(Warning: mild rant) All right, before anyone gets the wrong idea about Kurama and Hiei's relationship from this chapter, let me first off give a little education in acceptable Japanese bathing etiquette. Here are excerpts from a wonderful little book called The Japanese Way: Aspects of Behavior, Attitudes, and Customs of the Japanese by Noriko Takada and Rita L. Lampkin (Passport Books, ISBN 0-8442-8377-0). From "5. Bathing and Bathhouses: At Home" – "Bathing is almost ritual in Japan . . . Sometimes close friends of the same sex will take baths together, chatting and scrubbing each other's backs. Bath time is looked on as a special and happy occasion, as well as a bonding experience for family members." An activity such as this is not, in Japanese culture, automatically taken as an act of homosexuality. It is culturally accepted, even encouraged. (End of rant :grins:)

Disclaimer – "Yu Yu Hakusho" and all known related characters do not belong to me. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.

"What Goes Around . . . "
by DragonDancer5150

Epilogue

Hiei sighed in rare contentment, sinking lower into the steaming water of the ofuroba bathtub. He listened as Kurama finished rinsing the soap from his hair, washing the last of the lather down the floor drain. He opened his eyes as Kurama slipped himself into the large bathtub beside him, noting for the first time the necklace hung around his neck. The Hirui stone stood out in stark contrast from the pale skin of Kurama's chest, resting comfortably against his breastbone. "When did you get that mounted?"

Kurama grinned softly. "The setting was an anonymous gift. The captain slipped it to me right before we left Spirit Realm."

Hiei still sensed no Yoki from the stone. He leaned over, taking it up between his thumb and forefinger. He feigned simple curious examination, quietly slipping Yoki into the stone until it was fully replenished. With that, he let it fall back again his brother's chest. "Stupid fox."

Kurama chuckled, then picked up a washcloth, gazing at it as he soaking it. Hiei thought Kurama did so to keep his gaze busy, off of Hiei, so as not to embarrass him any more than the words would. "Thank you, my friend . . . for everything."

Hiei only grunted. He watched as Kurama wrung out the washcloth, set it across his eyes, and sank into the hot water up to his chin, his long crimson hair streaming out across the water's surface around his shoulders. Hiei himself leaned back, thinking over the past hour.

If only because he felt a protective need not to let his brother out of his sight just yet, Hiei accompanied Kurama back home, even going so far as to enter the house with him. He was, after all, known already to the other occupants, if not by his true identity. They found Kurama's mother, Shiori, in the kitchen with her fiancé Hatanaka and the man's son, Shuichi-kun. Shiori had descended on her son immediately.

"SHUICHI!" She threw her arms around her son, nearly sobbing. "Gods, where have you been?" Then, a mother's righteous anger born of fear overtook her and she grabbed Kurama by one eartail. "How dare you worry me like that! I should ground you for a year for scaring me like this! In fact - " She pulled him over to one of the counters, yanking open a drawer. Kurama glanced over at Hiei, who only shrugged. His friend's human mother was his problem. Hiei, for his part, had never seen such a collection of emotions war on a human face before, a odd mixture of love, worry, and anger.

"Sixteen or not," Shiori continued as she pulled a large wooden spoon from the drawer, "you are still my son, Shuichi, and not too old for a good, old-fashion paddling." Shuichi-kun gasped in empathy at his big brother's impending doom as Hatanaka nodded his approval.

Hiei nearly laughed aloud in spite of himself. After everything his friend had been through over the past twenty-four hours, the threat of a mother's spoon was downright comical by comparison.

Kurama played his part well as the placating son. "Now, Mom," he protested as he raised one hand to stay her, the other reaching into a pocket. "Before you do anything rash, remember - we talked about this before I left!" Hiei saw him palm something, crushing it behind his back. A light sweet scent filled the room almost immediately. "Don't you remember, Mom?" Hiei recognized the smell of mugen flower.

She paused as an odd odor reached her senses. "Remember what . . . and what's that perfume? Shuichi, do you have a girlfriend you haven't told me about?"

Hiei allowed a low chuckle as the question genuinely flustered Kurama for an instant, who subconsciously flushed as crimson as his hair.

Stalling for time, Kurama replied adamantly, "Mom! No, I don't have a girlfriend. That's . . . probably one of the plants we went hiking for." Recomposing himself as he noted the glazed expressions overtaking Shiori, Hatanaka, and Shuichi-kun, he calmly explained, "Mom, you must have forgotten. I first told you over a month ago that I would be gone this weekend with my Biology Club. We went hiking around the base of Mount Fuji. It was an overnight excursion."

"Hiking . . . excursion . . .?" Shiori murmured vaguely as the pollen's magic took effect.

"Yes, Mom, a hiking excursion," Kurama repeated softly, reinforcing the false memory as he gently attempted to pull the lock of hair from her grip. He was not immediately able to, such was the woman's relief that her son was home and safe, wanting to keep a hold of him for reassurance.

At his tugging, Shiori realized that she had a hold of her son's hair for some reason. She let go, staring at him for just a moment. Then she threw her arms around him again, holding him close. "I'm sorry, Shuichi. I must have forgotten - I was just so worried. Well, just so long as you're all right and you're home safe." At length, she released her son, stepping back. She realized she had a spoon in her hand and gazed at it for a moment in confusion.

"You see, Shiori," Hatanaka commented. "I told he was fine."

"I'm glad you're back, big brother!" Shuichi-kun hopped up from the kitchen table to throw his arms around Kurama in another fierce hug. "I missed you!" Kurama returned the embrace with a heartfelt chuckle. Hiei stood back, watching silently.

"Now . . . what was I doing?" Shiori murmured, still staring at the spoon in her hand.

"You were going to fix dinner, Mom. Here, why don't you let me - " Kurama gently started to pull the spoon from her hand.

"No, no - you've had a long weekend. Why don't you and Kazuki take a good long bath while I get dinner started. Shuichi-kun?"

"Yes, Mom!" The boy let go of Kurama to bounce over to the refrigerator while Shiori pushed both older boys out of the kitchen in the direction of the ofuroba bath room.

Hiei slouched further down in the steaming water, eyes closed, still chuckling softly over his friend's close call with a wooden-spoon spanking.

8 8 8 8 8

Neither he nor Kurama noticed the eye-on-a-finger peeking through the window. The over-elongated digit retracted to its owner, who was hiding up under the eaves of the house, the eye absorbing to return to its proper place in its owner's head.

A long weekend, indeed. Brother will take care of the humans. I'll let these two enjoy their break for now. The real fun will begin soon enough! With that, the shadow retreated, soft cackling riding on the wind in his wake.

8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8

(As the credits roll, "Yasashisa wa Nemuranai" plays in the background)

Yasashisa wa Nemuranai; Kindness Shall Not Sleep
By Yusuke, Kuwabara, Kurama, Hiei
(CD: "Yu Yu Hakusho Collective Rare Trax")

(Yusuke) Atsui kaze wo daite
Toorisugita kisetsu wa
(Hiei) Tooku sora wo somete
Aoi yoru no kanata e
The seasons that embraced the hot wind
And went past by
Paint the sky
And moves towards a blue night.

(Kurama) Dakishimeta hoshikuzu ni kazarareta
Sono mune no yasashisa wa nemuranai
Adorned by stardust we embraced
The kindness of the heart shall not sleep.

(All) Subete ga kagayaite
Boku-tachi no asa wa hajimaru
Kibou to itoshisa wo
Kono te ni nigiri shimete
Everything shines
Our morning begins
Hope and kindness
We shall hold in our hands

(Yusuke) Fui ni sora wo kakeru
Yuusha-tachi no utagoe
(Kuwabara) Inochi afureru yume
Ima subete ga tokeau
Suddenly advancing the skies
Heroes' voices
Dreams full of life
Now everything comes together
.

(Kurama) Itsu ka mata kono basho de deau made
Sono mune no yasashisa wa nemuranai
Till someday when we meet in this place once again
The kindness of the heart shall not sleep

(All) Tashika na mono dake wo
Shinjite yukeru sa mou ichido
Ashita wo ai shite 'ru
Kono omoi dakishimete
Once more we can go on believe
Only those who are certain
Loving tomorrow
Embracing these thoughts.

(Hiei) Sayonara wa iwanai yo
Omoide wa itsu hi mo mune ni
I won't say farewell
Memories shall any day be in my heart.

(Kurama) Dakishimeta hoshikuzu ni kazarareta
Sono mune no yasashisa wa nemuranai
Adorned by stardust we embraced
The kindness of the heart shall not sleep.

(All) Subete ga kagayaite
Boku-tachi no asa wa hajimaru
Kibou to itoshisa wo
Kono te ni nigiri shimete
Everything shines
Our morning begins
Hope and kindness
We shall hold in our hands

(All) Tashika na mono dake wo
Shinjite yukeru sa mou ichido
Ashita wo ai shite 'ru
Kono omoi dakishimete
Once more we can go on believe
Only those who are certain
Loving tomorrow
Embracing these thoughts.


Author's Notes: Please be sure to check my bio page for any updates, etc. Thanks!