Leaning over the bed, Shiori pressed her palm against her son's forehead. "Oh Shuuichi, you're burning up. Don't worry, I'm going to give you something to make you feel better."
With a weak shake of his head, Kurama reached for her wrist. "No Mother, I'll be fine in the morning. I just need some rest."
With a smile, Shiori easily pulled his fingers away. "Don't be silly Shuuichi. I've got it right here. Now, let me help you sit up so you can take this."
Shiori slipped an arm under his neck and lifted his head. When she attempted to put two pills in his mouth, Kurama raised his hand and tried to push them away. "No, please. I can't."
Ignoring his words, Shiori tried to shrug his hand away. Realizing he was too weak to resist, Kurama's other hand trembled as it stretched out toward the window. "Hiei, help me."
Even though his plea was whispered, it was heard and answered. "Shiori! Release him this instant."
At the deep voice that suddenly came from the window, Shiori jumped. "Oh Hiei! You startled me. I'm glad you're here though. Shuuichi is sick and he won't take his medicine. Maybe you can get him to take it."
Taking the pills she held out to him, Hiei set them on the nightstand. "I'm afraid I can't do that Shiori. Kitsunes are earth creatures and can't take conventional medicine. It would likely kill him."
Startled by his words, Shiori's eyes widened. "Kitsunes? Kill him? What are you talking about? He's my son, I would never give him anything that would harm him."
Ignoring her, Hiei hopped on the bed and leaned over Kurama. "What's wrong with you Fox?"
Struggling to breathe, Kurama's response was barely audible. "Flu."
Hiei frowned. "Ours or theirs?"
As if it was too hard to keep them open, Kurama's lids drooped heavily over his green eyes as he answered. "Ours."
Shiori gasped. "What does that mean?"
Hiei spared her a brief glare as he quickly made a decision. "Fox! Do you have what I need to treat you?"
Without opening his eyes, Kurama raised a shaky hand to his hair. So slowly that Hiei began to doubt he could do it, Kurama finally withdrew two seeds and held them in his palm. "Don't think I can…"
Turning his head away, Kurama began to cough. Hearing the redhead's chest rattle, Hiei began to really worry. Cupping the trembling hand that held the seeds, Hiei growled. "Yes you can Kurama! I'll supplement your energy with mine. Just command the seeds to grow."
Seeing that Shiori was about to speak again, Hiei silenced her with a glare and shake of his head. Concentrating on Kurama again, Hiei fed ki into the seeds and watched Kurama's brow wrinkle in an effort to concentrate. After several seconds, he felt the seeds begin to grow. "That's it Fox. Keep going."
A minute later, Hiei took a thick brown root and a sprig of leaves from Kurama's hand. "You did it Kurama. Now tell me how to prepare them."
Hiei winced at the wheeze he heard in every breath Kurama took. "Split root… expose core and boil it. ~wheeze~ Don't rush, ~wheeze~ have to wait for water to turn brown. ~wheeze~ Dry leaves ~wheeze~ make tea with leaves and root water."
Kurama was visibly exhausted. Shiori watched as Hiei lay a hand on her son's chest. After a minute she saw him relax and could hear that he was breathing easier. "Hiei, what's going on? What did you just do to him?"
Pausing only a moment to consider his answer, Hiei finally opted for the truth. "I infused him with my spirit energy. It should help him breathe better so he can rest while we prepare his medicine."
Not waiting for her to respond, Hiei turned and left the room. When she didn't immediately follow, Hiei called over his shoulder. "Come on woman. He won't get better without this medicine."
At a loss for words, Shiori followed without question. Once in the kitchen, Hiei went to the counter and pulled a knife from the butcher block. "We need a pot of water to boil this root."
As Shiori again followed his direction, Hiei took the knife and split the root down the center. When Hiei went to add the root to the water Shiori had warming on the stove, he frowned and growled. "It's not boiling."
Giving him a look of disbelief, Shiori shook her head. "No, of course not. It takes time for the water to get hot enough to boil."
Impatient, Hiei frowned and placed a finger in the water. "We don't have time for that."
Shiori gasped when only a second later the water was at a full boil. Seeing Hiei's finger still in the boiling water, she cried out and grabbed for his hand. "Hiei! You're going to get burned!"
Hiei allowed her a moment to examine his hand before pulling it away with a grunt. "Hn. I can't be burned."
For a minute they both stood watching the root boil. When it was apparent that it would take a while for the water to turn brown, Shiori looked at Hiei. "What did you mean, that you can't be burned? Hiei what's going on here? You've been saying and doing the strangest things today. What did you mean when you asked Shuuichi who's flu he had? Where did these things you're brewing come from? They seemed to just grow in his hand. Please Hiei, that's my son up there."
Realizing he'd gone too far to lie to her now, Hiei again opted for the truth. He could always erase her memory later. "Shiori, the flu Kurama has isn't your normal ordinary human flu, it's Makai flu. It not only makes him sick, but will drain his spirit energy until it kills him."
Wide eyed Shiori stammered. "Ma… Makai? As in demons? That's not possible. There's no such thing as demons."
Rolling his eyes, Hiei shook his head as he answered her. "Human arrogance! I am a demon Shiori. You asked why the water didn't burn me. It's because I'm a fire demon."
To help prove his point, Hiei stuck the fingers of his right hand into the flame beneath the boiling pot. Crying out, Shiori again grabbed for his hand. Blocking her, Hiei removed it himself. This time however his fingers were on fire. "Hiei! No!"
When Shiori looked for something with which to extinguish the flames, Hiei grabbed her wrist and held her in place. "Relax Shiori, it won't hurt me. Watch."
With little effort Hiei made the flame dance from one finger to another before snapping his fingers and the flame was gone. "See, not a mark."
Not sure if she should be terrified or intrigued, Shiori stared at him. "If you're really a demon, that means you gave Shuuichi the flu. How will Makai flu affect him since he's human?"
Checking on the boiling root, Hiei shook his head. "No, a human can't catch Makai flu any more than a demon can catch a human flu. Makai flu attacks more like a parasite, going after a demon's more powerful spirit energy. Human energy is too weak to be susceptible to Makai flu, just as demons are too strong to be vulnerable to human flu. Kurama must have caught it when he went to Makai last week. Yukina told me he went to gather special herbs for her medicine kit."
Stunned, Shiori's voice trembled when she was able to speak. "Sh… Shuuichi is h… human, how can he have Ma… Makai flu?"
Hiei's answer was brief as he cupped the leafy plant Kurama had grown between his hands. By the time Shiori felt the heat emanating from his hands, Hiei held the now dried leaves in his palm. "As I said, only a demon can contract Makai flu. Now, where does Kurama keep his special teas?"
So confused by both his answer and the sudden change of subject, Shiori automatically pointed to a cupboard. Opening it, Hiei began opening tins to smell their contents. After several failed attempts, he finally found what he was looking for in an old blue tin in the back. "Shiori, I need something to seep the tea in."
Taking something from a drawer, Shiori didn't hand it to him, but waited for Hiei to look at her. "Is my son a demon?"
Feeling her heart constrict, Shiori vaguely watched Hiei crush the dried leaves together with the tea leaves and use the root water to brew a tea. Suddenly noticing something, Shiori inquired. "Hiei, what's under your headband? I just noticed it's glowing purple."
Carefully pouring the freshly brewed tea into a mug, Hiei added several spoons of sugar. "The headband is a ward that covers my Jagon eye. It glows because I'm using the eye to keep watch over Kurama. He's getting restless again. Let's go."
With the medicine he'd made in hand, Hiei headed upstairs with Shiori right behind him. At Kurama's door he stopped, but didn't turn to face her. "The flu is messing with Kurama's spirit energy, so he's going to look a little different."
Leaving Shiori to wonder what he meant, Hiei went in. A moment later he heard he gasp. "Shuuichi?"
Kurama still lay on the bed, his red hair damp from his fever. Nestled in his tangled red hair though were two silver fox ears. Restless from his fever, Kurama kicked the covers off revealing a long fluffy silver tail pushed up out of the waistband of his sleep pants. Unable to move, Shiori watched Hiei slip an arm under his shoulders to raise his head. "Open up Kurama. I need you to drink this."
Moaning, as if even the sound of Hiei's voice hurt him, Kurama resisted at first, but finally gave in to the insistent fire demon. At the first little sip, Kurama winced. "Hot."
Drawing the cup away for a moment, Hiei frowned. "Sorry Fox. Try it now."
Finally finding her voice, Shiori hurried forward. "Hiei! He said it was too hot."
When Kurama drank this time without protest, Shiori looked at Hiei confused. "I used my energy to draw some of the heat from it."
After several more sips, Kurama's lip twitched in an attempt to smile. Shiori's own eyes widened when she saw large golden eyes look up at Hiei. "Hn. Even with all that sugar you are so fond of Dragon, ~wheeze~ I can still tell you added my lavender blend to the mix."
Urging Kurama to drink more, Hiei grunted. "Hn. I knew I couldn't sneak anything past a sly old fox like you. I added the sugar because the elderberry root smelled like crap."
Again trying to smile, Kurama pushed the near empty cup away. "Thank you Hiei. ~wheeze~ Medicated and with you to guard me, I should be able to rest now."
As Kurama closed his eyes, Hiei uncharacteristically reached out to stroke one of his Youko ears. "I'll be right here Fox."
Breathing a little easier as he started to drift off to sleep, Kurama whispered. "I am not old."
With a snort, Hiei turned to the window. Thinking he was leaving, Shiori called out softly. "You're not leaving are you?"
Hiei made himself comfortable on the window ledge before answering her. "No Shiori, not until Kurama's better. He will only be able to rest if he knows I'm here keeping guard over you both."
Pulling the chair from Kurama's desk near the foot the bed, Shiori gave him a questioning look. "Guard us from what?"
Hiei looked out the window as he spoke. "Kurama has many enemies that might sense his weakness and try use this opportunity to take their revenge. If they sense me protecting him, there shouldn't be a problem."
Looking back at her son, Shiori continued her questions. "I don't understand all of this Hiei. My son is human, he can't be a demon."
Even though this wasn't his secret to tell, Hiei knew Kurama wouldn't want his mother to be afraid. For now he would tell her the truth, then they'd figure out what to do about it later. "Yes, your son was born a human, but he was born with the soul of an ancient spirit fox. A Youko named Yoko Kurama. As Shuuichi grew, Yoko's soul and demon energy became stronger, until his human body is now little more than a host for the demon within. The fact that he was once human is the only reason I questioned if he could have a human flu. As an adult, Kurama retains only a fraction of his humanity. He has once again become the powerful demon he once was."
Before Shiori could question him further, Hiei suddenly jumped from the window and rushed to the bed. Looking at her son, Shiori could see he was shivering. When Hiei gathered the redhead in his arms, Kurama clung to him tightly. "Ssssooo cccold."
Kurama's teeth were even chattering as he tried to get closer to Hiei. Though Shiori couldn't see it, Hiei had raised his body temperature trying to warm Kurama up. "It's alright Fox, I'll get you warm."
After only a minute, Kurama's teeth stopped chattering and his shivering subsided. "Go back to sleep now Fox. I'll be right here."
Snuggling closer to Hiei's heat, Kurama sighed. "Don't ever leave me Hiei."
Ruby eyes widened at the unusual request, but Hiei didn't comment. A few minutes later, when it appeared Kurama was once again resting comfortably, Hiei nodded to Shiori. "Can you get some fresh clothes for him? These are soaked from when his fever broke."
By the time Shiori took clean sleep pants and a t-shirt from the dresser and turned around, Hiei had Kurama's damp clothes stripped away and he was covered with the sheet. A bit embarrassed that another man was changing her son's clothes, Shiori went to look out the window. "If I remember my mythology correctly, a Youko is part fox, part man. You're telling me that's what Shuuichi is?"
Turning back for the answer, Shiori saw Hiei leaning against the headboard of the bed, with Kurama cuddled contently against his chest. "Yes. In his true form, Yoko is well over six feet tall with long silver hair and golden eyes. If it weren't for the tail and these fuzzy ears, he could pass for an eccentric human."
When Hiei stroked one of his Youko ears, Kurama murmured in his sleep and leaned into the caress. Seeing this, Shiori chuckled. "He likes that. Tell me more."
Hiei smirked. "Foxes, like other animals, love attention. Youkos are particularly vain though, so Kurama is always meticulous in everything he does."
More intrigued now than frightened, Shiori moved the chair closer to the bed and sat down. "I want to know about demons too, Shuuichi… I mean Yoko in particular. What about those plants? Where did they come from?"
With nothing else to do but wait for Kurama to wake up and kill him for revealing his secrets, Hiei answered. "More spiritually aware than humans, demons have abilities humans don't know how to harness. I told you I'm a fire demon and showed you my fire powers. Well, animal spirits usually have earth powers, so Kurama is a plant manipulator. He keeps a supply of seeds hidden in that mane of his and can use his energy to control any plant. He also has vast knowledge of how to use them to heal."
Shiori frowned. "How can he have such a vast knowledge of these things? Shuuichi is only twenty-two years old and I'm sure he didn't learn those kind of things in high school or at the university."
Hiei shook his head. "No, his knowledge was learned the hard way, as a Youko surviving in Makai for almost a thousand years."
When Shiori's eyes widened, Hiei continued. "A demon's lifespan is considerably longer than a human's. Our bodies are stronger and more resistant to disease. We live very hard lives though, and more demons die a violent death than die from old age."
Shiori's startled gaze moved to Kurama. "How did Shuuichi get Yoko's soul?"
Hiei sighed. "Yoko was shot and killed by a hunter. Not wanting his life to end, or to be taken to Reikai for judgment, he sent his spirit through a portal to hide in the Ningenkai. Needing a host for his spirit until it healed and he was strong enough to return to Makai, Yoko took refuge in your unborn child. By the time Shuuichi was five, the demon had become strong enough to begin training the boy for their return to Makai. Kurama's transition from human to demon was completed after only sixteen years."
Shiori tried not to reveal how nervous she was about her next question. "Hiei, twice you've mentioned him returning to Makai. Is Shuuichi planning to leave?"
Considering his words carefully, Hiei shrugged. "When Yoko's soul merged with Shuuichi, he estimated it would take ten years to regain enough strength to return to Makai. There was only one problem with his plan. Though his spirit energy was strong enough to return him to Makai, emotionally he was still bound to the Ningenkai. Bound by something most demons never have… a mother's love."
Hearing that he had stayed for her, Shiori reached out to stroke her son's hair. In his sleep, Kurama murmured softly. "Mother."
Looking at Hiei wide-eyed, Shiori whispered. "How did he know it was me and not you touching him?"
When Hiei rubbed his back, Kurama sighed. "Hiei."
Hiei smirked at Shiori. "His increased spiritual awareness. Your ki signature is very different than mine. Even in sleep, a demon is aware of his surroundings. When he is well, or if I'm not here to protect him, Kurama's spirit awareness is strong enough to know if there is a demon within a half mile radius of him."
Thinking that every answer seemed to create more questions, Shiori frowned. "Hiei, it seem as if you feel it's your job to protect him? Are you and Shuuichi… involved with each other?"
Without even realizing he was doing it, Hiei lowered his eyes briefly, as if the question embarrassed him. "Kurama is my partner. I asked him to be my partner seven years ago, because I needed his abilities to break into the Reikai vault for an artifact I wanted. Later, we continued as partners when, as punishment for our crime, we were sentenced to work with Yusuke and Kuwabara as Reikai spirit detectives."
Shiori's mouth fell open hearing that her son was a criminal, but she didn't interrupt. "Even now that our sentence is over, we still team up with Yusuke and Kuwabara on missions for both Reikai and Makai."
Smiling, Shiori felt guilty for her assumption. "So, when you said you were partners, you didn't mean you were a couple? So, what abilities can a human slash Youko with plant manipulating powers have that would be valuable for breaking into the Reikai vault?"
The look on Hiei's face was almost comical as Shiori watched him decide what he should say. "Kurama is only my fighting partner Shiori. Since he's already going to kill me for having such a loose tongue, what the hell. For centuries, Yoko has been hailed as Makai's greatest thief. Not only is he an expert code breaker, he is the only living creature to ever successfully break into Reikai."
There was a hint of mischief in Shiori's smile. "It's too bad you two aren't more than just fighting partners. It sounds like with the life demon's lead, you should have someone you can trust by your side."
This time as he looked away, there was a faint blush on his cheeks. "Human or Youko, Kurama has always been desired by those around him. He would never want anyone as lowly as me for his mate."
As if to contradict his words, Kurama nuzzled against Hiei's neck and licked him twice. "My Dragon."
Unable to stop herself, Shiori giggled at the wide-eyed shock on Hiei's face. "I wonder if Shuuichi doesn't think differently. Why do you think yourself unworthy of him?"
Giving her a cold stare, Hiei's answer was blunt. "Because it's true! He comes from a distinguished Youko clan that can tie it's origins to Inari himself. In his own right, Yoko Kurama is a legendary thief and lover, feared and respected by all. I, on the other hand, am the bastard offspring of the forbidden union between a fire demon and an ice maiden. I doesn't matter that I am now one of the strongest and most feared demons in the three worlds, I will always be the Forbidden Child and considered an abomination by any demon standard."
Shiori smiled. "Yet that same ancestor to Inari is cuddled in your arms, calling you his Dragon and trusting the Forbidden Child to protect him and me. That doesn't sound like someone Shuuichi considers unworthy."
Seeing it from her point of view, Hiei didn't have a response. Turning his gaze to the window and seeing the sun rising, he realized they must have talked the entire night. Almost as if he sensed it, Kurama stirred in his arms. Looking down at him, Hiei hid a smile as Kurama stretched and gave a little yawn before snuggling against him again. "Hmm, Hiei."
Hiei smile slipped out just a bit as his name was moaned contentedly. A moment later, he heard Shiori's small gasp when the fox ears tucked themselves away beneath Kurama's red hair. Under the sheet that covered them both, Hiei could feel his tail was receding as well. When his name was whispered again, there was a definite question in his tone. "Hiei?"
Red lashes lifted over slightly glazed green eyes as Kurama frowned up at him. "Hiei? What's going on?"
Surprised that Kurama hadn't moved from his arms, Hiei grunted. "You got the damn flu Fox. Next time you go gathering herbs for Yukina, change first. Like this you're too vulnerable."
Still laying in his arms, Kurama gave Hiei a faint smile. "I'm sorry Dragon. Thank you for taking care of me. I hope I wasn't too much trouble."
Hiei glanced uncertainly over Kurama's shoulder. "I'll let you be the judge of that."
Frowning, Kurama turned. Green eyes widened, and Kurama's smile faded when he saw his mother's anxious expression. "Oh Shuuichi! I'm so glad you're alright. I don't know what I would have done if Hiei hadn't been here. He knew just what to do to take care of you."
As she spoke, Kurama blushed and extracted himself from Hiei's embrace. When Hiei climbed off the bed, he propped pillows behind Kurama to make him comfortable. Picking up the mug with the leftover tea, Hiei warmed it and handed it to Kurama. "Drink your tea Kurama, and I'll see you later."
By the time Kurama smelled what was in the cup, Hiei was on the window ledge. "Hiei wait! Where did you get the ingredients to make this?"
Hearing the anxiety building in the redhead's voice, Hiei smirked. "From you of course. After you told me how to prepare the medicine, Shiori helped me brew it in the kitchen. I'll be nearby if there's trouble Fox."
As Hiei flitted out the window, Shiori called out. "Thank you Hiei!"
Shiori, grinned at the terrified look in her son's eyes. "Alright, drink your medicine while I make you some breakfast. Then I think we need to have a little talk. Apparently you've been keeping some really big secrets from me and I want some answers Shuuichi. Or should I say… Yoko Kurama?"
Alright everyone, I'm back. This story is supposed to be a one shot, but if I keep going it will get too long. So I decided to leave off with Kurama in quite a pickle. Somehow though, I think leaving the rest to your imagination is going to meet with some objections. Of course, input from my readers usually has some influence on my final decision. Even if this continues, it won't be long (maybe one more chapter). Though it goes without saying, I'll say it any ways. Please send me a review.