Disclaimer: If I owned them, these would be scripts, not prose.

Title: Thank You
Rating: K
Pairing: Hiei x Botan
Warnings: (full-fledged AU)

Notes: This just a little something I thought about while writing JON. This particular one-shot is set in a time when Hiei did not go to the Makai to serve Mukuro. Instead, his "community service hours" were completed, and Koenma deemed him able to go back to the Makai. In other words, Hiei was released. He's no longer bound to Ningenkai. Only, once he leaves, he can't come back.

Summary: Thank you, she thinks, is safe, and says everything she wants to without really saying much at all.

At 3:36 on a Tuesday afternoon, Botan touches down in front of the portal to the Makai.

She's early, she knows, but the others will be late so she'll compensate for their flaws. After all, that's what team members do, right? For now, while she waits, she'll sit on the bench in the park they've dubbed their meeting place, and watch the moving portraits of life.

Kurama, Yuusuke and Kuwabara arrive at 3:41. They're still in their uniforms, slightly out of breath. School ended only forty-one short minutes ago.

While they wait for their missing teammate, the three schoolboys catch up. Missions are rare commodities and they laughingly joke about the monotony in normality.

Botan sits to the side, wonders what she'll say to him, when he gets here. He's leaving today, and this time, it's for keeps.

She can't say be careful. She knows he won't listen anyway, and really, that world is dangerous, and words like that won't help when he's fighting for his life. He's too stubborn, too set in his ways to change now and actually display some caution.

Goodbye is out of the question. It's too permanent, too unending. Goodbye means I'll never see you again, and Botan can't—won't—believe that. He's become a fixture in whatever it is she's living, and though she knows that even his centuries upon centuries of being will be nothing but a footnote in the book of her life, she wants him there, needs to remember that he was alive.

She knows that later, when they're all gone, when he's gone, the years he was with her will be the only ones she ever truly lived.

The last option is so ridiculous, it's laughable and so banal and Botan is anything but that.

She can't say stay.

Stay means that she wants him. Stay means that she needs him like she needs air. Stay means she sees perfection in his imperfections. Stay means that she's built him a room in her heart, and that it's there in case he ever gets tired of running. Stay means all those things she's always wanted to say to him, but can't because he won't let her.

Stay means she loves him.

In the end, she settles on thank you. He's done a lot for Ningenkai during his short stay here, and his help to Yuusuke has been invaluable. Thank you, she thinks, is safe, and says everything she wants to without really saying much at all.

So later, when the boys have said their goodbyes and gone their separate ways, later when it's just the two of them, she has the chance to say everything she needs to.

Thank you, Hiei.

He watches her for a while afterward, eyes narrowed in thought. After a few silent moments, he unties the headband from around his forehead and hands it to her wordlessly.

I won't need it where I'm going.

Then, he's gone, a blur into the portal before it fizzles out and disappears.

She watches the spot where he stood for a while after he's gone. Then, she summons her oar and flies away.

She knows he heard everything she wanted to say.

This came to me when I was writing Chapter Three of Just One Night. Hope you enjoyed and please review!