Urameshi! I'm fine! I could take on that whole team all over again by myself, if I wanted to! Thanks to Yukina, I'm the strongest person in here right now!"
"Yeah, great, you can make it to the bathroom without screaming! That doesn't mean you're going out!"
It was true that Kuwabara was far from healthy. In fact, if Yusuke had actually decided to try and stop him from leaving the rooms, he probably could have managed it with little difficulty, although keeping Kuwabara there would of course have been another matter. However, the standoff at the door was broken, by the weary intervention of Kurama.
"Really, Yusuke," Kurama said, limping over to the other two boys. He was smiling, almost apologetically, and so even Yusuke knew what he was going to say even before he said it. "Don't you know that it's a good idea for invalids to have some fresh air, every once in a while?"
"How does that rank up with bed rest?" Yusuke demanded. "Because I'm thinking getting some damn sleep tops. Believe me, I would know."
Kurama, perhaps due to simple exhaustion or perhaps to his normally easygoing personality, simply shook his head. He was still quite weak. Yukina had tried to heal his injuries from his fights, but it turned out that the remnants of the Deadly Vetch had interfered with her efforts to repair his body safely. Progress had been minimal and, in Yusuke's very definite opinion, Kurama had even less right to be asking to go wandering around the island.
But Kurama was not to be dissuaded, if the suddenly somber expression was any indication. Indeed, even Yusuke's determination couldn't hold up against the demon's counter.
"Remember, Yusuke, I spent a good deal of my time in a hospital before I met you. Not because I was sick or ill myself, of course, but my mother was. I saw the positive effect even an hour out in the hospital gardens could have on her."
This evidently threw Yusuke for a loop. He opened his mouth several times, obviously trying to come up with some sort of counter…before sighing in defeat.
"Damn it, what the hell am I supposed to say to that?" he demanded, a petulant whine in his voice. He stepped aside, however, and waved impatiently at the door. "All right, all right. Just don't be gone too long. It sounded like we pissed off a lot of demons by pulling off that win against Masho. I'd hate to damage our reputation even further by tearing up the island to look for you guys."
Both Kuwabara and Kurama knew that Yusuke would absolutely love to do so, under normal circumstances, but that his concern for their safety was just overriding his heightened violent tendencies in the wake of the brutal battle. It was touching, really, coming from Yusuke. Promising not to be gone too long, and to keep in touch if something happened, the two left the hotel room.
They said nothing to one another until they'd left the hotel for the outside world, however, probably both sharing the same irrational fear that Yusuke might overhear them. But, finally, stepping out under the stormy grey sky, Kuwabara turned to Kurama. "Listen, Kurama. I know what I said, but the thing is…I need to find someone, and I'm not really sure where to start. It'll probably take me a bit, so maybe you should…"
Kurama held up a hand, and smiled as Kuwabara obligingly paused in his well-meaning advice.
"I know," said the wounded demon. "In fact, that's partly why I offered. I think I have an idea of where we might find him."
He didn't need to say anything more.
It was a little while to get to the place Kurama had in mind, especially including one agreed-upon diversion to one of the little concession stands that dotted the arena. Even Kuwabara, who was at least in a state fit to move around, was panting for breath by the end. He knew when they'd arrived, however. In fact, he wondered how he'd never heard of this place being on the island before to begin with.
It was a tiny graveyard. For all the demons that had fought and died in the Dark Tournament so far, there were maybe two dozen graves dotting the slope leading up to the great mountain. They were graves, though – all were marked with some sort of sign or symbol stuck into the dirt, occasionally even a picture, or flowers, like he would normally expect on a grave back home. These markers were the only indication that anyone was buried here. There were no fences, no signs. As far as Kuwabara could tell, it had been chosen by some sort of unspoken consensus, and the dead had been buried where there was room.
It was also quite deserted, but for themselves, and one mourner kneeling at a grave with freshly turned dirt. As Kuwabara drew nearer, he saw Touya's hands clasped in front of him. The demon…the one that had so brutally injured Kurama before proving to be one of their only allies in the entire day's mess…really did seem to be praying.
They couldn't draw much nearer, though. Touya's eyes flew open as Kuwabara took another step. The demon whirled to ace them, going from a seiza position to a fighting stance with commendable speed. All the same, neither Kuwabara nor Kurama missed the way his breath hitched with pain at the sudden movement, or the way he was slightly hunched over. Touya was in pain, just as they were.
He seemed surprised, at first, at the sight of them. Surprised, and then…resigned.
"If you have come to take your vengeance on me, I understand," said Touya. Despite this, both his arms remained bare of any sort of ice weaponry. Kuwabara almost fancied he heard Touya's voice shaking. It was the sort of tremor he knew well, that of false bravado at the end of the line. "All I ask is that we move away from this place before you do so. This is a sacred place…the ones buried here should know peace."
The sincerity and earnestness in his voice was…a little overwhelming. Kuwabara was still so used to demons as bloodthirsty, cruel, evil creatures. Indeed, it seemed that many of them were. But to see Touya here, earnestly pleading with them to respect the dead before taking their revenge on him…revenge for what? For the actions of his bastard of a leader, for his scumbag of a sponsor?
If he was perfectly honest with himself, Kuwabara couldn't even really blame Touya for how he'd fought against Kurama. He honestly believed that Kurama didn't, either. Touya had been upset over Gamma's death. The fact that he was here at Gamma's grave was proof of that. And he'd seen Kurama as a threat to be removed.
If someone had killed Yusuke like that, Kuwabara wasn't sure that he wouldn't have hurt them just the same. It was an ugly thought, but the Dark Tournament was an ugly place.
And yet, here he stood, ready to offer them their justice on behalf of a team that was either dead or had apparently abandoned him. For all the dirty tricks he'd been complicit in, Kuwabara couldn't help but think that there was really an honor to him, of a sort.
It was why he'd wanted so much to come and find him.
Kurama, as always, proved the eloquent one. "We aren't here for revenge. If we were, you aren't the one we would be seeking out. I suppose we only wanted to find you, Touya. We wanted to see how you were faring, after the fight."
Kuwabara admired Kurama's tact. If he'd been the one to speak first, he probably would have come right out with "we wanted to see if your leader had finished you off", or something to that effect. For all the awful people they'd faced so far, he'd never yet seen anyone turn so quickly and brutally on a teammate like Risho had. He'd been unable to shake the fear that Risho might have killed him, when there were no more witnesses, out of anger at his loss. Maybe Kurama had feared the same.
Touya, for his part, seemed genuinely surprised at their reasoning. He faltered from his fighting stance, eyes widening, and Kuwabara heard him gasp softly.
He recovered well, though, shifting easily from a fighting stance to an attention stance, like the soldier everyone kept telling Kuwabara he was.
"I can recover. I imagine I'm doing as well as either of you are, after…everything."
His voice broke, just a bit, on the last word.
"So…" said Kuwabara, cautiously, knowing that he wasn't always the best at saying the right thing. "Guess you don't have magic healing powers, huh?"
Yukina had, and Yukina and Touya were both ice demons. It seemed a logical enough question.
Judging by the fact that Touya's injuries from Kurama were covered by a clumsy bandage job, and he was still obviously suffering from the hit from Risho, it seemed unlikely. On the other hand, Touya hadn't even summoned up an ice sword when he thought Kurama and Kuwabara had come to kill him. Maybe he was just tired.
But Touya dispelled that thought with the puzzled look on his face. "Healing powers?" Smiling wryly, he shook his head. "I wish I did. I might have been able to do some good today."
"Well…" Damn it, what did he say to someone like Touya? Yusuke, and even Kurama and Hiei, they were easy to pull out of depression. Touya, though…well, circumstances seemed to have understandably made Touya even more grim.
He finally settled for the easy option, and held up the bag he'd picked up at the concession stand. It was full of greasy, unhealthy food, but it was food. "Look," he said, his tone just as somber as Touya's was. "I know how I always get, after a big fight. I mean, I could eat a cow, and I'm used to getting my head kicked in. With the way those demons were freaking out, at the end, I kind of figured you'd gotten away for a bit. Kind of figured you hadn't eaten yet. Well…we brought food. Want some?"
Touya's reaction was simultaneously heartbreaking and, really, kind of cute. He stared at Kuwabara as though he'd suddenly started speaking a completely different language. The expression of utter, unguarded, genuine surprise spoke to Kuwabara, and he suddenly knew he'd made the right call.
The demon hastily recovered. He ducked his head in a vain attempt to hide the vulnerable moment, before turning that into another bow.
"It would be an honor. Thank you."
So, this entire fic was one big experiment on my part.
I know it's common fanon/canon to portray Jin and Touya as good friends, and it's a dynamic I quite enjoy writing. However, there is a lot we don't know about them or how they feel about one another, so I started thinking, what if they weren't really good friends before or during their fight with Team Urameshi? What if they just noticed one another, noticed that they both weren't entirely okay with how things were shaping up, but Touya being Touya he just wanted to stay focused on the mission. So he never actually approached Jin and Jin let Touya do his own thing, and so their fight with Team Urameshi was what actually galvanized them to take their first steps towards getting to know one another properly? It was kind of fun to do, and I hope I did a good job with it.
I also wanted to explore the darker sides of their personalities, because I think they do have darker, more vicious sides. Maybe it's just me, but I think part of the reason Touya lost to Kurama was that he got too emotional, got too invested in enjoying Kurama's suffering as penance for killing Gama, and you really just have to look at the expression Jin turned on Bakken to see the truth there, that he's not all happy wind demon.
This fic is also me working out some of my teenage and pre-teen issues about this show, namely all the issues I developed by being met with "eeew!" as a response when I would tell any fellow fans that Kuwabara was one of my favorite characters instead of Hiei or Kurama. This fic is meant to respond, in a way, to all the stupid fics I read in the prime of my fandom that referred to Kuwabara as the eminently imaginative "Kuwabaka". He's a genuinely good guy, he means well, and his scenes can still move me, and anyone who puts him down just because he's not attractive is shallow as fuck. I wanted to write a fic with Kuwabara doing good things and being there for people and protecting the downtrodden and generally being the awesome guy I wish more of the fandom would admit that he is.
And, finally, this fic is my love for crack pairings. I really do think Kuwabara/Touya could work, if they'd had more interactions. They're similar on a lot of levels, and it kind of amused me to think that maybe Kuwabara had a "type", and that type just happened to be "ice demon". And so I also wanted to see if I could build a relationship between several established canon characters that had never actually interacted on screen. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I had fun writing it, and I hope you all enjoy reading it. It clocked in at 7,000 words, so there will be more to come over the next couple of days.