He was five when a little boy had pushed him in the sandbox. The sun blinded him for a moment as he looked up at his assailant, determination not to cry in his young eyes. There had been a tiny giggle, half of an apology, and a hand offered to help him stand.
Under the heat of midday he met two smaller children, both his age. There was a girl whose name reminded him of cake (”Your name’s Kēki?*” She had said no and repeated her name. He still heard Kēki everytime she spoke), and a boy decorated in green and purple band-aids. The boy accused him of being a giant, and then laughed as if it was the most amazing thing in the world.
He spent the whole day playing away, laughing loud and occasionally arguing with the little girl about who got to be in the honorary position of best friend for the other little boy.
Around dinner time Kazuma Kuwabara’s mother took his hand and led him away from the sandbox. He waved good-bye and promised to see them again next time.
There was no next time.
With vague regret and a jealous pout Kazuma reasoned that the girl whose name sounded like cake would be the other little boy’s best friend after all.
“Shit it’s hot!” Kuwabara remarked just before Sawamura pressed a cold can of soda to Kuwabara’s swollen eye.
When the can came in contact with his face Kuwabara squawked, flinching from the cold and pain the can brought.
“Geeze is the heat all you can complain about?” Kirishima asked wrinkling his nose as he looked down at Kuwabara. “Your face is so messed up!”
Okubo roughly elbowed his taller friend, and shot Kirishima a clear look of: Shut the hell up!
Kuwabara laughed, and his eyes followed the retreating form of a green uniform. The figure’s shoulders were slumped as if the weight of the world was crushing them…maybe it was.
“That guy is some badass…” Kuwabara whistled, unabashed elation in his voice.
“Earth to Kuwabara!” Sawamura chided waving a hand in front of Kuwabara’s face, his tone heavy with disbelief and disapproval, “That guy beat you into the pavement! What are you smiling about!?”
Kuwabara laughed, “Ah you guys wouldn’t get it…I just…” Kuwabara tried to find the words, but there were no words to describe what he was feeling. This was his first fight that hadn’t come easy. The first time he’d lost, the first time he hadn’t won a victory that left him hollow and wishing for something he couldn’t put a name on.
Through his swollen eyes he followed the green uniform until it was gone. “Tomorrow,” Kuwabara finally said, “Tomorrow i’ll fight that guy again! I’ll fight him again, and win!”
“You’re nuts!” Kirishima snorted.
Kuwabara ignored him, eyes lingering where the green uniform had once been.
“Did anyone catch that guys name?”
“Urameshi something I think…”
He was looking at the sun.
That’s funny…wasn’t…wasn’t he doing something else just a minute ago?
A cracking shriek filled the air, and brought Kuwabara’s eyes away from the sky and down towards his chest. A hand was pushing into his flesh.
He blinked as the shock began to wear off and the pain set in.
Just as he was registering that he was actually impaled on Toguro’s hand, Toguro roughly yanked it out. A red carnation bloomed from his chest, hovering in the air for a moment before wetly splashing to the ground. Colors were exploding all around him, the air felt tight, and his skin prickled with cold as a hot sun beat down on him.
Was this what death was like?
Bleary eyes sought out the face of his greatest rival and greatest friend. From this distance Kuwabara couldn’t make out Yusuke’s face, but he could make out messily slicked back black hair.
The effort of talking made him throw up. He was surprised to see that it wasn’t vomit, but more blood. A hand came to his chest – he had to plug up this wound. He had too much left to say…
“It’s all you…I did what I could….” Kuwabara reached for Yusuke. The colors of the world became wet and swam together. Kuwabara continued speaking though in a way he didn’t know what he was saying. He just focused on the blur of his best friend in front of him. He had to talk to him…he had so much to tell him.
Most importantly, Kuwabara didn’t want Yusuke to give up. And if Kuwabara stopped talking...maybe Yusuke would give up? Kuwabara couldn't explain this feeling...but if he...he stopped talking to Yusuke, if he just left...something inside of him told him Toguro would win.
At some point Kuwabara couldn’t make out his friend’s form anymore…and he dropped his arm heavily. He’d said what he needed to…he was sure of it even if couldn’t remember the words.
The white light of the sun blinded him even as the dirt came rushing up and met Kuwabara full force. As he was swept up in unconsciousness he was aware of a strong surging power exploding all around him.
It made him think of Yusuke, and then the darkness won out and Kuwabara embraced the clam of quiet blackness.
Kuwabara grunted loudly as he was tackled into the sand.
His best friend’s laughter, and a woman’s giggle made him smile. Wet and cold from the beach water, Kuwabara craned his neck and looked at the two who were perched happily on his back, as if they belonged there squishing him into the wet sand.
“Ugh you’re heavy!” Kuwabara complained.
Keiko gasped, cheeks flushing red, as she splashed Kuwabara with salty cold water, “You take that back! I’m light as a feather!”
“I’m not!” Yusuke snorted devilishly, as he dug his elbow in Kuwabara’s back.
Kuwabara grinned despite the bony pressure on his spine. He’d been lying of course…with how happy he was feeling those two weighed nothing.
In mock annoyance Kuwabara grunted mumbling incoherent complaints as Keiko continued to argue her weight, and Yusuke continued to dig his elbow in to his spine.
Kurama’s laughter caught his attention, and Kuwabara flashed the red-head a grin as Kurama began to approach them. Botan, Yukina, and Shizuru were in the background-giggling about something. Kuwabara bet it had something to do with his current state.
This day was almost perfect. The sun was out, the day was warm, and the warmth of having Yusuke back home filled the empty void that had been a constant at Kuwabara’s side the past few years. The day was almost perfect.
It just needed one more irritant.
And as if answering his call, Kuwabara picked up a familiar presence. He ignored Yusuke’s cackling and Keiko’s girlish complaints, and craned his neck, eyes seeking out the source of this new but familiar aura. There just behind his sister and the girls, walking slow and face surely indifferent, was Hiei.
Now the day was perfect.
“Yusuke don’t!” Keiko squeaked in protest.
Yusuke had gotten to his feet, and then dropped on Kuwabara digging his elbow hard into Kuwabara’s back.
Kuwabara’s shrill cry of pain set off a stream of raucous laughter.
Arching his back as much as it would allow, Kuwabara stretched out his tired bones and yawned loudly. His sudden movement startled his gray cat who jumped and turned to look at him as if he’d committed a crime.
“What? Geeze…” Kuwabara cackled, the cat sticking up his nose and walking away from him.
“Fraidy-cat!” Kuwabara called after the snooty animal.
The cat of course paid him no mind.
Kuwabara chuckled his amusement and adjusted the blanket on his shoulders. It was a brisk winter’s day, and the sky was filled with clouds. Not a speck of sun, but the barren trees, and the left over ice from the last storm, made everything look like it was enveloped in a dull white light.
Kuwabara hopped up, and almost stumbled. His old bones rattled when he got up too quickly. He supposed a long life of 103 years would do that to a person. But besides a few stumbles here and there, and maybe momentary lapses in memory, Kuwabara was as spry and sharp as he ever was at 14.
Tugging the blanket closer to him he began to walk. He wasn’t planning on going too far, just a walk around the shrine’s courtyard. Yusuke had gifted him Genkai’s old shrine, thinking it fitting that another psychic inherited the place.
His thoughts drifted to his friend, and Kuwabara cracked a grin. Yusuke, Kurama, and Hiei were supposed to come over today, and maybe even perhaps their other friends. It would be a regular party with the whole gang here!
Botan and Koenma had already been by the morning, the two popping in for early morning tea, and to to chat about this and that. It was an unexpected, but welcomed visit. Botan was as cheerful as ever, chirping away about this and that, and Koenma would chime in every now and then with his two-cents about something or other-always with a slightly arrogant air. It made Kuwabara's eyes roll to hear him, but the familiarity of Koenma's attitude warmed Kuwabara inside and out.
About ten years ago Kuwabara had stopped training youngsters for Koenma’s services, and sometimes things were a little quiet at the shrine. Not that a bunch of his students didn’t keep visiting…Heck, some of them even tried to move into the shrine to, “help,” Kuwabara out. Kuwabara dismissed them, promising his students that he’d whoop them if they made any more suggestions of taking care of him.
They meant well, but he was fine on his own.
He had a wonderful life…and he’d done fine taking care of himself and his friends. They had in turn taken care of him…Kuwabara saw no reason that he would need any extra help. He cherished his alone time at the shrine, as well as the ability to live alone.
A speck of light on the ground caught his attention. He looked up, and a smile stretched across his weathered face. The sun was coming out.
“Ah Good!” Kuwabara remarked as golden white warm light peaked through the clouds. His smile continued to grow as the light washed over him and as the warmth embraced him, he let his blanket drop to the ground.
A soft mewing sound caught his attention and he looked ahead. Walking towards him from the direction of the shrine steps was a white cat. It had the purest fur Kuwabara had ever seen, and even from this distance he could see large golden eyes.
“Beautiful creature…” Kuwabara whispered as the cat came to sit in front of him. A calm was settling over him, and with it a reluctant understanding and knowing.
The cat slowly stretched into a human form, a young beautiful woman in a kimono with a peony pattern. It wasn’t Botan, but Kuwabara knew who she was, and why she was here. He took one last look at the the sun, thought of a girl whose name sounded like cake, and a boy covered in green and purple band-aids…and then offered his arm to the pretty woman-always the gentleman.
Arm in arm, she led him towards the sun.