A/N: This story is going to skip around time wise, so be prepared. Also the updates will be slow as most chapters will be quite long and I'm working on another story, but I couldn't hold this idea off any longer. Hope you enjoy.
Chapter One: What Has to be Done
It was cold on Hanging Neck Island. But not cold enough to account for Kurama's shivering as he walked down the beach, seeking out a familiar energy. He knew that Yusuke was in his room, and that he should have gone to the poor boy, consoled him over his mentor's death, done something to get him ready for the final battle with Toguro tomorrow. But he had his own battle to think about.
Which is why he was out here, stubbornly tracking down the energy that was hopping from place to place about the island--now at the place where Toguro had killed Genkai, now at the stadium, now at the beach where he seemed to have settled for a moment. It was unlike Hiei to be so restless before a battle.
Kurama made sure Hiei could both feel and hear him approaching before intruding on him; in this restless state he wouldn't want to startle the other demon. As a result, Hiei didn't even look up from rebandaging his arm when Kurama came up behind him. "Your wards are getting stronger," Kurama observed. "Are you sure you will be able to control the power you have unleashed?"
"Don't have a choice, do I?" Hiei responded.
So typically Hiei. And yet true--none of them had a choice, or they wouldn't be here. Hiei would master his dragon, Yusuke would defeat Toguro, Kuwabara would control his spirit sword, and Kurama--would overcome what had brought him here to Hiei tonight. All because they had to.
"You're trembling," Hiei observed. There was an odd flatness in his voice. "Are you so afraid to die?"
"It is not death I fear."
"What is it, then?"
"Karasu," Kurama answered quietly.
Hiei turned to look at his friend. "What has he done to you?"
Kurama had never felt so weak in his life as when he answered. "Only words. And an unwanted touch. But they were enough."
Hiei grunted and turned back around. They were silent for several minutes, staring out at the rolling tide. "What do you want, fox," Hiei asked softly.
"Who says I want anything?"
"You do. You reek of it. Tell me what you want."
Kurama felt himself tremble even more. What he was about to do was another thing he would not have done if he had any choice in the matter. He carefully lowered himself to the sand next to Hiei. "I came here tonight," he began, "to ask a favor of you. An enormous favor. That only you can grant to me."
"What is it?"
"Let me explain first."
Kurama clenched his fists tightly. "Karasu has--has unnerved me. Completely and utterly. I cannot face him tomorrow."
There was silence for a moment. "You have to," Hiei said.
"I know. That is why I need your help."
"It's a bit late for training, fox."
"I am confident of my physical strength. The potion will be enough for that. It is my emotional strength that has been shattered. Karasu frightens me, Hiei," he confessed. "I feel like if he defeated me he would not kill me... he would keep me. He frightens me in a way no other ever has. I do not like feeling like his prey; yet a part of me is drawn to him." Hiei looked up sharply, and Kurama hung his head. "He must know me well to pinpoint my weakness so exactly. I cannot... cannot fight him. Not on my own. I have no strength left."
Hiei sat silent, waiting to see what his friend would ask of him. "I feel hunted," Kurama continued. "And I feel alone. I need to not feel those things." Kurama swallowed. "Hiei--I wanted to ask you to be with me tonight."
Hiei's eyes widened. He said nothing. "Just for tonight," Kurama continued, looking miserable. "I need you. I need your familiarity, your comfort. I need to remember that you loved me once. If I could be with you-- it would break the spell Karasu's holding over me. I need your strength this one more time."
Hiei turned away from him, facing the ocean. "But all that's been finished and done with, fox," he said hoarsely.
"And I do not seek to start it again. I am asking you as a friend, Hiei. To give me something only you can give, because you were once my lover. I need to remember. And I do not expect you to agree," he added quieter. "But I had no choice but to ask."
They sat in silence for a long moment. Kurama watched Hiei, and Hiei watched the ocean. After a moment Kurama bent his head. "I'll go if you wish."
There was more silence. Then Hiei stood. "There's a cave near here," he said, not looking at Kurama. "I've been sleeping there some of the time. We can go there."
Kurama lifted his head. "Then--"
Hiei nodded. "For old time's sake." He held a hand down to help lift Kurama to his feet.
"Thank you, Hiei," Kurama said, his eyes shining.
Hiei nodded. "I can give you one night."
"One night," Kurama agreed. "One night is all I need." They left unspoken between them the rest of Hiei's statement: one night, or everything would fall apart again; one night, or they would remember too much, feel too much. One night--because they had to.