Kitsune Bi - An xXxHolic Fan-Fiction
By Ookami Kasumi

All characters property of CLAMP
Warning: Mature (NC-17) - Yaoi content, adult language, mild violence

Chapter Thirteen

Carrying Kimihiro in his arms, Az landed gently. "Where here. You can open your eyes now."

Kimihiro loosened his arms around the demon's neck and opened his eyes. They were on Yuuko's front lawn, right in front of her doors. "I just don't like heights, much." Something about the sky suddenly caught his eye. The low-hanging clouds were stained with orange and scarlet as though the sun were setting. That's...weird. The sky had been blue and practically cloudless when they took off.

The black-haired, black-eyed, pointy-eared demon smiled briefly. "Fear of heights is perfectly understandable for anyone not born with wings." Az's monstrous bat-wings folded against the back of his long black coat and quite literally, evaporated. However his long spear-headed tail remained. Then, to Kimihiro's complete and utter surprise, he pulled open one of the front doors and carried Kimihiro right in.

Kimihiro frowned. Shouldn't there be wards around the house to keep people like him-demons- out?

Az didn't stop to take off his boots. He simply stepped up onto the main floor and thunked down the long hall. He eyed Kimihiro. "You're surprised I was able to walk in?"

Kimihiro didn't quite wince at the demon's perceptiveness. Then he remembered what Yuuko had said. "You have a wish, right? The house lets people in if they have a wish." His brow lifted. "However, you are supposed to take off your shoes at the door."

Az looked away. "I'm afraid that taking off my shoes isn't exactly possible." He drew in a breath and let it out slowly. "The boots I'm wearing are an illusion."

Kimihiro couldn't help but lean over to look down.

Az's gleaming boots dissolved into a pair of shiny black goat's hooves that clip-clopped as he walked.

Kimihiro looked up at Az. "I...see."

The demon smiled tightly. "What? No screaming?"

Kimihiro rolled his eyes. "Not hardly. I've seen far stranger things than goat feet or bat-wings." Or fangs, pointed ears, and long snaky tails... He folded his arms across his chest and lifted his slender brow. "By the way, you can put me down now."

Az grinned. "I'm just bringing you to the bath Yuuko prepared for you." He took a sharp left and elbowed open a sliding door.

The room revealed was Yuuko's personal bathing chamber with its monstrous oval in-ground tub of white marble surrounded by smoked mirrors and two large teak and rice-paper folding screens. The cream and timber walls were draped in huge silk paintings of mountains and forests-and butterflies. In fact, butterflies were everywhere from the decanters holding soaps and salts to the small crystal figurines on the long counter for the fluted marble sink. Even the brass spigots on the tub were butterflies.

As for the tub, it was full practically to the brim and white with curling steam. Herbs and creamy white flower petals floated in the water. It looked utterly wonderful.

Kimihiro blinked. "Oh, wow..."

"The salts and herbs will help with the bruising." Az carried Kimihiro to the tub's edge and let him down with a smile. "I watched Yuuko put them in."

Kimihiro's knees still weren't working properly. He grabbed onto Az's upper arm sleeve to keep from plunging into the water. "Bruising?"

Az snorted. "You didn't notice?" He tugged the bright blue sash's bow on Kimihiro's back free, then and drew the sash away before it could fall into the water. "You're covered in hand and finger bruises. Your wrists in particular." He caught Kimihiro's hand in his black-clawed fingers and turned it up to reveal the vivid red and purple marks on his wrists. "Those looks like rope burns."

Kimihiro stared at the livid marks made from being bound to the wall. "A sash, actually." His heart dropped into his stomach and his eyes began to burn. "He said he loved me."

Az released Kimihiro's hand to roll Yuuko's sash over his arm. All humor left his face. "He probably does."

Kimihiro blinked. He hadn't meant to say that out loud. "Oh, uh, sorry. I didn't mean to involve you."

Az shrugged. "Feel free to say what's on your mind. In fact, consider me a neutral party. Someone not involved with either of you." He smiled and flashed one of his fangs. "I certainly won't judge you."

Kimihiro took a deep steadying breath and reached up under his arms to tug the robe's ties free. "That's just it. I don't even know what's on my mind." The truth actually. He wasn't quite sure what he was feeling. There were too many feelings writhing around in his heart and head to pick one from the next. So many in fact, that he sort of felt left in neutral.

Az took hold of the upper edge of the midnight blue robe and tugged it from Kimihiro's shoulders.

Kimihiro grabbed the lapels to keep the robe where it was-covering him, and darted a suspicious glare at the demon. "What are you doing?"

Az dramatically flinched back and raised both hands in a gesture of surrender. "I swear on my pointy ears that I don't want you ripping off, that I am merely helping you into the bath."

Kimihiro lifted a brow and clenched his teeth. Sadly, he really did need the help. "No touching."

Az nodded and his smile widened, though strangely none of his fangs showed. "No uninvited touching, agreed." He stepped forward and took hold of the robe by the shoulders to draw it from Kimihiro's body with out a single clawed finger brushing Kimihiro's skin.

Utterly naked, Kimihiro folded his arms across his chest and eyed the demon. "Aren't you supposed to be a duke? Isn't helping someone with a bath a little...beneath you?"

Az rolled his eyes and folded the robe over his arm. "Believe me, I have done far more menial things-in fact, disgusting things, even as a duke."

Without support, Kimihiro's legs began to tremble and he wobbled off balance. He automatically reached out for Az's sleeve.

Az caught Kimihiro under the elbow. "I've got you."

Kimihiro nodded and gave a small smile. "Thanks."

Az turned Kimihiro toward the tub's edge, and the steps leading down into the water, then grasped him by the hand. "In you go."

Holding on to Az's hand, Kimihiro stepped over the rim and set his foot on the first step in the tub. The water was luxuriously warm-the perfect temperature. He stepped further into the water.

Az hunched down on his furry goat legs to extend his reach. "To get back to what's on your mind, well, you're definitely angry."

Kimihiro reached the bottom and frowned up at the demon. "How did you...?"

Az snorted. "It's written all over you; the way you're holding yourself, the look in your eye."

"Oh..." Waist deep in the water, Kimihiro took hold of the rim while thinking about what he was feeling. Anger was definitely there, and disappointment. He sat down to lean against the curved back. The heat of the water soaked into his abused muscles and drew out the tension and soreness almost on contact. He meant to sigh in bliss, but it came out a growl. He glared at the perfectly innocent water. "How can someone that loves me do-" Memories surged forward. Kimihiro stamped them down ruthlessly and shook his head. "Do that?"

Az moved from the side of the tub to set the robe and sash on the marble counter by the sink. "Love makes people do many senseless things, especially when they're afraid that their beloved doesn't love them back."

"You do love me. Don't you?"

Kimihiro winced then scowled up at the demon. "Are you saying that this is my fault?"

"Not at all." The demon collected a pair of fluffy gold towels from the cabinet under the sink. "I'm saying that perhaps that is his reason for...doing such a thing." He turned toward Kimihiro. "Do you love him?"

Kimihiro stared at the water. Did he? Could he, after what happened? What was this mess churning in his heart? Was that love? He shook his head. "I'm not even sure what love is."

Az sat down by the edge of the tub. "Love is actually quite simple."

Kimihiro looked up sharply at the black-eyed demon. "Simple...?"

Az nodded. "Courtship-romance, if you will, is complicated, but love itself is very simple." He smiled. "Love is when the other person's happiness means more than your own."

Kimihiro tilted his head to the side and lifted a brow. "You're a demon, right? How do you know what love is?"

Az looked away and his lips curled into a bitter smile. "Contrary to popular belief, demons can fall in love just as easily as anyone else." He blew out a soft breath and his voice dropped to a near-whisper. "Not that we know what to do about it when it happens."

Suddenly feeling that he was seeing something he shouldn't, Kimihiro looked down at the water. So the demon was in love. I wonder if that has anything to do with his wish? Not that he was going to ask. He wasn't rude enough to pry.

Az suddenly turned to Kimihiro. "So, does Doumeki's happiness mean more than your own?"

Doumeki's happiness? Guilt suddenly stabbed Kimihiro right through his heart. I never even considered... However, at the same time, a fresh wave of anger hit him too. I didn't have the chance to consider...anything. It all happened too fast! The love-letter, the kiss, the confession-sort of confession-the incident in the shower, the fox... He really hadn't had time to think about any of it, never mind think about what Doumeki might have been feeling. And then...this. The combination of anger and guilt pounded in his head. Burning tears suddenly slipped down his cheeks to plink into the bath.

Az sighed softly. "I see that it does."

Kimihiro closed his eyes and shook his head sharply. The anger suddenly boiled up his spine and spat out of his mouth. "I won't be kept in a cottage like a secret. I don't need that kind of protection! I'm not a pet or a toy. I'm a person! I want to protect myself!"

Az sat back and blinked. "Kept in a cottage? In this era?"

Kimihiro turned to snarl at the demon despite the tears slipping down his cheeks. "I'm not helpless, damn it. I don't want a protector-a keeper. I want a partner! I want to be his equal! I want him to trust me!"

Az smiled gently. "Then make him."

His anger abruptly de-railed, Kimihiro stiffened, his eyes widening. "Make him...?"

Az nodded. "Make him trust you. Do what you need to do, learn what you need to learn, and prove that you can protect yourself. Prove you're capable of being his equal, his partner."

Kimihiro frowned at the water. "Learn what I need to learn..."

"But first-!" Az lifted a finger and grinned. "Punish him."

A cool wave of absolute calm washed through Kimihiro's heart. His eyes narrowed and a smile curved his lips. "Agreed." He abruptly slumped back in the tub and looked up at the curling steam. "But how?"

Az tilted his head to the side and smiled sweetly. "You could always tie him up and have your way with him?"

Kimihiro cracked a smile in spite of himself. "It's a good thought, but I don't think repeating the same crime is the right way to do things."

Az rolled his gaze away and sighed dramatically. "Pity." His gaze shot back to Kimihiro's. "However, the punishment should fit the crime. That means finding a way to make him feel helpless at the very least, and unable to stop you from doing...whatever, even if it's not seducing him."

Kimihiro nodded firmly. "That makes sense."

The bathroom door slid open and clacked loudly in its frame. "Az, my dear guest..." Yuuko swept into the room, once again in long flowing robes of violet, gold, and black. A slender black brow rose over one cinnamon eye. "I hope you're not planting strange ideas in my Watanuki's head?"

Az frowned deeply and pressed a hand over his heart. "My dearest Yuuko, there is nothing what so ever strange about revenge."

Both of Yuuko's brows lowered over her eyes. "There is if your name is Watanuki." Her gaze shot to Kimihiro.

Kimihiro folded his knees up tight against his body and shot her a glare. "He was planning to keep me there, Yuuko-san, in a cottage he'd already prepared for me. A cottage his parents already knew he was planning to keep me in-and why. He said I couldn't have my clothes back until I signed adoption papers. Adoption papers he'd already had prepared." His teeth began to grind. "He said, he'd make sure I couldn't leave even if he had to tie me up."

Yuuko's shoulders visibly slumped and her gaze dropped. "When we came to get you, Doumeki was planting wards around the edges of temple's grounds-wards with your name on them. They were designed specifically to keep you from passing by them-from leaving."

An icy chill breezed through Kimihiro's heart.

Yuuko looked over at him with unsmiling lips. "I had to wait until you left the library on your own to get you because I couldn't enter. I couldn't even look in the doorway and call for you. He'd warded it that strongly against me."

Kimihiro began to tremble and his eyes burned, but no tears fell.

Yuuko approached the tub's rim and folded her robes under her to kneel at the edge. "I had Az carry you off when I did because Doumeki was very near to completing the warding. If you hadn't made it to the library doorway on your own when you did, not even I would have been able to grant you escape."

Kimihiro swallowed the lump in his throat and his arms tightened around his upraised knees. "Did you know he would do this?"

Yuuko sighed and looked away. "I knew he planned to protect you. I didn't know he'd try to keep you." She shrugged slightly. "At least, not until you'd graduated high school."

Kimihiro's eyes widened and rage swept through him. "You knew he was planning to keep me all along?!"

Yuuko rolled her eyes and huffed out a breath. "By the time you graduated, you'd have more than enough power and training to defeat any ward he'd set, so it was a moot point."

Trembling with fury, Kimihiro's teeth clenched and his eyes narrowed to slits. "I want it. I want it now."

Yuuko's brows lifted. "Hmm? Want what?"

Kimihiro grabbed hold of the tub's rim to move close enough to stare directly into Yuuko's eyes. "I want the power and the training to defeat his wards-to protect myself. I don't want to wait for graduation. I want it now-right now."

Yuuko's lips curved into a sensual smile. "Then I suggest you have another conversation with Senbii-san, the general."

Kimihiro wilted to set his chin on the tub's rim and looked up at her with his best puppy eyes. "Can't you teach me?"

Yuuko sighed. "I wish I could, but what I do isn't quite dream-walking." She smiled sadly. "I can't make doors on the spirit plane, the dream plane, only find them."

Az stiffened where he sat then looked sharply at Yuuko. "Blood and fire, he's a spirit walker?" He frowned at Kimihiro. "No wonder you barely feel mortal. With a power like that, you'd pretty much have to be half spirit yourself."

Yuuko glanced away. "Oh, my Watanuki is quite fully human."

Az snorted. "I never said he wasn't human, only that he's more spirit than mortal."

That was an uncomfortable thought. Kimihiro slumped back to slouch in the tub, his bottom lip protruding in what was not a pout-no matter what anyone said. "Is that what makes me so tasty to other spirits?"

Az grinned. "But of course! One bite of you would make any spirit double in power." He shook his head. "But be that as it may, with a power like that, nothing could keep you out-or in. Not even Hell itself. You could simply make a door and leave any time you liked."

Kimihiro rolled his eyes. "But I up there. I can't make doors!"

A high-pitched childish voice suddenly called out. "Mokona can!" A small, black, bunny-eared blob abruptly bounced into the bathroom. "Black Mokona can be a door, but White Mokona can make doors!" He bounced to the rim of the tub and abruptly frowned. "But not on the dream-plane, the spirit plane, only on the real plane." His lips twisted sourly. "And only for a short period of time-from here to there, that fast." He twisted his whole body to shake his head, his ears flopping. "She can't make them to stay open."

Something suddenly occurred to Kimihiro. He turned sharply to Yuuko. "Does Doumeki know I left?"

Yuuko drew up her knees and set her chin on them with a smile. "He does. I told him myself."

Kimihiro shuddered, and gripped his knees with whitened fingers. "Crap, he's probably already on his way here."

Yuuko smiled and tilted her head to rest her cheek on her knee. "Oh, I'm sure he's already arrived at the gate, but he won't be coming here. Not to this house anyway." She turned to smile at the demon. "Right, Az?"

Az grinned fully showing upper and lower fangs. "I sincerely doubt anyone, never mind that half-priest, will come to this house without my knowledge-or permission." Az turned to smile at Kimihiro. "This may sound strange, but I assure you that it's the absolute truth. Welcome to my little corner of Hell, Watanuki."

Kimihiro's eyes widened as far as they could go. "Eh?" That could not be what that just sounded like. He looked over at Yuuko. "Ehhh?"

Yuuko smiled so sweetly it practically crystallized on her red lips. "You did notice the red sky, did you not? Yes, we are-this house-is literally in Hell." She shrugged. "For a little while, at least."

Az lifted his chin and ran his black-clawed fingers through his midnight hair. "I am a duke, after all."

Yuuko grinned at him. "And I am a time-space sorceress."

Kimihiro rolled his eyes. "We're in hell." He curled his lip in a sour smile aimed at Yuuko, and spoke very dryly. "And I didn't even notice the difference. Imagine that."

Yuuko's brows lowered and her smile turned into a pronounced pout. "Hey...!"