Title: Stain
Show: Yu Yu Hakusho
Pairing: OC/Kurama, HieiKurama
Author: Green Bird
Disclaimer: I don't own this. You know I don't own this.
Rating: R (pushing it, but I still believe that it's R or 16 material)
Note: Yay! Violence and romance! Bite me! Bite him! I don't know. God I'm tired.
Part Three, Section Two Notes: Ah… Killing Time. Mmmm… battle scenes are a rare treat for me and this one I enjoyed greatly. I hope you do as well. A walk-in scene on this one. Forgive it. It would be good to look over Section I before this toyou're your bearings… but you can survive without I guess. Hopefully everything is to your taste, so read on… as promised: the last of Stain.
Part Three: A Lover's Fire

Section II


Cooking fish was normally not an unpleasant smell, but to his tense stomach it was a strain and pushed Kurama to the verge of nausea. It was not as if he didn't need food; the fox's stomach was complaining loudly in its loneliness, but that his mood had tightened him up so much that the concept of swallowing anything was unattractive.

Hiei didn't seem to be paying attention to him from across the cooking fire where he had become the self-appointed chef for the two of them. However, there was nothing gourmet about the meal… just two fillets of the pink fish and a few oddly shaped fruits that Kurama had deemed edible.

Plates were a far-off concept and the fire demon made due with two rather thin disk-shaped rocks. The steaming meat was laid out on them; browned at the edges where the fire had touched it. The food was redolent and speckled with several different wild spices to give the normally bland dish some more life.

Kurama gently took his designated rock into his lap, looking down on the hot food. It needed a chance to cool, as did his nerves before he attempted to eat it. Breathing deep and feeling his lungs swell painfully under his tight chest, the kitsune decided to bring up the unspeakable subject.

-Let him know it is your burden; make it safe for us. We will worry about the dog after we have dealt with our keeper.- Youko urged him on, and he spoke with confidence.

"Hiei, I appreciate this all greatly, you are truly a good friend to care for me so, but I have to tell you this…" across the fire the addressed demon looked up, face stoic and bland to the words. Kurama lowered his voice and spoke more firmly; "This business with Tsurenai is mine and mine alone."

Two crimson irises stared across at him poignantly and Kurama waited for a reply of some form. None came. An awkward silence stretched between them and the kitsune turned down and away to his food, deciding that that alone was enough for now.

Poking at the still scalding meat and slowly dishing some into his mouth, something irked the back of his mind; how was he going to manage this alone? As of this moment, he was no match to the auburn one. In full power, yes, he could rend Tsurenai limb from limb… but the fox was never going to allow Kurama that chance. He would be forever weakened and thus forever enslaved… like a bird with cut pinions.

The loathed voice passed through his head, part of that night flickering in his mind. --"So weak. Too weak to even protect yourself"--

Kurama scowled. Yes, and now I am too weak to erase you. He needed more time!

Just then, the fox felt something else in his mind; an alien power. It was small and careful, darting around invasively in his head. For a second he was confused as to what it possibly was, but then became aware of the three eyes that had never left him.

"Stop it Hiei." The power flickered and retreated from his mind as the fire youkai scowled at his own capture. Kurama looked moodily across to him, not liking the concept of being read by the Jagan so easily. "I want you to stay out of it."

"You cannot always get what you wish." The demon stated, never breaking the look he had held the entire time. He had already decided… long ago…

Kurama suddenly felt very hungry in his frustration and forced another bite down. "You do not know what you are getting into. This is my fight."

"I am already in it; I was the main cause." The fire demon shifted slightly, watching as the fox ate and growing more daring with every bite.

The kitsune stiffened at the statement, finding the truth in it disturbing. "You have never interfered before."

Hiei's reply was simple; "You have never needed it."

Verdant eyes thinned in speculation, trying to find a way to dissuade the youkai from any more of his notions. "Weren't you one to say that your life was your own to care for?"

"There are exceptions to every rule." Small shoulders rolled in expression, but stopped when the severity of the next statement came into play upon the fire demon. "Your battles will be mine."

The redhead quirked an eyebrow slightly. "When did we make this decision?"

"It is my lone decision."

Kurama would have been flattered and mostly shocked at that statement if the situation was less dire. "Hiei… I'm pleading with you to stay out of this." He set the rock plate down and watched as Hiei's eyes flickered to look at the half eaten meal. "I do not want you involved. You fight your own fights and I'll fight mine."

"I know you want revenge…" The fire youkai suddenly stood, looking down on his red-haired companion. "You deserve it, but this is my task and I will take it."

"You don't understand!" Kurama fought to stand, feeling his legs quake. There was anger and desperation in his voice; Hiei did not know what he was getting into! "You cannot do this: I must!"

"Yet you cannot." The fire youkai's eyes glimmered hotly across at the staggering kitsune, watching as the fox teetered and his ki spiked. The Youko was growing angry inside of Kurama and it showed in his eyes; this was more than a simple fit of pique. Hiei did not care about the opinions or technicality of it. He did not even care that he promised to never let emotion lead him into something; he had done it once for Yukina, he could admit that. He would do it again for Kurama. He would do it countless times…

"I will be able to! I must!" The kitsune's eyes flashed as he watched Hiei shift his weight yet again. He wouldn't really just bolt out right now would he? "This is deeper than you think."

"Is it deeper than he sunk his teeth?" The youkai muttered. "Or is it about as deep as he pierced you? Is it as deep as that?" Hiei's body hardened and his garnet iris's shifted over to glare at the mark hidden under a thin veil of hair. "Do not think that I don't know what that is Kurama. That is your manacle."

"And you think you can break my chains?"

Light boomed out from the campfire as the youkai's uprising energy vaulted at the challenging statement. "Can you?" He whispered in an acidic tone. Hiei moved away then, darting to the shadowed door and pausing in it. Already it had grown dark outside and the feeling of it seeped deep within the room.

Kurama felt a panic erupt in him. "Stay here. Don't do this. You don't understand!" It was hardly a statement, but more of a plea.

"I do understand." The youkai spoke in the softer tone he had used in the morning, surprising the fox with it.

"Stay." He repeated as his wobbling legs pushed forward, but they were too slow for the youkai who moved further out the door.

Hiei shook his head once in refusal "Trust me with this." In a blur, the demon disappeared to the outside.

When the black shape of his companion dissolved, the redhead cried out desperately and tried to give chase. His feet became lead as he fell heavily down. Against the compact earth Kurama struggled clumsily, horrified with the sluggishness of his limbs… what was wrong with him? Fire blazed in the fox's vision and an unusual smell filled his head.

Then it came back to him… that smell! The scent the fish had given off when cooked! How the smoke of it had made him sick… It had smelled that way due to the herbs that Hiei had tainted the meat with…

Frantically, Kurama tore open the small leather pouch near him that the youkai had carried those herbs in. When he saw the sprig that tumbled out his heart gave a seizure of horror. Those distinctive leaves, that woody branch, the potent smell when burned; Nezasso.

He drugged me… A feeling of betrayal rushed him as he reeled under the effects. Subdued once by an enemy, now by a friend. And now he'll fall into the same trap as I…

The kitsune struggled to stand again, but his head spun and became numb, one last thought, this one frightening, boomed through his head.

You'll kill me Hiei…

Giving a final moan of panic and outrage, Kurama was swallowed by the effects of the most potent sleep-inducer in the Makai and crumpled to the floor, utterly comatose.

. . .

From where he had finally halted in the trees, Hiei faced the forbidding wall of trunks that began Koshokuki and watched. He did not want to try to hunt the malign demon out in its own territory, even though his Jagan could pinpoint him from even this distance. It was better to use bait for such a task. Let the letch show himself.

He knew it wouldn't be long until some youkai attempted to map their way through the forest. Most often they could without problem… but the rare few did not come out, and those few were often quite the endangered demon.

Fools are everywhere, and one happened to be trotting along the path that wound its way into the wood that very moment. It was a common looking youkai with tinted skin and sharp features… but it was smaller, rounder; female. Two useless wings were folded upon its back, ivy colored feathers poking out in odd ways. The fire demon's ears twitched as he heard it hum to itself and he rolled his eyes… an utatori.

She would have to do… the demoness was not a stunning creature, so the chances that the fox would attempt to capture her were thinned, but she looked weak and easily tricked. Perhaps the demon would simply try to feed her to his trees. As Hiei began to follow, the feathered thing started to whistle liltingly under the trees, obviously trying to comfort itself by filling the silence. The youkai smirked. Of course the dirty zealot would go for her; a fox of any form could never resist a pass at a foolish bird.

It was surprising how the path in the forest was worn into the ground, considering how few traveled this road willingly. If he had cared to look the demon could have seen that the forest itself was not an ugly place as areas infested with foul creatures so often found themselves, but rather strong and beautiful. The black barked trees were enormous in girth and sprouted countless arms upward. Nearly all were draped with necklaces of frond and flora and clustered around with odd patches of fern and blossoming scrub.

In fact, this environment angered the youkai more than it pleased him. The overgrowth of plants hindered his steps some, and it brought an alarm up into his mind to constantly watch his footing. The enemy was indeed all around and he felt an excitement rise in him. The hunt was a delicious thing.

There was nothing more thrilling to his demon nature than this… tracking down another for disposal. Only the fight itself would slake the hunger in his being for the blood of this fox. Everything was felt tenfold. Smells were potent and fierce, noise; a roar in this head and every movement, every twitch of the predatory forest around him was engraved to his eyes.

Hot ashes fell down to his shoulders as the Jagan burnt away at its covering, the harsh purple light glowing through his spiked bangs. It was hard to suppress his energy, for it writhed in him like the Kokuryuuha did, anxious to be vented in a flash of black fire and acrid smoke.

Careful. Quiet. He cautioned himself. If this monster detected him, or his pet trees recognized the one who had struck out at them, the fox could close off the entire forest with a simple command. What was to be done needed to be finished in time before Kurama awoke.

Kurama. Hiei's mind calmed at the thought of the companion that he had left so quickly. No doubt the half-ningen would be beyond angry when the Nezasso wore off and then give chase, even under his condition. The youkai scowled as he traced the voyage of his bait in the tree's canopy. Kurama was no weakling, but due to his half-blood, his body was more vulnerable in the end. Yes, the Youko could deal with himself, but not now.

It was his turn now.

It was a rare thing to him, to feel that he had a duty for something. Normally he would just ignore this and the feeling would go away. But this was something that would not fade in time. This was bringing pain unto a friend… and although Kurama seemed dire to keep it for himself, something else pushed the youkai into this action.

Something had been taken from him.

He must get it back.

The Jagan interrupted his musing with a light pulse, stopping him and forcing ruby eyes down to the green female demon on the forest floor below. The utatori had halted in the center of the path, body alert to something to the side of the trail. The mess mixture of hair and feathers that adorned her head rustled as she turned to gaze into the forest's bowls, large grey eyes shining in curiosity. There was no sound from the trees and it seemed that the whole wood had become deaf to itself. Tension wound itself painfully tight in the air as everything waited on the small demoness's reaction.

A sudden, loud chirp of glee shattered it all and slightly startled Hiei in his perch. The utatori fluttered her two useless wings in a sort of pleased gesture and it bounded into the shadow of the trees.

The fire youkai set his face, so soon in the game and the bait was already being drawn in. Foolish, stupid thing that bird demon was. Had it no sense? What had drawn it in? Even his Jagan hadn't sensed any invitations amongst the trees.

Drawn down by the continuing chirping of the female, Hiei dropped to the other side of the trail and peered across into the hollow she had fled. He snorted at the sight.

The utatori was chittering happily to herself as she pranced around the base of a tree, its branches laden heavily with ripe, red fruit. The large berries glimmered enticingly in even the dim light and the silly youkai struggled to reach one.

How horribly ironic. His prey was baiting the bait.

It seemed almost humorous, the way that the tree acted against the hungry bird demon, lifting its branches just a little further than the now jumping female's reach. Hiei could hear the little green thing cuss at each miss, growing more desperate for the tempting fruit with every pass. In sudden movement, the tree flicked one long arm, sending a particularly good looking edible flying deeper into the forest. The utatori squawked in alarm and clamored after it, chasing the red victual as it tumbled down the shallow grade and into the very heart of the wood.

Hiei did not wait a second to follow her retreating figure. The bird was a clumsy thing, blindly chasing the fruit as it rolled down into darker, thicker growth. In a few leaps Hiei found that a mist had crept its way onto the forest floor and the temperature was chilling. They were very near the lair itself; he could smell the rank thing in the musky air. An odd sense of dread filled him as he saw the feathered demon finally catch grip of the soft husk of its prize and lift it to his mouth. How idiotic was this thing?

"Drop that." He snapped to its back, being only a few steps from it now.

The bird went ridged at his command and the fruit plummeted to the ground where it exploded with a lush, disgusting sound. As he expected, the smell it gave off was acidic and foul.


In a flurry of alarmed demon, the utatori spun about, large eyes quivering in fear at being encroached.

Hiei glared hard at it. "Get out of here, go the way you came." He growled, trying to look fierce as to convince it fully. "This is a dangerous place. Follow the river downstream and go around."

"Ah… who?" The green feathered youkai queried, blinking at her stalker in wonderment. Fear was being replaced with confusion at the sight of the small, dark demon. At her question it seemed to grow enraged. Around them, the trees rustled in apprehension.

"Foolish bird! Get out of here!" Hiei felt the encroaching ki growing dense around them. He wanted the demoness out of his way! Little fangs were bared in frustration at her stationary placement. "A fox is coming!"

That was really all he needed to say. The utatori's eyes widened further and she nodded before frantically tearing up the small hill and back to the path. Hiei heard her crashing and squawking frantically as the trees attempted to catch her on her way out, but the plants did so half-heartedly, as something far interesting had set itself right in the middle of them, no luring needed.

After the utatori's fleeing steps grew too faint, Hiei stood in the darkness of the forest's heart, waiting for the monster to rear its head. He felt it all around him, his senses were on fire with it as the fox's foul intentions permeated his being.

"Mongrel creature…" He seethed, tensing his body up in preparation of an attack. At any second the plants around him could turn savage and attempt to rend him limb from limb.

But nothing did happen… the thick air remained unmoving while silence covered the area. Hiei inhaled deeply, only to receive the same smell as before… mold and earth, the bite of the toxic fruit and the dangerous animalistic musk of the kitsune. Something in him pushed his steps forward, moving deeper in through the trees. Above his eyes the Jagan pulsed in warning; the power was all around him… but no where in particular. At least, not until it wanted to be.

When the stench hit him, so did the pinpoint. A rancid smell, like decaying flesh, wafted out to him as he felt the youkai's presence. Two burning red eyes glared into the shadow of a tree to see it there.

The kitsune was walking leisurely, as if it was alone. His tail swung around behind him as he seemed to float, feet barely touching the ground. Hiei pulled his lips back in a sort of snarl as he saw it, this graceful monster, uncaring and calm.

Into the light Tsurenai traipsed, setting his cold eyes onto his intruder. Perfect lips pierced as the youkai ticked in scorn at Hiei, shaking his head and letting his curled tresses wave as he did.

"Tsk tsk. How rude you are. Your interference made me loose my bird." The kitsune stopped walking and stood placidly, thin body tilting and long arms hanging down by his sides. The fox grinned. "I do love birds. I have a collection."

As he said it the trees shifted to show exactly what Tsurenai meant. On the branches far above them, long bare of leaves, were several rotting, impaled bodies. Each one adorned with feathers and bird-like characteristics, each one with a look of horror and pain iced onto their decaying faces.

"And I was so eager to add another." The false pout in the monster's voice irritated Hiei, who was already fighting back the spots of rage in his eyes. His prey stood before him and he was more than ready to end it now. This collector demon, this one who strung up corpses like ningen Christmas lights, this creature who had the gall to enslave the powerful Youko Kurama was an ugly scar of a beast, even for the Makai.

"You'll never add another." The Jagan blazed angrily in his forehead and the burn of it near blinded him.

Even if the fire demon was raring to attack, Tsurenai did not pay attention to it. He was not stupid to the power of this one; it sent shivers down his spine to even stand near the small dark thing, but there was a time for everything and he knew that the youkai would not rush him just yet. As icy eyes traced the compact figure with the glinting Jagan, the kitsune smiled to himself. Yes, yet another beautiful prey.

Dangerous prey. But all the better.

"I am the luckiest of hunters." He chorused, nearly laughing. "I track down and mark a radiant and clever kitsune and now I am visited by the damnation himself! What a pretty rarity you are." The fox's weight shifted as one tanned hand gestured to Hiei. "A Jaganshi… A koorime and even a fire demon. You are truly reason enough to have taken him." At the statement the youkai growled, but the kitsune took no notice and continued to speak. "It's a pity he was in human form, Youko was a radiant thing, but one cannot say that his ningen body is not pleasing." A chuckle passed through the lithe body as it remembered the happenings of the previous night. "Why, those wide, ivy eyes, that burning hair mixed with the crimson of his blood… all against such pale skin… it was beautiful."

Tsurenai sighed happily, as if the memories were joyous ones in his mind. As he did, something red revealed itself in one long hand. He held it up for show.

It was a lock of Kurama's hair.

"A souvenir." The fox whispered, declining his head and gazing up through his twisted rivulets. "I could not help myself Jaganshi… you see, I heard all about him through the Skulk. [Group of foxes] All the kitsune marveled at his survival, and now at his success. With titles like that strolling through my living room… I could not resist."

Hiei scowled, trying hard to prevent his right arm from shaking in rage. Just as he thought, Kurama was nothing but a trophy for this ancient creature. After a second's silence, he snorted at the fox. "Your obsession with him is disgraceful." Tsurenai's eyebrow ticked when he heard it. The fire demon continued on. "Pine for something that you can actually have. Youko is too much for you."

The grin grew on the fox's face. "At least I was brave enough to make him my own. Your lollygagging has cost you."

Hiei moved fast, drawing out his katana in a flash, but the fox was aware of the move at the first twitch of muscle. A massive tree literally threw itself in the way of the fire demon, branches coming in at all sides in an attempt to envelope him. The youkai evaded the large thing easily, but found when he struck out that the blade only scored the dark colored bark. These were not average trees…

"They are older than you could imagine; I planted these when I was a kit. These are not meager saplings!" There was no joke to that, even with all of his physical power behind the diamond-edged blade, he could hardly get to the flesh of the old plants. It was not just their age that aided them, but Tsurenai himself. The demon looked physically weak, but his pets were not.

The fire youkai swore as he darted around it, deciding to hone in on the source itself, but when he got to where Tsurenai stood he found that the monster was caged. The fox's pets' roots had wormed their way up from under the ground to form a sort of bird cage about him.

Angrily, Hiei swiped at the side, aligning his blade so that it could take off the letch's head. He had no such luck. The air was disturbed by a dull clang as the metal was reflected off of the cage, the only sign of the strike being the few wood chips that fell onto Tsurenai's shoulder. Through the meshed wood, Hiei saw the demon grin at him, one eye winking softly at the move. The gesture made him draw his sword back in preparation to stab through the holes in the cage and straight into that flirtatious eye, but the movement cost to much time.

One of the many defending trees arched a branch down too close and brushed the fire demon's shoulder. In a puff of dark smoke he was gone, falling back away from the hulking shape that waved blindly in defense of its master.

However, Hiei was not at all pleased when his foot hit the ground. Instead of landing on solid earth, his weight fell onto a swarming mass of plant life. Vines had netted themselves over every centimeter of the forest floor, twitching and slithering in thousands of directions. As his boot hit the sensitive plants, they flew upward, set to snare him. Snarling, Hiei hacked at the worming things, easily severing them and jumping upward.

…Where he was met with swinging branches decorated with rotting bodies.

Darting about, trying to find any surface that wouldn't throw him, Hiei was irritated with the truth of him being utterly surrounded. The vines and trees could do little to no damage, but they were horribly annoying and a good defense. Red eyes focused on Tsurenai who was hungrily watching his every move in obvious glee. In his rapid leaping, absconding off of tree trunks and any area of ground that would take him, he heard the caged fox laugh.

"You cannot hover and have no safe place to land." Acting as if he were getting bored with watching the frantic and random movement of his company, the auburn one instead studied his perfected nails, smirking when he remembered the marks they made on pallid skin. "You know, I could just wear you out like this… but I think that would take too long." The cold eyes looked up through the heavy hair. "Plus, I have other plans for you… You're small, only a drop is needed." Slender fingers that housed the perfected nails slipped against each other to make a quick snapping sound.

At the moment of the command, Hiei was already near touching the ground. In a tangled, chaotic mess, hundreds of hungry tentacles flew up from their nests, poisoned spurs bared like snake fangs.

That was enough.

There was a flash of violet and black as the length of Hiei's sword erupted in flames. In two quick movements the vines beneath him fell to ash and an area was cleared. As if he would stop there. All he needed was the foothold. In a second he was gone again and when he reappeared, Tsurenai gasped in surprise.

Standing atop the cage, Hiei raised his sword high above his head, crashing it down to cleave the net of roots in half. The force from the blow jettisoned his tiny body upward some as it sent the kitsune under it rocketing back and into the dirt.

"You think you can pull that on me?" Hiei seethed, finally poised on the wreckage of the root cage after bounding back down. Tsurenai staggered to his feet some distance away.

The fox was no longer amused. Covered in earth and grime, a pride-filled rage burned on his face, making the cold eyes thin. When the youkai spoke, it was a growl. "You're not the most difficult thing I've had to master."

Hiei's mouth twitched, making the violent flames of his sword jump and curl around his arm. "You think you'd do the same to me… disgusting mutt…" The blade whirled in the air as he warmed up his wrists for an attack. Scowl turned into that sneering little sadistic grin he treasured using. "You love to use your demonhood so much… why don't I just cut it off?"

A brown tail waved in irritation and the forest crawled around them, feeding off the foggy aura that Tsurenai was pushing out. Instead of working himself up further, the kitsune seemed to block the fire demon from his thoughts entirely, turning to look down at the ground.

Near one bare foot a long, barbed stem had begun to grow. It wound itself up quickly, twisting like a dancer to an alien music. When it had reached it's full height, a large, pregnant bud tipped itself upward, ripe and ready to burst. Slowly, as the fog swam around it, it opened, revealing blood colored petals in a full, blossoming head. A rose.

"Flowers are suicidal things." The dark fox whispered, bringing his hand down to stroke the velvet of the blossom. "They grow beautiful and vain with their colors and grace, they tip their shining faces to the heavens as if they deserve such praise from it." His fingers ran down the sides of it to stroke the stem. "It is only natural to pick them, for they ask for it with their beauty. They beg to have their necks snapped."

Two deft fingers broke the flower away from it's body and Tsurenai held it up, twirling it for show. With a sigh, he ran the blossom over his cheek, letting his eyes gaze across at the flaming demon. "Your rose did this with his pretty, tragic face." A lecherous smile pulled at the monster's lips. "He was asking for it."

"A rose will bite…" was the responding growl.

"But if you know how to hold it, it will never pierce you." The fox demonstrated, holding the severed stem in a careful, hard grip. The flower suddenly grew slack in the kitsune's hold, aged under the demon's influence. "And once you take it, it wilts in your hand." Tsurenai spoke calmly, leveling their eyes. There was a sober seriousness in the look that transcended the entire careless mood the fox had radiated. "If you pluck him from me, he'll not last long."

Hiei's bowed spine stiffened when hearing the change in the statement. What was the monster trying to hint at him? Kurama would die? But that meant…

"You lie."

"Then take him back." Tsurenai shrugged, tossing the dead rose to the ground, its brown petals wrinkling up. "Sever him from me and watch him fade in your grasp." Auburn curls waved as the now free hand tossed them away from the darkly perfected face. "Or if you like, make a trade for him."

"I knew that was your way, but I'm not willing to trade myself..." Hiei let the unruly flame of the sword ravel up his arm; there was no need to summon Kokuryuuha fully when his own fire would do as he needed, "… for something that is mine."

Tsurenai laughed loudly, the plants crawling insanely in response to his mood swing. "Youko Kurama is mine, of me. If you kill me, you kill him."

"And what if I don't plan to kill you?" Blood eyes glowed as the fire seared into all of him, singeing the ground and making the creepers near his feet flee in fear of the terrible heat. "You see, I am not like Kurama… I will torture you."

A flash of light burst out as Hiei rushed forward, relishing the way that the fox's eyes widened as he came. As he brought his blade around for the slice, the fire youkai stopped dead, the white-hot steel only a short distance away from the opposing demon. Hiei became a dark blur as he darted around this kitsune, disappearing from his sight.

Tsurenai turned sharply, trying to find out where the smaller had gone and was alarmed to find him standing back in his original position, the flame on his sword flickering and dying out. Hiei thinned his eyes and sneered.

Four of the large, black-barked trees surrounding the fox crumbled, reduced to ash by the demon's quick cuts to their thick trunks. Acrid clouds of clogging soot rolled out all around them and through it Tsurenai screamed.

"No!" For the first time he lost his composure, pearled fangs bared to the full as he stared at the remains of his pets. "My children!"

"Valuables for valuables." Hiei disappeared again, intent on yet another stand of trees to the side, fire flashing in his swipes. The fox was not about to stand idle. Remaining trees, still numerous, thrashed violently out at the dark thing that darted in-between them. As the fire demon made his way, slipping past speeding branches and making a jagged path through the trunks, something disconnected itself from one of the giants and nearly hit him as it plummeted. Beneath him came the sickening sound of bones shattering.

The trees were throwing Tsurenai's collection at him. Hiei pulled out mid-strike as one rancid body connected with his chest, having been flung at such a force that it shattered wetly against him, breaking into halves. He retreated from the area, fighting the bile that built as he tried to wipe off the rotting sludge that the fetid corpse had smeared upon him.

Tsurenai laughed at the sight of it and let his defense slide into offence. As the Jaganshi used a few precious seconds to try to rid himself of the foul substance, the vines upon the ground lurched up in mass, constricting the demon's ankles to hold him in place. Hiei snarled and pushed his youki up to singe off the little terrors, but as he did he was surprised by a burning pain in his side. Looking down, the burn remnants of a plant fell away from him, but even though it was little more than ash he could still see the large sting that had caught him.

"It's over." The fox announced. "You're finished."

The fire youkai let the flame inhabit his sword again. "You think a little poison can keep me from you?" This attack he would have to target Tsurenai himself; time was now a factor.

Not waiting for the rush that he scented would come, the auburn one bolted for the thickest part of his forest, fitting himself in amongst his children and out of direct harm. The smaller demon followed in a blink, hacking away at the outermost plants.

They would not go without a fight. Black branches lashed out, releasing their razor-sharpened leaves in a torrent. Hiei found that the blades were too hard to dodge and pushed his fire out before him, disintegrating them. Other things heading his way were harder to deal with. The remainder of the fox's dead menagerie fell all around him, exploding on the ground with lush squelching noises or rattling as the old bones separated.

As the trees began to crumble to ash, Hiei felt victory rising up in him, accompanied by another feeling. A feeling that turned in his head… spinning him fast. It was no gush of certainty… it was as Tsurenai had promised; poison. The fire demon slowed, stopping on the ground to try to clear the fog that had iced over his vision. As he blinked rapidly, the fox's laughing face was all his could see. Curling his lips in a snarl, Hiei rushed forward. Never mind the handicap; he must finish this. He must kill this monster. He must get back to Kurama. He had to make it back.

Due to the sudden lethargy of its target, the tree found its mark much easier. Hiei was bowled over backward as the plant that he hadn't even seen smashed into him, sending him sprawling. Once he hit the ground, it was a task to stand upright again. Moving forward once more, little body now listing to the side, Hiei hardly made it a few steps before the tree shocked him back, further from its master.

The kitsune smiled; his suicidal plant had done its job. Even though the venom was not enough to finish the annoying little demon, it was enough to slow him so that his trees could smash him like an insect. With a whisper Tsurenai called the attacks off and strolled closer, eyes intent on the vicious youkai that was trying desperately to pick itself up. Its savage red eyes caught him and tiny fangs were bore in animalistic menace. It was really too bad that this little one was too dangerous to keep… he would have liked such a wild rarity.

As the fox moved closer, Hiei lifted his katana, ready to swing at the wretched thing if it neared him. Tsurenai knew it and stopped well away, cold eyes shining.

"You're done Jaganshi. Wonderful fight you have, but now it's deadened. I admit you scared me… burning my forest like that." Hiei snarled at the calm fox, feeling he stomach rise in the need to vomit. It was not only his body that seemed to rebel from the poison, but his mind as well. All around him he could see tiny waifs of smoke rising from the crumpled bodies that littered the ground every few steps. Tsurenai seemed not to notice them at all… "Do not worry firefly, I will take good care of your rose."

No… he still had to finish this task. He said he would take care of it. Damn this inebriation! His power was raring and ready but his body fought with the toxin in him. Curse those stupid little smoke threads… were they some kind of new weapon? Damn… they were everywhere.

It was a surprise when he felt them rush past, ignoring him entirely. These were not Tsurenai's.

They were spirits. Hundreds of demonic spirits. Apparently the fox's trees held more than just the menagerie's bodies on them.

Wisps of the dead things thrashed in the air, creating whorls of smoke-like entity. Their fury was tangible; their longing of revenge against the beast that killed them overpowering. Into one massive tree they sprang, forcing the hard flesh of it to writhe under their influence. Hiei watched in a mesmerized surprise that the kitsune before him mistook as fear as the black shell of the tree reared up from behind, one sharp, twisted branch launching itself forward and straight to Tsurenai's back.

The kitsune sensed the incoming projectile too late, his head turned to look behind just as the gigantic thorn drilled its way into his lower back. Vertebra crunched sickeningly as the lithe body arched from the force of the thick wooden spear that rammed its way through. The explosion of crimson that burst forth from the demon's stomach was revolting and thick; the tree's branch having pushed most of his abdomen out onto the ground before him.

Hiei darted drunkenly out of the way as the branch and its victim flew past. There was a loud, heavy crack as the bloodied point of the stake collided with another tree, successfully trapping the kitsune in between them.

As if pushed by a strong wind, the fog in the youkai's eyes fled. The poison's effect dampened at the damage to its maker, leaving Hiei only slightly dizzy. Only now, he was mostly shocked.

A torrent of spirits emerged from the tree's husk, lashing about angrily in their harmless form, rushing at the fox's shadowed face. For a moment, Hiei puzzled if the demon was still alive. His doubt fled when lean legs began to spasm under the kitsune's suspended body. The youkai pushed himself forward; this was his job to finish.

The souls knew it and separated as the Jaganshi neared the scene. Already the foul stench of blood and bowel had poisoned the air, making the already gruesome scene just a little less bearable. Hiei cared not. His internal fire for battle had reached its zenith, and now it soothed itself for the final stroke.


Two smaller, well-bound black boots became visible in his hazy red gaze. They perched themselves on the wet black bark before him, not slipping on the fluid that coated the branch. The fluid that had stunk something familiar… the fluid that was his. A graceful head lolled down to stare densely at the wood of a plant that protruded where his stomach should have been.

Ah, then he remembered. There was no feeling in his legs… he could not even feel the gaping hole in his gut. If he had the ability to, he would have vomited at the thought of it.

It was amazing that his lungs still functioned, and even more so that he could move his hand to touch the slippery bark that grew out of him. "My pets, my loves…" The kitsune whispered, angry tears rising in his frigid eyes, "what have you done?"

A voice above him made his head roll back onto his slumped shoulders. So, those two boots had an owner: that little demon that had been so intent to steal his greatest prize. "You abuse your forest and litter it with vengeful dead…" Wisps of fog darted around him, making jabs with their body-less matter, "you are an insect to your children. A parasite in their midst."

The last bit of him, the last shred of pride he had in him forced the final roll of energy. This fight was indeed over, but he would take his prize with him. From the tree he faced, the tree that had been stabbed into came one small, dangerous little plant. Worming its way past the black boots it rushed to the fox's hand.

-If I am their parasite, then let them be rid of me. -With deadly affection, the thin little vine wound its way around a slender wrist. It's one, sharp thorn pressed in a killing kiss to the flesh and pushed far into the fox's blood.

-But this end I will not have alone…- Tsurenai sighed as the most potent of his making darkened his eyes. The youkai before him scowled, but waited. -Come Youko…-

Hiei watched as the demon's breathing slowed and its mind lost consciousness. If that was how the monster wanted it, then he would at least wait until it believed it worked. The self-induced coma consumed the skewered demon, and the Jaganshi knelt on the blood-soaked branch, placing the blade of the katana against the fox's throat.

For a moment, he looked at the comatose face of the dying youkai and felt his feeling of victory deflate to a mere buzz. Killing an already dead demon held no thrill. Even as foul as a beast this was…

At that moment, Hiei decided that there would be no trace of this forest's existence when he left it. His youki rose in heat at the concept of burning the wretched place and this demon's corpse.

It would have to be done fast; Kurama might indeed be in danger from this happening. This needed to end now. Fitting the burning steel in close against Tsurenai's throat, he thinned his eyes. "I am a good thief, but I do not enjoy being robbed."

With one white-hot slice, the line was severed.

. . .

There was that fire on his neck again, only now across it as well. Verdant irises shocked open to stare into burning embers and an animal-like panic surrounded all of Kurama. The scent of smoke filled his head, his lungs stung in the heat of it as a grey film veiled his sight. Fire. Fire all around him.

Yet his body knew it wasn't. There was no roar of flames, no searing pain upon his legs and arms. The only pain that plagued him was that lingering sting on and over his throat, retreating back to its point on his neck.

His hand flew to it, seeking to slake that agony any way it could, but found it resting upon the same source as always.

Tsurenai's mark.

It burned under his fingers, blistering and splitting, seeping blood and infection up from it to trickle down his chest and back. The mark had split wide, and his breath hitched in his chest as he tried to gasp.

Something had happened…

Kurama struggled against the ground, kicking his legs out and pushing him along the compact dirt floor, unknowing of where he was attempting to flee. It was the fox in him that drove the yelp from his mouth, that caused him to thrash so violently as if he had been snared.

Youko sounded loudly in him, the kitsune in a borderline panic. Calm. Breathe. But he couldn't, something was smothering him, pushing down on him with a crushing ferocity, something that his lungs had no power to push off…

-Shuiichi, our mate is gone. -

Emerald eyes, slightly glazed in shock, widened further in his head when he became aware of what was happening.

-We're dying… -

Dying… he had been so near this danger before, but this brush was close enough to feel the cold breath of it on his face. Darkness moved like a predator, long in wait to take him under.

No… The redhead lay flat on his back, his spore chest heaving as he fought to breathe. I will not. Kurama announced it to all of his being, pushing his body into action. I will not go to him. I will not die for him.

Air fought to return, pleasing his lungs with its slightest touch. Beside them, a palpitating heart tried to slow itself into a slight calm, working hard to push the life's blood steadily. By how he panted, Kurama was reminded of the beached fish.

Despite the way he fought it off, death was a persistent seducer and it had wrapped its noose tight about his neck. Kurama reeled in his valiant fight, already tiring. His heart despaired; there was no chance, the bond had been too strong. Tsurenai would drag him into the afterlife with him.

And then, he saw it; Death.

The figure was dark and irksome, shadowed face looking down at him without expression. Before it, a hand was offered, ready to pull Kurama away from his struggling.

Not yet… The fox pleaded to the wraith. I will survive this.

Death, however, does not take requests and the shape contorted as it knelt next to him, its hot, hellish hands touching the fox's shoulder. Through the air he fought so hard to obtain, Kurama smelled the bite of fire and blood on it.

A scuffling invaded his pained skull and Death was attempting to lift him, its smaller body seeming to be feeble and trembling with fatigue. Raw hands, covered in grime and soot, pawed at his arms, turning his body towards it. Kurama's spine curled itself upward compulsively, lifting him up as much as he could.

He looked into Death's face, quite bloody and marred, and saw that Death had two beautiful garnet eyes. Death had black hair, interrupted by a stark white shock. Death possessed a glowing third eye.

This was not his death that was holding him now at all… this was…

My life. You were my life. A touch fell on his neck, painful against the wound that would kill him. At least now you have freed me of him…

The touch did not lessen and Kurama's youkai pulled closer, eyes on his paling face. His small, normally frowning mouth opened to rasp into the fox's dimming ears. "Broken in half, none can survive. One mate cannot endure without the other." There was no pain as the kitsune's head was turned, the ugly scar now angled away. The space between them became smaller as burned arms enveloped him further. Kurama struggled to hold onto the dark one as well, his limbs weakened and slow.

There was the surprisingly calming feeling of his hair being pulled away from his neck, the crimson strands falling loose behind his lolling head. Kurama's breath wheezed and began to halt. His blood was seeping down onto the floor.

"I regret it…"

Hiei… The fox struggled to call out, unable to speak now.

"Someone else took you."

Will you let me die like this… with you, like this?

"And it should never have happened."

I would be happy like this…

"Let us correct ourselves."

Even though I never…

"Belong to me?"

Kurama relished the embrace as it was the last for him. A body could only last so long without the love of oxygen and already his head throbbed in the lack of it. His ears slurred the smaller's word and he could no longer hear that deeper voice as it spoke soothingly to him… So slow was his mind in fact, that when he felt Hiei's hot breath on his neck, it did not register. There was a slight hiss of air drawn in, and then…

The bite was firm and purposeful, digging deep. Hiei's hand, once pressed to the other side of the fox's neck, slid back to push his head forward… and right into Hiei's shoulder.

The molten touch of the other's mouth chased the chill off of his thin, weakened limbs and Kurama's heart skipped in surprise. For a moment there was confusion… questions and wonderment, but as the scent of the smaller pushed its way into his now-heaving lungs, the fox knew.

Kurama pinched the smooth flesh of his demon in his teeth, closing his mouth over and drawing passionately, mirroring the other. Pale hands, once too heavy to be lifted, clamped fiercely to the singed cloth of the other's garments, refusing to let go.

There was no pain, no discomfort… only heat and strength between them, shadowed by something far more powerful than just need. The bond that blazed to life seared like a blast of light, making the shadows scatter.

Their entwined shape rocked slightly, the noise of their heavy breathing muffled by the blood roaring in their ears. It came in patterns, in rhythm… a pair of thrumming lives. The tired drum, so weak and close to rest found itself speeding with a new fervor to match its companion. In time they fell, beating together, strengthening each other in their duel pulse.

This was a true bond. This was a claim that few demons ever knew of… not made in lust or heat, but in compassion, in love. The stain was gone, the claim erased, replaced now by another, far more powerful one.


Is it done? Oh… my… kami… Is it over? Oh, hurrah! Yay! Joy!

You have no idea how irritated this thing made me. :beats with stick: This was the bane of my existence!

I hope this ending pleased you… even though it just… ends. Hell, maybe I'll rewrite it. :laughs at the concept: Oh well, I don't hate it, just dislike it a little. Damn, I made Tsurenai's death too sad for him… but… it was kinda justified. Poor fox on a stick. I felt really bad after I did it… I did sort of like him. At least the fight was fun to write… and mildly disgusting. I dunno, I felt a little sick when typing the phrase 'rotting sludge of a fetid corpse' XP

Anyway, this fic was old… I had the idea over a year and a half ago, but it warped on me. It was only meant to be two parts… and very short, but it ended up to be 3/4 . I swear… I apologize for the following; weak Kurama, inconsistent villain and slow romance. I also apologize for the vines in the first chapter, as the tentacle rape is so cliché… I then apologize for the probing of the second chapter, but that was part of a really awkward dream I had. -.- And I lastly apologize for the walk-in scene of this chapter.

Oh… If you didn't get it… I was the bird bait. That was me. Hiei thinks I'm a dumpy idiot with a fruit fetish… which I am.

As well, in the rose thing; Yes… I know I made a pun. Deflowering and all. I actually got that from doing a flower arrangement. Twisted bugger I am.

As I promised… the translations of the words, as one reviewer actually got it right…
Tsurenai Fuyukazi = tsurenai fuyu kazi = 'Cold-hearted Winter wind'
Koshokuki = koshoku ki = 'Letcher-tree
Utatori = uta tori = 'Song bird'
Nezasso = ne zasso = 'Sleep weed'

Alright alright, enough jabbering. I'd like to give my thanks to my Beta-readers, the lemon-headed Bitta and the gracious Ko-krama along with everyone that was kind enough to read and review. As for you who didn't review… thanks, I guess. :glares:

Just kidding. Thank you all.

Always your obedient servant ---Green Bird