For effervesance. Merry Christmas.


"You smell like human," he said; face blank, staring at his shoes like they were better company than she was.

"If you don't like it," she replied, flipping her hair over her shoulder haughtily, "than maybe you shouldn't have gotten banished to the human world again."

He glanced around the desolate park, and his eyes settled on an abandoned swing, swaying in the wind.

She attempted to follow his line of sight, and gave up, "You know, Hiei, this is the sixth time."

"I know," he answered sullenly, dutifully, like a scolded child.

"Koenma's starting to get upset," she informed him, "I mean, after all you've done to help Yusuke, one would think you could stay in spirit world for more than a few months without getting kicked out."

"One would think."

"Do you know how many times I've had to chauffer you back and forth? And now you're supposed to stay here for a century. An entire century!" She frowned, "And all for setting Koenma's files on fire, Hiei? It's like you're trying to sabotage yourself!"

"Maybe," he replied, turning, hiding his eyes from her.

"What do you mean, 'maybe'?" she demanded, voice quiet but sharp, "Are you trying to tell me that you intentionally got yourself exiled? Is that it?"

"No," he shot back, blatantly lying, and daring her to challenge it.

She blinked, shocked, and eyed him curiously. He looked so silly trying to seem intimidating while sitting on a gaudily painted park bench. Behind him, a jungle gym glowed red in the dying sun, and a misplaced shoe sat in a nearby sandbox. It was like someone took two pictures, cut them up, and pasted the pieces together.

"Do you… like it here?" she asked.

"Of course not," he snapped, eyes glowing dangerously, "I hate humans. They're all disgusting and pathetically weak."

"Then why don't you stay in spirit world?"

"I hate it there too," he said fiercely, "Everyone's so good all the time. And those stupid ogres! What I wouldn't give for someone to let me tear them all to pieces."

The thought of Hiei strolling peacefully through the streets of spirit world seemed almost as ridiculously farfetched as him spending his days sitting in the park, feeding ducks.

She smiled, "Well. I guess you could always go to demon world."

He was silent for a moment, "I can't."

She was about to ask why, when she thought of the first time she came face to face with the demon world, back while she was still training to be a ferry girl. Her instructor had taken her down to the barrier between the spirit and demon worlds. She had watched, terrified, as huge monsters clawed like animals at the magical restraints.

She thought of what those thousands of barbaric demons would do if they got their hands on one of Yusuke's accomplices.

"I guess you're right," she replied, feeling guilty, heart weighted with empathy.

He didn't answer, just sat there looking so misplaced.

"If you have nowhere to go," she mused aloud, "Then why here? Why the human world?"

"I don't know, Botan," he said, pinning her with a look, "Maybe I like the rides back and forth."

She reared, and found that he seemed a lot closer to her than he was before, "W-What's that s-supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," he said with a smirk, "Nothing at all."

She blushed like mad and crossed her arms defiantly over her chest, "I don't think you meant nothing, Hiei!"

He looked at her and… half-smiled, like he appreciated her somehow. She thought of those wild demons, and of Hiei, and couldn't draw any parallels. Well, she could draw some parallels, but not very many. But even if they wouldn't kill him, he could never stay there. Working with Yusuke had changed him somehow, gnarled him into something that didn't fit anywhere.

"Why are you still here, Botan?" he asked, wickedly, "Haven't you already dropped me off?"

She reddened even more, and shrugged sheepishly, mentally repeating the question over and over.

"Maybe," she started, "we were just here for a visit."

"A visit?"

"Yes," she said, smiling brilliantly, grabbing his hand before he could protest and swinging them both onto her materializing oar.

"Where are we going?" he asked, sliding his arms around her, and locking them tight.

"Nowhere…" she replied, feeling inexplicably giddy as they started to float high into the air, free space, between human world and spirit world.

"…Just enjoy the ride."