A/N: remember I'd said I'd be open to new prompt sets? Well, the amazing, amazing Blossomwitch sent me one, and here they are. Enjoy. And more are welcome!
He prided himself on his calmness and discipline, but really, if Yusuke teased him once more about being pissy because Hiei was in Alaric, he was not responsible for the consequences.
Hiei was a brilliant fighter, but he had no sense of tactics beyond himself; when he, Mukuro and Kurama discussed tactics for the purpose and organisation of defense forces on the borders, he fought them point for point until he realised that the policies they advocated were on a larger scale than he had had the chance to think on before.
Kurama loved teasing Hiei, partly because he enjoyed aggravating him, but partly because he knew how much effort it took for Hiei to accept any kind of friendship or extend any intimacy towards anyone, and this was the simplest way to show that he appreciated him for it.
4. Bed head
Kurama's hair looked ridiculous in the morning; there were horrible tangles in it and the whole thing stood at funny angles on his head, and Hiei had to put up with him whining about how his youko hair was easier to manage every single day.
Well, Hiei thought, getting him jailed was a rather efficient way of saying goodbye.
It was hushed, silent, peaceful here – quite the wrong place to meet an informant, all things considered, but Kurama had slipped into the shadows already, waiting for Hiei to finish his work, and mentioning such foolishness was unthinkable.
'How nice of your friend to bring you chicken soup, dear,' Shiori said brightly, and Kurama bit his tongue in time to stop himself saying that it wasn't exactly chicken in there.
'I thought you were some sort of hot-shot thief; so why don't you have any money here?' Hiei demanded, and Kurama laughed and replied that he had enough in Makai currency to buy himself a small country, but things were different for humans, and it was hard for a pre-teen boy to fence gold without attracting attention.
'This,' Hiei seethed, 'is the last time you ever drag me to one of that idiot's parties,' and Kurama found it hilarious how offended he sounded, and all over a little alcohol.
Mukuro watched her heir's face as he watched Kurama battle for his life, and wondered whether she should be insulted that he thought so little of her intelligence as to claim that he would not desert her for his friends.
They knew each other better than anyone else did, but they were careful to respect the need for distance; being together when one was in a foul mood almost always provoked an endless series of small bitter wars.
It always amused Kurama that Hiei fulfilled his duties around Alaric with such dedication after boasting for years that no one had the power to order him around.13. Entropy
It was almost idiotically romantic, the way something in him seemed to blossom and warm when he felt Hiei's presence nearing.
Sometimes, Hiei reminded him of nothing more than a feral animal – something gone wild and harsh and distrustful, but within which a desperate sort of hope and a pathetic trust still lingered, glimpsed briefly in red eyes before it was wilfully buried in the despair of centuries…
And so maybe he was a little more generous with his resources and his aid, and maybe he let him a little too close, but Kurama had been there himself – though jaded, not despairing, and cruel, not hopeful – and perhaps he could be the connection Hiei needed to return to his true self, as Shiori had been his.
Nothing was real about Kurama, his smile was as calculated as his fighting; it took a long time for Hiei to trust that his affection for him was genuine.
As his human form grew older and more powerful, Kurama's heartbeat changed to the infinitely slow pace of a youkai, and it left Hiei strangely reassured; perhaps they weren't so different underneath it all.
Kurama had a hunter's instinct for knowing where Hiei was – especially when he needed to be found.
He knew it would take a tremendous effort to pull them out of the comfortable inertia of not-quite-friendship, and so his offer was blunt, comprehensive and unambiguous – and Hiei's wide eyes, he decided, were sufficient proof that he'd pushed them out of rest, at least; where they went now wasn't up to him anymore.
It went against both their instincts to trust, to need, to follow, and yet they found themselves capable of it.
Kurama woke up one morning to find that little jade dancer he'd stolen from Alaric gone, and Hiei smirking, and he reflected woefully that perhaps he shouldn't have been teaching him so many tricks.
'We,' Yusuke said menacingly, grabbing his arm in an iron grip, 'are going to have a long talk about you and a certain fox we both know,' and Hiei began to wonder if running away after a fight was a judicious course of action if this was the kind of retaliation Kurama came up with.
'Here,' Hiei said irritably, 'Mukuro told me to give you a key already and stop embarrassing her security,' and Kurama smiled demurely and took it.
Of course, he still broke in sometimes, just to keep himself amused, and because Mukuro was so much more satisfying to match wits with than Hiei, who simply understood.
'WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS THIS?!?' Hiei roared from the bedroom, and Kurama cringed as he realised that Hiei had probably discovered those music videos of them he'd downloaded.
To this day, Kurama wonders why the momentum of the Shadow Sword slowed ever so slightly before it cut through him, how conscious that was – and how conscious the decision to spare his life, when the slightest twist of Hiei's wrist would have ended everything.
Kurama never used drugs, he never let himself lose control to that extent, and Hiei found it amusing that his apparently ideal lifestyle was fueled not by maturity or stability (as others believed) but by unadulterated (though not unnecessary) paranoia.
Hiei's fierce attachment to Mukuro and her kingdom left Kurama, who had never been a patriot or a vassal, both amused and awed.
It was an unofficial decision that Hiei was the prime target for teasing in their little party (and it was an official decision that Kurama was Not To Be Made Fun Of if they knew what was Good For Them), and making him snap and snarl was their idea of group activities.
'You know me better than anyone,' Kurama told him often, but to Hiei, there would always be a quicksilver elusive quality to Kurama, the feel of moonlight, layers and subtleties he would never fully grasp.
At first, Kurama thought that it was his insistence on remaining as human as possible that Hiei resented – but it was the fact that he had something to protect so tightly, to hold so precious, that Hiei found so bitter.
He had grown so accustomed to Hiei's presence that every time he glanced sideways and down towards crimson eyes to share a silent joke or find an answer and he wasn't there, it left something empty inside him.
One night after a long and stressful hunt, Hiei told him roughly, 'Rest, I'll stay awake,' and Kurama nodded obediently and promptly fell asleep, even though he'd never slept in another's presence, not even as a fragile human baby, and didn't think to be surprised by this until the next morning.
It often surprised Kurama that Hiei had adjusted to his circumstances, his life, as well as he had, and not become cruel or greedy; then again, Hiei was always more sane than he was.
Kurama took one look at Hiei's new official uniform and burst out laughing; 'At least it's not pink, like that ghastly thing you used to wear…would you shut up?' Hiei snapped, but it was too late – his cheeks were already turning scarlet, and Kurama was hiccupping helplessly with glee.
It was over eighty years now since Kurama had moved back to the Makai, but he still hadn't stopped reminding Hiei that he'd once been beaten soundly and independently by three boys who were still in school.
'Oh, honestly,' Hiei said irritably, 'you just saw us kissing – there's no need to scream like a girl…' but Kuwabara and Yusuke apparently disagreed, if their expressions were anything to go by.
Hiei had taken his shirt off again, and he was practicing his swordsmanship – blurring afterimages of his sword like lightning through the air, flexing muscle and fierce concentration, perfect grace, efficient deadliness, lethal precision, inviting posture – Kurama set his book down and began watching openly, and he didn't miss the small curve to Hiei's lips.
Yusuke didn't even get past the K-I-S-S-I-N-G bit before Hiei slugged him, and Kurama steepled his fingers under his chin and smiled, because he'd saved him the trouble of doing the same.
When Hiei idly asked Kurama what he wanted for his birthday, he saw the slow smooth sinister curl of his lips and nearly bolted, because Kurama looking like that was never good news.
He could feel his hopes going up in smoke as the electricity of Yusuke's reigun sizzled through him, and he damned Kurama for it.
'It's the longest night of the year; let's make full use of it,' Kurama said, grinning madly, and Hiei agreed completely.
Kurama moving around normally was fine – it was when he went absolutely still that he was most dangerous.
'…you're going to put that where? ...No, goddamn it!'
Over time, he found that his brash recklessness had been tempered somewhat by Kurama's natural caution – although Kurama always said it was old age sneaking up on him.
Youko Kurama, the terror of a world, the scourge of the rich and the fear of the poor, master thief and prominent politican, ruthless killer and cunning strategist, currently meekly shelling peas for a frail human woman…and Kurama wondered why Hiei was smirking at him.
Hiei could get away with calling Kurama names when none of the others would have dared, but only because Kurama knew how to listen, and how, in that voice, a gruff dismissal could turn so quickly into unstated concern, caring, affection.
Hiei was perfect for snuggling up against in cold weather, since he radiated heat like a fire; but he hated it when Kurama crawled into bed hours after he'd gone to sleep, complaining that the fox's feet were like ice-cubes.
Hiei had a deep sense of loyalty, a steady calm dependability beneath all his overconfident posturings that said: I am here, fair weather or foul, victory or defeat, life or death, by your side, always – and he found himself turning to that strength and constancy again and again, a blessed refuge from the endlessly shifting alliances that were all he felt safe in forming with the rest of the world.
Their pasts were littered with betrayals and rejection, but there was only one thing to do, and that was to move forward, because yesterday was gone and tomorrow might find them dead; and if there was someone they knew would be walking by their side, and if there was someone at whose side they knew they would find a place, that was the only reassurance they had – or needed.
21: In-joke. It references other fics of mine. A lot of these sentences do, actually. 33: at no point in the show do we see Kurama asleep unless he's knocked out. Yusuke, Hiei, Kuwabara, yes. Never Kurama. 36: Kurama, Yusuke and Kaito. Hiei's not terribly smart at times, is he?