Chapter One

It started out innocently enough.

It started at Kuwabara's birthday party. A large and assorted group of people had shown up - there was the spirit detective crew, Kuwabara's old gang, and many new acquaintances from the university Kuwabara had been accepted to. Shizuru had bought them all beer and at least half the room was tipsy. The guests were mostly entertaining themselves, seeing as Kuwabara had lost all interest in everyone else once Yukina had arrived.

The only person who didn't seem to be having a good time was Hiei. He was slouched in a corner, brooding. Kurama had dragged him here through many protestations, and now the fox was off somewhere else--to be specific, in the center of a small knot of admirers with a guitar in his hands. Despicable.

Kurama had stuck with his normal routine of at least trying to engage Hiei at first, bringing him a drink and introducing him to people. But then his attention had been caught by a boy who had brought his guitar and was now fiddling with it, playing absent snatches of what Hiei presumed were popular songs, and soon after Kurama had drifted away in a determinedly casual manner to grab Kuwabara's guitar and begin playing with the other boy. Hiei had been sulking in the corner ever since. Yusuke was completely ignoring him in favor of Keiko, and there wasn't anyone else there he cared to talk to or be with. He'd known he didn't want to come.

Since he had nothing else to do, Hiei watched Kurama and the other boy playing together. He had to admit they were doing well. If he'd had less pride he would have been among the circle of admirers. Kurama was bent over his guitar, hair falling in his face, the very picture of...

Stop it, Hiei told himself angrily. He had long ago come to terms with his attraction to members of the same sex, but it was not a step he was willing to take with Kurama, no matter how much he sometimes felt like it. There was too much to be lost if it went wrong.

Still...

Hiei couldn't help but notice how the other musician was looking at Kurama. Rather like he'd discovered a rare or delightful treat. Engaging him in conversation. Scooting closer. Kurama was either oblivious to the fact that he was being hit on, or receptive, because he talked back just as eagerly, allowed the movements closer.

This wouldn't be the first time Kurama had flirted with a human, or engaged in a relationship with one. But they all fell apart quickly. Hiei couldn't understand how Kurama could be so dense as to think a human could actually be a long term partner for him, when so much of his life would have to remain forever hidden. That wasn't the way to build a relationship. Hiei knew more about Kurama than any potential ningen partner could ever be permitted to know, so why did Kurama persist in pursuing them?

Or allowing himself to pursued, Hiei thought with a very dark look at the guitarists. Kurama seemed to have completely forgotten his existence. Hiei retreated further into his corner and wondered if there was anything to this human alcohol thing.

He stayed in the corner until he saw Kurama putting his coat on, and was just getting ready to meet him outside and walk home with him, largely for the purpose of giving him grief over the human boy, when none other but the same boy stopped him and talked to him for a minute. And then Kurama nodded and waited while the other boy put his own coat on.

Oh no. No, sorry, that was one thing Hiei was not going to allow, someone else walking Kurama home. He stalked across the room.

And was halted, no more than halfway across, by a hand on his shoulder. He turned around ready to attack the person, but it was Yusuke. "Let him go," Yusuke said.

"Out of my way, detective."

"You're going to lose him if you keep this up."

Hiei was momentarily stunned. By the time he had stopped staring at Yusuke, blinking in confusion, he realized Kurama had already left with that boy. "What?" he finally said, flatly.

"Come outside for a second."

Grudgingly, Hiei followed the detective out into the backyard, empty except for a couple of smokers, whom they bypassed. "Alright, detective, what is it?" Hiei asked impatiently.

"I take it you don't like Kurama leaving without you."

Hiei shrugged. "He's the one who dragged me to this abysmal place."

"Or is it that he was leaving with another guy?"

Hiei snorted. "Please, detective," he said with disdain.

Yusuke rubbed the back of his neck. "Hey, sorry. It's just that Kurama was saying a funny thing to me the other day." Yusuke's voice was carefully casual. "He said that you've never shown any signs of wanting to be in, you know, a relationship with him--except when he tries to date somebody else. And then he says you get obnoxious and are constantly there and bugging him and the other guy and undermine it until the relationship falls apart -- at which point you go back to ignoring him half the time, giving no indication of romantic interest, until he decides to try something again."

Hiei was momentarily stunned. "He said all that?"

"He sure did, and he sounded pissed about it. He said it's like you won't have him, but won't let him have anybody else. I've gotta tell you, Hiei, one of these days soon he's gonna get sick of it."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean he isn't going to put his friendship with you above other relationships anymore. He's going to tell you to shove out and tell the other person to ignore you."

Hiei stood subdued for a moment, trying to imagine his fox treating him that way. He was so surprised by hearing all this - not the least that Kurama had been telling it to Yusuke, not straight to him - that he actually asked, "What do you think I should do?"

"I think you should lay off," Yusuke replied promptly. "You've more than had a chance to be with him, and you've never taken it. So give him some room to breathe. Or make up your mind and go after him, one of the two. Just stop being a pill, 'kay?"

And with that, Yusuke clapped him on the back and vanished back into the party, leaving a subdued and bewildered Hiei behind him.