(A/N: This is currently planned to be a three-shot. No warnings for this part, but keep an eye out for it in the future. I don't own the characters)

The Hunger Series

Part One:


Retirement can sometimes be a job in itself. As contradictory as it sounded, Yusuke had managed to fill his plate with enough challenges to almost ignore the parts of himself that constantly craved more. He had a relationship to fine tune with Keiko, a ramen shop to learn the business of, a marriage to plan, and an adult human life to build. It was a hell of a retirement from demon world and its politics of power and control.

He often found a happy medium with the company of his friends. He would even go so far as to say that a part of his sanity was hinged on the recurring temple days. Some people got together for the occasional night of bowling or a barbeque in the park to reminisce over childhood crushes, horrible teachers, and wild concert nights of the past. Yusuke looked forward to visiting a temple in the woods with a few human psychics, an ice maiden, a kitsune, and on rare visits, a fire demon. Talk of battles, youkai lords, and the nuances of humanity filled their time together.

It was on such a day that Yusuke found himself sitting against a tree, watching Kuwabara babble endlessly to Yukina while Shizuru shared her own observations with the two people next to her. Judging my Kurama's chuckle and Genkai's smile, it had no doubt been a clever but scathing remark at the expense of her younger brother. Some things never changed, and Yusuke found some desperate comfort in that.

Further rebellion against the change of time sat no more than five feet away from the Mazoku. On one of the lower branches sat Hiei, in all of his quiet stillness. They had been sitting in companionable silence, punctuated only by the rising songs of forest katydids and the quiet but recurring growls of Yusuke's stomach.

"You're a fool, detective."

Yusuke was brought out of his lazy reflections of nothing by the sound of the jaganshi's voice. He cocked a smile and replied without looking up, "Aw, come on Hiei. You know that I haven't been on Spirit World's nonexistent payroll for nearly four years."

"Then the fool part still stands." The teen rolled his eyes, preparing a comeback. It was cut short, however, by the fire demon's next words. "How long do you plan to go without a proper meal?"

Yusuke laced his fingers behind his head as a reprieve from the rough bark that he was reclining against. "What are you talking about? My fiance's family owns a ramen shop. Meals aren't exactly scarce around my place."

This time Hiei almost sounded indignant. "You may be fooling your human mate and that idiot of a friend of yours, but I've heard your hunger pains."

The younger boy shrugged, giving off an attitude of nonchalance. "Yeah, and it's just pain. I can deal with pain." There was a pause. "Besides, look how long the old man lived as a vegetarian, and he was a full-blooded demon!"

"Hn." There was a rustle above the teen's head as Hiei shifted his weight. "If you ever decided to use your brain and not just your skull, you'd see that that's exactly my point. He had centuries of good health and accumulated strength and power to fall back on. You won't last nearly as long." Both matter of fact and snide.

Yusuke's lips twisted into a wry grin. "Living for a thousand years is overrated, anyway."

Red eyes narrowed. Hiei had suspected a self-sacrificing attitude, but had hoped that the once detective had grown more intelligent over the years. His voice reflected the dismissal he felt over such absurd ideals. "I don't give you more than ten years before you would starve to death. The fox is generous, giving you twenty."

The grin faded into a frown, brown eyes hardening with cynicism. "Gee, my best friends have a betting pool over my death." His tone turned forcibly light. "Actually, I should have thought of that years ago. I could have struck it big twice by now."

The answering voice was laced with an anger that surprised the teen. "You think it's some kind of joke, Yusuke. That you can ignore the nature of what you are. If you were to decide that you no longer need to defecate, I bet you would will yourself to stop until your own toxins poisoned your bowels."

The frown was still in place, but this time it was from the mental image of the fire demon's words. "That's just gross, Hiei."

"Think of this, then." The anger had softened into something condescending instead. "How many centuries of experience did Raizen have of being intimately familiar with his own body, the hunger, the satisfaction, and the limits? That kind of control required more than the admittedly impressive will power that seems to flow through your bloodline. It requires experience, hard won through failures and success. But without that experience, the initial failure will happen."

Yusuke was immensely uncomfortable. It wasn't that he hadn't thought of such things, it was just that those thoughts always ended along the lines of, 'it's just pain.' The truth of the matter was, a tight ball of fear would begin to form in his chest when he thought of these things for too long. The image of Raizen, wild-eyed and out of his mind with hunger, would begin to plague him. Would he break? Would he lose control and attack someone? What if the person didn't have the strength to break his hold, to snap him out of it? He knew what it was like to awaken after a deed that he had no control over. Only this time, he wouldn't have anyone to blame but himself. No phantom ancestor pulling the strings, just Yusuke and his own weakness of the body and mind.

Yeah, there were reasons that he didn't dwell too long on the rumbling of his stomach. The biting pain was a relief compared to the mentality that it represented.

Hiei's anger seemed to have calmed and his voice held a note of something else. Something that could almost be described as...concern. "You had no qualms about Raizen's people eating humans. You've even expressed how 'stupid' he was being, himself. Why is it any different for yourself?"

It wasn't made to sound like a question, but Yusuke had an answer regardless. He sounded exasperated. "I've got a life here. My family and friends are human. And now I'm supposed to go pick someone off not just to kill, but to butcher? Literally?" His arms waved in the air for emphasis. "Roast a slab of meat over the family grill. 'Oh, Yusuke, that smells delicious. What is it?' 'I think his name was Frank."

Hiei allowed the other to calm down before responding. "I'm sure there are ways of being discreet. Selective. If you insist on protecting the ignorant sensibilities of others." It was something that the jaganshi still couldn't understand, but he had come to accept such ridiculous ultimatums from Yusuke and Kurama both. Foolish as they were.

"The point is, either you take control of how and when it happens...or you lose that control." Yusuke's stomach dropped at the implications, replacing the gnawing pain with nausea. "But you're a damn fool if you think that you can have the same success in willing yourself into starvation as someone as ancient and powerful as your ancestor."

Yusuke was quiet for a moment, allowing both his mind and his insides to calm and settle. His voice reflected the frustration that he felt, finally acknowledging the problem but resenting its lack of a solution. "So what exactly am I supposed to do?"

"Hn. You know what I would be doing. I don't have the..." Hiei actually cringed just a fraction. "...affection for these creatures that you do. All I can do is point out the obvious of what will happen if you do nothing." His voice had returned to the same empty flippancy that the conversation had been started with. "Which is only for your benefit, as I don't really care one way or another."

Yusuke knew that Hiei did care, otherwise the conversation would not have even occurred. The fire demon had genuine concern, even if it were as he had said: only for Yusuke's benefit. Unfortunately, the sick twisting of his stomach confirmed that he needed more than the concern of a friend right now.