Disclaimer: I don't own YYH or the characters

Sorry for the delay, everyone! I've had quite the busy month with about five moves, working, commuting between work and my hometown about two hours away every week, spending time with friends and families, suffering a loss, getting disheartening news followed by good news (more hours at work and more involvement on projects which is awesome!), working on multiple different writing projects because I can't just sit down to one so I have like a million partially/mostly written chapters. It's a lot, but I finally pushed through and got something done. And, to save time, this AN may be on multiple stories pretty soon!

Anyways, enjoy!

Another week came and went, and Botan's due date was fast approaching. In just about ten weeks, a new, little baby would entered the world. That meant that they only had a little over two months to prepare for their son's birth.

"You both have that delivery date on your mind (most likely marked in red on your calendar)," Hiei read from his guidebook while he sat in the windowsill and Botan napped. His shoulders were lax, his expression neutral as his eyes roved over each word carefully. "Don't forget she has a much more daunting experience – actually birthing the baby – in her future than you do. Any time there's an opportunity, help to take her mind off her worries. Get her talking about how exciting the next months will be. Help her wash and put away all the baby clothes people have been giving you. You can even make a date to put the crib together.

"When all else fails, just help her breathe and relax – you're in this together."

Hiei closed the book and set it aside. His mind was less tumultuous ever since the previous week, the night he resolved to focus on the possibility of a relationship with the woman. He had started to read his book more regularly, hoping for ideas. The guide suggested spending more time with Botan, "dating" as humans would call it. The fire demon didn't know the first thing about it, but he knew he needed to focus on nurturing their relationship before the baby came.

So, he decided to avoid the topic his book was suggesting regarding the crib for the week, just for a little while. They still had some time before their son would arrive. He mentally promised to bring it up the following week.

Getting ideas was tough. There was a whole section on date night ideas in Botan's book, so Hiei would covertly procure it whenever Botan was in the shower or resting. He learned about the act of gift giving, something he had done subconsciously back when the girls were clothes shopping. His gesture had spoken volumes to Botan. She still wore the sweater, and her mood would always lift when she did just because she knew it was from him. Apparently, it was also a romantic gesture to give chocolates and roses. The demon remembered the ferry girl's reaction when he bought her favorite chocolate bar.

But, even the book told him the most important gift was time.

Quality time together was precious, especially when they would soon share their life with a third person. Not only that, but they would be separated at times, too. Yukina's words returned to him. She had already been steps ahead, warned her brother to make every minute he and the woman were together count. It was better late than never, Hiei supposed.

So, the book suggested plenty of ideas on what to do together during different stages of the pregnancy.

They were already beyond outdoor activities due to the colder weather, but there were some ideas that Hiei knew Botan would like. Playing board games when a movie was on in the background, going on a "soda stroll," or bringing the movie theater to the bedroom were but a few suggestions. The last one seemed like something more manageable. The woman was exhausted, more so lately than any other time. It was a start at least, and Hiei remembered a DVD Botan pointed out, a movie she wanted to see. He could easily "acquire" it. The movie store was just across the street, so he would not have to go far.

Maybe surprises weren't completely a waste like he formerly thought.

It was evening when Botan decided to stop resting on the couch. She yawned and stretched. Why did it feel like all she did that day was sleep? As her due date drew near, she became more tired, and the second she was up she felt like she needed to lie down again. Well, it was probably time to call it a night, anyway. She mentally sighed and admitted defeat.

Botan headed to her room to change for bed. For a while, Botan had been sleeping in Hiei's room with him. Occasionally, they stayed in her room, mainly when Hiei tried to make her comfortable, but that was happening less often as she felt comfortable wherever he was. It didn't matter to her what room she was in as long as she was with him, and she made that overly clear to the fire demon.

Things with Hiei were complicated, but Botan found herself becoming more relaxed and content with how everything progressed between the two of them. There was still so much uncertainty to come. She had plenty of anxiety for the both of them, but being with Hiei made her feel safe, and she wasn't going to question it. She still didn't know exactly what they were and she dared not question the fire demon about it yet. All she knew was that she loved him, and there was no going back from that.

So, Botan was stunned when she entered her room. Instead of it being empty, Hiei was inside. He placed bowls of popcorn down on each night table and even brought drinks. Blue brows furrowed in confusion. What was he doing?

Hiei noticed Botan right away; the smell of her shower soap and her low energy signal alerted him to her presence. He turned and noticed her dazed expression.

"What's all this?" she asked him; her curiosity got the best of her. She eyed Hiei as if he were an anomaly. Truth be told, the woman was right to be surprised.

"Movie night," Hiei grunted out. He then pointed to the DVD on the bed. "You wanted to see this."

Botan felt so blown away by this unexpected gesture. Her heart burst, and her feet carried her to her lover. She wrapped her arms around his neck, noticed just a bit of hesitation in Hiei's eyes before it passed. The fire demon turned into her touch and placed his hands on her hips. His hand rose to her face and cupped her cheek, and his thumb traced her lips before he drew her in for a kiss. The woman responded immediately, her hands laced in his hair. Desire bubbled up within the fire demon, but he needed to push it back down. As great as he knew being physical with her would be, that was not his intention for the night.

After Hiei pulled away, he popped the movie in the player and the two settled in bed. Botan was still amazed that Hiei did all of this for her. She was even more taken aback when Hiei took her hand. Her breath hitched when he entwined their fingers and encased her hand in his strong, warm hold. The ferry girl returned the grip, and Hiei took note of her surprisingly forceful hold. They curled up together in bed; their night was quiet and peaceful. The movie she wanted to see wasn't half bad, either.

As the week progressed, Hiei was still coming to terms with the fact that he was actually dating Botan. Still a bit frantic, especially when the ferry girl caught on to what he was doing, the fire demon managed to initiate a few more of the date night ideas. Already they had an indoor picnic and took a walk along the beach near Genkai's. Hiei was finally taking the time to get to know Botan on a deeper level. It astounded him that he had begrudgingly worked with this woman for years, spent all these months with her, and he still knew so little.

He wrote her off so many times as being insignificant, but she played a huge, integral part in so many of Spirit World's dealings. In fact, he learned that she even had a little pull with Koenma when the fire demon stood trial. Even back then, she didn't see a monster, and that surprised Hiei because he had caused her physical harm.

Back to the dates, Botan would thank him each time and then shower him with affection. Currently, that was what had the demon's mind reeling. It was like he had never been with the woman before despite their avid intimacy in the bedroom. Their relationship progressed just as fast as the pregnancy, and it became more real to him – the fact that he wanted to be with her. Oddly enough, regardless of this admission, he was still at war with himself. However, the side that wanted to remain with Botan was winning out, and Hiei refused to stop it. Not this time.

It was a nice day, the fall air crisp and inviting. Botan truly loved the season, and the weather could be really wonderful – not too hot, not too cold. This was the kind of day where running errands would be perfect. There wasn't much to do other than grocery shopping, anyway. She needed more fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and more of the whole grains and anything else with fiber. She felt like she was starting to eat more like a squirrel, but at least she was eating. Occasionally, she would be ravenous, and those instances she usually craved lots and lots of meat.

The ferry girl stood up from her place on the couch and raised her arms to stretch. She leaned over a bit too far and nearly stumbled, but she caught herself on the sofa. A grimace appeared on her face, and she ran a hand through her blue locks. "You okay?"

At the sound of the voice and door closing, Botan whipped her head around gently to see her demon lover place his sword against the wall. "I'm fine," she replied tiredly. "Just a little off balance."

Hiei answered with a nod before he approached her. It was a part of a new ritual, one that took a few days to get used to. Slowly and tentatively, he wrapped his arms around the woman and simply held her. He had made the decision after the night of their first "official" date. It was completely outside of Hiei's comfort zone to initiate physical contact, but the ferry girl had seemed to light up when he took her hand. It was so simple, in theory, to touch her and cause that same joy at other times. The fire demon, however, felt his body's reluctance. That is why he decided to make this effort, and the woman's melodious sigh as she returned his embrace was the reward for doing so.

"I need to run to the store," Botan murmured despite the fact that she sunk into Hiei's hug. "We need some food."

"Hn," Hiei replied. He gently rocked her, and his hand moved to her swell to greet his son. The unborn child's energy flared slightly and Hiei received a soft jab. Botan laughed lightly and felt overwhelming bliss. "I'll go with you."

"I'll be fine," Botan rejected, although her voice was light and airy. "You just got back." All of a sudden, Hiei let go of her; she felt a light touch and nearly stumbled over. Then, the fire demon grabbed her hand to stop her from falling and righted her. She flashed him a heatless glare and shouted, "Hey!"

She was met with a stone-cold gaze and stern eyes. "If you nearly fell because of that, you have no business going anywhere alone. I'm going with you."

Botan heaved a heavy sigh but then offered a shy smile. "Well, alright, then. I would be happy if you came with me, as long as you want to."

Hiei nodded, and the two left the apartment together.

On the way to the grocery store, however, Hiei took a detour. When Botan asked him where he was going when the place was straight down the street, he didn't answer. The ferry girl allowed the demon to lure her wherever he wanted, and it turned out his aim was the park.

His grip changed once they were there; he went from cupping her hand and practically dragging her to relaxing his grip as he entwined their fingers and walked slowly so they were side by side. His hold was still firm, but it seemed different, like he didn't want to let her go. Botan was becoming less and less surprised by Hiei's attempts to spend time together and returned his grip with as powerful a squeeze as she could muster. It was her silent message to Hiei that she understood and appreciated the sentiment.

Hiei felt warmth fill his entire being when Botan gave him that strong squeeze. He figured she'd catch on pretty quickly. She was brilliant, and he was starting to understand that instead of just seeing her as the ditz of an unwelcome teammate he once did. Her kind, sweet actions started to become more routine and less overwhelming. The book was right, it seemed. The more they did these types of things, the more Hiei felt relaxed to enjoy them, enough to be intimate with Botan on another level.

It seemed that the challenges he put on himself benefitted him more than he ever would have thought. Just being with her, like Kuwabara once suggested, really did hold some merit after all.

"Your baby is the size of a bunch of broccoli," Botan read out loud as Hiei put away the groceries. The fire demon held up a huge stalk of broccoli that was just a small bit larger then the palm of his hand. Crimson eyes narrowed at the stalk as if Hiei couldn't believe the baby was that small. Botan giggled behind her hand and went back to reading. "…or a cabbage."

"Hn," Hiei said practically flinging the plant in the vegetable drawer. "What else?"

"He's getting smarter, it says," Botan replied. "But I'd say he's already pretty smart, reaching out to us like he did."

She isn't wrong, Hiei admitted. The child understood quite a bit since he was just a bean, it seemed. Back when he had been in denial, back when Botan hadn't been showing at all except for the fire demon's energy coursing around her, giving her away, the brat had been making his presence known to Hiei. He wanted his father's attention, probably because he knew he'd have to fight for it. Hiei grimaced. The child shouldn't have to fight for anything, not at this stage of his life.

Botan groaned and placed a hand to her chest. Hiei snapped out of his thoughts and was swiftly at her side. "What's wrong?"

"Heartburn," Botan barely managed out as she swallowed a bit of acid reflux and made a face as she did do. "Did you find the antacids in the bag yet? Hanako said I could have them if I felt this way."

Hiei grunted and rummaged through one of the bags to find the bottle. It didn't take long, and he tossed the bottle to Botan who was close enough to catch it. She smiled weakly. "Thanks."

"It's not an issue," Hiei returned. He looked away from the woman and went back to putting the fruits and vegetables in the fridge.

After Botan chewed the chalky tablets, she went back to reading the book and hoped her indigestion would settle soon. "So, anyway, if he were a normal, human child, the book says that the surface of the brain is beginning to wrinkle and can hold more brain cells. That's really amazing."

Hiei would never admit it out loud, but he actually agreed with her.

"His hands are fully formed, too. He just keeps growing."

The fire demon nodded and noticed that her statement didn't leave him feeling as frantic as it had in the past. It seemed his son wasn't the only one who was growing.

"It's mentioning kick counts again," Botan murmured. "I haven't been doing them. He's just so active I figured that if he ever stopped I would notice."

Hiei finished getting the refrigerator foods put away, the last package of meat placed in the meat drawer. When Botan mentioned the kick counts, he froze. The woman didn't know it, but he had taken to performing the counts when she was unaware. He already knew the activity level of their son by heart. "The boy is fine," he assured her before he moved to unpacking the nonperishables.

Before Botan could question Hiei's words, he added, "Go rest for now. You have an appointment with the witch this afternoon."

The ferry girl laughed. She could hear the uneasiness in Hiei's voice and knew he was trying to distract her. Carefully, she stood up. As she left the room, she called out, "She's not a witch," in a sing-song type of tone. Hiei muttered something under his breath before he resumed his chore.

Later, the couple found themselves in Hanako's office. Botan was wearing that throwaway robe, and even though she should be used to it by this point she was still very uncomfortable. Hiei remained at her side as he had been for all the recent appointments. Hanako set up the ultrasound and rubbed that cold jelly on Botan's abdomen. The cold metal made Botan flinch, but the ferry girl relaxed quickly and set her eyes on the screen.

"Well, would you look at that," Hanako said fondly. "Your little one is already grabbing his feet."

Botan smiled; her amethyst eyes sparkled with love and delight. Her book had told her she might see something like that at her next appointment, but she didn't really expect to see it. Her hand gently rubbed that top of her belly and felt a jab, the boy on the screen lightly kicking her. The two women laughed unaware that the fire demon was mesmerized by the child's actions. The boy really was responding to his parents. It was as if the boy knew the unspoken desire of his mother, one Hiei had picked up on, and was basically saying, "This is for you!"

It amazed Hiei more than he ever thought possible.

After Botan got cleaned up, Hanako went to check her charts. After the doctor read a few lines, she looked to Botan and grinned. "Everything looks good," she reported, and Botan released an audible sigh of relief. "Your weight is exactly where it should be at this stage, so keep doing what you're doing. The baby is healthy, too, and he's at the stage where his brain and fat cells are starting to regulate his body temperature, so any extra hairs will be disappearing soon. His bone marrow, too, is taking over control of red blood cell production, which is important for when the child is born. It means he'll be able to thrive on his own."

"Well, that's good," Botan laughed, her arms still wrapped around the swell. "Our little one is almost ready to come out."

Hanako beamed brightly feeling immense pride. She couldn't believe how far both Botan and Hiei had come since their first appointment, and now there was only two months left. "Now, is there anything you need to ask me? Did any new symptoms arise that you're struggling with?"

Botan frowned. There really wasn't much that was new except that nasty heartburn, but Hanako had already given her advice on that. "How do we make her more comfortable with the symptoms she already has?"

The ferry girl blinked and then turned her head. She gawped at the fire demon as if he had said the most outlandish thing. His expression remained stern and serious, but he seemed…calm. It was like he was acting as her rock and acting like a true partner. It shouldn't have surprised Botan that he was concerned for her wellbeing, but her heart hammered and twisted in ways that she couldn't describe.

"What symptoms has she been experiencing?" Hanako asked, her countenance all business although she was cheering inside. Hiei had grown a lot during Botan's pregnancy as much as the child inside of the ferry girl had. When she first met him, she thought he was a detriment to her patient's mental health. The doctor had even told Botan that it might be better not to be around the demon. It had taken a lot of time, but Hiei was now completely invested in all of it. He did that classes, asked the questions Botan couldn't think of, and he tried everything he could to attempt to ease the burden's the woman suffered.

"Fatigue, back pain, dizziness," Hiei listed, "constant urination, tender…in the chest area…" The fire demon blushed, as did Botan, when he said this. "Bloating, gas, constipation, and heartburn."

"Did you really have to list everything?" Botan complained. She hid herself under her arm; the ferry girl felt embarrassed that the fire demon said all that to her doctor.

Hanako refrained from chuckling at her poor patient and friend. She knew it wasn't the most comfortable or pleasant to talk to a doctor about it all, especially a friend, but it was important that she know. "It's all normal," she promised. "The constant need to pee is most likely because your son's head is pressing against your bladder. It is a cramped space in there. Tenderness in the breasts is a result of your body preparing for lactation. For the rest of it, just keep managing the symptoms. Sleep when you can; rest often; eat high-fiber foods, take probiotics, and drink plenty of water during the day; massage the pained areas of the back."

"And the heartburn?" Botan questioned timidly. She didn't want to make a big deal out of it, but it affected her more than she was letting on. Maybe there was something else she could do.

"Your uterus is expanding which is part of the reason you're experiencing so many gastrointestinal issues," the obstetrician explained. "It's putting pressure on your stomach which is why you feel indigestion. To combat that, you should try to avoid spicy, fatty, and fried dishes. You may also want to avoid chocolate, too, but even I know that's not always easy. Eat smaller meals and don't lie down after snacking or eating. When you feel a flare up, that's what antacids are for, plus they'll give you and the baby calcium."

Botan nodded as she took it all in. Her eyes shifted to Hiei. The fire demon mentally banked all the information away in his mind. "Now," Hanako spoke up cautiously, "I want to discuss something else with you both, but just know it is completely up to you."

Purple eyes widened as crimson narrowed in suspicion. "What is completely up to us?" Hiei practically hissed. Something about the witch's wording set him on edge, and he didn't like it.

"One of the services we offer at this clinic is cord blood banking." The doctor paused to allow the two to react. She expected them to protest, but they both looked incredibly confused. She elaborated, "That's where we take the cord blood from the umbilical cord and placenta after birth, and then we donate it for research. There is a lot of research regarding stem cells that treat blood diseases and immune system disorders that can be collected from that blood; however, this clinic is primarily interested in the blood of those with supernatural abilities, like yours. We know enough about human children, but only recently have we been seeing situations like yours.

"I wanted to discuss it with you personally because I know you may feel like it's a violation of your privacy," Hanako concluded. "It is a safe and painless procedure and takes about five minutes, and you can either bank it at a public facility or privately here for your family only to protect your privacy."

Botan looked to Hiei. "What do you think we should do?"

She was asking him? Hiei was strangely touched that Botan would take his opinion into consideration on such a big decision. On one hand, Hiei really did feel strange about this facility bleeding his son out to experiment on his blood, but on the other, there was very little information regarding human/demon hybrids, and even less on human/demon/spirit offspring. It was possible that the blood would be very important one day, and the doctor did say it could be handled privately.

"If we choose to allow the information to the public data, will it still be handled here, privately, so that no other facility uses it and decides they want to research the child further," Hiei questioned. This would be the deciding factor. No matter what, protecting their son was the priority.

"Everything we do here is for others like you," Hanako assured them. "No other facility will get ahold of our data. It will be very specifically labeled so that the correct lab techs know to study it, and I'll be sure to keep an eye on everything."

"Then I say we do it," Botan chimed. She met Hiei's gaze and could tell he agreed. "There's no telling who this will help in addition to our son." Hiei nodded in acknowledgement and then glared at Hanako.

This time, the woman laughed.

"I promise, nothing will happen," she attempted to pacify the demon again. "I'll be right there during the delivery and after. Everything will be fine."

"He's been very active in there today," Botan murmured as she felt her baby shift around and place a few strong punches and kicks. "It's like he's a little boxer. My little warrior…"

Hiei halted in stride as they were walking home. Whenever the woman said something like that, it always felt like a punch to the gut. Of course, her words meant far more to him than he ever expected. This wonder and acceptance Botan always experienced in regards to their offspring was so completely different than what Hiei had come to know. If it were anyone else, the fire demon didn't think they'd be as thrilled as she was to sire his child. He still wasn't thrilled that he, one who lacked any basic parental skills, had done so.

His desire for the woman always seemed to spike when she spoke such honest, kind words. When he heard Botan gasp and then struggle to catch her breath, Hiei had to swallow that wantonness down. His mind went back to the remainder of the doctor's appointment. Hanako asked Botan a list of symptoms, and the ferry girl grew wide-eyed when the witch asked her is she was feeling breathless. Apparently, that was another symptom the woman was keeping from him, and that frustrated him.

Hiei stopped walking to allow the woman time to catch her breath before they continued down the street to the apartment. They were nearly there and – once behind closed doors – Hiei planned to have a discussion with the woman. He was not going to let her off so easily. She better have had a good reason for keeping him in the dark about something regarding her health.

Once home, Botan had sat down on the couch and put up her feet. She took some deep breaths to get as much air as possible. Hiei went to grab her a glass of water, and then sat beside her. After Botan set the glass down on the end table next to her, she leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Hiei noticed her hand reach under her shirt to itch her belly. He sighed and picked up a tube of lotion off of the coffee table.

Botan bought the cream the last time they were out. It was supposed to get rid of what the woman called "stretch marks." They were lines on her belly and body that formed because of her stretching skin. Of course, she was told by her book and her obstetrician that the cream probably wouldn't make them disappear, but it would help with the itchiness.

The woman flinched when she felt the cool cream meet her stomach; her purple eyes peeked through dark lashes as she watched Hiei rub the cream into her skin, his brow furrowed in deep concentration. This was not the first time Hiei had done this; Botan recalled a day where they read in the book that scratching made things worse and to ask her partner to rub moisturizing lotion over her stomach to alleviate discomfort. Hiei had simply stated that she "didn't need to ask," another shocking change in their dynamic, but one that was much appreciated.

The fire demon noticed Botan flexing her toes too. His crimson eyes shifted to the puffy ankles. He met her tired gaze and motioned for her to prop her feet on his lap. Botan's eyes widened, the woman surprised by the silent demand, but she did what Hiei asked and was rewarded as he began to gently massage her ankles.

"Hiei…" Botan moaned. Her voice sounded breathless, and Hiei paused for just a moment before continuing his ministrations.

"Why didn't you tell me about your breathing issues?" Botan blinked as Hiei's gaze cut through her. "How long has it been happening?"

Another soft moan escaped the woman as Hiei reached a small, tender spot on her heel. "I didn't want to admit it," she spoke quietly before she complained, "I already felt like I was as useless as the day I tried to go down the stairs."

Immediately, Hiei let the woman's foot go. Botan raised her head to look at the fire demon disappointed that he stopped. He was glowering at her, heat in his eyes. "Never mention that day," he snapped with a hiss. "Ever."

Hiei's body was shaking and he stood up abruptly to put distance between himself and the ferry girl. He couldn't believe she just said that so carelessly. That day still haunted him. It was Hiei's fault that it had happened in the first place, and he knew it. His actions and callous words haunted him each day, reminded him that he had put the woman at risk, and to hear her just murmur that memory out casually enraged him.

Baffled, Botan waited for Hiei to calm down. His breathing was heavy, and he was so visibly upset; it took the woman by surprised. "Hiei, what's wrong?" she whispered. "Why does that upset you so much?"

Hiei swallowed and it felt like he swallowed shards of glass. He couldn't believe she had asked that. Did she really not understand how much it twisted his insides when he thought of her lying at the bottom of the stairs? Was it possible that she never even considered what exactly he felt that day? He had been angry, quiet, and brooding. When they returned, the fire demon had yelled out all of his fear and frustration, and the woman had hugged him. Had that been her way of apologizing? Crimson eyes widened a fraction before he closed them and shook his head. Hiei had barely given the details of that day a second glance. Was it possible that Botan actually mistook his rage to be directed towards her?

"You were hurt," Hiei barely made out through gritted teeth. "You were trying to prove a point because you felt useless, and I made you feel that way. My words led you to take a stand to prove yourself. If it weren't for me, you would have done the safe thing and taken the damn elevator. You shouldn't have needed to prove yourself to me. You're carrying my child, our child."

During Hiei's tirade, their eyes finally met. Botan's soft eyes peered into the tumultuous orbs of her lover. Back then, they hadn't talked about what happened. The ferry girl always believed herself to be at fault. She tried to appear tough in that moment, to prove to herself and everyone else that she was still capable of functioning. When she did, she had put the baby at risk. She and Hiei could have lost their son because of her stupidity and carelessness. Even if Hiei had made his remarks, Botan shouldn't have let that interfere with her good sense. When Hiei yelled at her when they got back, he voiced all of the things that had run through Botan's head while she was in the hospital.

"I wronged you," Hiei interjected. Her train of thought was interrupted. "I can never forgive myself for that."

Botan was so surprised to hear this confession. All this time, she had taken his actions to mean something else. They both perceived what happened so differently; it amazed her. To reassure her lover, she took his hand in hers. "It's not your fault," she murmured. Hiei opened his mouth to contradict her, but Botan admitted, "You only said what I was already feeling."

"What?" Hiei obtusely replied.

"I…" Botan breathed out, her eyes cast sideward. "I already felt useless before you ever made that comment about listening to the book too much. There were already so many thoughts in my head. I didn't know what would happen with our baby after the birth. I didn't feel like I was being a good friend. I couldn't even enjoy myself when we were out and brought this negative aura with me."

She met Hiei's gaze again. "I was a burden to all of you," the ferry girl continued. "I guess…I just wanted to prove to myself that I could still handle something. I didn't do it solely because of you. There's no reason for you to be angry with yourself. You should be angry with me."

Hiei faced Botan. The woman's eyes never left his as he walked towards her. He stood in front of her, his eyes unreadable. In the blink of an eye, Botan was pulled flush up against the fire demon's body. His heat poured into her and warmed her whole body. Gently, his hand ran up her back to cradle her neck. Then he kissed her, short and sweet pecks before he pulled away to say, "You're never useless. You're stronger than all of us."

His words earned a smile from the woman. Botan pushed strands of blue out of her face and fought back the tears that threatened to spill. Their lips met again, and this time Hiei deepened the kiss. He pressed his forehead gently to hers and felt completely connected to the woman. Maybe this talking thing really wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Since the day of that overwhelming discussion, things had been even better between Hiei and Botan. The two worked together to research some ways to help with her breathlessness. It seemed that sleeping in a semi-seated position would help, but Botan didn't like the feeling of pillows stuck behind her back. Hiei didn't mind, though. He had slept on worse, so as a compromise, he slept propped up against the headboard and pillows, and Botan slept against him. She was much more comfortable with a fire demon keeping her warm and secure. The days she could sleep, she slept soundly. On the days she couldn't, well, sometimes they'd just remain in rest position and just be. Other nights, they were a bit more playful and amorous.

Unfortunately, Botan's center of gravity was changing. She was now so much larger than she had been, and her body seemed to make her use muscles she rarely did. Pain took over her lower back most days, but that wasn't the only problem. Her joints were loosening and she was stumbling more and more. Already used to being a klutz, she was able to catch herself most of the times, but it was becoming a problem. There was a chance she'd fall again, and there was no way she wanted a repeat, even if this time it would be accidental. It was a good thing she never wore heels!

Honestly, Botan felt very tired and didn't want to move around much at all. She wanted to go out less and less, something that Hiei noticed. It, again, affected her mood, but instead of being nonchalant or irritated about it as he would have been in the past, the fire demon was, surprisingly, very reassuring. He reminded her that she just had a few short months to go and that it was okay that she didn't want to go out.

It was a little suspicious that the next day later Yukina, Shizuru, and Keiko all decided on an impromptu visit.

Botan let the girls inside and went to change into more presentable clothes despite the protests of her friends. They claimed not to care what she was wearing, but Botan did care. The girls took time out of their lives to come and visit her. The least she could do was not sit around in her pajamas all day.

When she settled on an outfit and wrapped herself up in her cardigan, she made her way out to the living room. Yukina was already in the kitchen cooking food that Botan was sure was for her whether she wanted to eat or not. The ferry girl smiled awkwardly and bit her lip to stop the nervous chuckle that bubbled in her chest from escaping. She rubbed her belly and mentally reminded herself that she and her baby were lucky to have family to care for them.

The word family stuck in Botan's mind, and a true, genuine, and giddy smile found her. Botan didn't have any memories of a life before being a ferry girl. She had no idea if she had a family or not or if she just existed. Her friends had become her family, and now she and Hiei had their baby on their way. Hiei became her family truly by accident, and that was a bond more precious to her than anything. Yukina had always treated Botan like family, too, but now it was even more real. Her baby hadn't even been born yet, and he had given Botan something she had always craved. Her son connected her to both Hiei and Yukina, and nothing could take that away from any of them. They were a family.

"What's with that giddy smile?" Keiko teased from the living room. "Thinking about the baby."

"Yeah, just a little," Botan replied, a warm smile upon her face. "So what brings you girls by?"

"We just wanted to check up on our Blue," Shizuru replied. "It's been a while since we all got to hang out together."

Botan felt a jolt. Shizuru wasn't wrong. She hadn't seen any of them since the surprise baby shower which had been a little over a week ago, and even then it had all been about the baby. Botan couldn't remember the last time she and the girls spent quality time together. Even the times before, Botan vaguely recalled a lot of talk about the baby, and the ferry girl felt awful.

"What's wrong, Botan?" Keiko questioned as she noticed her friend's mood shift. "Are you feeling okay?"

"No," Botan admitted. "I'm horrible…the absolute worst. I've been so caught up with everything going on that I forgot to be a good friend. I haven't even thought to ask what's been going on, and I feel so disconnected, you know? I'm sorry."

"There's no need to apologize for that," Yukina said softly. She joined the group and put a plate full of food down in front of Botan. "You're having a baby, and honestly, I like to hear about it."

Botan looked at the ice maiden and saw nothing but sincerity and joy lighting her eyes. Well, Yukina was the baby's aunt, after all, so it made sense for her to want to talk about him, but what about the others? She looked to Keiko and Shizuru who were both nodding in agreement to reassure the woman.

"We're really excited for you, too," Keiko told her. "You're the first one of our group to get pregnant, however accidental it might have been. You're starting the next generation of our group."

Botan blushed and had to force a smile to wipe away a few of the forming happy tears. "That's really sweet of you to say, dear," the ferry girl murmured, "but I still feel like I've been neglectful. I feel like the last time we had a major discussion was when you told us that Yusuke and you were trying. And Shizuru…I heard from Kurama that things didn't work out with Ethan and he set you up. I don't know what happened before and what's going on now."

"Tell you what," Shizuru spoke up. "Let's do something, just us girls. We'll all catch up and tell each other about what's been going on. A little birdie told me you have plenty to tell us."

The ferry girl had an inkling as to what Shizuru was referring. It seemed like so long ago they had talked about her and Hiei, and there was so much new information to tell. Botan tried to think back, and she could only remember talking about Hiei with Keiko and Shizuru some time after the baby had started kicking. Could it have really been that long since they had true girl talk?

Smiling, Botan answered, "Yeah. I would like that very much."

As the week came to a close, Botan's mood had improved which indicated that the wave of hormone-induced depression was over. A girls' day with her friends was welcome and had its benefits. Of course, Botan suspected Hiei of having something to do with the get together. If he had, the fire demon made no move to claim responsibility. That was fine. Botan was perfectly happy to give Hiei some added affection as unspoken thanks throughout the rest of the week.

Hiei expected panic to arise within him when Botan was being overly cuddly and loving, but those nerves seemed to diminish over the course of all this time. In fact, a part of the demon longed for Botan's gentle touch. It awoke an animalistic urge in him to claim her while also calling upon a warmth he didn't realize he possessed to protect her.

The two were entwined on the couch; they kissed with such fervor, and Hiei's hands itched with anticipation. Most of their amorous activities had been put on hold while he attempted to increase their intimacy. He missed it, and so he allowed his hands to explore Botan's body. Botan murmured Hiei's name as his lips again met hers. Both closed their eyes, though when Botan peaked through, she could see the Jagan peeked open slightly. Even with his eyes closed, Hiei looked so content and peaceful as he caressed her. His hand traced her spine through her shirt, and Botan threw her head back which gave Hiei the opportunity to lightly nip her neck.

Out of nowhere, Hiei could feel a surge of excited energy and pulled away from the woman. The energy died down slightly, so Hiei resumed his actions as if he never stopped. Once again, as the couple continued their make out session, the raised energy appeared again. Hiei narrowed his eyes at the swell that covered his child. It seemed the baby was eager for his parents to be together, and that alone felt like a bucket of ice water poured over him. He felt incredibly self-conscious with an audience.

Leave us be, Hiei snapped with use of the Jagan. The second he demanded this, the energy completely dissipated which meant the child listened and withdrew. Hiei mentally scoffed. At least the boy obeyed. Still, Hiei was overwhelmed by this development, though it was sort of humorous that the boy wasn't even born yet and seemed eager for his parents to be together despite the lack of understanding what any of it meant.

Both with irritation and fondness, Hiei considered, Hn. That child is going to be a naïve voyeur just like his mother.

Strangely enough, the thought didn't bother him as much as it should have.

Anyway, the mood had effectively been ruined, and Hiei halted his ministrations. Breathless, Botan eyed her lover curiously. "What's up?" she asked, her voice full of concern. The ferry girl wondered if Hiei was back to experiencing second thoughts about them. If he was, she would understand. So much had changed between them so quickly, and then they had slowed down for a bit. Perhaps now Hiei was hesitating about pushing forward. If that was what was going on in her lover's mind, Botan would be willing to keep things slow. She rather liked getting to know the fire demon and share moments of fleeting kisses and gentle caresses. They could always work their way back up to being truly intimate.

Of course, that was the complete opposite as to what Hiei thought. In fact, he blurted out the real reason before he could stop himself. "I can't wait until the kid is out of you so I don't feel like I have an audience."

Botan laughed sweetly at first before she noticed Hiei flinch over his own admission. The words played themselves over in Botan's head, and she stiffened too. Both of them realized the implication of Hiei's confession loud and clear. It was the first time the fire demon admitted that he intended to keep everything between them the way it was after the baby was born.

Red dusted Hiei's cheeks, his eyes cast in a downward. Had he really just admitted what he wanted, even indirectly, to the woman after keeping it bottled up for so long? Maybe she missed it, even though she grew silent. But, so what if she understood? Isn't that what he wanted?

"Oh, Hiei," Botan cooed before she threw her arms around him and crashed her lips against his. Her fervor caught Hiei by surprise, but he regained control and kissed the woman back more forcefully.

Their foreheads touched, the Jagan closing the same as both their eyes. Hiei and Botan breathed heavily together, warm air mingling as they both allowed themselves to feel the peace of the moment.

"Guess what I realized earlier this week," Botan whispered affectionately.

Still working on catching his breath, Hiei murmured, "What?"

"Our son joined us together," she explained. "You, me, him, and Yukina, we're a family, now. Like really a family."

Hiei's eyes shot open, forehead still connected to Botan's. He had that deer-caught-in-headlights look that Botan had seen more often since the start of her pregnancy. Usually, it meant Hiei would pull back, and Botan bit her lip nervously. Her heart froze up in slight panic. She really hoped she hadn't scared her lover away again.

"H-Hiei?" she called his name timidly. "D-Did I say something wrong?"

Crimson met amethyst, and Hiei's hand entwined itself in her blue tresses to reassure her. "No," he said with confidence. His expression remained stoic, their foreheads still pressed together gently as he softly admitted, "I've just never had one of those before."

Botan gasped, the expression on her face full of sorrow and confusion. "But Yukina…"

"Didn't know who I was in the beginning," he reminded the woman, "and she kept it from me as I had from her for years after she figured it out. Other than watching her from afar, we did not interact. We were just…related. Only recently…" Hiei stopped himself from voicing the fact that he had more of a relationship with his twin because of Botan and the baby. That was on him and no one else.

"The closest thing I had to a family was the band of thieves that took me in after my…banishment," he continued. He noticed the ferry girl's usually cheerful visage darken, most likely at the thought of the horrible women who tried to do away with a child. She made her opinion of them very clear when she spoke with Yukina. "…And really, they only kept me around to get my stone or use me on raids. I was a violent child, Botan. Even they turned their back on me when I became too much to handle. Family…it's such a foreign concept to me."

Botan remained silent for a short while in order to soak up and process all of what Hiei just told her. Then, she spoke up, and Hiei was surprised by the words that left her mouth. "I've seen other families, but I've never been a part of one, truly, either. If I never met Yusuke and all of you, I would have never known what it was like...to be a part of one. I never thought that any of this would be possible for me, never imagined I would have a child of my own or someone I loved so deeply in my life. To be honest, I'm so grateful to you and to our son for giving me a chance at someth-thing…" Botan sniffled and wiped away the forming tears that were about to fall. "Something so beautiful."

Hiei panicked when Botan started crying which momentarily shorted out his mind from lingering on her words. He quickly pulled his forehead away to instead wrap his arms around the woman and hold her tightly. Botan began to shake, sob, and apologize for her emotional outburst over and over again. Hiei said nothing, only tightened his grip on her and mentally willed her to stop.

It took a while for Botan's emotions to settle, and soon she and Hiei were rocking slowly. The wind blew outside, the faucet dripped, the clock ticked, and the apartment was so completely silent that Hiei could distinguish each sound. Despite all of that, his mind could only focus on one thing.

She is my family, he repeated his mind a few times; he hoped to wrap his mind around it. And she actually wants to be…