Youko's arms bind me to him. His hold is too tight. Hiei sits on the windowsill, seemingly ignoring us but I can tell he is slightly amused at my struggles to free myself from Youko's grasp. Hiei says quietly, no longer having a hint of a smile in his face,

"Youko does not want you to leave while he sleeps. His instincts scream at him to mark you as property since you are part of him." I am no longer part of him!

"We are now separate entities. Do you have any idea when he will be leaving to Makai?" My voice speaks calmly yet my mind revolts at the thought of Youko abandoning me. Hiei growls,

"He has nothing left for him there. All that is precious to him is either in this room or in a hospital room in the city." I still will not allow myself to be surprised when he leaves.

I reply coldly, "He has left what was precious behind him before. He may do that again." I hear a voice reverberate underneath me,

"Little kit, if you dare imply that I will leave you, Hiei, or mother, for a world that holds little value besides sad nostalgia again, I will mark you." He exhales softly on my neck. I shiver slightly. His lips gently caress my neck. I feel his sinful tongue stroke the skin underneath his lips. I cannot help the pleasant sparks that travel my body. He inhales deeply and says against my skin,

"Inari, your skin beckons me to blemish it, to worship it." I struggle and look at him. His eyes are glazed over with lust and some other emotion I cannot distinguish. His voice drops an octave as he says,

"I saw images from the dream you had last night. However, the situation in your dream is reversed. I'll take any affection you will give me, and I will try not to ask for more." His eyes are downcast. I feel horrified that he saw that dream! Youko's body is hunched, and he draws away from me. Is this truly him or is this an illusion? The proud being I know would never admit such emotion and would certainly not admit defeat. This must be a trick. I scoff,

"You would never admit defeat. You also have too much pride to confess such feelings." Youko glares at me. I can see rage seething inside, but suddenly it deflates. He turns away and mutters,

"I've never lied to you Shuuichi. I won't start now little kit." I feel confusion fill me yet again. I am irritated by how much he confuses me. Why would he confess to loving me when he could not confess to loving Kuronue when he loved Kuronue with his entire being? I inform him,

"I will check on mother. I will return later when we can continue this discussion." He doesn't look at me. I sigh and leave, planning to go back to my apartment for clothes and a shower.

Once I have left the temple, Hiei comes out next to me. He says angrily,

"Have you ever considered that Youko is still fragile? He shielded you from possibly being torn apart, and in exchange you treat him with coldness that rivals ice." I reply bitterly,

"He didn't trust me to be strong enough to live through it. He blocked me out. It is only fair I repay the favor." Youko is never fragile. He may be weak physically but he is never weak spiritually. His soul and mind are on a higher level than anything I could achieve. It is foolish to think I could be a part of him now that we are separated into individual souls. Hiei mutters,

"The foolishness of humans never ceases to amaze me." He leaves me alone. I sigh. I cannot rid the almost lost look Youko's eyes held after his anger from my mind. Is Youko really that broken? Why would Hiei side with him unless Youko was telling the truth? I feel too confused to deal with this right now. I ponder what to do about classes while returning to my apartment.

Once I reach my apartment, I see two girls from my class knocking on my door worriedly. I sigh and go up to them. The taller one says kindly,

"Oh Shuuichi! We've been worried about you! Where have you been for the past week? The professors are concerned too!" Her voice is too high pitched and loud for my ears right now. I sigh and lie smoothly,

"I've been dealing with some health issues. My mother is ill as well, and so I've been negligent until these issues forced me to handle them. I should be returning next week. Do not worry." I smile my best smile, though I certainly don't feel it. They both blush. I want to roll my eyes. I'm sure Youko would be if he were here. Where did that come from? I force myself not to frown.

The shorter one says enthusiastically, "We hope you get better soon and we'll see you next week! Here is some of your homework, ok." She opens her bag and pulls out several pages. I try not to wince seeing how much I am behind. I tell her,

"Alright. Thank you for bringing me the homework. Now, if you wouldn't mind, I would like to lie down. I am still not well." I smile slightly but allow some of my discomfort to show. They both move aside and no longer block the door to my apartment. They both say,

"See you later!" They both run and giggle like young children. I sigh hard and unlock my apartment door. I take the bundle of homework and set it on the kitchen table. I lock the door. I groan and allow my fingers to run through my unwashed hair. I go to my room and choose some clothes before taking a shower.

I arrive back at my apartment after spending a few hours with Shiori. She is extremely ill and would not wake up. I was hoping to talk to her. Her voice calms me down. It makes me feel safe, happy, and loved. I need those feelings right now without the possibility of them being thrown at me later or laughed at. I know I should go back to the temple, but I am physically and emotionally exhausted. What if Shiori dies? Who do I have left? Will I have Youko or will he steal Hiei from me and leave me alone here? I care about the others in the gang; however, my feelings for Hiei are on a different level. I can't even bare the thought of dealing with a world without Hiei. I feel tears well up in my eyes. I don't have Youko around to tell me not to cry, and that everything will be alright. I wish we had never separated! I want Youko back inside me, even though I hate his playing with me, and his jokes, he cared for me while I was part of him. Now, though, I don't know and I don't feel like he is the same. My tears fall in a steady rhythm as I go to the bedroom. I don't even take off my clothes. I bury my head in my pillow and allow my sadness to overwhelm me.

I have almost fallen asleep after about half an hour of crying when I feel Hiei enter the apartment. I pretend to be asleep. Hiei comes in and strokes my hair, just like Shiori used to do when I was a child. I feel my tears threaten to overwhelm me again. Hiei says in a calming tone,

"Shh, shh, I'm here. Even the mightiest warriors cry at the pain of a loved one." It is so unlike Hiei to offer comfort. I look at him. He frames my face with his hands and kisses my forehead. He says in almost a whisper,

"I'm here. I won't leave you alone." I sigh and let myself cry like a baby. I'm not strong enough to hold it in without Youko in me, and I believe Hiei when he says he won't leave me alone, if only for the sake of keeping me sane. Hiei sits on my bed. I wrap my arms around his waist and bury my head in his stomach. I cry myself into exhaustion, falling asleep to the calming repetitive petting of my hair.

I awake to find Hiei gone. I am not longer in my apartment. I am back at the temple. I hear voices arguing right outside my room.

"You can't mark him yet Youko! He's on the verge of insanity as it is. He's convinced that you'll leave, that you'll take me with you, and that his mother will die, leaving him completely alone here. If you mark him, he'll believe you want him as a pet, nothing more." Hiei yells. That is the most I've ever heard Hiei say at one time!

Youko replies in an angry tone, "I was going to rip Yusuke to shreds because he said that maybe Shuuichi should live as a human without us. If you hadn't stopped me and calmed me down, Yusuke would have had to use lethal force. I can't go around killing people because they get between Shuuichi and I." His voice softens and he says tiredly,

"My instincts damn well will drive me mad if I don't. I love Shuuichi more than anyone in any world. He is part of me, even now. I loved his innocence as a child, as well as his curiosity. I love his resolve and willpower. I love how he corrects peoples' speech in his head. I love how he bites his lip when he is concentrating or nervous. I love him more than my life. If he could only see that…I would do anything for him to see that."

Hiei says gruffly, "Baka kitsune, you should rest. Maybe he is asleep and so you could spend more time with him." I hear them slide the door open. I pretend to be asleep. I am intrigued by all of this and want to see what happens. Youko drags his feet and then lies down next to me. He nuzzles my neck, inhaling. He groans quietly, and licks my neck. I shiver at that. He asks quietly,

"Shuuichi?" I groan. He says awkwardly,

"Sorry for disturbing you. Just go back to sleep." I ask, feigning extreme grogginess,

"Why'd you lick me?" He says softly,

"Canine spirits often find touch and scent important. I licked you because I wanted to touch you but I knew you would feel trapped if you woke up in my arms again." His explanation is incomplete but I see the sincerity in his eyes. I sigh and tell him, pretending to be making a hard decision,

"It's alright if you hold me, but licking me is weird." He chuckles a little and holds me tightly. I inhale into his chest. He smells like wet grass, wild roses, musk, and something uniquely him. I feel him burry his nose in my hair. He says softly in my hair,

"No other has ever had such an inviting aroma. Clean air, tamed English roses, old-spice, and a tinge of ningen to give a bit of bite to the sweetness. If I could bottle you up, I could make more money than I could ever make thieving." I laugh at the sheer silliness of that statement. I ask him playfully,

"And what about you?"

"What about me?" He asks confused, his ear drooping. I want a picture of this. His confused expression makes me want to kiss him. I suddenly realize what I'm doing and stop. It would be too painful when he leaves if I open myself to him. I pull away from him. He growls deeply,

"MINE!" He clutches to me tighter and growls very territorially. I look towards the door to see Yusuke, Kuwabara, and Yukina there. They all are no threat to him. Yusuke would never hurt him and the other two couldn't hurt him. Hiei growls at Youko,

"Yusuke's married, baka kitsune. He won't challenge you for Kurama." I look at Youko's eyes. They have a wild, feral look to them. I feel very confused and a little frightened. I feel Hiei initiate a mental link. He says mentally,

"Youko's instincts are driving him wild. He doesn't see me as a threat because I have helped him and brought you back to him. If Youko ever has that look in his eyes and you try to run from him, he will mark you with no hesitation. If you don't want him to mark you as his mate, follow what he says and try to please his instincts." I sigh and nod slightly. I feel him break off the link. Youko starts to paw at my hair, trying to run his fingers through it. It irritates me because it is tangled from sleeping. Yusuke asks me,

"What's up with him?"

"He views me as his territory. You are a strong, young demon. You could challenge him and win your right to take me by killing him. I would have no choice. Youko just wants to keep others away from his property." I try not to sound irritated but it slips out a little. Youko's eyes become a little less feral, but now I see pain in his eyes. He shuts his eyes, and they become feral again. I see a bit of fear in his eyes. How did I hurt him? He's a demon! To him, I am property and probably a cute human to fuck with-that's it! Youko growls in my ear,

"Mate needs to behave. Mate needs to not say such things. Mate more than territory." His voice sounds like he has lost control of his instincts, and is letting them rule him. I look at Hiei for help.

"I think we should leave." Yukina says kindly. Kuwabara looks sick. He says obnoxiously,

"DID HE SAY MATE?" Yusuke pulls Kuwabara out of the room and Yukina follows. I am glad they left. Youko asks, still ruled by instincts,

"Mate need anything?" I look at Hiei for what to do. Hiei just glares at me. Hiei leaves the room, looking about ready to destroy something. I sigh and tell him,

"I need to stretch. I'm stiff." Youko lets me go. I want to run but Hiei told me to appease his instincts or else I will become his mate, whether I want to or not. I stretch. My neck hurts when I move it. I feel hands on my shoulders. I stiffen. Youko says,

"Neck hurts from sleeping?" I reply honestly,

"Yes, I did not sleep in a comfortable position." Youko's hands gently grip and then release my shoulders. He kneads the muscles in my shoulders and then at the base of my neck. I sigh. That feels nice. Even though it is not a proper massage, it is loosening up the tension in my neck, making it hurt less. Youko says calmly,

"I'm sorry to scare you. My instincts are getting harder and harder to control. I wanted to mark you because my instincts would calm down enough to where I could restrain them." His head buries into my back. His hands move to embrace me from behind. He puts both of his hands on my beating heart. It feels nice that he holds me like this. He says sadly,

"Earlier, when you said you were my property, it really made me want to scream. I want you to know that you are not an object to me. You mean a lot more than anyone or anything to me." He sounds exhausted. He asks,


"Yes?" I ask timidly, still uncertain as to what is going on. Youko says quietly,

"I'm still very weak and I know you're confused, but please let me sleep with you in my arms." I look at him. I see a sad desperation in them. This doesn't seem like the Youko I know; in his place is a desperate, love-starved, insecure kitsune. I don't like it. I feel my heart pull at me. Forget it; I can't be cold when he looks like he's going to collapse any minute. I nod. He lays down and waits for me to join him, and puts his arms loosely around me. I can tell he is trying his hardest to make me comfortable. It is heart breaking to see how sad and desperate he looks. I pull his arms around me tighter and wrap my arms around his waist. I tell him honestly,

"I'm very confused and you don't seem like the Youko I knew when you were part of me. However, I realize now that it doesn't matter; you care about me. We'll figure out the rest as we go." Youko holds me tighter and says,

"Thank you, little kit." I smile fondly at that nickname. Even though I used to hate it, it reminds me of the old, confident Youko I know and love. Our foreheads touch and he looks into my eyes. His eyes show exhaustion, fear, desire, hope, but most importantly, love. I curl up next to him more, burrowing my head against his chest. He kisses my hair and then we both relax. I feel oddly at peace right now. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but right now, everything feels alright in the world.