Though the kitsune didn't know what a camera was, he knew the bright flash of light wasn't something he liked. The first two flashes had made both him and Hiei freeze. The last one was an outright challenge.

Kurama hissed and rolled, Hiei pulling his hands away with a dark smirk. Kuwabara looked a little worried at that quiet hiss. But it was the light yipping cough-like bark that made him jump. The little fox was crouched at the edge of the table, that silky silver fur bunched around his shoulders in an instinctive attempt to make him look bigger than he was. And his two bushy tails were snapping like rubber bands. Kuwabara had just enough time to turn on his heels before it launched itself across the room, chasing the much larger human into the kitchen.

Left behind, Hiei turned to stare at Yusuke, his lips twitching into an evil grin. Yusuke cackled and lurched off the couch, following Hiei after the pair.

"Aiiii!"

Kuwabara's high pitched squeal was answered by startled gasps as the girls turned en masse to see him nearly crash through the glass doors, a little gray bolt of fur hot in his heels.

Shizuru winced, waiting for the glass to shatter. But when she opened her eyes it was to find Hiei standing near the now-open door, his dark grin telling plainly that he'd opened it just to prolong the chase.

"Where'd they go?" Yusuke asked, a little breathless from his sprint into the kitchen since he'd been laughing all the way. He followed Shizuru's pointed finger and snickered, not minding the shocked look Keiko was giving him. "Kuwabara sure isn't a very good climber, is he?"

"Not when he's climbing over those plants," Hiei smirked.

The mass of vines that still filled the garden was currently surging and twining in waves, not grabbing so much as slowing down the large human who was trying to get over them to the wall beyond. Kurama was sitting at the edge closest to the house, his little tails flicking back and forth as he gave a toothy canine grin. A light shimmer of youki ruffled his fur, the thorns shifting into smooth vines as they swelled up to toss Kuwabara back down the rise, pushing him further from his attempted escape route. It was a sign of Kuwabara's infinite stubborn streak that he immediately scurried up the mass, just to be tossed onto his back yet again.

Hiei was thoroughly enjoying the display, leaning against the doorway and smirking as the dumb human just kept climbing. He was confident Kuwabara would do it indefinitely, not bright enough to realize the fox kit was only playing with him. The fact that Kurama had cleared the deadly thorns should have tipped him off, or that those nimble vines were only dancing beneath him instead of wrapping him up and squeezing the life out of him. But the orange-haired teen seemed convinced that the kit was trying to kill him, his panting breaths mixed with little whimpering sounds of fright and frustration.

If Yukina hadn't spoken, it might have gone on for the rest of the night.

"Ah! Kazuma-san," Yukina gasped, "what are you doing?"

The pretty koorime stared in worry as Kuwabara was once again rolled off the vines, falling onto his back.

"You shouldn't play such dangerous games." She left the kitchen, giving a quick nod to Hiei and Yusuke as she passed them. "You could hurt yourself."

"Yukina-sama!" Kuwabara flailed, pushing himself onto his side so he could see the fragile girl. That evil fox was sitting just a few feet in front of her and he scrambled to his knees. "I'll protect you, Yukina-sama!"

Hiei's eyebrow twitched in severe annoyance, but it was unnecessary. The kit wasn't through yet.

Kurama had glanced back when Yukina approached, his golden eyes glittering like mad. But the sound of Kuwabara's boast had snapped him back around again. With a dusty haze of youki, he jumped at Kuwabara, some of those mobile vines snagging the teen's ankles and sending him onto his back. A moment later he opened dazed eyes to find a little silver face staring down into his, wide jaws opened to show small but very sharp teeth. Kuwabara whimpered.

"Is it just me," Yusuke commented quietly, looking at Shizuru, "or did he just pounce Kuwabara? Not that it's really a hard thing to do, but Kuwabara of all people..."

"Maybe he's an appetizer," Shizuru smirked.

"Don't eat that," Hiei said, his voice carrying out to where the fox and human were. "He'll make you sick."

Kuwabara bristled at the insult, opening his mouth to shout that he certainly wouldn't make anyone sick. Then he realized the word 'eat' had been mentioned and he paled significantly. That toothy grin was still just above his face, light glinting on the edge of bright white canines. "Eh...he's not really going to eat me, is he? Not Kurama..."

His forlorn voice made Yusuke wince in a bit of sympathy, despite the humor of the scene. But it also made the kit jump from his chest to his neck, that open mouth right over his face so their eyes were even. A second later and the fox curled up on his face, huffing a satisfied little sound as it curled its tail around its legs and grinned at Yukina.

"What a clever fox you are," Yukina smiled. The kit huffed again, those tails sweeping along Kuwabara's neck. The tall human was stock still, whether from shock or lack of air, no one could tell, not with the fox lying on his face like that. "You caught him all by yourself. And Kazuma-san is very strong, I've seen him defeat many youkai."

Kurama swept his tails faster as she crouched beside him and Kuwabara, her pale hands moving to pet his silky back.

"But what would you do with him?" she continued, her sweet smile giving every evidence that she expected the fox to understand her words. "Youkai don't eat humans anymore. And you wouldn't want to waste your first big catch."

The little fox sniffed, poking his nose against the fluff of orange hair near him. Something about the scent must have gotten to him, because he snuffled, a little sneeze making his fur shiver. A moment later he was on his feet, and grinning up at the pretty koorime.

Yukina returned the smile, patting a very gentle hand on his head and brushing one felt-tipped ear. Then she turned and gave a bright, happy look at Hiei. It made the dark demon flinch with a flash of nervousness.

"Hiei-san?" Yukina called. "Don't you want to accept his prize? Kurama-kit caught him very well."

Yusuke let out a bark of laughter at Hiei's disgruntled expression and shoved on his friend's back. "Go for it, Hiei. I bet you always wanted someone to give you a great big lummox of a human. And just think, Kurama caught him for you. For a second there I thought he'd give the catch to Yukina. Kuwabara would have loved that."

Hiei scowled at the very idea, but he moved to join Yukina next to Kurama and his catch. Kuwabara's face was visible now that the kit was standing, and the teen's confusion blazed from his very wide eyes. The only greeting Hiei gave the baka was a disgusted sniff, his gaze shifting to the very smug looking kitsune still perched on the human's face.

"Throw it back," Hiei said, his distaste evident in his voice. "It's good for practice, but not worth keeping."

The fox looked quite disappointed by this. With drooping ears, it looked back down at that funny smelling hair and chuffed quietly. Then it hopped to the side, the vines shifting so Kuwabara was in a seated position before releasing him completely.

To his credit, Kuwabara didn't say the first thing that came to mind - which would have been a wild flurry of confusion and hurt anger, followed by a quick plea to get Yukina away from that psychotic Kurama-impersonator. Instead, he scowled and rubbed his arms.

"What's the deal? What do you have against me, anyway?" This was directed to the demented fox itself. The kit tilted its head in such an innocent manner that Kuwabara scowled. It was still adorable looking. "We used to be friends, you know."

"Of course you are," Yukina said pleasantly. She reached out to pet the fox again, her smile making Kuwabara deflate in his typical pile of happy mush. "Kurama-kit was very careful not to hurt you during your play together. But it's still dangerous. He's too young to have complete control of his youki. A safer game would be better, maybe just a simple stalking game. You like to stalk, don't you, kitsune?"

The little fox fluffed up, those two tails swiping cheerfully.

"But you should eat something first," Yukina continued. "Shizuru-san and Keiko-san have made some food for you. You and Kazuma-san can play later."

Kuwabara's face took on an odd greenish tint, but he managed a very sickly smile when Yukina looked to him with her lovely innocence.

"Yeah," he said, his voice faint. "We can play later..."

"That's nice," Yukina beamed. "You have such a way with animals, Kazuma-san. It's rare that a youkai would choose a human as his playmate. But I'm not surprised."

The sappy flattery made Hiei's stomach lurch in a wave of furious disgust. It was all he could do not to bop Kuwabara over the head for grinning at his sister like that. Insolent, ignorant, infuriating human. And Yukina was too sweet by far to be so close to the baka.

With a pointed look at the kitsune, who was currently rubbing his head all over Yukina's hand as if she couldn't pet him quite fast enough, Hiei cleared his throat. "If you're going to feed him, do it now. He may not be able to eat that disgusting baka, but he caught him cleanly."

"Yes," Yukina smiled, complimenting the fox again. "You must have been a very cunning kitsune in the Makai, Kurama-kit. Such a big catch would feed your entire pack, wouldn't it."

The silver kit tilted his head and fell back on his haunches in an almost thoughtful way. He stared up at Yukina for a long moment before looking past her to where Hiei was standing. His soft whine made Hiei wince.

Hiei gritted his teeth at the mockery he knew was coming, but he couldn't deny the way his conscience berated him. As stupid as the human was, he was certainly stronger than the typical youkai a young kitsune might go after.

"Nice pounce," he said sharply, not looking at the fox. "Bad prey. Can't be helped."

A soft huff caught his ear, and he relented, giving a very slight nod. Any hopes he'd had of the praise going unnoticed were dashed when the fox fluffed up and scurried over to him, landing right on his shoulder in a quick leap that proved appearances meant little when it came to youko kits.

Yusuke was grinning when he turned back to the kitchen, and Hiei pointedly ignored the boy. Yusuke could mock all he wanted, but for a juvenile fox demon, Kurama was impressive. He'd more than earned a little praise.

Two steps into the kitchen and a telling flash caught Hiei right in the eyes, the kitsune bristling on his shoulder. Shizuru smirked, not the least bit apologetic.

"It's a little too dark in here to go without the flash," she shrugged. "But I'm sure the pictures of the garden will come out lovely."

Kuwabara had climbed a little shakily to his feet, and he reached the doorway just in time to hear what his sister had said. His face paled, then darkened, before settling in a mottled mix of outrage. "You took pictures of that? Of me getting jumped by that-"

He bit off the insult, Yukina joining him in the doorway. If she really thought he and Kurama had just been playing, he couldn't exactly contradict her. After all, she looked so pleased with the idea of them being playmates. But...playmates? If what he'd gotten was right, the crazy fox had planned to eat him. There was nothing fun or playful about that.

"Of course I took pictures," Shizuru smiled. "You and Yusuke were the ones who wanted me to bring my camera. We wouldn't want Kurama to miss out seeing his little self having such fun, now would we?"

.-.
TBC