Author's Note: First off, I would like to apologize for this taking so long to update. I've simply gotten myself in too deep with starting fics and now RL is stepping in, not to mention I'm losing my computer tomorrow cause I can't afford the note due to Christmas approaching and I'll have to wait till after the first of the year... waaay after the first of the year, before I can get a new one. -sigh- Sometimes, I hate my life... Oh well, but at least I did manage to get this chapter up before I lost it. Big thanks to Mithryl, who helped me tremendously and without her, this chapter would've never gotten finished. I'm sorry for the shortness, but at least it's something, ne?

- Chapter 5 -

Natural Realm

The multitude of servants that constantly filled the work offices of the Reikai palace were busily going about their jobs of filing, typing and running errands as the group of three made their way to find the co-ruler of Spirit World. Keiko noticed the glances that Hiei kept giving her, an almost longing look that, for some reason, made tingles run down her spine. She quickly shook them off, however. After all, it wasn't right, him looking at her that way. No matter what he claimed, she was not his mate. How could she be? She was with Yusuke. And Hiei just simply did not think of her in that way, right?

As they walked, she also noticed the looks he shot toward Botan. It was strange, seeing the normally emotionless face displaying obvious confusion and disbelief. His eyes even grew a fraction wider as he watched Botan knock upon the enormous doors that they came to. For a moment, no one spoke. Then, from the other side of the doors, a familiar voice called out for them to enter. Botan immediately threw open the doors and lead them inside.

"Koenma-sama!" Botan spoke as she walked up to the large desk where the chibi ruler of the Reikai sat.

Keiko hung back timidly, not sure what to do, seeing as she'd never been in Koenma's office before...never even been in the Reikai before for that matter. She observed quietly as large brown eyes turned from the stack of paperwork piled on top of the desk as Koenma addressed his ferry girl, blinking in surprise.

"Botan, I thought I told you to go assist Yusuke and the others, what are you doing back?" The pint sized prince questioned his ferry girl before noticing Keiko and Hiei at the door. "And what is Hiei doing here? Or Keiko for that matter? Botan, what is going on?"

Botan fidgeted, tapping her fingertips together nervously, before finally exclaiming, "Oh, Koenma-sama, I think we've got a problem."

"I should think it was perfectly obvious that you have a problem! Why is he sitting in your desk, princess?!"

Three shocked expressions immediately swung to the glaring fire demon, who stood with arms crossed and feet braced slightly apart. His red eyes stared pointedly at Koenma in a way that showed he did not believe the situation he was in. Botan cleared her throat as she once again turned to her boss.

"See what I mean? Something is wrong with Hiei, he's been acting strangely ever since I bumped into him on my way to where the group was. He seemed unusually upset and kept referring to me as "princess" and demanding to see Keiko. Then, when we got to Keiko's house, he... well, to put it bluntly, sir, he kissed her and claimed that she was his mate!"

Koenma's eyes widened a bit as he stared from one person to the other as he sucked nervously on his pacifier.

"Oh dear..." The chibi ruler worried over what he had been told before turning his attention back to the group. "Botan! I want you and Ayame to scour any and all documents that have anything to do with possible parrallel dimensions, at once!"

Botan immediately saluted. "Yes, sir!" She said as she hurried out of the office, leaving a nervously fidgiting Keiko standing beside a silently fuming Hiei while being eyed by a very aggitated, bordering on paranoid, Koenma.

Hiei looked around as the ferry girl left, still trying to get over the fact that she was not the princess, but a simple ferry girl and that this upstart, who was nothing but a ferry boy was in fact prince. He still did not stray far from his mate's side. "How is it that you are as you were before we mated?"

Keiko looked up, slightly startled. 'He still doesn't realize...' She thought, suddenly feeling bad for this other Hiei that had apparently been dropped into their world. As much as she was wary of the Hiei from her realm, this one seemed a bit different. There seemed to be some sort of calming aura wafting off of him and making her warm to this version of the dark demon.

"It's because, in this world, we never mated, Hiei. I mean, the first time we met, you kidnapped me and used me against Yusuke. You don't even like me in this realm." Keiko said softly, trying her best to explain things to the confused demon.

Hiei looked back at her with widened eyes, "What? I never! Kurama sent me to save you from that demon who was setting us up!" He sat down on the floor, trying to figure out how this world could be so different, and yet so similar to the one that he knew. He could not imagine ever using his mate in such a low fashion, even before they mated, if nothing else his sister would have chewed him out.

Keiko could only stare down at the seated fire demon in surprise, his response to her declaration not what she had expected. Before she could ask what he was talking about, Botan came rushing back into the room carrying a large stack of folders piled high in her arms. She was followed by two oni, each ones' arms piled high with folders just as Botan's was.

"Here you go, sir, I hope there's something in these that can be useful." The ferry girl stated as she sat her folders down in front of Koenma, the stack hiding the toddler prince from view. It didn't help any that the two oni also unloaded their armloads onto the desk as well, the result being that it completely hid the desk from view, much less the diminutive diety seated behind it. Koenma could not be seen at all.

Keiko's heart went out to the demon sitting on the floor. He looked, and sounded so lost.

Koenma and Botan were completely flabbergasted by Hiei's behavior, considering that this was completely foreign to the foul-tempered demon that they both knew, though Botan knew that he was just as capable of biting out comments with the Hiei that they both knew. With Keiko, he was showing a completely softer side than he had ever shown before.

Keiko knelt down in front of the Hiei that she had, for all intents and purposes, been kidnapped by, albeit unknowingly on his part, thinking he had a right to her. She wanted to know more and reached a hand out to touch his shoulder. She had almost touched him when suddenly the doors were slammed open and Yusuke stormed in, closely followed by Kurama and Kuwabara.

Yusuke was about to say something when he was brought to an abrupt halt by the sight of Hiei, completely withdrawn into himself, and Keiko kneeling in front of him, looking like she wanted to comfort Hiei, if that was possible.

Kurama was silent, just observing for right now, but the responses of Hiei were not the responses of anyone he knew, that was certain.

Kuwabara just took one look and asked, "What's wrong with the shrimp?"

Everyone was shocked when Hiei gave out a weak laugh. "Well, at least some things haven't changed." He looked up, only to see Keiko kneeling in front of him, hand poised to rest on his shoulder and all he could do is stare into her chocolate eyes that brimmed with compassion, compassion that he had often seen on the face of his own mate. He found that he was struck speechless once more.

Keiko's eyes locked with Hiei's and her reluctance all but disappeared when she saw the desolate look in his eyes. Without even thinking of the consequences, or of her audience, she allowed her hand to complete its motion and let it come to rest on Hiei's shoulder.

"A-are you okay?" She asked softly, completely oblivious to the audience around her who proceeded to gape at what she had done.

Hiei reached up his own hand to slowly cover hers. He felt a small easing at his heart, but he knew what the answer would be. "Not really, not until I get back to my own place and mate."

Kurama was floored by this note. The Hiei he knew would never have said such a thing, to admit to such a weakness. He looked over at his other teammates to see how they were taking this.

"What the hell?!" Keiko and the other Hiei's eyes broke contact as their heads swung toward the door to find an apparently fuming Spirit Detective. "What the hell are you talking about, Hiei? You don't even have a mate!"

Beside him, Kuwabara was nodding in agreement as he continued to stare blankly at the two on the floor. In his mind, all he could think was, 'Huh, that's weird.'

Across the room, both Botan and Koenma were exchanging worried glances as the same thoughts ran through their minds. Apparently, their Hiei had been swapped with another one from some other deminsion. But how had this odd switch occured in the first place? Could they even reverse it? Remembering the tender look that the fire demon had bestowed upon Keiko, an even better question arose in the child ruler's mind. Did they even want to reverse it?

Hiei slowly stood, giving Keiko's hand a gentle squeeze to let her know that he needed to get up. When he faced them, it almost looked as though their old friend had been returned. "Yes, Detective, I do. However, it seems that I am A-misplaced, and B-separated from her. However, her double is here, and I would assume my double is there. I have one question, where's Kurama?" He looked around, seeing almost all familiar faces, save for the red-head and took a quick inventory and decided that he had another question, "And where is my sister, normally she is by your side?" He aimed the last at Yusuke.

Yusuke blinked in surprise, but before he could say anything, Kurama stepped in to answer the fire demon's first question. Looking up, Kurama wondered why Hiei wouldn't recognize his best friend, "You don't recognize me, Hiei?"

Hiei shook his head, "Should I? You are human, Kurama is a youko, one of the rare silvers, and he raised me."

Koenma wondered just how much he could take in one day. His voice came from the other side of the files that still hid him from sight. It sounded as if Kurama was well and truly shocked this time. "Kurama, I think you're going to have to show him."

Kurama looked at his diminutive friend. "I am Kurama, Hiei, and I shall prove it to you." He reached into himself and changed into his youko aspect. "It's me, Hiei."

Hiei looked back into the golden eyes and took in the youko that he knew. "But how? What?" Instinctively his hand reached back for Keiko's, seeking silent reassurance that only his mate could give.

Without hesitation, and much to Yusuke's surprise, Keiko grasped Hiei's searching hand with hers and gave it a small squeeze. "It's alright, Hiei. It really is Kurama." She said, hoping that her words would wipe the uncertainty from his red eyes. For some reason, it was almost painful to see his eyes with that look in them.

Hiei took a deep breath and cocked his head, "Thank you." He told her absently, shocking everyone.

Kurama asked softly, the only other one in the room who seemed to comprehend what was going on. "Hiei, Keiko's your mate, isn't she?"

Hiei gave a single nod, not answering out loud, only remembering Kurama when he had first figured it out himself. Kurama had asked that very same question, in that very same fashion.

"The hell she is!" The exclamation drew everyone's attention away from the doppleganger Hiei and back to the now red faced detective. "Keiko's my girl, so get your hands off!"

Hiei's eyes narrowed warningly. "Oh, really, Detective? Or what? What would you do to me?" Now this Hiei they knew. His eyes smouldered with barely suppressed rage and his voice was hard and unyeilding as their Hiei could ever be. He held up his other hand, wrappings and all. "Are you ignorant of your heritage, or are you simply human here?"

"Bastard! I'll show you ignorant, you little piss ant!" Yusuke spat, raising his hand, index finger already beginning to glow in that familiar blue energy.

"Uh, Urameshi? I don't think that's such a good idea!" Kuwabara began backing away, making his way toward the door.

Kurama stepped forward, "Yusuke, you are still ignorant of many things in your heritage." He put his hand on Yusuke's shoulder, knowing he was risking the toushin's wrath. "Fire demons only get one true mate and it appears that in this place where this Hiei comes from, since we all know I didn't raise him, though I wish I had," He added sadly, "He has well and truly mated with that Keiko. From what Hiei said earlier you have been involved with his sister." He said delicately, looking at Kuwabara as he avoided the name.

Yusuke nodded wordlessly, accepting Kurama's logic. However, it took a few moments more before he had calmed down enough to power down his Spirit Gun and lower his hand, all the while never taking his eyes off of Hiei. In doing so, he did not miss the fact that throughout all of this, Keiko had not let go of the other demon's hand.

Hiei looked over at the tall stack of folders, then back at the group, "So, you still have not answered my question, where is my sister? Where is Yukina?"

There was a collective wince as Kuwabara's voice rose in pitch as he responded accordingly to this revelation...


...and then he promptly fainted.

Hiei simply raised his brow, then glared at the desk, "Okay, what else is different, and how soon can I go home? Because I really want to get back to normal!"

Kurama looked around at his friends. Kuwabara was still out cold. Yusuke seemed to be beyond words, trying to hold his temper and confusion at once at the image of himself and Yukina. Botan was speachless and Koenma, well, nothing could be seen around the humongous pile of folders, however, nothing could be heard, either. He sighed. "Hiei, you've been resisting telling your sister for years that you are her brother, in spite of myself and others urging you to, including Yusuke. So, she doesn't know." He looked at the pile of folders, books and other information. "As to how to get you home, I'm guessing from the appearance that these books should have a clue on how to do so. I'm sure our Hiei will be equally anxious to get back."

Hiei looked up into Kurama's sincere golden eyes and nodded. These were the eyes that had guided him through some of his hardest trials, and he trusted the youko on a very deep level. "Very well, I shall wait, however I miss my mate, my sister and I hate to say it to you all, but my friends, even the baka." His head slumped down, "You are as familiar and as different as can be." He pulled Keiko into his arms, whispering against her, admitting his weakness to her, but not to the others, "I'm homesick, Keiko."

Silence filled Koenma's office as everyone waited to see what Keiko would do. Yusuke expected her to slap him down just like she used to do him whenever he'd do things like that, but got the shock of his life when, instead, Keiko simply wound her arms around the demon and returned the embrace, whispering things into the other's ear that, much to Yusuke chagrin, he couldn't hear.

Botan watched breathlessly as Keiko whispered in his ear, seeing Koenma come out from behind his desk and assuming his teenage form to actually observe the drama.

Hiei listened to Keiko as she talked. It had been something that his mate had told him when they first started seeing each other, and both had been unsure of the other. His shoulders relaxed and he held her tighter, trying to remember that she was a ningen, and not a fire demon. He lifted his eyes up to look at Koenma and Botan. "I shall be waiting with Keiko for the two of you to find a way to get me back to where I belong, but for the time being, I will stay with she who is this realm's equivalent to my mate."

"Of course, that will be fine." Koenma stated, giving a pointed glare inYusuke's direction when the beginnings of a threatening growl began in the toushin's direction. "Botan and myself will begin researching this right away. I believe I will also get a few ogres on the job as well. Might make for faster progress."

Kurama looked at Yusuke's angry face and had more than enough questions. "I can help her Yusuke, and besides, I'm curious to see how our timeline could have been so altered that I am still in my youko form."

Hiei looked over at Kurama, "You are not the only one to have questions, Kurama." He looked down at his mate, he couldn't think of her as anything else, and asked, "Shall we go?"

Keiko nodded. She didn't dare look in Yusuke's direction. She knew that he must be furious for how she was acting around this new Hiei, but she just couldn't help herself. It felt so.. natural, to comfort him and to support him like she had done only moments before. At any rate, she was pretty much in charge of caring for him now and she would do her best. Without a word, she was escorted from the Reikai office by Hiei and Kurama, leaving a fuming Yusuke to cart out a still unconscious Kuwabara.

After the office had emptied, Botan turned to Koenma, surprised to find him still in his teenage form and standing very close. She couldn't help but blush a bit. Fortunately, he didn't notice. Koenma turned back to his desk and stared forlornly at the large pile of folders that he and Botan were now obligated to tackle in order to find a solution to their little Hiei swapping problem. With a resigned sigh, he said, "Would someone care to explain how we got into this mess?"

Sadly, Botan had no idea how to answer him.