Everything and Nothing

I.

He is everything I want.

Not what I need. No, nothing I rationally desire or consciously approve of. Instead he is what I crave--he is every weakness I possess, packed tightly together and given life and breath. I do not think he knows this.

I don't think he knows me very well at all, truth be told. Sometimes he'll stop in the middle of a conversation and just stare into my eyes with a searching, bewildered look. Then he'll shake his head and say, "You are not Youko." More than once, he has added that he keeps looking for the legend in me, and cannot find him. Every time he's said this, I've kept silent.

If I truly were Youko--if nothing had changed--then he and I would have already formed a base of operations in Makai and started scheming. And if I truly were Shuichi--if everything had changed--then I would not have taken Hiei to my room that first, fateful time. Nor would I have invited him back, with subtle little suggestions that he probably responded to without even being aware of what he was doing. So I guess I can't blame him for this situation. I am the cause of my own distress.

And yet--I do blame him. If only because it's so improbable that he should exist, in possession of everything I am vulnerable to. His fierce independence--a challenge. His cockiness, the bark without enough bite behind it--an endearment. The way he verbally rejects even the notion of intimacy while watching me with hungry eyes, crawling through my window and resting at ease in my territory--an enticing contradiction. And the way he charges into battle without any thought, turning even the easiest of battles into potential disasters--something I dislike, but I've concluded that it must be essential in counterbalancing my own caution, because every one of my ex partners has shared this trait. They have also all resembled him--dark, brooding, handsome.

And he is so very, very available. He is as keenly interested in me as I am in him. It would only take half a dozen carefully worded sentences on my part for him to volunteer to be my partner in not only this plan, but every plan we could conceive of together.

Not saying those sentences is much more difficult than I could have guessed. I'm not one of those people who likes to be alone, but neither am I someone who can stand being surrounded by a crowd of people I don't know or trust. What I like best is to be with a partner: a single soul whose complexities I have unraveled, understood, and approve of. I want someone who is stronger but not as smart as me, and who is bound to me in every way I can make happen. Over the years I have lost half a dozen such partners; some have been killed, or banished, and some of those by my design. I could not have handpicked someone better suited to take their place than Hiei.

There's one final temptation about him--something that overwhelms all the others like they were nothing. Something I have no experience resisting. The smell of his hair, his skin, the blood surging beneath it, are all undeniably demonic. His eyes are feral, and colored like rusty blood. When he grins at me there are sharp fangs inside his mouth. Everything about him screams of Makai. After he has slept the night in my room, I wake up and my first disoriented thought is that somehow, I've gone home. I want to rub my face against the places on the walls he leaned or brushed against with his clothes, to inhale the scent better. Like him, I am known to trail off in the middle of a conversation and just stare. But I am not seeking a legend; I am trying to stay sober in the face of his ability to intoxicate me. It's because he's the first demon I've met in this, my second life, that I couldn't kill in my sleep. He's the kind of demon I used to be, and I didn't know how desperately I missed everything, until he was there.

II.

One night is all that can be spared. I invite him into my bed with every detail of my betrayal of him already planned. I do it because I can't remember why I'm fighting it so hard anymore. It can't possibly matter anymore, when no matter what course events take, I'll be dead in a few days.

This is just a rationalization, a justification, for what happens. For the rush of desire and craving suddenly overpowering caution and restraint; for a reckless seduction.

Despite all his independence, his untouchable air, it doesn't take much to persuade him. I kiss him first, but he is the one who pushes us back against the bed a few moments later; he is the one whose intensity, frenzy even, tells me how long he has wondered what this would be like. He is the one who sinks his fangs into my lips, my skin, and licks away the blood.

And I become completely his, because I crave this sharpness, this edge, so deeply. And he is also completely mine, through his inexperience and his desire; in this moment, I hold the power to make him do anything. This is what I love best about having a partner, the same man by my side for business and for pleasure: the moments when we are simultaneously in each other's sway. The mix of safety and danger to be found in such a situation elates me in a way that nothing else can.

After, he lies next to me panting and drenched with sweat, his face to the mattress. He seems to be getting himself together enough to speak, and I know he's preparing to make that offer I have always suspected I could get from him: to be my partner in not this, but every scheme, and to combine forces not temporarily, but permanently. I know he's going to say it.

So I turn him onto his back and kiss him, kiss him until both the ability and the desire to speak are lost in wordless pleasure. I do not want to lie to him, and I think he would be able to tell if I did. So I'll keep him silent, and spare myself having to answer. I make certain that he falls asleep first, so I can watch his expressions to the last and be certain that there is no suspicion there.

I wonder what he will do, deprived of his revenge, when I am dead.

III.

If anyone but Yusuke had tried to intervene, the situation would have ended differently. Hiei would have proved too great a temptation. I would have let him persuade me back to his side, back to my old life, and Shiori would have died. It was that near a miss.

Of course I didn't want Shiori to die. But I didn't have a death wish myself, either. I felt guilty for what I had done to her in the past, and resentful for what I was about to do for her sake. It was the best plan I could come up with, but it was by no means a good one. I was vulnerable. Hiei never had my skill at persuasion, but he did know something of the art, and a certain amount about me. I don't think he realizes how close he came to winning me over.

But none of it matters, because it was Yusuke who arrived. Yusuke, who had that same cockiness I secretly loved in Hiei, but who also had an open earnestness that was completely new to me. I told Hiei, as we argued while Yusuke and Gouki faced off, that I would consider returning to the original plan; but I couldn't help but hedge my bets and reach out to Yusuke also.

And then, things happened faster than I could understand them. I found myself suddenly ready to go through with my suicide, and confessing it all to a fourteen year old human. There was something about the way he listened that made it hard not to speak; or maybe it was only the satisfaction, the temptation, of leaving my story with someone. At any rate, I was resigned. Then it was over, and I was--alive. It was almost a day before I could truly accept, understand, what had happened. And then, what should happen but that Hiei's scent--the same scent that had driven me to distraction only days ago--should suddenly be everywhere, screaming his readiness for battle. What could I do but go?

I could have killed him. Hiei knows that. My attacks are well suited for distance; I could have flicked his sword from his hand (or wrapped my whip around his neck, for that matter) from the doorway. But I ran forward instead. I suppose Shiori had changed my character at least this much: that I was unwilling to kill Hiei, even to prevent Yusuke's death. The only thing I could do, therefore, was put myself between them. I remember thinking as I ran that it was fitting; that after all the partners I had betrayed and outlived, it was only justice that someone who should have been my partner would deliver the final blow.

But I was wrong, again. I didn't allow for the depth of Hiei's shock; I didn't allow for Yusuke being quite as strong as he was; I didn't even allow for how much effect my single action would have on the course of the battle. It was the second time in as many days that I had deliberately set out to die, and I had never suspected that if I should take such an action, I would fail. I was too numb to do anything but heal my own wounds. Someone else would have to control what would happened next.

IV.

He is nothing that I want.

He is an associate who is made my associate against his will. He is a dangerous demon already once betrayed, and with no real resolution to that betrayal. He is a man who has been in my bed but is no longer welcome there. He is someone I don't trust who knows all of my weaknesses; who still, in point of fact, personifies everything I am vulnerable to. If he ever chose to eviscerate me, he wouldn't need a weapon.

I suspect the only thing that keeps him from doing so is the knowledge that I could easily inflict the same damage upon him. The irony is too bitter to be laughed at. Certainly we are now bound together in every way I could have caused; certainly we are simultaneously in each other's power, in that tenuous place of safety and danger combined which I sought so earnestly. I do not want it; I did not choose it, I find no joy in it. I understand neither of us as well as I thought I did.

My anger is held in check by the knowledge of his strength, his temper, and all the reasons he has to hate me. My affection is allowed to show because of the knowledge that his affection for me hasn't died, in spite of everything. He surprises me in every moment, whether it's by his contemptuous rejection of words or gestures I thought welcome, or his open, unrestrained praise of me to others.

Yet I have to admit that as much as I resent his presence, the sense of safety is just barely greater than the sense of danger. We are well and truly stranded together, we two, whether through fate or our own faulty machinations. To our one side stands the human world, were we are feared and hated, where neither of us could ever find a permanent home; to our other side, the demon world, where we are met with the deepest loathing, despised as traitors, where no second of sleep could ever be safe. And for our inner circle of confidantes we have bumbling, incompetent godlings, their bumbling, incompetent staff, and teenage boys who despite all their strength are junior high students who could never understand us although they think they already do. Who could we possibly turn to but each other? Hiei's scent remains as addicting as ever, but for a much different, deeper-rooted reason. Rather than a rush of heat and the pleasure of pursuit, I feel the weary assurance that I've arrived at home. A dangerous home, full of disillusion and dischord, but without doubt the only place in the world I can claim to belong.

I don't know what comes next. I have never had to live with my mistakes before. I can only hope, since I have no other option, that he will prove to be a mistake worthy of correcting.