Time observed and remembered, a walk in the rain does wonders for the heart. Kuwabara/Kurama
Set in Mangaverse, post-series, Kuwabara/Kurama. Nothing explicit. Please R&R, Thank you.
“I must return home. To Makai.”
That was the start, and the end, of their last conversation.
Four years ago, Yukina had been called back to the floating city where she had been born. Kazuma never did get up the courage to ask her to marry him. He wondered if that was the reason she had left… his lack.
Lack of courage, lack of personality. Whatever he had done wrong, whatever faults he had, she had left with a smile on her face.
“You’ll find someone who loves you, Kazuma. I know it.”
He couldn’t find reassurance in her words. He knew she had rehearsed everything she would say to him when she left.
For his part, he said nothing. She had gone through her speech, touched his hand, and disappeared to her homeland.
Somehow, he did not feel as empty as he had expected to. Lonely, for sure, but not empty. Just lonely.
Four years was a long time, but he still thought of her, now and then. High school was a memory, and college was almost over. Kurama had said once, ‘Soon it will be time for you to join the waking world.’ Kazuma had never understood the sentiment exactly, but it was interesting if nothing else. Kurama was interesting.
And sitting a meter away from him.
It was one of those rare, strange occasions where they had managed—beyond all conventional reasoning, as schedules were usually incompatible—to cross paths. At this train station no less. The particular station had memories.
He remembered the day they had met here for Genkai’s funeral and the reading of her will. There had been tears, general sadness, but also the feeling of celebration. Genkai had been a good teacher, and had lived a long life. They would all miss her.
Five years since then, and four years since Yukina had left. He had seen Kurama maybe twice since then.
‘I will also be attending Toudai, but only for undergraduate studies. I might transfer to Kyoto.’ Kurama had said. He would study biology. Kazuma went to engineering. Yuusuke would not go to college—he and Keiko were moving to Osaka.
He wondered if they were well. Did Kurama keep an eye on them? He seemed to have eyes everywhere.
It had been so long ago, so far away in his memory.
He wanted to say something to Kurama, say ‘hello, how are you, how are studies…’ anything.
The words would not come. When would be the next time they would meet? A few days? Weeks? Years?
He fumbled the words in his mind, wondering if he would have the courage to say anything before the train arrived to sweep away his opportunities. He felt stupid. Maybe all those years of Hiei telling him he was an idiot did something to his brain…
“Would you like to come over?”
Kazuma blinked, and looked over to Kurama.
“We never see each other anymore, so I thought you’d like to come over for a little while. My apartment is only three stations over.” He said. He did not smile, or even look over, but Kazuma could feel the kindness in his words that was not fueled by pity or the obligation to do ‘the right thing.’
“Sure.” He said. “We should catch up.” He sent a smile over, and it was returned. Slight, almost nonexistent, but it was there. Kazuma wondered if his friend smiled very often anymore.
When the train came, they walked on together.
The first thing Kazuma noticed about Kurama’s apartment was that he had probably tapped into a bank computer or something. For a college kid, the place was huge.
Opulent, perhaps, was the word.
“I, uh… where...”
“Do I get the money for this place?” Kurama supplied.
“You don’t want to know.”
Kazuma silenced, and occupied himself with his shoes. Kurama got his off first, and moved into the apartment proper.
I’ve never been in an apartment with a foyer before. He thought, fiddling with the shoelaces.
“Kazuma, would you like tea or sake?” Kurama asked him, moving about the
“Er, tea’s okay. I don’t drink sake too much.”
“Wise choice. I remember the last time you got drunk.”
“That was five years ago.”
“And still funny.”
Kazuma smiled, finally removed his shoes, and walked into the apartment.
“You never got drunk.” Kazuma stated, taking a seat at the table. Kurama laughed again, a nice laugh.
A sad laugh.
“No, I left it to you guys. Remind me to never give Hiei sake again.” He said.
“That was hysterical. Never did think the shrimp could hold liquor.”
“No,” Kurama agreed. “He’s never had much of a tolerance. My mother had an American recipe for, what do they call it, Rum Cake. He was sloshed.”
Kazuma balked. “How much did she use?”
“150 liters, or something thereabouts.” Kurama said, chuckling. “For a demon, he has very low tolerance.”
Kurama smiled again, and Kazuma smiled back.
They spoke for hours, revisiting memories. Kurama smiled more and more often. When the time had come for Kazuma to leave, Kurama had walked him part of the way, still smiling when they finally said goodbye. When they parted, Kazuma had looked back once, and Kurama had gone.
Three days passed, and the skies wept.
“An expected five meters of rainfall for the Shinjuku area…”
Kazuma wondered at his fellow students. The day had begun nice enough, but by afternoon, the sky had darkened and the clouds, pregnant with rain, birthed their storm. He almost pitied all his fellows for not bringing umbrellas and the like, but at the same time…
It’s rain-time. They should know better by now.
He stayed late that evening, studying. When library hours officially ended, he hurried away, into the rain and darkness, off to the station.
He had not expected to see Kurama again, not so soon.
He stood there, long hair plastered to his face by the rain, in light clothes certainly not suited for a walk in the rain. There were no overheads on the platform, and he was exposed. Kazuma almost laughed.
“Weren’t you supposed to be the sensible one?” He asked, holding the umbrella over both of them. Kurama seemed surprised to see him.
“I… wasn’t thinking, really.” He admitted.
“You’re soaked.” Kazuma said. It was unnecessary, and he felt guilty, like he was rubbing it in.
“You’re here late.” Kurama murmured, wrapping his arms about himself.
“Yeah, pretty good.”
Then, silence. The rain beat rhythm on the stretched plastic umbrella; trains came and went.
Kurama began to shiver. It was slight, but enough for Kazuma to notice. Without thinking, he wrapped his free arm around Kurama’s shoulders, pulling him close.
There they stood, alone in the rain. A train stopped, and left.
“That was your train.” Kazuma stated.
Kazuma looked down to his friend. Kurama’s face was blank. Was he irritated by Kazuma’s touch? Did something happen at his apartment? Did someone say something to him, something hurtful? Why was he so quiet?
“Do you…” Kazuma began. He wanted to do something, make him feel better…
“Uh… Do you want to come to my place then? It’s not too far…”
“Yes. Yeah, I do.”
Together, they walked through the rain.
He felt mortified. Totally, utterly embarrassed to have Kurama come to his small flat after being in that penthouse of his… it was like some twisted parody of the Prince and the Pauper. He wondered what Kurama must be thinking. That the place was pathetic, why he had come over in the first place, why he hung out with the big oaf of the group…
“It’s cozy.” Was the first thing he said, the softness returning to his face. “Comfortable… you’re very at home here.”
Kazuma stuttered his thanks and grabbed towels from the small closedt by his bathroom, nearly pulling out everything else in the process. He clutched them in his arms, feeling foolish, awkward, and young.
Which, compared to the however many hundred years old demon sitting on the cushion in his ‘living room,’ he was. He wondered why Kurama even took the time to spend with a human. Sure, over three years they had fought together in battle, and the following time they had met lesser foes, but now was a time for peace. Was there truly anything two people who knew each other only through battle could share? He puzzled this, but kept his thoughts to himself. If nothing else, he could try his very best to be a gracious host. Towels in hand, he turned to his friend.
“You gotta dry off, or you’ll get sick, and then we’ll both be sorry.” He said, forcing a smile. Kurama laughed.
“Demons don’t get sick, Kazuma.” He said, shaking his head. Drops of water splashed around him. Kazuma stared at him, at a loss for what to say. He could not just sit there and be cold for the rest of his stay. Kazuma would not have it.
So, he sat in front of his friend, and placed the towel over his hair.
“I’m not going to take chances. I don’t want to see you get some demon cold or something.” He rubbed the towel over Kurama’s head, who began to chuckle again.
“No laughing, you. I don’t want Yomi or whoever opening a can of whup-ass on me for letting you get sick. And I don’t want to have to see someone as pretty as you look like death warmed over in the morning…” He paused.
I… didn’t just say that. Really. I’m just imagining that I spoke out loud.
“You think I’m pretty?” Kurama asked beneath the towel.
Kazuma answered with a very unintelligent ‘Uh…’ and continued to dry Kurama’s hair.
Kurama grabbed his hands.
“Do you?” He asked, looking at him from beneath the towel. Kazuma had a sudden mental image of a deer caught in headlights.
“I… well, prettier than me, that’s for sure.”
“You aren’t ugly.” Kurama said, letting go of his hands. Kazuma’s brain decided to blank.
“I’m serious.” Kurama said, his face suddenly becoming fierce, impassioned. “I never thought you were ugly.”
“I’m… I’m not…”
“You grew in to yourself.” Kurama said, taking his face in his hands. He smiled. “The haircut wasn’t too great, but you look good now. Handsome.”
“You’re kidding me.” Kazuma said. He was surprised, and flattered. Kurama, of all people, thought he was handsome.
“I don’t lie. Not to my friends. I never lied to you.” Kurama answered.
“No. I lied to Hiei once, but it was necessary. I don’t like to lie.” His face was serious, his eyes hard.
Kazuma had never before felt to use beautiful as an adjective for a man, but for Kurama, it was appropriate. Of course, he’d never wanted to kiss another man before, but this seemed to be a special case.
“I don’t think you’re pretty.” He murmured, mimicking Kurama, and placing a palm on his cheek. “But, I do think you’re beautiful.” He could feel the flush creeping under Kurama’s skin. “And I…” he sighed. “I can’t say much of anything.” He said, honestly. Kurama’s face lit, a smile he had never seen before. He leaned close, and they kissed.
Kazuma wrapped his arms around his friend for the second time that night, and remembered Yukina’s words.
You will find someone who loves you.
The first time they made love, Kurama had guided him. He felt clumsy and awkward, unworthy. It was strange, one moment they had been talking over a movie—some foreign crap that they had picked up together—the next, Kazuma was wondering where his shirt had gone. He had stuttered that he had never done anything like this before, and Kurama had gently steered him through. Their first time had been wonderful, the second memorable. Every time after was true pleasure.
He would lie awake at night sometimes, wondering at his blessing. He had never before given a thought before towards Kurama being a lover. Not when they were young and fighters.
But now was a time of peace, and they had found something they could truly share.
They had their difficulties, as every couple would. They argued over stupid things, and later laughed about them. They tried to never go to bed angry. For the most part, they succeeded. Sometimes, the anger was too petty or too foolish to put away, even though neither of them thought it that way at those times.
Nevertheless, those days passed, and their lives, for the most part, were calm.
After three months, they moved in together. A new place, closer to the campus, and to places they knew. Kazuma always wondered why Kurama had given up that place, but never asked. Their home was comfortable.
After six months, Shizuru asked him when he would hurry up and get married, so she would not have to pussyfoot around their parents’ questions. He told her to ignore them. She laughed, lit up another cigarette, and told him he had her blessings.
“I think you two are good for each other. Just don’t mess it up.” She said, patting him on the head the way she had when he was a child. He’d laughed at her then.
“I’ll try not to,” he said. “I’m rather fond of him.”
After two years, they both graduated. Kurama was offered many jobs, which he pondered over for weeks and months. Kazuma found a place he could settle in to easily. Their lives were relatively uncomplicated, and they scheduled to be together. Kurama told stories about new discoveries and science, Kazuma told humorous tales about his co-workers and customers. They were content.
Kazuma learned much about Kurama in that time. Kurama taught him about Makai, demon politics, history, life. He loved Youko the same way he loved Kurama. They were the same man, two facets of his personality. With that love came a little fear, and he wondered when Youko would tire of him. Kurama had yelled at him for saying so, and was upset for two days because of it.
The reconciled, as they always did.
After three years, they attended Yuusuke and Keiko’s wedding.
Kurama had gifted them with flowers, Kazuma with books. Old stories that he had loved and he knew they would appreciate. The wedding was beautiful, and they saw Hiei.
It was only a brief moment, but he was there. Kazuma, though he put on his customary scowl, was glad to see he was still alive. Kurama had asked how Mukuro was. The answer was short, but honest.
“Our children are well.”
And he left.
That night, they drank to the health of their friends.
After four years, Yuusuke had asked them to be uncles to his son. They had agreed, and visited them often.
Ren often called Kurama ‘aunt,’ and never grew out of it.
Together, they taught him to think while fighting.
Five years after they had loved each other the first time, Kazuma came home. Kurama was quiet, and looked as if he had been crying.
To his questions, there were no answers. Kurama was silent that whole night, and did not come to bed. Kazuma did not sleep, and sat with him until dawn.
As the morning broke, Kurama began to cry.
“I must return home.” He said through his tears. “I am being called back to Makai.”
The room fell silent. Kazuma wondered if silence was the sound of love dying. He had never been a poet.
“Yomi has called me back.” Kurama said, wrapping his hands around his love’s. “I cannot refuse. I don’t want to leave you.”
Kazuma tried to wipe the tears away from his face, feeling stupid. He couldn’t stop his own, how could he stop Kurama’s?
“How long?” He asked, wishing against hope that it would be short.
“By the time I return,” Kurama murmured, leaning into his arms, “You will have great-grandchildren.”
“I won’t marry.” Kazuma said, holding him tight.
“You will. You’ll find someone who can stay with you. Who will grow old with you and love you.”
“Not like you.” He muttered, holding Kurama tighter. “There isn’t anyone like you.”
“No. I make it a point to be unique.” Kurama said, attempting a weak laugh. “You will forget me.”
“Such a very long time, Kazu. A very, very long time.” Kurama sighed. “I don’t want you to forget me.”
When Kurama left, Kazuma stayed alone for three more years. He watched Yuusuke and Keiko’s family grow, and was the kind, if a bit eccentric, uncle to all of their children.
He saw Hiei again. They talked for a moment, and said their goodbyes. There were no shouts this time. Neither of them spoke of Kurama or Yukina.
Kazuma figured that no news was good news.
When he met Megumi, it was surreal. She was nothing like Kurama, or Yukina. Megumi was tough, independent, and strong. Their marriage seemed spur-of-the-moment, and felt like a strange dream. He loved her.
They had four children—three sons and one daughter—who were all healthy and strong like their parents. Each of them grew up, and he held his heart in all of them.
He loved his children. He loved his wife. He always remembered Kurama.
Some days, when the weather was particularly bad, he would go to the train station and sit for a while, remembering. Megumi would often scold him when he came home drenched, but it was always loving.
As time passed, his sons grew up and apart, but his daughter Arisa stayed at home. She never married, choosing to live with her parents and tend to their needs as they aged.
Megumi died at age seventy-four, and Kazuma buried her with Arisa’s help. All of his sons were too busy with work and their own lives to visit. He grew old, with his daughter and his memories as company.
Ten years later, Kazuma could not find the strength to leave his bed.
He lay alone with his thoughts, and wondered if Kurama was still alive.
Arisa sat alone in her parent’s kitchen. It was getting late, and her father was growing more weak with every day that passed. She had called her brothers, and all of them claimed they would be too busy to visit. ‘My kids are being troublesome about their inheritance.’ ‘My grandchildren are going to be in a school play.’ ‘I promised I’d do something else this week, maybe some other time.’
She could count on one hand all the times they had visited since their mother died.
Silently, she prayed that her father would not die completely alone.
She sat quietly, hoping and despairing.
She was revived from her thoughts when a knock at the door came to her ears. Puzzled, she answered.
In the doorway, stood a strange man.
He was youngish, tall, and his hair was very long and shone silver. His face was young and handsome, with a rough bandage covering his left eye. She noticed the edge of harsh scars peeking out from ‘neath the bandage.
He smiled at her.
“I am here to visit Kazuma.” He said softly. Arisa nodded, and led the man to her father’s room.
Whoever this man was, he was there. And her father was not alone. She sat again at the table, and waited.
Kurama entered the room quietly, and sat next to the bed. Kazuma looked at him and smiled.
“I never thought I’d live to see you again.” He murmured. Kurama winced. He could hear the death in his old lover’s voice.
“You aged gracefully, Kazu.” He murmured, putting a hand to the rough, aged cheek. “I am grateful.”
Kazuma laughed softly, and touched Kurama’s hand.
“I am as well. You met my daughter.”
“She has your spirit.” Kurama answered. “I hear she was with the tantei for a while.”
Kazuma nodded, his face glowing with pride. “She was stronger than I had been. And,” he chuckled. “far more intelligent.”
“I never thought you were stupid.”
They smiled together.
“You lost your eye.” Kazuma noted. “You look like a pirate now.” He laughed softly.
“From a thief to a pirate. You know me, I strive to be unique.”
“Yes, I know.” Kazuma sighed. “The war was terrible, wasn’t it.”
“Yomi died. Shura rules in his place.”
“Weren’t you supposed to inherit?”
“I asked Shura to take over. I wanted to see you.”
Kazuma nodded. “One last time.”
“You’ll be reborn. It’s the least they can do.”
“Yes, I know. What will you do without me?” Kazuma joked.
“Suffer.” Kurama laughed. “I’ll suffer and whine and cry, and then I’ll get off my lazy ass and find you.”
“And then we’ll be happy. I hope.”
“So do I.”
Kurama smiled. He held tight to Kazuma’s hand, and watched him fall asleep. He stayed by his lover’s side, and watched the life leave him.
Kurama and Arisa together buried Kazuma. Afterwards, They sat and talked. Arisa had heard stories from her father about the demon fox he had once known. He had never said so, but she had guessed at their relationship. For a while, she had wanted to resent him—Her father and Kurama—but it was futile. She loved her father too much, and Kurama was such a mystery he may well have just been a fairytale. She had remembered Ren telling her of his ‘Aunt’ when she was younger. The stories were filled with too much love to hate.
Kurama was kind, if quiet. He was always on hand if she needed him. He would be there when she needed help.
And when she, too, died, he was there with her until the end, just as he had been with her father.
“Where will I go, Kurama?” She had asked, as her body died a little more.
“You’ll go to little heaven. You might be reborn, but only if you wish it.” He said, squeezing her hand gently. He hadn’t aged at all in fifty years.
“He will be reborn soon, I think.” Kurama said. “You might get lucky. He could hate me in his next life and you’ll be his daughter again.” He smiled.
“That’s silly.” She said softly, as her eyes drifted closed. “He could never hate you. He loves you as much as I do.”
“Goodnight, Kurama.” She sighed.
There was a young man who lived in Shinjuku. He was loud, boisterous, and even a little violent. His best friend was his best enemy. They were together almost always, as they fought, joked, and grew up together.
One day, the young man was left alone with himself. He walked the streets of the city, observing the people.
He saw a beautiful man with silver hair. They spoke.
And they were happy.
One year later: An author's retrospective.
To date, this is my most popular piece of work. To me, it's been a pleasant surprise. I bashed the story out in less than three hours in the summer of 2006, posted, and didn't look back once. Unedited, unbetad, and generally just a raw, unpolished piece of work, I'm still a little shocked that it gained as much as it did. I may go back to it someday, but for now I like it just fine the way it is.