A Past Relived
The brown-haired girl scanned her surroundings with hazy, seemingly disinterested eyes. She was dressed casually in a long-sleeved white shirt and blue suspenders, with one hand negligently tucked into one pocket of her suspenders. Her other hand twirled a cigarette uneasily, and her brows knitted as she resisted the urge to light it. After a slightly hesitant shrug, she bit the cigarette between her teeth and flicked her lighter open. She paused momentarily as she eyes the lighter with wistful regret. Then with a quick motion, she lit her cigarette, jammed the lighter into her pocket, and took a quick puff. A small cloud of grayish smoke surrounds her momentarily as she exhales.
Damn, I just can’t quit this habit, she mused. Then again, I’ve never really wanted to, anyway.
She glanced behind as she sensed her brother’s approach, his heavy footsteps and even louder voice undeniably identifying him as Kuwabara Kazuma. She sighed as she saw him fidget with his tie, his suit slightly rumpled. The baka certainly looks out of place in that, she mused exasperatedly. Oh well, at least he’s been looking and acting more decently than usual. It’s an improvement. She repressed the urge to throttle him for ineptness as she casually grabbed his tie and yanked it. She purposely ignored the choking sounds emanating from her brother as she expertly arranged his tie. She then nodded in satisfaction and stepped away from him, deliberately ignoring the glare being directed at her.
"Che, oneechan," Kuwabara fumed, clutching his neck and checking for any broken bones, "you didn’t have to strangle me!"
"Stop complaining, baka" Shizuru countered. "Anyway, what are you doing in that suit, anyway? It’s Saturday, just in case you forgot. You don’t have classes."
"I know that," Kuwabara replied exasperatedly. Then he fidgets slightly, twirling a small bouquet of flowers in his grip. "I’m…uh…"
"Going to Genkai-san’s temple to visit Yukina," Shizuru finished the statement for him. "Come on, Kazu, if you continue to dither around, there’s less of a chance that she’ll like you."
"You really think so?" her brother replied. "But Yukina-san’s always nice to me, oneechan. Maybe that means…"
"Hn, she’s nice to everyone," she stated, puffing on her cigarette and exhaling slowly, letting the smoke swirl around her lazily. "It’s that extremely sweet disposition of hers. But go ahead and see her—personally, I think she may have a soft spot for you somewhere." Unlike her brother, she thought to herself in amusement, though I’ve always wondered why you haven’t figured out her kinship with Hiei all this time.
"Really?! Sugoi yo!" Kuwabara exclaimed, his face taking on the slightly vapid expression Shizuru had come to be accustomed to whenever he was thinking of Yukina. "Ja…I’m off! Yuuuuukina-saaaan!" She watched as he hurried off with quick, excited steps.
"Hasn’t changed a bit, the baka," Shizuru muttered to herself. But then again, though her brother could be occasionally exasperating and often dense, he had a good heart and was prepared to fight for causes he believed in and in defense of those he loved. Not a bad thing, really, given the rather…unusual circumstances of being a Rei Kai Tantei. At least he’s gotten himself into college and is doing passably well.
Shizuru let out a startled breath as she whirled around and found herself staring into sparkling emerald eyes and an attractive face bearing an amiable smile. She smiled and nodded to the youko-turned-human. He was dressed in a white business suit with a matching navy blue shirt. Hasn’t really changed much. He’s still a drop-dead gorgeous charmer, and being in the business world seems to agree with him. He approached her with quick, sure steps that spoke of unconscious elegance and grace. He stopped three feet short from where she stood and inclined his head politely.
"What brings you here, Kurama-kun?" Shizuru asked.
"I was hoping to catch up with Kuwabara-kun before he left," Kurama stated. "Actually, I ran into Yusuke earlier and he’s inviting us to dinner at the ramen store next Friday. Think you both will be available?"
"No problem with my schedule," Shizuru replied, puffing on her cigarette thoughtfully, "and I think I can say the same for him." She smiled at him slyly. "Even if I have to make him clear his schedule."
Kurama sweatdropped but managed a graceful recovery. He smiled and shook his head, unconsciously running his hand through his long, red hair. Shizuru took the opportunity to make a quick assessment of Kurama. You could hardly mistake him for anything other than an ordinary yuppie, she noted, amused. An incredibly handsome yuppie, though. If I had never seen him fight myself, I’d never think of him as the cunning, deadly youko thief he really is underneath. And yet…he now seems too human to be anything otherwise.
"Working for your stepfather seems to agree with you," Shizuru remarked off-handedly, enjoying the wry, almost-shy look that flashed across his face. "And you still manage to study in college for a business degree. Plus you happen to be an honor student to boot."
"Well, a thousand year’s worth of knowledge ought to be good for something," Kurama chuckled. "Still, I’ve learned a lot from being a ningen student – it’s all been very interesting."
"Being a student or learning to be human?" Shizuru glanced at Kurama and noted the ghost of a frown that momentarily creased his otherwise now-impassive features.
"Both, I’d say, though the latter most of all," Kurama replied softly. He stared past Shizuru thoughtfully, ignoring the wind ruffling his wild red hair. "Having a human mother, finding true friends, building a meaningful sense of purpose – these are the legacy that being a ningen has imparted to me. And these I will come to treasure no matter how long my human or youko life might yet last."
Shizuru smiled, reached out and gently squeezed Kurama’s shoulder. Kurama glanced at her in surprise and gave her a sheepish smile in return. Shizuru suppressed the urge to laugh and instead patted Kurama’s arm lightly before stepping back. She reached into her pocket and produced another stick of cigarette. She was dimly ware of Kurama’s pensive gaze, but he merely stood a short distant away from her, his glimmering eyes intent yet distant. She whipped out her lighter and sighed slightly as she lit the stick. Her gaze strayed momentarily to the black lighter that was part of a grim – yet strangely amusing – past.
"I’m sorry about Sakkyo," Kurama suddenly remarked, and Shizuru glanced sideways to find Kurama’s gaze on the lighter. "He was bored with the human world, and wanted to unite it with Makai for the excitement, I suppose. It was all a big, risky gamble. In the end, he paid the price…but I wish it could’ve turned out better for you both."
"Don’t be," Shizuru replied in a distant voice. "He’d made his choice. His whole life was built around gambling…and the thrill of battle as well, I suppose. And the way he ended his life spoke of his passion for risks."
Shizuru was not used to any display of emotionalism. She had learned to keep her emotions to herself, projecting herself to others with her detached, aloof yet observant air. Mention of Sakkyo saddened her, because once she’d come to care for him after he saved her in the ill-fated Ankoku Bujutsukai. Yet should could not bear the sudden intensity in Kurama’s gaze which spoke of regret, a shared sense of loneliness, and something unfathomable yet hauntingly familiar. She became even more uncomfortable when Kurama stepped forward and grasped her hand gently with his own. She found herself wanting to pull away, but something else made her remain still and revel in the comfort of his touch.
"I’ve lost more than a few people in my life," Kurama began, his voice troubled yet barely above a whisper, "some that I’ve sacrificed in my life as a youko thief, and some I’ve willingly used and let go of. But I’ve also lost people I have come to care for deeply…her, most of all."
"Her?!" Shizuru raised an eyebrow in surprise. "You’ve never spoke of ever having a girlfriend, Kurama-kun."
"It’s not easy to speak of someone whose loss I’ve been directly responsible for," Kurama said, his eyes glistening. His gaze took on a mournful, pensive expression. "I was young then, living with some other youko kitsunes in Makai. I was an orphan, and never got to know my mother. Her mother adopted me, so to speak, and she became like a sister to me. But as I grew up, I realized that she meant something more to me – much more.
"At that time, I was also gaining an increasing mastery of my plant manipulation powers, and was intensely curious about what the rest of Makai held. Being an orphan had a hand in that, I suppose – I wanted to establish a sense of identity, of becoming famous throughout Makai. So I left home against her pleas that I stay and joined with a small band of would-be thieves. I left her, promising that one day I’d return.
"But I never did, having been too caught up with stealing treasures and building my reputation and power as a dangerous thief and leader in Makai. I had severed all my ties to those kitsunes, and have never looked back. In a sense, I forgot all about her and all promises of love and family. In time, the name Youko Kurama was spoken with fear and awe. Later I would learn what the price of the fame and I power I so sought to have.
"In my wanderings I came across a youkai mercenary who thought to fight me. He bragged that he had come across another kitsune youkai—a woman—whom he defeated, raped, then murdered. He had a pack slung across his bag, and in his arrogance he opened it and produced a sewn-off head of the kitsune he had defeated. Her.
"I made him pay, of course. After I defeated him there wasn’t enough of him to be recognized. But my victory had a most bitter taste – I realized that she must have been seeking me, and unfortunately had come across the mercenary. In a way, I was responsible for her death. It was the first time that I had come to taste of the bitter poison they called guilt.
"There was nothing I could do, of course, but bury what remained of her in an honorable fashion. Yet I carried the memory of her within me always, and I swore I would never commit to loving another again. In the same way I have wept for friends I have lost, but have managed to find a way to distance myself from excessive grief and pain. I thought my life would be complete if I gained the Three Great Treasures of Makai. I searched for them, but in the process had been wounded and fled.
"And, in the process, have come to live again."
"Why are you telling me all this, Kurama?" Shizuru demanded, attempting to pull her hand from his grasp. But he tightened his grip and inched his face closer to hers until Shizuru became uncomfortably aware that his closeness was making her heart beat faster, and she felt her breath catch. Why is Kurama having this effect on me? I’ve been close to him before, and this has never happened. But then again, I’ve never been this close to him. He does have the most intense, captivating gaze…
"Because…her name…was Youko Shizuru," Kurama responded softly, and Shizuru was startled at the revelation and the unshed tears standing in the corner of his eyes. "Since I have met you, I have been reminded of her. But you two could never have been more different in temperament. She was always emotional – fiery and intense. You are more distant, cool in demeanor, almost always unfazed.
"Yet I suspect you two are more alike than first meets the eye. Because I suspect that you carry within you more love than anyone would first suspect. That you look beyond what is evident, and see the world with observant yet gentle eyes. As I have seen you show affection for friends and lend comfort when needed, be focused and tough when necessary and seemingly calm and detached when not. For all that…you are her…my Shizuru in this world and time."
"K-Kurama…" Shizuru nodded, aware more than anything of his closeness, of his rose-like scent, and of enthralling green eyes that once beseech for her acceptance and sought to capture her soul in return. She had seen Youko Kurama once fight in the Ankoku Bujutsukai, golden eyes glinting in the excitement of battle. The sparkle she saw in his eyes reminded her of the kitsune thief whose essence had become undeniably, irrevocably human.
"I have never told you about this before because I could never figure out how you’d react," Kurama stated with a wry chuckle. He lifted her hand to his lips and tenderly kissed her palm. "And I am not asking that you care for me in return as I know you still think of Sakkyo often. But I’d like to tell you that I do care for you, Shizuru. Not only because you are a reminder of my past beloved, but in that you are an attractive woman, and I am immensely drawn to you."
Shizuru stared at Kurama in astonishment at his revelation. She could not repress the thrill that the proximity of the human-youko brought to her, of the excitement and elation she felt at this unexpected turn of events. And yet so many concerns raced across her mind. True, he’s more than a thousand years old as his youko self, but as a human I’m older than he is. What would the others say if we had a relationship? And while I admit he certainly is attractive…I’m not sure how I truly feel about him. Not yet…
As if reading her thoughts, Kurama smiled gently, squeezed her hand one last time and stepped back. As if nothing had happened, he bowed to her and began to walk past her, clutching his satchel with negligent ease. His steps were light and sure, and yet she thought she saw uncertainly in his eyes, though he was smiling as he passed her. She found herself staring after him, unsure of what to say and whether it was necessary to say anything. The burned-out cigarette stub she grasped in one hand slipped unnoticed from her fingers, and for once she did not think of lighting a new one to replace it.
"I know this has all been so sudden," Kurama suddenly stated as he glanced over his shoulder at her impassive face. "But allow me to say this – give me a chance to win your heart, Shizuru. Please let me show you that I am not doing this to redeem myself from past guilt, but in the hope to build a promising future with you."
Shizuru stood dumbfounded even as Kurama slowly receded in the distance. He has told me he cares, and yet he walks away. He sees me as a reminder of a past love, and yet he professes that he does not want to relive the past but to dream of the future. You are an enigma, Kurama. An enigma I think…I can come to care for.
Shizuru smiled even as she unconsciously reached into her pocket and reached for another cigarette. As she bit it between her teeth and took out the black lighter – Sakkyo’s final gift – to light it, she hesitated. Then with a sigh, she pocketed the lighter and discarded the cigarette. Amazing…I might actually yet succeed in quitting this habit. As she ground the cigarette beneath her boot, she noticed that there was a single red rose lying on the pavement at her feet. She smiled as she picked it up and inhaled the fresh, heady scent. How wonderful! A gift from Kurama-kun. The first of many, I suspect.
She twirled the rose with her fingers as she stared in the direction he had gone. He would return and visit her, she knew. She smiled at the thought. Perhaps it is not too late for both of us, Kurama. You have thought me that not all has been lost with the death of a loved one. And that, together, we have hopes of forging ahead a future life. Together.
This fanfic is a true what-if -- a true venture into the realm of exploration regarding Kurama's past. I know it's far-fetched -- there really isn't much in the series to go on regarding their relationship (or lack of it, rather). I just wanted to see if the idea of Kurama and Shizuru as a couple could or would work out. For any comments, please feel free to send e-mail. Ja!
Yu Yu Hakusho is a copyright of Yoshihiro Togashi / Shue Isha Fuji TV, Studio Pierrot. This fanfic is for non-commercial, entertainment purposes only.