Kurama woke with a start. The last thing he clearly remembered was the ceiling caving in on them back in Ryu's castle. Now he was aware of being in a soft bed with blankets pulled over his shoulders and a small, warm body pressed securely against his chest. Slowly, he opened his eyes.
He was in his room, the window drapes pulled shut, allowing only minimal light in. Glancing down, he sighed in relief when he saw Hiei wrapped securely in his arms. The fire apparition was watching him appraisingly, his normally bland mask completely gone in favor of genuine concern. "You're awake." Hiei said quietly.
Kurama chuckled. "No. I thought I was dreaming."
That earned him a small smirk. "Sarcasm. You must be all right."
"Well, you have to admit, it was a deserving comment." Kurama said, pulling Hiei a bit closer. "What happened?"
"Beats me. Apparently Yusuke and the idiot came and rescued us. They've been staying in the spare room for the past four days." Hiei said with a one-armed shrug. Kurama's eyes went wide. Hiei continued. "Your mother has been gone almost as long as we have. Something about a honeymoon, whatever that means. Ask Yusuke. Every time Kuwabara mentions it, he turns red and starts giggling like a moron."
Kurama couldn't help it. He laughed. "How did they manage to get through the demon world alive?" he wondered. "They're good, but they aren't that good. They'd be overwhelmed by sheer numbers."
Hiei grinned. "They had helped. Touya and Jin, of all demons. They're downstairs right now as well, with Yusuke and Kuwabara. They've been waiting for you to wake up." Suddenly he turned serious. "If you ever pull that stunt on me again I will kill you myself, fox. I thought you were going to die."
Kurama smiled. "You were the one who was dying." he said softly. "I felt I had the right to protest."
Hiei snorted. "Protest. Right. Is that what they're calling risking your life these days?"
"Oh, shut up." Kurama attempted to sit up, but Hiei shifted enough to pin him down by his arm. Kurama glared half-heartedly at him. "Look, if we're going to go reassure everyone that I'm not about to join the Spirit World, I kind of need to get up."
"Not yet." Hiei sat up, and now Kurama could see that his shoulder was bandaged. He was still bruised and his torso looked like a crowd had used him for a door mat, and his Jagan eye was unsealed as well. Now he pinned Kurama with his most serious look. "Touya and Jin have enough couth not to ask, but you know Kuwabara and Yusuke will not shut up until we tell them. We're going to have to think of something."
Kurama hesitated, studying his friend. He really didn't have the energy for this. Despite sleeping for a solid four days, he felt like he could sleep for four more. Finally, he sighed. "I leave it in your hands. Do you trust them to not use it against us – or more importantly, do you trust them to understand?"
Now it was Hiei's turn to hesitate. "Kuwabara? The oaf will never get it." he said harshly. "But Yusuke – Yusuke will understand. And I doubt he would use it against us. Kuwabara isn't the only one with an honor code. Foolish humans."
Kurama chuckled. "Then we will tell them."
Hiei had just stretched out beside Kurama again, this time with his back against Kurama's chest, when Kuwabara and Yusuke walked in. To Kurama's surprise, Hiei didn't immediately jump up and take up his usual perch in the windowsill. Their secret was open still. The fire apparition knew his comrade was still nervous from their encounter with Ryu. Keeping close kept him calm. Yusuke smiled at the sight. Kuwabara just made a face.
"We figured you guys would be awake by now." Yusuke said, keeping his voice low. He pulled Kurama's desk chair out and took a seat. Kuwabara stayed standing behind him. "Touya and Jin just left. They sensed you wake up." Hiei nodded. Yusuke continued. "Look, I'll understand if you guys don't want to talk about what happened, but we do have a few questions."
It was Kurama who answered, letting his eyes slide closed as he did so. "We will answer your questions. Nothing more, though."
Yusuke nodded. "Fair enough. First question – how did they catch you guys?"
"Yeah – you're the toughest of us all." Kuwabara added. "They must've been really strong."
"Hiei should answer that one." Kurama said, his voice sounding faint. Hiei twisted slightly to study the fox. He was on the verge of falling back asleep, but fighting it. Hiei himself was also fighting the pull of much-needed rest. He nodded.
"We had set up camp for the night." Hiei explained shortly. "We made a mistake – neither of us were paying attention to our surroundings. There are low-level demons all over the place, so we didn't pay any attention to the ones around us. We realized our mistake when they attacked us. They overwhelmed us with surprise and sheer numbers." He hesitated. As he told his tale, he had propped himself up with one arm so he could look at the others while lying on his side. Now he looked away.
"They had a knife at Kurama's throat. I did the only thing I could do."
Suddenly Kurama was very much awake. "That explains a lot." he murmured, adjusting himself so he was sitting up. Hiei sprang from the bed and materialized on the windowsill, looking much more relaxed. Kurama couldn't help a smile. "I was wondering how they managed to convince you to stop fighting."
"Wait." Kuwabara said suddenly. "You mean you surrendered just because of Kurama? Why do I not believe that?"
"Because you're a fool?" Hiei snapped. "No matter what you think, Kuwabara, I am not a heartless monster. I just don't care for much."
"Demons do not make friends as a rule." Kurama explained quietly. "When we do, we do not advertise it. It's considered a weakness, even among demons like us who are strong." Kuwabara glared at them both and looked away. Kurama's eyes narrowed. "We do not expect you to understand or accept."
"I do." Yusuke said quietly.
"You're a special case, Detective." Hiei said calmly. "And even you may not understand everything."
"Which leads to question number two." Kuwabara said, crossing his arms over his chest. "Why does Kurama have a bruise in the same place Hiei got stabbed? I heard of demon weapons that do weird things, but that's just creepy."
"That wasn't the weapon." Kurama said. "We can explain that as well, but – it's complicated."
"That, fox, is putting it mildly." Hiei muttered.
Yusuke didn't look away. "We have time."
"Very well." Kurama adjusted himself so he was leaning against his headboard. "I lied to you about how we met, Yusuke. I implied that I met Hiei here in the human world, when he found me shortly before our theft. That wasn't true. We knew each other long before that, long before I was ever injured. He knew me back when I was Youko, and Suiichi was nothing more than an unknown name. We worked well together – perhaps too well, come to think of it. We complimented each other perfectly. After a while, we became friends."
Hiei took up the tale. "Eventually we decided to become blood brothers." he said, his voice low as he stared out the window. "The bond would give us access to each other's powers as well as our strengths and emotions. It's not recommended, but it gave us power we had never known before."
Yusuke tilted his head to the side. "Not recommended?"
"Hiei was stabbed, and I received a similar wound." Kurama explained. "If someone knows how to manipulate the bond, then whatever damage they inflict on one of us would be reflected in the other."
"So they could use your bond thingie to kill you both?" Kuwabara wondered.
"Precisely, fool." Hiei muttered darkly. "Ryu knew that. He would have killed us too if we hadn't broken out when we did."
"He nearly killed us anyway." Kurama said quietly.
Yusuke considered for a moment. Kurama closed his eyes, letting exhaustion wash over him. Hiei glanced at him from the window. Kurama smiled without ever opening his eyes. "Blood brothers." Yusuke murmured. "So basically, you did the same thing humans do when we become blood brothers, but it tied your spirit energies together?"
Hiei smirked. "It tied much more than that together, Detective." But he didn't elaborate, and neither did Kurama. Yusuke sighed.
"Well, I'm glad you two are all right." he said, standing up. "We'll let you guys get some rest. Oh, and Kurama – your mom will be home tomorrow. That's what the note said, at any rate." With that he left the room, a grumbling Kuwabara on his heels.
The door had shut and the footsteps faded before Hiei spoke again. "They barely understand."
"It's not for them to understand." Kurama said. "You should get some sleep, Hiei. I don't think our troubles are over yet."
An: Holy cow, it's finally done! Yay! (grins) I have a multi-chapter prequel in the planning – the story about how/why Kurama and Hiei decided to become blood brothers. If you want it, you got to request it. And yes, I will be taking liberties with their past. I haven't gotten that far in the series, so I have no idea. So read, review, and until then I remain yours truly,