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Definition of Family

Chapter Text

It all began on a quiet day like most others in Genkai’s temple where most of Team Urameshi would gather to reconvene after the week’s events and enjoy time among those who knew their struggles. Away from the city, the unsuspecting humans who knew not of the demons that walked amongst them, and the chaos of the Makai — it was easy to be at home and at peace. Laughing and talking about everything from school to embarrassing moments from tournaments or detective cases, the living area of the temple was filled with noise and cheer. Everyone seated at the low table, its surface covered with drinks and snacks of varying tastes. Genkai perched upon a cushion at the head of the table and sipping her tea as Yukina recounted a story to Kurama, Kuwabara, and Yuusuke’s delight. It was one of the recent happenings in the temple where one of the shōji had been broken by someone falling through it. Half-expecting it to be a cute story about his fated love’s clumsiness, Kuwabara was hanging off Yukina’s every word with a dopey expression that earned him one too many eye rolls from Yuusuke and Kurama.

“We had just waxed the floors and he was eager to get to the door,” Yukina said, either oblivious to or blatantly ignoring Kuwabara’s love-stricken gaze, stifling a giggle behind a hand covering her mouth. “I forgot to tell him and next thing I knew, he went sliding across the floor and fell through.”

Kuwabara chuckled dazedly, “Yeah. That’s funny, Yuki— wait.”

Yuusuke leaned back to catch Kurama’s eye and motioned with his fingers, flicking them up one by one and quietly mouthing, “1. 2. 3.”

“What do you mean, he?!” Kuwabara blurted out, whipping his head to look at Genkai then Yukina. “Wait, was it the shrimp?!”

Yukina looked to Kurama and tilted her head, “Shrimp?”

“It’s a nickname he has for Hiei, he doesn’t particularly like it though.”

Understanding bloomed in Yukina’s eyes at the same time as slight indignation, unbeknownst to Kuwabara who huffed and folded his arms across his chest seeming both haughty and amused at the same time. 

“A shrimp is a shrimp, Kurama, it’s just the facts.”

“Kazuma-san,” Yukina snapped, the coldness in her voice enough to give even Genkai the need to pause. “Please refrain from calling Hiei such things, especially in front of him.”

Kurama almost felt bad for Kuwabara. He looked as if he’d been slapped by Yukina and although that would likely never be the case, it did put a bit of a spin on things. However, her reaction was curious. Kuwabara and Hiei squabbling was nothing new to Team Urameshi, in fact they often did so in front of Yukina to her chagrin. He could understand her not wanting to see aggression between people she valued as friends. Though why now of all times? Glancing away, he caught Yuusuke’s eye and at the former detective’s raised brow, could offer no answer. Both content to sit back and watch as Kuwabara folded in on himself like a scolded child, head bowed beneath Yukina’s irate glare. 

“What’s the big deal anyway, he calls me names too. It’s a thing we’ve got goin on, Yukina, y’know between men.”

That must have been the wrong thing to say because the cup in Yukina’s hand began to grow frost around the bottom. Kurama lifting his own cup away and Yuusuke doing the same, although the latter did so with a barely-kept grin as he shifted away from Kuwabara who was in the “hot zone”. Even Genkai shifted away from the table although she did lower her cup with a sigh and a glance towards Yukina with a raised brow.

“I don’t believe he knows who you’re talking about.”

Yukina gave Kuwabara another hard stare which reminded Kurama of someone else very much before tearing her gaze away to regard Genkai with significantly less coldness. “What do you mean?”

“Hiei is a private person,” Genkai pointed out. Kurama’s eyebrow raised. So this was about Hiei? 

“Surely he would have told them about something this important,” Yukina said, her coldness giving way to genuine curiosity and slight disbelief. “Although that would explain why everyone doesn’t come around as much.” 

A wave of guilt swept through the other three occupants at the table. With life being as busy as it was, it was often hard to make the trek to the mountains which left Genkai and Yukina on their own very often. Shizuru often had to restrain Kuwabara to his room to make sure he studied and didn’t go gallivanting off to hang out with Yukina at a moment’s notice. While Yuusuke had quite a bit to catch up on after his time deceased and his frequent cases which impeded his studies. Kurama visited the most, though he couldn’t say it was as frequent as another of their group would have liked to come himself. With the danger averted, Kurama gently placed his cup on the table and looked over.

“So the incident with the shoji does involve Hiei but not directly?” Kurama asked, bringing Genkai and Yukina’s attention back to him. 

“Yeah, you’ve got us in suspense now, what’s the big secret?” Yuusuke piped up, noisily sipping at his tea and earning a glare from Genkai. 

“Well, it’s a good thing you’re already sitting,” Genkai grumbled, taking another sip of her tea. “Hiei’s kid broke the paper on my door.”

For a moment, it was silent. No one aside from Genkai and Yukina dared to move, the latter giggling quietly at the memory and the former sipping her tea without pause at the heavyweight she dropped in the room. Kurama was the first to recover and tilted his head to one side, eyebrow raised.

“Pardon?”

Yuusuke was the second, his eyes wide and one hand slamming on the table. “Hiei’s what?!” He shouted, which spurred Kuwabara from his trance-like state.

“You’re telling me the shrimp had a baby with someone?!”

While the thought of Hiei procreating never occurred to Kurama exactly , the idea of him doing so with another person was unpleasant to say the least. Questions began to fill the air heedlessly through Yuusuke and Kuwabara’s concerns and curiosities alike. Kurama filing the information away and resisting the urge to glare at the two to silence them. Odd, it wasn’t often that he felt this irritated. Though without all of the facts, it was pointless to be angry. Composing himself with another sip of his tea, he glanced up and caught Genkai’s eye, the old psychic raising a brow at him to which he smiled softly then turned to Yukina.

“So who is this child?”

Warding off Kuwabara and Yuusuke’s questions with a flustered face, Yukina seemed to breathe easier with Kurama’s calm and smiled gratefully as the field of questions died down in favor of listening to her answer of his. 

“Hiei called him ‘Haku’, although sometimes he calls him ‘Kōhaku’ when he’s done something bad,” Yukina said. “Haku’s very sensitive about Hiei and doesn’t like bad things to be said about him or toward him. For instance, he saw Touya-san and Hiei in an argument and Touya-san said something harmless but a bit… cold. Haku still won’t talk to him nicely.” 

Well, that was news to Kurama. He knew that the Ice Master and Hiei had a complicated relationship due to the events of the Dark Tournament and later on the Demon World Tournament, though he hadn’t expected the pair to actually hold a conversation outside of coming to blows. Or for that conversation to be overheard by a child who held an importance to Hiei. Though that raised more questions. Where did the child come from? Was Hiei often around enough to be considered a parent for them? Was the child Hiei’s by blood or was it by circumstance? Trying to find the opportune way to ask and sate this need to know , it slowly dawned on Kurama that Hiei had been by often. The two of them sharing meals after Kurama was off from work, talking about the going-ons in the Makai and Kurama’s daily life in turn, but never what Hiei was doing when he was away. True, he mentioned his patrol work or the politics that came from being Mukuro’s right hand but never anything about a child.

Or a family.

Or a life built with someone else.

It was uncomfortable. This feeling taking root in his heart but just as quickly as it sprouted, it was watered as the sound of shuffling feet from behind the fushuma silenced everyone at the table. The door sliding open and a young child, perhaps no older than the age of six, stood in the doorway while rubbing his eyes. A mass of dark hair skewed from sleep framed a cherubic face, dark eyes blearily gazing at the table’s occupants, tanned skin with rounded ears, blunt nails and teeth ( seen as he yawned loudly ) and  a plain white t-shirt over beige pajama pants printed with kittens — with all intents and purposes, he looked human

While Kuwabara and Yuusuke stared, Kurama put on his best smile as the child glanced around the table taking in each person before his gaze landed on Yukina. With slow and swaying steps, he stumbled around the table, seemingly unaware of Genkai as she patted his back on his way to deposit himself unceremoniously in Yukina’s lap. Kurama, seated beside Yukina, had an up close view to just how small and cuddly he looked. His hair was messy but thick, stopping shortly after his shoulder blades, a few marks and scars on his arms and his cheeks, but nonetheless  he looked like a normal child. Yukina set down her cup and wrapped her arm around his shoulders, shifting him slightly so he was sitting up though he leant to rest his head against her chest. 

To her credit, Genkai kept a straight face. “Aren’t you forgetting something, Haku?”

Lazily, Haku opened his eyes and pressed his lips together in a firm line, stretching out as best as he could without breaking Yukina’s hold then relaxing with a sigh. 

“Haku,” Yukina gently prodded, nudging his shoulder to his chagrin as he mumbled in protest. “We have visitors.”

Haku opened his eyes a little and sniffed, shifting to sit up and rub at his eyes before he glanced around, his head bobbing as he tried to wake up.

“Papa,” Haku mumbled, half-closing his eyes before opening them again.

“He’s not here today, Haku,” Yukina said gently, running her fingers through his hair. 

Haku pouted, tilting his head back to look at Yukina. “How many more times do I have to sleep before he comes back?”

Kuwabara let out a noise that sounded like a half-choked shriek which startled everyone at the table but Haku who seemed to be half-dozing while waiting for Yukina’s response. Long since knowing his love for cute things, Kuwabara seemed over the moon while Yuusuke eased him down with a hand to his shoulder. Kurama smiled faintly. It was cute. Although the bead of concern returned. How often was Hiei away? It was clear how close this child felt to him to call him something like ‘Papa’. Though it was a word that Kurama would have never associated with the fire demon, he was beginning to imagine and the thought was far too cute. 

Yukina seemed grateful for Haku’s presence as his being there deterred Yuusuke and Kuwabara from pelting her with questions but she also seemed happy. And he seemed at home here, as if he’d been here for some time. A little family made between Genkai, Yukina, Hiei, and his child. Kurama wasn’t sure how to process it. This twisting feeling in his chest as Kuwabara fawned over him, Genkai spared him little smiles and Yukina talked to him quietly about when Hiei would be returning. This wasn’t contempt, he wasn’t jealous of a child, but the very nature of his existence was an unknown. Something that had been out of his sight for so long. It was damning. He knew that Hiei had his secrets, that despite their closeness, he wasn’t privy to all of them and neither was the fire demon privy to all of his doings. Though this was different.

After the fall of the barrier and Hiei’s ability to traverse the worlds was no longer impeded, his relationship with Yukina strengthened and they actually seemed like siblings. There were arguments. Moments where neither side would speak and a melancholy could be felt despite their silence. Yet after each one, they came together stronger again. Like two halves of one whole. And it warmed Kurama’s heart to see Hiei embrace his sister’s affections despite the pain the past held. Though, where did that leave them? Though he resigned himself to continuing his human life until his family had no need for Minamino Shuuichi, at his core, he was still Kurama. Even if it seemed as though he picked one side, did Hiei see it as him forsaking their partnership? Closing himself off to the fire demon?

Was that why he sought the help of Genkai and Yukina?

Excluded Kurama from this part of his life?

He knew he shouldn’t have felt hurt. It wasn’t only him after all who had been left “out of the loop”, but the feeling couldn’t be helped. Kurama couldn’t help but wonder if he knew about him at al. Did he know that Hiei was his partner? And for that matter, did Hiei find love in another enough to have a child of his own. What was the story there?

“Hey Kurama?” Yuusuke interjected, his voice close and Kurama blinked up at him startled, unsure of when he had come so close to stand beside him or touched his shoulder. “Head outside with me right fast, feel like getting some air.”

Glancing around the table, Kurama hadn’t noticed Yukina had left and Haku was nowhere to be seen or Kuwabara for that matter. Genkai sat at the table with her elbows propped up and her chin resting on bridged fingers, her gaze sliding to him then away as she shut her eyes. Kurama sighed and set down his tea cup, slowly rising. 

“Of course, lead the way.”

Yuusuke nodded and headed to the entrance hall of the temple, slipping on his shoes and sliding open the door as Kurama followed with a glance spared down at the shoes left there. Of course there were Yukina’s, Genkai’s, and then a smaller pair. Foolish as it might have been, he thought he might have dreamt it all up in that one moment but it was real. 

“You comin’?”

Kurama looked up at Yuusuke who stood in the doorway with his hands tucked in his pockets, a mixture of concern and curiosity in his eyes as he inclined his head to motion for him to follow. With a sigh, Kurama conceded and stepped out, letting the door shut behind him. In the fresh air and warmth of the sun beneath the boughs of the forest surrounding Genkai’s temple, nature soothed the jagged edges of Kurama’s agitation and his worry. Yuusuke remained quiet for awhile, taking to wandering the grounds with Kurama in tow. A safe distance away from the temple in a clearing with flowers blooming amidst the grass, Yuusuke stopped and glanced back.

Kurama stared at the tree tops, his eyes glazed over and unseeing as he came to a stop a few paces behind Yuusuke. The former detective’s eyebrows furrowed as he turned around to face him and tried to gauge how to say this. 

How else are you supposed to bring up to one of your friends that his closest partner might be stepping out on him?

Though, he had to ask himself whether or not Kurama and Hiei had that sort of relationship. They were certainly close and worked together with a teamwork unlike any other he’d ever seen but there was a difference between battlefield closeness and domestic closeness. And if the mood from earlier meant anything, Hiei must have achieved the latter and Kurama either wasn’t aware or wasn’t part of it. Yuusuke wasn’t sure which stung worse for him to think about and he didn’t want to imagine what was going on in Kurama’s head. 

“So, Hiei’s a dad,” Yuusuke points out, shifting from one foot to the other.

The look Kurama levels him with is flat and he hates that he started this off with stating the obvious but at least Kurama was looking at him now. 

“It seems as such, I never took him as one who would like children,” Kurama said, detached as his voice might have been, there was a hint of bitterness somewhere in those words.


Yuusuke nodded in agreement nonetheless. The idea of Hiei being a stereotypical dad was unnerving to say the least. He wondered what kind of kid Haku was, and what kind of parent Hiei had been, but neither of those thoughts were important right now. To him or Kurama it seemed. There’s a hard look in Kurama’s eyes and it makes Yuusuke feel small almost, as if he’d done something wrong though he knew nothing about Hiei taking a trip into fatherhood. 

“Well, guess he’s full of surprises still,” Yuusuke joked weakly.

“Quite.”

Yuusuke sighed, eyes narrowing and eyebrows raising. “It’s alright to feel hurt, you know.”

“What?” 

“You and Hiei are close, and he definitely wouldn’t have told me or Kuwabara about this, but you? He tells you everything.”

A look crossed Kurama’s face and Yuusuke immediately regretted his words, the hurt in those green eyes made him want to apologize and he wasn’t even the focus of the conversation. As quick as it came, the look was gone and Kurama looked away from him.

“Not anymore, it seems.”

Yuusuke wasn’t sure what to say to that. Sure, Hiei had never been forthcoming with him but he never held back with Kurama from the looks of it. This might have been the fire demon’s usual in his eyes but to Kurama, it might have been something entirely other . A breach of trust, maybe. But definitely not their norm. 

“I hadn’t realized how far Hiei might have grown from me, I did desire this, to see him live rather than just survive but…” Kurama trailed off as he turned to face Yuusuke, a soft smile gracing his lips though it didn’t reach his eyes. His eyes were a darker shade of green, dull almost, forlorn.  “It hadn’t occurred to me that upon making my decision, Hiei had also made his.”

“”It doesn’t have to be like that,” Yuusuke said. “If you talked to him, you guys could get to the bottom of this like you do everything else.”

“If he didn’t come to talk to me before, why would he talk to me about this now?”

For that, Yuusuke didn’t have an answer and looking at Kurama like this was tugging at his heart strings something uncomfortable. Nature filled the silence for them and the walk back to Genkai’s temple was with a solemness of a situation still unresolved. Yet as they passed through the treeline, one of the doors to the temple opened and Kuwabara came flying out to skid across the grass and dirt on his back. Kurama and Yuusuke side-stepped the oncoming human bullet, looking at one another then at the doorway as a dark figure walked up and stood with his hands tucked the pockets of his cloak. 

Crimson eyes slowly opened and gauged Yuusuke and Kurama’s faces before centering on Kuwabara’s twitching form with contempt. Yukina’s loud cry of “brother” from behind snapped Yuusuke out of his stupor as the clouds rolled away from overhead, relinquishing the shadows that covered his face. 

“Hiei?!” Yuusuke shouted, his voice dying as he glanced at Kurama who seemed transfixed on Hiei. The same could be said for the fire demon who refused to look away from Kurama or even acknowledge Yukina’s scolding or Yuusuke’s outburst.

It was as if the world had stopped for them and they were having a conversation by just staring at one another. Then by shutting his eyes, Hiei ended the conversation and turned away. Yuusuke could pinpoint the exact moment Kurama’s face fell but was quickly guarded as he regained his composure. This was insane. One too many bombshells in one day. From Hiei having a kid to this fledgling idea he had of what Kurama might be feeling for the fire demon to —

“Bring the oaf with you,” Hiei said, his voice cutting clean through Yuusuke’s thoughts and the stillness. “We need to talk.”

With that, he disappeared inside and Yuusuke glanced towards Kurama. His breath hitched. The look of determination in those green eyes almost reminded him of the Youko.

Chapter Text

Although the question of why Hiei kicked Kuwabara out wasn’t answered by the fire demon himself, the chaos wrought by his actions surely painted a vivid picture. With Kurama lifting Kuwabara’s legs and Yuusuke supporting his arms, it wasn’t difficult to bring him inside but his disoriented mutterings made it harder for Kurama to focus. For that, Yuusuke often suffered because where Kurama faltered, Kuwabara began to sag in his arms and the drool running down the side of his mouth would catch onto the sleeve of Yuusuke’s jacket. The former detective’s eyebrow twitched and he hefted Kuwabara up in his arms again, giving Kurama a pointed look that said ‘focus’ although he could tell the fox was paying him no mind. As they entered the room, depositing Kuwabara’s unconscious body on a pillow that’d been brought out for him, likely at Yukina’s behest and Hiei’s chagrin. Yuusuke huffed and rolled his shoulders. Though Kuwabara wasn’t that heavy compared to most of the weights he’d used while training, it still didn’t make the strain any easier. Looking to Kurama with a quip on the tip of his tongue, the fox’s attention was solely on the quiet conversation between Hiei and Yukina on the other side of the room. The former stood with his arms crossed and eyes narrowed as he spoke to his sister, though his lips were moving, even with his heightened sense of hearing Yuusuke couldn’t pick up a word. 

Yukina’s hands rested on her hips as she spoke to him, her nose scrunched and eyebrows furrowed, one hand lifting with her index finger extended and wagging at him in a way that reminded Yuusuke of a mother. It was easy to see how they were related when they were like this. Both a little stubborn and unwilling to give ground and with similar ways of glaring. Looking at Kurama though, he seemed transfixed on Hiei more so than the picture the two of them painted together. It made sense. With the way that Kurama looked at Hiei earlier, he doubted that even the fire demon knew how much trouble he was in. Though it did raise questions to why Kuwabara was out cold and Hiei’s kid nor Genkai were anywhere to be seen. As it stood now, the tension in the air was centered entirely around the fire demon and whether he knew it or not, he didn’t seem undeterred from his usual antics.

Hiei’s eyes flicked in his direction and Yuusuke tensed up, though he wasn’t sure what for. It didn’t feel like Hiei’s usual look though more like he was being appraised for something and once Hiei looked away, Yuusuke’s shoulders sagged and he finally took a breath. What was that all about? He glanced at Kurama for answers but once again came up short. This was great. Without a Hiei-translator or someone to break the ice, whatever this was would go from bad to worse. Maybe he should have stayed home with Keiko for a little while longer. 

“Oh, he’s back,” Genkai muttered, entering from the other hallway and peering at the scene with barely-kept amusement, her foot lightly nudging the side of Kuwabara’s head. “I told you that you were in danger, fool.” 

Spying someone who could make sense of what was going on, Yuusuke stepped away from Kurama’s side and hurried over to Genkai’s, careful not to disturb the twins who remained in their heated albeit quiet talks or Kuwabara’s blubbering.  Gauging the mood in the room, Yuusuke leant down and whispered to the aging psychic who glanced up at him with a mixture of curiosity and mild amusement. 

“Did something happen while Kurama and I were out?”

Genkai’s smirk grated at Yuusuke’s nerves as she closed her eyes and turned her head away. “You’re not in the habit of stating the obvious again, are you, Yuusuke?”

“C’mon,” Yuusuke grumbled. “Whatever happened was big.”

“Oh,” Genkai cooed, looking up at him with a snide grin. “You’re just being nosy.”

Yuusuke huffed and gestured to the other occupants of the room, engrossed in talks or staring, “I think the cat’s out of the bag now,  we’re past nosy.”

Genkai looked over the room then shrugged, pocketing her hands as she gave Kuwabara’s head another light tap with the tip of her shoe. “Well, your friend here decided to help Yukina with putting away the dishes, and Hiei’s child was also present. I believe the scene with Yukina at his side and a child helping them spurred thoughts of parenthood and the prospects of marriage might’ve been presented to her after Haku left.”

Yuusuke tried to picture the scene and the corner of his lips twitched as he fought off a smile. The idea of Yukina, Haku, and Kuwabara washing dishes was a little cute. Though he didn’t know how to break it to the big guy that Yukina didn’t seem interested in marrying him let alone dating at the rate he was going. Spurring Genkai to go on, he glanced down at Kuwabara’s twitching form with interest. 

“Unlucky for him though, Hiei was also entering the kitchen. You know how quiet he can be.”

The image painted in Yuusuke’s mind was very clear now. Haku leaving the scene, with only Kuwabara and Yukina side by side, Hiei entering quietly to his sister’s hand being hypothetically asked. Oh, that was a recipe for disaster . Yuusuke couldn’t help but smile, biting down on the inside of his cheek to stifle a laugh. 

“One thing led to another and now—” Genkai glanced his way then gestured to Kuwabara with an open palm as if to say ‘there you go’, and it took all of Yuusuke’s strength not to double over laughing, though he did crouch down and lightly knock Kuwabara over the head. 

He’d gotten his ass kicked enough for today. 

“You idiot, how’re you going to get married when you can’t even take her brother in a fight?” Yuusuke said, shaking his head. It would probably be a few thousand years before Kuwabara could beat Hiei in a fight though. He had a better shot at just eloping with Yukina than waiting for the fire demon’s blessing.

Genkai shook her head and sighed, “I don’t think that’s the point, Yuusuke.”

“Still,” Yuusuke shrugged and looked from Kurama to the twins still talking on the other side of the room. The enjoyment he felt from Kuwabara’s blunder short-lived, he really didn’t hope this devolved into a full-on fight. Especially with the way Kurama was looking at Hiei. “This doesn’t look good.”

“No, it does not,” Genkai admitted, glancing at the fire demon. “But it’s Hiei’s mess to clean up and for that matter —”

She paused mid-sentence and Yuusuke looked her way as she took in a deep breath then blurted out.

“Oi, kid!”

All eyes, aside from Kuwabara’s which were still spinning in their sockets, turned to her though she glared pointedly at Hiei. Hiei huffed and tucked his hands in the pockets of his cloak, regarding her over his shoulder with annoyance. 

“What do you want, old woman?”

“The door,” Genkai jabbed a finger towards the broken sliding door that had a strange imprint which looked like Kuwabara in the hinges. Yuusuke wasn’t sure how he’d missed that before but Genkai had surely noticed and despite her amusement at the situation, having her temple damaged was something she’d likely not want to endure more than once. 

Hiei huffed, looking away. “I’ll fix it later.”

“Ho,” Genkai said, unfolding her arms. “Later? So you’re intending on sticking around for a little longer?”

Yuusuke’s eyebrows raised and he glanced at Hiei who didn’t bother to look in Genkai’s direction or utter a word. The look Yukina gave him was a mixture of worry and questioning, and Yuusuke dared not look to see what kind of expression Kurama was making. Genkai seemed undeterred by having an audience, stepping over Kuwabara to walk past Hiei and Yukina. 

“After being gone for three months, you have a lot to catch up on.”

“You don’t have to tell me,” Hiei snapped, terse and quick like a whip, Yukina flinching at the sound to which his voice softened whether out of an apology for frightening her or letting his temper get out of control — Yuusuke wasn’t sure. “But it also looks like some of the things that I didn’t expect happened, hag.”

“Hmph, that’s what you get when you neglect to share the news with everyone, pipsqueak.”

“Who are you calling a pipsqueak?”

“Who are you calling a hag?”

“As much as I enjoy this routine, I must ask that we get to the point of the matter,” Kurama interjected, his voice cutting through Genkai and Hiei’s bantering and spurring them both into silence, the pair turning to look at him. “Hiei.”

Yuusuke suppressed a shudder at the way Kurama said his name. Most times, it was either said with concern or a degree of fondness but this was cold. Coldness that was often reserved for the heat of battle and for the people who really ticked him off. Glancing towards Hiei, the fire demon seemed unaffected by the way Kurama spoke his name and the two stared at one another with everyone else in the room bearing witness. Genkai closed her eyes and turned away, going to sit on the engawa while Yukina glanced between Kurama and Hiei as if she was unsure who to comfort or who to hold at bay. Kuwabara groaned and Yuusuke knelt down, helping him to sit up as he slowly came back to consciousness, rubbing the back of his head.

“What happened?” Kuwabara grumbled, wincing at the pain to the back of his neck.

Yuusuke chuckled, although it was hard to crack a joke in this atmosphere. “Think you got rejected.”

Kuwabara blinked at him owlishly then looked about the room, his gaze landing on Yukina first then Hiei and Kurama. “Hey, wait a minute, is a fight about to break out? What’d I miss?”

 Hiei clenched his jaw. “Quiet, you fool.”

Kuwabara glared and Yuusuke tucked his arms beneath the Kuwabara’s armpits to keep him from leaping into action and likely getting himself knocked out again. Though that didn’t stop his mouth from moving.

“You wanna go, runt?! Don’t think just cause you’re a dad now, I’m not gonna kick your a—” 

Do not curse in front of Haku,” Hiei snapped, and without looking away from Kurama, he pointed a finger at Kuwabara. “This is your only warning.” 

Kuwabara nodded mutely, whether out of fear or being thrown off his game, Yuusuke wasn’t sure but Hiei meant business and that’s all he needed to know. Hiei lowered his hand and tilted his head slightly to the left, keeping Kurama’s gaze all the while. Yuusuke wasn’t sure what they were waiting for. Then it occurred to him, he’d never seen Kurama and Hiei fight before. Most of their conversations were off on their own and the two seemed to always gravitate towards one another, even their bantering wasn’t cutthroat or cold. Yet now, it felt like one wrong move and they’d be at each other’s throats. Kuwabara glanced up at Yuusuke and the former detective shared his gaze. Something wasn’t right here, and the only ones unaffected were Yukina and Genkai. The latter of which had taken to relaxing on the engawa while the former looked between the pair worriedly. 

Hiei tilted his head to the right and Yuusuke’s eyes shot open as a shadow dropped from the side of the roof, landing neatly beside Genkai who only looked up at the newcomer with a disinterested glance. Slowly, he rose to his feet from a crouch and Kuwabara pointed.

“Touya?!”

The Ice Master surveyed the room quietly, eyebrow raising at Kuwabara’s outburst.

“Kuwabara.. Kazuma,” Touya said, wonder in his voice. “It’s been some time.”

Looking to Yuusuke, he nodded to which the former detective returned with a quick nod and a soft, “Yo.” unsure of how else to greet the shinobi. How long was he there for anyway? Genkai and Yukina didn’t seem bothered by him, Touya entering after taking off his shoes and placing them facing outward on the ground past the engawa, giving Yukina a curt nod before turning to face Hiei. 

Kuwabara leant back and whispered to Yuusuke, “I think this just went from bad to worse.”

The moment Touya entered the room, the staredown between Hiei and Kurama was cut short by the fire demon turning to regard the Ice Master. Kurama’s eyebrow raised and his eyes narrowed at Hiei before his gaze slid to Touya. The shinobi glanced between them, giving Kurama a hesitant nod then looking to Hiei.

And though they were standing a few inches away, something in the air shifted. Yuusuke could feel it. Like an energy was circling around the two of them and pressed between them. One that he couldn’t quite breach and he was almost certain he couldn’t touch even if he reached for it. Hiei held Touya’s gaze and Touya did the same but it was different than the staredown he had with Kurama somehow. The corner of Touya’s lips twitched up into a slight smile while Hiei’s face remained impassive. And Yuusuke had always thought the Ice Master’s gaze would remain cold but there was a softness to his eyes as he regarded Hiei that he didn’t think was possible. Bowing his head slightly, Touya stepped to the side as Hiei turned away from them and headed outside, walking past Genkai.

“Hey, wait a minute!” Yuusuke called. “You said we had to talk, Hiei! Where’re you going?!”

“Did I interrupt something?” Touya asked, a thoughtful expression on his face as he glanced from Hiei’s retreating back to Yuusuke who wasn’t sure how to break it to him that he was

“Well, I mean—” 

“Touya,” Hiei said, cutting Yuusuke off and startling the Ice Master whose head whipped around to look at him with wide eyes. 

A few seconds of silence lingered between them and Yuusuke wasn’t sure when Hiei would say something until he realized he already did. Touya slowly nodding and then with a slight bow to the others went to put on his shoes and follow after Hiei. 

“The nerve of that guy, first he hits me for no reason and says we gotta talk but then he just goes?” Kuwabara grumbled, pulling himself free of Yuusuke’s hold and rubbing the back of his head.

Genkai sighed. “To be fair, you did do something stupid.”

Kuwabara scowled, pointing at her. “There’s nothing stupid when it comes to l—” He caught Yukina’s gaze from the other side of the room, pink twinging his cheeks as he cleared his throat and turned his head away. “W-Well, you know. He didn’t have to hit me that hard.”

Yukina sighed, walking over and kneeling beside him. “Does your head hurt badly?”

“Huh? O-Oh well, I mean…”

Without waiting for his answer, she reached out to brush his hand away and laid her hand on the back of his head. Yuusuke backing away and pushing to his feet with a weary sigh. What had been a relaxing moment was just going south fast. He wasn’t sure how to process any of this. Looking to Kurama for help though wasn’t an option, because the fox was gone. 

“He disappeared awhile ago,” Genkai said as Yuusuke went to stand outside, leaving Yukina and Kuwabara to their thing , and scanning the treeline for a hint of Kurama’s energy or something . “Sometime after Hiei started talking to Touya.”

“That was talking?” Yuusuke muttered, folding his arms. “He could’ve done it out loud.”

“Like I said, Hiei’s a private person.”

Somehow that irritated him even more. They were friends, Hiei should’ve been able to trust them, especially with something this big. Why didn’t he? 

And for that matter, out of everyone, why did he trust Touya over Kurama?

“He better explain all of this,” Yuusuke says, glaring where the shinobi and Hiei disappeared past the tree line. “He’s got everybody worried and what’s worse, he just blew off Kurama.” 

“I wouldn’t be so quick to judge, Yuusuke.”

Yuusuke shot Genkai a glare to which the old psychic returned with an unfazed one of her own. Mazoku or not, she was still damn frightening and he sighed, taking a seat beside her.

“Think Kurama went after them?”

“No, I doubt he would do that. If it was only Hiei, perhaps.”

Yuusuke raised a brow at that. “But Touya and Kurama don’t have any bad blood, right? I mean aside from the Dark Tournament, but he ended up helping us out at the end, didn’t he?”

“You’re as terrible at reading the mood as ever, Yuusuke.”

“Well if everybody would stop speaking in riddles, maybe I’d get a better idea.” Yuusuke declared, a lot more irritated now than he was before. The tension in the room was palpable, Kurama and Hiei were at each other's throats without even laying a finger on one another and although he figured they wouldn’t kill each other, having his friends fighting was messed up. Especially when it felt like there was nothing he could do to help them. Kurama wasn’t letting him in but Hiei wasn’t faring any better, he didn’t tell any of them anything. 

And just prolonging it was only making it worse.

“It’s not a riddle,” Genkai interjected, bringing Yuusuke back to the present, his startled gaze lingering on the old psychic as she stared at nothing in particular. She seemed so far away and his eyebrows furrowed. He hadn’t thought about how all of this drama might’ve been taking a toll on her. “It’s obvious, Yuusuke.” 

He wasn’t sure what she meant by that but maybe she was right. If he’d missed this much, who knew what else was lurking beneath the surface? 

 

— 幽☆遊☆白書 —

 

The halls of Genkai’s temple are ones that he knows well from the training during the Demon World Tournament and occasional visits to see Yukina, and yet Kurama finds himself aimlessly wandering nonetheless. Without a destination but with a clear thought in mind to be as far from the others as he possibly can. His hands curled into fists and stiffly swaying as he walks, staring straight ahead with a hardened glare that seems to tunnel with every second. His heart twists and clenches, a sensation he’s grown accustomed to along with feeling the beating, but entirely other . The feeling has a name and it sits at the tip of his tongue, spurred by the memory of Hiei slowly turning away from him. The moment those crimson eyes looked away from him towards the Ice Master who smiled upon having the fire demon’s gaze meeting his own. There were answers to be given and questions to be raised but he couldn’t find it in himself to ask all of them right now. Not when he felt like this. The careful calm and control he’d known were all but shattered and this mess of emotions would’ve only put in jeopardy what would have been a golden opportunity to —

To do what?

He slowed to a stop, his feet having carried him to the back of the temple, only one of the sliding doors there to impede him from exiting and —

Going where?

He could go back to his life. He’d come to visit and did what he sought to do. It wouldn’t have been a stretch. To open the door and leave behind this annoying situation that left him with more questions and considerations than answers. Surrounding the fire demon who seemed to be more and more of a mystery to him. When had it gotten like this? His nails dug into his palms, fists trembling as Hiei’s image appeared in his mind’s eye, looking at him quietly then turning his back to face the unknown. Where was he going? Why was he going alone? He couldn’t glean an answer from the fire demon’s silence, the guarded look in his eyes, what did it mean? 

When did Hiei close his heart off to him?

The entire world seemed to dull out, the beating of his heart and shallow breathing the only sounds he could make out as his world tunneled. Over and over, Hiei’s eyes came to mind. Crimson irises devoid of a sign of warmth or care, closed off and blank , leaving him with more questions and preconceived conclusions rather than answers. Not even a question or a look of contempt, just staring him down as if he was waiting but for what . Hiei was a puzzle that he couldn’t solve, someone that he knew well who changed just by being — distant. He felt so far away even if he was standing right in front of him. True, they could be apart from one another for extended periods and they had been but…

Hiei never felt like this before. Like a barrier had been placed between them, unbreakable and resolute, constructed over the time they’d been apart before Kurama could even notice it’d been there. Was he not permitted into this part of Hiei’s life? Was that it? Touya’s slight smile, the Ice Master following after Hiei, the way Hiei held a conversation with him in his mind . He never let anyone into his mind, a well-kept fortress that was indiscernible and inconceivable to anyone — even Kurama himself. 

So why Touya

“Excuse me?” A small voice called from behind, barely heard past the pounding in Kurama’s ears but heard nonetheless, the fox glancing over his shoulder. 

The young boy from earlier, Haku, looked up at him with a slight smile. He’d changed his clothes to a black tanktop and beige shorts, cuffed at the hems,  a pair of black sneakers in one hand while his other arm was occupied by a grey shoebox tucked beneath his armpit. He smiled widely, and Kurama straightened up, looking him over. The scars he’d seen before were numerous up and down the expanse of his arms, although they were healed, they were pale compared to his skin tone. He looked so much like Hiei with a fluffy mess of dark hair and wide eyes, though where Hiei’s irises were crimson, his were dark and unguarded. He seemed genuinely happy to see him for whatever reason with a smile so bright that Kurama almost thought to look away. 

“Are you going outside too?”

Kurama raised a brow, glancing at the door then to Haku. “...Are you?”

Haku nodded.

“As am I.”

It should have been impossible for someone to smile that bright and Kurama almost felt his terrible mood subsiding, sliding open the door and allowing sunlight to pour in. Haku glancing up at him then heading out, nearly leaping off the engawa though stopping short of the edge, balancing on one foot as he teetered forward then wheeled backward to drop on his behind. 

“Ouch,” he muttered, rubbing his lower back. “I almost forgot.” 

Pulling on his sneakers, he glanced over his shoulder and smiled. “C’mon, mister. Grandma Genkai will get mad if you keep the door open.”

Rousing from his stupor, Kurama stepped outside and slid the door shut behind him, going to sit down near the boy with a bit of distance between them. As Haku fiddled with his shoes, the shoe box sitting between them served as a barrier and also a point of interest. Enough so that he wouldn’t linger on the similarities between the smiling child and his father. Kurama’s ears twitched and he glanced down at the box. There was a faint beating, a heartbeat, and a slight flutter that almost sounded like.. Feathers. Wings. A few punctured holes at the box’s top and the sides allowing air and sunlight to filter through, though he couldn’t glean at a glance what might have been inside, he did have an idea. 

Haku tugged at the back of his shoes before kicking them lightly at the toe, scooping up the shoebox and hopping off the engawa, walking further into the grass. Kurama watched quietly as Haku knelt down, setting the shoebox down and removing the lid, reaching into it with both hands. The soft chirp of a bird followed by soft hushing from the boy as he lifted something out of the box between cupped hands. Carefully shifting it from one hand to the other, a bird with blue feathers and a yellow belly sat in his open palm, its wing pressed close to its body and trembling. With his hair obscuring his face, Kurama couldn’t make out Haku’s expression but his ears picked up on his whispering.

“It’s okay. You’ll be okay,” Haku cooed, lightly touching the bird’s wings with the tips of his fingers. “Just a little more and you can fly home.”

If it wasn’t for how close he was, he’d almost swear it was a trick of the light. A dark aura surrounding the child’s fingers as he touched the bird’s wing, the bird’s trembling gradually coming to a halt as it relaxed in his hold. 

“You have to go before Grandma Genkai finds out I kept you in my room, okay?” Haku insisted, pulling his fingers away from the bird’s wing, the aura disappearing. “There.”

The bird opened its eyes, slowly rising to its feet and lifting its wings. It gave a test flap then hopped up and down, turning to look at him curiously. Haku running his fingers through his hair, his eyes and smile bright.

“You’re okay now, just stay away from people with rocks,” he said as he slowly stood up, holding out the hand the bird rested on. “And if you see any other mountain birds, tell them the same. Aunt Yukina will cry if you get hurt.”

Kurama knew the benefit of speaking to creatures in nature. He oft spoke to his plants to help them grow when he didn’t apply his youki to their very beings. However, the bird stared intently at Haku as if it could understand what he was saying then turned and walked to the tips of his fingers, spreading its wings and flying off. It seemed stronger now and as it went, Haku watched with a smile, a gust of wind brushing past him and carrying the bird further off into the sky. Bending down to collect his shoebox, Kurama kept quiet until the bird departed then said, “That’s a rather impressive feat, Haku.”

Haku tucked his box beneath his arm, yawning and rubbing at his eyes as he walked back to the engawa. “You think so?” He asked, setting the shoebox down and taking a seat, beginning to unlace his shoes. “Aunt Yukina can heal things too, but she doesn’t get tired as fast as I do.”

Kurama smiled faintly. Somehow, that reminded him of Hiei as well. While the fire demon was confident in his abilities, he always seemed to struggle with his own perceptions. A bitter trait but a humbling one that must’ve passed down to his son as well. “It is not something that many can do,” Kurama said softly, smiling gently as Haku raised his head with wide eyes. “Though be careful how often you use it. You don’t want to get too tired and have everyone worried about you.”

Haku blinked at him owlishly and for a moment, he wondered if he overstepped a boundary but then the boy grinned and he nodded. “Okay!” Climbing up onto the engawa fully, he picked up his shoebox and tucked it beneath his arm, fiddling with the lid. “By the way, mister, what’s your name?”

His name. So Hiei hadn’t told his child about him. For a moment, Kurama considered lying though the earnest and soft smile directed at him was too much to ignore. Even if he wasn’t on good terms with his father, Haku did nothing to deserve his ire or his deceit. 

“Kurama.”

Haku tilted his head, curiosity in his eyes and the lilt in his voice as he repeated, “Kurama?”

The twinge of bitterness returned, Kurama nodded and to his surprise, Haku’s eyes widened and practically shone with glee. His smile wide. Tilting his head curiously, he raised a brow. “What is it?”

“My papa reads me stories all the time about Kurama!” Haku declared. Grinning widely. “He said sometimes Kurama looks like a silver-haired fox called the Youko and other times, he looks human but there’s only one Kurama, and that’s you!”

A finger pointed at him, Kurama wasn’t sure what to say but he couldn’t help but smile. This boy, so earnest in his excitement, recoiled and curled in on himself while hugging his shoebox closer. The box was slightly crushed beneath his hold but he didn’t seem to care as he looked down at his shoes, his cheeks twinged pink. 

“Those stories are my favorite,” he said, his voice quieter and almost shy, picking at the holes in his box. 

Standing up, Kurama took a step closer and reached down to lay his hand on Haku’s head, ruffling his hair. “I’m honored that my stories are your favorite.”

Kurama could see dark eyes peeking at him from behind the boy’s hair, and a little smile.

“My papa talks about you a lot too, I think he likes your stories better than the Mazoku and the Barbarian.” 

Well, that piqued his interest. Surely, the Mazoku was Yuusuke and he could guess who the Barbarian was. “Does he now?”

“Mhm,” Haku said, smiling in earnest. “You’re his best friend!”

Kurama smiled in turn. “He’s my best friend too.”

Haku nodded, “That’s good. I like you more than Touya anyway.”

That earned a confused hum from Kurama and a few questions bubbled up on his tongue though before they could be asked, Genkai’s voice rang out from in the temple, calling for the boy who seemed transfixed on admiring Kurama. His smile dissipated, he panicked and yelled back that he was coming.

“Sorry, I’ll see you later, okay!?”

Ducking from beneath Kurama’s hand, he picked up his shoes and ran inside, nearly tripping. Kurama sighed, sparing a small smile as he went. 

“Kurama!”

Looking up, Haku peeked at him from the end of the hall. 

“I’ll see you later, right?”

Kurama huffed and nodded, the boy’s megawatt smile returning as he disappeared around the corner, calling out “It’s a promise!”

Waiting until Haku was gone, Kurama returned inside and shut the door behind him, making his way back to where the others were. Yuusuke’s energy aside, Kuwabara was still conscious, and Yukina was there. However, so were Hiei and Touya. Steeling himself for what was to come, he thought back to the little boy taking care of the bird in the field and smiled.

You’re his best friend!

That was right. And yet, he needed a child to tell him. Though as he approached the door, he couldn’t help but wonder. How did he not notice Haku standing behind him for so long?

Chapter Text

Entering the room was a challenge within itself but quelling the emotions surging forth at the sight of Hiei’s back to him was another. Not bothering to hide his youki, Kurama knew the fire demon could sense him the moment he stopped concealing it but even then, Hiei wouldn’t look at him. Though, he figured he could forgive it this time seeing as the fire demon was currently being scolded by Yukina if her wagging finger and hand on the hip were any indication. Yuusuke and Kuwabara sitting at the low table talking amongst themselves, although the occasional glare the former detective sent Hiei’s way raised a few questions. 

Kurama knew Yuusuke to be very protective over his friends but he didn’t expect him to be the type to be upset about kept secret. Then again, he hadn’t expected this scenario or himself to be this upset either, so there were a few unknowns. To be excluded from a friend’s life in such a way was nothing short of insulting and though Kurama knew the Mazoku struck very little fear in Hiei’s heart, he hoped that this would tell the fire demon how serious the situation was. Hiei seemed undeterred and unbothered by the concentrated stares on his person, arms tucked across his chest and head held high as he endured his sister’s quiet lecture. The occasional shift in his footing or tilt of the head, his expression devoid of any of the irritation or anger that Kurama had known from the fire demon for so long. He seemed at peace or at least resigned to having to continue this conversation. 

It never occurred to him how over the time Hiei spent having dinner with him some nights, the fire demon might have changed. He’d always come for a meal, a quick chat and then leave without warning. It became routine and though it didn’t always stave off Kurama’s desire to have Hiei at his side, it was better than no contact at all. Coming without warning and leaving without a goodbye was Hiei’s thing and now that it crossed his mind, Kurama couldn’t help but think of what it would mean for the fire demon to say goodbye to him. There were so many unknowns, so many things he couldn’t fathom about the man standing across from him. 

In the time they’d spent apart, Hiei grew some as well. He wasn’t as tall as Kurama but fairly taller than he’d been before and his hair had grown out, still messy and spiky but long enough that it brushed against his shoulders. Even his features, albeit youthful, were sharp and defined. His cloak fell differently on his frame and though he’d been muscular before, he’d grown stronger and it showed in his physique. Kurama’s gaze raked up and down HIei’s form though as he looked up again, he met crimson red eyes looking into his own. The second the contact lasted felt like an eternity before Hiei looked away from him again, returning to speaking to Yukina, and Kurama felt that he could breathe again. 

His eyes changed.

Hiei was a wildfire before. Threatening to burn everything in his path to ashes, uncontrollable, volatile, beautiful, and yet dangerous. But now, he felt different. Kurama slid the door shut behind him as he walked further into the room, his gaze lingering on the fire demon as he tried to figure it out like Hiei was one of his old homework problems come to revisit him in the flesh. If Hiei was a wildfire before then he was a campfire now. He had a base, a place where he could be comfortable, rocks surrounding him that kept the tinder which let him burn. But Kurama was certain that their presence disturbed that base and the rocks were kicked aside, the stability Hiei might have known from keeping his secret had been disturbed, and with the proper kindling — he might set everything ablaze.

Is this why you’re being so careful?

Kurama wished he could pick apart the fire demon’s mind as the latter could with the Jagan. Ah, that reminded him. Hiei’s mind . Looking toward the wall nearest to the door which led out to the engawa, Touya stood with his back leaned carefully against the wall and his arms folded across his chest. Though Hiei was under scrutiny from his friends, the look Touya was giving him was an entirely different beast in and of itself. The Ice Master had once looked upon him with contempt and anger, wanting to kill him for the death of his friend, and though that look changed to one of admiration and respect in the time following — this wasn’t merely admiration nor respect in his eyes as he regarded Hiei. Softened and somewhat vulnerable, Touya regarded Hiei beneath his eyelashes, his eyes seemingly half-closed as he rested against the wall. With the fire demon at a distance, it wasn’t likely that Touya was being included on the conversation.

No, he was watching Hiei. 

Kurama told himself that it wasn’t his business to inquire of the nature of Touya’s stare but he seemed transfixed on Hiei’s every movement and as the argument between the twins came to a close, Kurama’s gaze flicked to Hiei to catch the hint of a faint smile curving the fire demon’s lips. It nearly brought a smile to his own face despite his irritation at the fire demon’s behavior until he glanced towards Touya and saw the Ice Master was smiling as well while watching Hiei. Walking closer to stand at Touya’s side, Kurama raised a brow when the Ice Master didn’t deign to look his way. 

Perhaps he’s too distracted.

Folding his arms across his chest, Kurama tilted his head and waited. Touya’s attention momentarily stolen from Hiei, he glanced in his direction then with a look of surprise, nodded curtly. “Welcome back, is everything alright, Kurama?”

A number of things ran through Kurama’s mind and he could have told Touya each one but instead he watched him carefully, keeping his gaze.

“Why are you here, Touya? This hardly seems the type of thing you would concern yourself with.”

Touya’s eyebrow raised at that and he straightened up, giving Kurama his full attention. 

Good, he’s smart.

“Obligation,” Touya said firmly. “Supervise the ones who reside here and in exchange, I get him.”

Kurama tilted his head, thinking back to Haku. “Him?”

“Hiei.”

The wheels in Kurama’s mind screeched to a halt, his hands curled into fists and hidden beneath his arms, fingers digging into the palm of his hands. “What do you want with him?” He asked, and although his voice was genial and light, he felt the tension in the room slightly shift. 

To his chagrin, Touya tilted his head and stole a glance over his shoulder before looking at him and shaking his head. “I would rather not say.”

A heat bubbled in the pit of Kurama’s stomach and he could feel the pull of the Youko. Annoyance at the sheer gall Touya had to keep something like this — about Hiei — away from him. Managing to bury the growl etching its way up his throat, Kurama said, “Why?”

Touya’s eyes went wide but he couldn’t imagine why, perhaps it was the question itself or something else, he almost looked startled. Frightened, even. 

“I don’t mean him or anyone else harm if that is your concern.”

“Then why the secrecy?”

Touya grimaced and his shoulders hunched as his gaze averted to where Hiei stood now speaking to Yuusuke and Kuwabara, the three of them in a heated debate although they were keeping their voices quiet for some reason.

Touya ,” Kurama insisted. “You know I am likely the last of many to judge you for your motivations.”

It didn’t take long for the words to take hold and bear fruit but every second Touya’s eyes lingered on Hiei was another chip away from Kurama’s calm. Touya sighed and looked toward him, a faint smile curved his lips as he said, “Yes, that is true.”

Loosening the hold on his arms, Touya’s hardened gaze softened and he almost seemed prettier with the slight warmth in his eyes as he regarded Kurama with solemness.

“Do you believe there’s a chance Hiei will compete in the next tournament?”

Kurama raised a brow. “I don’t know,” he said. “I have not known Hiei to turn down the chance to compete, but who knows what he will choose to do.” 

Touya nodded, seemingly satisfied with the answer, stealing another glance at Hiei to Kurama’s chagrin. 

“At any rate, I would prefer not to fight him. If that means fighting by his side then so be it,” Touya declared, his voice softening with a confused lilt as he muttered. “Or acquiescing to an odd demand to look after the psychic’s temple to earn his trust.”

Earning Hiei’s trust?

In all the years Kurama had known Hiei, he didn’t trust very easily and building a repertoire with him was almost nigh impossible. He valued strength upon all else but also sincerity. As much as the fire demon claimed that bonds and relationships were weaknesses, he seemed to also cherish them in a way. Though, why would Touya of all people want to form a bond with Hiei? 

Not having to fight the fire demon in the next tournament? 

Fighting by his side

Kurama bit the inside of his cheek to stave off a scathing remark at that. Yuusuke and Kuwabara were a duo of their own but the only one who fought by Hiei’s side was him. Something twisted deep inside of him, a voice in a deep timbre, one that was his own which reminded him that it would always be him. 

“Why would you go to such lengths for something like that?” Kurama asked, straining to keep his voice even. 

Touya looked to him and seemed to consider, his gaze searching Kurama’s for something and the fox wondered if he’d been lacking as the Ice Master looked again to Hiei. “He’s an… interesting man.”

Kurama raised a brow at that and glanced towards where Hiei stood, the fire demon now in a heated debate with Kuwabara over Yukina likely, and though he glared and threatened bodily harm — he seemed happy. Even Yuusuke’s mood was lifted as he mitigated between the two or instigated seeing as how much grinning he was doing as their argument continued. It reminded him of the days where Yuusuke was a detective and they all were together, bantering, the noisiness, Hiei at his side. Kurama couldn’t help but smile despite himself.

“He is.”

Yukina walked back into the room with a tray of tea cups and Kuwabara leapt up to help only to be shoved aside by Hiei who took the tray and thanked his sister, her chiding returning for a moment to remind him not to bully Kuwabara, the small smile returning to Hiei’s face as she turned away. Kurama smiled slightly at their antics but out the corner of his eye caught Touya smiling in turn, his eyes on Hiei.

His nails digging into the palms of his hand, Kurama turned away and tried to calm himself. The evidence itself was piling up for what this all could mean. Touya’s gaze lingering on Hiei, observing his smile, the child under his care, but there were still so many unknowns. It would pain him to ask and Kurama knew this but there was no other option. 

“Do you… care for him?”

Out of his sight, Kurama couldn’t see Touya’s hesitation but he could feel it in the Ice Master’s tone, guarded and unsure.

“In what manner…?”

“As partners…”  Kurama said, thinking to leave it there but despite himself, he asked. “ Lovers ?”

Touya didn’t respond for a moment and Kurama thought that he might have asked something ludicrous until he looked at the Ice Master, a flicker of hurt and something akin to disappointment in his eyes. Kurama wasn’t sure what to make of the emotions but the saddened smile on Touya’s face softened his irritation misplaced upon the Ice Master.

“I… may have offered him a partnership once upon a time, but he refused immediately.” 

Relief and indignation were at war within Kurama’s chest as he listened. He could imagine it. Touya offering to breach that closeness to which Hiei had never allowed another. The fire demon either listening to him quietly or refusing outright. Although Kurama couldn’t be certain that HIei’s reason for doing so was because of him, it sent a thrill to him to know the fire demon hadn’t taken on another partner. Even one who may have known this side of his life.

“And his love…” 

Kurama’s eyebrow raised as Touya trailed off, looking in Hiei’s direction. 

“His love is something inaccessible… or perhaps I should say unattainable for me.” 

There is a weight on Touya’s shoulders and shadows lingering behind his smile but the look in his eyes is mournful and Kurama forces himself to look away. He’s unsure what he wanted to say. What could he say to something like that? Though Touya might not have had Hiei’s partnership, the fire demon’s permission to fight at his side, he wanted Hiei’s love.

His heart. 

Looking to Hiei’s back as he finished speaking to Kuwabara and Yuusuke, the fire demon stood tall and slowly turned to look over his shoulder. Kurama met his gaze but this time, he was the first to turn away as he walked back to the doors from which he entered. 

He needed time.

Perspective.

A moment to arrange all of the information he’d been gifted with and compose himself. He told himself that he wasn’t running away. That he wasn’t afraid to know what the look in Hiei’s eyes meant, what his relationship with Touya was or what it had been

That he wasn’t afraid to know where they stood.

“Kurama.”

Hesitating at the sound of his name with the familiar voice that he knew so well and yet not at all, he froze within the doorway. While the others in the room had been talking, their voices died down at Hiei’s interruption. He was making a spectacle. A show of wanting to speak to him , and Kurama wasn’t sure if he wanted to smile or glare at the fire demon. 

“I need to speak to you.”

Touya’s energy disappeared from the room and the talking resumed as Kurama felt Hiei’s presence at his back. 

“Lead the way.”

— 幽☆遊☆白書 —

It has been far too long since he’s felt Hiei at his side like this. And though the similarities and the comforts are there, it is also new and uncertain. The halls of Genkai’s temple are wide enough for the two to walk side by side and Kurama can’t help but steal glances at the fire demon. Silence between them is something he’s accustomed to, it’s often comfortable and says more than either of them could put into words, but this quiet speaks of promises and answers that Kurama isn’t sure he could stomach. That aside, forcing his hands to his sides only makes his fists tighten and the wounds on his palms ache in protest to the sudden movement. If Hiei notices or smells the iron in his blood, he says nothing, looking ahead resolute and quiet.

He seems at home in the temple. Although Kurama leads them to the outside, he turns corners effortlessly and looks about as if he lived in these halls. The same way he knew where everything was in Kurama’s home with his mother and the home he had in the city. Evidence that Hiei had found other places to lay his head, other people to occupy his time with, and although Kurama knew he held no monopoly over the fire demon — he had no place in this part of who Hiei had become. He wasn’t there because Hiei didn’t want him to be.

The door slid open and the pair stepped out onto the engawa, facing the open courtyard and the  entrance of Genkai’s temple. A gentle breeze sweeping through and brought the smell of the forest, the flowers, the tea Yukina had prepared, and the smell of smoke and ash from the demon beside him. Above them, the sky was painted a honey-gold with varying hues of violet and deep blues as the day began to shift into afternoon. So much time had been lost and he could only think briefly upon when the day was new and everything was as it was. 

Ignorance truly was bliss. 

“Are you alright?” Hiei asked, his voice cutting through Kurama’s thoughts sharply, and before he knew it those crimson eyes lingered upon him searching his person for something

“Fine,” Kurama answered, though it came far too quickly, he’d been prepared for that infernal question. It was one that lingered in the eyes of almost everyone who looked at him after the news had been breached.

Hiei raised a brow and folded his arms across his chest. “Try again.”

Though they stood side by side, somehow Hiei felt world’s away from him but with only two words, the fire demon was right beside him again. Kurama looked towards him and smiled, the familiar action tugging at his lips. “I’m fine, Hiei.”

“You’re lying, Kurama.”

The accusation came as a direct hit and the smile dissipated as the feigned smile fell into a frown, the tight clenching of his fists making the wounds bleed further until he felt a wetness on the inside of his palms and sighed. He’d have to clean his hands before returning inside and though he felt a wave of guilt at lying to Hiei, he couldn’t help but feel righteous indignation. Hadn’t Hiei been hiding things from him as well?

“What does it matter?”

Hiei sniffed the air and a scowl marred his face as he reached out to grab Kurama’s wrists. Kurama thought to take a step away from him but it would only turn into an argument, the two of them pushing and pulling, and he felt tired . Allowing Hiei to catch him by the wrist, he turned his head away and frowned. 

“What’s the meaning of this ?” Hiei asked, his touch light as he pressed gently around the crescent-moon shaped wounds in Kurama’s flesh staining pale skin red.

“It was to…” Kurama trailed off, trying to pick his words carefully. “Be able to keep my feelings in check.”

Hiei huffed and reached out for his other wrist, making Kurama turn to face him as he inspected his palms, finding the other just as bloody. “Keep your feelings in check? Concerning what?”

Kurama looked his way, wanting to ask whether or not the fire demon truly had no idea, but crimson eyes pinned him in place and stifled the words in his throat. He looked away again, holding his tongue and Hiei sighed.

“Did Touya say something to you?”

It wasn’t often that Kurama was caught but once he was, he sheepishly muttered. “...In fairness, I asked.”

Hiei huffed and Kurama knew that he wasn’t going to let it be. 

“What did he say?”

“Enough,” Kurama sighed, feeling weary and exposed enough for one evening, pulling his wrists from Hiei’s grip. “Asked if you would compete in future tournaments, told me how he cared for you.”

Hiei reached out for him again and despite himself, a thrill rushed through Kurama before the fire demon pulled his hand away and the thrill was snuffed out like an ember. “That isn’t anything to be upset over. Let me see your hands.”

Kurama clenched his jaw and refused to offer his hands again, but the feeling of Hiei’s fingers around his wrists. The warmth that radiated from his skin was still there. It was exhilarating and he hated it all at once. 

“Why would you want to know about how he cares for me?”

Looking down at the fire demon, crimson red eyes met his own, widening as his guard slowly fell. The bitterness and conflict, the sadness which gripped his heart and stifled his every breath put on display. 

“...Do you really not know?”

Hiei’s eyes softened, the sharp scrutinizing glare ebbing into something that almost seemed saddened. Kurama dared to think that it was for him.

“...I have an idea but I don’t want to believe it until I hear it from you,” Hiei said, holding out his hand insistently. “Your hands, fox.”

Not truly a yes and not truly a no. Another riddle for Kurama to solve and he sighed, holding out his wrists to Hiei. Angry as he wanted to be with the fire demon, the touch that he gave him was all too gentle. Caring. Soft. Unlike the way Hiei would grip Kuwabara by his shirt and yell at him or throw his fists at his opponents to maim. His fingers curled around Kurama’s wrists in a warm yet featherlight hold, almost reminiscent of the way he cared for his plants, and though it wasn’t much — it was enough. 

Somehow, it made him feel cherished. 

“All this,” Hiei muttered, slowly lifting his hand from Kurama’s left wrist and placing it over his right palm. A black aura, new and strange, surrounded Hiei’s hand and Kurama could feel his youki seeping into the wound. It was stronger than it’d been before and when Hiei pulled his hand away, there was nothing left to suggest an injury had been there at all. Kurama could feel as his body slowly repaired itself, accepting the fire demon’s youki hungrily. The same being done to his other palm. 

Reluctantly pulling his wrists away once the wound was healed, Kurama nodding slowly in thanks, unsure of what to do with this newfound fact about Hiei. Yet before he could get far, Hiei reached out to grab his hand. 

“How do you feel now?” Hiei asked insistently, and Kurama almost believed it to be worry in his eyes.

Yet again, he repeated, “...I’m fine.”

Hiei searched his eyes for something and once he found it, he sighed. “It’s okay, you know.”

“Hm?”

“If you’re angry, it’s okay.”

Kurama wasn’t sure what to say to that. It wasn’t often that he was left speechless but today seemed to be testing the lengths of his ability to articulate his thoughts. He’d expected Hiei to disregard his concerns, to look away from him or say something scathing to put distance between them more so than already had been. Perhaps this was his way of saying that this would be the only chance Kurama would have. 

“Anger isn’t the appropriate way to describe what I am.”

Hiei tilted his head, reminding Kurama so much of the little boy he called his son. “Then correct me.”

At war with himself, Kurama debated on what would be too much and what would be not enough, his eyes searching Hiei’s face to gauge the fire demon’s limits. That of which were known to him before were now a mystery. Opening his mouth, he dared himself to speak before he could stop, his eyes softening and guard slipping at the concern in crimson red eyes. 

“...Jealousy.”

HIei blinked at him owlishly, and Kurama could practically see the gears moving in his mind before he spoke. 

“I’m assuming it wasn’t started by Touya, although he might have contributed to it.”

Kurama knew that he had a friendship with the Ice Master but hearing his name spurred slight irritation. “He did nothing to ease it, but he was not the initial cause,” he acquiesced, trying to remain as aloof as possible.

And yet Hiei was having none of it as he asked, “What was?”

Kurama carefully intoned, “My own conclusions about… Haku’s existence.”

Once again, Hiei blinked at him owlishly and the world seemed to stand still, the dim lighting and the shadows making his eyes seem all the more brighter. His lips curled downward into a grimace and he sighed, rubbing the back of his head with his free hand, musing his hair even further. 

“Ah, I see.”

Kurama suppressed a slight smile, with his hair that fluffy, the white streaks were far more prominent and he was cuter albeit handsome when he focused his sharpened gaze on Kurama.

“Well, if you have questions, ask them. The oaf and Yuusuke already talked my ear off but they were more interested in seeing Haku. He won’t reveal himself though, not as long as Touya is around.”

Kurama quirked a smile at that, feeling a twisted sense of satisfaction and concern. “I’m aware, he dislikes him.”

“Dislike would be… putting it mildly,” Hiei grumbled, a degree of fond exasperation causing the corners of his lips to twitch into what might have been a smile. Kurama sighed, trying to push away the fondness that he felt in his own chest. 

“It’s odd though, he is a sweet child.”

Hiei glanced up at him, eyebrows furrowed. “You say it like you’ve met him.”

“I have,” Kurama said, eyebrow raising at Hiei’s expression. “...What?”

To say that awe was in Hiei’s eyes would’ve been an understatement. He looked absolutely blown away at the prospect and his voice was lighter than it had been before with a bit of excitement beneath the surface. “He showed himself to you? He even hides from the old woman when Touya is around.”

Kurama nodded slowly, tilting his head at the surprise, regarding the fire demon with a mixture of fondness and curiosity. Hiei did look cute like that. 

“I ran into him when I left,” Kurama pointed out. “He was… healing a bird, and he told me his distaste for Touya, though he seemed rather excited to learn who I was.”

Hiei stared at him with barely kept awe, and the corners of his lips curved up into a smile which slowly formed before Kurama’s very eyes, stealing his breath away. Then as if the fire demon couldn’t surprise him any more, laughter bubbled up but simmered down to a warm chuckle. 

“You might have made his day. It’ll be hard to get him to sleep with stories of Kurama when he’s met Kurama.”

Kurama stared with awe, fixated on Hiei’s smile as he continued speaking. 

“But healing a bird…”

Hiei’s eyebrows furrowed though he still smiled, crimson red eyes glancing away from him to the doorway. 

“Maybe that’s what the old woman met.”

Kurama thinks to question what he meant when Hiei’s hand leaves his own, and he has to stop himself from reaching out to the familiar warmth. The fire demon moving to sit down with his hands resting in his lap. 

“Either way, this whole day’s been a mess,” Hiei grumbled and Kurama felt a twinge of sympathy for him.

Sinking down beside him, Kurama noticed the distance between them then sighed, looking forward. “...What’s going on.”

“That depends on what you’re asking,” Hiei muttered, leaning back on his hands and looking up at the sky. 

Kurama looked him over, suddenly unsure of just what he was asking. A million questions were circling around his mind before but now that Hiei was sitting here, despite the distance between them, it didn’t feel like it mattered. Not as much as it had before. The fire demon’s head turned to the side and Kurama looked up as a young and very energetic voice carried from the other side of the temple. 

“Aunt Yukina, I’ll be back!”

Haku appeared, running through the grass towards the treeline. 

“Be safe!” Yukina yelled back, hesitating before following with. “Wait, do you want me to make you a lunch?”

Stopping short of the treeline, Haku looked back and yelled, “It’s okay! I’ll find something in the forest!”

All the while he seemed unaware of his father sitting right there and Kurama eyed Hiei curiously, wondering why he didn’t call out to him or let him know. The fire demon’s eyes never left Haku until he disappeared into the trees and even then, he looked nowhere else. 

“Start with why today has been a mess.”

Hiei’s shoulders tensed and reluctantly, he looked away from the treeline and tilted his head back, his hair brushing against his shoulders drawing Kurama’s eyes to his neck. Without the scarf, he could see faint scarring around Hiei’s throat. He wondered how he’d missed it before with how often the fire demon lost his shirt and the scarf in the process. 

“I didn’t expect any of you to be here,” Hiei muttered, then as if an afterthought, he said. “Or this much interest in my life.”

Kurama frowned, “You’re our friend, Hiei. We’re going to have an interest in you and what you’re doing.”

For a moment, the fire demon was quiet then he sighed, leaning forward and resting his cheek against his closed fist propped up on his leg. “I guess,” he muttered, eyes half-closed. “Questions.”

“How did you come across him?”

“Patrol.” Hiei said without hesitation. “I heard something loud and whining and went to find it. Looked like they’d been left there for a few days, who knew. I would have used the Jagan but I doubt they would have had any memories.”

They? Glancing towards where Haku left, Kurama nodded slowly and made sure to note the change in pronouns. He didn’t want to offend or earn the child’s ire or their father’s for that matter. Looking forward and leaning back slightly, Kurama mulled over his questions, unsure how many he had left before Hiei rescinded the offer to be this candid. 

“What are they?”

It bothered him. He didn’t smell nor sense Haku as they approached. He couldn’t feel them in the slightest. 

“I don’t know,” Hiei muttered, the weariness in his tone replaced by something hardened as he stared off at the treeline. “He doesn’t smell human, demon or anything else. In fact, he reminds me of the Makai but the psychic said that he doesn’t have youki or spiritual energy.”

The fire demon tipped his head to one side then turned to look at him. 

“And yet you said he healed a bird…” He huffed. “I never taught him that, though it could’ve been Yukina or the psychic. Yukina more likely…”

A beat of silence passed between them, Hiei shrugged and relaxed with hsi cheek against his fist. 

“Either way, he’s my son.”

There was something in the way that he said it. A protectiveness that could only come from someone who was a father. As if he was defending Haku despite the lack of danger, or defending his feelings before they could be hurt. It brought a smile to Kurama’s face. How many times had Hiei done that for him when he hadn’t realized he needed it? 

There was a twinge of bitterness but the fondness won out. 

“He claimed it tires him far faster than Yukina, so she seems to be slightly aware of it,” Kurama said gently, the tension in Hiei’s face easing. “And no one would claim he is not your son.”

Opening his eyes, Hiei regarded him with quiet contemplation and then huffed, averting his gaze. For a second, Kurama thought that would be then Hiei reached up to brush his fingers through his hair. 

“It’s… surreal,” he said. “I’m still not used to being called ‘papa’. It’s odd .”

Kurama wasn’t sure what to say to that. The embarrassment on Hiei’s face, the slightest twinge of pink to his cheeks, he tried to fight down a smile and looked away. 

“If Yukina’s teaching him then there’s less of a risk that he’ll lose control,” Hiei muttered, looking toward the treeline. “I should tell Touya.”

A jolt of something swept through Kurama as he watched Hiei lift the ward obscured by his hair, the Jagan opening and glowing faintly as the fire demon closed his eyes. It still irritated him that Hiei would allow Touya into his mind but the fire demon was beside him now, so that meant more, didn’t it?

Something in him wasn’t satisfied though and as Hiei lowered the ward, muttering, “There.” with a satisfied sigh, Kurama’s eyes lingered on the treeline with a slight frown. 

“Why is Touya involved, Hiei?”

“Hm?” Hiei said with a sigh. “That’s one annoying story. I’m not sure whether he quit being a shinobi or not, but I met him again on accident. He tried sneaking up on me and I almost killed him.”

Kurama listened quietly, wondering if it was a common trend in those who came to love Hiei to meet him when they were on the verge of death by his hands. 

“He asked me if I was competing in the next tournament though it’s none of his business. I thought it’d help me blow off steam to fight him for a bit.  I didn’t think he’d grow attached.”

Attached .

That word, the one that set Kurama’s heart ablaze. It’s the one that described the way that Touya looked at Hiei, followed his movements, wanted to earn his trust, gain his favor . The fire demon wasn’t taken to gifts, he wasn’t won over by meager things, he preferred something that was intangible and his interests always seemed to change. It’s what Kurama liked the most about Hiei, he knew exactly what he wanted and how he wanted to get it, and that’s what also infuriated him — he never let anyone else know what was on his mind. 

“He lost when we fought and the condition for sparing his life was looking after them. Although, he doesn’t know who they are exactly, that’s none of his business either.”

Kurama’s interest piqued at that. So Touya didn’t know who Haku was. While that did give him a strategic advantage, it also made him feel a bit silly, thinking that he’d won out over the Ice Master when he had only known for a short period of time himself. Haku knew who Touya was, but then again, Hiei also told Haku tales of Kurama. 

He felt a headache coming on as Hiei finished, frowning as he said, “He’s very attached to you, likely far more than he lets on.”

“Not interested.”

The refusal came quick as lightning and Kurama almost looked at the fire demon in shock. 

“Besides, I couldn’t give him what he wanted nor would I want to,” Hiei said, waving a hand dismissively. “The me he is infatuated with is just a perception.”

Kurama thought to ask about what Hiei meant. What perception did Touya have of him? And Hiei was aware of his feelings? But the fire demon’s eyebrow was twitching and he seemed annoyed. Kurama blinking at him as his eye twitched as well and his fist trembled where it sat in his lap.

“And if he thinks I’m going to fall into his arms that easily, he’s wrong,” Hiei seethed through gritted teeth. “Now I feel like fighting him again .”

Seeing the spitfire he’d known so well, Kurama chuckled softly and relaxed. Somehow Hiei’s refusal made him feel all the better. 

“If it makes you feel better,” he said. 

Hiei quietly seethed for a bit but the anger dissipated with a sigh, his gaze shifting to Kurama, eyeing him before he said. “Looks like that made you feel better.”

Kurama looked over at him, smiling a little. “In a way.”

Hiei’s eyes widened and he looked away, glancing down at his lap. “I see.”

Kurama eyed him quietly and the silence between them felt recognizable. Comfortable. And he was able to breathe easier. 

“Something tells me he won’t earn what he truly wants,” Kurama said after a few minutes pass. 

Hiei huffs, a thoughtful expression crossing his face as if he is considering . “Who knows, I do value effort.”

Kurama feels the stabbing pain return but it’s duller now, he knows that tone, the teasing he sees every so often but he looks away still unwilling to look Hiei in the eyes. 

A few minutes of silence passed between before Hiei speaks again.  

“What about you?”

“What about me?”

“What do you want from me?”

Kurama isn’t sure what to say to that. He can think of many things that he wants from Hiei, from this life that he’s built for himself. There are many things he can imagine, things that would keep him up late at night and seem like a dream too good to be true. However, it’s nothing that can become reality. Not without the fire demon’s permission and Hiei had been so closed off to him, how could he take the step forward for this

For the closeness he wanted with the fire demon who could put a barrier between them even denser than the one currently. Take away even this bit of happiness with cold refusal and leave him alone. 

The smile he wears is mournful and he sighs, muttering, “Far more than you’re willing to give, I feel.”

Hiei frowns, and his voice is sharp, giving little quarter. “Speak plainly, Kurama.”

Speak plainly, he says.

Kurama almost wanted to. Tell him everything that was in his heart. Everything he’d felt upon hearing about Haku, seeing Hiei with Touya, realizing how distant they’d become even if they were in front of one another few nights throughout the month talking about everything and nothing at the same time. But then he asked him what if he did? What if he told Hiei everything and he was rebuked, what if the fire demon shut him out even more than he already had, what if he told Kurama it was none of his business.

The rejection was there. It was a possibility. He couldn’t take the risk.

Not when it meant he could lose Hiei more than he already had. 

Slowly rising to his feet, Kurama tucked his hands in his pockets and tilted his head up to observe the sky. It was beginning to darken and the stars were showing, much clearer this high up in the mountains than they were in the city. He doubted it could compare to the Makai though where light pollution and the like weren’t a factor and the sky was endless. He wished he could go if not for his job, his family — but Hiei would surely go.

Would he go with Touya?

Kurama bid that thought to leave his mind and said, “Touya and I share a common thread concerning our feelings on you.”

Hiei didn’t say anything immediately but Kurama could hear an audible huff. 

“I have no intentions of being Touya’s partner.”

“So you’ve stated.” 

It drives home that Hiei has no intention of aligning himself with Touya in that way. That he doesn’t wish to replace Kurama in that way, but there is a point in their relationship that hadn’t been breached. One that Kurama wasn’t sure anyone had crossed with Hiei before. New and unchartered territory that even he wasn’t privy to. Anyone could fill that space and it — 

“Then enlighten me on your meaning, as it stands, I can’t see how he would compare to you.”

Looking toward the forest to gather his thoughts, Kurama did all that he could within his power to keep from looking at the fire demon. “What did I tell you my feelings were, when anger was proven to be incorrect?”

“Jealousy.”

Kurama slowly nodded, swallowing thickly. Jealousy. It was potent and distracting, robbing him of his senses and narrowing his vision on the person of his affections and the one who threatened to steal him away. It wasn’t as if Hiei was his. He had no claim to him, not in that sense, but he felt. He felt for him and that was enough. Wasn’t it?

“Why would I be jealous of Touya, and of the unknown circumstances of Haku’s existence?”

It was safer this way. A calculated risk. Pose the question, let Hiei come to his own conclusion, tell him and then all could proceed from there. Perhaps he would misunderstand, perhaps they could stay the same, perhaps they would change and become more . There were so many possibilities and it sent a shiver down Kurama’s spine as he resisted the urge to look at Hiei. See whether he was considering his words, whether he understood, was he smiling? Was he angry? 

His heart sped up at the thought. 

“Do you know what I like the most about you?” Hiei asked, his tone soft and Kurama tries not to show his interest but he looks down at him and tilts his head. 

“You’re a pain who speaks the truth.”

Ah, right. He remembered Hiei telling him something to that effect before when they parted ways before he returned to the Ningenkai. 

Kurama smiled and raised a brow. “A pain, hm?”

“Absolutely,” Hiei replied, his words terse and the smile went unreturned, his gaze raking up and down Kurama’s form.  “You also have a habit of overthinking which leads you to sabotaging yourself.”

Kurama nodded, turning away from him to observe the sky. “As has been my case for some time.”

He thinks that the end of it has come. Hiei neither broaches the topic nor pulls away from it and they stand at this stalemate as they had before. Then the fire demon sighs and the deep timbre of the sound catches Kurama’s ears and steals him from his thoughts. 

“The conclusions drawn about Haku’s existence are because of me, I can acknowledge that, but your feelings about Touya’s infatuation are something else entirely,” Hiei scolded with a firmness to his words that balances with the softness in which he speaks. “Listen closely, Kurama.”

As old as he is, it’d been some time since Kurama had been scolded . He doesn’t move nor does he speak but he listens

“I’m sorry for not telling you about this sooner, I’ll explain later but,” Hiei sighs and Kurama glances at him, unable to ignore the tiredness in his voice and the distance in his gaze. He almost seems sad . “I can pick apart your words endlessly and try to understand your riddles, but if you are trying to start something. Find the words to speak to me without your tricks.”

The words. Honestly, saying it is harder than Hiei would think it to be. Doesn’t he know that he’s part of the reason why Kurama just can’t ? That if he says the wrong thing, makes the wrong move, takes the wrong risk, what they have would be lost to him forever? Kurama thinks to tell him, to express to him how far they’ve grown apart from one another and the role that he played in it but the words are lost to him. 

“I have an approximation of what it is you want, but I won’t assume your feelings for you. I’ve stood beside you no matter the choice you made, and this will be the same. Find it in yourself then tell me…”

Slowly, the fire demon pushed to his feet and they stood side by side but with a distance that made it feel as if they were miles apart from one another again. Just as quickly as he pulled himself to Kurama’s side, Hiei stepped away from it and turned to the door, going to open it. 

“And we can go together or not at all.” 

It doesn’t occur to him that Hiei is going to leave, that he can say something to stop this until the words leave him abruptly. Without thought and without pause. 

“I want to propose an arrangement.”

Hiei’s fingers still on the door’s handle, Kurama picking up the light bump of his fingers against the wood and then a gentle slide as they’re pulled back. 

“So soon?”

Hiei .”

“Very well, what is it?”

Knowing that he has Hiei’s ear is one thing. Telling him is another. Weighing his words carefully, he tries to pick out what drove them apart. What led them to this. How can they stop this from continuing? What can he do to bring Hiei back to his side? 

“No more secrets or assumptions, from either one of us.”

He can feel the weight of Hiei’s stare and knows that he is looking him over, trying to pick apart his words, and then concedes with a soft answer of “Fine.”

There’s a beat of silence. Kurama revels in the slight victory but there is still more.

“Anything else?” Hiei prompts, and Kurama wets his lips.

He thinks about telling him there and then. Erasing this notion that Touya may have a footing in Hiei’s heart, searching to see where his was in the fire demon’s life, but more than anything else — 

“I want to be a part of this life, more so than I have been.”

Hiei let out a sigh and turned on his heel, Kurama lowering his head and stealing a glance at the fire demon as he looked him over then said. 

“A normal human life does not include an apparition who disappears often with children of unknown origins,” Hiei explained, folding his arms across his chest. “It would be a burden.”

“Despite my choosing to stay here, Hiei. An ordinary human life is something I don’t believe is feasible,” Kurama said with a rueful smile, turning slightly to face him, his voice soft as he tried to reach for Hiei through the fog that clouded the fire demon’s perception of him. “And you would never be a burden to me.”

Hiei’s eyes meet his own and Kurama wonders if it’s enough. To bring Hiei to his side, to remind him that he cared, that their partnership still stood in this life or the next. That Hiei needn’t run into anyone else’s arms or rely on someone else to aid him. That Kurama was here for him. That he cared for him, that he loved him

“I will consider it,” Hiei muttered, turning around and Kurama felt his heart sink into the pit of his stomach like an anchor had been attached before Hiei lifted him again. “To know what you’re involving yourself in, you would need the full story.”

Then with his hand upon the door’s handle, he looked back at Kurama and said, “All three of you.”

Confusion colored his features until the door slid open and Hiei stepped aside, Yuusuke and Kuwabara falling to the ground with startled yelps. The pair groaning as they laid tangled up together, taking a moment to gather themselves before looking up at Kurama with wide eyes. The fox sighed, folding his arms across his chest.

“We were caught,” Kuwabara grumbled, pushing away from Yuusuke as he stumbled to his feet. 

Hiei rolled his eyes. “You’re all out of shape,” he said. “I heard you coming from a mile away, so I put up the barrier.”

Kurama blinked at that. A barrier? 

That would explain how Haku didn’t notice their presence, and why the sounds of the forest were dulled to some degree. But he didn’t think that Hiei knew how to erect a barrier of all things. Or that he would unless —

He wanted to speak to me alone

Hiei’s gaze flicked to him, and there was something in his eyes that was gone as quickly as it came. Yuusuke rising to his feet and shoving Kuwabara and their bickering stealing his attention away and Kurama’s eyes lingered on him for a while longer.

“You were the one who got us caught, idiot.”

“Oh yeah?”

Hiei sighed, jutting a thumb towards the inside of the temple. 

“Come on. I don’t want to have to explain this more than once,” he demanded with fond exasperation. 

“Kuwabara probably won’t get it even the first time,” Yuusuke said, shoving past Kuwabara with a laugh. 

Kuwabara yelled and charged after him, “ Get back here, Urameshi!”

A familiar sight and one that nearly brought a smile to Kurama’s face. Though what warmed him was the way that Hiei waited for him in the doorway, looking over his shoulder. 

“Coming?”

Kurama nodded and smiled, walking in after him and the door slid shut behind him as they walked back side by side. 

Chapter Text

Once the bickering between Yuusuke and Kuwabara settled and everyone was seated around the low table, Kurama noticed from a glance how much closer Hiei was to him than before. The chasm of space between them had seemed vast even if it was only a few centimeters in either direction. Crossing it seemed nigh impossible with the guard the fire demon had put up but with him close like this, their sides a few centimeters away from one another, he could feel the familiar pressure of his youki nudging against his own. It almost made him smile. Though he wasn’t good at words, Hiei always seemed to try and reassure him if not subtly. 

His thoughts wandered every so often to the demon beside him, faintly keeping track of the conversation as Hiei relayed to Yuusuke and Kuwabara an abridged version of what he’d told Kurama previously. The pair on the other side of the table exchanged looks of surprise, indignation, awe, and barely kept laughter.  

“So you’re telling me that you found this kid, and you couldn’t leave them, so you just took them?” Yuusuke said, resting his chin in his hand, his smile barely hidden behind his palm. 

Kuwabara nudged Yuusuke’s side and grinned, “And here I thought he was a tough guy. Big softie.”

Little softie,” Yuusuke corrected before they both burst into laughter.

To Hiei’s credit, he didn’t pull out his sword and threaten either of them with bodily harm although from the slight twitches in his eyebrow and the tension in his jaw, Kurama could only deduce that such action wasn’t far from the surface. 

“This is a serious matter and an important one to Hiei,” he said, his tone soft although the reprimand was quick as a whip, silencing the pair. 

Kuwabara rubbed the back of his neck, looking like a child that’d been scolded, “Yeah, yeah. But why’d you take ‘em? Couldn’t you have handed ‘em over to the polie or somethin’?”

Yuusuke clicked his tongue, shaking his head. “They were near the barrier, right?” 

Hiei nodded and Yuusuke sighed.

“Wouldn’t have gone well if he had. "

Kuwabara looked between them.  “Am I missing something here? What’s the problem? Don’t trust suits but they wouldn’t hurt a couple of kids, right?” 

“Think about it,” Yuusuke said. “Whether they’re on this side or the Makai, most regular humans would’ve thought that kid was dangerous.” 

Out the corner of Kurama’s eyes, he caught a slight twitch in Hiei’s lips but the fire demon remained stoic. Laying his hand on Hiei’s lower back, the fire demon tensed beneath his touch but slowly relaxed. Another press of his youki, the smell of ash and flames, were the only thanks Kurama would get.

“That’s pretty cold, Urameshi.”

Yuusuke shook his head, sitting up and his gaze drifted to Kurama. “Well, what do you think, Kurama?” 

Kurama frowned slightly and he hoped Hiei would forgive him for this. “Unfortunately, Yuusuke is right. Though many are accepting, many more are not. Kohaku may have been deemed a threat and disposed of before anyone cared to discover more.” 

Hiei tensed beneath his hand and though everyone tried their best not to look at him, the attention drifted to him as he closed his eyes and said, “At least this way, they’ll be able to live as normal as a child could.”

There’s a solemn quiet to Hiei’s words that tugs at Kurama’s human heart. The only time the fire demon looked like this was when Yukina was involved, and those moments of vulnerability were far and few in between. Kuwabara shook his head in disbelief, his leg bouncing and arms folded across his chest.

“They’re just a kid,” he groused, sucking his teeth before swiping a finger under his nose. “Well, at any rate, having a dad that has three eyes isn’t exactly normal.”

“Leave it to you to find the important part of the conversation,” Hiei said, rolling his eyes as Kuwabara glared at him.

Yuusuke laughed, a mile wide grin on his face. “Normal is over-exaggerated anyway, besides that one looked pretty happy. And they’ll have the most kickass teams of aunts and uncles to look after them, with the best uncle being…”

Almost as one, Kuwabara and Yuusuke took a breath and said. 

“Me.”

They both paused and Kurama could practically see the wheels turning in their heads as they glanced at one another then glared. 

“What?” They said in unison.

Hiei rolled his eyes, looking often to the side as Yukina walked into the room with a tray of teacups. He rose from his seat, Kurama’s hand slipping from his back and went to his sister’s aid while the conversation heated up between Yuusuke and Kuwabara.

 “What makes you think you’d be the best?”

Yuusuke huffed, “The only thing that would make you the best is if something happened to me .” He jabbed his thumb against his chest, sticking his tongue out. “Sorry to disappoint.” 

Kuwabara gritted his teeth, straining with his fist curled and Kurama wondered whether a fight would break out. Though it was unlikely. If either of them ruined anything in Genkai’s temple, they’d had to face her wrath. And even as a Mazoku, Yuusuke wasn’t that bold.

“Yeah, well, what about Kurama?” 

Kurama startled, glancing between the pair then his gaze drifted to Hiei who was trying to coax the tray out of Yukina’s hands. 

“Let me,” Hiei insisted. 

Yukina shook her head, smiling politely. “I can handle it, brother.”

Hiei made a small noise of discomfort, gently easing it from her hands and setting it on one of his own, the other resting on her shoulder. “Relax,” he urged, and somehow it sounded like ‘Let me help you’. Yukina smiled and nodded, going to take a seat at the table to Kuwabara’s delight, although she sat between Kurama and Hiei instead of by his side. 

Being that this was the first time Kurama ever saw Hiei serve tea, he was actually quite good at it. Setting them down with a coaster beneath, one to Yukina who accepted it with a soft smile, then another to Kurama who nodded thankfully, then one for himself. The other two were left on the tray and set in the middle of the table while Hiei took a sip of his own tea. 

Kuwabara grumbled, shooting a glare at Yuusuke who was barely keeping in his laughter, “Not gonna give us ours?” 

“Don’t push your luck,” Hiei muttered from behind his cup’s rim, Yukina laying a hand on his arm and the fire demon rolled his eyes, giving the tray a slight push but nothing more. 

Yuusuke took his with a laugh, glancing toward the broken doorway, the sun setting over the treetops painting the sky in hues of violet and orange. “It is getting pretty late though. That kid of yours still out there?”

“Probably,” Hiei lowered his cup and looked at Yukina. “What about Makoto?”

Yukina shook her head, looking down at her cup. “I haven’t seen her all day.”

“I thought your kid’s name was Kohaku,” Kuwabara chimed in.

Hiei nodded, “It is. His sister is Makoto.”

Yuusuke choked on a gulp of his tea, beating his fist against his chest as he coughed out, “You have two?!”

“Mm,” Hiei replied, ignoring his friend’s attempts to catch his breath and his sister’s sputtering as she worried over him. “Makoto has a habit of sleeping in late. You’re less likely to see her but they’re usually together.”

Once Yuusuke regained his breath, Yukina sighed and set down her tea, smiling in Hiei’s direction.

“Because they’re twins.”

Yuusuke had to bite back a laugh at the way the fire demon ducked his head to avoid her gaze, mumbling and looking down at his tea. 

“Yeah…” 

Kurama sipped his tea to keep himself centered as he listened to the conversations around him, glancing at Hiei curiously. When he said them before, he didn’t mean Kohaku’s pronouns, he meant there were two. Honestly, this slight miscommunication with Hiei would be the death of him. 

“So when you said them, you meant Kohaku and Makoto,” Kurama stated, meeting Hiei’s gaze over Yukina’s head. The fire demon nodded and Kurama felt the press of his youki again, despite it being of a darker shade, there were no lies felt. 

At least their promise was being upheld. Kuwabara seized the lull in talking to compliment Yukina on the tea, showering her with praise while she deflected his words with soft assurements and humility, Yuusuke fielding most of them for her by spurring an argument with Kuwabara over something Kurama didn’t quite catch. Nonetheless, the liveliness filled up the room and the gentle press of Hiei’s youki slowly waned but there was a thread there that kept them connected and that was good enough for him.

— 幽☆遊☆白書 —

Out of the corner of his eye, Hiei noticed the door leading into the room from within the temple was opening. The sound lost in the conversation between Yuusuke and Kuwabara, Hiei’s ear pricked and he looked over his shoulder. A small child around the age of six-years-old poked their head through the doorway, curly white hair falling to their shoulders and bangs obscuring their eyes, a cherubic face with lips pressed into a thin line, their clothes a rumpled white t-shirt and black checkered pajama pants, dirt around the top of their toes poking from beneath their pants legs. They tilted their head and brushed their hair back, dark eyes scanning the room before landing on Hiei.

His Jagan glowing violet beneath his headband and their eyes glowed in response. 

[ We have guests, try not to scare them too much. The one with the dark hair is Yuusuke, the loud one is Kuwabara, you know who the fox is. ]

With each direction, the child’s eyes drifted to the person in question before lingering on Kurama’s back. They lowered their hand, their hair falling into place.

[ Kurama. Haku told me earlier. ]

Their voice is soft, young and yet wispy. Almost as if they’re prepared to sleep right there on their feet. Hiei shifts his youki from Kurama’s, leaving the thread between them as he reaches out for the child. 

[ Where is your brother? ]

Though his youki wraps around them, he feels nothing of their own. He presses against their life force instead, feeling the faint ebb and flow through their little frame, and wrapping his youki around it as if trying to hug them from a distance. The child’s lips twitched upward in response.

[ Outside, he should be coming back soon. Touya is with him. ]

[ Have you been sleeping well? ]

The child’s lips twitched downward that time and try as they might, the way in which their life force sped up told him what he wanted to know. 

[ I’m fine, Papa. ]

Hiei pressed against their life force again. Not to harm but to hold, as if his arms were wrapped around them holding them tightly to his chest. 

[ Have you been sleeping well, Makoto? ]

The child opened their mouth then sighed, letting go of the door hand to brush their hair back with both hands, dark eyes meeting his own.

[ No. ]

The connection came to a still as Makoto stepped into the room, their footsteps featherlight and quick, crossing the distance between the doorway to the group unnoticed. Yukina glanced Hiei’s way when he turned and looked up as Makoto approached at Kurama’s back. 

Once Yuusuke and Kuwabara’s argument began to die down, Yukina chimed in to add kindling to the flame, sparking their interest once more. Hiei giving his sister an appreciative smile while taking minute sips of his tea and looking away to give them privacy; though his ear was only for the conversation between Kurama and Makoto.

 

— 幽☆遊☆白書 —

 

The faint glow around her irises faded once Makoto tapped Kurama’s shoulder, waving at him one he turned around. He smiled at her and she tilted her head, lowering her hand to her side. 

“Hello there,” he said in a tone that was as gentle as it was sweet. “Did you want to come and sit with us?”

Makoto glanced at the others. She knew her Aunt Yukina really well, and her papa was there, but the other two — Yuusuke and Kuwabara were really loud. She frowned slightly and shook her head, lowering her voice. “Are you really Kurama?”

Kurama leaned towards her and she fought down the urge to smile. His eyes were a pretty shade of green, just like her papa had told her. They reminded her of the forest and the grass. 

“I am,” he said, tilting his head. “And you must be Makoto.”

Makoto nodded, “Call me Mako, you’re Kurama so it’s okay if it’s you.” 

There was a faint draft coming in from somewhere. She looked up at the broken doorway and frowned. Grandma Genkai wouldn’t like that her door was broken at all. And she really hoped that it wasn’t Kohaku who’d done it. Pushing her hair back, she blinked a few times at the darkening sky, glancing between it and Kurama. “C—” 

Kuwabara’s laughter drowned out her voice and she pinched her lips together, frowning. “...I want to look at the stars. Can you go with me?” She asked, looking down at Kurama.  

“Of course I can,” he said with a nod, setting up cup down and slowly getting up to follow behind her.

By the time he got to his feet, she was gone and the doorway was open. The lull in conversation following as he left without a word to the others. Yuusuke calling after him while Kuwabara asked where he was headed. Disappearing into the hall, their questions went unanswered as he slid the door shut behind him. 

“Hey, is he upset about something again?” Yuusuke asked, gaze flicking to Hiei pointedly.

The fire demon met the former detective’s eyes and sipped his tea in response to the unspoken question.

Kuwabara huffed, setting down his cup. “Ain’t been talkin’ much.”

“Maybe he needs some air,” Hiei interjected. “It’s been a long day. Quit you’re whining.”

From the corner of his eye, he could see Yukina’s smile and the onslaught of questions from the pair were either deflected or answered in kind. His youki pressing against Kurama’s until the fox was well on his way outside. 

[ You trust our daughter in his hands? ]

A voice with a deep timbre echoed in the reaches of his mind and Hiei closed his eyes. 

[ I should have from the beginning.

 

— 幽☆遊☆白書 —

Makoto stretched her arms above her head, her shoulder popping and the muscles in her back ached a little. Dropping her hands to her side, she sighed and rolled her neck to ease the tension while waiting for Kurama further down the hall. “They’re noisy,” she said, walking ahead once he caught up to her.

Kurama pocketed his hands and chuckled softly, “They certainly can be. You get used to it.”

Makoto sighed, rubbing her shoulder. “Every time I fall asleep, something happens.”

Kurama thinks to question that. There is something in her tone that sounds off, and for that matter, he didn’t even sense her when she was behind him. Just as he didn’t sense Kohaku when he was behind him. Reaching out to find the child’s youki, there was nothing in response, and even her life energy seemed odd

She stopped to slide open the door leading to the back of the temple, and paused in the doorway, looking up at the sky. Kurama stood behind her looking on curiously, his gaze drifting down to her face. Her lips were set in a frown and before he could ask, she spoke.

“How long was I asleep this time?”

Her hand fell away from the door and she stepped outside on bare feet, the dirt on her toes an the soles of her feet tracking outside to where she sat down on the engawa and rested her hands in her lap. Kurama stepped out and closed the door behind him, taking a seat beside her with enough distance for her comfort.

“All day, possibly?” He asks, glancing at her.

“All day…”  She mumbled, huffing softly in a way that reminded him of someone else. But then her frown returned and she looked down at her hands. 

“Is this a common occurrence for you?”

Makoto shrugged, squeezing her hands into fists then opening them slowly. “Sometimes, I might have overdid it this week.”

“What did you do to overdo it?”

She lifted her head and glanced his way, quiet and appraising as if trying to see if he was worthy to know or if it would get her into trouble. Kurama smiled faintly, resisting the urge to pat her head. Beneath thick white locks of hair, dark eyes watched him and he could see the stark difference between her and her brother. Despite their cherubic features, Kohaku smiled immediately at seeing him and was a lot more talkative, while Makoto was calm and sincere. 

He could only imagine what was going on in her head. Which also reminded him a lot of someone that he knew very well. 

Like father, like daughter, he thought to himself and the faintest of smiles twitched at his lips. 

“I got into a fight,” she said unceremoniously, sitting back on her hands. 

Kurama tilted his head, eyebrow raised. Well, that didn’t seem too bad. 

“Everyday,” Makoto continued.

Kurama’s eyebrows raised. What could she have possibly been fighting that had her in arms everyday ?

“For the last week,” Makoto finished. 

Kurama had a few questions. Many of them were just the basics but others were for her father. She didn’t seem worse for wear. There was a bandage that he could see now peeking from under her shirt around her shoulder, and a healing cut on her cheek. Hiei must have been teaching her to fight. It wouldn’t have been out of character for him in retrospect.

Settling on the easiest question, Kurama asked,  “With… who?”

“Older kids at my school.”

Kurama frowned. She could only have been around six years old, possibly seven, he wasn’t sure of their birthdates. However, the idea of her fighting children that were bigger than her for days at a time didn’t sit well with him at all. Especially if she came to harm.

“For what reason?”

“I got sick for a few days and couldn’t go to school, so Haku was by himself,” Makoto explained, frowning as if even the memory disgusted her, her fingers flexing as she spoke. “These older boys thought it was funny to push him around and pull his hair to make him cry. And they tease him because I wasn't there to protect him.”

She lifted her hands, counting five on one hand. “I was sick for five days,” she alternated to the other hand and started to count. “And they teased him for five days, so I beat them up for five days.”

Dropping her hands to her lap, she shrugged. “Seemed fair to me.”

Kurama tried to hide his smile by tilting his head up to look at the sky. That logic, while somewhat irrational, was quite sound. And he almost wanted to laugh though he figured that if she was this much like him , then she wouldn’t take well to being laughed at. “It’s good that you protected your brother,” he said, glancing at her from the corner of his eye.

She looked up at him, her lips parted and a faint pink twinged her cheeks as she looked away embarrassed. “I guess,” she muttered, resting her hands in her lap. Kurama smiled fondly and let her have her peace, the silence between them comfortable and made it easier to enjoy the heavens above. 

What started out as an ordinary day quickly became something else and while he was all for excitement, he could’ve done without all the twists and turns. 

“....You’re not a dream,” Makoto interjected, spurring him from his thoughts. 

He looked down at her and stayed still as she shifted closer to him, leaning against his side. Carefully, he laid his hand on her back with a featherlight touch. “I’m not a dream.”

“...I should’ve known. But whenever I dream of Youko, he’s usually nice like this.”

Kurama tilted his head curiously. She dreamt of Youko? That was odd. Most children from the Makai knew Youko Kurama from stories their parents would tell to keep them in line. A wicked and legendary being that was as beautiful as he was deadly. While the stories were quite flattering in some instances and damning in others, he wondered what Youko she thought of that would bring her comfort. 

“Do you dream of Youko often?”

Makoto nodded, “Papa said Youko will protect me when I’m sleeping so I don’t have to be afraid.”

Kurama smiled. The thought of Hiei telling his daughter that Kurama would protect her, reassuring her that with Kurama near, she wouldn’t have to be afraid only made him feel warm. The fire demon knew more than anyone else the terrible things Kurama had done and still, he chose to weave his children tales and bolster their confidence with the knowledge that Youko would be there for them. It only made Kurama wonder why Hiei hadn’t told him about them sooner. What was his reasons?

Makoto’s warmth at his side reminded him of the task at hand and he patted the back of her head. “He’s right. Youko will keep you safe if you want him to.”

She shifted and tilted her head up to look at him, her hair brushed aside, dark eyes looked up at him widely and almost unabashedly ashamed before glancing down, “Even if I fight a lot?”

Kurama had dealt with his fair share of impulsive partners and subordinates, from Yomi to others that he couldn’t quite remember, their names lost along with their foolish endeavors bringing them closer to death. But those were grown demons, capable of understanding right and wrong, while Makoto was a child still growing.

“As long as you’re only fighting when you need to,” Kurama said softly, combing his fingers through her hair. “Rather than attacking unprovoked.”

“Papa said if I fight and someone hits me first, then it’s self-defense.”

Kurama nodded, feeling a twinge of pride to the fire demon, “Your papa is right.”

“He said don’t beat them up too bad,” Makoto continued, opening and closing her hands, and Kurama frowned at the slight cuts and on her fingers. “I just get a little excited unless they’re annoying.”

His fondness won out over his worry but as she talked, he continued to rub the top of her head and run his fingers through her hair, neatening it unconsciously. His hand was much larger than her own and once he held out the one unoccupied, she reached for it and laid her hands in his own. He curled his fingers around hers, letting his youki press into her skin. 

“As long as you stay safe, that’s what matters,” he said, distracting her from the faint glow around their hands. She looked up at him and he laid his hand on the back of her head. “Protect yourself and those you care for, but don’t push too far into something you can’t take back.”

Makoto tilted her head, Kurama’s hand slipping to the side as he continued to rub her head. “Something I can’t take back?”

Noticing what he was doing, he let his hand fall away while releasing her own and smiled. “You don’t want to really hurt someone, do you?”

Makoto tilted her head to the other side, reminding him of a curious kit, and repeated, “Really hurt someone.” She glanced down at her hands and shook her head. 

“Not really.”

She set one of her hands on the top of her head and huffed, puffing her cheeks but otherwise saying nothing. Kurama tried not to laugh but he smiled despite himself.

“Papa said when you kill someone, it's like a mark that stays even if you try to wash it off.”

Kurama’s eyes widened a bit. Hiei said that? He could recall all the times that the fire demon chided his opponents for their foolhardy attempts to beat him. When he told them that their deaths were of no consequence of his own actions but theirs. That it was their own fault that they’d been led to this very moment. Yet the man that Makoto described was one that took stock of death and viewed it in a sense of their own actions.

Hanging off the child’s words, Kurama thought back to his image of Hiei and how much the fire demon had grown. 

“So if you do it, you have to be sure that you’re okay with having it with you forever. The mark and the scars,” Makoto said, opening her hands, the cuts gone from her fingers but there were faint scars along the edges of her hands and little ones around her wrists disappearing beyond her sleeves. 

“Papa said i don’t have to have either, that he’ll look after us if it gets bad, and that it’s okay to run away.”

Once again, Kurama was taken aback. That didn’t sound like Hiei at all. Running away from danger, living to fight another day although defeat would be a bitter taste, that almost sounded like — him.

Makoto shook her head, looking up at him with a determination that made her image overlap with her father’s. “I don’t want to run away from bullies but… if I have to kill someone, I think I’d feel bad for leaving it to Papa… I don’t want him to get hurt on the inside.”

Kurama’s first thought was that he didn’t want her to kill at all. It wasn’t an easy burden. The weight could be far too heavily especially on the mind of a child. His second thought was that she was far too young to even be considering such things. She should only be a child for as long as she can. And the third was nothing but pride. Though she wasn’t his daughter, her mind and her sensibilities were ones that he could respect. He was proud of her for not wanting to run from her problems, and for thinking it through no matter how difficult.

Makoto huffed and folded her arms, looking down. “Papa’s like Kohaku, they’re both too nice.”

Kurama chuckled. If only she knew what Hiei was like before. Though he supposed that was for the best. “He’s right, though. You have to be willing to carry it, and many are unable to,” he tilted his head, holding out his hand to where his fingers bumped against her own. “That’s why you have others to help.”

Makoto shrugged, looking from their hands to his face. “But doesn’t it mean you’re strong if you don’t need anyone to help you?”

Kurama shook his head. Now that definitely reminded him of the fire demon, just healed and willing to leave the safety of Kurama’s room to chase after a demon only on the hunch that he’d devoured his sister. It was a noble cause but a foolish effort to undertake alone. 

“Not necessarily. Some people can handle things on their own, but it doesn't meant mean they’re stronger,” Kurama looked down at her and slipped his hand under hers, letting her fingers graze his palm before settling in his hand. “After all, your strength comes from protecting your brother.”

Makoto’s eyes were wide and her voice whispy as she looked down at their hands, “Protecting Haku..”

Kurama nodded. She was understanding or at least he hoped that she was, his fingers curling around her own and she held tight ot his hand. “Everyone has something they care about, and want to protect with everything they have. If you have that, it can be your greatest strength.”

Makoto’s head bobbed in agreement before she looked up at him. “Then what’s yours?”

The answer came to mind instantaneously and Makoto smiled faintly. He could only imagine what look he had on his face but it must’ve been one that made her happy as well. “Someone very special to me.”

“Who is that?”

Kurama chuckled softly, leaning closer and lowering his voice with a small smile, whispering  to her, “Your papa is very special to me.”

Makoto’s eyes widened and she gasped, her eyebrows raised and her hand cupping over her mouth as she whispered back to him. “Really?”

“Really,” Kurama repeated, keeping himself from laughing as she lowered her tone as well. 

Makoto smiled brightly and let go of his hand, picking it up by the wrist with both of her own and setting it on top of her head before she looked away. “That’s good. Maybe since the Youko keeps me safe, you can look after Papa.” Beneath his hand flattening her hair, dark eyes looked at him from beyond her bangs and her tone was grave if not hopeful. “I’m counting on you, okay?”

Kurama nodded, resuming rubbing her head. “I won’t let you down.”

“I know you won’t.”

Kurama glanced down at her and smiled, resisting the urge to hug her closer as they sat together and watched the stars.

— 幽☆遊☆白書 —

The door slid open and Kurama looked up as Hiei stepped out. For a moment, he wondered if the fire demon had noticed him as his gaze was pointedly set ahead looking out to the forest line. But then his gaze drifted to Kurama’s before dropping down to where Makoto was curled up to his side, covered by the fox’s jacket like a blanket. 

“I should’ve known,” Hiei sighed, stepping outside.

Kurama smiled as he approached, glancing down at the sleeping child, “I didn’t have the heart to make her move.”

“You would have had to carry her if you tried,” Hiei muttered, exasperation and fondness mingling in his words as he slid the door shut behind him and crouched down. His fingers brushed against the shell of her ear, tucking a lock of white hair behind it. “She doesn’t like to get up.”

He glanced up and Kurama met his gaze. Warmth in those crimson eyes shook him to the core.

“Thanks for going with her. She hates crowds and Yuusuke and Kuwabara would’ve irritated her.”

Kurama nodded mutely, trying to find his words and his breath. “She mentioned they were being noisy,” he said with a small chuckle. 

Hiei scoffed, shaking his head. “This kid. She probably would’ve said it to their faces. Yukina told me that her teacher was complaining about her honesty.”

Kurama looked down at Makoto, resting his hand on her back and lightly patting in time with her breaths. “Children are often the most honest with their words and intentions.”

“Guess I should be more like her.”

When he looked up, Hiei was staring at him and Kurama smiled despite himself. 

“We both could learn a thing or two from her in that regard.”

Their gaze locked, Hiei stared at him quietly before closing his eyes and turning his head away. Kurama frowned. Despite the closer he’d gotten to Hiei, the resistance was still there and the wall was still present. Something in his chest hurt to see it and as the fire demon stood up, he looked away from him. 

“I’ll be around more often,” Hiei said.

Kurama looked down, wondering how the offer would be taken before he spoke, “I can come around more often.”

Hiei said nothing for a moment and the silence is what killed him most. A quiet sigh filled the air and the soft murmuring of, “I would appreciate it..” Kurama was almost surprised that an answer was given and though he had nothing else to say, he was stunned into silence when he felt pressure to the top of his head. Belatedly realizing it was a kiss when he looked up and saw the fire demon pulling away, tucking his mouth behind his scarf.

“Mind bringing her inside?”

Kurama nodded slowly, gently adjusting so that Makoto wouldn’t fall once he slipped from beside her, holding her close and letting her head rest on his shoulder as he lifted her up. Hoping that he didn’t disturb her slumber as she shifted around in his arms then relaxed. Soft grumbles quieted as she fell deeper into sleep, Hiei’s gaze locked onto her intently before he turned away and opened the door for them, standing aside as Kurama brought her in then shutting it.

In the dark stillness of Genkai’s temple, everything seemed louder. The pounding of his own human heart, Makoto’s breaths and her murmuring, the gentle swish of Hiei’s cloak as he moved gracefully with one step after the other. There was so much that Kurama wanted to say to him. With him this close, within his reach, it should have been possible but it felt as if it was the greatest trial he could come across. He couldn’t will any of it to come forth.

Eventually, the fire demon came to a door and opened it. Inside, a little boy sat curled up on one side of a futon in the center of the room. His arms behind his head and gently snoozing, the blankets haphazardly strewn about his body. Kurama smiled at the sight. Kohaku with his messy hair and an innocent face as he slept reminded him of Hiei when he passed out during the Dark Tournament. Though the boy held a book tightly in one hand and looked a lot more peaceful. 

Makoto shifted in his arms and Kurama stepped away from Hiei’s side to bring her to the unoccupied side of the futon, kneeling down to lay her in bed and tucking the blankets around her. From the side, he could see Hiei tending to Kohaku, slipping the book from his fingers and tucking him in. A quick kiss to his forehead and a light tap of their noses,then like a shadow, he appeared by Kurama’s side, kneeling down close enough that their sides would brush though his gaze was only for Makoto. Once she was tucked in, he leant down to kiss her forehead and tapped his nose against hers. Kurama looked on and smiled as Hiei fiddled with the blanket, picking up the fox’s jacket and handing it back to him before motioning for him to follow.

The door slid shut behind them, it was the first time they’d been truly alone in some time. Despite Hiei’s occasional visits, it always felt as if there was something else in the room with them. Something that neither of them would broach upon but could feel if how they were now as any indication of how apart they’d grown. 

Leading Kurama back to the living area, the table had been cleaned and the cushions put aside while the doorway was still broken, awaiting Hiei’s promise to have it fixed. Yuusuke and Kuwabara had left if the quiet was any indicator that they were no longer present and Yukina and Genkai’s energy were further in the temple. Likely meaning that they’d headed off to bed as well. 

Hiei grimaced at the doorway and took a seat, looking to the outside. Kurama looking at him pensively before sitting at his side, enough distance for them to have space but close enough that it was a natural habit. 

“Thank you for staying with her, with Youko in the wash, she wouldn’t have gone to sleep that easily without you.”

Kurama tilted his head and looked at him. “Youko?”

Hiei nodded and glanced at him, “Her stuffed animal. She takes him everywhere with her. It’s a silver fox toy I got for her when she was a baby, she’s never let it go.”

“...And she named it Youko,” Kurama tried not to smile as Hiei looked away from him pointedly. “Just like the stories?”

He huffed and Kurama knew that was all he’d get out of him. 

“I didn’t mind staying with her. It was nice getting to know her a little.”

Hiei glanced his way and nodded. “I was hoping they’d like you. Yuusuke and Kuwabara will take awhile for Mako, Haku is a bit more accepting.”

Kurama smiled, “You’ve done a great job with the both of them.”

Hiei huffed a laugh, looking down. “Putting up with a father who doesn’t know how to be one…” His frown made Kurama’s smile slowly dissipate but there is warmth and kindness to his voice. “Thanks. I mess up sometimes but they’re kind.”

“Most parents don’t know how to be one until it happens,” Kurama pointed out, knowing that it was in an attempt to soothe and Hiei visibly relaxed, meeting his gaze.

“Mm, Yuusuke said that I’m at least doing better than Yomi.”

Kurama scoffed, looking away from him and staring off outside. “That’s not the most difficult task in the world.”

“I do think that you would be a better father than I am.”

That was curious. After the event with Amanuma, Kurama was almost certain that he should never have children. Although the boy wasn’t the first child he’d killed, it only proved to him that he was still able to do such things if he thought it was for the best. How could he raise a child with that ability in mind?

Even then, Hiei had seen him do so as well. Which raised the question. Why would he trust him with his children?

“Why do you think that?”

“It’s something about how you are.” Hiei said as casually as talking about the weather. “Nurturing, warm and kind. Makoto and Kohaku don’t like most people, thought that might be my fault, but they love you and listen to what you have to say.”

He had to admit that both of them seemed to gravitate further away from groups. And yet they spoke to him evenly and without a hint of malice or disinterest. They seemed happy to be in his presence. 

“Maybe you just have a way with stubborn people.”

Kurama chuckled, smiling playfully, “I have practice with stubborn people.”

Recognition colored Hiei’s face and his eyes widened before they narrowed and he glared at him, rolling his eyes and grumbling, “That’s the last time I give you a compliment.”

“You enjoy my teasing,” Kurama chuckled, the fire demon’s reaction making him smile. 

The heat wasn’t in Hiei’s glare as it normally would’ve been and he quickly simmered down, glancing at Kurama from the corner of his eye, “I’ve grown accustomed to it.”

Kurama looked back at him, smiling despite himself, “There have been a few years of it, so I’m not surprised.”

Hiei’s smile was small but it was there, “And many more to come, I’m sure.” He looked forward and Kurama watched him silently. “Especially if you’re to stay.”

If there was ever a chance or an opening for something to grow then he had found it. Right here where Hiei was offering him something although the fire demon was being awfully avoidant of saying the actual word. 

“I have no intention of leaving again,” he pressed, careful enough not to break this fragile state, but harsh enough to spur something . “If you want me to stay, I’ll stay.”

Hiei said nothing, his brow furrowed and mouth hidden behind his scarf, eyes trained on something Kurama couldn’t see. Silence enveloped them and Kurama wondered if he pushed too far. “You’ll be a great father, Kurama,” Hiei glanced at him. “Stay long enough to see it as well.”

The fire demon’s words, the way he lingered on the word ‘stay’, Kurama’s chest felt lighter and he smiled with a nod. “I’ll stay. Try to see what it is you see.”

Hiei looked taken aback but quickly recovered, a brief flicker of something across his face before he spoke again, his voice softer. “There’s another thing. I was being unfair to you.”

Kurama tilted his head and looked at the fire demon curiously. He could imagine quite a few ways that Hiei had been unfair to him but then again, there were moments that he acted of his own accord without the fire demon. They both had faults. Yet for Hiei to come out with his own took a considerable amount of fortitude. Kurama watched and remained quiet, giving him time to gather his thoughts.

“I told you to find the words to express your feelings but I’m not very good with words myself; if I was confident in them, we could have avoided all this. And I wouldn't have had to see you look like that.”

The curiosity gave way to warmth and Kurama’s lips parted, trying to find the words but they came up short. His gaze lingering on the fire demon’s face, emotions flickering across in droves. Remorse, sadness, hope, loathing, care, appreciation. 

“If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t have forgiven me so easily but I’ve always been less forgiving of my own shortcomings. Too hard on myself, I suppose.”

To that, Kurama had to agree. Hiei had always been his worst critic. Always there to tear himself down and remind himself that he had to be stronger. Constantly at war with himself and his own self-loathing. To hear him say it aloud was painful in its own right. 

“Regardless… I was wrong, there’s no other way to look at it. Even if I was trying to do what I thought was best, I should have trusted you more.”

Though that is what Kurama felt. That Hiei should have trusted him. With how much he cared for this children, putting their safety above his own, keeping them away from harm — it wasn’t Hiei’s lack of trust that wounded him more so than his thought that Hiei considered him a threat to his children. The hardened expression on the fire demon’s face eased into one of determination that softened the set of his jaw and curved his eyes. He looked up at Kurama and pinned him in place with a determination that was unshakable although the fire demon looked unsure of himself previously, he must have made up his mind. 

“I want to be someone who is deserving of your love. Do you think it’s possible?”

Kurama stared at him. Someone who was deserving of his love? Hiei’s gaze was earnest, there was no lie in his words, and his attention was all for him . Kurama smiled a bit and settled his hands in his lap, resisting the urge to reach out to him. 

“I know it is.”

There would always be the topic of Touya. What his relationship was with Hiei, how far had they gone, what would Hiei’s next thing to say to the Ice Master entail. Then the children, and their own personal barriers. Where would their team fit into this journey that Hiei had embarked on without their knowledge? Where would Kurama fit into this life that Hiei had built? 

Would he be able to stay at their side?

Would the fire demon turn away from him again?

Would he be willing to let him go?

Kurama’s fears and worries roiled in his chest, fighting for control, demanding answers but they were assuaged as Hiei smiled at him.

“Then I’ll do my best.”

And Kurama believed he would.