::Hides behind her computer:: Please don't hurt me! I know it's been... Oh my god... almost... two years since I updated...

But, um, I updated! So that's the important part! And it is thanks to all my wonderful reviewers. Thank you guys, don't worry, this fic has not been abandoned and I have every intention of finishing it. Enjoy the next installment of Thief!


The Smell Of Rain

A cup of freshly brewed coffee was set before him, some expensive brand that his employer enjoyed. The warm and bitter aroma put the demon on edge and his jukyuu flared slightly, causing his companion to look up from the paper he was inspecting.

The man across from him was well dressed: a black, pressed suit, a crisp, white shirt and a dark tie. Like Karasu, his hair was an inky black that fell over his shoulders with a few roguish wisps brushing his brow line. He was sitting back comfortably, regarding the explosive demon with calculating brown eyes.

"I admit, Karasu," The man quirked an eyebrow, voice soft and somewhat mocking, "I am surprised to see you here. I thought you were rather determined not to return until your business in Ningenkai was finished?"

Karasu eyed the man contemptuously, curling his lip slightly to show one dangerously pointed canine. The man across was unaffected – if anything, he seemed amused.

"There was a problem with the heist," Karasu snapped. His employer chuckled,

"So I have gathered. You lost track of your investment and a valuable artifact." He sat back in his chair, the early morning light crept through the window and brushed over his face, throwing the thin scar over his eye into sharp relief. Sakyo looked down at the paper in his hand again.

"The ankh is worthless without the book," He said, bringing his coffee cup to his lips and looking pointedly over the rim at the dark-haired demon.

Karasu seethed quietly, his jukyuu spiking and causing the air around them to snap with electricity.

"It would have been nice to know that earlier, Sakyo," He bit, glowering at the man. "When I sent Botan on the original heist, she could have gotten it then. Instead, I had to send her back, and that's where everything went wrong." His purple eyes narrowed dangerously.

Sakyo's voice was calm, and he didn't bat an eyelash in the face of the angry and unstable demon.

"This isn't my fault, Karasu. Do you think I would have asked you to send the girl into something like this if I knew what would happen?" He lifted the paper in his hand, showing it to the demon. "My sources have now reported that the Inu-youkai was working in tandem with Reikai."

Karasu straightened, listening closely.

"Apparently," Sakyo continued, "one of the tantei was put on the case. A certain... Shuichi Minamino." He frowned, "A human boy." He looked up, brown eyes settling once more on the face of his demon subordinate.

"He is no boy, and certainly no human," Karasu hissed. "He is Youko's incarnate!"

Sakyo pursed his lips thoughtfully, tilting his head and looking out the window. The Makai landscape was waking under the rising sun. The jungle was already steamy and humid. Distantly, he could see dark and heavy rainclouds, lurking angrily on the horizon. Thoughtfully, he sipped his coffee.

"Neither he nor the girl are in Reikai, and they used none of the portals we know about to return to Ningenkai. Most likely they are still out there," He nodded toward the window, and the panoramic view it displayed of the sprawling jungle. Karasu did not move, merely fixed his burning blue eyes on the treetops, his lip curled in a silent snarl.

"Youko Kurama," Sakyo continued, "Hmm... I hear that he is quite powerful. Perhaps I should send the Toguro brothers."

Karasu got to his feet, dark hair waving in an unseen and unfelt breeze.

"I will go," he said softly. Sakyo eyed the youkai, sizing him up.

"Are you sure? You have not been to Makai in many years, and you have not fought any demons for just as long – especially one as strong as this Youko."

The man's lips twitched upward, trying to suppress a smirk as Karasu's hair began to lighten, the pressure of his jukyuu weighing heavily upon his employer.

"Go, then," Sakyo stood, turning his back on the demon, dismissing him. He faced the window, breathing more easily when the youkai and his oppressive juykuu left the room.

Thunder rumbled dangerously and the businessman smirked over the rim of his coffee cup. A storm was brewing – a powerful one by the looks of it. Sakyo tilted his head back and closed his eyes, letting the sunlight his face.

Better enjoy it while it lasts, he thought.

Botan was curled in the bed of leaves, her brow creased fitfully as she slept. Kurama sat close by, watching her while listening to the sounds of early morning. Birds were calling prettily to each other outside of his cave, and he could smell the heat in the air, even if he could not feel it in the cool confines of his stone shelter.

Botan stirred and Kurama quickly pulled a seed from his hair, crushing it in his palm and blowing the dust gently over her face. Immediately, the girl relaxed, drifting once more into a restless sleep.

You can't keep her drugged forever, Youko rumbled. Kurama narrowed his eyes, reaching out and gently running his hand through Botan's hair, twisting the blue locks around his finger as he watched her face.

"This is easiest, while I decide what to do." He whispered. Youko watched the girl, too, from behind Kurama's eyes. The demon inside of him growled jealously, wanting to touch the woman.

"You scare her," Kurama said firmly, pushing the demon into the recesses of his mind. Youko pushed back with surprising strength, and Kurama felt his youkai begin to fluctuate.

You cannot give her to the brat, Youko said. There was an edge to his demon's inner voice, something dark and desperate that made Kurama wary.

"I can't keep her here, either," Kurama replied, continuing to play with Botan's hair.

She is ours!Youko insisted, We must keep her safe.

He wasn't talking about Koenma. Images of the dark-haired demon danced through his mind. Kurama and Youko snarled in unison.

He will come, Youko growled, He wants Botan for himself. We must keep her safe.

"He called her his mate," Kurama bit, his fingers moving from Botan's hair to gently caress her cheek.

She is ourmate, Youko's whispers were triumphant, giddy. Unlike Kurama, he was quite happy to find that Botan was the Artful Dodger. She was a true equal and he was more determined than ever to keep her as his own.

My lair is safe, Youko continued, We can take her there.

Kurama's green eyes narrowed uncertainly. "I can't drag her across Makai. And Koenma wants answers." As if on cue, the communicator in his pocket began to buzz. Ignoring it, the redhead threw another log on the fire. It might be warming up outside, but it was still camp and cool in the cave.

It was quiet for a while, Youko having retreated back into his subconscious to think. Kurama was thinking, too. What was he going to do with Botan? He didn't want to turn her in. What would Koenma do to her? What kind of punishment would he mete out on the poor girl? Kurama knew the godling wouldn't let her off without some sort of penalty.

If he could have let her go, he would. But how could he do that now? Koenma would track her down – he had Karasu's name and Botan worked for Karasu. Unlike Kurama, the prince wasn't blinded by affection for the girl – he would put two and two together and discover she was the thief.

And he couldn't keep her here, not even if he wanted to. Not only was Makai a dangerous place, he refused to hold her somewhere against her will (for long, anyway). Besides that, he had a life in Ningenkai, one he couldn't abandon yet. And if he stayed here, Koenma would come looking for him and if he ever found them there would be hell for himself and Botan.

Koenma would come looking for him soon, anyway, so he needed to make a plan fast.

He sighed and lay back, the leaves rustling mutedly underneath him. Carefully, he pulled Botan into his arms.

"You are making trouble for me, minx," He whispered. His words, but Youko's voice.

Before he realized what was happening, he was pulled down. It was like being yanked under water – he struggled toward the surface, but it was too late.

"You be quiet," Youko smirked, stretching languidly and flexing his claws. "You are incapable of making a decision, so I will make it for us. She comes with me." He purred, leaning in and nuzzling Botan's neck, breathing in her scent.

Kurama's lean form was gone, replaced by the silver kitsune. In their shared mind, Kurama struggled. When had Youko become so strong? When had he and the kitsune split so completely? Youko laughed darkly.

"Ponder that for a while," He grinned toothily. "I am going to enjoy my mate's company..."

Kurama squirmed angrily, uselessly. Youko's clawed fingers slid gently down Botan's cheek, his sensuous lips curving into a grin.

"I've been waiting for this."

Karasu stood at the edge of the Makai jungle, blue eyes narrowed purposefully and jukyuu flaring dangerously. He had so much energy he was burning it off by setting off small explosives. Tiny, winged bombs the size of flies flew lazily around him, making small, popping noises when they went off.

That red-headed little hanyou was going to pay. Karasu was going to take his time with this one. He was going to draw it out, watch the blood spill. No glorious explosions and clouds of blood this time. He wanted to use his claws and teeth to make his adversary suffer. He wanted to run his fingers' through the other demon's hair, wanted to see those green eyes alive with terror. He wanted to lick the youkai thief's blood from his claws. And then, when he had snuffed the life out of Youko...

He would take Botan and make her his. There would be no question of who she belonged too, he would carve his mark so deeply into her that all who saw her would know that she was his.

Karasu laughed darkly, more bombs going off around him. The smell of gunpowder was soothing, but he rocked on the balls of his feet, eager to begin the hunt.

"There will be no hiding from this demon," He whispered, lips curving up in a twisted smile. Thunder boomed in the distance, and Karasu set off, racing silently into the jungle.

"Time to play, Youko!" He hissed.

Koenma sat at his desk, sucking furiously away at his pacifier. The piles of paper on his desk were even messier than usual, and the official stamp sat forgotten on the dried ink-pad.

George shifted nervously from foot to foot and Ayame, who stood beside him, was worrying her lip, dark eyes fixed on her boss.

"Koenma-sama?" She tried nervously.

"Is he still not answering?" The lord snapped. His amber eyes were dark with exhaustion, and his brown hair was mussed. The godling had not slept last night, and his stress – which he often brought down on his subordinates – was high.

"No, he is not," Ayame replied softly. George shifted next to her, waiting for Koenma to explode – it wouldn't be long now. The princling was like a time bomb and it wouldn't be pretty when he finally went off. And if George was around when it happened, he had the feeling he'd be taking the brunt of the damage.

The lord sighed and rubbed his eyes, the sudden movement making the oni flinch.

"Try again," Koenma said hoarsely. Ayame nodded and turned, leaving the office. George turned to follow her.


George turned on his heel, trembling slightly as Koenma's amber eyes zeroed in on him.

"Oh, uh... Yes... Yes, sir?"

Koenma got to his feet, chewing nervously on the pacifier.

"Call Hiei."

As always, I looooooove reviews! If you read and enjoyed it (or even if you didn't) please let me know what you think. :)