The Concept of Claiming
Blossomwitch
Rating: K+ or T, I'm not sure...


A hand stroked Kurama's hair. It was an offer of tenderness that he had not expected. When he made no response, the same hand wound its way through the red strands and fisted tightly in them, holding him still.

Kurama remained motionless, something he would have done for no other. But he had identified the light tread as it approached him, and he knew this other bore him no ill will. Threat, yes; there was a threat there. But not malice; not the kind of threat that could be assuaged through battle. Alertness was his only weapon.

So he held himself still as a small body settled close behind his own; held himself still as a bandaged hand came to rest on his abdomen and the other hand, in his hair, pulled until his neck was bare and arched. He even held himself still when razor sharp teeth came to trace the outline of that arch. He made no effort to hide what the touch did to his breathing; the effort would have been wasted on the one behind him.

Only when the teeth would have closed over his neck did he speak. "Hiei--what are you doing."

Hiei's breath was warm on Kurama's neck for several moments before he answered. "You know what I am doing."

Tension hummed through Kurama's body at those words. Hiei chose not to advance. He could have; he could have tried to take what he was after by force, and they could have fought and struggled and finally determined which of them was stronger. But force would have defeated the point of Hiei's actions. This would be a war of words and touches, not of weapons, and Hiei had won the first battle by being allowed to approach, allowed to tangle his hand in Kurama's hair. Now he did not release that hold, but he did wait, hovering near the kitsune's body, for some response.

It came in the form of a small chuckle, not really amused. "I had not known Haru's taunt lodged so deeply in you."

"He spoke the truth. A well aimed barb in the hands of an enemy, but the truth nonetheless. We should have done this years ago."

"And when did you come to that conclusion?"

"About ten minutes after I incinerated him."

"Be fair, Hiei. Yusuke and I helped."

"It should have been me." The hand in Kurama's hair tightened. "It should have been only me. Repossessing something that had been taken from me. Once Haru tried to claim you--then it was my place to kill him."

"I believe that would be my place."

"No, fox." Hiei's voice was quiet, and firm. "I was the one who came to fight for you when you could no longer fight for yourself. I was the one who could find you. I was the one Haru named when he asked why you had not yet been taken. It is my place."

Kurama shifted, trying to relieve the tension on his neck. Hiei resisted him, again tightening his grip in the red hair; and it was a sign of trust that after encountering that resistance, Kurama made no further attempts. He would have allowed no other the intimacy. He had Hiei had an understanding, cultivated carefully over the years: they spoke the truth to each other, whether with their words or with their faces, their bodies, their eyes; and pretense had so little place between them that their social understandings and preconceptions often vanished. Anything that happened now, in this battle, would be taken at face value.

"Would you do this against my will, Hiei?" The kitsune's voice was silky smooth, and this was the next volley, the next skirmish begun.

"No." The hand on Kurama's diaphragm drifted upwards, one finger briefly tracing the line of Kurama's neck, before returning to its former position. "I will wait until you tell me to."

"That permission may not be as forthcoming as you think."

"Don't be a fool. Haru was wrong, to think he could claim you; but he was right to be surprised you were not already claimed. If it helps you, think of it as a preemptive strike. No one can touch you after this. At the very least, let me offer you that protection."

"I do not need it."

"Liar." Hiei's breath was hot and scornful in Kurama's ear. "This is not the first time this has happened, you know it as well as I. It is, by my count, the fifth time since you acquired this form. Karasu was just the tip of the iceberg. Enough is enough, fox. Let me claim you."

"What makes you think," and anger, genuine anger was creeping into Kurama's tone, "what makes you or Haru or anyone think I should be claimed at all? I am not some frail female waiting for a man to defend or protect her, or a youngling dependant on another's grace. I am a warrior to match either you or Haru."

"Yes. But you have left one thing out. You are a warrior, Kurama, you are brave and cunning and dangerous; but you are beautiful." Hiei's voice was soft, and still the night hummed around them with the power of that one word. "Too beautiful. It is your weakness. People want to possess you. You know the ways of demons as well as I do, and we both know this: someday, somehow, whether you will it or no, someone will claim you." A quiet intensity built in Hiei's voice. "So let it be by your choice. Let it be someone who won't shackle you, someone who you can respect. I love you; let it be me."

Kurama turned suddenly, onto his back. His eyes sought Hiei's, looking for a lie that wasn't in them--looking for the reason those three words, so long and carefully guarded, had so suddenly been surrendered. It was a tactical advance on Hiei's part, holding back the admission until it was needed, and it had worked. Kurama's eyes showed that he was considering. He said, "You know what you are asking."

"Yes."

"You are asking me to bear your mark. To let you claim me as you would claim a piece of land. You are asking me to belong to you."

"I said I knew, fox."

"You would not do this if I asked it of you."

Hiei thought for a moment. He had loosened his grip in Kurama's hair to allow Kurama to turn and face him, but now he tightened it again. "I don't know if I would," he admitted. "It's not an issue. No one seeks to claim me; I am the Forbidden Child, and I am not blessed with your beauty."

"Blessed?"

"Cursed, then. The point is, no one has ever tried to claim me against my will and I very much doubt anyone ever will. For you, however, it is a very real concern. You know that once this mark was made no one else would ever be able to touch you, to bind you. It's a matter of whether you trust me enough to do it."

"It's not a matter of trust, Hiei."

"If you love me enough, then."

Kurama's eyes flashed. "It isn't about love, either. You are simply making a strategic strike against future enemies."

Hiei lowered his head, but not his eyes. "Partly. Yes." A pause. "I won't deny that's the reason... the reason I'm finally asking. You are my ally, and I won't see you weakened if I can avoid it. I will offer you whatever protection I can." Another pause. "But that is not the only reason I ask."

Kurama did not speak; neither did he yield. Hiei permitted himself a small sigh, resigned to spelling it out. "Fox, doesn't it seem odd to you that since the moment we met, neither of us has taken a lover? Ten years it's been, and not only that, but there's been no hint of interest in anyone else, from either of us. This was just waiting to happen."

"Mukuro."

The word was spoken with some heat, like a volley, and Hiei stared in blank amazement. "You thought..." Kurama's eyes showed that yes, he had thought, and Hiei slowly shook his head. "Like... Shiori. Or Yukina. Not like you. Never, anyone like you," he added softly. "I thought you knew that."

Again, Kurama probed Hiei's eyes for lies that were not there; again, Hiei met his gaze guilelessly. After a moment Kurama seemed to believe him, but he did not speak. So it was up to Hiei to advance again. "I know there hasn't been anyone else for you. I don't know that I'm the reason for that, but I think I'm at least part of it. Or do you like being alone? Because I don't."

"I enjoy belonging to myself, yes. I enjoy my freedom to belong to whom I would choose."

"Is there another that you would prefer do this, then? Give me the name and I'll bring him to you, I'll put a sword to his neck for leaving you unprotected so long. At least let me do that for you. I won't force myself on you, but I won't see you claimed against your will."

"You would, if you brought another to me," Kurama said darkly. "There is no other I would even consider, and you knew that before you spoke. But if I do this--I can never again--death does not even fully dissolve this bond, Hiei. We should not do this because our enemy taunted us into it, and we should not do it in haste."

He would have turned his head away at that, but a bandaged hand came up against the side of his face, lightly touching his cheek, holding him in place far more effectively than the hand in his hair. "I would have asked you years ago," Hiei said softly, "if I'd thought there was a chance you would say yes."

Silence again fell between them. Hiei no longer could guess what Kurama was searching his eyes for, but he didn't look away. "Why do you want this," Kurama murmured.

Hiei stared. "I've told you, fox. If I do this, no one can cla--"

"That's a reason for me to want it, not you. You're not so self-sacrificing. So tell me why you want it."

Hiei swallowed. The eyes watching his left no room for evasion. "Because I love you."

The jade eyes softened, but the voice was firm. "Is that all?"

"Why should I list my other reasons? You won't listen to them. And they're all one reason, anyway. If I didn't love you, I wouldn't care if you were taken away from me, I wouldn't care if it was against your will or not. I wouldn't want to protect you from all these things that might harm you; not physically, because I know you're stronger than that, but where your vulnerability is... in your mind, where these people play with you. I wouldn't want to murder them in the most excruciating ways I can think of and hang their entrails as a warning to anyone who even thinks of touching you. I wouldn't want to throw myself off a cliff at the merest thought that you couldn't love me, that you would turn away from me, hold yourself back, refuse to give yourself to me because it's the only damned thing I've ever wanted." Hiei drew a breath. "Say no to me and I'll never ask you again, Kurama, but you have to know that this isn't because of them."

Kurama's eyes had gone wide at the mention of the cliff, and he had given a little gasp; now, when Hiei paused to draw breath again, Kurama's hand reached up and tangled in the black coarse hair, in a mimicry of what Hiei had done earlier. He opened his mouth to ask a question, but no words came out. Hiei stared down at him, and his eyes were wild and frightened, but unwilling to flee.

Then, in that moment of vulnerability, one of them moved. Or both of them did. At least one, though neither could have said if it was himself, for suddenly their lips were pressed together though their eyes were still locked. The kiss was like everything else between them, void of pretense or preconception. In that moment the yield came, and they both knew it. When their lips parted Kurama turned his head to the side, this time outlining his neck of his own accord, and Hiei swept his hair off his shoulders.

Hiei bit once lightly, in warning; Kurama again tangled his hands into Hiei's hair. Then, permission given, Hiei bit with all his strength. Kurama cried out, and convulsed, as his energy was stripped away from him. It would come back, eventually, but until then he was weak and at the mercy of the one who claimed him, and when it returned it would be molded, reshaped, and no longer completely his own.

When the claiming was complete Kurama lay spent and shivering, wide eyed and silent and too weak to even lift his head. Hiei lifted it for him; he sat cross legged, and set Kurama's head in his lap, and stroked his hair in silence until the dawn.


A/N: (actually A/C, author's complaints): Why, oh why do my muses have to do this to me at three in the morning? I've been working on this story forever, they could have chosen anytime to finally work with me on it, but noooo, it has to be now... anyway, hope it was understandable.