Hearts Held Captive

Chapter Five: Party's Over

"Are you alright?" He repeated as he began to help her to her feet.

"I—," She began to reply. "I—I really don't know how I am right now. And that's the truth." She looked over her shoulder to the door which seemed to be the gateway to heartbreak. She stared at this young man before her and she felt…content.

At this answer, Kurama's expression changed slightly. He appeared to be taken aback, if only for a moment. "Your honesty is appreciated."

She smiled openly at him, this stranger she had stumbled upon so suddenly. She laughed softly at herself. "I must have looked ridiculous, running out here and throwing a fit as if I were a little child." Her voice was free of bitterness, just a sparkling acceptance of her own silliness.

He wanted to be overcome by her sudden onslaught of joy, by her infectious laughter which was trying to dig its roots into him, but he restrained that smile which tried so desperately to fight its way to the surface. "I've seen worse," he said as if to join in on the joke while still remaining in that zone of polite mannerisms.

"So why are you out here?" She asked bluntly as she leaned against the wall and clicked her heels in a preoccupied manner. This action gave Kurama a clear impression of her innocence. "Don't tell me you are intimidated by those pompous people in there. You really don't look like that sort of person who would be."

"More annoyed than intimidated," he answered. "Why are you here?"

Botan stood there a moment and thought seriously to herself, contemplating on what to say. She lost herself in thought and after a minute or so she looked up to find his face looking down at her doused in questions. "I was trying to decide whether or not to tell you the truth, but I think I might as well let someone know, even if you don't care." She wagged her finger at him playfully. "Now remember, you asked the question."

Kurama allowed himself to laugh briefly at this action; it reminded him of his mother's scoldings. "I won't forget that little fact."

"Well, bit by bit, I think I've been falling in love with the Prince of Rekai." She paused after that exhalation of words as if to let this insanity be taken in and continued on bravely. "And bit by bit, he has been falling in love with someone else." She grinned sadly, "I can't decide why it is I feel the way I do about him. I figure that it's just because there really is no one else for me, and Koenma was my last desperate attempt at 'love'." She stopped and looked Kurama in the eye, "Plus he is pretty annoying as well."

Kurama didn't know what to think of this confession. He could find no trace of sorrow or frustration that had been so evident only ten minutes before. This girl who spoke these words to him without fear…how long had it been since he had come across some like her? How long had it been since he had a conversation as light hearted as this one? "Well, you seem to be recovering."

"We all seem to be things that we are not at some points in our lives. You seem to be the most intriguing person I've met tonight. I seem to be okay."

"Are you saying that you aren't?" He noted that second sentence with an inward smile, followed by the bitter snap of his mind telling him that he was more of a mystery than she could handle.

"No, I think I am recovering just fine, but then that means what I thought I felt before was not genuine. I was just a disillusioned little fool."

Kurama placed his hands in his pockets and looked upwards, "Sometimes that's the best thing a person can be."

Botan's mind faltered slightly at his cynicism but met it with a warm smile as if to comfort him. She stuck her hand out toward him and waited patiently for him to shake it uncertainly. "Hi, I'm Botan."

"Hello…it's a pleasure to meet you." He said softly. She was almost confusing with her spontaneity, but it was refreshing to put a face to a name rather than a room number or a set of instructions or a nightmare.

She shook her head and laughed. "No, no. We should stop with all of these formalities. Friends don't need such tedious things. They're just false foundations. Why not act like we've known each other for the longest time? We've been talking like we have."

With this she left him momentarily speechless.

"You seem to make friends fast, Botan."

Her smile widened at his sly word choice. It seemed all her distress had melted away with this most unexpected of conversations. "Well, to be honest with you I do make friends quickly. What's more important though is that I keep them for the longest time." She winked at him with an innocent mischief. "I think that's the best thing a person can be, a forever sort of friend."

Kurama wanted to speak but he could find no words to say. He could find no thoughts to think. This girl was clouding up his mind so she had to be dangerous, but he could do nothing about it except for slowly smile back at the kindest words he had heard in a long time.

A strong wave of music filtered through the doors as the band began to play a new tune. It was strong but sweet and Botan clasped her hands together in excitement at the sound.

"I love this song," she exclaimed as she spun around in a circle allowing her dress to fan out in a girlish fashion. "I can never remember the name of it, but it's beautiful. If you listen you can hear the strings slowly swelling until they play the melody."

"It must be your favorite. I can tell by the way you talk about it."

"You would be right." She replied as the enthusiasm slowly drained from her voice. She failed to make eye contact with him and began to swish her skirt uncertainly. Kurama coughed politely in an attempt to obtain her attention. She looked up quickly and sent a flurry of words his way. "Wouldyouminddancingwithme?"

"I—uh." Kurama really had no idea how to react. He felt like a foolish pre-teen, something he had never been.

Botan could feel the blood rushing to her cheeks. She was so self conscious she didn't notice the faint blush crawling across Kurama's cheeks. "I'm sorry. That was forward and terribly awkward. I'm sorry."

He scratched his head absentmindedly as words began to spill from his lips. "No don't be sorry. I just haven't danced in so long…" He watched her watch her shoes, imagined her mind trying to form a route to escape from this situation. "Actually, I think it's been much too long."

As Botan looked up from the floor, she began to move her hand toward his outstretched palm when suddenly one of the doors flew open and both she and Kurama withdrew their hands completely. Hinageshi's head popped around the corner to see the pair mirroring expressions of discomfort.

"Hey, there you are Botan. I was afraid I wouldn't find you in time," Hinageshi cried as she grabbed her friend by the arm.

"Oh, hi Hinageshi. I'm sorry I took so long. I just got caught up." Botan's eyes wandered off to Kurama and met his gaze briefly before she was tugged away. As she was pushed into the ballroom she called to him over her shoulder, "Save that dance for me okay?" And then she was lost in the sound of the clinking glasses and singing strings and all the people dancing across the glittering floor.

Hinageshi glanced back at the strange boy. "I'll bring her back, don't worry." She grinned knowingly and shut the door behind her.

As Botan followed closely behind Hinageshi her mind had nearly forgotten about Koenma entirely. That boy had sent her reeling. She knew he was extremely good looking by anyone's standards, but she'd never met anyone so reserved and polite in her life. That wasn't what drew her to him. It was something deeper below the surface that he was hiding. She sensed it, but she didn't know how or why. She only knew it was there and there was so much more of him to know. His presence was startling but calming and she missed it already.

"Kami, Botan. Where the heck have you been hiding that fox?" Hinageshi yelled into her friend's ear as they walked across the room. "Oh my gosh, that hair, those eyes. You should just stop caring about Koenma's fling with Ayame and focus on Prince Charming. Guys like that only come around once in a lifetime, and only for lucky girls like you." Hinageshi sighed dreamily at the thought of the mystery boy.

Botan was blushing madly, partly from her mention of the young man in the hall and the rest from her outburst of knowledge about her feelings for Koenma. "What are you talking about? Why would I care about what Koenma and Ayame are doing? Pfft, that's ridiculous." She tried to laugh but she nearly ran into an oncoming couple.

"We didn't mean to be nosy, but we just found out recently. I'm sorry Botan. We were just so worried about you. You've been so sad lately." Hinageshi stepped in front of her fellow Deity and held her by the shoulders. "I'm really sorry." She looked up with puppy dog eyes, pleading for a forgiveness she knew would come.

Botan shook her head in understanding. "I just didn't want you guys to go around feeling sorry for me. That would just make me feel more pathetic."

"You are not pathetic. If anyone is, it's Koenma. He doesn't deserve you—no one does. Not even Tall Dark and Handsome in the hall. And anyway, what kind of friends do you think we are? We don't feel sorry; we get even."

Botan raised an eyebrow, "What do you mean by that?" As she waited for Hinageshi to reply, Kuwabara ran up behind her and lifted her in the air, spinning her around until she was dizzy sick.

The gawky young man guffawed good-naturedly while Botan shrieked. "Man, calm down. The show is about to start." He grinned widely at Botan's quizzical expression but merely pointed to the front of the room.

Hinageshi pressed a finger to her lips and pulled them in a slow walk towards their final destination. "Let's get a better view. It's going to start soon."

Kurama stared at the space where she had been standing only a moment ago.

What an odd girl. An odd but interesting girl.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but this isn't a singles bar."

The voice seemed to come from nowhere. Kurama turned to find himself alone in the darkness but he could see the shadow move, a flit of black on a landscape of darkness. He waited quietly for his comrade to show himself while trying to clear his mind of his recent encounter with Botan. He didn't want Hiei to have any more to say about this night.

"Well, thank you for gracing me with your presence." Kurama bowed deeply in mock humility. He rose to see Hiei standing before him with a smirk painted across his face, arms crossed and legs a shoulder's width apart.

The demon stared down the red haired young man with a look that told Kurama to be wary of what he was thinking. Kurama sighed and brace himself for the inquisition. "So tell me, fox. What the hell was that? The last time I checked we came here to kill someone, not to find a soul mate."

Kurama growled, "I know that. You don't have to remind me."

"Just because you dread it doesn't mean you can forget and lose your focus. You know what will happen."

"If we fail they could die, or worse. I know. You don't have to worry about me."

"No?" Hiei cocked an eyebrow and walked until he was face to face with Kurama. His eyes burned into Kurama's and neither broke the stare. "I'm sorry that you have desires and dreams that cannot be fulfilled. It must be the humanity that is in you, but it is making you weak. That is something your mother cannot afford. It is something that my sister cannot afford. We were taken as slaves because we were strong, but we remain slaves because we are weak. Even so we must maintain a balance to save the ones we care about. We cannot cater to the wants we would have had in a life that was; all there is room for is what we must do to sustain the lives that depend upon us."

Kurama's expression hardened at Hiei's words. "Don't think I'm getting careless. I will do what needs to be done time and time again. I may possess humanity within me, but this body also houses a monster as well." The fox pushed roughly past Hiei and walked down the dim corridor.

"Where are you going, Kurama?"

"I'm going to do my job." He said coldly as his steps made soft echoes in Hiei's ears. The koorime only shook his head as he watched a flash of amethyst enter Kurama's mind, like a brief and beautiful sunrise before a dead night without stars.

Author's Note: I haven't written anything in probably a year. I just found this when I was going through some old stuff on my computer and I looked through some of the reviews. I feel terrible for not updating. Life has been busy. And Hellish. I really liked writing this though and I hope I will continue, but I've said that before. sighs I'm such a liar and I'm really sorry. Review if you don't utterly hate every bit of my guts or if you liked this chapter.

And if you have a favorite quote let me know. I'm just curious.