An: I really, really apologize for the long update time. But this is the last chapter, I'm sad to say, and another story down. So, without further delay – onward!

ch 24

Hiei sat on Kurama's windowsill, staring blankly at the full moon overhead. Downstairs, Yusuke and Kuwabara had fallen asleep in the living room, Kuwabara on the couch and Yusuke in the chair. Kurama had managed to keep his mother from seeing his scars, but Hiei knew that wouldn't last for long. Koenma was no longer a problem, but the danger of being forced out was still there. Shiori might not take kindly to her son being a demon.

His thoughts were interrupted when Kurama walked into the bedroom. He looked away from the window. /Turning in?/

/Yeah. I'm more worn out than I thought I'd be./

/You're healing still. It will take time./

Kurama grunted and promptly shed his shirt and tossed it aside. The moonlight made the thin scars stand out even more. Hiei looked away. The fox paused, nightshirt in hand, and glanced up at Hiei. /Something wrong?/


/Liar./ Kurama walked over to him. /Something is not right. Tell me./ Still, Hiei would not look at him. Comprehension made Kurama's eyes widen. /I'm fine, you know. The scars will fade in time./

/I let it happen./ Hiei risked a glance at him. /I keep remembering the last time./

/It won't ever happen again./ Kurama assured him. /You know that./

Finally, Hiei turned to look him full in the eye. /This makes the third time. Next time you pull this near-death stunt on me, I won't try to pull you back. I'll just let you die./

Kurama's eyes flashed gold. /You think I don't know what you go through? Are you forgetting that Mukuro's surgeon almost killed you as well? I felt that too, you know./

Hiei's brow furrowed. /I thought we decided to - /

/There's only so far you could go./ Kurama said softly. /I'm surprised Mukuro didn't mention it to you. I went to visit while you were still healing. I couldn't stay without knowing how bad it was./

Hiei nodded slowly. /Then why in the hell do you keep putting me through the same?/

/Hey, the second time I had no intention of dying./ Kurama said mildly. /I knew Yusuke would interfere./

/That was a long shot./

/We've done worse./

/Yeah, but you usually fill me in. You know, the whole partners thing./ There was no venom in Hiei's voice, just as there was none in Kurama's. Life was too peaceful at the moment, that overwhelming sense of safety that always comes after a major crisis, and they didn't want to break that with a squabble about things that had already been discussed. Kurama simply shrugged.

/Normally you can read my mind./

/And yet you still take screaming left turns./ Hiei grumbled. Kurama just laughed.

Shiori knocked on the door. "Suiichi? May I come in?"

"A moment, Mother." Kurama hastily pulled on his nightshirt and stepped away from Hiei. The fire apparition refused to move. /You aren't going to leave?/ Hiei just gave him a dark look. Instincts were still running high, and would for quite some time. Kurama smiled. "Come in."

Shiori entered the room. "Your friends are already asleep. I thought they'd stay up much later than this."

"Oh, we've just had a rough few days at school. Tests and all – I'm sure they're just catching up on sleep. You should rest as well, Mother. You have your job interview tomorrow."

"Oh, I'll be fine." She sat down on his bed. "Hiei, are you staying the night as well?"

"Yes." Hiei said simply. Shiori nodded. Hiei glanced at Kurama, who merely shrugged. The fire apparition rolled his eyes and jumped off the windowsill. "I want ice cream."

Kurama chuckled. "Just don't wake the others."

"But that would be so much fun."

"You get to deal with a cranky Kuwabara then." Kurama retorted. Hiei simply smirked at him and left the room. It was Kurama's turn to roll his eyes. "I swear, Mother, it's like he enjoys annoying people."

/Especially you./

/Hush, you!/

Shiori smiled. It faded quickly. "Suiichi, can I ask you something?"


"What really just happened?" Kurama froze. Shiori continued. "You disappear for two weeks and come back hurt – don't give me that look, I can see it in the way you walk – and you tell me it's some sort of camp. A camp that you couldn't even call me and let me know what was going on. That's not like you, Suiichi."

Kurama sighed. "I don't suppose you'll just believe me this once."

That earned him another faint smile. "Not this time."

His fists clenched. "Please, trust me when I say – I'm not keeping you in the dark for kicks. I'm just trying to protect you."

/It may be time to finally tell her./ Hiei said softly.

/Not right now./ Kurama replied. /I need to rest first./ "I will tell you eventually. Just, please, not now."

Shiori studied him intently. "Tomorrow, then. You do look very tired."

Kurama smiled. "Thank you, Mother."

Shiori hugged him tightly. Kurama had to fight to keep from flinching. "I just want you to know you can tell me anything, Suiichi. Anything at all. I don't want you to be going through something and feel like you're alone."

Kurama's eyes flashed gold. "I'm not alone, Mother."

/Damn straight you're not./ Hiei growled. He stood just inside the doorway, watching as Shiori finally said good-night and left the room. Kurama sighed in relief as soon as the door shut. Hiei examined him carefully. "You should rest."

"I know." Kurama finally curled up in the bed and pulled the covers up to his shoulders. "Will you be staying inside tonight?"

"Unless you plan on making me a hammock again."

"Oh, shut up."

The End

So, yes, there's a whole new direction this could take. Unfortunately, school starts again on Monday, and all I will have time for is Prelude. So maybe the conversation between Kurama and his mom will show up in Prelude.

Until then, I remain yours truly,