Kurama should have stopped it at the start. He should have pushed him away. He should have kept Hiei from falling in love. Is it too late?
It was really just a series of coincidences and escalations that had caused them to be in this position, Kurama thought. Just a bunch of crazy things happening in the right time and order leading up to a very strange and surreal problem. As he rode the bus home from school, he contemplated the events over and over in his mind, thinking, theorizing, numbly weighing and making decisions about what had happened.
First, he supposed, was the fact that he had ever been wounded as Yoko in the first place. It was so many years ago, and he didn't like to dwell on the matter because it seemed pointless and it made him feel foolish and regretful at the same time. Perhaps if he had been a bit more humble, all of this could have been prevented. Everything. He would still be in the Demon World, still knowing exactly who he was and what to do in every situation given to him. Still knowing when and what to sacrifice.
That confidence, which he had not had in so long, he yearned for. In this body, in this time, he was extremely weak, at least compared to before. Even when he met a very unmatched opponent, he was now too careful when fighting. So careful that he was beginning to put others in danger.
The second coincidence was that Hiei had come to lose his tear gem. If he had not, there would have been no reason for the demon to come to the Human World in the first place. There would have been no reason for him to obtain or use the Jagan, Kurama thought, though he supposed the demon might have gotten the operation anyway to find his sister. If neither of them had had these misfortunes, they wouldn't be facing one now.
Then again, was this really a misfortune? The word seemed to imply fate, uncontrollable and strict, and yet this situation, as he saw it, was not fate or uncontrollable. He could blame coincidences and the past all he wanted, but the truth was that his actions—and Hiei's, but mostly his, because he was more intelligent and older and wiser than the fire demon—had caused this, and he was to blame.
That guilt, while heavy, was actually somehow comforting, enough to make him smile externally. Perhaps he had acquired a taste for being the one blamed. Not that others blamed him, not really, but he so often did that it didn't make a difference. He was somehow masochistic for blame. The idea was ironically satisfying. Partially because he thought that he deserved it. Now memories began to flow to him, and his smile faded. He had committed so many betrayals and cruel punishments among his friends and strangers in his past life, far more than he cared to remember. He knew this, and that made it so much harder to accept what he had been.
Yet he was not an emotional person, and so usually he could justify or understand his own actions well enough to forget about them and focus on the present, which was becoming difficult lately. Even when he couldn't justify his actions, he often could accept that he had done something atrocious, immoral, and could atone for it by...well, by sacrificing himself when necessary and by devoting his time to others and, most of all, by taking blame internally when it was rarely his blame to take. Often he grew angry with himself for being so martyr-like, and yet it had become a habit he was unable to control.
So now he turned his mind back to the coincidences that had led them here. There was the third one, that Hiei had found Kurama at all, back when Kurama was so young and still brooding over his momentary lapse in judgment. That they had worked together to save Maya was another one. And then, of course, that Hiei would remember him years later when the demon was bored with just killing and wanted to torture humans somewhat. From there, the coincidences got messier. That he had been able to talk Koenma into placing him and Hiei on the same charges and holding them as partners, so that if Hiei was punished, so would be Kurama.
That he would have taken that bullet for Hiei in the first place, when he really didn't know the demon and was busy enough on his own. Perhaps that was the first telling sign of the situation; the downhill slope probably began there. It, of course, caused them both to help Yusuke at Maze Castle, where all four of them bonded even as they entered the front gates.
Perhaps another facet of it was that they were the two demons of the team, the only two. Because they were two demons who had helped two humans, Spirit World lackeys, no less, they were singled out in the Demon World, pushing them closer together than they had been before. When Yukina had been in danger, Hiei had not turned to Kurama for help, but the fox knew why and he understood. Perhaps nothing in that escapade was detrimental or positive for them, other than Kurama had witnessed Hiei sparing Tarukane's life.
Perhaps that was a factor, though, because it had shown Kurama how very much Hiei cared for Yukina. And when Kurama had revealed himself to be there, Hiei hadn't grown angry with him, not really—a sort of passive way of telling him that Hiei didn't object to Kurama having that information.
Then, of course, the fact that Toguro had singled them out as well, forcing them to join the tournament on Yusuke's team. Once again, as the only demons, their bond grew stronger...slowly, of course, and not enough so that either realized what was occurring. So slow, reflected Kurama, that no one could have seen it. It could have been, actually, that it was so fast no one could see it. It felt that way now.
During the tournament their camaraderie strengthened overall, and each had his hand tipped slightly so the other could see his cards. Moments flashed in his mind when he had been concerned for Hiei or Hiei concerned for him. They were frequent, he saw, but during that time he wouldn't have noticed due to more pressing issues. The moment, he thought, that things really began to get rolling had been ironically when he was rolled back, back through his years as a human and back into his old self just after one of his weakest moments during his entire life, when he had trusted an opponent who had had a bullshit story that he should have seen through.
Even now, he couldn't say why he had trusted Ura, but supposed that it was so close to why he had allowed Roto to harm him in the first round. Because, as a human, his emotions were stronger than they had ever been, and if there was one person he cared for above all others, it was his mother. He had fallen for Ura's tricks, he thought, because he was too ready to accept that someone other than him was weak in that sense. He had been mistaken, but ironically this mistaken trust caused him to revert to his old form.
"You're as you should be," Hiei had said, and though Kurama had been busy with Ura, those words had reached his ears. At the time, he had been glad to hear them, glad to hear that Hiei had approved, but more so because he had believed them and had been ecstatic to have his old body back.
Now, he realized, what Hiei meant had been that Kurama was as Hiei thought he should be. Careful reflection of his fights in the tournament some weeks ago had made him sure that he did not want to utilize his ability to turn into Yoko unless absolutely necessary, because in that form he would have killed his mother and felt only some regret. That his chosen—and, now, true—form was human would not bode well with Hiei, but Kurama believed that Hiei didn't have anything to do with his choice.
Of course, that was not necessarily so. Perhaps even from when he had heard Hiei praise his form he had subconsciously realized what they were falling into and had begun to build defenses to stop it. Because he knew, even then, what he was sure of now—this wasn't good. Not for the team, not for their families or reputations or their own minds or hearts. This wasn't good.
He felt pangs of guilt and a touch of sadness when he thought it, but he couldn't deny that this made things more complicated and infinitely more painful were something to happen to either of them or to the relationship. In essence, he had known all along that becoming emotionally involved with anyone would not be beneficial to him, and yet, he had allowed this to happen. And this was true, because those defenses he had built were made of paper, and he had probably done that on purpose. If only to give himself an excuse, or a justification.
Hiei didn't need a sword or fire to tear through paper, and he, better than anyone, should have known this. In fact, he had known it, and it was that he had had the nerve to try and stop this without properly doing so that bothered him so much now. That he had had the gall to pretend to build defenses, to pretend to resist it all, when in truth he doubted that anything had made him feel so alive in sixteen years. Sidetracking himself, he knew, was one of his worst habits when he had something unpleasant to think about, so he steered himself back to the coincidences. That Hiei had approved his form as Yoko. That they had continued to fight together for another round with that knowledge in the back of his head behind the paper defenses.
That they had won and had been united in glory. That they had been united in dealing with—and helping Yusuke deal with—the death of Genkai. That they had not been on one mission since that time, over a month ago now. That they had had too much time to try and get back to normal life. That, he thought, was the biggest coincidence of them all, and this one was actually a coincidence because he really had had no say in it. That from when he and Hiei had broken into the Spirit World vault those long months ago to the last days of the tournament, there had been not one moment of true respite.
They had been busy, busy, busy, either getting through the Spirit World probation offices, fighting various demons, or training to do so. Until this very month, they had had no time to relax or to contemplate exactly what was going on. (Not that Hiei was ever really the type for contemplation.) And oh, how it had all built up so steadily! So slowly (or quickly) on such a small (or large) incline that no one, not even the genius Yoko Kurama had been able to recognize it for what it was. But he had known, coming out of the tournament, even if he had never admitted, that this wouldn't go away. He had made those paper walls to be torn down, for deplorable and sick reasons, and now that they were in shreds, he was anxious and frightened to see what lay on the other side.
The bus finally came to a stop near his house and he walked, unsurprised to see that his usual company, the fire demon, was nowhere to be seen. Indeed, he had a lot to think about, just as Kurama did. Whether he would actually think was the question. "Does it matter?" was another. Kurama supposed that Hiei had always been impulsive and had always acted more on his emotions and intuitions than his mind, and so it didn't matter if Hiei theorized his way to hell and back, he would do what his gut would tell him. Kurama could not predict what that would be, mostly because he didn't want to talk to Hiei about it and he had never tried. He doubted that he could if he had wanted to.
Entering his house and heading up to his room, he was overcome with more memories, these ones recent and a mixture of interesting, guilt-ridden and exciting. He pushed them away soundlessly, trying to focus on his homework as he sat at his desk. But it was so easy that his mind wandered again. Those damn coincidences, most of which were not really coincidences at all, would not rest.
After the tournament, they had retreated to normal life. Kurama, Yusuke and Kuwabara had resumed school. It was obviously hardest for Hiei, who had nowhere to stay but was confined to the Human World without anything to kill or anything to do. Kurama felt his energy move all about the city, and then realized that he was probably manipulating it to appear so and was most likely resting in one area for much of the day.
When he discovered that a tree in his neighbor's yard, which had full visibility of his house, was Hiei's haunt, he was pleased and disappointed. Disappointed in himself, really, both because he had not noticed it (or pretended not to notice it) for at least a week, and because he would never tell Hiei to leave his neighbor's tree alone. He knew that he should have, to cut the situation off at the knees, but he never did it, and now it was too late. Too damn late.
And though he knew that he enjoyed being the martyr and the one to blame, he couldn't help but feel that he actually was in this situation. Because when he found that Hiei was spending most of his time watching Kurama, he had known what was probably still hidden from the fire demon himself. He had realized what had been happening all along, and he had known that it must be stopped as soon as humanly possible to avoid everyone's feelings from getting hurt. To avoid possible death for more than one of them. He knew all that, he knew it and admitted to himself that something must be done before it could escalate. The part that he was blamed for was that he knew it all, and he did absolutely nothing. He didn't even try.
He thought that if he had given it a shot, he could have done it easily, and with only a bit of moodiness and distance on Hiei's part. He didn't think that, at that point, Hiei was really emotionally invested in the whole thing. He rather thought that the demon wasn't aware at all of the situation or of his own feelings, and so sparing Hiei had never been a factor.
He was blamed because he knew what the problem was, he knew what to do about it, he knew the consequences if he let it go farther, and he still did nothing to remedy the situation. Now, sitting at his desk with his head in his hands, he found himself regretting not saying anything to Hiei in the first place. He regretted it more deeply than he had almost anything else, because he was feeling like a creep. He had done some fucked up things before, but this was out of his league.
At least, he thought, Hiei won't tell anyone. He knew that the fire demon wouldn't tell. It wasn't because he was ashamed, not really, because love in the Makai was not at all like love in the Ningenkai. The two worlds were eons apart in those rituals and beliefs. In the Makai, power trumped all. So, showing weakness was the worst a demon could do, in most circles. That came close to helping humans, because helping them appeared to be weakness. Compassion in general appeared to be weakness. Being in love was the king of all weaknesses, so though many demons fell in love, most kept it a secret. Sex, the ability to reproduce, not love, was prized in the Makai, which made relationships there difficult, one of the main reasons Kurama hadn't had many.
If love was a weakness, then it was considered the weakest weakness to be in love with a human woman. Slightly less weak was love with a human man. Slightly less weak was love with a female demon. And the least weak of them all was for a male demon to be in love with another male demon. Kurama knew that humans in general were heterosexual and therefore looked upon homosexuality in many different lights ranging from disgust to understanding.
At any rate, in the Makai it was the exact opposite. Demons figured that while a single male demon was powerful, a team would be even more so. The love angle, of course, was downplayed because even that sort of relationship was considered weak. But if you told a friend that you were in love with a male demon, his reaction might be to chuckle or give you a wry high-five. If you said that you were in love with a human female, he'd probably punch you and laugh at you whenever he saw you. Kurama almost thought it was funny how different humans and demons could be.
Hiei's sense of power and weakness was this mentality, only stronger, so admitting that he was in love would be difficult if not impossible, even if it wasn't the worst thing he could have done in the Makai. Kurama knew that he would tell no one. And Kurama himself would never tell, as far as he knew.
He should have told Hiei that there was no way the first time he saw him again, but he didn't. He hadn't said much of anything to the fire demon at all. Honestly. Hiei had approached him after school and began walking with him to his house, and once there would disappear again, probably going to Kurama's neighbor's tree.
He did this every day for at least two weeks, and for those ten days Kurama could have said anything to make him give up and didn't. So now Kurama was reaping the seeds he had sown with his inactions. Hiei had been nonchalant, not understanding why he felt as though he should be near the kitsune most of the time, but not really minding it too much, either. What else was there to do? Then, of course, the relationship went a small step forward. Hiei never really went into Kurama's house, but sometimes Kurama would come outside and read, mostly (in his own cruel way) to tease Hiei subconsciously.
Another pang of guilt, this one the strongest yet, hit Kurama's stomach. Taking the blame for his inaction before the kiss was not easy, but taking the blame for his actions just before and after the kiss was difficult because he saw only now what he couldn't see then—he was only further antagonizing the situation. And what was more, he knew why, and it was a stupid, sick reason to do so.
Hiei sometimes sat with Kurama in his backyard, as the fox did work. They spoke little. There was little to be said. Then, three Saturdays after the tournament's end, as the sun was setting, they had been sitting in the back, Kurama doing work and Hiei sitting quietly. Kurama's mother was away on business, which explained Hiei coming in the first place. He knew Shiori, and she even seemed to like him, but he never visited when she was around.
They were at peace, and then Kurama licked his bottom lip, which was, coincidentally, chapped. In that instant, Hiei had snapped. Kurama knew immediately what he had done, and yet, that time he had actually not meant anything by it at all. His lip was dry, he got it wet. That one time when he wasn't manipulating the situation and wasn't knowingly egging Hiei on had caused a mountain of events, beginning with Hiei leaning forward and kissing the fox full on the mouth.
Kurama, shocked, waited for Hiei to finish numbly. Internally, he was groaning and chuckling at the same time. He was feeling guilty for having accidentally spurred Hiei, and yet he had known all along that this would happen, because he had helped bring it around. And some part of him got sadistic pleasure at knowing how well he could manipulate and predict Hiei's actions. His human side flinched. Hiei's lips were still on his. Hiei's kiss was clumsy, inexperienced, and filled with emotion, more so than Kurama had ever felt from the fire demon. It was a child's kiss.
When the fire demon did pull back, Kurama saw his age clearly. Kurama was over ten times as old as Hiei, no longer a virgin and nowhere near as impulsive or indecisive, though he lately hadn't been displaying this to the best of his ability. Hiei, he knew, was under one hundred years old. He figured this because koorime breed every one hundred years and Yukina was most definitely not a mother.
If he needed any more proof, the look in Hiei's eyes was it. Kurama's books had slid to the grass off his lap, and he had leaned back somewhat, not trying to pull away from the kiss but attempting to make sure he didn't fall over backward with the force of it. Hiei's hands were on the ground on either side of his legs, and he was kneeling, his head inches from Kurama's own. Kurama could see his face in Hiei's eyes, a mingled expression of surprise, anger, worry and smug confidence, but more importantly, in Hiei's eyes he saw that Hiei, for all his muscle, power and talk, was really only a pubescent child, in human years. Somehow it fit the demon, whose expression was of petulant annoyance and fear. His eyes said why don't you kiss me back? His eyes said do you care for me? His eyes said have I made a fool of myself?
This, Kurama knew, was the drawing of the line. He had two options, here, really. One was to push Hiei gently away—both literally and figuratively—and tell the truth, and tell him that there was no way it was going to work, that they were better off as friends and that this could only end in tears, or blood, for someone.
Kurama wanted to spare his friend those tears or that blood, he wanted to save Hiei from possible heartbreak, let alone the sting of betrayal, and yet, he could not do so. For reasons he knew even then, he couldn't save Hiei from that. Part of it was the passion in Hiei's kiss, the fact that Kurama hadn't felt so needed or loved in so long, possibly ever. Another part of it was that he had never had relations in his new body. And yet another was that he did care for Hiei, just not as much or as romantically as the fire demon did for him.
So Kurama chose to do the second option, which was to hold his weight with one hand on the ground, to lift the other to Hiei's cheek and to lean forward and kiss the fire demon with a confident, knowing and suave attitude. Hiei was shocked, thrown by the expertise of the fox.
His mind clouded over and he felt utterly lost and yet very found indeed. The kiss was suspended time, moving through centuries with everything passing them by. Hiei kissed back, though not with any sort of grace or elegance as the fox did. The sun was setting on the horizon and still their lips touched and their tongues met and their breath slowly filled each other's lungs.
Kurama did indeed give Hiei two chances to change his mind, and while he thought that Hiei would never give up, he was actually genuinely surprised to see that Hiei was taking on the task so wholeheartedly. Hiei's first chance and Kurama's first warning was the kiss.
It was supposed to communicate that Hiei was dreadfully outmatched in experience and lust itself. It was supposed to alarm him to the fact that Kurama was obviously dominant and superior to him. It was supposed to tell Hiei that he could not win this battle. It did so, however, Hiei found himself rising to the occasion and kissing back more forcefully, trying to match Kurama's skill. Finally, after an amount of time that neither could properly pin, they broke apart, Kurama rising to his feet after a moment's hesitation. He looked down at the fire demon, who stood quickly.
Kurama's face was one of amusement and a dash of guilt. Hiei's was still petulant and looked as though he was ready to kill someone. Kurama's second warning and Hiei's last chance was that Kurama turned and went into the house without a word and without looking back.
Hiei stood in the backyard, dusk in full swing, and the light quickly fading. Kurama, for once, was mistaken because he truly believed that Hiei would leave and the incident would not be spoken of or repeated. To his complete and utter surprise, Hiei followed him inside, and after looking around to locate the fox followed him to his bedroom. Kurama stood inside, very still, watching him with somewhat surprised and anxious eyes.
Hiei stepped up to him, grabbed his shoulders roughly and kissed the fox again, this time trying to assert himself. Trying to say, I won't give up so easily. Trying to say, what, you thought that was all it would take? Trying to say, I need you to need me. And because Hiei had bested both of his weak trials and warnings, Kurama gave in, slowly, so that Hiei would understand that this wasn't easy. To a degree, Kurama's reluctance was false, and the apparent reason behind it was a complete lie.
He was reluctant only enough to pause before removing his shirt and only enough to flinch once when Hiei went for his neck. He was only reluctant because he knew that this could only end in heartbreak and misery. He was only reluctant because he knew that Hiei did not deserve it. The sun was gone, and night came with stars, and the demons disrobed each other and kisses were dealt and lines were crossed. Hiei was a virgin, and Kurama had only been with others in his fox form, and only four times. Three female demons, one male. Yet they both knew that in the end, one would come out on top, and the one on bottom would be the receiver. That was almost taken for granted, really, because it was so obvious.
At one point when both were fully undressed and even Hiei's headband had been removed, revealing the third eye, Kurama pushed Hiei onto the bed and then the true struggle began. It was a fight without words, swords, plants or barriers. It was a physical fight, but not a nasty one. No punches were thrown. There was no biting or hair-pulling. Hiei rolled out of Kurama's path as the fox fell on top of him, then grabbed the fox's shoulder and flipped him over. Hiei fell on him, but Kurama pushed him off quickly and onto the floor, rolling off the bed and pinning him. Hiei pushed him off, leapt on him, and around and around it went, mostly on the floor, and it never happened that they rolled out the door.
In the end, partially because Kurama was weaker than Hiei in his human form and mostly because, as a gift, as a gesture of guilt and sorrow, Kurama allowed him, Hiei won. Kurama was certain that, at least in that moment, Hiei had no idea that Kurama was letting him win. He was triumphant, the winner, the superior of the two for once, and he took great pride in this. Kurama would at least allow him that.
This, he knew, was his martyrdom yet again, wanting to take the blame for others and take the pain for others, and yet he believed that he had owed that to Hiei for all he had done, and more so what he would do later. Kurama accepted the pain that came with the pleasure, and he did it for Hiei, and when it was done and they were both panting and Hiei's head fell on his chest he whispered, "Next time I'm on top."
That broke Hiei from his reverie, from his trance-like state, and the fire demon's head snapped up. He looked into the eyes of the kitsune, across his face came a darkened expression, all three of his eyes examined his friend's face, and then he was up and dressing. Kurama leaned up, supporting his weight with his elbows, watching the demon scamper around, dressing and gathering the few things he had had on him.
And then he was gone, out the door and out the house, and out of Kurama's life for the next week while they both thought over the entire ordeal and while Kurama went back to normal life and Hiei went back to his, spending more time in Kurama's neighbor's tree than ever. Now, Kurama was at a loss. He knew that once Hiei had time to contemplate it (or avoid contemplating it) he would want something more serious, or at least another shot at the fox. And Kurama, for all his actions and his thoughts, did not want what Hiei wanted.
He did not love the demon, at least not yet, and he did not want a serious relationship. For now he was even sexually satisfied. Not having held someone in so many years had made him lose his judgment; had made him desperate for a lover, which probably caused much of his actions with Hiei.
At this point, he was fine except for this heavy guilt, this misery knowing that sooner or later Hiei would show up and demand his feelings, demand his devotion, and Kurama could give him nothing. He could try to fake it, of course, and hope that eventually either Hiei would find someone else or eventually Kurama would fall in love with the koorime.
But this seemed even crueler than what he had already done, which was, really, to manipulate Hiei's emotions and actions and use him to satisfy a craving for sex, knowing that Hiei would need more, knowing that Hiei would interpret it as more, and knowing that he would have nothing to say to that.
Kurama felt another wave of guilt wash over him and he felt disgusted with himself. Throwing down his pencil, he went to his window, guessing that Hiei would be watching from his tree. Watching and waiting. Kurama could not even lie to himself that he had no way of talking with Hiei even if he had wanted to; he knew that the demon spent at least some time in that tree every day, could sense him even as he masked his energy, and yet he didn't want to talk to Hiei, so he didn't try. It was a tangled, tangled web of false messages and lies, and he was in the middle. Weaving and weaving.
Unfortunately for everyone, there was a mission the weekend after Hiei and Kurama's escapade. It was the first time Kurama would see Hiei since then, and he was not sure how to act or how Hiei would. They were sent to retrieve a very ferocious and angry demon from a nearby forest who was eating humans that strayed in his path. He would probably be relocated to the Makai, being dumber than dirt and unable to even speak, but it could be a messy job all the same.
The four friends met outside the forest that Saturday, Kurama being the last one to walk up just after Hiei. He looked the fire demon in the eye, but Hiei turned away expressionless. At least he could still keep a straight face. They met the demon not far in the woods; he practically smelled them out. It was a very large demon, not very special, and yet as Yusuke pummeled it, the demon grew extra arms and used them to busy the other fighters. Kuwabara and Hiei chopped the arms off quickly, but more and more grew, while Yusuke fought the head and Kurama tried to get into the body beneath all those arms.
As Kurama ran forward, he saw that Hiei was dueling several arms which were beating the air around him, trying to destroy him, trying to squash him under the fingers. One hand managed to pin the demon by chance; Hiei would have been far too quick under normal circumstances. But at this point, his mind was clouded, he was unfocused, and so he found himself struggling under the fist of the demon, which was pressing him into the ground and trying to kill him. Yusuke and Kuwabara ran to the demon, trying to lift the giant ogre's fist off of Hiei, and Kurama stood where he was, frozen.
It was only for a few seconds, not long enough to cause him to be harmed by the giant demon's arms, and yet when Yusuke looked around for him, for help in removing the fist from Hiei's spine, Kurama did not move.
"KURAMA!" Yusuke yelled, straining to move the giant arm, and for about five seconds Kurama stood still. When Kuwabara began to yell because the demon's other hands were attacking them, then Kurama ran, helping the others lift the arm from Hiei who jumped up and began to sprint around the demon.
The others dissipated, and eventually Kuwabara beheaded the beast and they had to inform Koenma that retrieval would not have been an option without 1,000 CCs of sedative. Hiei went off when they exited the forest, and Yusuke theorized that he was going to Genkai's for a healing from Yukina. Kuwabara went to some sort of convention, and Yusuke and Kurama were left going to Koenma alone. They did so, giving him the news, and then Kurama said that he had to go home. He turned to go, but Yusuke laid a hand on his shoulder and asked, "Can I walk you there?" The two friends began walking to Kurama's house, which was about three blocks. Far enough for Yusuke to immediately start into what was on his mind.
"So what's up with you and Hiei?" Kurama blushed slightly, looking at Yusuke. He wasn't sure if or how much Yusuke knew or understood, but he respected the Detective and felt that if he had to admit his actions to anyone, Yusuke would be the only one.
"What do you mean?" Kurama avoided first. It was possible that Yusuke knew nothing. And he didn't, at least not then.
"Hiei's nearly crushed to death and you just stood there, plus neither of you were at top form. Normally you could have killed that thing alone with one arm tied behind your back. What's wrong?" Kurama looked at Yusuke seriously, then at the floor.
"It is complicated." Yusuke waited for Kurama to elaborate, and then jumped back in. He felt an obligation as team leader to make sure his teammates were in tip-top form. Whatever was going on between them would be fixed, and soon.
"C'mon, it can't be that bad. I swear I won't tell anyone. I'm just trying to keep you from getting killed on our next mission." Yusuke grinned, though he could tell that the situation was dire. Possibly life-threatening.
Kurama contemplated, and then sighed. He supposed that hiding it all from Yusuke would not work, because sooner or later something would have to be done. Unfortunately, they couldn't continue this way if they wanted to be successful at any more missions.
Kurama tried to put it delicately. "Hiei and I...we...something happened," he failed. Luckily, Yusuke wasn't stupid, or at least not as stupid as he pretended. And he knew his friends well. This was a bit surprising for him, but he really should have seen it coming.
"You guys had sex?" Yusuke said loudly, and Kurama looked around to make sure no one else was listening. They were on a residential street, but no one was out now. The weather was too cloudy. Kurama nodded, putting a finger to his lips. Yusuke grinned.
"I didn't know either of you swung that way." Kurama couldn't answer. He felt often that his previous times in bed with others had been much less about who it was and much more about satisfying an urge. That was a demon's nature, after all, and yet by Hiei's attitude he felt that it was not the same for Hiei. At least not now.
"So what's the problem, if you can tell me?" Yusuke asked. He was aware that he might be getting into dangerous territory, and he might hear more than he wanted to know, but at the same time the idea of romantic issues getting in the way of this job, where he finally felt at peace, was ridiculous.
"Hiei wants it to be serious, and I can't do that now." Kurama stated simply. It wasn't easier to talk about it than it had been before Yusuke understood, and he didn't want to lie, but if he omitted certain details, maybe Yusuke wouldn't think he was a sex-crazed, manipulative creep. Unfortunately, Yusuke knew him too well.
"You can't expect me to believe that you didn't know that was going to happen? You're the smartest person I know, and I could have told you that. Hiei's needy. It's crazy to think that he would ever...well, do it with someone, but I mean, come on! You knew, right? Tell me you're not so in love you didn't know that Hiei would want something like that."
They turned the corner and found themselves only a block away from Kurama's house. Yusuke was determined to finish the conversation, even if it meant he had to go into Kurama's house uninvited.
"I'm not in love. I did know what Hiei would want..." His tone was cold, colder than he liked, and yet he could only tell the truth at this point. A lie to Yusuke would be a lie to himself.
"So let me get this straight, Kurama. You realize that Hiei's in love with you and know that you don't feel the same way, but you give him all the green lights and sleep with him, and then you say that you don't want a committed relationship that you knew he would want?"
Kurama nodded slightly. "That's the gist of it." Yusuke was silent for some time. Kurama could sense that it was an angry silence.
"I don't get you. How could you do that?"
They had reached Kurama's house. They walked up to the door, Yusuke behind his friend. If Kurama had done the same to a girl, or some other guy, he might not have felt so angered or betrayed. But he was as loyal to Hiei as he was to Kurama, and was compassionate toward Hiei's situation. Kurama turned back to his friend after opening his door.
"I really don't know, and I don't have any excuse. What do you think I should do?" To fix it, he meant, but there was no saying that. Not with the look on Yusuke's face. He didn't like to pass judgment on others, and really didn't want to scold Kurama, but at the same time he felt an obligation to both try and help Hiei and to tell the truth.
"If and when Hiei comes to you and tells you he wants something more, give it to him. At least try. You're best friends, so there's got to be something there. Sooner or later you will be able to break it off with him. And hey, maybe you'll find that you don't want to. Just respect him, and I think it will be okay." Yusuke said a stiff goodbye and left.
Kurama closed the front door, then turned and slumped against it, his knees bending, his back sliding against the door until he was sitting on the floor. I do respect him, Kurama thought. More than you'll ever know.
Hiei did eventually show up at Kurama's, a few days before Shiori was due home. He simply walked in the front door, as he was used to, and found Kurama drinking coffee at his kitchen table. Hiei walked into the kitchen, his hands hanging at his sides, his eyes strong. He stood at the table, staring, saying nothing. He could not put into words his feelings now.
Kurama took a sip of coffee and smiled. "Sit," he said softly, and gestured to a chair. Hiei remained standing. "I don't need your pity," Hiei spat. It was laced, though, with a saddening sense of urgency, as though he really did need Kurama's pity. Kurama tilted his head down, as if bowing to Hiei's statement.
Hiei strode to the table, slamming his hands on it. "Don't toy with me, fox. I'll not have your compassion and mercy. I don't want it." Kurama stood, leaning over the table as well so that their faces were only inches apart.
"What do you want, then?"
Hiei was taken aback, but his head only recoiled half an inch. He stood staring at the fox, anger high on his mind and something else just as high. Kurama himself felt both guilty and pleased. Perhaps if he entered in a relationship with the fire demon, he could atone for his previous actions. Maybe, if they ended up in love, he could tell Hiei what he had done. He wanted to, but he also wanted to refrain from causing the fire demon any more pain. He was dealing with an internal battle now, at any rate, and didn't need an external one as well.
"I want you to treat me as an equal, not a foolish child," Hiei spat. Ouch. Kurama felt a pang at that. He knew he had belittled Hiei somewhat, even if some of it was to try and warn the demon that he was in deep waters. He also knew that Hiei would not appreciate any belittling for any reason. He smiled, closing his eyes.
"I apologize. Is that everything?" Knowing fully well it was not.
"Don't think you can read me like a book. I'm not as innocent as I look." Kurama straightened and smirked, unable to stop himself.
"Believe me, I know." Hiei actually audibly growled, also standing. His position was one of anger, but his fists were not raised.
He recognized Kurama's cool stance as a calculating one. "I already told you not to toy with me, and I don't like to repeat myself." Hiei was influencing his energy, sending it out in waves that Kurama found both annoyingly hot and overwhelmingly reminiscent of the last time he'd been in this house with Hiei.
He smiled at the fire demon, smiled knowingly but not in a superior way—because he had been cruel to Hiei, he felt that at the very least, he could respect the demon's wishes to be treated as an equal. Kurama thought that if they entered a relationship he would be paying through the nose, mostly by his own volition, but it was better to start now. He sat down again.
"I suppose you shall have to teach me a lesson." Kurama folded his arms as Hiei narrowed his eyes at his friend, probably trying to see whether Kurama had been joking. He had, but it was a loaded joke. Hiei suddenly disappeared and reappeared in front of the fox.
"I don't need what you humans call a relationship. I don't need anything." He was glaring down at Kurama, and Kurama was pleased to hear the strength in his voice.
"Indeed. But what you need is not the question, Hiei. The question is what you want." Hiei exhaled slowly, looking at Kurama as though he were going to play a dirty trick. Kurama disliked seeing the mistrust in the demon's eyes. He decided then that he would do whatever it took to remove that look from his friend's eyes. From now on, that was his life's goal. Whatever it took.
Hiei grabbed the fox's chin in his hand. "I want you..." Hiei muttered, examining Kurama's eyes. Kurama smiled.
"What a coincidence. I feel the same for you." Kurama was pleased to discover that he wasn't lying.