A/N: hints of shounen-ai. You have been warned. I also don't own Hiei, Kurama or the aster mentioned in this fic. And if you were reading this in the hope that I really do own it, boy, do you need that appointment at the shrink's.
The language of flowers.
'What are you doing, fox?'
Kurama didn't turn around; he already knew the short youkai was standing behind him. Even with his presence masked, Hiei couldn't sneak up on him, not here. 'Listening,' he said lightly, blocking the other sounds out to concentrate on the conversation.
Hiei tilted his head. If he had been the type, he would have cocked an eyebrow. 'To what? There's not much to listen to here.'
Kurama looked around them at the serene park. He had a few in and around the city that he visited, but this park was his favourite. It was originally a noble but misguided attempt at making an otherwise 'rough' area more attractive to buyers – misguided, because the rest of the neighbourhood was in such condition that one would have to be blind, deaf, broke and suicidal to even consider living there. The park had been a dilapidated, shoddy affair when he first saw it; a few tentative plants struggling through hard, cement-choked soil and a bench or two (with a few boards missing). After someone (naming no names) had begun visiting, the plants had suddenly blossomed and become stronger; all sorts of seeds that the park's sole gardener (unofficially retired) had planted in a rare fit of energy sprouted – some months after they had been planted – and grew at an alarming rate; and pests stayed away if they knew what was good for them. In less than a year, it had become a lush, colourful park, and the thick, high wall of brambles that had mysteriously sprung up and which absolutely refused to stay pruned ensured that no-one really used it.
Except for one reincarnated fox.
Kurama looked up curiously at Hiei from where he lay sprawled on the grass, his hands supporting him, legs stretched out. 'You really can't hear them?' he said, genuinely taken aback. Hiei had a Jagan after all, he had to be more open to these influences than most others, human or youkai.
The fox waved a hand, indicating the place they were in. 'Them. The plants. I can barely hear you over their chatter.' He looked more closely at Hiei's expressionless face and his eyes widened slightly in surprise. 'You really can't hear them, can you.'
Hiei shrugged. 'Haven't tried.'
Hiei considered that seriously for a whole minute. He had never used the Jagan for any purpose that didn't involve death, destruction or mayhem – in fact, he preferred a healthy combination of all three in an ideal situation. And he certainly hadn't thought about talking to plants with it. Still, it was worth a try. 'Hn.'
Kurama smiled. Hiei's grunts were as complex as the average language. This one was maybe with haven't thought of it and you better not laugh if you know what's good for you. 'Open up, then,' he said. 'Nobody's here to see.'
Hiei reached up and tugged the headband loose, freeing his third eye, which flared to life on his forehead. Everything sprang into sharp relief –the hundred tiny movements of insects in the leaves, the suddenly-too-loud sounds of the city, birdsong, the ebb and flow of Kurama's aura, the cool, smooth feel of his mind. Gently, Kurama warned him. When had Hiei reached out to him? Listen to the flowers. You have to concentrate.
Fox, he said impatiently. As if he needed advice from someone else on how to use his jagan. Shut up and let me listen.
And listen he did.
Slowly, softly, a whisper filled the air, as subtle as the lightest touch of wind. Hiei's normal eyes closed, his brow furrowing slightly as he sought that elusive breath of sound. Kurama watched carefully as the jaganshi tried to hear what was so clear to him.
The whisper steadied, became louder, clearer, fractured words and images, like the mind of a child except for the clarity and maturity of their emotions. Hiei hadn't thought that plants could feel, but they did. Sun dawn happy red-eyes unfold quiet calm petal unfold peaceful insect insect worried insect sap stem fold sway dance move wind fox wind sweet fox who? who are you? listen urgent mind eyes red-eyes who? insect sad sun morning soon soon quickly sap draw feed inhale happy happy air wind fox
Hiei's eyes shot open – all three of them – to meet Kurama's, green with hints of gold. The fox watched him with amusement, wonder and understanding.
'It takes a while,' he said. 'Then you can hear each one individually.' Slender, careful fingers wrapped around the stem of an aster next to him. 'Try this one.'
Hiei focused on the aster, and with a psychic click he heard its delicate mind-voice. For a second he thought he had only picked up on one thought because all he could hear was foxfoxfoxlookatmefoxwatchmegrowfoxfoxflowerfoxsunwarmwindfoxcoolfoxredfox, ecstatic. Then Kurama smiled, brilliantly, and Hiei saw the energy the fox was feeding the aster. He could feel the emotions in the plant, alien but familiar – joy, warmth, love, directed at the red-haired spirit master who was helping it grow.
'It……' he trailed off, knowing the end of that sentence and feeling too foolish to say it. He encouraging look Kurama gave him bolstered his courage. 'It loves you.'
'Mmm.' Kurama's aura flared briefly, and he looked vaguely embarrassed. 'This place was a wreck before I found it, you know. Too much pollution, too little care. I cleaned it up a bit, helped everything grow; they like me for it. It's a good place to go to when I want to think.'
Now that Hiei knew, it was easy to feel the aura of this place. It was filled with Kurama's energy, intense and gentler than the weaponry that Hiei had seen him use. It was obvious why he came here; with the amount of spirit energy he had to have expended to construct this entire garden, it would feel exactly like Kurama himself, as familiar and comfortable as an old nightshirt. And for the plants………
As Kurama's energy extended through the small park, Hiei could feel a rising chorus of foxfoxfox! in the air. They were calling him, Hiei realised; clamouring for his attention. It reminded him oddly of how children in a large family behaved with a parent.
'The acacias, they're greedy,' Kurama said with a smile Hiei hadn't quite seen before. 'Never let the smaller ones have enough. I have to go do those personally.' Kurama's eyes slid slowly shut as he felt the park around him come alive, foxfoxfoxfox from all the trees.
'Fox…' Hiei said. The red-haired man looked at him. '…never mind.'
Exactly like a family.
Hiei hadn't really thought about Kurama and his plants. What he did with his seeds when he wasn't using them to fight or heal, what they thought when he used them, how he took care of them, what he thought of them. He fought, he healed, seed turned into big plant, plant turned into seed, whatever. It wasn't his problem, since he had no intention of being on the other end of Kurama's arsenal – the fox fought with many strategies and no scruples whatsoever – a dangerous combination. But now he was seeing a side of Kurama that he was possibly the only one to know about.
Tugging the headband over his jagan, Hiei turned away abruptly, relieved at the sudden silence in the park, although he could still hear faint echoes of the plants' voices. He could feel Kurama's curious eyes on his back, but he didn't turn back to meet them. That would reveal too much. 'You going to spend all night here, fox?'
'Morning, you mean,' Kurama corrected. He sat back down as he had before, leaning back against one of the trees, relaxed.
'Probably,' Kurama said. 'I don't need to sleep and I have school in four hours. I might even get some homework done, the light's enough now.' He gestured at his schoolbag, which was lying on the grass next to him.
Hiei made another noise that held equal amounts of you're crazy and whatever and turned to leave. Sentimental rubbish. He had no time to waste on this.
Kurama's voice was softer than it usually was, and Hiei froze completely for several seconds, his mind caught so off guard that it went completely silent, and all he could hear was foxfoxfox.
Then he huffed and stalked back to Kurama and sprang up onto a branch of the tree the fox was resting against, settling his small frame comfortably on the smooth wood. He was at a convenient angle, where he could see the sunrise that had just begun, glowing red in the east and inky black in the west if he was inclined to look that way; and he only needed to shift his eyes a bit to see Kurama's brilliant crimson hair ten feet or so below him. 'There. Happy now, fox?'
Kurama smiled and nodded.
A/N: Well, that's technically the first YYH fanfic I wrote. Writer's block medicine - lots of anime and HK goodness! My, I needed that. Maybe I'll even be able to handle the challenge fics now. So, read and review.