I don't own Yu Yu Hakusho or any of the characters. Enjoy.
What does one do when one has a bit of an identity crisis? Especially when there's more than one identity?
Searing, hot pain tore through him like nothing he had experienced in either of his lives leading up to this tournament. Even the death tree inside of him that had literally been feeding off of his life was a mere sting compared to the burning, corroding pain that covered nearly all of his body.
He fell to his knees first, the jarring halt to his descent keeping him conscious long enough to see the crazed smile of sadistic contentment on Karasu's face before he fell forward, eyes closing in pain and exhaustion. Koto yelled something he couldn't comprehend, then he could hear Juri start to count, though the numbers were nothing more than sounds blending in with the cacophony of shouts, cheers, and the weak thumping of his own heartbeat.
He still had enough energy though, but he needed to move quickly. One last attack would end the existence of that creature before him. He would not give up until he did his part to protect Keiko, Shizuru and his mother.
She would not be allowed to know how he died, bruised, bloody, burned and broken in an arena filled with hatred. No, perhaps Koenma could manufacture an accident or some simplified version of the sacrifice that he would be making that day.
Hands clenching, he ground his teeth and pushed himself up to his knees. Karasu seemed surprised at first, amazed that he still had anything left to give. His eyes crossed a moment before he could once again focus on the cut sitting square in Karasu's chest. Now it was time. Now he would end this. Now th-
It was gone.
All of his energy was …gone?
He blinked once as silence fell over the stadium. Karasu lowered his hand and laughed. Head tilted back in sick glee as he blinked again, trying to summon the strength he had – he knew he had! – just a moment ago. When Karasu finally stopped laughing, deep violet eyes focused on his startled face, smirk back in place.
"That won't work this time," Karasu said, hands in his pockets. "Sadly, you won't be walking away from this. I really hated to ruin that pretty face of yours, but what can I say? It needs to be done."
He blinked, watching the crow turn and begin to stroll away. He was startled when the ground broke open in front of him, clamps grabbing onto each of his arms. He tried to pull back, but all of his energy was gone, and the pain was starting to cloud his vision.
The eye of the mad bomb pulled itself free of the ground, blinking in his face. It said… something, not that it mattered what its words were. He could hear his name being shouted, but he couldn't place whether it was Yusuke or possibly Hiei who were speaking. Maybe it was Kuwabara? Koenma was there too, but their voices were too indistinguishable.
He could hear his heartbeat slow, echoing in his ears and drowning out everything around him. His eyes were locked on the eye before him. It blinked once, the large dark pupil reflecting somber looking golden eyes, silver strands blowing across his face in the gentle breeze that came in the aftermath of so many explosions. One silver ear twitched and he closed his eye before the searing pain tore through his body once more, followed by one clear voice screaming out his name.
Emerald eyes snapped opened and he pushed himself up, panting slightly at the nightmare that claimed him just before his waking on his stomach. There was a knock on his door and he called out a rather weak greeting before the door cracked open, revealing his mother's smiling face. He finished pushing himself up and turned to a sitting position while she sat gracefully on the side of his bed, fluffing his bed head.
"Shuichi dear, I'm going to run out to the store for a few things," Shiori said. Her son opened his mouth to say something, but the slight hoarseness of his voice gave her the delay she needed to interrupt him. "No, I do not need you coming along, dear. You just got back from that trip with your friends and caught up with all of your schoolwork this week. You're obviously exhausted to have slept passed noon."
"Noon?" he repeated, looking to his alarm clock. It blinked 12:47pm at him, and he blinked back.
"I came in here around ten to shut off the alarm. You didn't even move," Shiori chuckled. "Don't worry, there's lunch in the fridge. You just relax, I'll be alright."
"Of course, mother." Shiori pulled the door shut and left him alone to his own thoughts. He sighed, closing his eyes and falling back into his pillow, wincing slightly at the lingering pain down his left side. Karasu was dead, and though he lost the fight, their team won the Dark Tournament and their families were safe. They returned from Hanging Neck Island in the evening, and he had a nice, quiet dinner with his mother while she giggled about that Hatanaka man she has been seeing.
That had been a full week ago, and his sleep had been relatively peaceful until that night. Everything was as it should be, and while he expected to be plagued by the crow for some time, he hadn't expected to have such a vivid dream this long after the event. Perhaps it had taken a greater toll on him than he believed. His body had yet to fully recover, even after Yukina assisting his healing.
Emerald eyes opened again as he sensed a familiar energy outside of his window. With a sigh, he sat up slowly and eased himself out of bed to open the window to allow his closest friend into his room. Hiei looked at him for a moment and he gave a small grin before returning to sit his bed, allowing Hiei to choose between the chair, window, or desk if he so desired for a seat.
Not surprisingly, Hiei returned to the window.
"Nice to see you looking so well," he began. "Did you just waken from your hibernation?"
"A few days ago, yes," Hiei said, continuing to eye the apparent human before him. "You?"
"I was just awakened a few minutes ago by my mother, though I've been managing the past week just fine," was the reply. "Would you like something to eat, Hiei?" There was a quiet grunt, most likely a 'no' to the idea of human food, before Hiei nestled back and closed his eyes, a pensive silence falling between the two.
"They are simply sore spots now, though I appreciate your concern." There was another grunt and a barely contained smile at his short friend as silence settled in around them once more.
"The idiots are alive."
"I doubt you came here to inform me how your two favorite humans are doing, Hiei." This earned him a small smirk and the briefest of chuckles as crimson eyes opened to him once more.
"I was curious as to how you were faring." The honest request to which there was no simple response. With the drain on his energy being as severe as it was in the tournament, it had taken time for him to recover completely. However the access to his demonic side had given him a bit of a buffer to allow a steady healing without giving away his predicament to curious eyes at home or at school, where his absence was noted with some suspicion and much concern.
"I'm tired, which is to be expected," he began, waiting to be interrupted if he didn't say what Hiei wanted to know quickly enough. "I didn't have the luxury to be able to hibernate until I had recovered all of my strength, with human responsibilities and the like. Today was the longest I've slept since this form's childhood, I suppose. My wounds were taken care of relatively quickly, and my everyday life has neither exposed nor reopened any to cause any alarm."
"And the nightmares?" Ah. So that's what Hiei was so concerned about. He must've gotten into the habit of watching the fox's dreams again. They were more entertaining to the little fire demon when they were past memories, such as heists gone wrong, and he could watch Yoko squirm a bit before figuring his way out, as he always seemed to do.
"Tonight was the first, I suppose."
"It was the third at least."
An eyebrow arched slightly as emerald eyes studied the male before him. "I'm curious as to how you know how many dreams I've had while hibernating," he said eventually.
"Don't be cute, fox," Hiei said, turning to look out the window. "I could check on you and the idiots from Genkai's after I recovered. You had that dream twice before and accepted your death without a struggle. The first time I thought you had actually allowed yourself to die, since your mind was completely silent until one of those alarms went off to wake you for school."
"Now I'm curious. What was different this third time?"
"She used your human name."
Silence claimed them once more, but it was not as comfortable as it usually was. Hiei never turned to meet his gaze, nor relaxed at the apparent peace in the room. Instead, he seemed to tense up after voicing his revelation, concerned at what his friend would say.
Not that there was much to say. He was shocked but not surprised by this revelation. Though he couldn't fathom how he could forget having those dreams – he never forgot anything – he knew that Hiei would not make up such a story just to tease his mind. He could recall seeing Karasu's face in his dreams, but it was along with Touya's, Ura Urishima's, and the other opponents he faced. Nothing stuck like this last, complete dream, though his mind had seen it before, without his knowledge.
"Disconcerting." Hiei seemed to sigh, turning to look at his friend. "I'm curious as to what excuse you can come up with to explain it away."
"I'm glad you find me so entertaining." Arms crossed, eyes closed, and right leg set upon left knee. It was clearly evident to Hiei that he was thinking, which thankfully gave him the silence he desired as he replayed the dream in his mind.
Clearly it wasn't a memory, as he had access to energy to make that one final plant and was no longer transformed by the end of the match. However, the pain and shouts from Yusuke had been legitimate, as well as his inability to gain a victory for his team though he had bested the crow. Obviously he had survived the match, but the nightmare was of an inevitable demise he had accepted the moment he pushed himself off the ground that last time.
"Who are you?"
That was unexpected. The quizzical look he gave Hiei conveyed that well enough, since he shifted slightly and tried again. "What's your name?"
"I can assure you that neither amnesia nor a counterfeit have set in, Hiei," he sighed, hand massaging the bridge of his nose.
"Clearly you were content to let Yoko die while Shuichi could not."
Shock must have been over his features this time, as Hiei seemed to settle into a bit of pride at stumping the fox-turned-human. In fact, the only thing more surprising than the sheer number of words the fire demon had used today was the fact that he had hit the nail dead on the head.
Shuichi could not die, at least not since Yusuke had saved him on the roof of the hospital. Shuichi had too much to live for in this world, most importantly his mother who had been the one to call out his human name and to the human and demon friends he owed that life to, though they called him by a completely different title.
Yoko, however, had already lived. He had already killed, maimed, tortured, robbed, destroyed, and died. His life had been long enough, and it would serve at least as a down payment for all of his crimes committed. His death was assured with the life he had lived. It was only by luck he had survived as long as he had. Even now he was on borrowed human time until something caught up with him again.
But Yusuke hadn't called out Yoko's name, as he hadn't called out Shuichi's. He said Kurama, as they all did, including Hiei on rare occasion when 'fox' wasn't formal enough for their current conversation. Kurama was the one they all needed to pull through, and he had, at the sacrifice of energy from Yoko to keep his heart beating and lungs from collapsing.
He clearly was Yoko in his dream. He saw himself. He allowed himself to die to make amends.
Not for the human's mistakes, but for the demon's failure.
"I failed you all, didn't I?" he eventually said. This caught Hiei off guard, and he would have smirked had the seriousness of the situation been lost on him. Instead, he sighed, falling back on the bed with his eyes closed. "At the tournament. It was the most important round in the fight and I let you down."
"The outcome of your match changed nothing. We won, they died. It was how it should have been."
"Kuwabara would have been spared facing the elder Toguro, or you could have avoided fighting Bui. Yusuke could have avoided facing the Younger entirely. Had I not had my human restraints-"
"You would not have met those idiots and I would not have failed to make humans into a demon army. You'd have a kingdom in Demon World and I would have slain hundreds, much to that impotent ruler's dismay."
He sat up again, eyeing Hiei and his growing frustration. He should have been keeping a running tally on how many words he said today. Yusuke would never believe him.
"It's good to know you don't regret our failed heist or our current arrangements." Hiei rolled his eyes, though relaxing slightly on his perch before he continued where his red-headed friend left off.
"You and I both know that you would not have kept me or the idiot from fighting in that final round," he said. "Toguro would not have let Yusuke get off so easily, even if we had swept the first three matches. Your loss ensured my consumption of the dragon and that Kuwabara finally focused and won a match at the tournament. Don't get all melodramatic now because you lost one match for our betterment."
"That fool Bakken did not count and you know it!"
He was slightly taken aback by Hiei's outburst, as was the fire demon apparently, who returned to his seat the minute he realized he was standing with a quiet 'hn.' He only just became aware of how much it would have hurt his usually silent friend had he allowed himself to die in any of his numerous, life-threatening matches.
"Our 'team' would not have made it as far as we did if it had not been for you," Hiei continued much more calmly. "Don't think that only your humanity has a right to survive. You are who you are, and no matter who you choose to be, we will always have your back."
Hiei stood and adjusted his cloak, pausing as he watched Shiori pull into the driveway.
He turned back and met emerald eyes that looked much less confused than they had been a few moments ago. "My mother named me Shuichi, and that is the given name of this human form." Hiei turned back to the window, eyes closed and sighed.
"You, however, are one who knows my secret, and know me better than many of these humans ever will. The level of trust and faith that I have in you is also something that many of these humans will never know." A hand rested on Hiei's shoulder and he looked at it calmly, but curious as to where this was going.
"You may call me Kurama, my true name, and who I truly am." Kurama sighed himself, watching his mother get out the car with two bags and head to the front door. "Like my power, my past has not left me though I escaped here. I am who I am because of both lives I've lived. I could never be fully Yoko, or completely Shuichi. I am in the middle, colored by both halves. A demon in a human shell."
Hiei smirked, hopping out onto the branch of the tree that had been his perch for many years beside his closest friend. "Whatever you say, fox."
And with that he disappeared, leaving said companion to shake his head and chuckle.
"Why did I expect any less from you, my friend?"
With that he turned to start his day – now that it was almost two in the afternoon – and got dressed, heading downstairs as his mother came out of the kitchen with a pair of sandwiches.
"Ah, Shuichi! I wasn't sure if you had eaten yet," she said with a smile, sitting in front of the television and gesturing for him to sit with her. He obliged his mother, smiling as he took a sandwich and she flipped through the channels for something to watch, settling on a game show.
The two sat comfortable for the next hour, munching on their sandwiches and calling out answers, guesses, or whether or not the grand prizes were grand enough. Soon, the show was over, as well as the next one, and Shiori stood to her feet, taking both cleared plates. "What are your plans for the rest of the afternoon?" she asked her son as he stood and followed her to the kitchen.
"I'll probably work on some homework for a bit, then tend to the garden, since you seem to be going out," he said, smiling at the small, school-girl giggle that left his mother's lips.
"I'm just going to help Hatanaka get his son a birthday present," she said, slightly defensively but not even remotely upset. "Oh, I ran into your friend Yusuke while I was out. He said the silliest thing…"
"Oh?" he wasn't too surprised by Yusuke saying silly things, especially with all the blows to the head the young human had taken recently.
"He asked how you were doing, to which of course I said you were doing well. Then he told me to tell Kurama hey, and to catch up with him later." Had her back not been turned, she would have noticed the palm that caught her son's face as he dropped his head, as well as the drop of his shoulders. "Was he referring to you, dear?"
"Kurama is such an interesting name. I'm curious as to what you may have done to earn such a mysterious name." Here she turned smiled coyly at her son, who nearly rolled his eyes while he chuckled at his mother's behavior. "What? Am I not allowed to call you that?"
Here he paused for a moment, and looked at his mother. She was smiling innocently at him, completely unaware of his earlier talk with Hiei.
"Of course you are, mother," he said with a small smile of his own. She lit up, clapping her hands in front of her face.
"So do I get to know the story behind the name, Kurama?"
He was almost surprised at how easily it rolled off of his mother's tongue, or how relieved he was to hear her say it. "That story is much too long for someone who has to get ready for a date." Shiori's eyes widened as she looked to the clock and realized she had to change before Hatanaka picked her up.
"It's not a date!" she said, already blushing slightly and once again the image of a schoolgirl with a crush. "You're just trying to change the subject, Shuichi!"
Her son pulled her into a hug, kissing her on the forehead before leading her to the stairs. "Mother, I would hate to rush you, or through my story, so you'll just have to be patient."
"Hatanaka can wait here," she tried. "I just haven't talked to you much about your friends, and that Yusuke is such a nice boy. I just want to be in on your little secret."
"Nothing would make me happier, but how about after your date?" Shiori pouted at her son, who had managed to become the parent once again. She turned and headed upstairs to change, leaving her son behind.
Green eyes watched in quiet amusement as she made it to the top then headed to her room. They then turned and looked to the clock. Hatanaka would be there soon, judging by her concern. He should probably go and thank Yusuke for his slip.
And then ensure he never made that mistake again.
Afterwards, he would go from the beginning and tell his mother how he got his name. A chuckle crossed his lips as he thought of his two birth mothers actually meeting each other. He doubted the kitsune had ever seen a human before, and he knew the human had not knowingly met any demons. Her initial introduction to Hiei had been quite interesting to recall.
But tonight would be about her getting to know him. Now that it was set before him, he had to admit that he was slightly nervous. She would probably think him crazy, or pulling an elaborate prank. Though he could start out simply by showing her a few tricks, or pull one of the many seedlings and sprouts out of his hair.
Tonight would be interesting at least.
As he sat and waited, he heard a car pull up a few moments before he heard his mother running down the hall and down the stairs. Green eyes widened as she slid in front of the mirror, adjusting her hair and her shirt and her skirt and fixing her earrings almost simultaneously.
"Which should I use?"
"Which name do you prefer?" Shiori asked. "Yusuke clearly has been calling you Kurama for a while, but if you don't like that name I wouldn't want-"
"Mother!" her son put his hands on her shoulders, catching her attention, and for a moment she caught pain passing over his eyes. "I want you to call me your son. Either name is fine by me as long as either is fine by you. One is a secret shared by you and my closest friends; the other is the name you gave to me. The choice is yours. For now, go have fun on your date. Hatanaka's waiting."
Shiori kissed her son on the forehead before grabbing her shoes – heels – by the door. "You will always be my little Shuichi, no matter what name anyone calls you."
"Then make sure you're back by eight o'clock, young lady." Shiori gave him a swat on the shoulder before heading out to the waiting car. The redhead watched the pair leave with a smile before shutting the door and heading upstairs.
He had no doubt that he would get very little work done. However, the student in him wouldn't let him give up his position at the top of the class. He was Shuichi Minamino, after all.
He sat at his desk and pulled out his math textbook. A dozen or so problems were due this chapter.
He closed his book and stood, heading downstairs to get his shoes.
Math could wait. He had an appointment with Yusuke Urameshi.
After this… minor bit of diplomacy, the math would be taken care of. One had to keep one's priorities straight, and he would not let Yusuke get off so easily. He was Yoko Kurama, after all.