Disclaimer – "Yu Yu Hakusho" and all known related characters do not belong to me. I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.

"Partners, Friends: Part 2 - Hiei"
by DragonDancer5150

Chapter 5 – Deal

The room went completely silent as everyone stared at Hiei. At last, Kurama met his gaze and his expression was one of unabashed relief and even a little justification. Everyone else seemed simply to be in shock. "Well?" he finally asked when no one made a move.

Koenma turned smugly to Batsukuno. "Well, then! Now do you see my point?"

Batsukuno gave a low chuckle. "I must say he has surprised me."

Hiei did not like the sound of that. "What do you mean?"

"Well, to be truthful, Lord Koenma and I had a little wager, as it were. If you are to be a Spirit Realm detective, I had to be sure you could be trusted before given such . . . leeway. I had to test your character before I could release you to Lord Koenma."

That made Hiei angry. "What game are you two playing at?" he demanded.

"No, no!" Koenma insisted. "It's not like that. It's just that . . . well, he needed to know that you would keep your side of the partnership."

"The sole reason you are here and not still down in the Pit, after all, is on Kurama's word, you see - or did you not know that?" Batsukuno commented. "He vouched for you to Lord Koenma. Would not back down in his choice of partner either, I'm told - even at the risk of losing his own bargain." Batsukuno raised his eyebrows in question and mock concern. "Was he wrong?"

Hiei turned from Batsukuno to his partner - his friend. "Kurama?"

Kurama glanced at Batsukuno and received a nod in return, as though being given permission at last to speak. "Yes, Hiei. It is true. I wanted no one else at my side in Maze Castle. I vouched to Lord Koenma for you. Had you left just now . . . I would have taken your place in the Pit. But it had to be your decision alone. I could do nothing to sway you."

"While Batsukuno could try every tactic he has," Hiei snorted. Batsukuno only grinned. "Well, you have my answer. Now what?"

Batsukuno motioned to his warden. "Bokuma, you heard him. Release Kurama." Looking ready to burst with fury, the warden reluctantly obeyed, unlocking the shackles. Once freed, Kurama crossed to Hiei's side, away from their tormentor. Batsukuno only grinned more widely, then turned to Koenma. "You will have the proper paperwork by noon. Congratulations. They are yours . . . for now."

Kurama startled at that. "What do you mean?"

"This is on a trial basis only for the time being. We'll see how well you two manage to behave yourselves. Pass your probation and I will make this arrangement permanent."

"How long is the probation?" Hiei tersely asked. He knew there was a catch somewhere. There always was.

The chief admin shrugged nonchalantly. "I'll let Lord Koenma know."

"Great! Fine! So, then, let's get outta here!" Koenma seemed even more anxious than the newly-released prisoners to be free of Batsukuno's presence.

"See you around!" Batsukuno called after them in an over-cheery voice as they hurried out of the chamber. Hiei snatched his sword from the returning guard as they passed.

With Koenma skipping along at a rapid pace, muttering about the amount of work he had ahead of him, and Jorju desperately trying to keep up, Hiei and Kurama soon fell behind as they made their way back to the administration wing of the main fortress. After a long silence, Kurama commented in a soft voice, "You know, Hiei, you really had me there."

Hiei shrugged, a faint grin tugging at the corner of his lips as he looked up at Kurama sidelong through his bangs. "We're even."

Kurama considered that, surprised by the reply, then chuckled. "Fair enough." In spite of his nonchalance, Hiei could hear the nervous relief in his voice. Then he sighed. "Hiei, I am sorry. I never did get the chance to explain myself - "

Hiei shook his head. "Don't." He did not need an explanation. He already knew.

Kurama stopped at that. True appreciation shone in his eyes as they traded looks and Hiei knew he had done the right thing.

"Still," Kurama murmured as they started walking again, "this reprieve we have been granted is tenuous at best, at least for the time being. We must tread carefully. Batsukuno and Bokuma will be looking for us to make a mistake - any mistake."

Hiei scowled at that. "Don't worry. That won't happen." After a moment, he looked up at Kurama again. "So you risked losing your deal altogether to make sure I was included? Why?"

Kurama grinned at him, recalling their conversation in the shattered top tower of Maze Castle. "Because, Hiei, sometimes it is worth pushing for the things that are important to you, even when you are not certain of winning the fight."

Hiei fell silent, considering that simple statement the rest of the way to Koenma's office. Once there, they found Botan waiting for them as well. "Congratulations and welcome aboard, you two! Lord Koenma just told me what happened with Batsukuno this morning. I was so worried!"

"After what he and Bokuma pulled last night, who wouldn't be?" Koenma groused.

"Are you all right?" Kurama asked, concerned.

Her eyes darkened with the memory but she gave a chipper nod. "Oh, yes. I'm fine. Don't worry about me."

Hiei had remained silent, staring at two small boxes on Koenma's desk. Each was no bigger than the palm of his hand and covered in ornate carvings.

Koenma chuckled, breaking into Hiei's thoughts. "Yes, they are exactly what you think they are, Hiei."

Hiei pulled a breath at that. "So they do exist."

"They are extremely rare and almost impossible to get a hold of - for obvious reasons - but yes, they're real enough."

Kurama looked back and forth between the boxes and Hiei. "What are they?" Then he looked more closely at the decorations and his breath hitched. "Periphery keys?"

Botan giggled. "Bingo!"

"You two are Spirit Realm detectives now, so you're going to need to be able to cross the barriers on your own, especially if you're in pursuit of someone," Koenma explained. "You know that ferry girls are the only ones who have the ability innately but they're not a dime a dozen, you know. Botan, of course, is already assigned to Yusuke - "

"And he keeps me busy enough as it is," Botan put in, rolling her eyes with a grin.

"And I don't have any others to spare," Koenma concluded. "Besides, these keys only work with Yoki, not Reiki, so Yusuke couldn't make use of one if he had to." He motioned for them to take the boxes.

Hiei picked up one, turning it over in his hand before opening it. Cushioned in thick silk inside rested what looked like a crystal stone, smooth and perfectly clear. As soon as he began to reach for it, it reacted to his Yoki and began to glow. He tipped the box into the palm of his hand and the stone flashed, shining with a brilliant golden radiance that threatened to blind him as the stone seemed to melt into a pool of light and absorb into his palm. His whole hand glowed with Yoki for an instant more before the light faded completely. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Kurama looking at his own hand as the light of his stone absorbed and faded.

Koenma nodded in approval. "Hmm. So now the keys are bonded to each of you. Nice thing is they can't be lost or stolen. They will only appear if you want them to."

Hiei watched as Kurama concentrated on his palm. The light returned, coalescing into the clear crystal stone, then melted and faded back out of existence. Kurama nodded in satisfaction.

"These keys allow you to open portals across the barriers so you don't have to rely on ferry girls or the natural distortions that occur from time to time."

Botan looked at Hiei. "By the way, how did you get across the barriers before?"

Hiei gave her a sardonic smile. "Talent."

Kurama shook his head, grinning, and explained, "The momentary deformations can be measured and predicted. There are some youkai who have the knowledge and ability to do so and will tell you - for a price, of course. We knew when and where several would occur and made plans accordingly."

Koenma frowned. "We have laws governing the distribution and use of such information but there are always Black Market dealers."

Botan shook her head at them with a grin of her own. "It figures."

"There is something else you need to know," Koenma commented. "These keys are rare and powerful artifacts. I don't give them out to just anyone, you know. You two are still under sentence - on parole, as it were. These keys are for your use only and only for missions you've been given. You are to take no one with you across the borders unless it is a captive you've been sent after or if you are specifically assigned to work with someone, such as Yusuke and Kuwabara. Got that?"

"On off-time, I am sure we will be searching for Hiei's sister, Yukina," Kurama stated, glancing at Hiei. "Should we find her - "

"When we find her," Hiei corrected.

"Then, yes, of course she will be an exception, too - at least to be able to take her home." Koenma sat back, eyes going to the stack of paperwork on his desk. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of work to do. I'll contact you when I have your first assignment.

"Oh, wait! One more thing," he corrected himself as they turned to leave. Hiei looked back to see a wicked grin on Koenma's face. "Since you're now under my jurisdiction, that takes you out of Batsukuno's - which means Bokuma can no longer touch you. On the other hand, if he continues to harass you or mistreat you in any way, as Spirit Realm detectives you do deserve a certain amount of respect. You have the authority to deal with him any way you deem fitting." He paused and met each one's eye, letting his meaning sink in. Both Kurama and Hiei returned with dark grins of their own, understanding full well what he was telling them.

The three bowed and left the office, Botan parting ways with a cheery wave. Hiei walked in silence, not paying attention to where they were heading. He was free. Well, not free technically but he was no longer confined to a dungeon cell deep underground, facing the Pit whenever they felt like coming for him. And he could resume his search for his sister. Be strong, Yukina. Wherever you are, I'll find you. I swear it. He stopped when Kurama caught his breath as though just remembering something. "What's wrong?"

Kurama chuckled. "I have to stop by Hinageshi's shrine. There is something I have to retrieve. Come on, Hiei. Let's go home."

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