DISCLAIMER: I don't own anything.

Chapter 6

For all those times you stood by me,

For all the truth you made me see,

For all the joy you brought to my life,

For all the wrong that you made right,

For every dream you made come true,

For all the love I found in you,

I'll be forever thankful, baby.

You're the one who held me up,

Never let me fall.

You're the one who saw me through it all.

"Hiei-love, you know we have to get up soon, don't you?"

"Why should we?" Hiei asked lazily, reaching across Kurama to take a chip from the bag he held.

"Because soon, the other will break down the door."

"Hmm…plus we're running out of Buffy."

"Not true, actually—there are five more seasons downstairs, plus the really corny movie. But I'm starting to feel guilty for keeping you to myself."

Hiei smiled, and tilted his face up for a kiss. "I'm not. You're my favorite, and they know it. Besides, they want to see you, not me. They always want to see you." His tone was one of relief, not bitterness—he didn't like talking to people.

"That isn't true, Hiei, no matter how much you wish it were. They were all worried to death when you went missing—well, except me. I kept it together the whole time."

"And I'll hold to that story even if they question us separately," Hiei said, smiling. He was surprised at how easy that was starting to become. "I think you're wrong, though. They want an excuse to throw a party, if anything, and I just want to ignore them and stay right here until starvation forces me up."

"And I want that too, but…"

"But your polite streak won't allow it," Hiei said knowingly. "Fine, fine, call them. But if you're going to force me up, I want that ice cream stuff. A lot of it. And we'll finish Buffy before you call."

Hiei went to push aside the quilt, but froze with a grimace as pain shot through his side and chest. With a groan, he dropped against the pillows and closed his eyes. That had been the first real movement he had made, and it hurt. In addition to all his initial injuries, he was sore from fighting the demon, and now his muscles screamed in protest with each pull.

An arm encircled his shoulders, and then one slid under him, and he was lifted carefully off the bed. Hiei rested his head on Kurama's shoulder without protest, a first for him. But he had come to terms with the fact that he had to start relying on people if he was going to stay here—and he had absolutely no intention of going anywhere now—and this was a start.

You were my strength when I was weak.

You were my voice when I couldn't speak.

You were my eyes when I couldn't see.

You saw the best there was in me.

You lifted me up when I couldn't reach.

You gave me faith 'cause you believed.

I'm everything I am

Because you loved me.

"I CANNOT BELIEVE SHE JUST DID THAT!" Hiei screeched. "She…with the sword…and the…and… SHE KILLED HIM! Ow…"

"Calm down, beloved, shouting will only hurt you."

"Kurama, how can you be so calm? She killed him!"

Kurama smiled. "I've explained it to you, Hiei. Angel had no soul, and he opened the portal that could suck the world into hell. Once it was open, only Angel's blood could close it. Buffy had to do it, to save the world."

"But…it's like she blames him or something! She killed him for something that isn't even really his fault!"

"I know, and it's unfair, but Hiei, you're taking this kind of seriously…"

"Well, how can I not? I spent the last day watching nothing but this guy, and the whole time, he was in love with her, and then she…I HATE THAT CHICK!"

Kurama couldn't help it. He laughed. The look on Hiei's face was just too funny. He laughed until tears came into his eyes, and Hiei just stared at him the whole time, which only made things worse.

The phone rang, and Kurama took a deep breath to stop his laughter, wiped his eyes, and picked up the cordless, keeping one arm around Hiei.

"Hello? Oh, hello, Yusuke. Yes, we're up. We've been up for hours. I know, but…yeah. I'm sorry about that. Exactly. Yes. We've just been waiting for someone to call again. Yes. That's fine. Mm-hmm, of course. No…Yusuke, no. You know how I feel about that subject. Yes, I'm sure. Why would I not be sure? Don't you dare suggest that I'm overreacting again. All right. Good. You tell him. See you soon. Bye." He clicked off the phone and said, "Yusuke, Kuwabara and the girls are coming over."

Hiei groaned at the thought of giving up private time with Kurama, but he knew that it was important to the kitsune, and so he kept silent, and simply prayed that everyone would leave quickly.

He never admitted, even to himself, that there was another reason for his reluctance. But if he had allowed himself to think about it, he would have had to admit that he was…not frightened, exactly, but rather…nervous, at the thought of seeing everyone. He knew very well that he had put everyone through the wringer during the last days, and not long before, that would not have bothered him in the slightest, but now he felt…horrible, and full of self-loathing.

Very annoying.

You gave me wings and made me fly.

You touched my hand, I could touch the sky.

I lost my faith; you gave it back to me.

You said no star was out of reach.

You stood by me and I stood tall.

I had your love, I had it all.

I'm grateful for each day you gave me.

Maybe I don't know that much,

But I know this much is true.

I was blessed because I was loved by you.

Hiei spent the next half hour trying to seem interested in Buffy and not at all apprehensive about seeing the group again, but he didn't think Kurama was convinced. What was more, from the way Kurama's eyes darted from the clock, to the door, to Hiei, to the TV, he was almost as nervous, though Hiei got the feeling it was about something else entirely.

Finally, though, they gave up any pretense of calm. Kurama picked up the remote and turned the show off. The bright blue DVD screen glared coldly at them—in the near-darkness of the room, Kurama's face seemed oddly distorted by the reflection—until Kurama turned the TV off, too.

Hiei expected him to say something then, about how he shouldn't be nervous, or how their friends would still love him no matter what (he seriously doubted that they had liked him much to begin with) but the fox said nothing.

Minutes passed before Kurama spoke. "You're worried."

Hiei jumped, startled at his calm, low-pitched voice, which pierced the silence like thunder. It wasn't a question, but Hiei felt that he should reply anyway. "Yes."

"I am, too."

"I noticed that."

"Yes, but I am worried for…different reasons."

"I noticed that, too. Who is it that you don't want me to see?" Kurama looked at him in surprise, and Hiei knew it even if he didn't see it because he was focusing on the wall. "I'm not usually that observant, but I can tell. Who is it?"

Kurama heaved a sigh, and started to speak, but then the door banged open with hurricane force and a voice sang out from the hall. "THE FUN HAS ARRIVED!"

Hiei thought Kurama looked relieved, but he couldn't be sure in the uncertain lighting.

"Jeez, why're you sitting around in the dark? That's sorta manic-depressive…"

"Hello, Shizuru," Kurama said politely as Kuwabara's sister flicked on the light. "Where is your brother?"

"Still out in the car," Shizuru said, rolling her eyes. "Baby bro isn't too quick, ya know."

"Hey, sis, where should I put all this?" A voice called from the hall right then. "And while we're on the subject, why did I have to be the one to carry it all?"

Shizuru shouted back at a volume that made Kurama wince, even though the two only had the foyer separating them. "I told you! Go around back and put it in the kitchen. AND THEY'RE STANDING RIGHT HERE, YOU GREAT OAF!"

Kuwabara either ignored her or—far less likely—didn't hear, and a second later the door banged closed.

"Shizuru, what's going on?" Kurama asked, bewildered, already headed for the kitchen.

Shizuru grabbed him by the shoulder and didn't let him go further. "Stay. I promise he won't trash the kitchen." Still holding onto him, lest he break away to check on his kitchen, Shizuru turned and said easily, "Hi, Hiei, how's it hangin'?"

Hiei gaped at her tone; he couldn't help it. He didn't know what he'd expected, but she acted as if the last days hadn't happened, as if he hadn't disappeared twice and nearly gotten himself killed. It was…unsettling, and didn't bring the relief he thought it would.

Just as he started trying to analyze this, Yusuke came in, carrying a boom box and a case of CDs, and Hiei happily set the thought aside to find out what was going on.

"Hey, guys, where should I set this up, Kurama?"

Kurama just stared at him, bemused, until Shizuru nudged him and said, "You look like an idiot. Yusuke, just find a place to hook it up."

"What," Kurama asked slowly, "is going on here?"

"Kazuma's already in the kitchen," Shizuru said to Yusuke, as if Kurama didn't exist.

"Good. Keiko and Botan are headed that way, too. You got it all?"

"Everything we were supposed to, I think, yeah."


Shizuru looked at him with something akin to surprise on her face. "You haven't guessed yet?"

"It's you and Hiei's party, obviously!" Yusuke said, as if Kurama was quite daft.

"Um…what?" Kurama asked faintly.

"Your congrats party, fox-boy!" Yusuke told him. When Kurama simply stared some more, Yusuke sighed and spoke very slowly. "You and Hiei just got together—finally. Ergo, party. We go to the store and empty our pockets on food and drink and we come here. Do you understand now?"

Kurama didn't say a word, but this time his silence was different, and Yusuke didn't say anything else.

You were my strength when I was weak.

You were my voice when I couldn't speak.

You were my eyes when I couldn't see.

You saw the best there was in me.

You lifted me up when I couldn't reach.

You gave me faith 'cause you believed.

I'm everything I am

Because you loved me.

In less than an hour everything was in full swing. Yusuke, Kuwabara, Shizuru, Keiko, Botan, Hiei and Kurama were the only ones, so it wasn't actually a party, more like seven people sitting around in Kurama's living room, listening to music—Yusuke actually had a pretty good selection—and eating chips, chocolate, and Ramen of all flavors, courtesy of Keiko and her parents.

And talking, of course, though they spoke of nothing sad or depressing, but rather light, fluffy subjects like school and TV and movies. No one seemed to want to mention or even think about what had been going on lately. Something was wrong with that, Hiei knew, but he couldn't quite figure out what it was, and it wasn't until the eighth person joined their party that he was able to put his finger on it.

They were between chip bags when he came, but other than the brief argument over who would cover the vast distance to the kitchen to go get more—Botan was elected—everything was quite peaceful. Kurama sat on the couch, and Hiei was stretched out with his head in the kitsune's lap, nursing his aches and listening to the conversation as it flowed over him. The others had arranged themselves on the arms of the couch and the floor.

Kuwabara was talking to Kurama about college—winter break was ending, and so he would be going back soon—and how much he liked it, especially since the campus was close enough to let him live at home. Kurama had decided to take a year off between high school and college, but he had begun to think on the subject recently, and wanted to hear all about Kuwabara's experiences.

Kuwabara had just been recounting his latest anecdote when the front door opened again. Everyone—except Hiei, who seemed to have fallen asleep—looked at each other, confused, wondering who else could be joining them when almost everyone who knew where Kurama's house was located was sitting in his living room.

Then Koenma strode into the room.

Well, not so much "strode in" as "poked his head in, looked around nervously, and then cautiously stepped in."

He was in his adult form, decked out in his red cape as usual, but he looked far from confident. In fact, as he paused in the doorway, and looked at each of them in turn, there was something like to fear in his eyes.

Kurama's hand, which had been combing absently through Hiei's hair, stilled suddenly, and he locked eyes with the Reikai prince and murmured coldly, "You're not welcome here."

Koenma looked pained, but also a bit angry. "Kurama—"

"Get out."


Hiei opened his eyes slowly. He felt that something was going on, but he wasn't aware enough to be sure what it was. The last thing he remembered was falling asleep from the utterly relaxing feeling of being so close to Kurama, listening to him talk. But now, Kurama's hand was no longer stroking his hair, and his body was tense, his muscles tight.

Hiei opened his eyes in alarm and say halfway up, but no one noticed. They were all looking at Koenma, and Hiei wondered for a moment how he had gotten here, and when. But he forgot that question in favor of a more important one: why was Kurama so angry?

He turned his head slightly to the side, and saw with shock that Kurama looked worse than angry. His normally gentle face was pale and seemed carved from stone, and there was murder in his eyes. He didn't even seem to notice Hiei.

Then Hiei noticed that everyone was looking at Koenma in a similar way to Kurama, though they weren't quite as intense in their anger. Koenma seemed to be the only other person in the room who wasn't glaring. He simply looked sad.

But why was he sad? Why was everyone angry? What was going on?

Hiei was about to ask this question when Kurama spoke again. "I told you never to come near me or Hiei again. Go, before I decide to go through with my threats."

"Kurama, please, hear me out," Koenma said, and he sounded more desperate than Hiei had even heard him sound. "Please. I didn't mean for this to happen, as I've been telling you!"

"So what if you didn't? It changes nothing. Go away!"

And slowly, everything began falling into place. Koenma was the one Kurama didn't want Hiei to see. It was Koenma who was a sore subject with the kitsune. But that didn't answer the "why."

The Kurama continued, and that made sense, too. "Have you even looked at him? He's broken because of you. You sent us off on that ridiculous mission, and Yukina and Genkai…and then you sent Hiei off, alone, even though you must have had some idea of what would happen. He nearly died, Koenma, and he would have if…if…how could you do this to him? To all of us?"

So this is it…Kurama blames Koenma for the deaths…and for me…being like this…they all think it's his fault. I wonder…should I feel this way, too? After all, he did send us there…

"Don't blame him. It isn't his fault."

Hiei started and looked around to see who had spoken. They were all so angry with Koenma…it didn't make sense that someone would say that…

Then he realized that every single person in the room had shifted their attention from Koenma to…him.

You were always there for me,

The tender wind that carried me,

A light in the dark,

Shining your love into my life.

You've been my inspiration.

Through the lies you were the truth.

My world is a better place because of you.

Hiei didn't know why he said the words, but the moment he did, he knew that they were true. He knew it the way he had known he loved Kurama, the way he had known the moment his sister died before he saw it was true—way down deep, where it counted. And while normally he would have simply loved to see Koenma get the crap verbally beaten out of him, something inside him was slowly changing, and he could no longer sit idly by and watch.

"It isn't his fault," he repeated, as if saying the words again would make them all stop looking at him like that.

But all of them, even Kurama, kept staring at him with a mix of shock and confusion on their faces. Clearly, now that Hiei had said the words, he was going to have to back them up.

And so, right then and there, Hiei steeled himself, and did the most difficult thing he had ever done: he began to talk. He had never really talked to anyone but Kurama—and even then only very recently—and now he was on Kurama's couch, barely able to sit up, talking to—or rather, at—seven people who were all looking at him as if he had grown an extra head, one of them being his new lover and absolute favorite person in the world, one a near-king of Makai, another the prince of the Reikai, an oaf, two annoying giggly girls, and one chick who could kickbox him halfway back to Makai if he said the wrong thing.

Well…life has now come full circle…

Hiei didn't really know what to say, and at first he fumbled for words. But then words suddenly began to jump from his mouth, without his conscious permission, saying everything he had been unable to before.

"Koenma isn't to blame. For any of this. I did this to myself. Every broken bone, every bruise and scrape and ache, was caused through my own stupidity. Koenma didn't make me pick up my sword one night and draw my own blood. He didn't force me to become addicted to that kind of pain. When he sent me to Makai, I could have refused. I could have refused and he would have tried to compel me to go, and then I would have just left. He knew…he still knows…that he can't make me do anything. I went to Makai of my own free will, because, fool that I am, I wanted to die. I was just…tired. Of pain, and loss, and suffering, and…life. I wanted it to end, and when Koenma unknowingly offered the chance to me, I seized it. He can't be blamed for that; only me."

Hiei took a deep breath. This next part was going to be the hardest.

"And when he sent us all to take care of that thing…he was just doing his job. He can't be blamed for that either. I don't know what happened that day. None of us does. We've taken care of far more difficult things than that before, so the only conclusion that I can come up with is that all this was meant to happen. That's all it was. We just drew a poor hand from Fate that day. I'm sorry to say that it's taken me until this very moment to realize this. Until now, I've been searching for someone to hold responsible, too. Part of me would still like that, but if you all feel the same way, and need someone to place the guilt upon…Koenma isn't your man."

Hiei saw Koenma start at that, and the prince tried to catch his eye, but Hiei was carefully not looking at any particular one of them, but rather all of them, as a whole. If he looked at one of them directly, he would lose his thread, and unless he got all the words out right now, he knew he would never say them.

"I don't know where we go from here, but I do know one thing: we have got to stop throwing the blame out. It will just turn us against each other, and…that can't happen." His voice became quiet now, so quiet that someone standing less than an inch outside the room would have wondered why everything was so silent all of the sudden. "She…they…wouldn't want that."

And after that, he had nothing else to say. He folded his hands in his lap—he didn't know when he had sat all the way up, but it had happened—and stared at them, waiting for someone to break the silence.

Then he heard Kurama say softly, "Koenma, why don't you sit down?"

And suddenly the tension in the room—which had been thick enough to cut with a knife—collapsed utterly. Koenma joined the others, sitting cross-legged on the floor—Hiei could see his feet next to Kuwabara's—and Kurama took his seat again—Hiei had also been oblivious when he stood up.

Hiei didn't look at any of them; he was too preoccupied trying to keep the tears out of his eyes. But he didn't have to look up for at least one person there to be able to know his feelings.

Kurama's weight sank down next to him, and then Hiei was pulled into a tight embrace, and he didn't care when everyone saw him curl up against the fox, and let himself be held.

He didn't actually shed the tears that gathered in his eyes; they seemed content to just stay at the corners, threatening to fall but unable to. He just kept breathing past the lump in his throat, face buried in Kurama's chest, shaking slightly, listening to the silence.

Then Keiko abruptly said, "You know, if Genkai were around, she would stomp in right about now and smack us all over the head for being such dorks over her."

"Yeah, that's for sure," Yusuke told her. "She always did say that she didn't want a 'downer funeral.' And when I would ask her what other kind of funeral existed, she would just glare at me and tell me to shut up and get back to practicing."

Everyone laughed, and they were, at first, surprised and a little ashamed that they had, until Kurama said, "We've been going about this all wrong, you know. We've been keeping our pain to ourselves. Genkai and Yukina would want to be remembered, I think, but all we've been doing is trying to forget them. And it isn't helping."

And so, for the next three and a half hours, the eight of them—Kurama, Hiei, Yusuke, Kuwabara, Koenma, Keiko, Botan and Shizuru—who had all lost someone dear to them, sat in Kurama's living room, and talked about their lost comrades, friends, family, and mentors. They shared their favorite stories and ones that most of them had long forgotten.

And with each story told, a miraculous thing happened. Bit by bit, the pain lessened. Each time a story, a memory, was completed, they let a bit of Genkai and Yukina go. It wasn't as if all of the grief just magically disappeared, but it became far more bearable. It became so that each of them was able to think about Yukina and Genkai and, instead of crying, smile, and cherish the memories they still had of their loved ones.

That night, after everyone left for home, suddenly feeling much freer of spirit than when they had come, Hiei gave himself up to Kurama, body and soul. For he was ready for it now, ready to let himself be happy, completely and not just mostly. He knew now that it was what Yukina would have wanted, and that he had only dishonored her the whole time he had tortured himself.

And the one moment in which he actually managed to forget that she was not going to see him again in this life, in the one moment of true joy, he felt her, and, somehow, he saw her. She was just standing there, watching him, and there were tears running down her face even as she smiled. She was both full of joy, that he was happy, and terribly sad, because she would miss him so.

But the joy outweighed the sorrow, and just before she disappeared from his mind's eye until the day he met up with her again, above and beyond the world, she whispered these words to him, words that separated his old life from his new.

"Seize the second change you have gotten. Live life to the fullest extent, and don't hold back your love from anyone. And remember, whether you can see me with your eyes or only with your heart, I will always love you, my brother."

You were my strength when I was weak.

You were my voice when I couldn't speak.

You were my eyes when I couldn't see.

You saw the best there was in me.

Lifted me up when I couldn't reach.

You gave me faith 'cause you believed.

I'm everything I am

Because you loved me.

Author's Note: Well, that's it. It's over and I'm pretty sure I'm going to cry while I say this. Thanks to all of you who reviewed, even if you only did it once, because that still counts:

dragon of chaos

East Kaioshin





Yoko Child of the Moon


evil alien chickens







T.K. Yurikoto

necko yasha










THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH! Reviews really do mean a lot to me…probably more than is healthy…

I will try to get my next story out soon, and it will either be another Hiei/Kurama shounen ai or a Gilmore Girls fic. Not sure which. Tell me which you'd prefer, please! I must have direction or I just float aimlessly in the universe!

NOTE: If anyone has stories they'd like to have written but do not want to write themselves, you can send them to me, if you'd like, at and I will see what I can make of them. But ONLY if you didn't want to write them yourselves. Just send them with your e-mail address and I'll write you back telling you if I can write it or not.

Reviewers' comments:

dragon of chaos: I love Buffy. Not the person, the show, the person kinda sucks. And my favorite character…can I give you the top contenders? They are: Spike, Xander, Willow, and Giles. Out of the almost-always-there characters. Oz is good too, though, and Tara, and Kennedy, and…oh, to Hell with it, I love them all. Except Buffy. Anyway, thanks for the review! And about the Buffy/Yu Yu crossover, I have a plot for one but it may take me a while to begin writing it. Until then, look on this site for a story called "When Evil Comes to Play." The story was written by my sister, and it's AWESOME. You'll love it, I'm pretty sure. And be sure to review! She likes that!

East Kaioshin: Thanks for the review! And I didn't want to see the end of the story…that's why this took so long to come out…it makes me sad to finish it…

Inuyashapup: Thank you!

DragonRose888: Thanks for the review! And don't worry, I won't blow up at you just because you have an opinion! I try not to, anyway…

kirallie: Thanks a lot!

Noroi-Inu: Thanks for the review! And "swanky" is, by the way, one of the best compliments I've gotten so far, because "swankified" is one of my favorite bogus words from the play "Wicked." Don't know where that came from, but whatever…

Yoko Child of the Moon: Thanks! For all of your reviews!

Kurama'sGirl888: Thanks! And sadly, yes, it does have to end…I hate it, too…I hate finishing fics…

evil alien chickens: Thanks! LMAO, great name, too! And about the being sad part…well, please see above.

darknesspirals: Thanks!

SitDog-Boy: I didn't want it to end either! wails But thank you so much for reviewing, and please review to tell me how you liked the end!

Catie-brie: Thanks for the review! And about Kuwabara…I always write him in a positive light, because I love him so much. I don't think I could write him as people see him if I tried.

Evene: Why would I be afraid to reply to reviews? genuinely confused You mean some people don't like to? Weird…and I love winter, too. Snow is so pretty…or it would be if I didn't live in the city where it's not on the ground five seconds before it's brown. And also, the very reason I had Kurama breaking things was that he's always calm. I wanted to show that Yoko can sometimes come out, too. So he broke stuff. Thanks for the review!

Jessica: Thanks!

KyoHana: Very poetic review! I like it! Thanks! But was the last chapter even half as good? PLEASE let me know!