Disclaimer: Okay.

I wrote this something like three years ago. It goes with some of the other stories on my profile that deal with Hiei and Yusuke/Keiko's son. Just found it on my computer, so, yeah. Sorry about the delay! lol

Characters Featured: Keiko and Hiei and background group and OCs

Genre: General, slightly angsty

Rating: K+

Summary: Keiko wonders why Hiei comes to their group gatherings.

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Family Gatherings

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She's never surprised when he comes. Oh, she pretends to be. And she knows the others are. But she never is. They always invite him to their gatherings. He always scoffs and indirectly (always indirectly) says no, while directly calling them stupid. But in the end, he always shows. She can't figure him out. She can't figure out why he, the clear outcast of their group, calls them names for even thinking to invite him, but always shows up anyway.

She thinks it might have something to do with Yukina. These gatherings are his only way to really spend time around her anymore. They are both so busy with their own lives, and of course Yukina is blissfully unaware of their relationship, and she doubted he got to see her as much as he wanted to after Yukina got married.

Or, it might have something to do with Kurama. She knew they were friends. She suspected maybe since Kurama came, he would come.

But she is never exactly certain why he always comes. She's just happy that he always does.

Of course, he always comes late. She wonders if he plans it. She wonders if he waits for the others to arrive before coming inside, before making his presence known – or if he really just has a knack for being fashionably late. However it happens that he's always late, what follows is always the same.

She is in the kitchen, and he stops to see her first. He doesn't say anything; he doesn't even leave his shoes by the door. She sighs when she notices that and the mud that he's tracked in, wondering if he could ever be domesticated.

But then she pushes that thought far out of her mind because if he ever were domesticated, he wouldn't be himself. It's worth the mud stained carpet, in her opinion.

They do not exchange words, just a casual glance. And while she is preparing trays of food to take to the rest of the party, he is in the fridge, pulling out a bottle of chocolate syrup. She does not laugh, though it is very difficult, when he tilts his head back and bottoms ups the bottle of chocolate syrup, squeezing a long drizzle into his open mouth. When he finishes, he wipes his lips with the back of his hand, and extends the bottle to her.

She wonders why this is their ritual, even as she takes the bottle from him and copies his motions. She wonders why their interactions – which are few and far between – are so comfortingly predictable. She knows firsthand the hybrid demon is not what anyone would ever call, 'predictable.' That's as ridiculous as calling him, well, 'ridiculous.' She's still wondering about their strange, secret little ritual as she hands him back the bottle with a smile on her face. She knows he'll never return it, but she gives it to him anyway.

And for a moment, in his eyes, she almost sees a flicker of something. She can't place quite what it is. It's a mix between appreciation and apprehension and just as quickly as it flickers in, its gone, and he's putting the bottle back in the fridge.

She decides not to dwell on what she cannot understand; and she certainly has never been able to figure him out. She turns to her counter and tries her hardest to balance four trays of food on her two arms. She is a mother, after all, and can do pretty much anything – because mother is synonymous with warrior.

She quickly discovers it isn't synonymous with grace, and squeals as a tray falls from her grasp. But he's there, faster than her mind can fathom, he's there, and he has the tray in his hands. He quirks an eyebrow at her – and she can't tell for the life of her if he's amused or annoyed – but he takes a second tray from her either way.

She smiles at him brightly, because at that moment he is her hero, and heads out of the kitchen and to the backyard with her two trays; he tags behind, carrying his two trays. As they pass the mirror in the dining room, she thinks she spots a self-satisfied look on his face, but she doesn't look at his reflection long enough to be certain.

It's a beautiful summer day, and she can't help but smile as the sun kisses her cheeks and the wind ruffles her hair. The three children and her husband are playing on the swing set – her husband playing the fool as two little girls laugh and try to push him on a swing. The adults are gathered around a picnic table, drinking and laughing and talking with one another.

The group in the back yard pauses from their activities to welcome the newcomer. He doesn't respond as the two of them set the trays full of food before their friends. He doesn't even make a comment as Kuzama says something rude about the hybrid bringing them their food. He simply takes a seat at the base of the tree in the backyard, away from everyone else, and immediately starts looking bored.

And then the children, who had been playing happily on the swing set with her husband, notice him for the first time. It is her son, her Keiichi, who squeals in delight and runs to the demon, throwing himself on him and talking to him frantically as he settles himself in Hiei's lap. And her heart aches as the other two little ones, the two little girls who look so much like their ice maiden mother, look at him with fear in their eyes before turning to their Uncle Yusuke for encouragement.

She hurts for him. She hurts for him because she knows that he'll never let himself feel hurt over the fact that those two beautiful girls – his two beautiful little nieces – will never call him Uncle. Because they do not know that he is. Because they do not want to. They will call Yusuke "uncle." They will call Kurama "uncle." They will even call Koenma "uncle." But they will never use that title when referring to their actual uncle. So she hurts for him, cries for him, because he cannot do it for himself.

Her eyes soften from her seat at the picnic table, mind only half recognizing what Botan is talking to her about. She sees her little boy curled up on Hiei's lap, prattling on and on about something. She sees the hybrid demon as he looks down at the boy, giving the boy his full attention. She sees the way Keiichi touches the demon's chest, sees the way his little fingers linger on the dragon on his arm, sees the way his eyes light up when he realizes he is the only thing in the whole world that his favorite uncle is focusing on.

Keiko hurts for him again as she ponders on whether or not the demon has ever let himself love, or if he's ever let himself feel the love that others can give. She hurts when she thinks about the loneliness he's faced in his life, and she wonders if he's ever even been given the opportunity to love. And mostly, she wonders that if he is ever given the opportunity to love, to receive love, if he would even take it.

Her breath catches in her throat when she sees the fire demon reach out a hand and gently, carefully, almost hesitantly, brush Keiichi's hair out of his eyes.

She can't help the way her heart stops beating, just like she can't help the way tears form behind her hazel eyes when she realizes he just gave an answer to her unasked question. And the tears silently slip down her cheeks, unnoticed by those around her, when she realizes why he always comes to their gatherings.


A/N: I'm still leaving this collection of one-shots as complete, but there's always a chance! Thank you guys for taking the time to read and occasionally review! :)