Crimson drops rained on the soft, green grass just before the lifeless body hit the hard earth. Hiei, poised and bent slightly, katana extended, straightened. Hiei crinkled his nose at the scent of the low-class demon blood. "Hn. No challenge at all. It's almost boring." Sheathing his blade, he began the journey back to Mukuro's palace. For two years now Hiei had been fulfilling his call to aid Mukuro diplomatically. However, she always seemed to have a separate agenda, secret endeavors she left to Hiei that strengthened her hold on her lands. Not like every demon in Makai didn't know Hiei was working for Mukuro, anyway. Lately, Mukuro had a special assignment nearly every day for the fire yokai. He had hardly had any time for himself, and he had not been to the Ningenkai for months.

Hiei stopped, frowning slightly. He didn't like that Ningenkai, or rather certain people in the Ningenkai, were becoming so important, so necessary, to his happiness. Only a couple of years ago everything about the Ningenkai was repulsive to him. If it had not been for his search for Yukina, he likely would never have set foot in the rank place. But he had. And now he had too many connections there. Yukina, an obvious connection, chose to spend much of her time with Genkai away from the koorime of the Makai. Not that Hiei could blame her for that; their feelings were certainly mutual on that note. But, lately, another person had become much too close to Hiei's heart for his taste. A certain red-headed fox. "Damn sneaky fox," Hiei muttered under his breath.

~::~It's down to this
I've got to make this life make sense
Can anyone tell what I've done
I miss the life
I miss the colors of the world
Can anyone tell where I am~::~

Hiei began sprinting, becoming nothing more than a blur to any insects or nearby apparitions who happened to be watching. Bending his knees, he jumped and flitted to the nearest tree. Hiei ascended easily, clutching the uppermost limbs as he reached the top, breathing evenly. He scanned his surroundings, slowly taking in all the familiar scenery and landscape of Mukuro's territory. This was his home. It wasn't a nice place; nobody cared here. It was a place where children were left to survive or die on their own by parents who couldn't care less. "Home is where the heart is, Hiei," Kurama had once told him when Hiei inquired as to why he would actually willingly live in the Ningenkai. Hn. Stupid Kurama and his stupid ningen sentiments.

Hiei snorted. He had, in fact, been thrown from a cliff into an icy river when he was only an infant. A fire demon born of an ice maiden. An aberration. A pariah. A forbidden child. Hiei clutched the necklace that hung under his garments, a shallow, empty symbol of love from a mother who could do nothing to protect him from the cruelty of her own tribe, let alone the rest of the Makai. But somehow he couldn't force himself to be without it.

~::~'Cause now again I've found myself
So far down, away from the sun
That shines into the darkest place
I'm so far down, away from the sun again
Away from the sun again~::~

Hiei leaped out of the tree, landing nimbly on the forest floor beneath. The sun was setting, and he didn't particularly feel like dealing with the sort of demons that frequented these woods after dark. Thieves and desperate vagrants, mostly, no real threats, but a waste of time in Hiei's mind. Flitting off once again, Hiei headed for Mukuro's palace, intent on having a word with his employer.

~::~I'm over this
I'm tired of living in the dark
Can anyone see me down here
The feeling's gone
There's nothing left to lift me up
Back into the world I know~::~

Hiei's black boots echoed in the empty halls of Mukuro's palace. It was well after dark; Mukuro's territory was expansive, and his mission had been on the far end of her realm, nearly as far from her home as possible. For some reason Hiei could never fathom, Mukuro had utmost trust in Hiei, and never felt he needed a watchful eye. Though it was true that Hiei would never betray her—he had his honor, after all, and she was his employer—he never understood where her blind faith had come from, especially considering her background. Snickering, he thought to himself he would much sooner entertain the idea of betraying Koenma if not to simply get the annoying bastard off his back. It was becoming extremely difficult to balance the three worlds that all seemed to lay claim on him in some way or another. Makai had Mukuro. Reikai had Koenma. And Ningenkai had Yukina, not to mention to Urameshi and the idiot.

Hiei sighed. He could not leave out Kurama. As much as he would love to forget about him entirely, he knew that was impossible. He had known at the start of this odd relationship of theirs that it was going to be something that would weigh heavily on both mind and heart. It had been much simpler before he had met any of them and only had himself to worry about. Easier, but not as fulfilling he grudgingly admitted. He silently cursed Kurama's sneakiness for the second time that day. He certainly earned his title as the most notorious thief Makai had ever seen. Looking up, he saw that he had wandered to Mukuro's private wing and stood outside her chambers.

~::~And now again I've found myself
So far down, away from the sun
That shines into the darkest place
I'm so far down, away from the sun
That shines to light the way for me
To find my way back into the arms
That care about the ones like me
I'm so far down, away from the sun again~::~

Hiei stared up at the massive oak doors, ridiculous almost in their height. He lifted his fist, paused, and then rapped on the door, the sound reverberating off the walls of the dark passageway. It was only a matter of moments before the door creaked open, light spilling out into the hall. Hiei squinted, glancing up at Mukuro's lithe, but almost masculine form.

"Hiei, what a pleasant surprise, if not unexpected. I trust the mission was successful?" she asked glancing at Hiei out of the corner of her eyes, lips turned up in a smirk. "I've never known you to fail yet."

"Hn," Hiei snorted. "Of course. The demon was quite a simpleton. You probably could have sent one of your lower henchmen. It was hardly worth my time."

Mukuro sniffed. "You know I don't trust the others with missions that lie that far on the outskirts of my territories. The chance of an encounter with those from other territories is too great, and there are too many gutless fools who could be easily…swayed in their allegiance." She stopped, glancing at Hiei again, assessing his mood. "In fact, I believe I have another mission for you, perhaps one you may find more intriguing than the last. A certain demon gang—"

"No," Hiei cut her short. "I have come to request some time off."

Mukuro paused, incredulous. "You're requesting time off?" It was certainly a first. None in Mukuro's ranks would ever have had the gall to request time off. Employment was typically a lifelong commitment, and her employees knew it. However, Hiei was sort of a special case. She raised an eyebrow and looked Hiei in the eyes, brown eyes meeting crimson. "How much time are we talking about?"

"Two weeks," Hiei replied. "I shall return after that time."

Mukuro let the idea roll around in her mind. "Perhaps," she began, "after this mission, such a request could be granted."

Hiei stood his ground. "Perhaps," he countered, "the next mission will not end as successfully for you as those in the past have. I have gained you much land, not to mention loyal followers. However, if we cannot reach an agreement…" Hiei stopped and stared directly at Mukuro.

Gaining control of herself before her jaw could drop unceremoniously, Mukuro knitted her brows together in consternation. "Are you threatening me, Hiei," she whispered viciously.

"Of course not," Hiei replied. "I do not make threats. I make promises. Now, do we have an agreement, Mukuro? A fortnight off, starting tonight. I shall return as promised," Hiei put extra emphasis on the word "promised" to reiterate his earlier statement, "when the two weeks are up. I shall complete your mission and any others that build over that time period. And, of course, I guarantee success."

Mukuro fumed silently, but knew what Hiei said was true. He would make good on his word…everything he said. Hiei had put the decision in her hands. Accept his terms and keep him as a valued, effective employee, or go against him, and make an enemy of him. The choice was simple, really. Mukuro cleared her throat. "Perhaps you are right. You need a break. Report back here in two weeks for your next mission. You are excused." With that, Mukuro turned her back.

Hiei bowed his head and retreated. It was dangerous to toy with Mukuro, Hiei knew that. He also knew how much she needed him. One thing Hiei was certain of—any consequences were worth the trip to Ningenkai. Unwillingly, a picture of Kurama popped into Hiei's mind, and he smiled, quickening his step.

~::~It's down to this
I've got to make this life make sense
And now I can't tell what I've done

And now again I've found myself
So far down, away from the sun
That shines to light the way for me~::~

Hiei ran quickly, trying to avoid the rain that was pelting down on him. He was close to Kurama's house. Close enough to feel the fox demon's ki. The rain continued to fall around him, not caring who it was falling on. It was not only the Makai that was cruel. Hiei flitted from rooftop to rooftop, finally landing on a familiar one. He lowered himself into the branches of a nearby tree and nimbly leaped to the windowsill a meager few feet away. Rain washed down the windowpane and a soft glow escaped from behind the glass.

Hiei peered in, looking for a familiar clump of red hair. There, in the corner, seated at his desk, as usual, books sprawled around him. Hiei tapped quietly on the window. He saw the teen inside jump slightly, and then turn, a smile emerging on his face as he spotted his visitor. He watched as Kurama leaped up from his chair, not caring that several of his books were overturned onto the floor. Kurama hurried to the window, fumbling with the newly painted latch. Finally, he wrenched the window open, and Hiei jumped inside, glad to be out of the rain and into the warm, comfortable room that he was becoming so familiar with.

Brushing droplets of rain from his cloaked shoulders, Hiei started at an unexpected embrace. "Kurama!" he managed. "I'm soaking wet!"

Kurama nuzzled his face in Hiei's hair. "I don't care. I've missed you, Hiei." He released Hiei. "Gomen. Let me get a towel for you and some clean clothes. You must be freezing." He turned on his heel, readying to leave the room for what he had promised.

Hiei extended his arm out, dragging Kurama back to him, embracing him from behind. Kurama gasped and shivered at the closeness, but Hiei just laid his head against his lover's back, listening to the steady heartbeat within. He was struck once again by the phrase Kurama had taught him. "Home is where the heart is, huh?" he muttered under his breath.

Kurama broke Hiei's embraced and turned, green eyes widening, a smirk playing on his features. "Why, Hiei, I thought you hated such 'ningen sentiments,' as you say."

Hiei grinned. "Hn, careful, fox."

Kurama chuckled and left the room to get a towel. Returning, he handed it to Hiei and began to rummage through his chest to find something that might fit the much smaller figure. He settled on a white t-shirt and some old black sweatpants he had outgrown a few years ago. He nearly laughed, a laugh that stopped short by a death glare from Hiei, as he watched Hiei try to roll up the pant legs, while at the same time the waist was falling down.

Kurama sauntered over to Hiei's side. "Don't worry about it, koibito. I don't think you'll need them anyway." Leaning over, he planted a delicate kiss on the youkai's stunned lips.

Hiei blinked. "Hn. Frisky fox."

~::~'Cause now again I've found myself
So far down, away from the sun
That shines into the darkest place
I'm so far down, away from the sun
That shines to light the way for me
To find my way back into the arms
That care about the ones like me
I'm so far down, away from the sun again~::~

Hiei snuggled deeper in the covers against Kurama's warm, inviting presence. He picked his head up, placing it in the crook between Kurama's chest and arm. Outside, the rain was letting up and was pattering softly against the window. Hiei noted it was a much more pleasant sound from this side of the window.

Kurama wrapped his arms around the small figure beside him. "Welcome home, Hiei," he whispered. Hiei's heart swelled at the word and for the one who had not only spoken it to him, but who made it true.

~Owari