A/N: Set post-canon under the assumption that Yukina and Hiei have come to an understanding, so maybe slight canon bending. Thanks to phrenotobe for previewing this.
The Kuwabaras are visiting universities when Hiei shows up at their apartment. As Yukina's presence creates a permanent winter, she's rocking back and forth with half of a scarf in her lap, stopping to pull the yarn away from Eikitchi's batting paws. She doesn't know how long Hiei's been lounging in the tree outside, but when she notices his energy the scarf is surrendered to Eikitchi and the window opened. In a flash, Hiei disappears from the branch and reappears in an awkward spot not quite beside the couch. Yukina latches the window tightly and resists the urge to lock it.
"Please, sit," she says, returning to her spot on the rocker. Hiei stares at a cushion as if not quite sure what to do with it, then pushes a pillow aside and perches on the couch arm. "What brings you here?" Yukina reaches for her knitting, realizes Eikitchi has already pounced on it, and fusses with the ribbons on the dress Shizuru bought her instead. Hiei shrugs.
"The tree next to Kurama's apartment rotted while he's off on some cruise with his human family." He picks a leaf off his own scarf. She tries to make out the shape of a necklace under it, but it's too bulky, and the heat of his energy masks the stones' cooling power.
"I see." This is the first time in weeks that Yukina has been alone, without even Kurama to visit her; Hiei must have seen that, but she doesn't need to put him on the spot by pointing it out. That also makes it pointless to update him on what the Kuwabaras are up to, so she bounces her heels, commenting on the sunshine and other things she's learned to talk about to fill in gaps. Nobody has taught Hiei the proper responses, so the gaps remain half-filled like footprints after a dusting of snow, and eventually she quiets.
The heater the Kuwabaras recently installed hums. Eikitchi has dragged the scarf halfway across the floor, most of it unraveled in a trail behind her. Yukina doesn't mourn it. She'll have plenty of time alone to restart.
"Tea," she says, jumping up. "That is…I haven't offered you anything. I'll be right back."
Genkai taught her to make it with loose leaves, but Kurama supplies her with those, and she used up the latest batch after he left. Luckily there are two tea bags, and the directions on the box are clear enough. As the water steeps she has the odd thought that Hiei could be watching from the other room, and she stops tapping the counter, adjusting her humming to be in tune.
Returning, she spies Hiei's boots on the couch. Imagining asking him to place them by the door almost makes her laugh. Distracted by the thought, she doesn't notice until she offers the teacup that it's frosted over. She swallows and smiles.
"Shizuru likes to drink it with ice," she says. Without comment Hiei takes it. Within seconds the frost has made way to steam. Blinking, Yukina giggles. "Will you do that to mine? I've always wondered what it's like hot."
"It'll just get cold again when I hand it back," he points out, but he takes her cup anyway.
Yukina rocks on the balls of her feet, missing the motion of the chair but daring to sit beside him on the couch, compromising by not forcing further conversation. His eyes are fixed on a spot beside the television, but it's him who speaks. "What is that checked paper hanging on the wall under the absurd picture?" She looks behind him. The 'Pocket Monster' for that month is Mankey, one of Kazuma's favorites.
"It's a calendar. It marks the passage of days." Hiei's expression is blank. She knows what's he's thinking; she thought the same. "It's important for humans. They don't have many years of life; they need to portion it out to make the most of it. Plus, we can all write down what we're doing that day, and the others will know." She smiles a bit against her mug, thinking of all the little kitten drawings and messages she and Kazuma have left each other. Hiei stares into his tea.
"You certainly seem to have adapted to living with humans."
The scent of singed flesh around him overpowers the bitter beverage. "Not entirely," she admits. She hasn't told that to anyone else, but with him she feels guiltier for adjusting than not. "But Kazuma and Shizuru have done so much for me. I don't want to burden them."
Hiei looks at her for perhaps the first time that visit, his stare sharp. "You don't have to go along with everything just because they invited you. It was their choice to live with an apparition—they can deal with it."
She nods, her shoulders lowering. "Thank you," she murmurs. It hits her that, with him, there's no need for her to keep up the pretense of being human. She stretches her jaw, working out tension from tucking away her fangs. "How has your work been? Are you finally fighting stronger demons?"
The candid way his eyes widen delights her, if she's honest. "You don't have to pretend to be interested in that sort of thing," he says once he's regained his guard. "I know you loathe violence."
"I once wished death upon everyone in our village." Her teeth worry at her lip, not at the sentiment but at the calculated wording. On cue his knuckles whiten against the cup.
"Point taken," he says. Her teeth recede. He looks away. "But no, it's been quite some time since I met a worthy opponent—besides Mukuro, and she has better things to do."
Yukina knocks against her cup to break up the ice that's already reformed. "That's too bad. You know, Genkai is teaching me self-defense." When Hiei looks at her this time, it's with the expression he gives a powerful weapon or promising fight, not unlike Eikitchi spotting a squirrel climbing the tree trunk. She holds up a hand. "It's not real fighting yet. But Shizuru thought I should learn from someone with proper training."
Finally Hiei drinks his tea, which has steamed enough to make his bangs limp. Half of it must have evaporated; he downs it in one gulp. "She was right. Genkai won't steer you wrong." It's high respect, from him. Yukina takes his cup and sets it on the coffee table alongside her own, which she's given up on. "Show me what you've learned," he says.
Fearing it will bore him, she explains that Genkai has only taught her control over her energy. Touching doorknobs without freezing them was the starting point, as Yukina already made a spectacle of herself in human buildings over such things.
"I really have to focus, though," she says, eyeing her abandoned cup. Normally she can insulate a drink, but she couldn't possibly concentrate with her brother around. "But," she adds, brightening, "Genkai says that once I have complete control, she'll teach me how to make a sword of ice."
As expected, that raises Hiei's brow. "Is that so?" He dangles a leg off the couch arm. "I could teach you right now, if you want."
She knocks her knees together. "Really?" The thought of them having matching weapons makes her grin, as childish as that is. Still… "Genkai would be displeased if I didn't follow the steps of her training."
Though Hiei grunts, he doesn't push the matter. Yukina would be surprised if he put her through training as intense as his own, anyway.
The heater's hum takes over. Yukina matches its key, searching for something else to say that would interest him and thinking only of the new zoo that's opening and the biology textbook Kurama lent.
A smacking sound startles her. Her heart beats a rare thump as she guesses what it is, but she rises anyway and runs to the window. Her wrists shake on the ledge, causing shards of ice to crawl across and up the sides. A stone drips from her eye. Hiei is beside her when it clacks against the ground.
"What is it?" he barks, a hand on his sword. His volume makes her wince. She points out the window at the bird lying dead against the ground, its wing bent.
"That's the third one in the last—oh, why do humans need to put glass and plaster around everything?"
Hiei doesn't speak, the skin beneath his brow knotting. She covers her eyes, not so much to absorb tears as to hide their faces from each other. He must think her broken. The Koorime certainly would have. Shame over her emotions feels like the return of an unwanted acquaintance; among humans she's odd for being able to shut them off, for having to work to turn them back on. Dizziness takes her. She leans against the wall.
The hand on Hiei's sword drops. "What does Kuwabara do when this happens?"
"Well, Kazuma would only cry if it was a cat or chipmunk."
"What—not that. What does Shizuru do when you cry?"
"Oh, um…it depends on the reason. Put an arm around me and lead me to sit in a quiet place, then bring me some tea, I suppose." She wipes her eyes, studying him curiously. He's shoved his hands in his pockets, his eyes shifting over every inch of the room except the ones she occupies. Finally he darts back to the table and gets her cup, fast enough that she only sees it appear in his hand. He shoves it to her lips.
"Drink. It'll stay liquid as long as I'm holding it."
A giggle bubbles up, making her mouth vibrate against the rim. Hiei scowls. Quickly she sips the tea. It's too hot, burning her tongue. At least it distracts her from her grief—her tolerance for pain is worlds greater, anyway.
"It's one thing to hurt anyone who makes you cry, but I can't really punish all humans for normalizing windows," he explains while she drinks. "Not without getting in trouble with Spirit World, anyway." She can feel his tension, knowing he would be fidgeting if he weren't holding the cup in place. She finishes it quickly, and he steps back.
"The tea is quite enough," she says once he pulls the cup away. "Thank you." He looks aside, and her stomach drops as she realizes he might leave. She stays rooted in front of the window, pulling out a handkerchief Kazuma gave her and using it to wipe tea from her chin. Behind her, the frame of ice begins to melt, dampening her clothes.
"The Kuwabaras aren't returning for several days," Hiei says.
"How did you know that?"
Hiei points to the calendar. "It's on that thing. Right next to 'reunited with my little love bug.'" His face suggests he swallowed a bug himself. Yukina hides a smile behind the handkerchief.
"His jokes are funny, aren't they? Even if the clown takes them a bit far," she says.
For a moment, Hiei looks confused; then his face lights up so intensely that Yukina almost wants to use one of those soul-stealing cameras, if only to show the result to everyone who thinks he's only capable of glowering.
"I might as well stay until then," he says. "I absolutely can't pass up the chance to see his reaction when he learns what you just said."
As is often the case, Yukina feels she's missing context, but she doesn't really care. Clapping her hands together around her handkerchief, she crosses the room to retrieve the yarn from Eikitchi. She has an extra scarf to knit, and not enough days on the calendar in which to knit it.