Chapter 4 – Before the levees break
Never once in your life did you begin to ask if the things you do are questionable. And for some sardonic twist of fate, you are starting to grow a moral muscle which not only pisses you off but also gives you terrifying—feelings? Such things like those make you want to kill with your bare hands. You had definitely hated being the nice guy people run to; the responsibility of goodness is far more suffocating than the opposite. This wasn't even your fault entirely. There are three women who are to blame for this, you thought.
You don't have to live with her, you tell yourself over and over, but you saw Mukuro so vulnerable these past two years that you stayed just to look out for her. The demon world is in a very prosperous state right now that it confuses you how you manage living in a place that's no longer ripe with havoc, since you're quite accustomed to destruction than order. And Mukuro seems perfectly agreeable with this. You tell yourself that you don't like to be domesticated, that you want to be out there in the wild, hunting and killing prey. You don't, at least not anymore. You like this newly found serenity with Mukuro. You like peace.
Not in a million years will you let Mukuro know that though. And hell forbid, your sister!
Yukina. The enormous red clouds of the demon world remind you about the same soft, crimson eyes. Her scent that's almost too human now, it engulfs you for a while before you realize that you're thinking about not staying away even when you made a promise to yourself that you have to.
Fuck it, she was right about you. You're just gonna have to admit that now. It was so much easier to believe she didn't know anything and that she'll quietly let things go your way but now she's putting up a good fight about almost everything. But no matter how she might read the book of your life, she will never know the whole story. Maybe she'll get bored. She had to stop somehow. You're not sure if she even means all the things she told you but you're not about to hold her accountable if she turns out to be lying about some of it. You were expecting that. You wanted that...badly enough that you had to stay away for a week. See how this will affect her. There is a part of your brain that screams out your cruelty. You can't be doing this to her, there is no way you can push through your plan of staying away. You needed her. You wanted her. You loved her. Damn it all to the deepest pits of demon world, you loved her. You who was raised by no one but grew up anyway, you with the battle scars. You are a wrongdoer, a thug, a thief. You can tame the Black Dragon and probably the only one out there. You've raised your level in the food chain, you claimed a territory, and you're fucking great.
Nevertheless, you haven't figured out the proper defense against your twin sister whose arms, once wrapped around you, make you bleed; and whose eyes, moist with angry tears, beg for you to stay.
Why do you want to get defensive around her in the first place? She has no control over you, as you kept justifying, but you didn't believe that. How else can you explain why everything, from the walls of refuge to the art of disconnection you spend your miserable life building, is suddenly rendered and discarded as irrelevant? And all it took was when she claimed that she wants something she can call 'hers' and that could be 'yours' too. You're both so stupid! What made either of you think it could even work? If it does work, what's to say it will still work in the following days? Months? Years? She was right about that. Nothing in life, considering your unlucky streak, is certain. You're not about to dig your own grave again and lie on it. Because something tells you that you might just disappoint her, damage her beyond repair.
Like she isn't already. She keeps going on and on about that. It's not your job to fix her. And it's not her job to fix you. That was the basic point why you said goodbye. Because you care. You care enough not to tell her the truth but she figured it out, made all those attempts to keep her in the dark worthless. She makes you feel like a fool. And you're no fool.
Fuck your abandonment and trust issues. This commitment she's asking from you—she should drop it. How? How in hell can you give her what she wants when you don't have it and you never had it?
Perhaps you should stay away for a month and see if that will make her forget about you. But that seems dishonest and you're going to regret making her suffer like that. She's going to make you regret that too. You have to see her...in a week. So okay, you'll stay away for a week and that's final. It's not like you miss her. No, it's not like that.
You glance around you. There were five of you patrolling the forest. They didn't seem to notice your self-deprecations.
"Hiei! Where the hell are you, bastard! HIEI!"
Ah, the third woman in question has arrived. She looked at you, wobbly as she approached the boulder where you stood immobile. You glared dismissively for a while until your eyes rest on her round stomach she clasped with both hands, like she was about to offer it to you. You look off. "I told you to stay inside."
"Where's my damn food, Hiei?"
"Do you want me to slap you around again just to put you in your place?"
She snorted. Laughed. "Please. I've been slapped around by men worse than you and they didn't do it because they care about me. Unlike you."
You look at her again. "Go back inside, Tonic."
You should negate her statement but when she walked away to do what she was told, you decided not to argue. You didn't care about her, true, but you didn't have to prove that to her. She's not entitled to so many things right now. Still, you kept her around because she was a comforting presence to Mukuro and even though you wouldn't think much about it, she also makes you feel at peace. Most days. Sometimes. Not really. Especially when she's asking you for ridiculous demands like food you don't have, blankets that never seem to be enough for her—or sometimes she'd ask you to hold her stomach because 'the baby is kicking.' Why the fuck should that be of any concern to you?
"The human bitch getting you down?" The slimy green useless fuck of a demon giggled, poking your foot with his freakishly long claw.
You scoffed, shoving your hands deep inside your pockets as if they repulsed you. And then you kicked him off. "What doesn't get me down?"
"I just don't understand why you keep her around and feed her." The useless fuck kept going on. "She should go back home and die somewhere far away from here, if you ask my opinion."
Another useless fuck interjects. "Maybe, hee-hee, we should, hee-hee, cook her, hee-hee, and that ugly, hee-hee, would-be-offspring of hers, hee-hee!"
"Silence!" You thundered and they shrank away, spineless as they always were. Even with the prosperity and peace of demon world, there is still no guarantee that the creatures who live here are civilized. You're pretty sure that just because many demons are now living in terms of democracy with a supreme authority, it doesn't mean that the smell of rotten flesh and carnage has disappeared. You can still inhale it and this reminds you that this is your home and nowhere else.
You were back in the colony inside Mukuro's chilly bedroom. The bitch insisted that the curtains should cover all the orifices where light may possibly intrude. You never agreed to this arrangement but it's not like Mukuro would take your advice when it comes to her personal space. It's almost seems like she's doing everything to piss you off when you never told her the reasons why you stay with her; like she's trying to drive you mad so you could evacuate and go some place away. Well, she could try, you're much decided on sticking around anyway.
Tonic was surrounded by ten, twelve cushions, handpicked by you when you were in the human world, visiting Kurama. At least that's what you told her. Truth is, Kurama picked them himself, shoving the assortment of pink, frilly pillows into your arms and you try to take them with you without any demon seeing you carry such a disgusting luggage around. That reminds you: Kurama made you promise in the spirit of your friendship that you should come to human world today so you could—what was that term—go "shopping"? What does that even mean?
"Shopping! You mean for the baby!" Tonic catches you on the sleeve, pulling you down on the pillows and you wanted to hit her. But you didn't. She settled comfortably in your arm, petting your hair. "You've been so good to me, Hiei!"
Mukuro was watching. "You're going to buy things for the baby then, Hiei? That's surprisingly and, not to mention, horrifyingly generous of you."
You pried Tonic's hands away and pulled yourself into a proper, dignified sitting position, even amidst the pink abomination of pillows. "It's not my idea so don't make the mistake of giving me the credit."
"Well, it sounds tacky. Not your style at all."
"You don't know me well enough to make presumptions."
"I know you long enough."
Tonic was laughing for some reason. You turned to her and before even asking her, she remarks, "Are we sure that you and Mukuro never tried screwing each other instead of bickering?"
That was new. You hear Mukuro cough something out and then she asked for Tonic to explain. Oh, you don't want to be here to hear this.
"It's simple, really, I mean, whenever I live with a man and we start fighting about the bills or the dirty laundry or my whoring around, we decided to nip the tension in the bud by having sex. Demons have sex too, right? Hiei? Do you have sex?"
You almost pulled out your sword. "Humans are filthy, dumb morons, Tonic. Here I thought I've forgotten my vendetta against your race."
"Gosh, Hiei, ain't you the drama queen! You got a serious case of PMS sometimes."
"PMS?" Mukuro leaned from her half-sluggish poise and inquired. "I don't think I'm familiar with this. It's a human etymology, is it not?"
"Oh yeah, it's a female hormonal thing, Mumu--"
"I say it's not important!" You stood up, slapping Tonic mildly but she still took it hard on the cheek. She gasped, crawling away. She started screaming, throwing the pillows at you. And then she clutched her stomach and you knew it's the damn contractions again. She's trembling, crying.
"Hiei," Mukuro was still on the same position as she watched you take Tonic by her elbows, trying to calm her breathing. "Don't you know by now that you should never, by any means, assault a pregnant woman?"
She was asking for that slap, you wanted to retort, but you see that this is clearly your fault and so you rush Tonic back to bed and try to get her to relax.
"Sorry," she was saying between gulps of air. "It's none of my business, whatever is up with you and your lady, so, so, sorry, Hiei...oh dear god please don't hate me. You're all I got. Oh please don't hate me."
Me? All she's got? The fuck?
"Now you see, you've made her erratic. That's not very nice, Hiei."
"Would you shut up?" You pressed your hands on Tonic's stomach, massaging it in a soothing way and she soon calmed down. The round vessel was soft and fleshy and you wondered if there truly was a baby human being inside it, and how it looks like and if it kicks as hard as Tonic would say. You wanted to find out. Tonic told you that there's only three months left before the baby is due. So, joy, probably, but it's not like you aspire to father an offspring. Why would you, of all demons, want that burden? This has to be the biggest mistake you've committed, providing shelter for this woman and now she's expecting that the privilege will also extend to her child.
"I was going to help but I see you've handled that pretty well." Mukuro was yawning.
"And how were you gonna help, bitch?"
You looked at your obnoxious housemate and waited for her to respond. She wasn't going to, you know, so it surprised you when she had. "I was going to applaud Tonic's insight on our frequent verbal brawls. Perhaps even take into consideration what she had suggested. What do you think, Hiei?"
"Bullshit." You still kept massaging the big stomach that's starting to intimidate you.
"That hurts my feelings." Mukuro uncrosses her legs. "To think that the very idea of sexual engagement with me repulses you--"
"Shut up." You got to get away from these crazy women fast. You stayed with Mukuro not because you wanted to, but you just had to. You can't leave her. You won't leave her. Problem is, it's the same thing with Yukina.
"I'll leave Tonic in your care. I have to meet Kurama now."
Human world is just as bad as you imagined it; that was the impression you formed the first time you traveled here. Over the years it started to change, especially whenever you meet different kinds of humans that represent significant numbers of their race and, as much as you still believe that they're up to no good, there is still that possibility you have considered that maybe some of them can be trusted. You've met quite a few. Right now it bothers you that your sister has a skewed up image about humanity in general and you're not going to like what she's up to just so she could prove to you that human beings are by nature good.
"I thought you were only going to come here to slit my throat, Hiei." Kurama greeted you by the train station. "I find it hard to believe how you meekly agreed to this."
"Meekly agreed? I thought you know me."
"Didn't mean to offend you."
"Sure you do." You walked ahead of him. The crowded streets are unusually scenic even when human air smells stale. You see people in garish clothes walking their children or driving their machinery (these are called "cars" as you found out ever since Kurama began teaching you about the culture of his folk), and all you could think about is blood. Mayhem. Your sister smearing lipstick on her lips even when she's perfection the way she is.
Your sister wants to build a home here and with you; asking you to move to human world and have something you can calls yours. With her.
"Hiei, this is the department store," Kurama was saying. You followed him inside.
"They sell baby merchandise here and stuff?"
"Indeed." Kurama answered. "This particular section is where you can find clothes. And then we'll go to a grocery store for food later, okay?"
"Hmm." You saw a couple of kids throwing what looks to be socks at each other. "Let's just get this over with."
"Then let's go to the baby section."
Baby section turned out to be a large assortment of small clothes intended for human offspring. You couldn't believe what you were seeing: small shirts and pants in all kinds of colors parade themselves on each shelf. These were baby boy clothes. The baby girl clothes are even worse. There were so many flowery designs and hearts and stars and so many pink that you could squeeze the girlishness out of them. There were small mittens, small socks, small hats (and Kurama added that there's a separate section for the small shoes). This is hell, this department store. You have no idea where to begin.
"Now you see why I'm here to accompany you." Kurama was holding a matching pair of blue shirt and slacks, they're so tiny that his hands look huge. "Did Tonic say if the baby is a boy or a girl?"
"Girl." You rub your eyes, the whole display is just too much for your sight. "She said she likes the girl to wear orange and yellow flowers. She was quite specific that her baby should only wear one-piece dresses with ribbons. Yellow or orange ones will do. Nothing red. She hates that color." By hell's flame, did you just recite all of that shit in perfect sequence as she told you?
Kurama was chuckling in the way that you know insults you. "Wow, you actually cared enough to remember all those things?"
"Just shut up and pick whatever that bitch wants so I could get it to her."
"Okay, let me see if I understand." Kurama held a pink dress in view. "Any color of the dress just as long as they have--" he examined the garment. "Oh, here we go! This has orange ribbons."
"Tonic says she doesn't mind blue. Or anything lacy either."
"Again, Hiei, you actually listened. I thought that mind of yours is too crowded with narcissistic thoughts and stuff." He grins. You want to slit his throat.
"How about that thing?" You pointed to a dress. "It's blue and lacy with yellow flowers."
Kurama was laughing. "I'm sorry, Hiei, I can't believe that this is just not my imagination! I'm really going shopping for clothes with you."
You fought the impulse to burn this place with the Dragon. "Is it even possible to shove it in your ass even for an hour?"
"Does sea-green will do?"
"Maybe. Just as long as it's not red."
"Well, okay, how about lavender? This one is quite pretty. Is she okay with mittens? Does she have any specific demands for the baby's socks?"
You paused. "Stripes. Dots. Any kind of color."
Kurama was grinning. He was going to comment again on your memory but it's lucky that the fox has enough self-control.
"Excuse me, sirs, can I help you?" a woman in dark blue uniform approached, smiling.
"Oh, yes. We were hoping you could get us some stripped and dotted socks, please." Kurama bowed his head slightly. "It's for my friend's baby girl."
The saleslady, as she turned out to be, looked at you, keeping her smile intact. "That sounds so sweet! Her daddy is buying her socks! And where would be your wife, sir?"
The fuck is going on here? You could feel your eye twitching. But you had to blend in this facility so you answered. "Sitting in her fat ass at home."
Kurama and the saleslady laughed. He took her by the arm and whispered something. They giggled to themselves, looking over their shoulders to see you standing there, your fists clenched, your eyes blazing in anger.
"What are you doing, you son of a bitch?"
Kurama watched the saleslady go. "She'll be right back. In the meantime, I think we have seven dresses now. It's a good thing I've got my salary early."
"You're really going to pay for all this crap?"
"I don't mind, Hiei. You and I go long way back. Now that you're starting a family, it's only right that I help you with the finances."
Your eye twitched again. "You're enjoying this too much."
"As it turns out, I'm helping you buy this stuff that you can't possibly afford because you don't have the means, and by means, it's means 'money' so that concludes that I can enjoy this however way I want." Kurama chuckled and placed the dresses in your arms. "Are we clear on that?"
"I can't believe I'm doing this." You mutter under your breath, clutching the small dresses that feel soft and frail in your grip.
The saleslady returned. She showed you each stripped and dotted pair of socks, telling you how wonderful it is that fathers are very involved with their children's lives, considering that many of them abandon kids these days. You listened to her ramble about that. And as you take the socks she recommends are the best ones to fit 'your daughter' (her words, you can't be saying that to yourself), she slips and tells you that her own father left even before she learned to walk. Her eyes start to moist and you really, really, really fucking hate seeing women cry. So you grunted 'thanks' and that you'll take it from here, that she's been great and all those polite shit humans say to each other to fake concern (Kurama gave you the 101 on human conversations). And she was gone.
"I'm impressed by the way you handled that." Kurama was saying as you headed to the shoes section. "I was worried that you were going to just stand there and not say anything appropriate."
"I would have."
"I know, and it's so easy to choose to be abrasive especially now that's in your nature." He smiled, patting your shoulder. "The point is, you didn't. That's what matters."
You glared at him and if only you weren't holding the plastic bags with the baby clothes he paid for, you would have punched him.
The next fifteen minutes were wasted on squeaky shoes. Kurama even demonstrated how they would sound like if the shoes are pressed on the floor. This got you thinking of how a human baby would walk around demon world with those shoes that will only make it easier for predators to grab and eat her. You can't let her wear those. That would make you an on-the-clock babysitter all the time. You won't get a chance to take your favorite afternoon naps. And babies cry and needed to be fed too, right? You're sure Tonic can have her share of these duties but she'll probably gonna make you have yours too. And you can say 'no' but you have a vague idea that you might choose to say 'yes' or at least take the baby with you, strap her securely around your body, cover her mouth with a pacifier...and take your nap.
"Hiei, you're too quiet. Is there something you want to tell me?" Kurama was now paying for the shoes.
"Do you think she has to wear that?" You ask.
"Are you worried about something?"
"It might attract demons."
"Well, isn't Tonic going to give birth here in our realm? Hiei, you can't possibly be thinking that she could raise a child in that world."
"I don't." You shake your head, contemplating. "Tonic insists. She said that her daughter can't live in this one because it's a savage place."
"Has she been out of demon world lately?" Kurama frowned. "You know what, if she's serious about having a life for her kid in that place, then I will personally get her back here. It's not safe there, Hiei."
"You care that much?"
You took the plastic bag the saleslady handed to you. "Look, I made a mistake about letting her stay with me and Mukuro. That's my problem to deal with. And this child is part of that. I understand that you think I'm out of my mind, letting this woman raise her daughter in a place like demon world. You're right about stopping it. But I don't see why it can't be manageable."
"You're considering this for real, aren't you?" Kurama trailed behind you. "Do you know what you're getting into?"
You honestly don't know. "The girl can grow up in demon world just as much as she can here in this world."
"But not normally." Kurama interjected. "I thought you were the right person to understand this, Hiei."
You stopped on your tracks. You don't want to look at him but you retorted. "Because I didn't grow up normally? Because my childhood is a wreck?"
"Not everyone likes the 'warmth and love' of human world, Kurama, don't make that erroneous assumption because you like it here."
"And you prefer that a human girl grows up in the same way you and Mukuro had? You think it wise? You think it fair?"
You finally turned to him. "Screw that. You think I care about what's best for the baby? You think this is why I'm discussing this with you?"
"Are you that delusional?" Kurama raised his voice. "You do care, you pathetic bastard! You're buying clothes for her. You're providing her mother a shelter, you and Mukuro are! You care enough to let me know what your plans are for her future and she hasn't been born yet! Don't act like a selfish gruff, Hiei, it's getting too old, and you know it."
This can't be happening. You believed he was right but you don't want to accept it. Hearing him point the obvious made you feel ashamed for some reason. You go back to the first three days with Tonic and how even Mukuro welcomed her. You remember how that round stomach felt like in your hands as you touched it, wondering if it responds to you. And a few days back when your sister wanted you, when she says that she loves you, loves you? Loves you like you even deserve it? Deserve her?
Kurama was saying something. You tried to listen. "I'll buy the rest of the stuff and give it to you later. I'll be in Demon World later tonight. Go home, Hiei."
Everyone keeps telling you where you belong, where you should go home to. You're so sick of it. But you headed back to the world of rotten flesh and carnage for now.
Mukuro and Tonic raided the clothes with enthusiasm that was in every female. They seem happy that you brought these things, like it would even make anything else feel better now that it's not. You watched them held up the dresses to each other, commenting on the fabric and the color and how Hina will look when she wears them--
Mukuro saw how your expression must have looked liked because she answered. "Tonic and I agreed that it's a lovely name."
You approached them. "We need to talk about the living arrangements."
"What's the matter?" Tonic blinked at you.
"I think you should go back to human world." You waited for them to challenge you with your decision but the two women just sat there and listened for you to go on. "Kurama and I agreed that it's the best place to raise your baby, Tonic."
"Her name is Hina."
"And she needs all the resources in order to grow up normally. She can find it there and I think you know it, Tonic. And I know you're here to run away and hide from the men who want you dead."
You can see Tonic's hands trembling.
"But Kurama and I will do everything in our power to keep you safe."
Mukuro adjusted from her position. She took Tonic's hand. "I think Hiei has come to his senses. This is what's best for you and Hina."
You glared at Mukuro as you waited for Tonic's answer.
"Can I think about this?" she asks.
"No." You said. "I'm not going to let you think about it. You can think about how you're going to bring your child to the right world she should be born into once you are there."
"But will you be around? And this Kurama person?"
"Yes." You knelt down to meet her gaze. Her fear was evident.
"But where? Where could me and Hina stay?"
And this is when Mukuro stood up. You haven't seen her stand so tall and assured like this for a very long time. "Hiei has a place in mind, does he not?"
You looked at her. And then you looked at Tonic. You answered. "My sister lives with a retired spirit master in a temple located high on the mountains. You'll be safe there."
"Your sister? This is news to me. Does she know?"
"Not yet. But I will tell her."
And this is when Tonic pulls you into an embrace, sobbing violently into your shoulder. You didn't hold her. But you let her cry.
Mukuro held your stare the whole time. She doesn't need you to explain. And you didn't have to. You're leaving her. There's nothing to it. This was going to happen sooner or later and you've already thought of your goodbyes. No moment should be shared. For a while the three of you knew that this is unavoidable and you all took your time to search through the ruins and live another day.
A/N: Download "Maybe Tomorrow" by Stereophonics, "Crashed" by Chris Daughtry, "Dear Angel" by April the 6th and "Bad Habits" by Michael Tolcher. It's the perfect theme songs for the twins, trust me!