Title: You're Stranger Than You Think You Are

Rating: PG-13

Anime: Yu Yu Hakusho

Summary: It seems like a small thread in the shirt. But the yank of that one thread can lead to the unraveling of the entire well-constructed article. Truths are like that. And too often, the deceiver is often the deceived.

Notes: Bad summary, I know….:P Just read it.

---- Chapter 1 ----

"You're depressing me fox."

"This coming from the youkai whose favorite color is black?"

"I never said black was my favorite color. I only wear it because doesn't attract attention…unlike some other people's attire."

"Hiei, you don't need bright colors to attract attention," Kurama chuckled. Hiei glanced momentarily down at the fox lounging on the soft grass underneath the branch he was currently using for a resting spot.

"You're trying to change the subject," he said, annoyance clear in his tone.

"Am I now?" Kurama smirked. He wiggled a bit, causing the sweet smell of crushed grass to linger in the air and on his clothing. Hiei grunted.

"Yes. You just tried to do it again," he said. Kurama sighed. Hiei could have an infinite amount of patience when it came to sating his curiosity, and the young youkai was as stubborn as most teenage boys Kurama met.

Indeed, the fire apparition was staring ahead right now, waiting Kurama out. The fox was going to have to be the one to speak first if they were to get anywhere with this conversation. If Hiei tried pushing now, Kurama might become exasperated and walk away. Most would wonder why the fox didn't right then, but Hiei knew his companion was too polite to leave without explaining himself first.

"I'm not the perfect son everyone thinks I am," the half-human said after a long pause. Hiei blinked. This wasn't good. Kurama was starting out on an already touchy subject. He knew this statement was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Kurama hardly ever just stated what was on his mind. The fox liked to draw his sorrows and joys out until they became some fantasy-like tale that would leave the listener begging for more and longing for a happy ending. Hiei never understood why the other made his life into some glorious story. Was he trying to attain immortality by living in legends that would be passed around in both the Makai and Ningenkai for eternity? Perhaps Kurama was trying to help others understand his views better. Or, knowing the fox's love for attention, it could be all just to entertain his audience…

But then again, Hiei often wondered if Kurama didn't do this to separate himself from the pain. By looking at life as a story, one can make oneself a character in that tale. Then, just like reading a book, you're detached from life, only watching as that character suffers and never really experiencing any of the emotions first hand.

"When I first met Yuusuke, he asked me why I stayed with my mother after my ten years were long over." Hiei snorted, causing Kurama to stop his tale. The small youkai had this story memorized. Hiei knew that Kurama had felt guilty for treating Shiori like a lesser being just as Kurama knew Hiei's reaction was that the fox was stupid for feeling guilt because Shiori was a lesser being. Well that and the fox's misguided loyalty to others.

"Yes, we both know the answer to that question," Kurama said. "But, that answer I gave back then wasn't the real reason...or at least not the only reason." He knew that above him Hiei was wearing a puzzled frown as he tried to decipher the fox's words. Kurama smiled as the image formed in his mind's eye. "I couldn't have lived with myself if I left her with that terrible feeling of losing a son."

"But you were going to kill yourself anyways," Hiei pointed out. The sly grin that crossed Kurama's face confirmed Hiei's earlier suspicions. He knew Kurama hadn't told Yuusuke that sappy story without a good reason. Sometimes that kid was just too predictable. Hiei wondered if the fox had even expected the detective to live.

"I assume there's more you wish to say," Hiei stated. There wasn't really any question about it. Kurama nodded, a faraway look coming to his eyes.

"It was one hundred and twenty-three years ago. A gathering of youkai had made camp near my territory. Naturally I was infuriated, and, being Youko Kurama, I was very foreward about such things. They were all lower class and not much of a challenge at all." Kurama stopped for a moment, probably to add the flavor of drama to his next words.

"But I left one alive."

Hiei had rolled onto his stomach at this time, one arm and one leg dangling over the tree branch as he rested his cheek against its smooth bark. Kurama had grown this very tree for him after seeing what Hiei normally rested in while staying in the Ningenkai. Since the fire child refused to take lodgings in Genkai's temple, and because Kurama could not safely hide his friend for long periods of time at his house, the fox, in a gesture of kindness that was so rare a gift in either of the two's lives, had used his knowledge and ki in forming a beautiful tree.

The plant was unlike anything that existed in any of the three worlds, partially because it was a blend of a common maple from the human's world and a rare genikla from the Makai. This tree was Hiei favorite spot in the entirety of the Ningenkai. It's youkai trait made sure there was always warmth to the branches, and it's human feature made sure the leaves made beautiful music when the winds came through for a visit.

"She reminded me of Kuronue. She had long black hair, rather pale skin, slender fingers, and torn black clothing. Of course, when you think about it, so do half the youkai in the Makai. Perhaps it was the lighting, or the look in her eyes. Maybe I still felt guilty for letting him die, or, even though it had been so long ago, I still missed him. He was the first person I think I ever truly trusted." Hiei was becoming frustrated as he looked down at Kurama. The fox was a closed book physically speaking. His body was perfectly relaxed, eyes once again closed as the events played out through his mind. The only hint of how Kurama truly felt was in the deep, sorrowful tone he took while speaking.

"She was too young to really matter to me. Barely past the child stage of her life. The weakling wasn't even strong enough to survive on her own. But because of my misguided perceptions about her when I first saw her, I stayed with her until we found a comfortable tavern in a nearby town where she could work and find a safe haven. Naturally, I required payment for guarding and guiding her. She didn't have much money, so she proposed another method. I accepted, of course." As Kurama said this last part, his voice quieted into a harsh whisper to show how deeply ashamed of his actions he was. Hiei need not ask what occurred. There were times even he preferred the gentle, giving side that was the Shuuichi part of Kurama.

"It was her first time. I could tell because I was disappointed with the whole experience." Kurama flinched as if his own harsh words had bit into him. "I never truly cared for her before, and I didn't then. The last memory I had of the woman as I left the town was of bed sheets and blood. Then I forgot her and continued with life as we all do with one person or another."

"My work led me back to the same town and tavern a few months later. The first noise that greeted me as I entered the place was a scream that could reach the Reikai and make Enma shudder. Curious, I inquired about the awful shrieking. Apparently one of the tavern's workers was going through a difficult childbirth." Hiei pushed himself up, the drowsy feeling that had crept into him with Kurama's soft voice leaving instantly. The fox took this time to open his eyes and smiled weakly at his friend.

"I never did ask her name before she died after giving birth to our son." The two stared at each other for a moment. Hiei turned away first…he had never liked Kurama's expression when that haunted emotion dulled the fox's eyes…and went back to resting on his perch, caressing a nearby leaf with his fingertips.

"I'm sure he wasn't my first child, but he might as well have been," Kurama finally said, turning his gaze from his dark friend into the darkening sky. "Never before had I seen one of my children. But this time, I was there when he was born. I was the first person to ever hold him. The moment he opened his eyes, I was there to smile down at him. He didn't look a thing like me except for a small tuft of hair, and, in the surrounding black, it looked too white to be anything like my silver. I guess all his mother's strength went into her genes. He was beautiful, though, all the same."

Hiei continued to play with the purple tinted leaf until, though he knew it was best not to ask, his curiosity got the best of him.

"How did you lose him?"

The silence continued until Hiei thought Kurama wasn't going to answer him. But after what seemed like an hour, the other's soft laugher startled him. It wasn't a pleasant, happy laugh, but rather one of a person who was thinking of something that by all rights should be terribly funny but, in reality, was tragically horrible.

"I took care of him for six months. What a glorious six months it was too. Stealing the food, coxing him to eat, singing him to sleep, until on a dark night, a group of strong bandits attacked my camp." There was another pause as something occurred to Kurama.

"Kind of like I attacked his mother's camp, now that I think about it." Kurama chuckled again, but the humor still wasn't present. "They were a challenge even for me. And, you'll find this as ironic as hell…I know I sure did…but that night, the Great Youko Kurama, the Prince of Thieves, had his own child stolen from him while he fought for their lives." Kurama had stopped laughing and the mood turned somber again.

"Did you ever find him?" Hiei asked.

"Yes." Kurama shifted uncomfortably. "Many years later. He was too far gone by that time. Another family had adopted him. He had few rememberences, if any, of who he truly was. It was pointless to try and form a family with him again. I guess it's a sign, of some sort."

"A sign?"

"I never deserved children, Hiei," he said. "I've abandoned too many lovers that I could have taken as mates. Who knows how many of my children died because I wasn't there. In the end, it was probably for the best that he was taken from me."

They watched, together, as the stars twinkled to life in the night sky when the sun retreated to her bed. Both were musing on their lost dreams and hopes. Without speaking, each knew the other's thoughts rested on family close enough to touch yet too far to reach.

"You shouldn't dwell on the past, fox," Hiei said, shattering the peace. "It gives you crow's feet."

Kurama chuckled as the serious mood was ruined for the night. With anyone else, Hiei had a horrible habit of saying the wrong thing at the right time. But the fox and the fire, though they had only been companions for barely a second in a youkai's life, had a bond that most would never know in their lifetime of friendships.

"Thank you for listening Hiei. You're the first I've told that one to," Kurama said. Hiei nodded, the edges of his mouth tugging upwards.

"I know." Kurama caught the unspoken thank you in those words. He doubted Hiei ever had anyone who had the faith in the fire apparition that he did. To share such private thoughts with another and to trust them with those thoughts, for youkai, was a sign of deep caring that bordered on love. Kurama hoped one day Hiei would care enough to have that kind of assurance with him.

"I should be heading home before mother worries," Kurama said, standing and stretching.

"Do you think you'll ever tell him?" Hiei asked as the fox began to walk away. Kurama stopped and turned to look back at his friend. Something was there - the way he stood, the facial features, that glint in his eye, and even the fox's smell - but Hiei couldn't say exactly what it was.

"Do you think you'll ever tell her?"

Hiei rolled his eyes before closing them. Kurama watched as a light sleep (he didn't think Hiei ever had a deep sleep due to his constant paranoia) took him before walking towards home.


Kurama lay on his back in his bed. He held his right hand above him so its shadow covered his face. He was studying his wrist. The skin there was perfect and smooth. That was one of the perks of getting a new body; the scars and faults that marred his youko form disappeared the minute he switched to this much weaker human body.

In the body of Youko Kurama, there would be a scar on that wrist. Kurama wasn't proud of a lot of things he did before he had understood what it was like to be human. That poor girl...the pain of Youko Kurama's type of lovemaking had probably been unbearable, even though she had been rightfully willing. She was so weak and a very tiny youkai at that. It wasn't any surprise she had burned him in retaliation.

Kurama sighed and rolled onto his side, tucking the hand under his head. He shouldn't have brought it up, but Kurama felt guilty everyday watched Hiei struggle through life thinking that if he ever did find his family, he would be rejected for what he was. Unless Hiei had the courage to believe that others had the ability to love him, until Hiei could willingly tell Yukina he was her brother, he would never be able to accept the truth Kurama wanted so badly to let him know.

"Please find that courage Hiei. Make Yukina happy, so we can all be happy."