Peneia Teke: Hey, guys! This is a one-shot I started a long time ago and forgot about. MystiKoorime convinced me to finish it, so I got it out, dusted it off, and polished it up a little. Thanks for the persuasion, and I hope it's to your liking, my friend!

I was hoping to get an update for A Demon's Promise out before Christmas too, but chapter nine is taking me longer than I thought it would.

Please enjoy this little story, and I hope everyone is having a very Merry Christmas (or any other holiday you celebrate)! And, as always, feedback is greatly appreciated.


Taboo


"So, what should we do, now?" Botan asked brightly as she looked around at her friends sitting on the living room floor of Genkai's temple. "The night's still young as the saying goes, and we wouldn't want to waste it." Shizuru gave an elegant shrug while Yukina looked expectantly at Botan, hands folded neatly in her lap.

It was the night before Christmas Eve, and the demonic activity had been abnormally quiet as of late. Since there were no missions, they'd decided to take a little break and throw themselves a Christmas party. It was nothing big or gaudy, but the girls had decorated the temple with garland and wreaths. A small Christmas tree sat in the middle of the room, brightly lit and sparkling with tinsel. They even had a Christmas cake, compliments of Yukina. The spongy cake was topped with cream and strawberries and looked delicious, if Botan was any judge.

"I'm hungry," Kuwabara complained loudly, holding his stomach for emphasis. "When's Kurama getting back? He was supposed to be here an hour ago!"

From his spot along the wall, Hiei gave an irritated grunt. Botan caught his attention and smiled brightly at him to which he gave a slight nod of acknowledgment. They'd come to a mutual understanding over the past couple months, and though they weren't exactly friends, Hiei didn't threaten her like he used to and Botan wasn't afraid of him, anymore.

"Hello, Hiei!" Botan called, hopping off her oar and walking up to the fire demon, who'd been napping in a tree in the park. He grunted in annoyance and rolled over on his other side, ignoring her. "Hey! Don't be like that. I'm trying to talk to you here!"

"…What do you want?"

She felt taken aback at his tone but recovered quickly. "Oh, nothing in particular," she replied, refusing to allow his bad mood to get her down. It was such a beautiful day, after all. "I just dropped by to see how you're doing…"

Hiei craned his neck around to give her a weird look. "I'm fine. Now, go away," he retorted nastily.

"But I just got here," she protested mildly. "And you know it's a long way from Spirit World. I'm a bit worn out."

"Hn. Not my problem."

"So…" she continued, completely ignoring his signs of irritation. "What are you doing…exactly?"

Hiei looked down his nose at her in a superior manner. "That's none of your business," he replied stiffly, as though determined to keep her as distant as possible.

Botan rolled her eyes, trying not to let it affect her. "You know, you're the only pers-er-demon I know who can ruin a perfectly good afternoon sulking. Why are you always so grouchy?"

"I don't sulk," Hiei retorted quickly, ignoring the last part of her sentence. "And I was trying to enjoy the peace and quiet until you showed up." He gave her a pointed look and turned away, again. "Now, if you don't mind…"

"Oh, right… Uh, Hiei?" Botan asked after a brief moment of hesitation. "Can I ask you something?" He didn't respond, so she continued anyway, deciding he was merely ignoring her. "Well, I've been thinking… Aside from our missions we've hardly, um, ever been able to just hang out, you know, spend time together…"

As if unable to follow her train of thought, Hiei turned to glare at her. "So?"

"So… it's like we hardly know each other."

"What is your point?" he ground out, obviously beginning to get annoyed.

Botan shrugged and glanced up at him sheepishly. "I was just thinking it would be nice if we could do something together for a change… you know, like friends or something."

Hiei blinked and sat up. "But we're not friends…" he said bluntly.

"I know that," Botan said, doing her best to mask the brief flash of hurt she felt. "That's why I'm trying to offer the olive branch. It wouldn't be so bad, would it? We can do whatever you'd like."

"Hn. In that case, I'd like to sleep," he informed her shortly, folding his arms behind his head like a pillow. He leaned back again and closed his eyes.

"But," she protested, waving her arms around for emphasis. "Come on! You can't just waste a perfect day like this sleeping!"

He made an irritated sound in his throat. "Watch me." When she didn't immediately leave Hiei cracked an eye open, "Where's the Detective, anyway? Why don't you go bother him, instead?"

"Oh, well… you see," she tried to explain, "Koenma gave me the rest of the day off, and it's a school day, so…"

"Oh, I get it," Hiei said, "Since Yusuke, Kurama, and Kuwabara are all in school, I'm the only option available, is that it?"

"No, no!" Botan exclaimed, waving her hands frantically. "You have it all wrong! What I meant was this would be a good time to hang out since they're all in school…"

"Whatever," he growled, jumping down from the branch and landing directly in front of her. Botan's eyes widened in surprise. "As long as it gets you to shut the hell up. Your voice is becoming tiresome."

"O-okay," she grinned nervously. Unfortunately, the adrenaline she'd started out with was beginning to fade, and a hoard of butterflies was taking its place. Now, what? "What do you have in mind?"

Hiei shot her an annoyed look out of the corner of his eye. "This was your idea," he reminded her coldly.

"Yeah, but I didn't know if there was any place in particular you'd like-"

He silenced her with a hand on her arm. "Let's just walk," he replied shortly.

"Right."

Her attention was directed to the door as Yusuke sauntered into the room, displaying a can of Heineken beer in each hand. "Get 'em while they're cold. Mom was saving these for a special occasion. Lucky I found 'em first."

"Urameshi, you've been holding out on us!" Kuwabara exclaimed, rushing forward to snatch one out of his hand. He popped the tab and took a long swig, smacking his lips afterward in satisfaction.

"You want one too, Hiei?" Yusuke asked, raising an eyebrow at the fire demon. "We've got plenty more in the fridge." At the glare he received, he held up his hands defensively. "Okay, okay, just offering."

"You shouldn't be drinking that, Yusuke. You know you're under age," Keiko said disapprovingly.

Yusuke shrugged and took a swig from the can. "Never stopped me before," he said with a smirk.

Keiko ignored him, looking pointedly at Botan. "Why don't we play a board game? I have Taboo in my bag," she said, getting up and ushering to where she'd left her blue duffle bag by the door.

"What a great idea!" Botan squealed, clasping her hands together in excitement. It wasn't every day that she, the pilot of the River Styx, got the chance to do something fun and relaxing like this with her friends. She glanced over at Hiei to see him watching her with a guarded expression. She quickly looked away, again, feeling her cheeks heat up and hoped no one else noticed.

"Taboo… What's that?" Yusuke demanded, having gone rigid at the mention of board games.

Keiko gave him a sharp, irritated glare. "Don't give me that, Yusuke, you've played it before." She pulled off the cover of a box containing a small container of cards, a buzzer, and an hourglass.

Kuwabara snorted. "You play board games, Urameshi? Didn't realize you were such a sissy."

Yusuke looked affronted and quickly came to his own defense. "Hey, shut up! Keiko made me play it, okay?"

"Oh, please. You can't tell me you didn't have fun last time," she retorted, arranging the necessary equipment on the floor and tossing the box and bag aside. "So how about everyone else?"

Just then there was a light knock on the door and Kurama walked in, carrying a bag of KFC carryout. "Sorry, I'm late," he sighed, draping his coat over the side of the couch and brushing snow off his long hair. "I believe it's safe to say the weather has taken a turn for the worse."

"You're just in time," Botan said, gesturing toward the others. "We were about to play Taboo. Care to join us?"

"Sure, count me in," Kurama replied. "Though we had better eat before the food gets cold."


Twenty minutes later found them situated in a large circle in the living room as Keiko explained the rules of Taboo. It had taken a little coaxing to convince Hiei to play, but unsurprisingly Yukina had talked him into it. Well, unsurprisingly to everyone but Keiko, Yukina, and Kuwabara.

"Okay. In this game you have to try to get your partner to guess the correct word on the card you're holding without using any of the words that appear below it. See?" Keiko held up a card as an example, pointing out the words they weren't allowed to speak. "If you say any of these, then the team that went before you gets a point. The goal is to try to get as many points as you can before your time runs out."

"The general concept sounds simple enough," Kurama replied, glancing around at his friends. "So who's first?"

"Why don't you start?" Shizuru asked. "You seem awfully confident."

"Very well."

Keiko grinned, "Yukina, why don't you watch and make sure he doesn't say anything he isn't supposed to?" The Ice Maiden nodded and picked up the buzzer, leaving her spot in the circle to sit next to the red head. "Ready, Kurama? Hiei? Go!" the brunette exclaimed, flipping the hourglass so the sand began to flow toward the bottom.

Botan watched as Kurama picked up a card and glanced over at Hiei. "This word is… a sentiment you undergo… when you… would like to have something you are unable to obtain."

Hiei shrugged his shoulders indifferently. "Anger?"

"Not quite. A reaction you have when someone else obtains something you don't."

"Frustration? Irritation? Annoyance?"

Kurama sighed, hearing a loud snort from the other end of the circle. "What if the woman you were interested in romantically was involved with someone else? How would that make you feel?"

Botan glanced over at Hiei at the same time Kuwabara burst into laughter. "Ha! The shrimp? And a girl? Like that'd happen in a million years!"

"…Jealous." Hiei admitted as one of his fists began to clench without his awareness. The room went oddly silent as everyone stared at him in surprise. "And I'd kill them both," he added darkly as if to redeem himself for even thinking of admitting to such a hindering weakness.

Botan felt as if she'd just been slapped in the face. Distantly, she heard Yusuke say, "Oh, I gotcha. Our little Hiei's all grown up. Just don't let it interfere with the missions." Hiei glared and opened his mouth to retort, but Kurama cut him off before he could utter so much as a syllable.

"That was correct, Hiei," he said, now focused solely on the time. He flipped up another card and glanced over it. "Let's see… This is a disagreement of sorts between two or more people."

As Hiei was about to respond, Botan got up and quietly excused herself from the group, walking into the kitchen. She grabbed a glass from the cupboard and filled it with water, lost in thought. As she listened to the laughter of her friends in the other room, a feeling of dread began forming in the pit of her stomach. Is Hiei seeing someone?

To say she was surprised would've been an understatement, though she knew she shouldn't have been. He was, after all, very attractive. However, it seemed uncharacteristic of him to believe in such human customs, especially considering everything he stood for. Of course, it could have been strictly hypothetical, but…he'd seemed emotional about it, almost defensive… She sighed and slumped against the sink, feeling slightly hurt. And here she'd thought they'd been getting along pretty well.

Botan flew toward Hiei's usual section of the forest and hopped off her oar, glancing around for his familiar figure. Several weeks had gone by since their first meeting, and she'd made an effort to visit him at least three or four times a week, missions notwithstanding. He never seemed happy to see her but didn't exactly turn her away either, and Botan took that as a good sign. She usually just hung around and watched him train or told him about her day while he meditated. He didn't usually reply during these times, but Botan knew he was listening.

When she couldn't find him, the surge of disappointment that welled up within her was enough to make her freeze. Had he finally gotten sick of her and taken up residents elsewhere?

"You're late."

Botan spun around and gaped at the fire demon, who had his arms crossed over his chest. "Hiei, it's you!" she said, smiling brightly. For him to inform her that she was late meant that he'd been waiting for her. He was becoming used to her visits. She took a step forward to hug him but thought better of it at the last moment. The last time she'd tried that, he'd almost set her on fire.

Hiei raised an eyebrow. "Were you expecting someone else?"

"No!" Botan said, waving her arms around emphatically. "I was just afraid you'd gotten sick of me and decided to go to a different part of the forest."

Hiei snorted. "Don't flatter yourself. You're not worth the effort it would take to relocate." He smirked at her over his shoulder. "Besides, if I'd gotten sick of you, you'd already be dead."

Botan chuckled nervously and took a small step back. Even though they'd made progress in their nonexistent relationship, he still made her nervous. He was obviously aware of this fact.

Botan was snapped from her thoughts at the sound of sudden laughter coming from the other room and realized she'd been gone much longer than she'd intended. She quickly finished her water and steeled herself before reentering the room. Kuwabara was the first to notice. "Oh, hey there's Botan! We were wondering where you went."

"Yeah," Shizuru muttered. "They skipped our turn because you weren't here."

The blue haired deity nodded guiltily and took her spot. "Sorry. I wasn't feeling very well," she said. Well, it wasn't a complete lie… "I just needed to get away for a minute."

She noticed Hiei glance at her out of the corner of his eye, but his attention was forced away when the box of cards was suddenly thrust before him. He stared at them blankly. "Pick up a card, Hiei," Kurama instructed. "It's our turn, again."

He shook his head stubbornly. "No. You give the clues, and I'll guess the word. It worked fine last time."

"Aw, come on, Hiei!" Yusuke grinned, peering sideways over Botan at the fire demon. "We won't laugh if you make a complete ass of yourself."

Botan was too wrapped up in her gloomy thoughts to pay attention to his reply. All she could think about was Hiei's would be mystery girl. She was probably pretty and smart. She'd be a demon, no doubt. No way would Hiei ever go for a human girl. She was probably a good fighter too and independent. He wouldn't tolerate the clingy type, but then again she hadn't thought he had a type until now.

The sound of Yusuke's voice starlted Botan out of her thoughts, and her eyes darted around in confusion. "You've been to a restaurant, Hiei?" he asked at the same time Kuwabara made a face and blurted, "Ugh! You eat fish eggs? Gross!" The blue haired deity gave an inward sigh of relief and glanced across the circle, meeting Kurama's sparkling emerald eyes. His expression gave her reason to suspect he knew something was up, though he understood enough to leave it alone. She gave him a tightlipped smile and looked away.

Hiei, having chosen to ignore Kuwabara's comment, glanced instead at Yusuke out of the corner of his eye. "What does it matter to you, Detective?"

Yusuke shrugged and looked up at the ceiling in interest. "Just curious. Doesn't really seem like your kinda thing."

Hiei snorted and smugly shoved the box of cards in Botan's direction. "Here."

"Oh. Uh, thanks," she muttered, slightly unnerved when he snatched the buzzer from Kuwabara's hand and leaned closer to peer at the card she had picked up. She could literally feel the heat radiating from his body. Okay, okay, just relax, she coached herself. Don't let Hiei affect you with his Hiei-ness. It's just a game, no need to get so nervous. Botan peered across the circle at Shizuru and grinned, trying to prevent the giddiness she felt at being so close to Hiei from showing through in her expression. Then her eyes flickered, and she noticed the odd look he was giving her.

"Are you going or not?" he asked shortly.

"Oh, right! Uh, this is something that humans play. It's kind of like, um, a real life game-" She was cut off by a loud buzzing in her ear that nearly caused her to jump out of her skin. "What?" she exclaimed, turning to Hiei in irritation. He just smirked slyly up at her.

"You can't say 'game'," he said, pointing out the word on the card, "My point."

"R-right," she muttered, frowning. Their eyes met for an instant, and Hiei raised his eyebrow in a way that made Botan squirm uncomfortably, looking away again in embarrassment. She slowly reached forward to pick up another card. Parasailing. And I can't say boat, chute, tow, air, or water. Goodness, I wish Hiei would back up a little. He's really making it hard to focus. Probably knows he is too. She snuck another glance at him out of the corner of her eye and caught him smirking at her. "Uh," her voice quivered traitorously, and she could feel a light blush starting to spread across her pale cheeks. She just hoped no one else would notice. "This word is…" she tried to think of a suitable clue but could only stare blankly at the card in her hand. Parasailing? What was that?

"We're waiting, Botan," Shizuru said with a hint of exasperation.

"Oh. Something people do when they get pulled behind a, um, ship. It's sort of like water skiing except in the… sky." Once again, a loud buzz sounded in her ear, and she shied sideways away from the noise. "No!" she groaned, realizing why she'd been buzzed. "I forgot I can't use 'water'!"

"It's a good thing we're not playing for money, kid," Shizuru muttered, giving her a half smile.

"I'm sorry, Shizuru," Botan apologized. "I don't know where my mind is today." Then she turned in irritation to Hiei. "Would you mind moving over a little?" she ground out, "You don't have to breathe down my neck!"

"Yeah, Hiei, what's with you getting so friendly with Botan?" Kuwabara asked loudly. "You don't like her or something, do you?"

Botan's blush turned three shades darker. "Kuwabara!"

Hiei gave him a dead panned glare. "You really are an idiot."

"And what's that supposed to mean?" Kuwabara shot back, standing up in anger. "Hey! Come back here, Half Pint! I'm not finished with you, yet!"

"Hiei," Kurama called as he watched his friend walk toward the door. "Where are you going?"

The fire demon snorted in disgust and without turning replied, "I'm leaving. This is a waste of time." He opened the sliding door and disappeared out into the dark.

"What was that about?" Kuwabara asked dumbly, still staring at the door.

"Gee, I wonder," Yusuke snapped sarcastically. "You insulted him, and he left. Way to go, dumbass."

"Hey, it wasn't my fault, okay?" he growled in reply. "He's not usually so touchy."

"Perhaps you struck a sensitive chord, Kuwabara," Kurama replied. "It's hard to tell what he's thinking, at times."

"Yeah," Yusuke added, looking over at Kuwabara, "Or maybe he just got tired of hearing your voice."

"Shut up, Urameshi."

Yukina looked toward the still open door, a concerned expression on her usually calm face. "I hope Mr. Hiei is okay out there by himself. The weather has gotten pretty bad."

"Eh? What're you worried about him for?" Kuwabara asked, waving a disgusted hand. "He practically lives out there."

Yukina, however, didn't look particularly reassured. "Yes. But still…"

"Don't worry, sweetie," Botan replied, giving the other girl a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "Hiei's strong and can take care of himself. Hey, I know," she added before anyone could respond. "Let's all watch a movie!"

"Alright," Keiko smiled. "Shizuru and I'll go pick one out!"

"This game was getting dull, anyway," Yusuke said. "And it's no fun without Hiei here to tease."

After a few minutes, Keiko and Shizuru returned with the movie, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and they all began to head in the direction of the living room.

"Coming, Botan?" the older brunette asked, noticing Botan hanging back hesitantly.

"Actually, I'm feeling a little dizzy. I think I'll step outside for a bit."

"Oh, are you okay?" Keiko asked, turning in concern.

"Yeah, I just need some fresh air. It's a little hot in here," Botan replied, fanning her face with her hand for emphasis.

"Would you like us to come with you?" Yukina asked kindly, hands folded neatly before her.

Botan shook her head. "No, don't worry about me. You guys can start the movie. I'll only be a minute." She slipped out the door, closing it quietly behind her. The cold, night air woke her from her dazed thoughts, and she wrapped her arms around herself in attempt to block out the wind.

Botan took a seat on an empty swing, while Hiei watched her nearby, hands shoved deep in the pockets of his cloak. "So," she began, dragging her feet in the gravel as the swing swayed gently back and forth. "How's life?"

Hiei furrowed his eyebrows at her attempt at conversation. "Why do you care?"

"I'm just trying to be nice, Hiei," she replied defensively. You're always so secretive about everything. You could be dying, and we wouldn't even know."

She studied him, waiting for him to say something. He snorted and looked away. "…I'm alive," he muttered.

"Well, that's a relief," she grinned, then decided to drop the subject. It wouldn't get her anywhere, anyway. She slouched forward, lost in thought while Hiei watched her curiously. Finally, she stopped and ushered to the swing next to her. "Sit down," she smiled weakly, but he only glared at her.

"I'd prefer to stand."

"Hiei…" she murmured thoughtfully, tightening her grip on the swing's long, iron chains. "Do you like it here… with us?" She stared ahead at the setting sun, waiting for his response.

He turned, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "What?"

"I know you don't always think highly of us, especially me, but we'll always care about you, and I…well…" she cleared her throat nervously, "I just wanted you to know the human realm's a nice place if you'd just give it a chance."

Hiei didn't say anything, but Botan had learned that sometimes silence was better than words. She smiled weakly and gazed out at the empty playground, content with his company.


The moon light reflecting off the newly fallen snow reminded her of a painting, and she took a minute to admire her surroundings. Then her eyes fell upon a pair of fresh tracks leading away from the house toward the forest, and she smiled faintly, confident they belonged to Hiei.

As she reached the forest's edge the tracks suddenly vanished, and Botan frowned in contemplation. Closing her eyes, she reached out her senses to feel for his signature aura, the blend of strength and compassion she'd grown accustomed to. She'd often dreamt late at night that she could sense his presence surrounding her, and sometimes she'd wake up, still able to feel him. She'd wonder if he'd actually been there, watching over her. It made her feel safe, somehow.

Of course, she'd never told that to anyone. They'd say she was being silly, that the feelings she'd begun to develop for him were ridiculous. They'd say she was just pinning for her hero in black, but she wasn't so sure. She couldn't explain the attraction, the longing she felt to be near him but knew it was real. How couldn't it be?

Botan reached a clearing and stepped out, mesmerized by the sight of the moon in the dark, starry sky. It was so different gazing at the sky in the country, with no smog to block the stars, no buildings to obstruct the view, no lights or noise to distract, just the intense quiet of the wilderness, and the moon's fluorescent glow upon everything it touched. It was so big, so close she could almost touch it.

"What are you doing?" a voice shattered her quiet sanctuary, and she spun around, pulling her arm down to her side in embarrassment. Hiei was watching her with an unreadable expression, bathed in moonlight, and Botan turned away before he could see the blush spreading across her cheeks. He looked so mysterious, his face partly covered in shadow and partly illuminated by the moon, just the way she'd seen him in her dreams.

"Oh, nothing. Just looking at the moon," she replied nervously. She'd set out to find him, to confront him, but now she was beginning to wish she were somewhere, anywhere else. "Why'd you come out here, anyway?" she felt the need to ask, if for nothing more than to break the awkward silence that seemed to arise whenever they found themselves in each other's company for more than a few minutes.

He snorted, jerking his head in the direction of the shrine. "Isn't it obvious? Their stupidity was making me nauseous." He stopped a few feet short and crossed his arms.

Botan just smiled. "Yeah," she agreed, "they can be idiots sometimes, but you have to give them some credit. There's never a dull moment when those two are around." Hiei grunted, and she nodded, taking it as a yes. "Which reminds me…" she said, suddenly finding her hands very interesting. "If you're upset about what Kuwabara said, I'm sure he didn't mean it. He was just being himself and didn't know when to stop, and, well, you know how he is..."

"Yes," Hiei replied, cutting off her rambling. "A moronic fool who doesn't know how to keep his nose out of matters that don't concern him." He peered up at her and smirked. "Not quite unlike you."

"Hey!" Botan exclaimed stubbornly, "That's not true! I'm not a fool." They fell silent after that, and Botan fidgeted under his gaze. Then she cleared her throat. "I have to tell you something, Hiei," she said grimly, deciding to throw caution to the wind. She took a deep breath and braced herself for whatever reaction he might have. There was no turning back now.

The fire demon's eyes brightened unnaturally, and his lips twitched slightly as if he found her discomfort amusing. "Hn… Is that so?"

She tried to ignore the sarcasm in his voice. "The real reason I came here was to say… that I…" she shrugged helplessly, unable to find the right words. "I wanted to… I mean." Her throat felt dry as cotton and she swallowed hard, tying unsuccessfully to keep the nervous panic from welling up inside her belly. Why was this so hard? "I like you, Hiei," she finished in a rush. Her cheeks flushed hotly in embarrassment, and she dropped her gaze to her feet.

Silence stretched on for several long seconds before Botan finally found the courage to look at him, again. Hiei was watching her with a mixture of horror and fascination, and she felt her stomach churn with dread.

"You're kidding."

She looked him in the eye and replied in the most even tone she could muster, "No, Hiei. I'm quite serious." Unable to take his staring any longer, Botan began fidgeting with the hem of her kimono.

He studied her intently for a moment before his face hardened into a glare, and he turned away in anger. "Then I suggest you rid your mind of that ridiculous notion."

Botan drew back slowly in fear, not willing to upset him further. "Hiei… I know you probably already have a girlfriend or a mate or something, but I just needed to get that off my chest. I hope you understand."

He stared at her blankly. "What are you talking about?"

She felt her resolve waver and realized that spilling her guts may have been a really bad idea. "Well, you got so defensive when they were teasing you, I just assumed. You are seeing someone, right?"

"No."

"Oh." Botan's cheeks heated up in a blush, and for once a response eluded her. "Well, then." Now, she just felt stupid. Hiei seemed to mirror that sentiment.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" he spat, anger dancing in his eyes. "Are you completely stupid?"

"Hiei, what?" she gasped, completely taken aback. She hadn't exactly expected this reaction. Disgust, maybe. But anger?

"I've killed hundreds of creatures without hesitation or remorse, without even giving a damn," he said. "And yet you're telling me you harbor feelings for me? You must truly have a death wish."

Botan's eyes softened, and she slowly shook her head, taking a few steps forward. "It's okay, Hiei. None of that matters, anymore. You're not the person you used to be."

"I've threatened your life. I've thought about killing you on numerous occasions. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"

"I'm willing to look past that because deep down I know you've got a good heart. I've seen it in the way you look at your sister." Hiei flinched at the title and stubbornly looked away. "I can help you, Hiei," Botan continued, trying to talk sense to him.

"I don't need your help," he snapped, turning on her. "So if that's what this is about, you can go back to your detective and stay the hell away from me!"

The blue haired deity gave him a small smile and reached out to gently touch his arm. He tensed at the contact but didn't try to pull away. "I think you're just scared, and you're making excuses." They were so close now that Botan could feel his breath tickle her neck. "It's okay if you can't tell me. I think I understand, now."

"Why are you doing this?" he finally asked, eyeing her warily. He was caught in indecision, unwilling to move closer or to retreat. "This isn't how it's supposed to be."

"You deserve to love and to be loved," Botan said at last. "You deserve to be happy."


"You know, this has been one really long minute," Yusuke mused after the movie was over, too comfortable to get up. He leaned back so Keiko could snuggle against him.

It only took a few seconds for the others to catch on. "Yeah," Keiko added, "Hiei and Botan have been gone a long time. Do you think we should go look for them?"

"I'm sure they'll return when they're ready. Until then we should leave them be."

"You don't think Hiei will do anything inappropriate, do you?" Shizuru asked the boys suspiciously. "I mean, I know he has an honor code and everything, but he's still a guy."

"Nah. It's too cold." Yusuke replied, answering for Kurama.

Keiko sat up and hit him on the arm. "Don't joke like that, Yusuke," she scolded. "Besides, Botan's not like that."

Yusuke shrugged indifferently. "Whatever you say."

"What are you guys talking about?" Kuwabara asked blankly, looking from one friend to another.

"Never mind, Kuwabara," Kurama said, smiling faintly. "I'm sure you'll find out soon."

Fin