A/N: Urm, all disclaimers apply. And.... enjoy!

Chapter One: A Deal is Struck

The low din of the ocean's lapping tongue filled Kurama's ears as another wave crashed onto shore, enveloping his feet and shins with stinging cold. He lifted one leg, staring down at the salty droplets clinging determinately to his skin, and looked to the east where the sun had risen, behind him its deep shadow sinking beneath the western horizon. His eyes shone like emeralds, with an inner light. Closing them to fully taste the breeze's strength, Kurama cocked his head one last time, straining his ears for the sound of footsteps. But Hiei was too late, too late for any hope that he would come after all. Kurama sighed, running his hands through his hair and frowning as they came away moistened by ocean mist. Yusuke and Kuwabara would be wondering where he was by now, and suddenly Kurama wanted them to be worried. He turned and started to walk up the beach, wincing as cold sand stuck fast to his legs.

Long green grass hungrily swept the drying sand away. As he curled his toes around the thick seed blades, he looked up at the moon. Hiei exhausted him, and the fire demon wasn't even there. Kurama shook his head, watching his hair trail smoothly over his shoulders to hang in the filtered moonlight. He shouldn't linger here, not while Yusuke stayed up waiting for him to return before locking the room's door. Even though nothing on Hanging Neck Island scared Kurama, not even the restless competitors of the Dark Tournament, Yusuke was sure that each of the team would be jumped before they finished this and insisted that they all be in by a certain time. Of course, this rule didn't apply when Yusuke decided he had a good enough reason to be out. But, he might as well humor the spirit detective. Kurama started to walk slowly through the trees, imagining the inky green shadows moving over him as he moved, and what shapes they might cast over his face.

It was in the lobby that Kurama stopped. He first looked up, then down, then at the elevator. "Hiei," he whispered, and smirked as he went to the smooth doors, which opened for him. Inside it was empty, and Kurama stared upwards as if that would make the metal box move faster. He'd known Hiei wouldn't be inside, the demon detested tight places, but Kurama could smell him all around.

He reached the floor where the scent was strongest and left the elevator scarcely before the doors had finished opening. Odd that Hiei would pick this particular floor for his games. It was several flights, if not more, from their room. "Yusuke will be furious," he said, loud enough so that if Hiei were near, he could hear him clearly. The hall was dark, and Kurama noticed that the lights on the ceiling were blacked out. Guessing that Hiei was just being obnoxious, he thought nothing of it, but did become annoyed as he lost trace of Hiei's scent while he turned down the only hall.

"Where are you, Hiei," he said, raising his voice a little. A few rooms down a light appeared along the bottom line of a door, spreading over the floor and faintly illuminating the wall opposite. Hiei's scent became starkly familiar and Kurama's pupils dilated and his nostrils flared. The light under the door was all he could see and without being fully aware, Kurama ran at it, hand darting to the handle and twisting it - in his hurry he almost forgot to push.

The door slammed back on its jam, swinging loosely in rebound.

"Kurama. Your beautiful hair is wet. Why do you let it get so damaged?"

He growled, eyes glinting dangerously at the demon Karasu. Kurama's gaze then followed the demon's arm until he saw with a sick anger that the gaunt hands were in Hiei's hair, stroking the little youkai's head gently. And propping Hiei's chin up was the edge of a giant ax, held by the other member of Team Tuguro, Bui. Kurama was frozen, eyes wide and beseeching for red eyes to open and for Hiei's slack mouth to frown. Why wasn't he awake? Kurama's mouth was dry.

"No, your demon is not dead, Kurama," Karasu drawled quietly, his light voice aimed towards Hiei, black eyes following the motion of his hand sliding through the sleeping demon's hair. "I don't love him enough to kill him." A quiet smile spread over his face behind the silver mask and he slowly directed his eyes to Kurama, savoring for a moment the way the kitsune was trembling. "Do not worry, Kurama. I don't like how your eyes look when you worry. The emotion makes your beautiful face so sad." His hand stopped in Hiei's hair, just fingering the shock of white among the black. "Think how it would be if things were different, and only I could make your face grow sad, Kurama." But the fox was looking at Hiei, and the green eyes were still so sad. The kitsune wasn't listening. "But I can hurt him." The sad green eyes snapped to his face and Karasu enjoyed the anger drowning out the sadness. Full red hair framed Kurama's face, and red was Karasu's favorite color. He gave a long sigh.

"It would do you well to let him go," Kurama stated firmly, his eyes flashing. Out of the corner of his gaze he could see the statue that was Bui, thick arms gripping the ax that supported Hiei's head. He knew he couldn't draw a weapon quick enough.

"We came upon him while he was deep in his own mind," Karasu began, bringing sharp focus back into Kurama's eyes. "It took so long to find him out there."

Hiei had been sure to pick a safe spot, Kurama begged, His training was secluded, even I couldn't follow him.

"Like hitting a bird with a stone while it's preening," Karasu chuckled. He saw Kurama jerk suddenly and, keeping his expression serene, moved his hand almost against Hiei's cheek. His palm was bathed with warmth and behind the mask his mouth blossomed into a wide smile. "Kurama," he soothed. The redhead was sweating, he could see, and those green, green eyes were locked on his hand. Kurama's lips were parted, on the edge of pleading. Don't touch him, they said, Please don't touch him. Not him.

A small sound like a whisper beyond the wind roared in his ears and Kurama shut his mouth, afraid of any sound. Any sound could be Hiei exploding from Karasu's touch. Finally he swallowed, his throat tasting like bile. He closed his eyes tightly and spoke, asking the one question that caused him fear. "What do you want, Karasu." His voice was so weak, and Kurama was scared of that. But only silence came after that, and he opened his eyes, finding Hiei's hair and matching it with the black sky outside the room's only window. Hiei had midnight hair, like the sky.

"There is nothing I would like more than you, Kurama." He paused, waiting for Kurama's shocked eyes. "Your face, your beautiful face, and your red hair."

He couldn't speak. A spear of quiet had torn him in half. Hiei's face looked dead suddenly and Kurama fell to his knees, watching it. But he could see the small chest rising and falling.

Karasu rose carefully from the couch, head to one side, looking endearingly at the top of Kurama's head while the kitsune sat crumpled on the floor. He stopped right over the fox and touched the scarlet crown. The strands that overlapped his fingers made his hands look bloodstained. He smiled. "There is nothing else I want more." Kurama shuddered and Karasu found himself immersed in the depths of the demon's green eyes. His smile fading, he drew his hand down to cup Kurama's chin, eyes narrowing when the kitsune stiffened. He silently told those green eyes not to fret. Kurama relaxed, but minutely. The redhead's skin was so warm.

"He will not be harmed.... if I agree to your terms."

With every word, Kurama's jaw would press Karasu's hand. He nearly forgot the Fox's words as he added his other hand beside the first. When the silence stretched on, he answered; "He won't be harmed." Light entered Kurama's eyes, and Karasu added lazily, drawing away from the kitsune, "With you, Kurama, we still need to be sure." He went to a desk and drew a long bottle from the drawer, holding it in the light so Kurama could see. Amused by the play of light through the liquid, Karasu's voice grew distant; "It's his blood, mixed with Jedo paste, Kurama. Something you should be familiar with."

Green eyes widened and Kurama almost shot to is feet, and would have if he hadn't heard Bui shift behind him. "No!"

"You are acquainted with the effects of course," continued Karasu, studying the vial closer, "If I wished, I could end your demon's life simply by dropping this single bottle." He looked over his shoulder. "Kurama, you know that if this blood doesn't get back to Hiei soon, the Jedo will destroy his life energy completely."

Kurama looked at the floor; he felt sick.

"This is our contract." Karasu shook the little bottle. "It should take just enough time for the Jedo to eat him away on the day of our match. And I have no doubt both our teams will make it, Kurama. We have just enough time. So until the night before, you will come to me when I call you. When my voice can be heard just by your fox ears, you must come to me and be mine until I let you go."

Moonlight died at the edge of the fluorescent glow in the room. His limbs were numb and his gaze impassive. He looked straight into Karasu's eyes. As he dropped his gaze, he knew that the deal had been struck and the floor of the room welcomed his silent pain. Tiny patterns making up the rough carpet held his paralyzed stare, calling to him as his eyes shifted dully when Bui moved, the ax disappearing and replaced by a sleeping Hiei in the warrior's arms. There was no strength in him to look up after the little demon, he knew he'd be safe. And if he looked at the sleeping demon's face, he would only want to touch it, tell Hiei it would all work out, but he couldn't because Hiei must never know any of it. Bui's quiet footsteps faded and Kurama knew deeper than just the obvious that he was alone with Karasu.

He moved across the room, tucking the vial of blood away. His fingers threaded themselves into Kurama's hair and he pulled the kitsune's face up to look at it. Then he reached up and undid the mask which hid the lower half of his face. It dropped almost silently to the ground and Karasu leaned forward, breathing over Kurama's face and holding still so that his lips could just taste the scent of the kitsune. "Fox," he whispered, "You're mine now."

A/N: snorky Oh, you all wouldn't believe how long I've been waiting to do this! I don't even know how long I've been waiting to do this! So that's pretty impressive! cheeky grin

Villain