::Hides behind her computer:: PLEASE don't pelt me with rocks!

::Smiles sheepishly:: Hello, everyone... I know it's been... forever since I updated... But, as promised, this fic has NOT been abandoned! I only hope that my readers have not abandoned me. Please enjoy the next installment of Captive!


of papers and depth

Youkai, by nature, were territorial beasts and Youko was especially so. He had won this patch of Makai jungle one hundred years ago and since then had guarded it fiercely with tooth and claw.

And, of course, with his plants.

The silver kitsune smirked, fondling the petals of a red rose, enjoying its silky caress against his fingertips. He had planted this rosebush at this end of his territory several years ago, and with his care it had quickly grown into a thorny brier, now protecting the perimeters of his land. He had used this particular plant to develop his infamous weapon, the rose whip.

He clenched his fist, collapsing the bloom into a seed and tucking it into his hair. He turned, golden eyes regarding the brier carefully. The plant was thriving, thin woody vines creeping across the ground and up the tall trees to create something like a fence. Long, poisoned tipped thorns protruded sharply from under delicate crimson blossoms. He smirked, canines flashing, satisfied with his work. He turned away, dashing back into the thick foliage of the jungle, a white blur among the vivid greens of the steamy expanse.

He had hoped that this routine would take his mind off of the ferry girl, but had found that instead of being distracted, his thoughts were focused more intently as he examined each of his deadly blooms. Would she like this flower? The color of another was the same blue as hair. The silky petals of his roses were as soft as her lips.

It was damned frustrating and putting him into a sour mood. He admitted freely that he wanted the girl, but it was unnerving that he was beginning to think of her in ways that had nothing to do with lust, and everything to do with some... deeper emotion... And Youko didn't do deep emotions. He couldn't afford to. He couldn't get attached to people. Family, friends, lovers, they all let you down and disappointed eventually. Emotional detachment was necessary in his chosen profession, because you couldn't ever trust those around you. So, betrayal came so easily to him – ask Yomi.

The only one he had any trust in was Kuronue. The bat demon had been there since the beginning, and had proven himself to Youko again and again. And still the kitsune didn't even trust the chimera completely.

And Botan... Youko sighed, pausing to leap up onto the sturdy limbs of a tall, leafy tree. He deftly climbed to the top, molten eyes peering intently through the foliage to survey his lands. The heady perfumes of his deadly flowers wafted through the air and he breathed them in, full lips pulling into a smirk.

Botan... Well... He didn't know her, did he? And yet he felt compelled to take her into his confidences. She had an aura about her... sunlight, optimism, innocence... and, damn, there was something trustworthy about her that he couldn't put his finger on. But then, he reasoned, she must be trustworthy for Koenma to have promoted her to a position that required no small amount of competence and the ability to handle the emotions and pains that came with death.

Jumping down to the springy moss at the base of the tree, Youko's ear twitched in agitation. Death... He could not imagine doing what she did, ferrying the souls of the dead. How many angry souls had she encountered, how many had begged her for life? How could she have dealt with the hatred and sorrow for so long, and yet remain so buoyant?

These were the qualities that drew him to her like a moth to a flame, and at the same time, repelled him because of how foreign they were. He was cold and jaded, he knew that. He had chosen to be this way long ago, when he learned that he could count on no one but himself and on nothing that he couldn't hold in his hand.

And he couldn't keep Botan, not even if he wanted to. Once her ransom was paid, he would give her to the highest bidder. He turned toward home, moving fluidly and quietly through the woods.

It was best not to get too attached to the deity. His fiery eyes gleamed greedily at the memory of their kiss.

Of course, it was much easier said then done.

Botan sat at a large oak desk, pen in hand and head bent over the parchment as she dutifully took notes. Kuronue paced in front of her, ever-present pendulum swinging from his fingertips as he dictated.

"And all the kimono are being stored in the cherrywood wardrobe in the corner," he said, his buckled hat pulled low to shadow his face. Botan nodded and wrote it down, then looked up at him, a cheerful smile on her face.

"How are you sorting the jewelry?" She asked, tapping her pen thoughtfully against the paper. "Are you lumping it all together or sorting it by type?"

"For now it's sorted by type, but all the jewelry is kept in one area." The chimera replied, sitting down in the overstuffed chair that sat before her desk. Botan scratched away at the paper, and Kuronue sat back, kicking up his legs and resting his booted feet on the desk, grinning toothily at the deity as she continued to write.

"You are quite useful, Botan-chan!" He cooed, pushing his hat back to reveal intense, purple eyes that were fixed on her. "This is the fastest I've gone through inventory!"

Botan smiled humbly at the praise, shrugging. "Well, you know, I help the oni's with paperwork all the time." She lay her pen down, mimicking Kuronue's posture and leaning back in her chair. "Is that everything?" She sighed, running her hand through her hair.

The chimera nodded, wrapping the chain of his pendulum around his fingers and watching her.

"Yes. All that's left is to file that away, then we'll be finished." He smiled, sweeping his dark hair back and opening his wings, stretching the leathery limbs and settling more comfortably in his seat.

Botan got to her feet, looking at the thick stacks of papers on the desk and frowning. The haphazard sight strongly reminded her of Koenma's desk – all that was missing was a large rubber stamp and her boss sucking furiously on his pacifier as he approved each soul. She smiled sadly and shook her head – she didn't want to think about Koenma right now, or what the implications were if he won this bidding war against Hijimoto.

Straightening her shoulders, she resolutely picked up a stack of papers and looked at Kuronue, who was watching her curiously. He had seen the emotions flash across her face – really, he could read her like a book. But then, life had not been cruel enough to teach her how to hide her feelings.

"Where should I put these?" She asked, planting a smile on her lips.

Kuronue pointed to a large box beside the desk.

"Just stack them in there," He yawned, folding his wings behind him and getting to his feet. Botan frowned, but placed the papers in the box.

"This is how you file the reports?" She asked incredulously, noticing a large stack of boxes in the corner of the office.

Kuronue thumbed through a few of the pages, perching on the corner of the heavy desk.

"Yes, why?"

Botan shook her head, taking the papers from him and ignoring the way he pouted. "It's very disorganized. Doesn't it take you forever to find anything?"

The youkai cocked one dark eyebrow and studied the blue-haired woman, a smirk pulling at the corner of his lips.

"Sometimes," he replied, watching her move about the room. "And what are you up to?"

Botan grinned at him and the chimera chuckled, getting to his feet.

"Do you need any help?"

Things had gotten rather... Tense since the bat-youkai had visited. Koenma had holed himself up in his private quarters and had kept to himself for the last day and a half. He refused to speak to his host, and could be seen angrily pacing the courtyard for hours on end, mumbling irate words under his breath.

The oni's were grumbling, too: How much longer were they going to be in Makai? Why wasn't this peace treaty getting off the ground? When would Botan be back?

George sat among the peonies, watching his master's restless movements and sighed. He looked down at the letter in his hand, and the bold, forceful script on the envelope. The blue ogre bit his lip, fidgeting and tapping the letter against his thigh. He'd been holding onto it all morning and the feeling of dread had been growing heavier and sinking deeper in his stomach since he had received it. He knew that it would add to Koenma's stress, and he felt sorry for his lord – he really did – but he couldn't hold onto this any longer. Already the letter was pulsing angrily in his hand, as if irritated and impatient.

The oni lumbered to his feet and marched toward the godling, stepping into the young prince's path. Koenma looked up, brown eyes fixed on George's face as he glowered at the tall monster.

"What is it, ogre?" He snapped, crossing his arms. Power bit through the air around them, and though George had never seen his lord this angry, he did not back away. Instead, he held up the envelope.

Koenma hardly glanced at it. "Whatever it is, it can wait," he pouted, preparing to step around the oni.

"It's a letter from your father," George said solemnly. Koenma froze, midstep, his eyes suddenly focused on the heavy, familiar seal emblazoned on the envelope. The letter buzzed like an angry insect in the oni's hand.

"Oh... Oh, no," Koenma said, his voice suddenly very quiet.

"Oh, yes," George replied, placing the letter in his lords hand and making a hasty retreat.

The seal on the envelope sparked and fizzed, as if about to blaze up and burn him. Flinching, the prince sat down on the stone bench among the pink flowers, features going pale as he broke the seal.

Hijimoto sat on his terrace, peeling an orange. His keen eyes were fixed on Koenma, he could see the trembling godling sitting on a bench, parchment in hand. Whatever he was reading was obviously very disturbing, if the prince's pale face and deep frown were any indicators.

The youkai stretched lazily on his chaise, rich, dark locks fluttering languidly in the breeze. His sharp green eyes flicked over to rest on the face of his page, who stood uncomfortably in the corner.

"What is our guest reading?"

The page straightened, glancing at the godling.

"A letter from... from his father, sir..."

Hijimoto arched one delicate eyebrow, his attention also turning back to the pale brunette.

"So, Enma Diaoh is getting involved?" He smiled, canines glistening in the afternoon light. He popped an orange slice between his lips, licking the sticky juice away. A soft purr resonated, and the panther demon flexed his claws.

"This is getting interesting," he mused, green eyes narrowing intently, once more upon Koenma.

"But I am still going to win," he purred confidently.

George moved quickly and with surprising grace over the tiled floors of the palace. He was quite sure that he should be worried about his lord, but didn't know what, exactly he should do for him. So he did what he what did best in worrisome situations like these: he followed orders.

Koenma had approached him not long after receiving the letter from Enma Diaoh, pale and shaken. "Ogre, tell Hijimoto that I need to see him."

George had frowned. "Of course, sir... Um... is this about your father?"

Koenma looked up at him, brown eyes dark and unreadable.

"This is about the peace treaty."

Kuronue beamed at the deity, taking her hand and brushing his lips over her knuckles.

"Ah, we really should keep you, Botan-chan!" He sighed, his purple eyes fixed warmly on her. The blue-haired girl flushed and looked away, embarrassed. "It's just a filing method I learned at the palace," she insisted, "it's nothing!"

The chimera smiled, holding her hand to his lips, "But you have saved me so much time and energy! I am beholden to you, my lady."

Botan continued to blush, unsure of what to say. Kuronue grinned lasciviously at her, purple eyes bright and mischievous.

"I think I know how to use my newly found free time," he said darkly, eying her slowly, "And repay you at the same time..." He smirked, full lips pulling back slowly to reveal dangerously pointed teeth.

If anything, Botan's cheeks grew even pinker, and she gaped the chimera – what the hell was wrong with youkai that made them so forward?!

A snarl from the doorway caused her to jump, though Kuronue didn't even look away from her delightfully flustered face.

When Youko had returned, he had headed for the kitchen in hopes of a cold glass of water and something to eat. He had found his way to the ice-bin barred by his partner and his hostage – who were looking very cozy together. Golden eyes narrowed as their conversation reached his sensitive ears. A sharp and painful prick of jealousy and possessiveness swelled in him and he glared coldly at the chimera, another snarl frozen in his throat.

Botan stared at the kitsune, startled by his sudden presence and frightened by the look he was giving them. Her heart raced in nervousness and excitement – seeing him once again brought back the memory of their heated kiss from this morning.

His molten eyes snapped to her and something hot flashed through them. He stared at her for several moments, his expression unreadable before he eased into the room.

"Did you two have a good time?" He asked silkily, perching himself on the chair beside Botan. The heat from him washed over her and she bit her lip.

Kuronue watched his partner, smirking. He still held the deity's hand and gently brushed his thumb over her knuckles, reminding her of his presence. She glanced up at him, as if surprised to find him still there.

"Oh, yes," The chimera replied, voice just as cool. "Botan here is quite the worker bee. We finished the inventory and even had time for some reorganization!" He smiled, unaffected by the anger he could feel in the kitsune's aura.

Youko's gaze was fixed on their joined hands, and his claws flexed compulsively.

"Is that so?" Slowly, his eyes drifted up to meet Botan's.

"Oh," She squeaked, aware that something was going on between the two males and also aware that, whatever it was, she wanted out. "I, um... I just helped... to... organize the files..." She explained awkwardly.

"She did a wonderful job!" Kuronue interrupted enthusiastically. "You should see the office!"

Youko continued to watch the blue-haired deity, silent.

"Anyway," the chimera continued, tossing his dark hair. "I feel that such hard work deserves a reward." He smiled, and Botan blinked up at him. "How about I take you flying?"

Immediately, he had the deity's attention.

"Really?" She gasped, her eyes lighting up.

"Really," the bat-demon grinned, his purple eyes drifting over to Youko. The kitsune's mouth twisted angrily and he got to his feet.

"Have fun," he said shortly, turning his back to them and moving purposely out of the room. Botan frowned after him.

"Is he okay?" she asked softly, her voice worried.

Kuronue sighed, looking at the back of his retreating friend.

"He's just grumpy," he assured her, getting to his feet. He tugged at her hand, pulling her after him as he headed toward the exit. "Let's get some fresh air, huh?" He grinned.

Reminded of his promise, Botan perked up once more.

"Yes!" She beamed, following the bat-winged demon happily.

She didn't feel the golden gaze fixed intently on her as she ran up the passage toward the sunlight.

As always, reviews are appreciated and wanted. If you add this fic to your favorites, do please review first. Reviews are the lifeblood of us authors, and if it hadn't been for the reviews my wonderful readers had given me before, I doubt I would have found the drive to continue this fic.