Author's Note: Attention: This fic is now officially a HieiKeiko. For those of you (like me) who wanted this to be a Keikura (Kurama/Keiko), then fear not! I plan on doing an alternate storyline beginning from middle ways of chapter 2 that will veer off and go in a Keikura-ish direction. Though I will not be posting those chapters here, I'll be putting them up in the files section of my Yahoo group Keiko's Demons. So, if you guys want to read them, then feel free to join up and while your there drop a line to say hello. You can find the url to my group on my bio page.

Now, on with the fic!

Crushed Petals

- Chapter 3 -

Hiei stood, leaning against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest. Though his head was bowed, his gaze remained directed toward the futon laying a few feet away. The girl had lain back down a few moments before and was now asleep, her delicate eyelids closed, concealing the haunted depths of her eyes. Her lips were parted slightly as she breathed in and out evenly, the action causing her chest to rise and fall rhythmically.

Hiei diverted his eyes quickly, realizing that they had lingered far too long on her chest. Damn it, what was wrong with him! Since when had he ever held any interest in this ningen? He growled in frustration, though only inwardly, lest the sound wake her up.

And just why was he worried about disturbing her sleep? Che...

He silently snorted in disgust. This was pathetic, he had no idea why he was even still standing there. It wasn't like he had to guard her or anything…

The bedroom shoji slid open just then, drawing Hiei's inner thoughts away from the matter of his uncharacteristic actions. He glanced over to see Genkai and Yukina's forms filling the doorway. The shrine owner stepped in, her gaze kindly taking in Keiko's sleeping form before moving to focus on Hiei, who had kicked away from the wall to stand upright.

"Kurama has left to assist Yusuke and Kuwabara on a case. He has asked me to tell you that he wishes for you to watch over Keiko until they return."

Hiei snorted indignantly, "It's your temple, is it not? Why must I be the one to babysit?"

"Because, Yukina and I have a few tasks to attend to and since it is already sunrise, then we might as well get to it. We shouldn't be gone for more than a few hours at the most." The old woman said, causing Hiei's frown to deepen.

'Well, I have to guard her now… Wonderful.' The fire demon watched as the old healer and his twin sister left the room before turning to once again gaze upon the sleeping form curled up on the futon. 'Hn,' he thought, 'Now what am I going to do with you?'

~*~

"We're lost, aren't we?"

Kuwabara's eyes narrowed dangerously as he shot his fearless leader a death glare. "Are not! I just got threw off a bit. It's all that emotional stress so early in the morning."

"Emotional stress?" Yusuke scoffed, "Let's not gabber on like women, Kuwabara."

"Shut up, Urameshi, I'm trying to concentrate here." Kuwabara looked around slowly, trying to scan for any spiritual energy that would lead them to the demons. "There!" He finally shouted, pointing toward a dense thatch of forest.

"Finally! Okay, let's go!" Yusuke said with a maniacal gleam in his eye. He ran, crashing through the underbrush, unheeding of the bushes in his way.

Kuwabara followed behind, ducking and dodging the debris Yusuke left in his wake. Soon, the pair of Spirit Detectives reached a clearing, Yusuke expecting to surprise the shape-shifters, tackle them to the ground to begin the process of slowly beating the crap out of them.

But someone tackled him instead.

"Urameshi, look out!" Kuwabara exclaimed. But his warning was cut short as he himself was tackled from behind, causing him to fall to the ground with a thump.

It is a strange moment, indeed, when you look up to face your enemy, fire and vengeance swirling in your heart, prepared to destroy that unknown enemy's face. There is no room for thought in rage, no time to think 'I wonder what he looks like, this demon monstrosity who raped my best friend.' A strange moment when you look into the eyes of your enemy to see your own eyes staring back at you.

"What the…" Yusuke managed to say.

It was a bad idea to stop mid-punch and stare at the mirror reflection. Because, it really wasn't a mirror reflection at all; some old, crooked magician hadn't left a mirror in the middle of the forest. The demon hit.

Hard.

~*~

'There's nothing else to do.' Hiei thought as he continued to lean against the wall. 'Not that I need to have my attention focused on something for thirty minutes, but there is simply nothing to do except watch the girl as she slumbers.'

But she wasn't asleep. In fact, Keiko had been awake for the past few minutes, but had simply not opened her eyes. This being partly due to the fact that she could practically feel that scrutinizing gaze and it made her wonder…

'Why? Why is he staring?'

'Why am I staring?' One could only lie to themselves for so long before realizing self-delusion. That specter in the mind's emotions that was so ugly, one's eyes tended to automatically skipped over it. The truth was rarely beautiful, and the truth was that he felt something for her. But what? And why…

~*~

"Fuck!"

 

Yusuke felt he could safely say that he was having a very bad day. Starting with being awakened in the middle of the night by Kurama, only to be informed that his best friend had been attacked and raped, followed by said best friend going ballistic on him. Then, to top it all off, the toddler sends him on a case that results in him coming face to face with himself. Just great.

 

"Hey, Urameshi, what the hell is going on here? Why does that guy have my face?" Kuwabara's gruff voice sounded a bit bewildered.

 

"Probably for the same reason this punk has mine, Kuwabara. Now, shut up and fight!" Yusuke shouted as he once again charged the creature that had apparently taken on his form somehow. 'Well, Botan wasn't exaggerating about the shape shifter part.' He thought even as he and his opponent tumbled to the ground and Yusuke proceeded to whale on him.

All was going according to plan. Yusuke come. Yusuke kick demon's ass. Yusuke leave. But somewhere between the ass kicking and the leaving part, things started going a bit awry.

"What the hell!?"

Yusuke found himself sailing halfway across the clearing as his demon double did an agile flip back to his feet.  Yusuke growled as he climbed to his own feet, sparing a glance in Kuwabara's direction. The orange haired spirit detective seemed to be having problems with his opponent as well, but at least he was still on his feet.

"Dammit!"

Yusuke winced as Kuwabara was sent crashing to the ground beside him.

"Urameshi, this is hopeless. The guy's like, reading my mind or something. He's blocking every punch I throw!" Kuwabara grumbled as he got back up.

Yusuke's face took on a look of determination. "Okay, enough fooling around. This phoney's going down!" He shouted, bringing his arm up and taking aim with his now glowing index finger. "Spirit gun!"

The powerful blast of white energy shot out from Yusuke's finger, blazing a path directly toward its target, who was at the moment, smirking of all things. The copycat demon simply raised an eyebrow as he raised his own arm in the same position as Yusuke's and with an identical voice shouted the same command.

"Spirit gun!"

"Shit!"

The real Yusuke watched in disbelief as two energy blasts collided in mid air, immediately negating both attacks instantly.

Dropping his arm limply to his side, Yusuke could feel his eyebrow twitching furiously. "Well… that's not good."

Meanwhile, Kurama was making his way through the dense forest, attempting to track Yusuke and Kuwabara's trail in hopes of catching up in time to warn them. He spared one last thought for Keiko's welfare, before trusting her safety to the experience of Genkai, then, he shut out all other thoughts to concentrate on the battle...

Breaking through the dense brush, he finally arrived in the clearing, his green eyes widening slightly at the scene he beheld. Despite his knowledge of what to expect, it was still a strange sight indeed to be faced with two Yusukes and two Kuwabaras.

Now... to tell them apart...

Kurama tentatively sniffed the air, recalling how he had been able to smell the demon's scent on Keiko's ravaged body. He winced inwardly at the image but focused himself once more as he caught wind of the familiar smell. 'Ah, so the ones on the right are the imposters.' Kurama watched as the four combatants faced off, neither side moving to take the offensive. Were they at a stale mate? Did they all come to the conclusion that it was useless for them to fight one another, because the end would only result in a draw?

But no, the pair on the left were obviously coming to a decision. With a nod of their heads, the real Yusuke and Kuwabara charged forward, suddenly changing direction at the last moment, and each taking out the opposite opponent. Now Yusuke was fighting the Kuwabara doppleganger, and vice versa.

'Of course, that stategy might actually work!' the kitsune thought, a bit hopeful, but remaining ready to interfere should the need arise.

Kurama winced as Kuwabara was knocked flat by demon Yusuke. 'Or perhaps not...'

The genuine Yusuke was actually fairing pretty well against his demon opponent now... but of course, that would have been a given since he always managed well while fighting Kuwabara. At this point, Kurama imagined it was Kuwabara who needed his assistance more…

Kuwabara took yet another punch to the face and swore violently. 'Damn it, this demon punches just like Urameshi!' Suddenly, there came a hissing sound flying through the air, followed immediately by a sharp snap as something long and green struck out at the shape shifter, causing it to jump, summersaulting backward to avoid being hit.

Kuwabara looked over to where the attack had come from and saw the red headed kitsune. "Kurama?! What are you doing here?" Kuwabara's angry voice shouted over the grunts of Yusuke and the faux Kuwabara fighting.

"There is something rather important that Botan neglected to inform you. When they take on someone's form, they also gain that person's powers and abilities, though, somehow I feel you've found that out on your own."

"Tell me about it! Listen, I can handle this. Why don't you go bug Urameshi or something." Kuwabara shot back as he ducked a punch from the demon who had jumped back into the fight.

A bit reluctantly, Kurama backed off, allowing Kuwabara to engage once again in battle with the Yusuke doppleganger. He glanced over to see how the real Yusuke was faring against his own shape shifter opponent just in time to see the latter avoid the former's right hook by leaping into the air... and not coming back down.

"Whaaa??" Yusuke gaped at the demon levitating about 10 foot above his head. He turned an annoyed glare at Kurama. "They can fly too!? That's not fair!"

Kurama could only sigh and shake his head slightly at the petulant tone. "I think that's beside the point, Yusuke."

"I know that... I was just saying it wasn't fair, is all." Yusuke grumbled, turning his attention back to the demon and tried to figure out a way to bring the damned thing down. Literally.

~*~

'Hn, foolish human, thinks I don't know she's awake,' Hiei thought as he rolled his eyes.

He nearly growled in frustration when his eyes once again landed on the ningen that was curled up on the futon before him. Several possible reasons for her feigned sleep flooded his mind, though he disliked all.

"Perhaps you would prefer it if I merely left you alone," Hiei said as he stood up.

Brown eyes instantly snapped open, as Keiko rose up into a sitting position abruptly, an arm outstretched toward him. "No, wait!" she cried, all thought of pretending gone in her fear of being left alone.

Hiei halted in his steps, a brief look of surprise flickering across his face before he immediately dispelled it. Turning, he once again looked over at the girl. "Why should I? You obviously don't want me here."

Keiko's eyes started to water. "Please don't go. I'm sorry, I just… Please, Hiei, don't leave me alone."

For a nominal instant, Hiei's hardened expression softened as he took in her trembling form. But only an instant. In the next, he was once again leaning against the far wall, arms crossed, his gaze directed away from her.

"Fine." He muttered lowly.

Keiko sighed with relief; she was not going to be left alone. 'Wait a minute.' She thought, 'Why is the thought of Hiei leaving me so disturbing?' She wondered briefly, if she have felt the same sense of panic if it were any one else. She shook the thought from her mind as she lay back on the futon. 'Of course, I would. I would have been better off if Kurama would have stayed with me. At least then, I would know what to say. This silence is almost unbearable.'

Even though she had gotten some sleep, she was still very tired. Her dreams had been plagued with nightmares. 'How could they? What did I ever do to them to deserve so much pain from them? True, I get onto Yusuke about school and stuff, but I'm just trying to help. And… I never did anything to Kawabara for him to be angry with me. Then why…why did this happen...' Her mental ramblings trailed off as she sobbed softly into her pillow.

From a few feet away, a certain fire demon shifted uncomfortably in the shadows as he watched the ningen girl fidget and wondering to himself what in the seven hells had made him agree to stay…

~*~

TBC...