(A/N: This fic owes almost its entire content to a (very) late night conversation with the wonderful Madhumalati. What's truly disturbing is that if you check the anime, I think it proves true most of the time.)
"The word you're looking for is 'bored,'" Kurama offered, in a friendly sort of voice.
Hiei scowled at him. Kurama had a way of doing that-in the middle of long silences he would, without preamble, throw out a sentence or two that happened to address exactly what Hiei was thinking. Occasionally, Hiei wondered which one of them was the telepath.
"What was that?" he replied. "I was asleep."
"No you weren't," Kurama replied with a smile. "You were just bored."
They were in Kurama's room, and Kurama was toying with one of his plant attacks, casting it at a beleaguered pillow, examining the outcome with a frown, then pulling the plant back into a seed and trying again. He had been doing this for nearly half an hour. Hiei had stopped paying attention after the first few minutes; obviously the fox saw something he didn't, because the attack seemed perfectly executed to him each time. He didn't, however, want to ask what was wrong and thus admit his ignorance of whatever nitpick was bothering Kurama; and he wasn't so foolish as to think he could sidetrack Kurama into doing anything else until he had "fixed" whatever was "wrong." The fox had a healthy dose of perfectionism in him.
Being stuck in human world was dull. Being stuck in human world while your partner was involved in cataloguing The 101 Horticultural Deaths of Your Pillow-that was just plain cruelty. Of course he was bored.
"You could try throwing that attack at me," Hiei suggested halfheartedly, not really expecting a positive response. "See how it fares against something that has arms. And muscle tissue."
"Not the point," Kurama replied distractedly, frowning at the umpteenth incarnation of his attack.
Hiei just barely bit back replying, then what is the point? Instead, he said, "If you don't care whether it can vanquish something other than a pillow, then you've lost your perspective, fox."
"I'm confident of this attack's ability to defeat my opponent," Kurama replied without looking at Hiei, still intently studying the plant life adorning the pillow. "This is just fine-tuning."
"But putting so much effort into something like that is a waste," Hiei said, hoping that he could bluff long enough to provoke Kurama into saying something that would explain what Kurama could see that Hiei couldn't.
"I'm not surprised you think so," Kurama replied placidly, pulling the plant back into a seed. "But it makes me feel a little better at the end of the day. Peace of mind."
"And what, exactly, is it about all this that gives you peace of mind?"
Kurama grew the plant again, and studied the results with a critical eye. "It's prettier," he said succinctly.
Hiei was about to give up in disgust, but the word pretty suddenly made something click in his head. He looked at the pillow and its collection of leaves, then back at Kurama. He can't be.
The plant collapsed back into a seed, then grew out again. Paying attention this time, Hiei could see that the green leaves had a distinctly more yellow cast to them this time. He scowled. "What are you going to do if you're wearing a different outfit?" he asked sarcastically.
"Oh, I can already get it to coordinate with most of my outfits. But the yellow in this tunic makes it hard to match with yellowish greens."
"… Are you serious?"
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"Because you have just spent over half an hour altering your attack to match your outfit."
"There's no reason things can't look nice at the end of the battle."
"Are you really that bored?"
"Not at all. You're the one who's bored."
"That vain, then?"
"I consider it a hobby."
Hiei wasn't sure what reaction he felt strongest-disbelief, or disgust, or amusement. Or perhaps mortification-because as he swiftly checked his memory, he realized that this was not some recent conceit of Kurama's. He had just been doing it so subtly that Hiei hadn't noticed. "You-you pick your attacks to match your outfit?"
"I pick my outfit to match the attacks I think I'm likely to use. Of course, I do have to improvise sometimes." Kurama sent Hiei a quick, amused glance that let Hiei know he should be alert for bullshit. "I give myself credit for matching the color scheme of my opponent's outfit, if I can't match my own. Double points for both."
"… You have too much time on your hands."
"And you have no sense of sophistication."
"You can change the color of your most common attacks at will," Hiei guessed, looking at Kurama for confirmation. The fox nodded. "By subtle manipulations of the seed." Another nod. "But your rose whip never changes."
"One must have a signature."
"What about your uniform? Even I can see that it clashes with your hair."
Kurama sighed dramatically. "Unfortunately it's school policy."
"School policy?" Hiei repeated, his tone derisive. "Are you telling me that you cannot manipulate a group of humans-a group of humans, by the way, who think you are a prodigy and who regularly release you from school on the flimsiest of excuses-to permit you within their hallowed halls if you do not wear pink?"
Kurama turned his attention to the plant with an intensity that let Hiei know he was irritated. "I suppose I do it to confuse people."
"By hurting their eyes?"
"Perfection," Kurama replied loftily, "irritates people. We must all make mistakes from time to time."
"Hah! A mistake made deliberately is just another calculation."
"Your point?" Kurama asked coolly.
"That your explanation doesn't hold up."
"I disagree. Remember, my intent is to confuse people. A simulated weakness can lull enemies into complacence."
"I am sure all your enemies feel great peace of mind knowing that you can't evade wearing a pink uniform. Security all over demon world is probably lightening as we speak."
Kurama only smiled to himself-a small smile he usually only wore after his opponent had made a fatal mistake and Kurama knew the victory was his-and said nothing, recasting the attack again. Hiei scowled. "Well?"
Kurama retracted the attack and fingered the seed. In a silky smooth voice, he said, "You're confused, aren't you?"
Hiei opened his mouth to answer, then shut it. Kurama's smile widened a little wider than was technically polite. "You know, Hiei, you could be a great help to me."
"It would be so much more challenging if you ever wore anything other than black-"