Warnings: Same as ever.
Disclaimer: YuYuHakusho is not mine in character or plot. This story is mine. It's a work of fiction written only for entertainment. I'm not making any money off of it. I also don't own the song quoted at the beginning.
AN: So finally. We're there. The final part of this fic, the epilogue. It doesn't feel like this story has been going on as long as it has. Wow. I am sorry for how long this took me. And it's not even that long a chapter. I've had lots of personal issues going on, which mostly put me in a lousy mood to write. Also, in the course of this chapter, my computer has died twice. I was able to get my fic off of it both times, but it still hindered my progress. Add to that all the stress of graduating high school, and switching houses at irregular intervals… but I got it done! It did take too long, but I finished! I'm still not completely satisfied with this bit, but on Wednesday I'm leaving for Japan for two weeks (:D) and I wanted it up by then. So here you go!
Many many thanks to all who reviewed. I wish I could do individual responses, but due to the site's rules and time I can't. One reviewer did point out some inaccuracies between the character's powers in my fic vs. in the show. Well, you caught me! (sweatdrop) I actually haven't seen all that much of the show, and what I've seen is the Cartoon Network edited version. But I'm hoping my "AU" label covers my ass on that one. Heh heh…
Here's the chapter!
"Would you do it with me?
Heal the scars, and change the stars?
Would you do it for me?
Turn loose the heaven within…"
"Everdream" by Nightwish
As soon as they were out of the immediate danger of the area, their strength failed. The pair collapsed together on the path leading away from the keep and looked back at the burning building. Most of the higher levels had fallen in, and in places even the stone seemed to have melted. The smoke stood out against the darkening twilight sky. Youko looked worriedly to Hiei, who was nearly unconscious. The hi-youkai shook his head and struggled back to his feet. "This way," he half gasped.
With Hiei's arm around Youko's waist and Youko gripping Hiei's shoulder, the pair supported each other and made their way in the direction Hiei had indicated; opposite the direction they'd gone the first time they'd left the keep. The walk felt immensely long, but in reality was only a mile or so. It ended at the wide shore of a broad lake.
Collapsing on the sand near the water's edge Hiei fell asleep almost immediately. Youko tried to remain awake to keep watch, but he too lapsed into unconsciousness.
Youko woke to late afternoon sunlight in his eyes. Guessing from that, he figured he'd been asleep for nearly a day, twenty hours at least, ever since he'd dozed off on the sand. Struggling into a sitting position, he winced as damaged skin and numerous strained muscles protested. He squinted, trying to will his headache into submission. His head still hurt from the blow to it the day before, compounded by his use of power in summoning that plant.
Youko glanced to the side, verifying that Hiei was still asleep next to him. Youko was relieved to see that his breathing was steady.
Glancing out across the lake, he realized how much blood was pasting his clothing to his skin and shuddered. Taking one last glance at Hiei, he walked slowly across the soft sand and knelt at the water's edge. The water was bitingly cold, but he could hardly care.
Quickly pulling off the shirt and pants despite the fact that they tore at half-formed scabs, Youko waded into the water until it was up to his waist. Though it stung at the still open cuts and made his sore muscles stiffen, it was still a relief as it rinsed his skin clean. Ducking under the water he tensed. Gods, the water was freezing. It was a wonder the lake wasn't iced over.
As quickly as he could he scrubbed at his hair and tail. The wound along his scalp hurt, but he got the matted hair away. Youko gently rubbed at the dried blood on the rest of his body, enough to get it mostly off. It was far from a perfect bath, but it was satisfactory. At least he felt like he could move now.
Getting as quickly as possible to the shore, he stayed in the shallows long enough to scrub at his clothes. Bloodstains remained, but the garments were no longer stiff.
Pulling the wet clothing back on, he shivered, realizing how truly dumb it had been to dive into cold water without any way to get warm afterwards. Hurriedly, he looked over the shore, and gathered all the driftwood and windfall he could find. Gathering it up, he figured that wasn't really much help. He didn't have any way to start a fire, and Hiei was still asleep. Youko didn't want to wake him, and wasn't really sure that he could.
He didn't have to worry; as he piled the wood nearby, Hiei woke up, at least part way.
"Youko? You're soaking…"
"Heh, yeah. I felt like taking a swim, and well…"
Sitting up, Hiei yawned.
Youko could almost see the moment of realization as Hiei remembered everything that had happened. The fire demon's eyes widened and he turned quickly to Youko. "Good gods, are you okay?"
"Yeah… just a little cold. I don't know if you can, but could you start a fire?"
Hiei nodded, and gestured at the wood. It wasn't instantaneous, but the wood slowly caught fire, and Youko felt the warmth.
Getting to his feet, Hiei had to fend off a wave of dizziness. He recovered quickly and crossed the makeshift camp to sit next to the fox.
"Youko, take off those wet clothes. You'll catch pneumonia."
Youko gave the fire demon a knowing coy look, saying he clearly thought Hiei had ulterior motives. "Really, are you so concerned about my health?" he teased.
Hiei smirked at him, and removed his own cape, which somehow had made it through the fight at least mostly intact, and handed it to Youko. "You can use this. It probably won't fit too well, but you could wrap it around your waist."
"I was kidding, Hiei," but he took the cape from him. Pulling off the sodden clothes, he was able to use Hiei's offered clothing as a wrap around his waist.
Hiei stood behind him as Youko sat facing the fire. Hiei wrapped his arms around Youko's shoulders, and buried his face in the curve of the fox's neck. "Are you okay Youko?"
Hiei was even warmer than usual, but it was comforting. Youko leaned back almost imperceptibly. "Of course I am. Are you?"
He felt Hiei nod. Silence for a moment, then, "But I was so worried about you. You weren't supposed to get captured. By the time I found out that you had been, they were so far ahead that I couldn't catch up. I'm sorry I was late."
"But you got there. You saved me."
Youko felt one of Hiei's hands move and trace lightly down his back, ghosting over the cuts and burns, not hard enough to hurt. "But these weren't supposed to happen. I didn't want you to get hurt. And it was you who saved me from those guards."
"I was returning the favor. And I'm okay. You don't need to always protect me." He turned around in Hiei's arms, and pulling himself up he kissed his lover.
"You saved me instead of completing your revenge."
"Or course I did. You couldn't seriously think that would even be a choice for me, could you?" Youko asked, looking seriously into Hiei's face.
The fire demon smiled slightly, but then looked thoughtful. "But that means that Karasu is still out there somewhere. There's no way he died in the fire."
"I know. But he knows I'm not his anymore. That's enough for now. Maybe I'll come across him again. If I do, I don't plan on letting him escape a second time."
The pair lay down side by side in the soft sand.
"You know, we could look for him. Make sure he doesn't gather power anywhere else," Hiei suggested.
"But you have your army to go back to."
"Most of which will disband now that out common goal is gone. Those that do stay can go to Kouga. He's better in the leadership capacity anyway."
The two lapsed into silence laying in the sand. The sun was sinking below the tree line across the lake, throwing them into shade. Youko shivered slightly as a breeze blew across the chill water and his damp skin. Hiei moved closer to his lover, sharing heat. Glancing over, Youko noticed that the skin around the tattoo on his arm looked burned.
Hiei looked up at Youko, and followed his gaze. "Don't worry. It'll be fine by tomorrow."
"Fire on my skin," Hiei smirked. "It'll heal. Small price to pay for using that much power."
Youko nodded. "Yeah…"
"But, I also pay with exhaustion. And you must be too. Sleep?"
Youko yawned. "But shouldn't one of us keep watch? I can…"
"Don't worry about it. With everything that just happened to Karasu's keep, I doubt anything will come after us."
Youko didn't need any more convincing. The fire flickered, threatening to go out. Youko curled closer to Hiei, careful of their mutual injuries. It wasn't long before they both fell asleep.
"You're back!" said in a tone of slight surprise and relief, was the most often received welcome when they got back to the caves late the next evening. Everyone had heard what had happened to the keep, but no one had any idea who had survived. All had been glad that Karasu was at least stopped for the time being, but there'd been a slight air of mourning for Hiei and Youko, who had been feared dead.
Hiei went straight to the council chamber to speak to Kouga about what had happened. Youko went with, sitting in one of the chairs, almost dazed with exhaustion. He hadn't even close to recovered from the fight, and then they'd woken up before dawn and spent the entire day traveling as fast as they could. It would have been far wiser to break the journey into two, three, or even four days, but they had mostly wanted to get back. Even at the expense of their health.
Hiei gave abbreviated report to Kouga, confirming that their falling-out had been completely false, which the wolf had mostly guessed, and on the fight with Karasu. Then he and Youko returned to their room, to collapse immediately. They slept solidly until mid-morning the next day.
The day after they returned, there was complete celebration. Youko had no idea how they'd found so much alcohol, but it seemed that everyone he saw had some mismatched container of beer or wine in hand. Drunken singing echoed off the walls of the mess hall and the hot springs, and could be heard anywhere in the lower caves.
Youko was invited to at least twelve separate celebrations as he walked the hallways from Hiei's room to the mess hall. He politely declined them all, as he was still tired.
After getting some food from the cook, he retreated to his and Hiei's chamber again. Setting the laden tray on the low table, he stretched. The cook had of course given him more food than he'd asked for, and it had been heavy. Hiei was looking through a pile of papers, which he'd said were the first wave of requests by the soldiers to leave.
He'd been right; now that Karasu was gone, at least for the time being, most of the soldiers were ready to go their own ways. Some had already submitted their requests. The bulk of the requests would be sent to Kouga, but Hiei was willing to do the first few. It wasn't hard, just rather tedious.
Not looking away from the page in front of him, Hiei reached for the plate, grabbing a roll. Youko took a piece of fruit and sat on the bed.
Youko was zoning out as he sat, so it took him a few moments to realize that Hiei was speaking to him.
Snapping back to reality, he asked "Sorry, what?"
"I asked how long you want to stay here before we leave. We want to go after Karasu, don't we? I figure we're not going to hear much just staying here. We should probably travel around a little. But Karasu isn't going to set himself up in any powerful capacity for a while, so we have plenty of time to rest."
"I don't know. You want to formally resign from your leadership position?"
"I suppose. I don't plan on being around much, nor do I want the responsibility."
"Is that something that you'd just do, or would it take time to hand stuff over to him?"
"It's his job in all but name. It won't be hard."
"Then we can leave as soon as we're entirely rested, I guess. It's true that he won't be a powerful figure for quite a while. But if we can find him before he's powerful, before he has followers, that'd make it easier."
Hiei nodded. "Then rest fast. I'd prefer it if we healed before he does, and if we can find him in a weakened state, that's better."
"Thank you Hiei. You've saved me so many times, and now this… I can't even tell you how grateful I am to you."
"Hn, you're welcome, then. It's not like you don't give me anything in return… I figure we're even."
ZOMG, I hate that ending. And yes, I totally pulled a Disney, and set myself up for a sequel. No promises, but I may write one. At the moment I have quite a few fics that I want to write, so I may try a different fandom for a while. I have fairly active plot bunnies for fics in the Kingdom Hearts and Fullmetal Alchemist categories, in addition to a Fruits Basket/Petshop of Horrors crossover, and other YYH. If you have any input on what you think I should work on next, feel free to tell me.
But, please review! I'd love feedback on the fic as a whole as well as this part itself.
Also, I saw a girl doing this a while ago, and I thought it was neat. So, when you review (because you know you will) would you tell me where you're from? Not specifics, I don't want to stalk you, just like what state you're from. Or if you're not in the US, what country are you in? Just because I think it'd be interesting to know where people who read my fic are from. I'm in Colorado myself.
Anyways, thanks in advance for reviews. Um… bye!
And check my livejournal (link in profile) for info about future fics.