This fic is Yaoi, so please do not read if you have no idea what that means or simply don't like it.

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters nor story of Yuu Yuu Hakusho.

Catch as Catch Can

Hiei watched closely as a mass of red hair walked slowly below the tree in which he was perched. Restraining the urge to smirk, he began his customary perusal of the kitsune's form. Hiei had long ago ceased resisting the urge to note all the minor changes of the fox whenever he saw him, and had simply accepted that he felt better once he had noted every difference.

It had been some months since Hiei was in the area thanks to a short training trip as far from humans as possible. Hanging around these Ningens with only the occasional youkai fight had begun softening his skills. Although training in the Ningenkai forests was not nearly as effective as returning to the Makai would have been, the restrictions on crossing the worlds left him with no other real prospects. Hiei felt his good mood evaporate as he remembered his attempts to get Kurama to come with him. He had actually asked Kurama twice to accompany him, more than he would usually lower himself to, but the fox had protested that he had too many responsibilities. Training with such an experienced fighter as the Youko would have improved Hiei's skills significantly.

Flitting along behind the frail seeming figure, Hiei's ruby eyes burned slightly amongst the dark foliage. Duties to mere humans should have been no barrier to a kitsune doing what it liked. There was no doubt that the constant exposure to human world was having a devastating effect on the youkai fox. Hiei snarled soundlessly at the trees as he sped by. He had heard stories of the infamous Kurama often when he was younger, and to see him brought to this level was disturbing. Even when Hiei had first met the human reincarnation, it was overwhelmingly obvious that the small red- headed boy had a spirit that burned so much more brightly than the dull mortals surrounding him did. It had been that fire alone that fascinated Hiei and led to one of the few friendships he would ever acknowledge.

Kurama had stopped briefly to talk with one of his neighbors, and Hiei took the opportunity to speed ahead to the small bedroom the kitsune had been relegated in that family's dwelling. The window was unlocked, as was customary, and Hiei had no trouble slipping into the fox's den. Standing on the carpet, Hiei carefully took in the surroundings. Instincts that had been honed in the wilds of Makai forbade him seeking comfort, even in this familiar territory, until he had ascertained there was no threat. Noting the small changes in the room over the time that he had been absent and dismissing them as irrelevant, Hiei finally allowed himself to relax his guard minutely. Satisfied that the den was harmless for now, he listened carefully for noises in the rest of the house. Not hearing or sensing any other living beings bar a few plants, Hiei turned his attention inward as he debated how to deal with the fox's situation and increasing humanity.

Normally, he would have simply ignored the whole issue. It was Kurama's business, not his, but he had lately noticed he was feeling more possessive than was natural of the frail human that hid a youko soul so imperfectly. Hiei had grown suspicious while on his training trip, and now that he had seen Kurama, he was more certain than ever. This strange behaviour on Hiei's part was an indication that he wished to form a deeper bond with the mischievous youko. The realisation of what all these strange feelings and urges meant had simplified a lot of confusing problems for the small koorime. What Hiei, the friend of youko Kurama had no right to interfere with, Hiei, the mate of a certain flame haired fox could.

The only question now, was how soon Hiei could go about making that mating a reality. Once he had fully claimed and then bonded to Kurama, actions to limit the damage done by the Ningenkai could be taken. As an added bonus, Hiei would be the dominant partner, while if this bond had occurred in the Makai, Kurama would undoubtedly have held the power. His abilities and status would have demanded that Hiei submit to the greater demon. Now, however, due to the human weakening resulting from so many years surrounded by humans and Kurama being so very human himself, Hiei would be the more highly classed demon, and therefore the most likely dominant in this bond. Red eyes gleamed as Hiei entertained the thought. Being the submissive if it was necessary to be with Kurama would have been barely acceptable, but being the dominant in this relationship was much more suited to Hiei's tastes.

Hiei had become so involved in thinking through the best way's to accomplish a bond with his most stubborn of friends that he didn't even notice the fox's nearing until the kitsune opened the buildings front door. Hiei's eyes flew to the door, and he allowed a hint of anticipation to flood through his form. Kurama would soon be his.


Kurama toed of his shoes as he entered the house. Finally allowing the cheerful smile to fall from his face, the exhaustion he was feeling stretched at the skin of his face, and he winced as he caught sight of his reflection in the mirror.

Being his final year at school, the workload had increased greatly. So much so, that the dedicated student was having difficulty keeping up the high standard his mother wished of him. He had been studying so hard lately that Koenma had even given him temporary leave from his job as a tantei once he got a look at Kurama's haggard appearance. The happy face that so successfully fooled his mother proved useless against the godling, and surprisingly enough, Kuwabara.

Making his way slowly up the stairs, Kurama felt himself missing Hiei's absence even more than usual. Some rough sparring would have helped immeasurably with the stress he was feeling. Of course, that was not the only reason he missed Hiei's company so badly. Kurama had grown used to having a friend, and he sincerely regretted the absence of the one person who could come even close understanding some of his problems. Smiling wryly at the thought that the great Youko Kurama had grown so dependent on one small forbidden child, Kurama reached for his bedroom door.

As he grasped the doorknob, Kurama tilted his head. Either he needed to see the small fire youkai so badly he was imagining his ki, or...

Kurama's quiet mien grew into a happy grin and he opened the door to his room quietly. Spotting the dark shadow hovering in the middle of the floor, Kurama didn't even pause to give a warning, but snuck inside the room and lunged. Hiei smirked as the lithe form tumbled him to the carpet, and a small fang peered over the plush lower lip. Kurama's grin turned curious as he noticed Hiei seemed unnaturally content to remain underneath him and wasn't fighting to move.

Looking closely at the fine features below him, he wondered at the strange expression on Hiei's face. Combined with that unusual glimmer in the blood red eyes, the look was vaguely disturbing and predatory. Kurama felt his instincts automatically react, and his body tensed slightly, but that only made Hiei smile a little wider.

Fascinated, Kurama watched a second fang sneak out to join the first, and found himself rolled onto his back before he realised Hiei had moved. The small form sat perched on Kurama's chest, looking for all the world like he was happy to remain there for some time yet, and Kurama couldn't help laughing at Hiei's rare playful mood, despite the small coil of worry forming at the back of his mind.

"Welcome back, Hiei." Kurama decided that if Hiei was feeling playful, he wouldn't rock the boat. Besides, this could prove to be interesting, and Kurama was beginning to crave a little excitement. Hiei leant forward until his nose was just millimetres from his captives.

"Ohayo, my fox." With that quiet greeting, the dark head lowered, and Kurama felt his breath cut off by a set of full and very active lips. Frozen for a short second with surprise, Kurama began to actively participate in the kiss. After all, Hiei seemed to be showing potential, but experience in kissing techniques was undeniably Kurama's field.

'Mmmm...this is niiice." Kurama thought lazily as he coached the eager mouth on top of his. Kurama closed his eyes as he basked in the pure pleasure he was feeling. 'I hadn't realised how much I missed this.' Youko's were after all, a highly sensuous breed, and Kurama had been far from celibate before he died. Some small, undefined worry continued to distract him from fully enjoying the kiss, however. Frowning imperceptibly against Hiei's lips, Kurama chased it down. Nothing was going to interfere with this enjoyable little surprise.

Kurama was distracted as one of Hiei's hands began to outline his chest, finding it's way up under the school shirt. Moaning, the eager youko wriggled to encourage the action and bit lightly at the lips pressing heavily into his. Manoeuvring his tongue into the small demons heated mouth, Kurama once more pulled his mind back to analysing the strange inhibition.

Something about Hiei's greeting... Kurama followed that train of thought. My fox, he called me his fox. Kurama was confused, why was that upsetting? It wasn't that Kurama had any problem with sleeping with his friend. As far as youko society went, that was a natural progression of friendship, not to mention how effectively it could cement loyalty. 'As well as being highly entertaining,' he thought with contentment as Hiei learned a particularly interesting move with his tongue. Cement - hmmm. Something about...bonding?

Kurama's eyes flew open and he rolled from under Hiei with a gasp. Staring wide eyed at the now disgruntled demon, Kurama attempted to regain his breath. As Hiei reached for him again, Kurama backed away hastily, until his back was against his bed.

'Koorime mating bonds.' Thoughts flew wildly through the youko's mind as he watched cautiously for any further movements from the heavily frowning youkai still half lying on the floor and looking far too tempting. 'Koorime's mate for life with a telepathic mating bond.' The cool and dispassionate voice continued to recite in his head. 'This trait is shared by numerous other species in the Makai, including Fire demons.' Having finished its task, Kurama's memory retreated back into the maelstrom that filled his thoughts.


Hiei remained perched a few feet away from the panicking human, watching him with narrowed eyes. Remaining still to avoid spooking his kitsune, Hiei observed every movement of the pale form carefully. He patiently waited for the fox's next action.

With thoughts of the re-capturing Kurama in mind, Hiei took a deliberate step forward. Predictably, the slim human yelped. Not so predictably, instead of running, tendrils of vines erupted through the still open window and enveloped the Fire Demon. 'Okay,' Hiei thought to himself, 'that will teach me to underestimate a plant manipulator.'

Annoyed with having his view of a half debauched Kurama blocked, Hiei raised his body temperature to burn away the vines. The lack of reaction from the green web brought a frown to his kiss swollen lips. Channelling more of his ki into freeing himself, he missed the nearly silent footfalls of Kurama, as the confused ex-thief used all the talent available to his human body to leave the room. By the time Hiei had used enough power to overwhelm the wards Kurama had woven into the vines, the kitsune was long gone.

Hiei reached for the headband across his Jagan with a frustrated growl. It appeared the kitsune wasn't initially amenable to a life bond. Understandable, given youko nature, but unacceptable to the very large part of Hiei that wanted his fox, and wanted him now. Once the decision to take Kurama as a mate had been decided, the thought of patiently waiting to woo the potentially ambivalent red head had seemed distasteful. It appeared however, that the Fox required some subtle encouragement, and Hiei was willing to alter his strategy accordingly. He just had to find him first.

Removing the ward completely, the blazing Jagan opened on Hiei's forehead, and the koorime began to scan for a ki signature as familiar as his own. Identifying a trace to the east, a small blur sped out the open window, and the dragon began to chase his fox. He had a mate to win.


Kurama ran through the underbrushes in a blur. At this point, he had nothing more in mind than finding somewhere safe to hole up while he thought this through. Kurama splashed through a stream hastily, heading upriver. Scent was not one of Hiei's strongest tracking methods, but anything would help. Panting as he reached the other side, Kurama stopped only long enough to catch his breath before heading deeper into the brush.

Kurama's eyes flickered warily from side to side as he travelled. Knowing Hiei as he did, now that he had his mind set, nothing short of impossible odds would prevent the half Fire Demon coming for him, and Kurama wanted the inevitable meeting to be on his terms and in his territory.

Kurama paused and raised his head, sniffing lightly at the air. Taking the opportunity to brush the hair out of his face, he momentarily cursed the speed with which he'd fled. Just a few seconds to grab a hair tie would have helped significantly, but he had been so panicked at the realisation of what Hiei was attempting, he'd just run on instinct.

A familiar smell caught the kitsune's attention, and a flicker of satisfaction crossed his tired face. It had been some time since he was this far into the woods, and Hiei had no way of knowing about the small bolthole he had stashed here. Old habits die hard. Following the light scent of the unique Makai flora Kurama had planted the last time he was here, Kurama located the small cave's hidden entrance.

Pushing past the concealing greenery with a small murmur and trickle of ki, the tendrils reached out to caress his slim form as he passed. He had to pause to disable the stronger defences hidden further back in the cave. While the carefully concealed wards could keep anything higher than an upper A level from getting this far, the small amount of ki leakage might prove traceable by Hiei's Jagan. Kurama had never fully understood the abilities of the small eye, and now wasn't the time to test half-formed theories.

Sighing as he relaxed upon a small moss covered platform; Kurama trailed his fingers in a small pool of water that flowed by one side of the resting area. Cupping a portion of the water in his hand, Kurama eagerly slurped the liquid. Thirst taken care of, Kurama resigned himself to analysing the situation.

Before fleeing into the dense wood, he had hastily activated a small innocuous plant a few miles east of the city. The plant had long ago been prepped to emit a small amount of stored ki upon command, and could be activated from some distance. The effective little trick was only known to some of the more powerful and crafty youko, and should buy him some time to think.

Kurama fought back a yawn. The moss was delightfully soft, and it had already been a long day, but sleep had a way of getting you skinned, and Kurama needed to figure out how to deal with his friend. Rolling onto his back and squinting at the ceiling, the red head attempted to remember everything he could about Koorime or Fire Demon mating habits.

Very little was known of the Koorime any more. Once upon a time, Koorime had mated and reproduced like the majority of Makai demons, but that information may be out of date now. Nevertheless, Kurama's feelings on the proposed bond were so confused; he needed all the information he could gather before he decided on a course of action to take. Concentrating, the small human sought the information he knew was buried in the past.

The fatigued boy attempted to cling to the memories that were already faint by the time of Kurama's death, but they twisted out of mental hands like an insubstantial mist. He uttered a small sound remarkably like a growl, and thumped the hard rock below. The pain cleared his thoughts and he grimaced. The only way he could see to gain the vital information was to remember those memories, and to do that he needed to be Youko. The memories were always clearer then. Fortunately, Kurama had stored a sufficient amount of power in the plants around here to change, but that would weaken the defences. Seeing no other choice, he began to change as slowly as possible. There was no way to totally block the ki signature, but he could at least diffuse it a little.


Hiei was moving amongst the trees at a furious rate. The narrowed red eyes should have been warning to anyone he came across not to mess with him, but the small band of intrepid demons who had just snuck across the border had obviously used up their luck for the day.

Intent on ignoring the distractions, Hiei passed through the clearing the four had set up in a black blur. Startled by the abrupt interruption, the two more impetuous members of the group immediately took chase.

Hiei's head flickered around for a millisecond, and barely steps past the tree boundary, growling fiercely, he spun and attacked the two shadows. Not even bothering to draw his sword, Hiei drove his ki charged fist through the throat of the more humanoid of the two pursuers, while roasting the bear like one with barely a glance and a burst of black flame.

One of the two demons remaining in the clearing, observing the deaths of his compatriots, sent a ki blast flying at the small dark haired demon. Avoiding the attack by simply ducking, the speedy form dashed back to confront the remaining threat. Flying into the clearing, Hiei dove at the smaller of the two, the one that sent the spell, with a roar. Slamming into a hastily erected force field, Hiei opened the still uncovered Jagan and began to burrow into the defenceless mind. Shocked by the ferocity of the attacks, the taller demon form began summoning his own ki, and Hiei allowed the body in front of him to sag as he faced his next opponent. Blood red eyes practically shone with a berserker fury.

Hiei's thoughts raged almost animalistically. From the moment of the first attack, Hiei's higher consciousness had retreated and allowed pure instinct to rise in its place. These opponents were challenging him as he sought to catch his mate. They were, therefore, competition. Hiei's mind had been swamped in a flash of fury. Kurama was HIS, and no pathetic B class was going to claim the sly thief he chased.

Now all the challengers bar one had been permanently dealt with. This demon's ki was obviously stronger than his was, while his physical form was conversely gaunt and weak. Deciding on his course of action, Hiei drew his sword and ducked around the imposing form to skewer him from a blind angle. The demon, sensing the move, dove to the ground and rolled, forming an impenetrable barrier as he did so. Hiei's sword met the shield with an audible ting, and the area where the sword had made contact glared light blue for a split second.

Staring at the hate filled and unthinking eyes, the demon gathered his longish clothing around him and began to mutter a recall spell. Hiei began to strike at the shield with his sword, sending waves of pure heat and ki soaring down the blade, seeking for a weak spot. Completing the spell, the gesturing form opened a small gate directly below his feet. The initial gate had taken a great deal of both his and many varying artefacts energy, but even the unpleasant journey through the crude portal forming under him was preferable to facing what he now recognised as a blood crazed Fire Demon. There were only two things the demon knew of that would cause this, and he didn't plan on finding out which it was.

Once the tall demon had vanished into his impromptu gate, Hiei's mind gradually calmed and began to recover. The challenger for his mate had fled, and Hiei had won his fox through battle as well as hunt. Feeling strangely content, Hiei's ruby eyes searched his path and set of once more for the last place he had felt Kurama's ki coming from. Now heading northwest, he wondered how his kitsune had managed to be in two places at once. Discarding the thought, the dark form sped up. It was time to claim his mate, and Hiei had no patience left.


Kurama's form was surrounded by a slight glow of excess ki, and his body was slowly elongating on the sleeping platform. As his hair changed from a vibrant red into moonlight silver, Kurama closed his eyes and thought back. The information he had on the Koorime traits of mating were undefined, and based greatly on the occasional snippet of information overheard in old stories.

He knew for a fact that Koorime's mated for life but there had to be more information available than that. The tear gems were an important part of Koorime courting, he remembered hearing that once from one of his lovers, a collector of jewellery. The gems were collected over the Koorime's lifetime, and gifted to their chosen. If the prospective mate accepted the gems, it was a sign that the feelings were returned, and bonding could occur at any time after that.

Kurama's eyes shot open. Uh oh. His mind flashing back to the innocuous seeming dark rock hidden in a drawer at home caused the kitsune to twitch his tail in panic. Wondering briefly if Hiei knew of the custom, Kurama began to bang his head backward onto the moss covered stone. Why hadn't he remembered that fact sooner? 'Because,' he reminded himself, 'you never had reason to apply the information before and it was some time ago.'

He knew even less about fire demons. Fire demons and Youko traditionally did not get along, the two mercurial temperaments the cause of more than a few wars. As a result, all Kurama knew was that in monogamous demons, the depth of commitment to their mates, even unto death, was legendary. As the other rumours he had heard involved eating their own offspring and clothing themselves in gowns of Youko hair, Kurama felt obliged to disregard them. The simple fact was that fire demons were a species that mated for life.

Kurama considered about how he felt about this. It wasn't that he didn't want to sleep with Hiei. Kurama had never had a close friend before that he cared for so much, and the Fire Demon was hardly unappealing, if not to Kurama's usual tastes. Despite that, he would most likely not have approached the prickly demon until after he had permanently regained his youko form, and certainly not as anything more than an enjoyable pastime leading to a deeper friendship. Lifelong bonding was a little deeper than he would have considered.

Pouting at the thought of being tied down, Kurama sighed at the stubborn attitude he knew Hiei would take. The lithe figure rose gracefully, and losing some of his grace in his frustration, began pacing the confines of the small cavern. He cared for Hiei, deeply, but it was very rare for a Youko to take a life-mate, and unheard of with either a Fire Demon or Koorime. It wasn't that Kurama was worried he would want to leave Hiei for some time, if ever, but more that if he found some other human or demon attractive, the bond would not allow any leeway. That sort of restriction on what would most likely be a long life was intolerable to the wild youko. To be bound to one person, forever...

This was getting him nowhere. Quite simply, Kurama didn't know what his feelings were toward the small demon, and until he figured it out, he needed time and space. Kurama's head rose high, and a determined glint shone in his golden eyes. He wouldn't hurt Hiei, but he needed space, and more importantly, some way to rid himself of the claustrophobic feeling he had had since first realising the implications of Hiei's actions. As Hiei would undoubtedly track him wherever he went, Kurama would just have to be sure to remain a step ahead of him, 'Or several.' Kurama smiled slyly at the small red flowers littering one of the corners. He'd just hide out for a while until he figured out how to escape this monogamy business without hurting Hiei, and then everything could go back to normal. Ignoring the small voice of doubt was easy for the carefree kitsune, and with an arrogant smirk, Kurama headed out of the cave. It had been some time since the thief had enjoyed a good game of hide and seek, and he had some preparations to take care of, and he would need to be in the Makai to do so.


Kurama ducked around the tall youkai hogging the passage. The red head smiled widely as he took in the view ahead of him. It had been so long since he had visited Anchorha, that he had forgotten just how full of life the city was.

Watching the sporadic fights that sprung up around the large central clearing, Kurama sighed wistfully. Hiei would have loved this place. Kurama smirked a little as he thought about the small fiery demon. Hiei would have snorted, disdained to acknowledge the emotional outcries, and then charged full on into at least half a dozen blood-infested battles.

Wryly shaking his head, the nostalgic human dodged his way across the field. Stopping occasionally to disprove the mindset many of the fighters held - that humans were vulnerable - he managed to reach the sideline he was heading for with a profitable little collection of items. Although he had cleared out one small storage of tradable items the previous day, it never hurt to practice such useful skills, besides which, the thrill of thieving had quickly returned in force to the youko.

Worming his way past the mixture of youkai that made up this particular camp, Kurama found himself waiting underneath a tall Daler tree, seemingly no different to those around it. Emerald eyes shining almost feverishly bright, the small human tried to take in everything at once.

Anchorha was a permanent city that merely had a large number of mobile parts. Situated in a sheltered valley, the abundant source of drinkable water and useful flora resulted in a constant motion of nomadic and trading youkai. It was well known in the Makai that eventually anything and anyone would pass through the refuge. As in the rest of Makai, the survival of the fittest rule was strictly enforced, but the large supplies of natural supplies muted the need somewhat.

As his wandering gaze took in a small weapons stall, Kurama considered stopping in. He had no need for any more weaponry at the moment, but he may find something Hiei would like. He could store it somewhere, and when this whole mating business was dealt with, he could present it as a peace offering. Happy with the reasoning, the Youko was about to blow off his meeting when a slinky female youkai slunk up to him. Giving the weapons stall a last look of regret, Kurama turned his attention on appearing harmless and somewhat naive as he turned to face the cynical informant.

"Do you really think I'll fall for that, Human?" she inquired casually, looking truly curious about his answer. Never one to let a scheme go until it outlived his usefulness, Kurama allowed his features to take on a vague look of bewilderment before shrugging slightly. Shaking her head in disbelief, the demon reached into the pouch at her side, being careful not to take her eyes of the frail appearing character in front of her.

Kurama was impressed. Even given their doubting nature, most youkai would fall for the full wattage Shuuichi innocence, and the fact she saw through it so easily was a credit to her abilities. Passing him the identifying chit from a safe arms length, she reported the information she had been sent with.

"The youkai you were inquiring about was last spotted about two days south of Ghera. Apparently he was seeking information on the whereabouts of one youko Kurama, or one human going by the name of Shuuichi." Giving the red head an amused look with a raised eyebrow, she continued her report. "Going on information he conveniently received, he headed east and should reach the Miyabir plains in the next two days." Job completed she tilted her head, allowing dark fur to swing from behind her neck. Solemnly nodding thanks for her help, Kurama placed a small velvet pouch on the ground next to him. Stepping back, he grinned suddenly, spun, and then ran, yipping excitedly through the stalls in the area.

Kurama had had no idea how much fun running from Hiei was going to be. Free from responsibilities for the first time since he had been reborn, the Youko was beginning to remember the pure joy of being able to go anywhere he liked, with no restrictions on his actions. Hiei was sufficient challenging to keep him interested, but not quite experienced enough to catch the wily thief. The best combination by far.

Coming to a stop in front of the weapons stall he had been eyeing earlier. Kurama struggled to restrain his need to keep running, and began to browse the selection provided with an astute eye.

The youkai running the stall glanced up quickly, and then paused as he took in the figure running a single finger across the hilt of one of the throwing knives. The stall keeper's eyes grew covetous as he took in the lithe form.

Obviously human, the stranger had to have some abilities or power to have survived unclaimed in this city. The tiny owner half hid himself behind one of the sword racks and assessed the human. Glorious red hair, a rarity in the Makai, topped a heart stopping face. Green eyes that almost glowed with life were a captivating addition and the browser's form was enough to send the most jaded of youkai drooling.

Weighing up the profit from making a sale to the potential client versus the sale price from one of the many slavers in the area, the proprietors pale blue eyes began to smile. The rest of the face remained carefully neutral, as the goblin like owner worked his way over to the battle charms on the shelf across the small gap. Reaching out for a particularly effective immobiliser, he gave a small shriek of pain as a dart like missile went straight through his arm. Turning to face his potential victim, he found previously lively green eyes turned colder than ice.

"That would be foolish," stated Kurama calmly. Idly fingering the new small plant grown beside the table he leaned against, Kurama smiled, sharper than any knife in front of him. "Seeing as one of these knives happens to be just what I was after, I'll make you a deal." Waiting for the stall owner's hasty nod, he continued. "I don't have to pay for these knives in front of me, and in exchange..." Kurama sent another dart flying, and the stall keeper struggled not to step back as the dart hit on the display, just to the right of his head. "...I'll let you live with the loss of only one arm." Carefully gathering his new property into a small bag from the corner, Kurama watched from the corner of his eye as the stall keeper jerked his gaze to where his hand had begun to change to a grey, sickly colour.

Quietly backing away from the stall, the outraged fox strolled away coolly. The poison would undoubtedly take the youkai's hand, but no more if he got it seen to immediately. Of course, in the Makai such a debilitating injury was tantamount to a death sentence, but Kurama couldn't bring himself to care. He had seen looks like that before, and had no intention of playing the weak victim today.

Kurama scowled, and stalked heavily back to his temporary den. He had been thrilled to find the ideal hunting knife for Hiei, a dark metal blade in an a pommel decorated with a dragon breathing fire, when he had noticed the all too close scrutiny of the small demon. Throwing himself down on the pallet he had stolen, the kitsune glared at the woven vine roof above him.

The past week had been an eye opener to the youko as he revealed in his first taste of freedom for a long time. Although he had taken the time to inform Shiori of a training camp he would be attending, this little hunt had reminded the duty bound human of how much fun being at large and chased in the Makai could be. The only detracting feature was that it felt wrong to be alone.

Sitting up and pulling the bag he had just acquired toward him, he began to pull out the knives and sort them. Those he planned to trade he set to one side, and the ones planned for one of his stashes, along with Hiei's were drawn closer. Retrieving an oiling cloth from another bag, Kurama began to work furiously at the blades.

The problem was that while Kurama preferred to run alone, he had had almost a dozen years to get used to being followed by one rather distinct shadow. Without the Fire Demon to guard his back, Kurama felt like it was always tingling, knowing that as out of practice as he was, it would be all too easy for a youkai to sneak up on him.

Working harder at the blade in front of him, Kurama's eyes grew distant as he wondered what the dark half-Koorime was doing at the moment, and whether he had been enjoying his little hunt as much as Kurama was.


Hiei glared death at the leaf in front of him. He had been chasing figments for day's now, and the growing frustration and irritation he felt was not helped by the constant drizzle that now fell on the tree he stood sheltering in. Growling in irritation as a rather large drop fell onto his nose, he jumped down to the ground and waited as his clothes soaked through. He was only speeding up the process somewhat, and by travelling now as opposed to waiting out the storm, he could close in on his fox faster.

So far, he had been led in a random seeming fashion across half the Makai, and Hiei had long since decided that Kurama was going to have to do some serious making up when he finally cornered him.

The dark flash that was Hiei sped along the ground toward the south. Becoming tired of following all the shadows he had no doubt his kitsune was responsible for, he had decided to use his Jagan almost all the time now. He had avoided the decision before as it made him all too easy to follow, and was draining on his ki, but even the limited distances with which it worked had finally paid off and he sensed a faint echo of distinctive ki in this direction. The hunt had not been nearly as enjoyable as he had thought it would, and Hiei had to wonder that either of his species had never died out, seeing as this appeared to be the mating method of at least one of them. 'Of course they never tried to catch the troublesome Youko Kurama either,' he thought to himself wryly. 'No, only a forbidden child would do something this difficult.' Feeling the strength of the ki he hunted grow, he sped up a little, eager to end this hunt and finally make Kurama completely his.


Kurama yawned as he woke up. Grimacing at the taste in his mouth, he briefly regretted the lack of toothpaste in the Makai. Stifling the desire to remain in bed for a while longer, he prepared to move. It was best not to stay in one place too long when being hunted, and it wouldn't do to underestimate his little Fire Demon. Kurama froze while reaching for the hairbrush. 'Since when was he MY little Fire Demon?' Disturbed at the trend his thinking was unknowingly taking, Kurama mentally changed his plans and began evaluating a course back to Ningenkai. Hiei wouldn't think to look for him there, and it was high time he finally figured out what his plans where. This time on the run had made one thing clear. He needed advice, and the only place he was going to find it was back where he had started.

Head full of different plans as to how to approach the issue distracted Kurama sufficiently that he never saw the club come flying. He also never saw the large number of youkai bundle him up thoroughly and remove him in a brisk, businesslike fashion. All Kurama knew was dark, with an intense pair of almond shape red eyes the only relief before they too, faded away.


Kurama came back to consciousness painfully. Keeping his eyes closed, the flashing colours momentarily entertained him under his eyelids. When he felt like he could move without blacking out, he opened his eyes to slits. Closing them again briefly at the flare of light, he had to use every ounce of will he could muster to open them again.

Able to keep his eyes open this time, Kurama took in everything he could of his surroundings without moving. A large stone wall, scrubbed clean, took up the majority of his vision, with what appeared to be clean slate paving covering the floor. The intrusive light was from a lantern hung high in a barred off alcove, and Kurama flinched as his gaze fell on the slightly green flame. He sent a pained glare at the offensive flame, but it continued to dance merrily, much to his disgust.

Very little sound penetrated what was obviously a well-appointed cell, as cells go, but what he could hear seemed to indicate a lot of people. As he discerned the slight grating of metal on stone, he growled in disgust. A lot of armed people. Guards, then. The feel of unfamiliar wrappings around his arms indicated some sort of wards. Kurama sneered slightly, how annoying.

Having learned all he could from where he was lying, Kurama resigned himself to sitting up. The explosion of pain as he lifted his head was as disorienting as it was expected, but Kurama forced the pain away enough with some effort and continued. Confirming the lack of other demons either in the cell or observing it, Kurama allowed himself to slouch against the cold stone. Eyes closing to mere slits, Kurama began making plans.

He hadn't seen the goons that grabbed him, but given the lack of damage, bar the lump on his head, they were professional. The fact that their orders obviously included minimal damage meant that someone either liked him, or they had a vested interest in keeping him unmarked. Kurama smirked sarcastically. He somehow had a feeling he knew which one it was. Besides, if it had been Yomi, he would have been here to be annoying when Kurama woke up.

It had to be slavers then. Kurama considered banging his head against the wall. It had been a long time since he was foolhardy enough to end up being targeted by slavers. Or at least, targeted AND caught. Kurama did have some rather fond, if vague memories of playing with slaving troupes when he was bored.

Contemplating the situation, Kurama sighed and began to meditate. It would speed his physical recovery, and allow him time to gather his ki. He would later find some way to remove or lessen the wards, and when he did, he wanted to be ready.

As curious as he was about why these slavers had put so much effort into capturing and looking after him, the new threat to his hunt/game with Hiei was unacceptable. Not only would the chances of Hiei capturing him become a little too likely, but worst of all, it would just be too humiliating.

Even imagining the mocking amusement in those red eyes if Hiei found him here made Kurama shudder. No way. This little human was not going to risk the embarrassment, and his Youko pride was seriously considering the odds of successfully killing himself if Hiei ever found out what happened.


Hiei made his way cautiously into Anchorha. He had heard of the settlement before of course, but had never had any reason before to suffer the highly populated area. Hiei stalked through the city like a miniature conqueror. His challenging glare was sufficient to convince most of the lesser powered Youkai to avoid him, and the few foolish enough to annoy him soon found themselves either roasted lightly if they were lucky and he was distracted, or burnt to less than ashes where they stood.

Hiei sniffed lightly at the air, and growled loudly. The huge amount of energy being emitted by the crowds had made him dizzy, and he was being forced to track Kurama without the aid of his Jagan, or any sort of sensing.

Quickly realising his admittedly rusty physical tracking skills were the best bet, the sheer stink of unwashed demon was starting to annoy him, and Hiei mentally added another thing Kurama and he were going to have to discuss. 'Later,' he reminded himself. First he had to insure Kurama understood exactly where he stood in this relationship and complete the bonding. Then he could discuss his opinions with the fox, preferably while sitting on the Youko's chest. No need to risk letting the kitsune run again.

Hiei smiled darkly at his thoughts. The images had lightened his mood slightly, but he had better be finding his fox soon, or the city of Anchorha was going to become intimately acquainted with his black dragon.

Catching brief scent trails of Kurama's near one of the small plains near the edge of the city, Hiei focused all his senses on the area. Following the trails to the strongest point, he found a small, almost invisible cocoon of vines and branches along the wood edge. Recognising the design from occasional travels with the Youko, Hiei was almost calm as he inspected the area.

The scent he had picked up was almost painfully strong here, and Hiei grunted superiorly. The youko seemed unable to set up for any sort of stay without marking his territory. 'Possessive Youko,' Hiei thought to himself satisfied.

The markings were only days old, and the clinging trails of the distinctive smell should aid Hiei immeasurably. Eager now to bring a close to the hunt, Hiei began to search for the strongest scent tracing. The most recent location had seemed to be at the tent itself, but seeing as that was unlikely given the fox's absence, Hiei figured he was mistaken and followed the other strong trail heading directly to the busy stalls.

Following a convoluted path around and sometimes through various stalls, Hiei's scowl soon reappeared. As always, the frustrating kitsune seemed unable to be direct in anything, and it was some time before Hiei found himself in a small section of trade separated from the rest. Going over the ground carefully, Hiei almost smiled as he finally detected traces if the fox's ki. Tracking it down to an innocuous looking plant near a clothing stall, he stalked up to the large youkai manning the merchandise.

"I'm looking for someone," he said bluntly, trying to tell if the youkai would co-operate easily or only with more force.

The tall demon smiled nastily down at the dark haired figure that barely reached his waist. Distinctive fangs were noticeable, and along with the slightly swirling black orbs gave the tall youkai what most would consider a menacing look.

Hiei just tilted his head enough to glare at the emaciated form and waited impatiently. If this Youkai knew where his fox was and tried to stall him...

"And just who would you be trying to find small one?" the darkened form of the vendor inquired mockingly. "Lost your parents have you? Or maybe," he looked the small Fire Demon over in a casual inspection, eyes glittering. "Maybe you're looking for a new protector?" The insinuation was quite clear, and Hiei had his sword at the others throat before the final hissed syllables floated away.

Hiei calmly pushed the sword forward enough to cut into the now still youkai's throat and waited. Finally smiling a little wryly, the demon tilted his head back slowly, acknowledging Hiei's dominance and the half Koorime removed the blade with a "Hn," and continued his inquiry.

"I'm looking for a youko by the name of Kurama, or a human called Shuuichi." Hiei hopped onto a convenient table to be on a level with the trader. The trader involuntarily took a half step backward before he caught himself, and forcibly relaxed.

"I haven't heard of the human, and Youko Kurama died ages ago." The trader's gaze challenged Hiei to argue the statement. Hiei just watched. He knew the youkai was telling the truth; he wouldn't dare to do anything else as long as Hiei held the upper hand. Hiei also knew however, that the youkai would know something. There were few secrets amongst traders, and Hiei would be surprised if the infuriating kitsune hadn't left some mark.

Seeing that the implacable ruby eyes were not satisfied with the answer given, the tall youkai searched for something else to tell.

"Maybe if you could provide a description?" The youkai questioned the still form. Hiei considered, and then gave a brief nod. Assuming the trader knew what a youko looked like, and the likelihood Kurama was conserving ki, Hiei took a chance on describing the kitsune's human form.

"Short, even by human standards. Green eyes, red hair." Figuring that was enough of a description, Hiei glared impatiently. The trader frowned as he thought.

"That does sound familiar. There was a human her a few day's ago of that description. Didn't catch the name though. Apparently, Skerry thought to make a quick profit with the slaver caravan here at the time." Here the demon smiled sharply, his fangs catching the meagre light with a dull purple reflection. "As the tale goes, the small, defenceless human proved to have a rather nasty bite." Truly getting into repeating the gossip, he began to giggle slightly inanely as he continued. "Left Skerry with one less arm and a grudge large enough to get them both in trouble."

Hiei upped his glare a notch, and the youkai stopped smiling.

"How." Hiei didn't bother to phrase the demand as a question and just flatly demanded the answer.

The trader hissed slightly. "Don't know, don't care." Hiei raised an eyebrow, one of the small tricks he had picked up from acquainting with Kurama. The demon merely sighed and finally added, "I don't know for sure what happened, but given how simple minded Skerry is, he likely told the slavers about it so they could capture the human. That would allow him some vengeance, and he probably hoped for some sort of profit too." The lanky youkai shook his head in mock sorrow.

"He would undoubtedly have been too stupid to realise the slavers would have taken him out as simple business. No sense risking him spreading the word and losing a human with interesting abilities." The youkai looked Hiei straight in the eye. "I don't know for sure that's what happened, but neither the human or Skerry have been seen since, so it's very likely." With this last advice, the youkai turned back to his wares, and pointedly ignored Hiei.

Hiei fumed briefly before grabbing the nearest half-intelligent looking youkai to come by. He needed to locate these slavers fast. It seemed HIS fox had gotten himself caught up in trouble again. He had no grudge against slavers, but if they had decided to sell what was his, they would regret it.


Kurama's eyes opened wide in his small cell. For just a second there, it had felt been like being submerged in pure rage and determination. That had never happened when he meditated before, and the change worried Kurama. He peered suspiciously at the wards wrapped around his arms, and then peered closely at the cell walls, and the bluish flame.

Maybe something in the air or the wards was starting to affect him unusually. The possibility merely reinforced Kurama's earlier decision. These cells should prove no challenge to as good a thief as he was, and it was best to leave as soon as possible. Mind already busy working on a way to have the wards removed, Kurama began to smile slyly. These fools had no idea who they were messing with, and Kurama was about to remind the Makai exactly why Youko Kurama was not to be messed with.


Hiei had tracked the slaving caravan as it descended into the dense forest to the city's north. Along the way, he had passed the occasional traveller, either looking to sell or buy. None of them had been able to truthfully detail the location of the slavers next stop, which led Hiei to believe they had chosen to hibernate in some secured location.

Hibernation was the term used for any slave centred organisation when they chose to disappear for some time. The break from trade allowed the training of new slaves, and the culling of the old. It also left time for any secret deals the group may not want made public. That could be anything from a mass sale to a war faring customer for battle, to a small deal involving a slave whose sale may cause a ruckus.

Whatever the reason for the decision, Hiei found himself relieved. Given as how the slavers had just left Anchorha, the odds were that this was a hiatus to cull and train. In other words, Kurama shouldn't be in any danger just yet. Hiei's lips flickered up at the corners in a brief smile as he ran. Kurama may even learn something useful. Thoughts of a submissive fox filling his mind, Hiei ran even faster. Maybe his brief sojourn might help convince the kitsune that having a permanent partner, namely Hiei, to watch his back could be beneficial.


Kurama fumed in his small cell. This was all Hiei's fault. Not only had he been the reason Kurama had run, but he was also the very distraction that was responsible for Kurama lowering his guard. Kurama scowled blackly as he paced the confines of his cell. He hadn't seen anyone for almost a day now and he was hungry, still sore, and becoming angry. Scratching irritably at the wards on his arms, he began to imagine what he would do to these idiot slavers when he got out.

Getting out of the cell wasn't the problem. The lock was solid, but contained a number of design flaws Kurama knew as well as his name. Although he could assume a large number of guards, his treatment so far indicated they wouldn't know he was missing for some time. No. The real problem was the innocent looking strips of cloth tightly fixed to his arms.

Giving the wards one last glare, Kurama threw himself lightly down on his pallet and indulged himself in a pout. He couldn't loosen the damn things himself, but no one had shown up to do it for him.

Kurama was thrown out of his self-pity by the sound of measured footsteps coming closer. No one had come down this passage since he woke up, and Kurama had to fight the urge to grin. FINALLY. Kurama considered setting himself up seductively, but given the career choice the approaching person was most likely in, the move might give them ideas. He had enough of that with Hiei. No sense in worsening the situation.

Walking casually around the passage's bend came a medium sized youkai. Brownish purple hair fell to his shoulders sparsely, the effect giving his soft face a stronger look. Twin eyes of calculating blue were observing the small human, and the hint of a smile that danced around his lips showed that he found some amusement at what he saw. Graceful steps brought him right up to the bars of the cell, and he reached into a pocket in his tight fitting robes, pulling out a key.

Kurama observed the other youkai right back and couldn't say he was impressed. For all the effect his appearance contrived to convey, the nondescript demon's hands held a tremor as he fitted the key to the lock, and the ease with which Kurama found himself able to read the thoughts displayed in the large eyes ensured Kurama quickly lost respect for the stranger. 'I was never able to read Hiei that easily, even at the start,' Kurama thought to himself internally with a sniff of disdain. Maintaining a confused and scared look, Kurama had to fight a strong urge to insult the demon as he scooted back on the blanket-covered platform, with every impression of being terrified.

'I'm not enjoying this,' Kurama thought to himself acidly as the youkai took those few steps remaining to the slab. It would be so easy to overpower the obstacle in front of him and just leave, but two things kept him here. Despite his pride in his abilities, the use of his ki could prove the difference between a glorious escape or being recaptured and dying of shame when Hiei finds him. Watching as the demon leering at Kurama gracefully settled himself on the lower end of the pallet while raking lust filled eyes over the small Ningen form, Kurama recalled the other reason he was still here. He was fed up with this whole slave thing already and decided to seriously damage at least most of the group before leaving.

Kurama shuddered as the youkai perched at his legs and opened his mouth to speak, huge gaps in his mouth where Kurama assumed teeth or fangs had once resided. The contrast with the youkai's smooth appearance was disconcerting.

"Well, Well, Well," the youkai said cheerfully, his expression designed to reassure the tiny, pale form curled in on itself in front of him. "Aren't you a pretty little human then?" Mistaking Kurama's ill-hidden look of contempt for surprise, the demon chuckled heartily. Or at least what Kurama supposed was supposed to be hearty. To the annoyed youko it sounded a little too slimy to be believable.

"Now then, there's no need to be upset little one," the demon crooned. "I just want to know a little bit about you, and then we can see about having you taken out of this dark little room, hey?" Smiling widely at Kurama, the youkai patted the leg that lay within reach comfortingly.

Kurama bit back a growl, but allowed his eyes to narrow slightly. Apparently this youkai had judged him a young human, lost in the Makai with some ability. Given his lack of fear and willingness to approach this close unarmed and without guards, he wasn't expecting any trouble he couldn't handle. 'Good,' Kurama thought, cheered by the thought. That would make it easier to get what he needed from what he assumed was either the leader of the team, or one of the slave assessors.

The lack of caution combined with the ease with which Kurama's act fooled him, made Kurama suspect he was an assessor, come to judge what training and clientele were best suited to the new property. ' There's no way any troupe would survive if THIS was the leader,' Kurama decided disdainfully.

When the demon leaned forward over Kurama's still reclining form to look more closely at the wares, Kurama felt it was time to act on his plan of escape. Giving a pained groan as the youkai's arm brushed by one of the wards, Kurama recoiled the arm sharply, cradling it against his chest protectively. Surprised, the demon sat up, and examined the whimpering tableau in front of him.

"What's the matter, sweetling," he sympathised, his tone so obviously false that Kurama wanted to gag. Transforming the urge into a choked cry, he mustered all his will. This was going to HURT!

" hurts," he cried painfully, inserting small choked moans between his words. "My arms...they burn." Beginning to physically sob, Kurama watched from under his lashes with satisfaction as the assessor began to panic. 'Mustn't let merchandise get damaged, must we," Kurama thought spitefully, the urge to wag a non-existent tail growing. Playing the youkai for a fool was actually quiet fun, it was the whimpering weak as a kitten thing his pride was having trouble with. 'This wouldn't have worried me back in the Ningenkai,' he thought sadly. 'It's definitely time I returned. If I wait any longer, there may not be a Shuuichi for Shiori to recognise.'

Tossing the distraction of home to the side, Kurama allowed the other youkai to carefully remove Kurama's arm from his stomach and observe the wards. Frowning as he took in the red chaffing it had taken Kurama mere minutes to gain pulling his arms along the wall, he ran a long finger around the edge thoughtfully.

"It seems you're not reacting well to the wards, little one." Giving Kurama probably the most patronising look he had ever seen, the demon continued to rub the pinkened skin gently. Kurama almost grabbed his arm back. The constant irritation was painful. "Well then," the assessor declared forcefully, "it's probably that human thing. These wards were designed for much more powerful demons. Still, we can't have you running around without one. They're there for your protection of course."

"Of Course," Kurama thought wryly. 'The inhibition of an unknown ability has nothing to do with it at all.' Giving the demon the most pathetic Shuuichi in pain and hurting look he could muster, Kurama let loose his ultimate weapon. Almost two decades in this body had presented the manipulative fox with a skill that knew no adversary. An unbeatable talent that he planned to use fully right now. Kurama unleashed the Hurt Puppy Look.

Letting tears well up in his eyes, Kurama sniffled artistically while pouting with everything his mouth had to offer. He didn't plan to charm the assessor, he merely planned to present the impression that Kurama was in the most direst of straits and that only he, the youkai with Kurama's arm in his hands, had the ability to fix it. 'Even if the compassion element has no effect, the fact that the look could make it appear to the uninitiated that death is imminent should shake him up,' Kurama told himself smugly.

Physically reeling back from the sheer force of the look, the Youkai released the arm he held. Almost beginning to enjoy this, Kurama howled and curled up in a small ball, once more clasping his arms to his chest.

Swearing, the assessor once more began trying to coax the arm away. For the first time since seeing the Youkai, Kurama felt respect for him. He didn't even realise some of those languages still existed. Hiding the amusement in his eyes was easy, and Kurama memorised some of the more interesting terms.

Succeeding in his attempts at regaining one of the lost limbs, the assessor tried to smile reassuringly at the human lying in front of him. Kurama looked up hopefully at the Youkai grasping his arm, fighting the urge to recoil from the gappy grin.

Obviously touched by the innocent appeal of the human boy in front of him, as well as by the considerable profit it was becoming more evident he would bring in, the assessor made one small, critical error.

"Here," he said gently, almost salivating at the price this little piece would bring. "I'll just take one of those painful things off for you."

'After all," the slaver thought to himself, "this human obviously isn't very powerful, and we don't want any damage done. He's one of the better items of stock we've picked up lately.' Confident in his assessment of the youth, the Youkai trailed one finger softly down the ward of the arm in his lap. Moving the single digit, he tuned his ki and focused it into a single, concentrated beam. As the ward fell apart, he briefly flickered his eyes to watch the falling cloth.

That distraction was all Kurama needed. Lashing out with his free hand, the kitsune heavily thumped the demon over his chest. The ward remaining on that arm was not strong enough to block his ki from the other Youkai, and Kurama was able to send a sufficiently damaging blast hurtling through the unwary Youkai, rendering him unconscious.

Unfolding himself elegantly, Kurama hopped lightly off the platform and stepped smoothly around the figure slumped mostly over the slab. Reaching into the robes only long enough to retrieve the cell key, he then sauntered out of the cell with a smug, self-satisfied grin.

As he began to move down the hallway, gliding from shadow to shadow, green eyes wary but excited, he found himself regretting Hiei's absence. Escaping just wasn't as much fun anymore without Hiei there to impress.


Hiei ducked under the guards clumsy swing and raked his sword across the others guts. The red vision that had overtaken him before hovered heavily in the small demon's mind, waiting to envelop his thoughts.

As his opponent fell away to the side, Hiei ran to take out one of the other two guards that waited unprepared on the edges of the thick undergrowth. Quickly beheading the closer of the two, Hiei whirled to block the third guard's strike. Forced backwards, Hiei flitted to a nearby tree to analyse the situation.

The urge to give in to his waiting instincts was proving to be difficult to resist. Everything inside the Fire Demon was yelling that Kurama was near and he had only to destroy this obstacle. Only one thing gave Hiei the will to resist. He needed one of these guards alive. The slaver's retreat consisted of a multitude of entrances and underground buildings, all hidden amongst the foliage. Hiei wanted Kurama and he wanted him NOW. He wasn't even worried that the kitsune would be hurt before he could reach him, his fox could look after himself most of the time. What really caused the intense look in the blood red eyes was a much greater concern. If he didn't find the redhead soon, Kurama may escape. Hiei had already decided that the fox had run long enough. There was no way Hiei was going to spend day's searching the compound while the tricky kitsune ran gleefully off in some random direction.

Eyes narrowing, Hiei harnessed the adrenaline that feeling of anger gave him and launched himself at the last guard. It only took a couple of parries before Hiei was able to sever the opponents sword arm at the shoulder. Narrowly avoiding the poisoned tail barb as the youkai swung it around, still bellowing in pain, Hiei thrust his sword through the bleeding demon's stomach and used all his weight to force the larger form to the ground, pinning it in the dirt.

Leaning close into the others face, staying just clear of the gnashing fangs, Hiei growled at the demon while glaring his anger from two ruby eyes. "Where is Kurama?"

The smell of the demon's blood was making concentration difficult and so Hiei was vaguely surprised at the sudden cry of pain the demon he was perched on uttered. Without taking his eyes of the agonised orbs below him, Hiei sniffed lightly at the air. Detecting the familiar tang of burning flesh, Hiei risked a quick glance down at where his hand clenched the demon's remaining arm.

'Ah,' he noted to himself idly, watching as the dark flames wreathing his left arm charred the youkai's flesh. Turning his attention away from the distraction, Hiei bit at the captive demon's screaming face threateningly. The snapping fangs just above his nose focused the youkai and he turned desperate eyes up at the small form on his chest.

Hiei ignored the mute appeal and repeated the question. The demon under him looked painfully confused.

"Kurama? Youko Kurama? He's long dead... or missing," the demon spat out in between involuntary whimpers. Hiei just growled louder. Sensing his control fading as the smell of the demon's pain and fear rose anew, Hiei struggled to spit out another question.

"Red head, human, caught in Anchorha." Fighting with his instincts he threw out the rest. "Where are the recent slaves kept?" Understanding temporarily replaced the agony in the guard's eyes and he laughed, spitting blood.

"So you're after someone we caught." Coughing up more blood, the light began to dim in the agonised eyes. "Can't...can't..." the youkai began to gurgle. "Can't wait to see you fail," he managed to whisper around the painful contortions that racked his body. "Try over spirit will enjoy watching you fail." Looking to the right, he managed to nod toward one of the larger mounds some feet away. Finally succumbing to death, the demon collapsed.

Hiei watched emotionlessly and felt the blood lust rising. Turning triumphantly gleaming eyes to the mound, Hiei allowed his instinct to overwhelm him. He knew where his mate was and he was strong enough to win him.

Hiei moved faster than the shadows, quickly searching the area and locating the poorly disguised entrance. The thieves apparently didn't expect anyone to actually get this far without warning. Testing the small entrance, Hiei focused every sense he had on locating his fox. As he targeted the longed for ki, Hiei let himself completely loose to follow his feelings and ceased thinking completely. Holding his sword threateningly by his side, Hiei slipped confidently down the passageway. He could sense others near his mate, but he would defeat them all, prove himself worthy and the kitsune would belong to him.


Kurama ran gracefully through the dark corridors. Stopping occasionally to re-orient himself, he grinned foxily as he avoided the occasional guard with casually implemented experience. His escape didn't appear to have been discovered yet, but evidently there was some type of excitement occurring elsewhere.

Initially, Kurama had dismissed all the frantic actions as the result of some random attack or emergency. It was only when he passed a number of casualties lying around the hallways, scorched, that the suspicion that Hiei had found him was proven accurate.

Now Kurama had two problems. Not only did he have to escape from wherever this base was safely, preferably with as much damage as he could manage as he left, but he also had to avoid running into a homicidal fire demon. The only bright spot was that at least he hadn't actually run into the obsessive little youkai yet.

"KURAMA!" A shout echoed down the passage and into the lit cavern he had just entered. 'Spoke too soon,' Kurama corrected himself, dashing for the other tunnel out of the room. It wouldn't do to have Hiei catch up to him here. It would be too much like the half Koorime was rescuing him. Kurama made a face of distaste as dodged a large boulder in his way. That would be way too embarrassing. 'Oh, and of course that whole permanent mate thing is still worrying,' he added as an afterthought, realising his mental tone wasn't as firm as it had been earlier.

Distracted by the entrance of a small, armed force from the tunnel he was running toward, Kurama missed the blur that shot past him. The first sign that the situation had altered came as one of the guard's bleeding, and extremely deceased body came flying, landing almost directly on his feet. Kurama paused, and found himself watching as his best friend fought almost faster than Kurama could see, decapitating and wounding guards like a miniature, homicidal whirlwind.

Feeling a sudden urge to applaud, Kurama restrained himself, and walked calmly around the fighting area until he was leaning against the entrance of the passage. Linking his hands casually behind his back, his green eyes bright with interest as Hiei finished off the last of the guards. Allowing the body to fall to the ground, Hiei pivoted, his stare moving with an almost innate knowledge, to pin Kurama's jade eyes.

Kurama's face lost its suitably impressed expression as he took in all the details of the dark form in front of him that he had originally missed. Hiei's bright ruby eyes held only the scantiest hints of rationality, their light blazing with strong emotion. Anger, lust and fanaticism, Kurama could see all these things broiling in those red depths. The usually impassive pale face was drawn up into a ferocious looking mask, fangs clearly visible in the downward curl of the mouth. The small, perfectly formed form was hunched, curled almost as if waiting for the next attack, but even as Kurama watched with fascination, the figure straightened, never taking it's eyes of its target standing frozen within the tunnel mouth.

Hurriedly reassessing his options, Kurama decided it was time to beat a hasty retreat. Hiei began to walk toward the redhead, each step unmistakably predatory in a slinky sort of way.

"Hiei," Kurama managed to get out nervously. This was NOT what he had planned. "So...what brings you to this stretch of the Makai?" Careful to keep his tone casual, Kurama began gradually easing himself backward into the shadows of the hallway.

Keeping eye contact with the still advancing Fire Demon, he reached out slowly with the small reserves of ki the weakening of the wards had allowed him access to. Feeling the large stretches of moss curtaining the entrance respond by curling their energy around the Youko's ki, he gave an inaudible sigh of relief. That should buy him enough time to run.

Hiei's blood coloured eyes narrowed into slits. Before Kurama even had a chance to cause the moss to twitch, the half Koorime had leapt upon him, his body weight bearing the slim human form to the ground, the uncovered Jagan pressed tightly to Kurama's forehead.

Taken by surprise, Kurama stretched his mind quickly for the moss, but found his link there severed, and his ki restrained tightly to his body.

"Wha..." Kurama allowed the beginnings of the instinctive inquiry past his lips before he bit down on the soft inner flesh of his mouth. Hiei had jerked against him in reaction to his voice, and the strange sound being issued from his throat was unusual enough that Kurama decided to avoid invoking it any further.

As the eye pressed to against him moved slightly, the understanding of what had happened to his ki came crashing down on the supine form. Suddenly furious at the invasion and semi-attack on his abilities, Kurama bolstered his usually concealed strength with what ki he could access, and heaved at the smaller form laying on top of him.

Hiei face that had been peering down at him with very little rationality abruptly changed as he easily rode the movement. Awareness flooded back over the fine features, but instead of removing himself as Kurama would have expected, the black clad form merely re-settled himself comfortably and smirked slightly at his captive.

His face clearly displaying his opinion of the situation, Hiei's smile widened and he playfully tapped Kurama's nose with a single finger.

"Caught you," he said softly, his voice underlined with smugness and satisfaction. Kurama snarled up at him and bared his teeth. Sometime in the last few minutes, the fox had lost control of the situation and he was not enjoying the feeling.

Hiei apparently read the kitsune's frustration on his face, because he gave a low, smooth laugh before ducking his head quickly under Kurama's chin.

Aware of what his friend was trying to do, Kurama frantically fought to free himself from the smaller youkai's weight, twisting his head fiercely to avoid the moist air he could feel blowing over his neck.

Biting was a fundamental part of mating for most of the demon's in the Makai, but given the fact that both of Hiei's species mated for life, the odds were that a love bite might mean a little more for him than it ever had for Youko Kurama.


Shifting his weight easily to counter the movements of the frantic human under him, Hiei kept his head buried alongside that pale, slender neck and smiled happily. It had been a long hunt, but the prize was his. As he avoided a particularly violent attempt at escape, his smile turned slightly ironic. 'I just have to get the prize to see it that way now.'

That task could be done later and with much greater leisure though. For now, what was important was making sure the fox was no longer eligible for other liaisons and insuring that the sneaky Youko didn't try to run again. Unsure of exactly what he was going to do afterward to convince Kurama, Hiei decided to just go with his instincts.

Parting his mouth slightly, he allowed the breath-moistened air leaving his lungs to warm the smooth skin in front of it. Giving Kurama plenty of time to realise what he was doing, Hiei sunk his fangs almost gently into the skin lying between the neck and shoulder. Hearing Kurama give a muffled cry of mixed pain and pleasure above him, Hiei sawed his teeth slightly. Not enough to cause a serious wound, but enough to ensure a permanent scar. Lapping at the warm blood before he drew away, he lifted his head to peer into the glazed eyes of his chosen mate. He had to know what Kurama was thinking.

Kurama had felt the pain of the bite receding swiftly as a strange numbing feeling spread from the wound across his shoulder and sank into his bloodstream. 'So,' he thought to himself in a detached fashion, all the fight having left him. 'Either the Koorime or the Fire Demons seem to use venom in their bites.'

The concept wasn't unique. Sometimes the mates picked might not be so willing. All it took though was a sedative that could be administered quickly, and the process became that much easier. 'Damn,' was Kurama's last thought as he felt his body relaxing into sleep. 'This was not what I had in mind.' With that rueful observation, Kurama sank into what was rapidly becoming a familiar state of unconsciousness.


Hiei glared down at the unconscious form lying below him. Trust his fox to make things more difficult than they had to be. Allowing his usual impassive mask to fall over his features, Hiei regretfully climbed off the sprawled form and altered his original plan of action to accommodate this new eventuality.

On the positive side, Kurama was now indisputably his. Whether the Youko liked it or not, he was now permanently attached to one forbidden child. The warm, bone deep feeling of satisfaction and pride he felt at that thought was only slightly dimmed by the fact that Kurama didn't appear to have taken the whole idea very well. Nevertheless, Hiei had the utmost confidence in Kurama's abilities to adapt, and in his feelings of friendship for the Fire Demon. The best bonds should be built on a proven friendship anyway.

The real problem was how to deal with the fact that his partner - the one youkai who had the ability to alternately infuriate and fascinate the small demon, was currently lying unmoving on the cold dirt floor of the passageway.

Hiei had of course, come across properties of some youkai's bites, but had been unaware up to this point that he also possessed that particular asset. Not usually being one to curse at the vagary of fate, Hiei still felt the urge to hit something. Hard.

The echo of footsteps and shouting voices drifted from further down the corridor down which Kurama had headed. Smiling evilly, Hiei gently manoeuvred Kurama against the passage wall where he lay partially hidden by stringy strands of moss. Satisfied that his mate was temporarily safe, Hiei picked up his sword from where he had flung it earlier and waited patiently a few steps deeper into the dark passageway than Kurama.

While he waited, Hiei thought he recalled a vague memory of previous battles. Visions of red and the cries of fallen foes had definitely been present, but whatever fog had overtaken his rational at the time had also left Hiei felling oddly unsatisfied. As a result, Hiei was itching for a good fight, and these idiot demons had just presented themselves as targets.

As the first guards became clear in the light shining from the cavern behind him, Hiei took advantage of their momentary blindness thanks to the light behind him, to speed forward. Slashing and cutting as the cries of his first adversary filled the enclosed space, Hiei revealed in the sweep of adrenaline that flooded his veins.

Mindful of his vulnerable partner scant meters behind him, Hiei concentrated on forcing his opponents to retreat. As the battle moved steadily further into the tunnel, the light dimmed. Torches held by the rear guards of the fairly large group spluttered fitfully, allowing the retreating demons to clearly see the stark locks of Hiei's starburst and the fervent gleam shining in his slightly glowing eyes.

The brief hesitation that had occurred on the guards part as their foe became readily visible ended as the mass of youkai did a quick head count. Reassured once more of their own superior strength, they resumed the battle, attempting to take down the shadowed black form that darted in and out of the torch flames.

As their numbers began to fall, some of the brighter members crept silently away from the rear. Some of these ran to spread the alarm, while others decided a complete retreat was the best survival prospect, and fled to the surface.

Hiei vaguely noticed the decreasing numbers, but absently promised himself that he and Kurama could track them down later. Hiei had heard a multitude of stories about the kind of lengths that Kurama was reputed to have gone to for revenge, and Hiei wasn't going to upset him by taken out all of the lively targets.

Thinking about his mate, Hiei turned for a brief glimpse to check on the unconscious human. From what he could see, the frail redhead hadn't moved, and Hiei didn't know whether to be relieved or worried. He wasn't entirely sure what effects his bite might have on the kitsune. Turning back to the now much decreased guard party, Hiei mournfully decided to stop playing with them. Although he had been having a great deal of fun, resolving his situation with Kurama was more important.

Mentally switching tracks, Hiei allowed his body to shift into a more deadly stance. The other fighters, not recognising the change, continued to attack furiously.

Emotionless, Hiei sliced his way through their ranks. Opponents fell to the side, not one injured left to endanger his back, all falling dead. Hiei twirled his sword in furious arcs, black fire skipping from his free arm clashing with the few flames left of the torches the guards had carried.

Eerily, no noise arose from the fight apart from the ring of steel on steel. The first victims of Hiei's new mindset had never been given the chance to scream, and those that followed them had desperately resorted to saving their breath in an attempt to ward off the dancing figure of death that twirled around them.

Finally, the last of the fighters fell, his fallen sword sounding the last clashing note to the strange battle, and Hiei brought himself back to rest at Kurama's side. Flickering his eyes briefly over the fallen foes, Hiei sent his ki searching for any taint of life that might remain. He would be dangerously encumbered with the slumbering human as he left the base, and it was best to ensure there were no survivors that were familiar with his skills left to follow.

Satisfied that all present were most assuredly deceased, Hiei bent slightly over the pale form, now starkly outlined in the light of one of the dropped torches. Looking over the delicate figure, Hiei found himself mesmerised by the play of light in the dark red strands that partially concealed the fox.

'MY mate,' Hiei thought peacefully to himself. The chase had been won, the threat destroyed and now it was time to retreat and deal with the battle wounds.

Lifting Kurama gently, Hiei held the unconscious Youko cradled in his arms. The height difference disallowed carrying him on his back, the most desired method to carry an injured partner, but Hiei found himself unable to begrudge the fact. Kurama's warm weight was subtly reassuring and Hiei held his chosen even more tightly against him, savouring the steady heartbeat and small puffs of breath that warmed the cloth against his shoulder.

Moving at only a fraction of his usual speed, Hiei headed back along the path he had already travelled, taking the shortest way out of the compound. It was time to take Kurama home.


'Ooooh,' Kurama winced at the pounding reverberations that thundered through his mind. A particularly jolting sensation that ran through his body and forced him to swiftly assess his situation. Despite the constant movement his body was being subjected too and the slightly acrid smell that drifted below his nose, Kurama was gratified to find himself rather comfortable and warm. Letting his aching head remain resting on the comfortable perch it seemed to have found, he carefully re-enacted the events leading up to these contradictory feelings of comfort and pain.

Whispers of memory flowed back swiftly. The confrontation with Hiei and the guards, Hiei knocking him down, then...oh. As if to remind the kitsune of its presence, the now painful bite at the juncture of his shoulder and neck began to throb in time with his head.

Giving an involuntary wince, the previously unnoticed feeling of movement stopped. Resigning himself to opening his eyes, Kurama gradually peeked through still slightly dazed eyes. Blinking a little at the glaring light that made itself immediately known, the passing, unending panorama of rock was broken by a slightly lopsided pair of ruby red eyes.

Taking in the highly unamused expression on Hiei's face, Kurama sought desperately for the right words to alleviate the situation.

"Um...hi? Kurama managed to whisper, his throat sympathetically sore from the sharp pain in his neck. Hiei merely grunted, his head drawn back, and then hitched Kurama up, bringing to Kurama's notice exactly where he was. Frantically trying to beat down a blush, Kurama attempted a half-hearted go at moving before Hiei's warning growl and tightening arms convinced him to stop.

Kurama closed his eyes and allowed himself to sink back into that comforting embrace. Any other time, the Youko would have been firm in asserting his independence, but the remnants of the sedative mixed with the aches and pains his body was protesting to him loudly, and he decided he could allow Hiei this show of protectiveness just this once.

Comfortable with this reasoning, Kurama hummed happily and idly breathed in the familiar smell that surrounded him. Enjoying the heretofore-undiscovered pleasant activity, he was almost taken by surprise when Hiei dropped him inelegantly to the ground.

Yipping in shock, the redhead turned a practiced glare up at the inconsiderate youkai, only to see that the frowning visage was directed at some point above Kurama's head. Cautiously, Kurama tilted his head over his shoulder to see what had so strongly affected the tough little demon.

A bright patch of slightly wavering light indicated an exit out of the network of caves. The reason the Fire Demon had stopped however, was the tall, bulky form of a fierce looking youkai standing in the entrance. Slightly in front of the hulking form was a comparatively stick like demon, so short he would have to look up to Hiei, and this second form was watching the two Tantei with a sly little grin.

As the larger youkai took a ponderous step forward, Hiei swung into action. Kurama watched with a frown as he ignored the more muscled looking foe, and leapt straight for the now giggling, goblin like figure.

Kurama could understand his reasoning. In the Makai, strength was everything. This tended to mean that any demon that suffered so obviously in the brawn department was most likely a greater risk than any muscle strong opponent simply by virtue that they had to have some spectacular survival tactic. Nevertheless, Kurama was not so certain that the usual protocol applied here.

There were a couple of reasons for his concerns. One was the way in which both of the demons seemed highly amused by the little Fire Demon's choice, but more importantly, Kurama recognised the patchy looking spread of coloured cloth on the broad shoulder of the towering youkai. Kurama may not know what talent the smaller demon that chortled as he dodged Hiei's attacks casually may have, but the tall demon watching calmly from the sidelines was the one wearing the slave trader's mark. This was the brain behind this rather large slaving organisation, and it was he that the seriously weakened and warded Kurama now had no choice but to face.


Hiei snarled in frustration as the snickering youkai dodged another sword swing. He had known that his chosen opponent would undoubtedly be a challenge given his initial demonstration of speed, but the ease with which he bounced out of the sword's path was extremely frustrating. Face tightening in concentration, Hiei narrowed his swings slightly, trying to force even more speed into his strokes.

As if to taunt the furious Fire Demon, the hobgoblin began to hum, the sound do grating that Hiei grimly decided that the killing stroke would be directly through the annoyances neck. Laughing at the homicidal expression ill hid in those blood red eyes, the spindly form ducked around the whiling mass of steel to dodge into the darkened passageway. Spinning to follow, Hiei was forced on the offensive as the humming abruptly stopped, and the now invisible demon began to make mock strikes from the dark, always retreating before Hiei could get a solid fix.

Intent on his target, Hiei nonetheless found himself continually glancing back at his mate. Kurama stood exactly where Hiei had hastily left him. The shockingly pale skin of the human stood out starkly in the hazy light barely crawling into the entrance. Kurama's shock of red hair was almost a living entity upon the ghostly figure, only overly bright jade glowing in the set face showing equal signs of life to the mass of flame.

Facing him, the mountainous Youkai leered at the vulnerable shape, pointed nails lightly flexing as they hung on ponderous arms at its side. Heavy breathing was the only noise it made as it shifted slightly in order to present a more formidable blockade from the opening.

Hiei was torn. On one hand, all the strategy he had ever learned told him to rid themselves of the risk posed by the currently hidden demon before taking out the more stationary threat. Instinct demanded that this annoying bit of youkai flesh that so taunted him must be rendered and destroyed. Pride simply demanded that he win this fight. All of that however, was shadowed by an almost overwhelming concern for his fox.

Warded, and not looking to be in full health, the fragile seeming kitsune was not as capable as usual. Hiei was unable to assess how easily he would be able to beat his foe. Indecision warring in his eyes, Hiei parried another attack, barely avoiding what now seemed to be steel tipped fingers. It seemed that his own enemy had chosen to escalate the fight.

Regretfully, Hiei turned from where Kurama stood outlined in the faint light, and moved deeper into the tunnel to face the taunting youkai. He would just have to have faith in his fox.

Kurama stood as still as he could. A slight tremor occasionally racked his form, but he ignored the distraction, reacting only to shift his balance after each minute movement. Dimly, he sensed Hiei and the other demon moving further away behind him, and gave a mental sigh of relief. Given the way the two had been standing while waiting for them, they were accustomed to fighting as a pair. The chances of he and Hiei getting out without injury had just increased dramatically in their favour.

No longer concerned about a rear attack, Kurama straightened even further. Flexing his ki a little, he estimated what his range was, and what tricks he was still capable of. His self-inspection was cut short as the Youkai gave a bellowing call and charged, the load noise vibrating harshly in the dank air.

Maintaining his calm easily, Kurama swept himself low, whirling around the large fists that sought to tangle in his hair, and pressing himself closely to the cool wall. The larger demon never paused, although Kurama thought he could detect some surprise on his face, as he brought his hand in a smooth sweep to where the human had come to rest.

Kurama struggled to evade the searching grip as he sent his ki out tentatively. Satisfaction tinged his thoughts as he felt several notable points of energy scattered through the passage, densest near the opening. Breaking for the small entrance, he swept his ki along picking out the individual traces of seeds, swept into the caverns by wind and storms, but unable to germinate in the foreign conditions.

'Well, that shouldn't be too hard to fix,' Kurama thought angelically, even as a slightly evil smile shaped his lips. Discarding most as harmless or useless here, Kurama almost whistled as he identified one at his back, slightly to the left. He sent up a brief prayer of thanks to Inari.

Pleased with the new possibilities, Kurama turned confidently to face the slaver. The large demon seemed amused at Kurama's defiance, and gave a slight mocking nod. Kurama wondered if he really thought that would be enough to distract him from the ki build up behind him.

Kurama looked emotionlessly at the youkai, careful to appear ignorant of whatever the slave master was doing back there. Feeling the slightest change in the building ki that indicated it was about to be used, Kurama used every last ounce of his own to build one particular seed behind him into growing.

Within seconds, long, grey tendrils had erupted from the seed, and Kurama stepped backward into the protective mass without hesitation. Reacting to the intruding presence, long leaves unfurled themselves from where they had wrapped seamlessly around the vines to create an impenetrable cocoon around the exhausted human.

Sinking to his knees, Kurama waited tensely. Out of all the choices he had for using the last of his strength, he had gambled on this one. Fairly common in this range of the Makai, the plant in question was not fatal in itself, but it's actions quite often meant the death of any demon foolish enough to step within reach.

Small, hairlike strands swept over him blindly, the faint contact almost soothing to the weary Youko. Not finding what they were searching for, the strands retreated once more, and Kurama relaxed in relief.

The plant fed on Youkai. Easily avoidable, anyone foolish or ignorant enough to be caught, would be drained to the very dregs of their power. While most survived this suffering only temporary weakness, the process left them vulnerable, a state that many bandits took advantage of.

Choosing this seed had been a gamble. Kurama suspected that by the time he had forced the plant to maturity he would have insufficient youkai left to tempt the plant, but had he been wrong, he would have been made comatose as the plant absorbed what remained. A gamble, but the shield that the plant had inadvertently supplied was worth it.

Trembling in the vegetative walls surrounded him alerted Kurama to the actions of the slaver. As almost visible threads of youkai overwhelmed the plant, burning away at the outer mass, Kurama prepared himself. Standing with only the slightest wobble, he crouched, ready for a physical fight. By the time enough youkai had been channelled into the plant to overtake it's absorption levels and destroy it, the demon would hopefully have too little energy left to use against the now defenceless human.

Watching for that key moment when the inner barrier was breached, Kurama prepared to run. As the wall finally gaped open, Kurama barrelled low, almost rolling out of the very bottom of the gap. Ignoring the strain on his muscles, he used his body weight to knock the other youkai off balance, managing to filch a dagger out of his belt at the same time.

Silently blessing every decade he had spent as a thief, he whirled without a pause to slash at the bulky legs now behind him, bringing the demon down in a fit of guttural cursing. Taking advantage of the fallen slavers distraction, Kurama began to bring the knife down in a smooth sweep that would slash the fleshy neck below it.

Kurama froze the blade, bringing it to rest lightly on the purplish hued fur that covered the vulnerable area. Frowning, he attempted to force his hand to cut in with the blade. Even if he didn't sever whatever vitals resided in the area, the blood loss would assure an easy victory. 'Shit,' Kurama muttered, staring at the flat black eyes in the still form under the knife.

A guffaw of harsh laughter emerged from the now gaping mouth and Kurama's vision went instinctively to where all the teeth had been sharpened to points. That instant of weakness was more than enough. The huge demon moved from under the knife with surprising agility, lunging with a short cry at the surprised redhead. Kurama regained himself hurriedly as the youkai set out to constrain him and began once more to avoid the now harmful blows aimed at him.

'He was trying to recapture me without damage earlier,' Kurama surmised. 'Now he sees me as a threat, he's willing to be a bit rougher about it.' Being taken again was out of the question, and without any hesitation, Kurama utilised an old trick learnt with one of the harsher tribes he had worked with, and knife flashing in a deadly pattern of defence, buried the blade to the hilt in one of those calculating eyes. Stepping out of reach of the flailing claws, Kurama watched silently as the demon tried frantically to remove the traitorous knife.

Watching the blood pooling below the youkai's flailing form, Kurama was mildly surprised to find very little regret. It wasn't the first time he had killed a Youkai since being reborn human, but it was the first in such a personal and messy manner. Kurama thought about it. 'I guess humanity may have conditioned me against killing someone when helpless, but did nothing to my survival instincts.' Strangely reassured that some part of him remained unique from the otherwise all consuming influence of his human life, Kurama retrieved the knife with a hard yank and cleaned it off on the slash that bore the slavers betraying mark.

Giving the glinting blade a critical examination, he hid it inside his clothing and went looking for Hiei. Originally, he may have left without the stubborn youkai, but that bite had changed all the rules. It was time to sort this out face to face.


Hiei was having problems. Giving up on run and strike tactics, the stick like youkai had finally displayed his ability. Hiei had been standing warily in the darkness, waiting for the next attack, when an unusual clacking noise had emanated from near his feet. Leaping back, a sharp pain had erupted along his left leg, the familiar feeling of spilt blood sticking the material to the cut.

Searching out the cause of the damage, he had made out the dull gleam of a shelled back. When the creature turned around, a large set of mandibles was identified as the source of the sound. Given the amount of dirt piled around the large, searching insect, it had come out of the ground directly below Hiei.

Beginning to curse at having to deal with giant bugs as well as demented Youkai, Hiei broke off as low, smooth laughter emanated from the shadows in front of him. Hiei's gaze flew unerringly to where a small patch of darkness moved away from the protective wall and stepped within sight. The small youkai with the ugly face looked a lot more dangerous than he had earlier, and the easy stance showed no concern about being in any danger. Gesturing to the quietly clacking creature between them, he smiled proudly.

"What do you think? My talent is actually fairly uncommon amongst my people. That was useful when I first joined my current brethren and offered my rather pathetic family to them as proof of my loyalty." He gestured casually at the bug that burrowed speedily back into the dirt. "Have you figured it out yet?," he questioned, looking nastily at Hiei's slim form.

Ignoring the question, Hiei raced at the demon, only to be caught up by a two strong mandibles that emerged from the side of the cavern. Hiei simply fired the intruding limbs, shocked to the core when it failed to have any effect. Even the hairs that laced the shelled protrusions remained strong. Hiei frowned, he had dealt with many youkai capable of controlling some sort of animal before, but he had never faced one capable of protecting it from a distance before.

"Goodbye, little Demon," the watching youkai said cheerfully. Upon the utterance of those words, the mandibles began to squeeze. Pain rushed from Hiei's waist until the burning black pain in front of his eyes was his entire world. Straining against the hold, his head became light, and any detail beyond the agony became blurry. Refusing to give in to the inevitable, Hiei began to call upon his dragon. Unleashing it within the caverns would almost certainly destroy him, but the odds were still better than he had at the moment. 'Good bye, Kurama,' he thought hazily, and with a brief wish that Kurama was far enough away to get out, he opened his mouth to summon his final attack.


Kurama ran swiftly down the corridor. A familiar beacon throbbed in his head, a beacon that centred on one particular little Fire Demon. Avoiding the many obstacles with ease, he gave a brief prayer that he would continue to avoid the guards that he could easily hear running and shouting throughout the caverns.

Apparently, Inari was in a good mood, for no demon presences intruded before he heard an all too familiar call.

"Jaou ensat..."

Emerging from around the corner at speed, Kurama took in the situation before him in a quick glance. Hiei was held off the ground by some large insect-like creature, still partially hidden in the tunnel walls. Kurama's eyes narrowed dangerously as he took in the darkening cloth around his waist. Further along the passage, blocked partially by Hiei and the insect, the smaller Youkai was standing straight, a malicious smile warring with confusion on his face. His attention was riveted on the scene in front of him, a single hand raising upward. Kurama picked up the speed he had lost, swiping a handful of stones from the sidewall.

"su kokur..."

Flinging them at Hiei, the Fire Demons summoning stuttered off, the distraction enough to halt the attack. With only the briefest glance at the soon-to-be-decimated insect, Kurama headed straight for the last enemy.

Eyes drawn to the thrown rocks, the hobgoblin was slow to change his focus, and Kurama took advantage of that, bringing the knife around in a low sweep, disembowelling the surprised youkai.

Speed carrying him some meters behind his target, Kurama twirled, knife held at the ready as he analysed the damage done.

The goblin-like form looked down at his wound, surprised, before bringing his gaze back up to meet the unamused Youko's. His eyes were laughing.

Hiei began to call, using every ounce of will to override the agony in his middle. Strained throat uttering the first words, he was unprepared for the small shower of dirt and rock that struck his ear as it whizzed passed. Surprised into silence, he focussed his blurred vision as a streak of read flashed around him, heading straight for his opponent.

'Kurama?' his tired mind managed to formulate, panic sweeping over him. Kurama shouldn't be here! Kurama should be out of the caves - idiot Fox!

Renewing his struggle, the mandibles cut deeper into his side, but Hiei ignored the burning pain. Twisting, Hiei bit his lip to block the cry the action cost him, and sought to squirm out of the stationary bug's grip. Not reacting to its captive's struggles, the insect seemed almost frozen, it's pinchers looser if anything.

Hiei finally worked himself loose but could barely crawl over to the opposite wall before he was forced to collapse. Back against the wall, he forced himself into a sitting position. Ignoring the increased warm flow of blood down his side that lay pooling on the floor, he focused down the corridor.

Kurama had obviously managed to do damage, given the way that the smaller demon had a hand to its stomach, holding itself together.

Hiei felt a thrill at his fox's actions. His eyes gleamed as he took in the wounded foe, and Hiei wanted nothing more than to grab Kurama so they could go celebrate. About to close his eyes, resigned to the indignity of having Kurama carry him out, Hiei's head snapped back out as that annoying giggle from earlier started up again.

Where the hobgoblin had been curled up before, he now stood tall, laughter filling the air around him. One hand still remained over his stomach, but he didn't appear to care as he moved to casually stand closer to the tunnel's wall.

Kurama stood some distance from him. While Hiei could not see the small youkai's face, Kurama seemed even paler than before, confusion that was etched into his features evident to his best friend.

Hiei struggled to get to his feet. Whatever was going on, it appeared that Kurama would need him. Before he had even managed to brace himself however, Hiei was knocked aside by a rushing wind that threw dust and pebbles soaring toward the standoff. Hiei's called out hoarsely as a warning, but Kurama had already raised one arm in front of his face, shielding his eyes.

Hiei looked back along the wind's path, trying to divine where it came from. Seeing nothing different, he cautiously looked back across the cave, to check on the insect. Nothing but uninterrupted wall met his search, and Hiei looked incredulously after the wind itself. 'It became the wind?' Hiei struggled to think. How could that be right?

The wind whipped onward, pausing to swirl around the emaciated demon before forming an almost solid mass between him and Kurama.

The demon's giggles continued, breaking out into a delighted laughter that hurt Hiei's ears.

"Silly human," he managed to call over the howling of the wind. "As if I would fall to that insignificant sliver of metal. Still, it was a valiant effort, and given that you are here at all, you must have defeated my comrade. Well done. It seems I must grant you more respect than I had previously assumed." Gesturing vaguely with his free hand, the wind condensed, sweeping up enough dirt to become opaque. Another gesture calmed it, and where there had been only loose matter before, now stood a strange creature that Hiei had never seen.

Made up almost entirely of points and edges, the being had enough claws and teeth to take down almost anything. A sickly purple aura visibly surrounded the beast, and Hiei struggled even harder to stand when it headed straight for Kurama. Noticing the hobgoblin wave his hand once more to attack, Hiei narrowed in on the offending limb. 'I'm going to rip that off,' he told himself dreamily, 'then feed it to him. Once I've done that, I'll kill him, and offer the still warm carcass to Kurama as a present.' Intent on his goal, Hiei once more began to push himself upright.


Kurama was torn between fleeing, or swearing like he hadn't sworn in centuries. 'An energy controller,' he hissed to himself angrily. When he had first assessed the situation, he had merely assumed that the demented Youkai was an animal summoner. Dangerous, but hardly anything beyond even his weakened abilities. An energy controller was a different story.

Extremely rare, energy controllers rarely survived to adulthood. Able to channel their power in to an incredibly dense arrangement, they were able to create corporeal forms capable of huge amounts of damage. Many died, victims of their own misplaced will or lack of control. Those that survived...

Kurama had only ever seen one before. Even then, it had been cocooned in wards, just before the much-decreased mercenary band had torn it apart. It HAD killed quite a few of them. With the sort of power it could draw, this giggling demon may prove to be --- a problem.

Noticing the Youkai wince slightly as his muscles shifted, Kurama's mind began making calculation. He'd once heard a rumour that some Youkai were capable of 'holding' a wound. Using their abilities, they could prevent the damage from worsening long enough to treat later. 'That means,' Kurama thought slowly, 'that I simply have to insure he doesn't get a chance to heal that cut.' Coolly, he began to think of the best way to go about doing so.

Kurama was torn from his musings by a slash from the being's claws. Dodging backward, he looked at it, wondering what sort of threat this opponent was, before dismissing it with contempt. For all the armaments, it had no thinking power of its own, and was hideously slow. It seemed that the goblin demon didn't have such great control over its 'toy'.

Manoeuvring around the construct easily, Kurama felt his lips curve in a faint, mocking grin. He wondered if Hiei was watching? Hardly thinking about it, he began to add a bit more flair into his movements. Pushing away his exhaustion for a while, he used all the grace he could summon. Twirling lightly around the clumsy attacks, he slowly led the fight back toward where the Youkai was standing.

Finally, Kurama was within striking distance of the distracted demon. 'Concentrating on its monster AND judging distance must be beyond him,' Kurama thought to himself slyly. Readying his knife, he waited for the right moment to strike. If he just knocked him unconscious, that wound would take care of the rest.

Kurama leapt, doing a graceful curl around one stray point. Spinning to thump the small Youkai's head with the knife hilt, he stumbled slightly as his stroke missed, the demon's head not where he had planned. Looking around in confusion, his eyes lit upon one cheerfully smirking demon. Lying flat out beside him was the hobgoblin, his own hand apparently searching for his tonsils. Kurama blinked uncertainly, giving a slightly disgusted, but mostly confused look at his friend.

"Like the present, Kurama?" Hiei asked brightly, the happy tone seriously clashing with the Fire Demon's usual personality. Kurama was about to respond, when Hiei unceremoniously collapsed, dropping in a blood soaked puddle at Kurama's feet. Wistfully considering how much easier life was a mere month ago, Kurama wearily bent down, picking up Hiei and cradling him gently. It definitely time to return to the Ningenkai.


Kurama awkwardly shifted his bundle as he pushed at the temple's door. Genkai had disappeared for a few months before he had left, so he knew the building would be empty. Steeping in, he paused to let his eyes recover from the loss of the bright moonlight.

Stumbling slightly as he carried the unconscious Fire Demon into one of the spare bedrooms, he carefully placed the small body on the mat, before sitting back on his heels lightly.

Tired green eyes traced over the lax form. Each hastily bandaged injury was inspected, and Kurama decided they would hold till morning. No longer able to hold back the exhaustion that had been threatening to overwhelm him, he moved Hiei slightly back further to make himself room on the mat. He didn't have the energy to search out another room, and this way, he could make sure Hiei was all right during the night. Sliding beside the still form, he yawned slightly, and curled himself up away from Hiei's sleeping form. There was no sense in pushing the issue. Leaving one hand lightly on the other youkai's arm, he let his body relax, falling heavily into sleep.


Hiei jumped back into awareness suddenly. Taking in his surroundings by habit, he opened his eyes, knowing he was already smiling triumphantly. Kurama's smell permeated the air, the scent itself a warm presence. Hiei lay still, content to watch his chosen sleep. Kurama's red hair was mussed wildly, twigs and dirt creating gnarls in the usual soft flow. Dark circles lay under the closed eyes, standing out in the pallor of Kurama's skin. Hiei made a note that Kurama would need some rest before he got badly sick. Humans were just too fragile. Hiei mentally shrugged. Now that he had Kurama, that wouldn't be a problem for much longer. Once he had regained his Youko form, Hiei wouldn't need to worry so much.

Giving the surroundings careful scrutiny, Hiei judged they were in the Ningenkai - Genkai's temple to be exact. The scattered ki-damage that still showed despite Yuusuke's best Genkai-terror-inspired work was unmistakable.

Taking in the somewhat tattered ward still attached to Kurama's arm, Hiei snarled. Summoning his somewhat rejuvenated ki, he removed the weak ward without too much difficulty. 'Hn, idiots underestimated his abilities,' Hiei thought to himself smugly. There was no way such puny restrictions would inhibit Kurama so easily. Hiei gave his friend an ironic glance. Despite their lack of strength, Kurama should still never have had enough energy left to open a portal. Maybe he'd find out how the kitsune had managed to get then into the Ningenkai one day.

Moving on, Hiei's ruby eyes traced the curve of Kurama's neck, resting sharply on the darkened wound at the throat. Unable to resist, he lifted his hand, holding the palm just millimetres from the mark. Feeling the heat emanating from the bite, he purred a little. It didn't matter what treatments his plant-loving mate used now, there would be no way to prevent a permanent scar. 'Good,' Hiei thought to himself fiercely. No one would be able to deny this, not even a certain, stubborn Youko. Removing his hand before he woke up his tired fox, Hiei continued his perusal.

Frowning at the myriad of wounds that were visible in the pre-dawn light, he sat up. Kneeling over his friend, he studied each wound intensely. Resisting the urge to prod at some of the more significant cuts, he traced one slash that disappeared along one arm, under the elbow length tunic. Hiei really needed to know what other wounds were hidden under there.

Looking at Kurama's quiet face measuredly, he decided to risk it. If the youko woke up, he would just have to explain why he and been so careless, and THEN he could show Hiei any other wounds. Nevertheless, Hiei was as soothing as possible as he began to manoeuvre Kurama out of his clothing.

Ignoring the slight twinges of his own injuries as he shifted, he moved himself over till he was straddling Kurama's thighs, being careful not to make contact and wake him up. Nimble fingers swiftly removed the few surviving ties on the silk shirt, and Hiei lightly swept the folds apart. Drawing in a sudden breath as he took in Kurama's pale torso, Hiei bit his lip. Ignoring the heat rising through him with difficulty, he appraised the damage to his fox.

Expertly eyeing the colourful bruises, he moved over most of them to zero in on the more dangerous signs. A large blackened bruise near the stomach seemed a little too swollen, and a jagged slice around the sleeping Youko's side was already showing signs of infection.

Bracing himself with his knees, Hiei brought his hands up to hover over the bruise first. With the finest control he could muster, he sent small tendrils of heat into the discoloration, encouraging the flow of blood. Concentrating intently, he closed his eyes.

Minutes later, a small motion caused him to pause, his eyes slowly opening. Bright slits of green peeked out from under concealing lids, and focused on the still Fire Demon.

"Hiei," Kurama sighed, almost soundlessly. A small smile fluttered across pink lips and emerald eyes closed fully once more.

Hiei remained frozen, palms still hovering protectively over Kurama's stomach. As the realisation of what had just happened dawned on him, he grinned fiercely.

"Caught you, fox," he whispered softly to the once more sleeping form.

There was no way Kurama would have gone back to sleep like that unless he trusted Hiei, and in the Makai, trust and love were practically the same thing. Kurama had merely confirmed that the bond was not one sided.

Strangely relieved at the vindication of his decision, Hiei turned back to the half-clothed body of his mate. Convincing Kurama that he wasn't going anywhere would probably be an energetic debate, and he didn't want to risk Kurama pushing himself while injured. With that thought in mind, he turned his attention from the healing bruise to the long cut. Sometimes his fox could be so careless.


Kurama woke up to a pounding headache. It seemed that every bird in the Ningenkai had decided to serenade his ki headache. Automatically reaching for Hiei's ki, he physically flinched as his head exploded. 'Okay,' he thought somewhat wryly to himself. 'No ki use for a while.' Sitting up, he grimaced as pains from all over his body joined in.

Distracted by the symphony of pain, it took a few seconds for Kurama to realise exactly what had woken him. He was cold. The reason for this seemed to be that he was wearing a rather flimsy pair of boxers and nothing else. 'Yuusuke's boxers,' Kurama noted curiously. The black material stood out starkly against a pristine white.

Looking down bemusedly at his heavily bandaged limbs and torso, he found himself wondering where all the fabric could possibly have come from. Surely even Genkai didn't have this much bandaging in the temple.

Struggling to get his feet, Kurama was distracted by a small object coming to land in his lap. Looking up, startled, he found his eyes captured. Hiei stood casually in the doorway. One hand tucked away in a pocket, the other rested lightly by his side. Without looking away from the Youkai that had caused so much disruption to his life, Kurama's hand unerringly found the tiny shape that was caught in the folds of the boxer.

The outline that his finger s traced was immediately recognisable, and Kurama felt the irrational urge to squirm. Hiei took a step forward, and then crouched down to be on level with Kurama.

"Decision time, fox,' he said flatly, the emotionless tone of voice at odds with the intensity that burned in his scarlet eyes. "Do you accept this voluntarily, or do I have to tie you down to convince you?"

Kurama paled, and dragged his eyes away from that demanding glare. Instead, he stared at the small object that held such importance. Hiei's tear gem swung lightly from the small chain that bound it, a tiny flash of the darkest fire caught forever. Fisting the gem tightly, Kurama brought his gaze back to Hiei's forcefully. Time to deal with this.


Finally raising his gaze from the small chain seated in his palm, Kurama brought piercingly emerald eyes up to look at Hiei. Watching silently, Hiei saw the kitsune take a sharp breath, deadly stare daring the youkai to interrupt him. Hiei had always had trouble refusing a dare.

Letting his body slump slightly, he moved across to where Kurama sat. Sinking to his knees as smoothly as he could, he began to purr. Not used to trying it consciously, the low rumble stuttered a bit, before falling into a rhythmic rumble. Seeing Kurama narrow his eyes in anger, Hiei let his body sway in a slight undulation, closing his eyes until he was viewing his chosen mate through only the smallest of slits. Just because he hadn't much practice in seduction, didn't mean that observation and instinct wouldn't be enough to catch his youko's eye.

Triumphantly watching Kurama's eyes involuntarily track his body's faint movements, Hiei smirked slightly. 'Youko's,' he thought affectionately. 'They're so easily tempted by sex.' Hiei wasn't upset that his fox could be distracted like this. After tonight, no one else would ever be able to do so again. There was no way he would leave anyone trying alive, and Hiei would enjoy reminding Kurama who had claimed the irreverent thief.

Hiei almost missed the flare of determination that blazed in those piercing eyes, and had only a brief instant to prepare for the fist sent speeding at him.

Surprised to feel only a faint pressure on his sternum that disappeared just as quickly, he habitually glanced down. Swinging from a catch in his top, the tiny tear gem swung slightly from its chain. Grasping the token, Hiei turned incredulous eyes up to meet Kurama's face. His fox was...refusing him? Hiei felt as if the aborted punch had actually struck him. Forgetting to breathe, he gaped at the sombre human facing him emotionlessly.

A sudden flare of heat caught at his stomach, causing him to tear his eyes from the still form that denied him. Looking instead at the tiny stone balanced in his palm.

He remembered the day that he had left the gem with Kurama. Merely planning to briefly inform the fox that he was returning to the Makai for some time, he had been annoyed when his presence at the windowsill was ignored. Kurama's flare of red hair was easily visible through the slightly rain fogged window, and Hiei had become impatient with waiting for an acknowledgement. It hadn't been until he had opened the window and stood over the huddled form lying in the bed that he had realized Kurama's temperature had been far above that of most Ningens.

Curious, he had briefly laid a hand along Kurama's cheek, the human not even stirring at the light touch. 'Clumsy,' he remembered thinking, before retreating to the far corner of the room. He had held his vigil for almost three days, disappearing only long enough to hunt or avoid detection, but always returning.

Hiei had long since deduced the seriousness of the illness, and he had been grown tired of retreating to the tree outside for the long periods that Kurama's human family insisted on sitting in their own vigil. Finally, Hiei had felt that he had put off his trip for too long. Standing by Kurama's bedside, he had silently watched the oblivious and sweat streaked face asleep below him. Not even noticing the small gathering of moisture falling from his chin, he had murmured a goodbye. It seemed likely that the Great Youko Kurama was going to die a pathetic human, unmourned in the Makai. Reaching down to briefly pat the tangled strands of hair in farewell to his occasional partner, he'd glimpsed the tear gems dark colour on the mangled blankets alongside Kurama. Nonchalantly reaching for the gem to dispose of it, he had paused as he touched it. Slowly picking it up, he had gently laid it in the half-curled palm Kurama rested next to his head, before vanishing out the window.

Shuuichi may die as a human in the Ningenkai, but the Youko Kurama could at least die with a small part of the Makai. Ignoring the urge to turn around and return to someone that he could almost call a friend, Hiei had slipped unnoticed into the Makai, bidding Kurama farewell.

Hiei's temper flared as he recalled the feelings he had so studiously ignored that day. It had been months before a visiting Reikai envoy to Mukuro had told him of Kurama's recovery, and the feeling of relief had astounded the cold Fire Demon.

Hiei looked intently at Kurama. The fox's face flickered with slight surprise at whatever Hiei was showing on his face, and he remained still as Hiei leant slowly forward. He had chased his fox all around the Maki, fought for him, claimed him and healed him. If Kurama thought he could ever leave Hiei now...

Hiei moved forward until their breaths mingled in the brisk morning air. Letting his tongue lap lightly at Kurama's lips, he followed the fox's jerk back easily.

"Wrong decision, Kurama," he whispered softly. Taking advantage of the kitsune's momentary shock, he grabbed Kurama's mouth with his own. The thief had stolen too much time already, it was time to prove who controlled this relationship. Greedily biting and sucking on Kurama's lips, he grabbed the thin human arms tightly, forcing them to remain firmly tucked against Kurama's waist. Smoothly shifting to bring his legs around, he tucked them around Kurama's own, immobilising the beginnings of a strike.

Ignoring the frantic struggles that erupted, he moved reluctantly away from the tasty mouth that now cursed him, and marked small nibbles along the firm jaw. Using every skill he had ever heard of, he sought to make Kurama as insane with need as he was.

Letting go of one arm long enough to grab at his scarf, he twisted the fabric tightly around the now aggressive limb. Gaining a few bruises for his effort, he managed to tie a snug knot around the thin wrist, absently noting that he would have to make sure Kurama ate more than he had recently been doing. Manoeuvring the arm awkwardly between them, he used every bit of speed he could muster to tie the other wrist as well.

Looking down to check the knots, a sharp pain in his ear caused him to glare up at the flushed and furious face of Kurama.

"Let.Me.Go." Kurama grit out tightly, every muscle tensed. Hiei knew without looking that nimble fingers were already at work on the scarf, and pulled at a convenient forelock of hair.

"Kurama," he said flatly, ignoring the small jerky movements of Kurama trying to free his legs. "You had your chance to deny this. Had you truly wished to avoid me, I doubt I would have caught you." Hiei paused to think about that for a moment, absentmindedly restraining Kurama's renewed escape attempts. "It would have taken longer anyway," he amended. Hiei doubted he could ever have truly allowed Kurama to leave him after he had decided to chase him.

Distracted by Kurama's twisting, he missed the newly freed hand that swung around to catch at his arm. Shocked, he tried to jerk free and regain control. Kurama's silken voice whispered softly in his ear.

"Perhaps you're right, Hiei. Since this mating was so inevitable, however, I don't think I feel like being the submissive partner here." With that, Hiei found himself twisted around expertly, then rolled until he lay uncomfortable on the floor with Kurama's weight pressing him onto his free arm.

Looking up directly into the eyes of his fox, Hiei felt a smile quirk on his lips. A challenge to the end then.


Kurama ran his lips lightly along Hiei's jaw, tasting the soft skin. Reaching a tempting earlobe, he sucked lightly, smiling around the heated flesh as a small noise rumbled the chest below him. Still mouthing at the ear, he brought one hand around to Hiei's waist, leaving the other one to continue immobilising the squirming body. Deftly slipping his hand under the loose top, he drew odd symbols over the taut flesh, delighting in each hiss or gasp his play elicited.

Moving back slightly, he turned his eyes down to watch the bunching fabric that hid his hand from sight.

A tightening of the muscles under his wrist was the only warning he got before a sudden jerk freed one of Hiei's hands. Reacting quickly to stop the speedy hand, he was still too slow to prevent grasping fingers entangling in his hair. Exhaling roughly as his head was jerked back sharply, Kurama tried futilely to escape the firm hold. Strong fingers turned his head, shaking it slightly at his continued escape attempts.

"Kurama," Hiei stated flatly, still tugging whenever Kurama twitched. "This isn't your game." Kurama tried to see what Hiei was doing, but the hand holding him steady kept his eyes averted. Busy straining to look around at Hiei, he failed to keep Hiei's other arm trapped.

Speedily, Hiei whipped his other arm up, pulling Kurama sharply to his chest and along where he now perched on his knees. Controlling Kurama's head by his hair, he forced the fox to look him in the eye.

Expecting the predatory spark, Kurama was nonetheless surprised at the added ice hard determination shielding Hiei's emotions. "I am dominant!" Hiei growled, pulling Kurama in so close that the human could almost feel his ribs bruising. Hiei's mouth slammed against Kurama's, forcing entry between the slightly parted lips. One hand continued to control Kurama while the other efficiently stripped the clothing from Kurama's body.

Increasingly upset with the way this was going, Kurama tried to turn the tables once more, grasping for the hem of Hiei's shirt. A sharp pain in his lower lip stalled him, Hiei staring at him as the blood flowed between their still closely pressed mouths. Hiei's tongue lapped up the salty fluid slowly, still daring Kurama to move away. Kurama let his own tongue slip out to meet the challenge. It didn't take long for Kurama to move the mock battle into Hiei's mouth, and he gleefully tasted the unique flavour of Hiei and blood. Continuing to undress the fire demon's now almost scalding hot body, he sank to the floor, lying Hiei beside him.

Kurama observed Hiei's reactions from his new location chewing on Hiei's temptingly pale neck. Satisfied at the flushed skin and unfocused eyes, he bit. Sinking his teeth in hard, he held Hiei's thrashing form until it stilled, gently sucking on the weeping flesh. At Hiei's threatening growl, he gave the tight flesh a last pull before continuing on downward. Resisting Hiei's pulls upward, Kurama continued lapping his way down, finally reaching the smooth erection that had purpled slightly. Soothing along the hairless base, he made tiny nips at the skin from which the bobbing penis rose, skilfully avoiding its moves to force his mouth against it.

Grinning at Hiei's faint call, Kurama moved both of his hands to Hiei's legs. Caressing the limbs teasingly, he moaned at the betraying tremor that ran through them. It seemed that he would prove dominant after all. Kurama smirked into the soft skin at the juncture between thighs and pelvis, rubbing his cheek lightly against the hard weight that pulsed with Hiei's heartbeat. 'As if it was ever in doubt,' he thought smugly to himself. Kurama did after all have an abundance of natural talent, not to mention just a few more centuries experience than his stubborn partner. A few more centuries of experience that were thoroughly shocked when Hiei some how managed to spin around faster than Kurama could blink, landing himself perched before Kurama's neglected need, and Kurama's head trapped between the very thighs he had been admiring.

Breathing in the concentration of Hiei smell that surrounded him, Kurama was still determined to stop this rebellion attempt. His resolve was stalled however as Hiei demonstrated exactly how quickly he learned. Heat and moisture enveloped the root of Kurama's flesh, circling the rod that so desperately mourned the inattention. Trying to bite at the fleshy trap that held his head still, Kurama kept pausing, trying to rub himself against Hiei's talented mouth. Failing at both of his goals, he reached for where Hiei's hardness dampened his chest.

Grasping the thick stem firmly, he clenched at the muscle. Releasing it just long enough to run a teasing finger around the head and slit, he regained his strong hold, rubbing lightly to harden the flesh even more so. A strangled complaint coincided with a cool breeze over his saliva-slicked skin, and Kurama took the opportunity to escape the loosened leg muscles.

Kurama was getting frustrated. If they kept going like this, they'd incapacitate each other before managing to resolve anything. It was clear that they'd end up together anyway, and Kurama had spent far too long in a virgin human body to appreciate this sort of delay.

Slipping loose entirely from Hiei's hold, he rolled around to face his Fire Demon, rubbing against the smaller form all the way. When he finally faced the red eyes that had come to be so important to him, he smiled. Leaning forward, he licked at Hiei's nose. Watching as cautious hope grew to match the lust burning in his gaze, Kurama gave a small nod.

"If that's the way you want it, you can be dominant Hiei," Kurama offered seriously, still laving the cute nose. Hiei smirked, his earlier purr returning full force.

"Good," he declared, jumping on top of Kurama. Roughly biting at Kurama's neck and chest, he pushed a leg in between the kitsune's, spreading them enough to fit his hips comfortably between Kurama's. Kurama willingly spread them further, wincing as he felt Hiei's insistent pushes at his anus. It seemed the small youkai had lost whatever patience he had. Kurama forcibly relaxed himself, it would hardly be the first time, and this was much more important. Bracing as he felt the head push against his tight entry, he was still unprepared for the sudden shaft of pain as the hard flesh audibly popped past the obstruction, sliding jerkily into him. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he stared at Hiei's face. Eyes closed, the childlike features were frowning fiercely, small sounds creeping from the swollen and bloody mouth. Captivated by the intense pleasure that finally showed as Hiei's eyes languidly opened, Kurama felt himself relax further, soothing the tearing pull inside a little.

Hiei blinked at him as he made a few short thrusts, only entering Kurama a little further. Confused, Kurama felt his eyes widen as his human flesh was lubricated in a small rush from the inside. Twitching his lower body experimentally, he felt only a bearable burn from his stretched passage. Thrilled by the discovery, he flexed his muscles, letting out a happy yip as Hiei grunted, sinking in almost completely. 'Maybe I should have explored the anatomy of Fire Demons and Koorime a little more closely,' he mused as he shifted to meet Hiei's hard thrusts. 'I can think of definite potential for this little quirk.' Enthusiasm reawakened, Kurama set himself to showing his fast learning pupil all about the benefits of body and muscle control. Pushing down hard as Hiei silently tensed before a few last thrusts sent a shock of hot fluid to coat his inner walls, Kurama let loose a howl as he too came. Holding Hiei tightly, he buried his happy face into the dark shock of hair rested beneath his chin, still feeling Hiei's softening rod within him.

Running his hands slowly across Hiei's back, Kurama began thinking about what he'd be teaching Hiei first. Hiei may technically be the dominant in this relationship, but Kurama was quite certain that age and experience would be telling. He'd had to play submissive a few times before, and one thing he'd learned was that the dominant partner tended to underestimate their submissive partner. Kurama fell asleep thinking about all the tricks he could demonstrate for his mate, and how long it would take to convince his Fire Demon to demonstrate how well he'd learnt.


Concentrating on his imaginary opponent, Hiei nonetheless picked up the quiet sounds of Kurama's approaching footsteps. A burst of pride filled him at the deliberately noisy movements. It had always disturbed him how easily Kurama was able to sneak up on him, but now his mate gave him fair warning.

Finishing of his pattern with a short sword thrust, he flittered to appear at Kurama's side under one of the nearby trees. Looking up at the taller youkai, he waited. Having won the fight, he didn't need to constantly prove his dominance by forcing a conversation. Instead, he perused the pale skin and it's contrasting red hair with a deep sense of pleasure. Looks alone would hardly have interested him, but Hiei couldn't deny the rush of pride that Kurama's appearance, both human and Youko gave him.

Kurama finally ended his contemplation of the tranquil surroundings, looking around at where Hiei was comfortably standing beside him. Smiling a little at the calm, relaxed expression on Hiei's face, he swayed slightly toward the smaller demon. Resting a little of his weight against the small shoulder experimentally, he let a little more pressure fall when Hiei didn't protest. Enjoying the quiet for a while, he was mildly surprised when Hiei's deep baritone sounded from beside him.

"Mukuro doesn't want me back for some time yet. We can stay at one of my territories near the border." Hiei had been thinking about how to handle their relocation back to Makai, and finally decided Kurama would need access to his human family for a little while. Hence utilising the land close to one of the borders better crossing points. The issue of his other territories could be brought up later. They could aim for them the next time Mukuro had distractions and didn't need an heir around. Waiting for an affirmation, Hiei glanced at his fox when pure silence met his statement. Kurama's face was expressionless. Despite the calmness of the features though, hard eyes bored into Hiei's gaze. Hiei almost found himself moving backwards

"Hiei," came the dangerously sweet voice from Kurama, "I think this is one of those issues we might have to discuss." Hiei was slightly worried as he noticed Kurama's teeth grinding against each other. Noticing where he was looking, the movement ceased, but the tensed muscles left Hiei in no doubt that the situation had yet to be solved.

Hiei fluctuated between concern for Kurama's displeasure and anger at his assumption. He knew that he wasn't the most capable mate around as far as personal interaction went, but he had very clear ideas about how mates should act. As submissive, Kurama shouldn't be showing anywhere near this amount of dissent. Before returning to Ningenkai, Hiei had observed Mukuro with one of her temporary affairs. Even though it didn't appear Youkai like Mukuro paired for life, their behaviour had merely echoed what little Hiei had seen of permanent matings. Submissives might argue, but would inevitably act on their partner's orders. Unable to reconcile his impression of such relationships with the unmistakable signs of revolt that Kurama was showing, Hiei decided to ignore the contradiction.

"Hn. No reason to discuss it." Turning away from the fuming kitsune, Hiei was taken by surprise when Kurama's long fingers caught at the neck of his top. Jerked rather abruptly to a halt, he twisted angrily, intent on glaring at his problem fox. Feeling undignified at his half-turned position, he contemplated kicking back at Kurama's long legs, but the sensation of Kurama's fingers loosening stopped him.

Stepping away, he turned to face the youko, eyes narrowly taking in the red-flushed skin, closed eyes and fisted hands. Kurama stayed like that for a moment, and Hiei waited impatiently. Trying to anticipate what the confusing fox was thinking, Hiei took a tentative step forward.

"I'm not returning to the Makai, Hiei," Kurama said softly, still keeping his eyes closed. He could sense Hiei standing a short distance away, but he kept his hands close to his side. Pure rage was circling his thoughts, and Kurama had to concentrate on keeping it contained. Had he any significant ki left, the plants nearby would undoubtedly have been thrashing in echo of his thoughts, but Kurama retained enough sense to block the flow of what little energy he had regained.

Knowing Hiei and his priorities, Kurama had suspected the issue of Makai would arise sooner or later, but he was unprepared for the sheer anger and pain that Hiei's blunt expectation would cause. Beating back his betrayed feelings, Kurama waited until he was fully in control before continuing.

As he took a moment to calm down, the perfect solution occurred to him. In order to work however, he might have to fool Hiei a bit first.

"There is too much I owe this world to leave. Besides," Kurama continued firmly, "I'm not the same Kurama I was then. I had trouble dealing with home even for the short time I was there, let alone trying to survive it full time."

Catching Hiei's badly hidden surge of triumph when Kurama called Makai home, he mentally smirked. All Hiei had to do now was take the offering...

"Makai is still home, that is where we should be." Hiei's face was set. No room for compromise weakened his façade, and his body was tensed in anticipation of a fight. Watching the almost tangible aura that flared around the Fire Demon, Kurama couldn't decide whether to hug him or ravish him.

Kurama smiled benignly at the suspicious fire demon. Poor Hiei was in over his head - and not just literally. A small laugh escaped, and Kurama had to turn up his innocent look a few notches when Hiei's eyes shot to his face. Schooling his humour behind a façade of sympathy effortlessly, Kurama bent his head, using his hair to hide his face.

"I realise that staying in the Ningenkai to be with me is asking too much. You have your own problems, so I'll understand if you want to break the bond and leave." A tiny smile curled Kurama's lip, and he turned his head away a little further to hide it. There was no way the Fire Demon would break the bond. Kurama didn't even think he could, so the risk of Hiei actually taking the offer was slim.

Pure silence met his words, and Kurama couldn't stop himself from peeking out at Hiei from under his hair. Tilting his head, he stopped when he felt the distinct brush of a sword at his neck.

Baleful red eyes glared at him. Keeping the sword at the redheads throat, the Fire Demon stepped forward, forcing Kurama to retreat. When his back was flat against one of the trees, Hiei removed his sword, replacing it with his body to keep Kurama in place. Kurama wriggled just a bit, indulging in the feeling of the taut body covering him. Hiei, reached up and grabbed Kurama's hair tightly. Pulling firmly, he forced Kurama's head level with him.

"There will be no breaking of the bond," he stated coldly. "We will both be returning to the Makai. I AM the dominant in this relationship, and you will remember that. I don't expect complete compliance, but I will not be denied about this, Kurama." Leaning forward, he kissed the human, his lips demanding and rough. There was no subtlety involved, but Kurama relished it for all its flaws. Manipulating the liplock, he changed the kiss, introducing true skill to the embrace, and changing his little wiggles into seductive brushes.

Hiei took him up on the unspoken hints, bearing them both to the dirt ground and effectively removing both of their clothing. Kurama assisted gladly, turning all his experience to wearing the other Youkai out.

It was some time later that Hiei ran an idle finger over Kurama's chest. Swinging himself over Kurama's relaxed form to straddle the youko, he stared quietly down at his mate for a long moment.

"Kurama," he began slowly, seemingly searching for the right words. "I won't be disagreed with concerning Makai. It is our home. Neither of us is truly suited to this Ningen world, and neither of us would ever be fulfilled here. We will return." Lids closed briefly over determined crimson orbs, and Kurama waited patiently. When Hiei's eyes opened again, they had lost none of their dedication, but gained an irritated sheen. "You do seem to have some sort of unnatural attachment to certain Ningens here, however. You may stay until you mortal mother has died, but then I WILL ensure you return with me to the Makai. This is not negotiable, Fox." Snarling out his final words, Hiei struck down, biting fiercely into Kurama's exposed neck over his previous bite.

Letting the youkai prove his dominance, Kurama smiled triumphantly at the clear sky. He should probably feel guilty about manipulating his mate, but it really was in their best self-interests. Kurama wouldn't leave the Ningenkai while his mother needed him, but Hiei wouldn't allow him to stay alone. This way, Kurama could repay his mother at least a small fraction of what he owed her. The ability to love one overly stubborn Fire Demon being one of them.

Returning to the Makai eventually had always been Kurama's goal, but there was no need for Hiei to know that. His mate could return to the Makai whenever he needed to until then - Kurama would personally guarantee that with Koenma.

Brightening at the thought of that upcoming challenge, Kurama manoeuvred his neck out of Hiei's devouring reach, ducking his head to put that mouth to better use. Human bodies had many limits, but it was amazing what demonic energy could do for stamina. Kurama had always believed in using strengths to the full, and he had a feeling that loving Hiei might just prove to be one of his greatest ever.


Kurama laid a small rose sadly upon the coffin. Standing at a respectful distance, he bowed formally, and stepped back. Blinking back the tears in his eyes, he watched silently as his stepfather and younger brother also paid their respects. A part of Kurama wanted desperately to go to them and be included in their diminished family, but the two humans were not who he had stayed for, and he wouldn't seek to include them in his life.

A whisper of wind alerted him to his mate's arrival, and the human boy leaned minutely toward his lovers reassuring warmth. As the mourners made their way out of the cemetery, Kurama shook his head solemnly at his stepfather when the man turned to collect his adopted son. Giving the red head a sympathetic frown, the elderly male made his way toward his other son waiting by the car.

Kurama watched them drive away solemnly, quietly bidding them a farewell. They would wonder where he had gone to of course, but Genkai had already agreed to let some hints about new starts fall on wishful ears, and it wasn't like Kurama was irreplaceable at work. Everything had been taken care of, and there was nothing left to do in the Ningenkai.

An insistent tug on his coat sleeve brightened Kurama's face, and he gave his Fire Demon a fond smile.

"Ready to leave, Hiei?" he asked politely. The youkai stared emotionlessly at him. It was beyond Hiei to actually feel sympathy at Kurama's loss, but he wouldn't hurt the youko by displaying his satisfaction. Kurama was grateful for the concern, but accepted death readily enough. No such masks were required to protect his supposed fragile psyche. Still, it was past time he did something that he should have done a long time ago.

Returning to the coffin, the now adult Kurama looked sadly at he small box. Closing his eyes, he concentrated. Power flared invisibly around him, gaining strength until a shimmering glow would have been visible even to a normal human. Red hair lengthened, blanching into a silvery white. Clothing shifted to a loose and flowing tunic, and slit golden eyes replaced the mournful green.

"I never told you 'kaasan," Kurama murmured to the small box, "but perhaps you can accept me before you move onto your next journey." Brushing an elegant finger lightly over the varnished wood, Kurama turned away. His mother's loss pained him, but life waited for no mourning. The kitsune had no need for more words, and Hiei was undoubtedly eager to go.

The two mates stood straight, each watching each other for signs of their feelings. Kurama took in the cautious ruby eyes fondly. So many years the Fire Demon had waited, but had hidden his impatience for Kurama's sake. Perhaps it was time to remind him of how silly such human bound consideration was when dealing with a Youko. Curling his lips into a foxish smile, Kurama leapt, pouncing upon the shocked demon and bearing the smaller figure to the ground.

A sharp intake of breath was the only sign of Hiei's surprise, and he frowned up at his exuberant fox. Grinning unrepentantly, Kurama leant in to give his Fire Demon a deep kiss, pulling back only when he felt Hiei start twitching from the lack of air. Given the other youkai a small nip to his nose, Kurama took off. Stopping a few feet away to give Hiei a coy look, Kurama practically bounced from excitement.

"You caught me once, Hiei," he taunted slyly, tensing his muscles. "Think you can manage it twice?" Kurama took off, flying through the Ningenkai greenery for one last chase, the sensation of Hiei's presence catching up steadily. Growing various plant-life at random as he passed to keep his Fire Demon interested, he smirked as he heard a cut off curse from behind. Angling to reach a crossing point into the Makai he'd 'persuaded' Koenma to stabilise months ago, Kurama wondered if Hiei would catch him before they were home.

A strong arm wrapping around his waist answered that question, and Kurama let his lover get a firm grip before chuckling and whirling around. Hiei's startled features wavered in the fox's vision as Kurama changed, and a small kitsune took off again, tails wagging furiously behind him.

Hiei grabbed at the slippery Youko just as they reached the barrier, and Kurama took them both through quickly. The chase was on once more.