At Moonrise
A/N: Thanks to NyteKit and Reihime for helping me decide which version of this fic to post. I owe you guys. :)

Evening fell quietly over the temple. The ice maiden sat in her customary spot, the balcony outside the room that had been hers for decades beyond recall. She faced the forest, for there was nothing in the room that could interest her now; the patterns of her life had repeated and simplified until every action was thoughtless, every thought familiar, every object worn to the shape of her hands or her feet or her body. Now, she sat in the chair that had also, over the years, taken on the countours of her body, and waited for the moonrise.

The night was quiet around her, full of its own grandeur and largely unnoticing of her attention. Wind whistled through the faraway forest, causing a gentle rustle of leaves to reach her ears, but no wind touched her face. Her face, which was largely unchanged from the face it had been a hundred years ago; the face she had been constrained to hide from the public as Kuwabara's health had declined, fearful of being mistaken for his daughter or niece. The face that many had puzzled over at the funeral, curious as to what relation she was. Only the children and grandchildren knew; for Kuwabara had lived for a long time, and when he had finally passed on all his friends were either dead themselves, or long since vanished in the mists of the Makai.

Yet Yukina had caught glimpses of men, young like her--which meant in the body only--standing, half visible behind the trees, as they burried Kuwabara. She had not spoken to them, and they had not spoken to her. She had made her choice long ago.

And yet.

At first she had still been content, without her husband. There were the children, after all, who knew her, and the grandchildren who were just beginning to. There was the temple to maintain, the work of helping peaceful demons to be continued. But others were growing strong in that work, and gradually taking it over; and Yukina let them, for it was the way of things to grow and change and pass into different hands.

The children grew older, and visited less often, concerned as they were with their own lives. There were bills to pay, jobs to be worked, relationships to manage. The grandchildren, too, grew up and married and had children in their turn; but rarely if ever did the slim young woman still living in the temple get to see those children, for the trip was long, and the parents busy, and the explanation complicated if they should come. She did not ask for them.

Life at the temple flowed around her, for it was changing and she was not, and to those who lived and worked there it was like Yukina was a part of the temple herself. They smiled at her as they passed her in the hallways, and never dreamed that she was lonesome, and never dreamed that she would leave. They never dreamed that she, too, could dream.

The moon was now clear of the mountains. Yukina stood and walked to the edge of the balcony. She stood there thinking for a moment, listening to the quiet of the night as the moonlight painted her in tones of blue and silver. Then she spoke. "Please, if you can hear me," she said quietly. "If you are still listening. I want to come home. Please--come and get me."

The words hung in the air, small and crystalline, like so many snowflakes. Yukina doubted very much that they had been heard. But she still clung, in some still innocent part of her soul, to the memory of a promise that had been made years ago. Something still made her believe that there was a chance she had been heard. Even so, when she sat again it was to quietly wait out the remainder of the night; for she knew even if her words had been heard it would take time for them to be acted on.

Motionless again, she sat calm and still as she sat through so many of the nights now, and let the memory of that other night wash over her. It had been cold then, too, as it was now. She had sat in this very chair, and a slim red-haired young man had stood with her on the balcony, taking his leave of her before he returned to Makai. He had expressed concern over leaving her alone in the human world; they had discussed the inevitability of Kuwabara's death, and he had offered to come for her at that time, but she had declined. Then he had taken her hand in his, and left her speechless with his next words:

"Though he may not reveal himself to you, your brother loves you and watches over you. He looks in on you each night as the moon is rising. If you should ever need anything, you have only to ask. If you should ever wish to leave, or to have one of us come to you, speak it at the rising of the moon." And then he had gone.

Yukina had no way of knowing if his words were true. For the first few years she had believed it, and a pause had swept over her each night with the first sliver of moonlight. She had spoken, a few times: quietly said I love you and I miss you to the moonlight. There had never been any response.

Now, decades later, she doubted that her brother still watched her; she did not even know if he was still alive. He had certainly made no effort to contact her; but then, he never had. She had tried to contact Kurama once, nearly seven years ago, to ask him--but the fox had proved elusive. He must have been aware of her initial anger, that he refused to tell her the identity he was so obviously privy to, but that anger had faded within months of his leaving. Makai, however, was an ever changing world, and Kurama had slipped through the cracks of it. Yusuke, too--in fact, the the only one of her old friends she had been able to locate was Hiei, who still lived and worked with Mukuro. He had told her irritably that he had no idea where to find Kurama.

He had been lying, of course. She knew that, though she had given no indication of it. Kurama, in particular Kurama's hair, always gave off a pleasant scent compounded of roses and death seeds and other green and growing things, a distinct scent that could be neither mistaken nor reproduced. That scent had been firmly entrenched in Hiei's room at Mukuro's palace, and so strong on his hands that she had been willing to bet they had touched Kurama's hair within a day of her asking. She had not asked further when he denied knowing Kurama's whereabouts. She knew that he must have some reason for not telling her, just as Kurama had some reason for not telling her of her brother's identity. She had simply returned to human world.

A soft rush of displaced air took Yukina away from her musings. She opened her eyes to find Hiei perched on the balcony rail. She blinked several times, wondering if her eyes were playing tricks on her; he blinked back at her.

"Hiei?" she said uncertainly.

He blinked again. "You said you wanted to go home." His voice was as deep as she remembered.

"Yes, I did." Yukina stared at him. "How did you know?"

Hiei's Jagan flashed once, purple under the ward. "Didn't Kurama tell you I would be watching?"

Yukina only realized a moment later, when she became lightheaded, that she had stopped breathing. "Yes," she said, after her sudden intake of breath. "Yes... he did."

"Then why are you so surprised?" A deep voice, yes, but gentler than she remembered it, and he still smelled like roses and death. "Get your things."

Yukina rose, her face shining in the moonlight. "I thought you might not have still been watching, after all these years. I thought you might have forgotten me."

Hiei shook his head impatiently. "I said every moonrise. I mean what I say."

Yukina took two steps closer, and placed a hand on the side of Hiei's face. He stiffened slightly, eyes widening slightly in surprise. "Kurama never told me you were the one watching," Yukina said gently. "He only told me that my brother loved me, and watched over me, and if I spoke at moonrise he would hear me."

Hiei went stiffer. His eyes said he knew that he was caught. "That wasn't what I told him to say," he snapped.

"Please don't be angry with him," Yukina beseeched. "He only changed the message a little. And it didn't really matter; it was you watching either way. Brother--" Hiei's eyes met hers, more naked than she had ever seen them, and she put her other hand to his face, gently framing it. "Brother--take me home."


A/N: Okay, I know the slash crept in there even though this wasn't supposed to be about that... but this is me, guys.You know I can't help myself. Right? ;)