Choices in life are rarely pure, but to understand the middle ground it is helpful to imagine the extremes.
Peter Berger, Sociologist

When Riosuke re-entered the compound several hours after the assault and rescue, to the casual observer he might have seemed calm and unaffected, the very picture of the cold uncaring warrior. But inside, he was seething with rage as he systematically sifted through all of the Youkai scents as he searched the compound. All of the guards were gone, as well as the doctor and his lackey Hokin.

But most importantly, she was gone as well...and she hadn't left alone.

Riosuke recognized that scent, and he knew without a doubt that that little bastard Hiei had intended it that way. He would have wanted Riosuke to know that he took her, and even for a lower class like him it wouldn't take long for him to realize just what it was that he had in his possession.

Anger boiled over to the surface. 'That bastard, she's MINE!"

Clenching his hands, Riosuke balled up his fist and with a roar of utter fury collected his demon energy and blasted through the nearest wall. The energy that made up that blast glowed a fiery scarlet as it burned its way through all of the succeeding walls until it was outside the building and plowing its way through the Forrest.

Breathing sharply, Riosuke watched with satisfaction as the dying red blast light up the trees like fire in the rising sun.

'Wait, its dawn now...her transformation should be nearly complete...and the mark I gave her has now had a few hours to solidify the bond"

With a cruel smile forming on his lips, the Fire Demon straightened to his full height and began to calmly walk out of the abandoned compound.

It didn't matter that his mate was in the company of that little runt, Hiei had distaste for humans that rivaled his own and wouldn't touch her even in her new state.

Besides, it was about time to show his mate just how much she already belonged to him...

Keiko was dreaming again...she knew this as she knew that the world was good and Yusuke would always save her.

But right now the world wasn't good...because Yusuke hadn't been there.

Maybe that's why, as she leaned back against the cool rocks of the hot spring, and deliberately enjoyed the sensually lazy feeling the heated water brought to her body, the she knew it was real even though it was a dream.

And she wasn't alone...he was there with her. But this was a dream...and no one would know but her, so it didn't matter.

So that's why she watched him quietly as he silently came through the water to rest in front of her, his eyes holding hers steadily. That's why when he gently brushed him self against her, she sighed softly and pushed back, enjoying the sensation. He didn't say anything, but the approving look on his face as he wrapped his arms around her waste made her hear skip a beat.

Keiko eyes drifted closed as he began to nuzzle and kiss a line from her collarbone up her neck.

Softly, almost so that she couldn't even her she Keiko asked "Why are you here with me."

He just paused and nipped at her ear admonishingly.

Because you want me to be..." He said simply, before sliding a hand over her stomach in slippery trails.

Keiko shivered and lifted one of her legs to wrap around his waist.

"But that can't be true can it...your not the one I am supposed to see..."

A hand slide down over her bottom and squeezed.

"Then why am I here?"

Keiko brought her own hand up and began to make light trails down his navel.

"I don't know"

He hissed slightly under his breath when she went a little too far, but he didn't tell her to stop.

"Maybe not...but you can't hide forever." he said, bringing his hand to the front and oh so slowly slipping it between...

Keiko arched into the touch, burying her face into his neck, breathing in his scent that was fast becoming a drug to her.

"What about you. Why do you come?"

There was an interesting flick of fingers and suddenly Keiko couldn't talk for a moment.

"I don't know."

His voice mocked her, and she knew she deserved it, but maybe later she would play by the rules. Gripping his shoulders, Keiko bit down gently on the wet skin.

"You can't hide forever you know." She countered.

There was a long pause, and she was sure that he wasn't going to answer her. He never answered her.

"I know." His voice said softly as he moved his mouth to place a kiss on her cheek.

Suddenly, in the space of an instant, Keiko felt a rush of wind, although nothing moved, but it moved through her.

Confused she hugged him to her, safe and secure, but suddenly filled with a feeling of being exposed.

"You know that you couldn't hide forever. I will always find you"

Keiko frowned. His voice sounded strange...

"Because little one, you're already mine and you always will be..."

The voice was seductive and purred in her ear, and her body responded as it should...but there was something, wrong in it. Attempting to draw back to see his face again, Keiko was firmly held against the rocks so that she could not move or struggle. The voice chuckled softly and suddenly Keiko could feel the cold seeping into her being at the sound. no no no no no NO!'

The man that was now holding her captive only nuzzled her neck as he continued. "Don't you see, your body will always recognize me, because I have already made you mine. Soon, I will take you back and then you will never be able to escape. So why not give in, my little would be surprised at some of the things you would enjoy..."

Keiko's entire being seemed to cry out in anguish even as her voice couldn't and she was thankfully rewarded when everything went black with only the sounds of the screams she couldn't voice ringing in her ears.

Keiko woke shaking, dripping in sweat and absolutely terrified .A scream literally tore its way through her throat and Keiko could feel something rip as the taste of blood filled the back of her mouth. Gagging and trying desperately not to choke, Keiko struggled to regulate her breathing. Which was becoming more and more irregular and ragged.. Her whole bodily felt as though it were burning up from the inside, and as each breath ripped its way out Keiko could feel it chafe the inside of her throat. Clumsily Keiko moved her legs over the side of the bed and tried to push herself up, but she instead collapsed as the room swam sheer vertigo overtook her. Her labored breathing coming even faster now, Keiko focused her attention on the window on the far side of the room, and the cool breeze coming through it. Her vision was blurry around the edges, and the window kept going in and out of focus.


Willing herself to focus, Keiko raised herself onto shaking arms, straining to hold her unsteady weight.

'I weak...' The thought through made its way through her mind like a message on muted volume.

After what felt like an eternity she was able to raise one leg...and then the other, swaying dangerously on her feet as she struggled to make out which direction the window was in. Her vision was so out of focus now that she could only large wavering shapes. Keiko clenched her eyes shut against the offending confusion, but then she felt a small draft of cool air kiss her burning skin and she turned to it as if it were her lifeline. Achingly slow, Keiko tried to open her eyes but found that her lids felt like weights that she could only lift up about half way.

Any sound was drowned out as the sound of Keiko's heart beat filled her ears. To her, even though she could feel her heart beating fast and hard within her chest, her mind was surrounded with a slow, steady drumming of a different beat. Using that as her guide, Keiko forced her legs to pick themselves up and move forward with each thrum of the beat.

This went on for several beats, and Keiko idly wondered if it had taken her all day to take 3 small steps, because the light was suddenly gone. Achingly, Keiko lifted her head to see where the light had gone to, but all she saw were dark fuzzy shapes. The beat in her ears was louder now, and Keiko could feel it trying to change the monster inside her chest, trying to chain it and force it to calm. Frowning, Keiko forced her head up higher and higher until the shapes changed and moved, but still she couldn't see what it was that blocked out the light. Then she felt the floor drop from under her as she fell back, eternally slow and weightless as the darkness consumed her and the beat kept marching on.

Hiei cradled Keiko unconscious in his arms. He had felt her energy go out of control from half a wing away and he sped to her room without thinking. He had found her struggling to stay standing and drenched with sweat as she tried to walk toward the open window he himself had been sitting in only a few hours ago. He had seen her begin to fall and deftly caught her so that she would not hit the floor.

There was something that felt suspiciously like fear as he felt her body temperature and then her heart beat. It was as though her body was trying to send itself into shock. Her breathing was raspy and she was having trouble drawing breath. There were beads of perspiration on her face that were beginning to evaporate into tendrils of steam.

'Damnit, she's going to start boiling her own blood from the inside if she doesn't cool down!

Scowling, he swiftly picked up her burning body and took her to the bathroom to place her inside the tub, not even bothering to take off her clothes. He ran luke warm water to help calm her temperature externally, but as soon as the water touched her body it began to steam as well. Hiei turned the temperature down a little more, bit didn't dare do much otherwise her body might go into shock and not recover. Drawing his tear Gem over his head, Hiei carefully placed it around her neck. He knew that what ever was happening had to do with her forced transformation, and at the moment her body was literally trying to kill itself. Kneeling over her so that their faces were nearly touching, Hiei opened his Jagan and forced a mental link with Keiko. Immediately bypassing the delirious flashes of her last thoughts, Hiei immediately went into the deepest parts of her subconscious. Finding the erratic pounding of her heart beat, Hiei instead concentrated on his own steady one, trying to force Keiko's to slow and follow his in time.

At first her body refused, instead skipping slightly in rejection, forcing Hiei to mentally grit his teeth to keep his frustration down and his heart rate steady. Without breaking his link, Hiei placed his right hand onto his sisters tear gem to increase the connection.

'Come on's not like you to quit and you know it! Will you be a coward or will you fight!

He could feel his message resonate within her psyche, and slowly he could sense her mind and finally her body beginning to react to it. If he had been anybody else, he would have breathed a sigh of relief. But he wasn't, so he just remained stoic and intent as her heart began to slow and her temperature began return to normal.

The only warning he had was when her mind suddenly brightened and her thoughts came forward in a great rush, but even he wasn't quick enough to move out of his position before Keiko lazily opened her eyes a mere inch from his. Slightly stunned, both parties could on stare unspeaking for several moments. Her warm breath softly fanning his face, Hiei couldn't tear himself away from large honey eyes that held sparks of gold and Hiei found something deeply alluring in their honest depths, something that he had discovered for the first time one rainy night a long time ago... but there was now something new there, something that had not been there before. Now, as she gazed back at him, there was an unspoken trust, a softness to her gaze that she had never given anyone but Yusuke, and he had never received from but Yukina.

It was that look of utter trust that was his undoing.

Haltingly and of its own volition, Hiei's face lowered to her lips, his eyes never leaving hers as they unknowingly asked for permission. Paused a hairsbreadth form her skin. Hiei could feel her lower lip tremble slightly, but still he would not take his eyes from hers. He wasn't thinking at the moment, he was driven by pure feeling, not something he ever did, and right then everything was telling him that he had to have her permission. Her eyes widened a little, and a stone fell in his stomach as he thought she would reject him, but then they fluttered closed and she pressed her soft lips against his. Hiei waited for the briefest of moments, waited for the dream to end and cold reality to come back...but then he couldn't wait for reality and he was kissing her back, kissing her with a feeling he didn't know, something that only came around when she was near. It was something that confused, infuriated and drove him to sleepless nights. This nameless aching that filled his chest with every moan, and press of her lips. The way she deliciously shivered as he nipped and licked at her mouth, craving entrance and she gave it freely, her mouth opening eagerly under his own. Slowly, deliberately he ran his tongue across hers, tasting her fully for the first time.

It was just has he imagined it would be. She was warm and practically tasted like honey, and he drank her in as though he were starving for what ever it was that only she could offer.

'Perhaps I am...'

His thoughts were muted and distant, and he didn't even bother to curb them as he gently fisted her hair and tilted her face up to allow him deeper access. It only mattered that he took in every gasp and moan, drank in every last taste of her as if it were his one and only chance.

Because it probably was.

There was the sound of a crashing door and Hiei whipped around Growling, ready to kill whoever had interrupted. A young ferry girl stood just inside the door clutching a bundle of cloth in her arms like a shield.

"Oh! Oh I am so sorry, I di-didnt't meant to Interrrrupt-I-Oh god please don't kill me! I was just-Koenma-sama said- bringing the girl some clothes-here Ill just leave them right here and!"

The poor maid that had given the untimely interruption never finished her sentence as she bolted madly for the door. It was understandable, considering the moment she had walked in Hiei had turned fierce red eyes on her and practically growled, his hand instinctively going for his Katana.

After a few scant moments, Hiei returned to reality and the cold tendrils of regret began to instantly crawl their way through his being. This had been a mistake and he needed to leave now. Silently he stood up and made to leave, not wanting to know what he would now see in her eyes.

"Hiei," she burst out. Hiei turned his head slightly to acknowledge that he was listening, and suddenly Keiko had trouble remembering what she was going to say. "Thank you, Hiei" she managed quietly. He didn't say anything, only turned back and disappeared from her sight.

Keiko sighed and dunked herself under the water. She wasn't entirely clear on what had happened, but she knew that Hiei had saved her...again.

And that kiss...

Keiko touched her lips gently, noticing their sensitivity and puffiness from Hiei's kissing.

'Oh god that guy could kiss.'

The thought came unbidden and Keiko couldn't help but blush a little. She had kissed a few other men other then Yusuke, usually just a quick and friendly kiss to thank them for a date, but she had never been kissed liked this before. Yusuke had always just dove right in, dominating her mouth and taking complete control. But had almost seemed like he had been asking for her permission to kiss her, and for a reason she couldn't explain, she had really wanted him to so she had kissed him.

But she hadn't been prepared for the utter feeling she felt in his kiss, the way his mouth had completely dominated her own without feeling oppressive or forced. While she had never thought he wasn't capable of such feelings, she had honestly just never thought about it. The passion she had felt in that kiss though made her rethink her previous assumptions about Hiei's lack of emotion...and his emotions towards her.

Keiko could feel a headache coming on at that thought. Life may be getting more confusing by the moment, but at least she could take bath.

Well, maybe after she removed her clothes.

Later, after she had she taken the longest bath of her life and changed into clothes that were provided for her, Keiko sat down and really thought about her situation.

They say that knowing when a situation is bad is half the battle. When you realize the circumstances, you are able to identify the many different outcomes, both good and bad, and can use it to navigate your way through. But then there are times when a situation is just plain screwed on all angles, and the only choice you are faced with is picking the lesser of all the evils.

Keiko was in such a position.

Faced with her growing innate abilities, as well as desires, something had to be done quickly if she wanted to survive this whole mess relatively unscathed.

The problem was, none she could come up with were good. She couldn't hide forever, for many different reasons. If Riosuke could already reach her through the mating mark, then it would be only so much time until he would find her and make her permanently his. Even if she could have him killed, she needed to know more about him and the situation to better asses her options.

Always research a problem extensively if you are to be informed enough to make the right answer.

Keiko sighed and rubbed her forehead worriedly. That meant that she would have to find Kurama and talk with him before they left.

'That's if he will even see me' she mused. 'But there's no one else who would know more, and after what happened earlier...

Keiko shuddered at the memory of Riosuke inside her mind and resisted the heavy urge to vomit.

'No, if I want to get through this, I have to know'

Spying one of the room intercoms the connected with the receptionist desk, Keiko pushed the little white button to speak with the operator. A firm male voice, probably an ogre, came over the speaker.

"Yes, how may I help you?"

"Um, this is Keiko Yukimora, I would like to request that Youko Kurama be sent to my room please, I uh, have some questions I need to ask him."

The tone of the other voice didn't change as he said. "One moment please...I have contacted Mr. Kurama; he is on his way to your room now. Will there be anything else?"

Keiko licked her lips and said. "No, um, that will be all, thanks." With that the line died and Keiko was left with a few moments to herself. A little nervous, Keiko kept glancing back and forth between the door and the window outside, fighting the flush the threatened to creep up at the thought of what she needed to ask.

Suddenly, there was a soft rapping at the door, and Keiko gave herself a firm shake and a resolute face as she got up to open it. On the other side stood her friend of many years. And while he looked the same, there was a certain detachment to his eyes that hadn't been there before, at least not with her. This caused Keiko a moment of sadness, but she knew that she did not have much time to get the information that she needed.

"You asked for me, Keiko-sama?" His tone was smooth and polite, friendly even, but she could tell that he was holding himself at a distance from her, both mentally and physically.

'I suppose for now it can't be helped' she thought. Stepping aside in an invitation to enter, Keiko responded. "Yes Kurama-chan, I have some questions that I need to ask, and you're the only one I can think have who might be able to answer them."

Nodding slightly. Kurama seated himself in a large armchair, the same one where he had given her the horrible facts the night before. "Alright, what kind of Questions do you have?"

Keiko bit her lip for a moment as she sat herself on the bed." There's something that I need to tell you first. Riosuke, the man who bought me, was able to invade my dreams last night."

Kurama's face turned grave, but he said nothing. In truth, he was not surprised, especially not with the amount of knowledge that he knew about the fire demon. But he also had a feeling what Keiko's question was going to be, and it might give him the little extra edge he needed to make his plan work.

He watched as Keiko took a deep breath before looking him straight in the eye, determination written on her features. "Kurama, I need to know if there is a way that I can block him out of my mind, or even make him unable to give me the second mark." She said this all in a rush, and Kurama realized that this must be a difficult thing to bring up. Keiko was intelligent, and he suspected she already knew part of the answer he was going to give. After a pause, he finally spoke. "I do know of a both questions actually. But you won't like what I have to say Keiko."

Keiko shook her head slightly. "I realize that and I don't care! I just don't want to be that monsters slave!"

Kurama remained stoic. "Alright. The answer to the first question would be to have another demon with a higher psychic ability give you the first mark, and then he would be able to keep Riosuke from entering your mind. The answer to the second question is a little more difficult. The only way to keep Riosuke from mating you, is if you were already mated. You cannot receive the second mark twice. If you wanted to be absolutely safe from him sexually, you would need to become mated to another."

His words hung in the air, loaded with its implications like a ticking bomb and Kurama waited patiently for his words to sink in. The fact the she might possibly be willing to go to extremes to help herself would aid Kurama' plan greatly, but if this knew knowledge scared her enough...he might have just blown them all in his face. But it couldn't be helped. It was in a kitsunes nature to gamble with the odds for the chance of a larger prize, and Kurama was no exception.

"Would it be possible, if I was to become...mated, and the demon didn't want me... to get it reversed? Or would I be tied to him, forever?"

Keiko's hands were gently clutching the fabric of her pants, and her eyes were shadowed as she stared at those hands. Kurama, even though it might not show, felt the deepest sympathy for his friend's plight. It was unfair that a soul such as hers would ever have to go through any of this. But life was never fair, and he was determined to get her through this intact.

"You would remain tied to that demon your whole life, but if he were to not want you, you could spend your life with a human male, but you would not be able to mate any other demon."

"I see." She said softly, and Kurama could almost see her shoulders lift and square slightly and Kurama had to admire her enduring strength.

Rising out of his chair, Kurama walked over to his long time friend and kneeled down to eye level with her, careful to keep the needed distance between them. Expecting him to leave, Keiko looked at him slightly surprised.

" Keiko...the world you are in now has a lot of darkness in it, and the choices you will face in order to survive will be the hardest you have ever had to make...But if you stay strong, if you keep that light and belief in yourself, you will get through this. You will be able to return back to your old life."

Keiko's eyes widened in hope at her friends soft words, but then his countenance turned serious once more.

"Keiko, Riosuke will never give up until he has found you again and made you his. You know that. The only way to escape him his to become either mated or kill him, but you might not have enough time to wait around for the second option. Now, if you want the best way to return back to everything you once had, you need to become mated to someone who will not want to keep a life partner before Riosuke gets his chance. I know this is hard to hear, but is the only way."

With that Kurama grabbed his friends hand and gently squeezed as tears slowly rolled down her face. Releasing her, Kurama rose to his feet and made his way to the door. On his way out, Kurama gave some parting words.

"Take care of yourself Keiko-san. And remember, we often do the unthinkable in times of desperation...but sometimes that's the only thing that allows us to get through so that we may live again."

With that he was gone...

...Leaving Keiko alone with very heavy choice and very little time to make it in.

Hiei sat in a windowsill, one hand clenching and unclenching as he glared at the wall in front of him.

He shouldn't have kissed her. Damnit, he knew better, but at that time he had not been using his brain and now it had cost him.

Because he couldn't go through with it. He couldn't use her. No matter how many different ways he dressed it up and tried to fool himself, he knew deep down that was really what he had intended to do, and that made him no better than Riosuke.

Hiei growled and let his head fall against the windowsill

Interpreting emotions and motives was not his thing, it never had been. The kitsune was far better adept at such mental play, while Hiei preferred facing things head on without delving into little intricacies. He had and honor code, sometimes with rules that even he didn't understand, but he had always lived by it. While he didn't know exactly what it was he felt for her...He knew that he didn't want her to hate him?

'Hun, even though it might be better for both of us if she did'

Because he was just as much a danger to her...Maybe even more.

Kurama's threat still hung heavily in his mind, and just thinking about him or anyone else taking her made Hiei's blood boil. But now, for some ungodly reason he couldn't fathom, Hiei didn't want to see that look fade from her eyes.

So now, He had a new weakness. He would do whatever it took to protect Keiko Yukimora from anyone who would use her...even if that himself

Hiei allowed himself a bitter self-deprecating smile.

Hiei closed his eyes and rolled his Mothers tear gem between three fingers 'She doesn't even know...that that's not even the first time I have kissed her...

"It's the second."

Keiko had been staring at her self in the mirror for the last several minutes. She knew that she would be summoned to leave soon, but she couldn't tear herself away from the image in the mirror.

Her eyes stared back at her, open and honest, and not without a little fear. Her chin, though small, was firm and resolute. She wondered if this would be the last time she would have a look like this, the last time she would ever truly be the Keiko had always had been. She had been through hell in the past twenty-four hours, and she knew that it wasn't over.

No, it wasn't over, especially since she had come to her decision.

Because Hiei and Kurama were right.

Keiko would fight to get her life back...even if she had to give virginity away to do it.

Thinking long and hard after Kurama had left her with her choice, Keiko had known what her only choice would be. The thought of what she would have to do frightened her to death, but she realized that she was with very little options and she would rather risk this than let a monster like Riosuke own her for the rest of her life.

But her plan wasnt going to be easy, not for someone inexperienced as her and as dangerous as him.

She had always known that getting close to Hiei was like approaching a wildfire...

... And now Keiko needed to get close enough to get burned.

An: I know that I havn't updated in a year, and there's not much I can say other than life happened, But I hoped you guys enjoyed that at least a little bit. The next chappie should be enticing enough, don't you think? Keiko, Hiei, alone in the makai forest...Kieko attempting to seduce said fire demon- Hiei trying to resist...ooooh the possibilities. And yes, Im going to take full advantage of those possibilities too - Ps. If your reading this a second time, I fixed the errors!