A/N: When I posted 'Normal Human Teenagers' I got a lot of requests to include Hiei in the story. I didn't think Hiei quite fit the tone of that story, but it reminded me of this reflection that I'd started and never been able to come up with an ending for. This is how I've always pictured Shiori feeling about Hiei.


Lisha stepped into her nephew's old bedroom, looking for the winter clothing stored in his closet, and found herself confronted with a sword-wielding madman.

I'm going to die. I'm really truly going to-

Lisha's internal monologue was cut short as the sword stopped a bare inch in front of her torso. The boy holding it was looking at Shiori, standing just behind her with one hand over her heart. Lisha felt the urge to push her sister out of the room, out of danger's way, but before she could Shiori spoke.

"Hiei," she gasped, her tone both relieved and annoyed. "You scared me to death!" She sounded like nothing so much as a mother reprimanding a toddler for sneaking up and yelling "boo!" Not like someone who had walked into a supposedly empty room and nearly been impaled on a lethal blade.

The boy lowered the sword a few inches. He was frowning at Shiori. "I wish you wouldn't do that," Shiori continued reproachfully. "Every time I so much as startle you, I lose a year off my life to fright."

Lisha looked at her sister in amazement. Now that the initial shock was over, Shiori seemed completely unafraid. It finally penetrated to Lisha that Shiori had addressed the sword-wielder by name. Who on earth. . .

"Where is he?" the boy asked tensely, still pointing the sword at them.

"Shuichi? Goodness, he moved out six, seven months ago. I take it you haven't been in touch?"

A blank moment, like the boy was somehow having to think hard about what Shiori said. Then suddenly he seemed to relax. The sword was lowered to point at the ground. "No."

"He did say you'd moved very far away. Have you come back or are you just visiting?"

She might as well have offered him a cup of tea, her manners had become so pleasant. The boy only answered with a halfhearted shrug. "Where is he?" he asked again, but without the fear and accusation that had been in his voice before.

"He lives much closer to the university now. He was spending all his time there anyway, so we decided he might as well live near campus. Would you like me to write down his address?"

Lisha made a startled noise at that, looking at Shiori as though she'd taken leave of her senses. But the boy nodded, appearing slightly pleased. He sheathed the sword and crossed his arms over his chest while Shiori began rooting through Shuichi's old desk, talking over her shoulder as she did so. "I'll write down his phone number for you too. It's different than it used to be."

"I don't use phones." All traces of aggression were gone from the boy's speech, but the look he gave Lisha was like being stared down by a tiger. Lisha averted her eyes.

Shiori had managed to find a sheet of notebook paper and a colored pencil. "Would you like me to call him then? Let him know you're in town?"

The boy shrugged. "If you like."

Shiori smiled knowingly. "I'll let you surprise him." She finished writing out the address, folded the paper in half, and handed it to the intruder. "From here the easiest way to get there is-"

"I can find it-thank you." The 'thank you' came out sounding like it was given very grudgingly.

And then, to complete the utter strangeness of the interaction, the boy walked over to the second storey window, climbed onto the sill, and dropped out of sight.

Lisha stood rooted in place with shock. She might have written the whole experience off as a waking dream if Shiori hadn't been standing there with a fond smile on her face, still holding the colored pencil. "Are you... out of your mind?" Lisha asked tremulously.

"Oh-that was Shuichi's friend," Shiori said. "I'm sorry I didn't think to introduce you. But I usually don't, you know, with Hiei-he can be quite rude. He's a very isolated young man. I think he only tolerates me because I gave birth to Shuichi," she finished with a laugh.

"Friend or no, that boy just broke into your house and threatened us both! You should be calling the police, not giving him Shuichi's address!"

"He didn't break in," Shiori said absently, opening drawers in Shuichi's old desk, trying to remember where she'd taken the pencil from.

"He certainly didn't come in through the door!"

"No, the window. I don't know how he does it." Shiori found the right drawer for the pencil and put it neatly away. "But back when Hiei lived in town he always came in through this window. I guess he climbs the rose trellis, though I'm surprised it holds his weight. At any rate, I think they both thought it was a terribly romantic way for Hiei to come in and out of the house-oh, who am I kidding, I thought it was terribly romantic. Like Romeo climbing up to Juliet's balcony."

"... You mean he and Shuichi were involved?" Lisha asked faintly.

Shiori shrugged, moving over to the closet to start unpacking the clothing they had come up here for. "They may have been. Shuichi always denied it when I asked, but he always blushed too, so who knows?"

"Shiori-don't you realize you've put Shuichi in danger? That lunatic obviously thought Shuichi still lived here-didn't it occur to you that maybe Shuichi deliberately didn't tell him he'd moved? Maybe Shuichi doesn't want an ex-boyfriend who carries a sword and runs around threatening people with it to know where he lives! Did you think of that?"

"Nonsense," Shiori replied, her voice muffled from coming inside the closet. "Shuichi's very fond of Hiei. I would know if that had changed. And Shuichi always handled Hiei's moods with a great deal of skill. Yes, Hiei blusters a lot and tries to intimidate people, and most of the time Shuichi just smiles and shakes his head, but there are definitely lines that Hiei does not cross. Shuichi can stand up to him."

"You should at least call Shuichi and tell him what happened."

"Then how will Hiei surprise him?" Shiori held a sweater up for Lisha to see. "Will this fit?"

Lisha's anger swelled. She couldn't believe Shiori's attitude. "If you don't call Shuichi, I will. I can't believe you are being blasé about a man breaking into your house and pulling a sword on us. You can't possible expect Shuichi to 'handle' something like this."

Shiori sighed, crossing her arms. "Lisha, if you insist on ruining the surprise by calling Shuichi, I won't stop you. But he'll just tell you what he's told me for years: that Hiei may appear rude, eccentric, and even dangerous, but that Shuichi assures you Hiei will not harm you, and asks you to please let the rudeness and eccentricity pass. That's what he said to me when Hiei first started hanging around the house. He explained that Hiei had led an extremely hard life and it had left him a little rough around the edges, but he liked Shuichi very much and would accordingly treat me with respect. Which he does." Shiori pushed her bangs out of her face, looking troubled. "Shuichi asked if Hiei could stay here when it was cold out. That always made me worry about Hiei's home situation. Shuichi dropped hints, but he never talked explicitly about Hiei's past. The sword-I don't know why he picked a sword, not a more conventional weapon, but I know the only time I've seen it out is when he's startled. I guess he's had to defend himself a lot. And he did not break in," Shiori added, looking at Lisha resentfully. "Hiei was taught it's acceptable to enter this house through the window. Give me a little credit. I wouldn't take chances with Shuichi. I don't think there's the slightest chance Hiei will hurt him."

They looked at each other silently for a moment. Then Lisha nodded, exhaling slowly. She did know that Shiori would never knowingly endanger Shuichi. She could only hope Shiori's appraisal of the situation was accurate. "Just promise me you trust that boy," Lisha said, feeling her limbs shake slightly with unused adrenaline. "He frightens me."

"I trust my own boy," Shiori replied. "I trust his judgment. And he knows Hiei better than I do, of course. Hiei's very quiet most of the time-I hardly ever knew he was here except when things went missing."

"He stole from you?" Lisha asked in a resigned tone.

"You're determined to see the worst in this, aren't you? No, I mean food would go missing, and Shuichi had my permission for that. Sometimes medicine. Oh, and towels-he did seem to like those. Fluffy ones," Shiori said with a smile. "One time I threatened Shuichi that I would buy Hiei his very own set of fluffy towels for Christmas. Shuichi said that was fine, make them pink, and where would I like to be buried? I never did it, though," Shiori went on, the smile fading. "I knew from the way Hiei came here when it was cold or wet that he didn't have a home. He wouldn't have had anywhere to keep a gift like that. I didn't want to embarrass him."

Despite herself, Lisha found herself feeling a little sorry for the man Shiori described. She certainly understood Shiori's reaction to him better. Shiori had always been the mothering type, and with only one child of her own, she tended to take care of everyone she met. A close friend-or more-of Shuichi's, with such a hard luck story behind him, would naturally engage Shiori's sympathy. "Does he have a home now?" Lisha asked.

"I imagine so," Shiori said, but she didn't look certain. "Shuichi told me he'd moved, so I assumed that meant he had somewhere to go to." For a moment longer Shiori frowned, looking worried, but then she brightened. "Well, Shuichi lives on the ground floor now, so it will be easy for Hiei to sneak in. I should send over some towels."

"Pink ones?"

Shiori smiled at the change in Lisha's attitude. "Black. I don't think I'm ready to die quite yet."

~fin~