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It was Kurama's birthday, a fine, beautiful day outside, and Hiei was angry and frustrated down to his very bones. Damn the moment he'd decided to give the old fox a birthday gift.

It wasn't that Kurama didn't deserve it, or that he wasn't worth the effort. Back in that ridiculous Dark Tournament, Hiei had been completely ready to burn down the stadium and reduce everyone inside to ashes to keep him safe. He would destroy the world to see Kurama happy and well. Compared to what he was willing to do, running around his human hometown city to get him a decent gift was nothing. Or it should be nothing.

There were a few problems, though.

First, it had taken him an entire week to figure out what to give him at all. Kurama was old , with over 500 years of experience and memories hidden behind his beautiful green eyes. Because of his beauty and magnetic charm, he’d been given priceless, inestimable treasures; because of his wit and strength, he'd stolen far more than that. Hiei had heard more than once a story of how Kuronue had stolen the riches of an entire castle to offer to him as a gift. When Kurama asked him the reason, Kuronue had laughed and said, No reason. I was bored and thinking of you.

Hiei hated to admit it, would never say it out loud, but there was no way to compete with that. He was slowly learning to give up trying to be what Kurama's previous lovers - what Kuronue - had been. Kurama had once possessed everything most beings could only in their wildest dreams aspire to own, a life that spun around stealing and owning treasures and the most precious objects in Demon World; and, just like that, in the blink of an eye, he'd lost everything. One could only imagine how shocking that must've been, especially for a being as possessive and greedy as demon foxes tended to be. Still, he'd recovered. He always talked about how happy he was now, satisfied with his books and flowers, with his friends and family. With Hiei. He was adamant about that; he didn't need or want anything more.

Normally, Hiei wouldn't even bother with a gift. Birthdays weren't something demons celebrated or even acknowledged - he wasn't even sure in which year he himself was born, let alone the precise date. But Kurama had a human life now, and brand new expectations Hiei was still trying to figure out and understand, at least partially. As much as he kept quiet about it, so as to not bother anyone, he enjoyed the heartfelt wishes and the hugs and the birthday cards. And Hiei would set his dragon to burn down all three worlds just to see Kurama happy; he could make some effort and give him something nice.

After many headaches and much frustration, and even an impromptu visit to Yusuke in the middle of the night - he'd shattered his window a bit and scared the living soul out of him, but the pieces of advice had been fairly useful - he'd decided to give him a desert rosebud. Kurama had mentioned once, while tending to his garden and rambling about his flowers in that way he did when he thought Hiei wasn't paying attention, but obviously he was, that he'd like to grow desert roses, but they were expensive and he didn't feel comfortable with asking his mother for the money.

It wasn't all the riches of an ancient, heavily-guarded demon castle. It wasn't a wedding ring (they'd talked about that, Kurama patiently explaining all the ritual and ceremony to a very confused Hiei - and while they did have plans, they kept them to themselves so as to not scary Kurama's mother). It wasn't a one-of-a-kind treasure from Spirit World, or even something as valuable as a Koorime tear gem. It was just a desert rose. Not even a bouquet; as a rule, Kurama wasn't fond of those. A simple bud meant to be planted and taken care of.

His main issue had been dealing with people. The mere thought of having to interact with unknown humans in order to actually make the purchase made him sick. So, he'd dragged out Yusuke for help once more, and after a very stressful afternoon, he'd at last gotten his hands on his gift, and they'd driven to Kurama's house.

"Aren't you going in?" Yusuke asked when they got out of the car, one hand already in the air to knock and the other fixing up his hair. Music and muffled sounds of conversation came from behind the wooden door. So Kurama's mother had been able to convince him to throw a small celebration, after all.

Hiei snarled. "You must be joking."

"Yeah, well, I could've guessed that. I'll tell him you'll stop by later, then."

Hiei shrugged, which looked like whatever and in his language meant thank you , carefully clutched the little flower close to his chest and jumped off to his favored tree, which was just nearby and allowed him decent view of the people who came and went and a glimpse of Kurama's bedroom on the second floor.

He had a half-mind to take a nap, but he found himself enthralled by the guests who had come all the way to congratulate Kurama. They were normal, painfully so; in tasteful outfits and holding nicely wrapped gifts, they kissed his mother on the cheek and gave him hugs and pats on the back and made jokes and ruffled his hair. The smell of some delightful food came from the windows, and the songs were nice enough that even Hiei was enjoying them. Kurama said often that he didn't really like throwing birthday parties, and every year his mother had to pester him for weeks to get his permission to have people over, but it appeared as if he was having fun. He looked particularly beautiful today, wearing a baby pink button-up shirt with his hair set up in a pretty arrangement of braids, smiling to everyone around him.

Hiei's chest hurt with how badly he wanted to be by his side now. His hands tightened around the bud and he felt awfully, painfully inadequate. How was he ever supposed to fit in with that? With all those happy people and their light conversation and pastel outfits? He was an abandoned fire child, thrown away by his own kind, left to kill and maim his way through Demon World. Kurama was… Kurama. He had two sides to himself, and both of them were astounding and flawless.

How in the world had he ever thought this was a good idea?

Time flew by faster than he anticipated. Suddenly, everyone was leaving, with more kisses on the cheek and more hugs, Kurama waving them off at the door, all smiles and pleasantries.

Hey, you came , a soft voice whispered around his brain. The two of them had found out the Jagan created a very particular, very strong connection to its owner's mate. Which meant that, sometimes, Kurama would have sudden surprises in the middle of class with Hiei making contact, and Hiei would jump out of nowhere during patrol with Kurama whispering… things .

But, this time, Hiei said nothing. Kurama threw a glance in the general direction of the tree.

I'm glad you're here, Hiei , the voice said again, a bit more carefully. The bedroom window is open, you can get inside. Everyone left already. I'll be there in a moment.

Climbing inside Kurama's bedroom through the window was as familiar as wielding a sword now. He slid inside and silently closed it behind himself, sat with crossed legs on the bed, and waited, the tiny flower safe in his lap.

Kurama arrived still biding goodnight to his mother, sounding energetic and joyful, but when he shut the door and turned to face Hiei, he looked tired, his shoulders sagging a bit, his always perfect posture crumbling. Still, he smiled genuinely at seeing Hiei, and threw himself on the bed next to him.

"Hey there," he said, green eyes twinkling with delight.

Hiei cleared his throat. It was amazing and nearly worrying how fast Kurama could snatch his attention, how easily he could become the sole point of his sharp focus with little more than a flick of his hair or a stolen glance. "Hello."

Kurama propped his head up with his hands, kicking the air idly, looking very much like a pleased cat. "You came."

"I did."

"Would you like to eat something? There's still some food left."

"Maybe later."


Hiei looked around the room as Kurama changed his clothes and stepped into something more comfortable. There were lots of gifts spread around his desk and piled up on the floor. "Got many gifts this time?"

"What?" Kurama stuck his head through an old, faded t-shirt, too long for him and that ended just under the curve of his ass. Hiei tried not to stare. "Oh. A fair amount, I suppose. Mostly books. One or two shirts. Nothing particularly exciting."

"I suppose nothing is exciting for someone who was on the verge of owning all the Spirit World and the Demon World treasures just a decade ago."

Kurama giggled while putting up his long hair in a ponytail. "Of course it is. I mean, the books are great, I'm not complaining. But mostly these people just don't know how to find nice things. Like..."

He looked around the room to find something to use as an example, and eventually, his eyes landed on the small flower half-hidden between Hiei's hands.

"What's that?" If Kurama had his tail, it would be slowly wagging now; his head was tilted to the side, in that lovely way he did when he was curious.

Hiei felt his cheeks heat up with blush, and he tugged it closer to himself. "It's - well. For you."

Kurama stepped closer and knelt on the bed in front of him, and gently pried his fingers open to take the gift from his hands. When he resisted a bit, Kurama whispered, "Let me," in this reverent, awed tone that made him yield immediately.

His movements were unnaturally smooth as he moved all the other gifts out of the way and placed the flower bud on the center of his desk, turning on his desk lamp to look at it better. He propped his head on his arms and the corner of his pretty lips lifted in a grin, the most satisfied and happy Hiei had seen today.

"Oh, Hiei." Kurama sighed, touching it with the tip of his finger. "Hiei, I love it. It's beautiful. How did you know I wanted a desert rose?"

"You mentioned it once."

Kurama's eyes were shining now in an outworldly way, specks of gold nearly visible in the green. "How did you even get the money? You can't buy this with just change you find in the street."

"You know very well how."

Kurama giggled again, sounding so happy Hiei's heart almost started beating again inside his chest.

"I thought you would lecture me for that."

A shake of his head made Kurama's ponytail swing a bit. "Don't think that just because I'm an honor student I don't appreciate some successful thieving. I'm still me." he turned his head and smiled more fully at Hiei. "I love it. Would you mind if I went down to the garden now? I want to see it among the others."

Hiei jumped down from the bed. "C'mon. I'll go with you."

Kurama carefully took hold of the small plant and then of Hiei's hand, and they silently went downstairs together.

Thank you so much for this, Kurama whispered in his brain as they stepped around some balloons and decorations that were left on the floor. I love you.

In a surprising demonstration of clumsiness, Hiei tripped on air, but quickly recovered, with Kurama's hand tightening around his own. He would never get used to hearing that. Yeah, well. Happy birthday. I love you too.