Title: Just One Night
Pairing: Hiei x Botan
Genre: Romance
Warnings: (slightly AU; OOC) Warnings and rating will increase with the next chapter.
Summary: One night, they'd agreed. Just one night to forget the blood, the darkness, the scent of death that hung over them all.

IMPORTANT NOTES: The words that are centered and italicized indicate the location and the time of the "action" that follow. Until there's a new italicized and centered group of words, the events that follow take place in the same time and place, regardless of the dividers. The first section of this particular chapter takes place in the "present," as does the section that follows it. The third section is where the time shift begins. Sorry, but this was the only way I could think of to make it clear, aside from using all italics (as is the custom for flashbacks) for most of the chapter. I hope that clears everything up. In addition, there are some discrepancies in this story. For example, I know that Botan was in the room with Keiko and the other girls when Genkai died. But for the purposes of this story, I ask you to please disregard that and any others you may find. This story has been labeled slightly AU for those reasons. Any other questions, please just ask.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

And without further ado...


Ningenkai

They had been a mistake.

One night, they'd agreed. Just one night to forget the blood, the darkness, the scent of death that hung over them all...

It was mostly for her benefit, of course. He had seen enough carnage to last several lifetimes. One tournament, Dark or not, was hardly more than a notch under his worn, leather belt. But she had been willing, eyes soft, lips flavored by (but infinitely more intoxicating than) demon wine, and her hips had been insistent.

He was strong, but in the face of such temptation, he had crumbled, as easily as any other red-blooded, male being in any of the three worlds.

It was just his luck that the one time he had chosen to let down his defenses, the one time he'd lowered his guard, Fate had stepped in and "gifted" him with a sucker punch even his battle-honed body could not withstand.


Reikai

Three months of this.

For three months, she had walked around in a daze, eyes shifting in and out of focus.

Oh, she hid it well enough when she was on the job. Koenma had no reason to complain in that department. The souls she was assigned were always led to the right destination, her assistance in marking his paperwork was, as always, efficient, and he did not notice anything amiss in her interaction with the other spiritual beings in Reikai.

Botan thanked whatever deity was listening to her for small favors.

She was in her room, musing over the state of her affairs—or rather, her one affair. There hadn't been many cases for Yuusuke lately so there was no reason for her to be hanging around Ningenkai. She had no urge to join the other ferry girls in their lounge, swapping stories about their latest romantic endeavors. Not when she couldn't get over what was supposed to be—what did they call it?—a one-night stand.

She supposed it was her own doing. After all, if she remembered correctly, he seemed to have no problem absorbing the brutality around them...


Three months prior, on Kubikukuri Island; Ankoku Bujutsukai

It was all too much.

Botan stumbled over a tree branch as she continued her walk through the forest on the island. A few months ago, she would never have imagined the immense amount of change that one accidental death would have on her life. Now, here she was, on an island filled with hostile demons and human crime lords, watching the few friends she had fight for all of their lives.

And now, Genkai...

Genkai was dead.

No matter how difficult it was to accept, she was gone.

And Botan could not help feeling a little bit responsible.

It wasn't the first time she had felt this way. She was the Grim Reaper; her purpose was to ferry souls over the River Styx and into Reikai for their final judgment. But carrying Genkai on her oar was heart-wrenching. She couldn't help feeling guilty for doing her job. And even though Genkai had teased her on the way, told her that what was done was done, that she expected it, knew it would happen, Botan still felt drained when she touched down in front of the palace. She'd left Genkai there, after a last tearful smile and the latter's heartfelt conviction that Yuusuke would grant her all the vengeance she needed.

Toguro...

She hated that name. It was his fault she'd had to fly Genkai to Spirit World, his fault she'd died alone, his fault Yuusuke was so torn up, his fault they were called to the Tournament, his fault Yukina cried her first hiruseki stones...

His fault that she was walking through the dense forest, crying, worrying about whether their team would live through tomorrow.

After a few more moments of quiet reflection, Botan found herself in front of Hotel Kubikukuri. She was tired, but she didn't want to go back to the room she shared with the other girls. She was reasonably certain that Shizuru already knew about Genkai's death, but lying to Keiko and Yukina was something she wasn't sure she had enough strength for. The boys were probably training for the Finals, and she be darned if she'd interrupt that. Her eyes roved over the few bodies still in the lobby, until they stopped on the bar on the other side.

Maybe a drink was exactly what she needed to forget.


Hiei flitted from branch to branch, deep in thought.

Genkai was dead.

He wasn't usually given to foolish displays of sentimentality; he found them useless, and lacking in purpose. What was done was done, and there was no point in mourning what could not be changed. Regardless of what others may have called his cold dismissal of her demise, Hiei respected Genkai. She had been a formidable ally, and she had been an undeniably powerful warrior. Her techniques had won them victory against the Ichigaki team, and her battle instincts had served them just as well in the matches against Team Uraotogi.

He allowed his musings to continue until he reached the balcony of the room he shared with Kurama, Yuusuke and Kuwabara. Judging from the silence in the room, he guessed that no one else was around. Kurama was probably devising a strategy for his match. There was no sign of the idiot. Just as he was beginning to wonder about the whereabouts of his leader, a faint blue light outside answered his question.

Yuusuke's spirit energy. And it had increased dramatically from the amount he'd possessed when facing Jin.

He looked at his right arm and clenched his fist.

The Dragon had not been tamed easily. But Hiei knew better than anyone that harnessing its power was the best chance he had at victory against in his match against Toguro's team.

He stared for a moment at the comfortable bed, weighed the pros and cons of sleeping. A moment later, decision was made.

This time, the latch on the window was unneeded, shutters thrown wide into the inky, night sky.

He met the others on a small ledge on the side of a cliff. Yuusuke was still somber, though, Hiei noted, most of his sadness had turned into anger. An anger that he knew would serve their leader well in the fight tomorrow. Emotions were Yuusuke's most effective catalyst. Once he lost control, the fight would be theirs. Closer to the wall of rock, Kurama stood hidden in the shadow, calmly observing the scene. There was conviction in the fox's eye, one that set Hiei's earlier anxiety about Karasu's attack to ease. He knew that Kurama would beat Karasu or die trying. From the look on his friend's face, it seemed that he may have stumbled across a way to prevent the latter and ensure the former. He turned to observe Kuwabara, who was blathering on about his "new-and-improved" Spirit Sword. For his sake, Hiei hoped that he had improved his talents. After a few moments of "pep-talk," he left them. None of them said it, but it was quite possible that tonight would be the last night of their lives. No amount of time talking about strategy would ever change that. Kurama, after reminding Hiei that their room door was unlocked, went off with Yuusuke in the direction of the hotel entrance, the latter meeting his woman near the door. Kuwabara muttered something about practice and went into the forest, presumably to test his strength before going to sleep.


Botan had consumed half a bottle of wine and a few shots of whiskey by herself before self-preservation had decided to rear out its long-overdue head. The ferry girl was tipsy as she made her way out of the bar, only stopping briefly to pay her tab. She walked out of the bar, barely noticing a familiar redhead watching from the shadows. Kurama thought briefly of accompanying her to ensure her safety, and started out of his seat. Before he could make a move towards her, he saw Hiei walk through the lobby door. He would see to her.

Botan took the elevator up to the tenth floor, where they were staying. Hazily, she made her way down the hall and She didn't notice the unfamiliar plant "sniffing" around her as she took off her sneakers. Nor did the fact that the room smelled of aftershave and cologne—as opposed to body spray and perfume—hit her.

As she curled up in what she thought was her own bed, the only thing that registered was the comforting scent of forest.

Like the trees at Genkai's temple...


He was still restless; the bed in their hotel room seemed less and less appealing. Instead, he found himself at the bar, nursing a tall flagon of demon mead. The liquid slowly burnt its way down his throat, and he found himself savoring it. It was a link to the Makai, and, as brutal as it was there, it was home and his drink was a piece of it. After one more—enough to warm him up, but not enough to inebriate—he made his way back to the hotel room and slipped inside, careful to avoid setting off Kurama's alarm plants. Apparently, none of the others were back yet. Hiei shrugged it off, shook off his boots and set his katana down. His cloak went next, flung haphazardly over the maroon sofa. He stripped off his shirt, and dropped it on the floor, as he made his way to his bed.

That was when he noticed that something was not quite right.


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