Demons don't mate. They have sex, obviously. And procreate. This happens in many, many colorful and creative ways. They just don't have mates the way humans do. Occasionally, some might, but it's very rare. Kurama remembers explaining all this to Yusuke and Kuwabara a long time ago, somewhere during a lull in the Dark Tournament when they had time to rest in the hotel. They were suitably captivated and horrified.
"So you just date and then never talk again?" Kuwabara said. "That's so rude!"
"Ah," Kurama said. "Demons don't date, either."
"Wow," said Yusuke. "So being a demon is like constantly being able to booty call anyone."
Kuwabara then started muttering to himself, worrying if Yukina was every going to "booty call" him, and Kurama was so very thankful that Hiei was off training by himself somewhere.
"Is that weird for you?" Yusuke asked. "Now that you're in a human body?"
"Not at all," Kurama said, quite primly.
Which was a total and complete lie, but, well. They were busy back then. It didn't matter.
Then Hiei goes and ruins everything.
Hiei comes through his window one night after a four-month absence, looking about as feral as he can. His eyes are bright, really bright, and he's grinning. He looks the way he does after he's won a fight, only Kurama can't smell any blood on him. He's not wearing his cloak. A heavy ball of heat drops into Kurama's pelvis. He stands and closes the book he was reading.
"Oh," he says. "Is that so?"
Hiei just nods. Then he's shoving Kurama into the wall. Before he can really get a good grip, Kurama flips him, and Hiei nearly falls onto his back, but he rights himself just in time and regains his footing. He and Kurama stare at each other.
"I must say I'm surprised," Kurama says. "I never knew you thought of me this way, Hiei."
"Is there really any point in you lying now?" says Hiei.
"I suppose not." Kurama shrugs. "I was just stalling, actually."
Hiei yelps when a vine drags him down by the ankle. He does Kurama the immense courtesy of not cutting it with his blade. Kurama only needed him on the floor anyway. He pounces like the fox he is, delighted when Hiei stills underneath him. Hiei snarls at him, somehow managing to grin at the same time.
"Hiei," Kurama says, quite fondly.
"All right, fine," Hiei says. "You win."
It's incredibly thrilling to for Hiei to do something so rare as concede. Kurama wishes he'd taped that.
"I only wanted to pin you down," Kurama says. "We can do whatever you want."
"I don't need your pity," says Hiei, without any venom.
"All right then," says Kurama, and kisses him.
Hiei's mouth opens under his but doesn't do much else. Kurama can taste the shock on his tongue. Kissing is also a mostly human-only deal. Demons tend to have a lot of sharp teeth, or too many mouths, or no mouths. Hiei and Kurama's mouth are just fine though. Until Hiei bites down on Kurama's lower lip with those incredibly sharp incisors of his. Kurama pulls back.
"What the hell are you doing?" Hiei says.
Kurama cocks his head. "Has no one ever kissed you before?"
Hiei's face goes the most brilliant shade of pink.
"You fool, that's not why we're here!"
Kurama laughs to school his disappointment. He likes Hiei's mouth. He wants to kiss it. He doesn't care if it's human. Kurama wants to do other things too, though, so he brings his hands to the waist of Hiei's trousers and his mouth to Hiei's neck.
"I know why we're here, Hiei."
Hiei suddenly goes very still.
Then he rips both their clothes trying to get them off.
Then they don't even manage to get to the bed.
Then, well. Then.
The next day, when Kurama isn't sex-brained, he gets a little nervous that he'll never see Hiei again. Sex is just sex for demons. There's no need to see each other again after. He and Hiei are partners, though. Or were. And even though Hiei lives in the Makai these days, running around doing patrol and whatever else for Mukuro, he still always makes it a priority to visit Kurama. They're friends. Kurama knows enough to know you shouldn't mix friendship and sex. The problem is he likes Hiei a great deal more than he should. And Hiei is…
Hiei is weird.
If Kurama is being honest with himself, Hiei is probably weirdest person he's ever known. It goes beyond the prickly exterior, the incredibly complex honor code, the licking of his wounds like a feral dog, his almost complete inability to talk without violence. Hiei is just weird. He lives in Mukuro's castle, in Mukuro's territory, disappears for months, then comes to Kurama's apartment wanting to fuck. Kurama isn't sure how long Hiei has been holding onto that particular secret desire for. Possibly since the moment they met. Possibly since last week. Before last night, the most intimate thing he and Kurama had done together was bandage each other up. Kurama has seen Hiei's guts outside of his body. He's seen him naked, out of necessity, and because demons don't view nudity the way humans do. Demons view almost nothing the way humans do. It's becoming a real fucking problem.
Kurama showers. There's a bite on his collarbone from Hiei that he decides not to heal. Then he goes to work like a good human.
Kurama is visibly but pleasantly surprised when Hiei comes through his window a week later. He's got the wind on his back, cloak on again. The window had been closed, but unlocked. Kurama wasn't sure. He shifts at his desk now, neck a bit stiff from having been in the same position for the last two hours.
"Hiei," he says, then pauses.
They should talk about the other week, shouldn't they? Or actually, no, they probably shouldn't. Kurama isn't sure yet why Hiei is here. He looks relaxed, just keeps flexing his fingers.
"Why are you always cramped at that desk?" Hiei asks.
Maybe they aren't going to talk about it. If Hiei is acting like nothing happened, Kurama can do the same. He can absolutely pretend that he does not know what Hiei looks like flushed and biting his lip and outright moaning. Kurama looks down at his desk. It's all physics problems. He started taking a night class once a week at the local college, because working for his step-father is fine, but also incredibly boring. Oddly, Kurama misses learning. Or perhaps not so oddly. Right now, he's cramming for a mid-term.
"What is a mid-term," Hiei says, lips curled. "And why are you cramming it?"
He is hovering about the desk now to glare at Kurama's physics problems, as if he might understand anything written there, and god, Kurama can feel the heat off him. Hiei will never need to use anything but the most basic math for the rest of his demonic life. Then again, so will Kurama, but living as a human comes with compromises.
"It's like a competition without fighting," Kurama says, thinking about math and math only. "So I'm studying."
Hiei snorts. "Sounds boring."
"Well compared to what you normally do, I'm sure it would be."
Hiei chooses not to answer that. Kurama finishes a problem and catches Hiei leaning heavily against the wall, frown pulling at his lips. Obviously, he wants Kurama's attention tonight. Who knows for what, because Hiei would never let himself be predictable as that would make Kurama's life easier. There is absolutely no way Kurama will get anything done with him here.
"I'm sorry I'm not better company tonight," Kurama says, just to test the waters. "You could always swing by Yusuke's place. I'm sure he's not studying for anything."
"He's busy being in love with his human wife," Hiei says. "And I didn't ask for your company."
Kurama doesn't correct him. Because of course he didn't ask, Hiei never asks. It occurs to Kurama then that Hiei maybe never will. After all, when has Hiei ever really said what he's needed? Hiei is a lot more easygoing these days, in that he might gently stab someone instead of just beheading them, but the thought of him simply asking for something, for anything, is a real stretch. Hiei has had to take just about everything he has.
Kurama presses the eraser of his pencil against his bottom lip before setting it neatly into his notebook. He turns to find Hiei in the exact same position, which is unsurprising, because Hiei could probably sit in the same spot for days.
"I'll need dinner soon," Kurama says.
Hiei doesn't even twitch.
"How is that my problem?"
"Well, I'd be done a lot faster if I didn't have to stop and go to the store myself."
Kurama stands and grabs his briefcase by the door. He digs around for his wallet and pulls out a good amount of cash. Hiei is off the wall when he turns back around with the money, wary but definitely interested.
"If I make you a list, could you pick me up a few things? It's just down the road, and I'll make you something as a thanks."
He goes to hand Hiei the money and Hiei physically bristles. Like a cat.
"You want me to interact with humans?" he says. "Forget it."
"I see," says Kurama. "I didn't realize you were that uncomfortable."
"Uncomfort—" Hiei balls his fists, that special way he does when he's trying not to inflict physical violence on someone instead of using his words. "Are you trying to goad me, Kurama?"
"Of course not, Hiei."
Hiei steps forward and rips the money out of his hand. For a long moment, he eyes it like human money is the strangest thing he's ever seen, like they don't have something eerily similar in the Makai. Then he snaps his eyes back up to Kurama.
"Well?" he says, waspish. "Make the list."
Hiei is back in fifteen minutes, which isn't surprising but also slightly worrying. Especially when he comes through the window holding a bunch of hot pot ingredients in his bare hands. Some of them are bulging out of his pockets. A head of Napa cabbage falls dramatically onto Kurama's floor. Before Kurama can get a word out, Hiei dumps the rest of the food onto Kurama's bed, including all of the money Kurama gave him, which he apparently did not spend. Then he spins around viciously, teeth bared.
"What the hell was that?" he says.
"The store?" Kurama says.
"Yes, the store. Do humans not hunt?" Hiei picks up the packaged beef and frowns. "Why do they get their food like this?"
Kurama's never really thought about it before. Things in this world just…are. They're different. Kurama is used to them. For Hiei, so much of it is completely alien. Kurama will concede his point though.
"It is very odd, isn't it?"
"Pathetic, more like," Hiei says, but his lips are twitching like he's holding back a grin. Like it's funny.
"You know, I'm sure no one would have looked twice if you'd just walked inside and paid for all this," Kurama says.
Hiei just looks at him. He's still holding the packaged beef. Actually, he seems to have gotten every ingredient Kurama asked for, good selections, too. Not that Kurama would dare compliment him on that. Kurama is a little afraid to ask him what he did to acquire all of this so quickly, as well as unnoticed, so he decides not to. There's no blood on Hiei, and that's good enough.
"Dinner, then?" Kurama says.
"What about your human mother?"
Hiei's tone is unreservedly neutral. He knows how attached Kurama is to his mother. Hiei might loathe humans, but he's never said a word about Kurama's mother, purely because Kurama loves her. He lets a lot of things pass on Kurama's account.
"She's only come by once unannounced," Kurama says.
And Hiei was gone before she'd even finished turning the lock on the door. She was still getting used to having her only child living away from home, even though Kurama is barely a fifteen-minute train ride away. At any rate, she calls before coming now, at least.
Hiei holds himself quietly in the corner while Kurama cooks, occasionally chiming in when Kurama speaks, but mostly just watching. He'd probably eat sitting on the countertop, except that Kurama deliberately puts the bowls on the table to lure him into sitting across from him, which Hiei does. Kurama watches him hunt down some noodles, and remembers immediately that Hiei is an extremely messy eater. He eats like he'll be attacked at any moment. Like someone is going to take his food from him. And given what little Kurama knows of his upbringing, that was probably true. Kurama tries not to find it incredibly endearing. It's just that every time an udon noodle slaps Hiei's cheek, he can't help himself.
The spectacle reminds Kurama that he hasn't seen Hiei eat in, well, years. Hiei does most things privately, except fighting. He graciously extends that courtesy to people he considers his friends, not counting the many times he's walked in on Kurama changing. The first time he saw Kurama wearing briefs, Kurama had to explain the concept of underwear to him. Hiei stared at them for so long that Kurama had to turn around.
They move back to the bedroom after, even though there's no need to, it's Kurama's apartment. Hiei doesn't even need to come through the window anymore. They have this routine, though. There's something oddly fragile about it. If Hiei isn't going to break it, then neither is Kurama. Besides, he has a hard time imagining Hiei walking up to a front door and knocking anyway.
Hiei crouches in the window, wiping away excess broth with his sleeve.
"Not bad for a human meal, right?" Kurama says.
"Tch." Hiei wipes his mouth again. "I never said I didn't like it. I eat it, don't I?"
"Then you should have dinner with me again sometime."
Hiei looks at him then, the whites of his eyes large, questioning, then down. Kurama feels like they've suddenly started having a completely different conversation.
"Maybe," Hiei says, and is gone.
Maybe for Hiei could mean yes, but very often means no, except that he slides in through Kurama's window a week later. He turns and sits cross-legged underneath the window, sword resting against his arms. Kurama is reading at his desk. He waits.
"I want that human meal again," Hiei says.
It actually takes Kurama a moment to register what Hiei has said. "The hot pot?"
"I don't know," Hiei says. "The soup you made me get all those ridiculous ingredients for."
So definitely the hot pot, then. Kurama smiles and sets his book down. His novel can wait, after all. Hiei seems extremely put out about all this for some reason, staring straight ahead at Kurama's bed rather than at him. His posture is relaxed but Kurama can sense the tight set of his jaw. It's nothing to be embarrassed about, he thinks, craving human food.
"I'd be happy to make you some," Kurama says. "But I've just cooked."
Before Hiei can get a word out, Kurama stands.
"I have some leftovers, though." Kurama considers offering them by name and thinks better of it. "I'll just heat them up."
"Forget it," Hiei says, and starts to stand.
"You'll probably like it. Besides, I've been meaning to talk to you about something."
It's the flimsiest lie Kurama has ever told. Hiei's eyes narrow suspiciously, but he follows Kurama into the kitchen anyway and stands by the kitchen table while Kurama checks to make sure the rice is still hot. It is. Then he warms up the leftover pork katsu and scoops out more rice. One of the things about Hiei that Kurama has always liked the most is that he never makes small talk. If he has nothing to say, he has nothing to say. Instead he'll just stare, his eyes bloody and piercing. Sometimes it's hard not to stare back. Hiei had said something to him once, about a year after they'd first become partners. "You have tree eyes," he'd said, and Kurama had blinked. He didn't know what that meant. Hiei, less sure of himself back then, had growled and said, "Your eyes are green, idiot." Then stalked off. Kurama thinks about it constantly.
Hiei is right where Kurama left him when he turns back around with the katsu. He sets the plate on the table and holds out a set of chopsticks. Once again, Hiei doesn't bother to ask what it is. He looks over it, deems it edible, and goes to town. He doesn't even sit. He just picks the plate up.
"Try not to get too much on the floor," Kurama says.
He thinks about grabbing his novel again, only now he doesn't have any interest in reading anything at all with Hiei there. Hiei has barely paused to breathe, let alone swallow. Kurama isn't sure if he should mention that restaurants make much better versions of this. The supermarket seemed like quite an overwhelming experience. As Hiei bisects a jagged section of pork, and Kurama reaches over and snatches it off the plate for himself.
"Get your own," Hiei says, without stopping eating.
"But your plate is right there."
Hiei laughs shortly, bits of rice flying.
"Once a thief, always a thief."
He slows eating once he's only got a quarter left, and Kurama realizes that he didn't get Hiei anything to drink. Hiei doesn't seem to care—he abandons his empty plate for Kurama's bedroom. Kurama follows, watches as he wipes his mouth with his sleeve and pulls his cloak off before folding it over the edge of Kurama's bed. The bandages on his right arm are fresh. Kurama watches. The proportions of Hiei's body have always fascinated him.
"What did you want to talk to me about?" he says.
Kurama forces himself to look at Hiei's face. Hiei, who's had dinner with him twice.
"I want to have sex with you," he says.
Kurama finds it remarkable that Hiei's skin can blush like that.
"You can't just say that," Hiei says.
"But it's true," Kurama says.
He can practically see Hiei's mind working overtime. It's unorthodox. Demons don't usually couple twice. Demons also usually don't inhabit human bodies and side with humans in tournaments and eat human meals together. Kurama could say that. He decides a better strategy is to crowd Hiei and lean down so he can press his lips to his temple.
"There's so much we didn't get to do last time," he says.
He feels Hiei's smile.
"Yeah? Like what?"
"Take off your clothes and I'll show you."
He forgets himself the fourth time and kisses Hiei. They're in the kitchen, Hiei hitched up on the countertop, because he's determined to have sex anywhere but the bed apparently, when Kurama sees his red-bitten mouth and can't help himself. He kisses him.
Hiei makes this cut-off sound in his mouth, kind of a mewl, almost a growl. He licks back a moment before pulling away.
"Why do you like to do that?" he says.
"I like the taste of you," Kurama says.
He licks the sweat from Hiei's jaw, groaning when Hiei's nails dig painfully into his shoulders. He can feel Hiei mutter, "Ridiculous," but he doesn't turn his head when Kurama kisses the line of jaw. Kurama runs his thumb up the underside of Hiei's cock and Hiei gasps. Kurama kisses him again. This time, Hiei bites his lip, hard enough to draw blood. As if that doesn't just make Kurama work his hips that much faster. Hiei licks the blood from Kurama's mouth, and even after it's gone he doesn't stop. Kurama wonders how much trouble he'd be in if he told Hiei that he's a fantastic kisser.
As a general rule, Hiei doesn't do soft things, which means he doesn't cuddle. After he hops down from the kitchen counter, he goes to wash up and gets dressed again, something Kurama knows he likes to do in private. Kurama gets a glass of water and puts the television on.
"What is this ridiculous spectacle and why are you watching it?"
Kurama shifts on the sofa. Hiei is behind him, arms crossed, staring in abject horror at what's playing out on the screen. He looks immaculately put together, with the exception of a small bite mark near the shell of his ear.
"It's television," Kurama tells him.
"I know what television is," Hiei says. "I'm talking about what's happening."
Kurama weighs explaining the show he's currently watching to Hiei, which is just a nonsense gameshow of people running an obstacle course and failing miserably, against Hiei just leaving on him. He decides to keep Hiei around a little longer. Hiei blinks at Kurama's explanation, which involves no danger, no demons, certainly no swords.
"And if you win…" Hiei says slowly.
"You get a trophy and some money," Kurama says. "If you lose, you get sent home."
Hiei is silent for a long time. Kurama doesn't have to see his face to know exactly what he's thinking. He turns again and Hiei is staring intently at the screen, watches as a man misses the mat he was jumping to and falls, flailing, into the water below.
"The loser should be killed," he says. "At this point it would be a mercy."
Kurama is about to say something very clever, like I'm sure you'd readily volunteer for the job, but the words die on his throat when Hiei rounds the corner and sits on the sofa. He's stiff as a board about it, almost skittish, and looks ready to incinerate the TV, but he's sitting. Watching television. Kurama says nothing. He doesn't even smile for fear of Hiei disappearing. Hiei never stays after sex—he always dressed and leaves right after. Not that Kurama doesn't want him to, but, he knows when to push and when to hold off. Long moments pass where neither of them says a thing. There's just the television glow in front of them, another contestant desperately attempting to complete the obstacle course. Kurama nearly jumps when Hiei jerks forward on the sofa.
"What kind of moron—even a child could have grabbed that rope!"
Kurama has to assume he means a demon child. Before he can open his mouth, the show cuts to commercials, and Hiei cocks his head in a move that Kurama will never, not even under pain of death admit was adorable. He looks at Kurama.
"No," Hiei says.
He stands, fascination with the TV over.
After that, Hiei disappears for a few weeks. Kurama has to assume Mukuro has sent him on some kind of errand or mission. At any rate, it doesn't bother him. But he does notice Hiei's absence, more than he's ever noticed before. It's a good thing, then, when Yusuke calls him up so they can meet for drinks with Kuwabara at the bar. They've met up there before, several times actually, though it's been a while since their last meet up. The best thing about this bar is that it's incredibly low-lit, and no one can really hear a thing, which is good, because if anyone overheard their conversations, they'd all sound like lunatics.
When Kurama arrives, Kuwabara looks resolutely sober, and Yusuke looks pleasantly drunk. Kurama orders himself a beer. Then it's a good hour of catch-up: Kuwabara is stressed but happy in college, Yusuke is stressed but happy in marriage. The ramen stand is doing well. And how is Kurama? Well, he really has nothing to complain about.
"How's our favorite three-eyed demon?" Yusuke asks, signaling for another round.
"He comes and goes as he pleases," Kurama says.
Kurama leaves out just how often Hiei has been coming around, and what exactly they've been getting up to. If Yusuke and Kuwabara knew about what they've been getting up to, they'd read it the wrong way completely. They'd think Hiei and Kurama were dating. Kurama would have to explain the whole thing all over again. As much as Kurama plays at being human, he's still not one. Also, he and Hiei are not dating.
"You haven't seen him?" Kurama asks.
"Oh no, I've seen him." Yusuke sticks his finger into the foam of his beer as if that's particularly fascinating to him. "He crashed Keiko and I's date night and stared at us for like ten minutes. I asked him if he needed something and he was all, 'Of course not, you fool.' Then he left."
Huh, Kurama thinks.
"Sounds like Hiei," Kuwabara says. "I've felt him at Genkai's a few times."
"He's just making sure you're not doing anything funny with his sister."
"Shut it, Urameshi! I still can't believe they're related."
Yusuke slings an arm around Kuwabara's neck and they wrestle in the booth for a minute. Kuwabara has known about Hiei and Yukina for a year now, because Yukina outright told him. She is, in so many ways, infinitely braver than Hiei. She is also endlessly considerate, considering Hiei doesn't know any of this yet.
Yusuke finally releases Kuwabara and they move onto other topics, until it's late into the night and they all have to go home for one thing or another.
Kurama walks home and thinks about Hiei staring at two people in love.
Kurama's never told Hiei this, but he can always smell him right before he arrives. It isn't just Hiei's energy he senses. Hiei has a specific smell, like pine and earth and woodsmoke. Kurama is pretty sure it's a Youko thing. He can smell him right now, so sharply that his heart is suddenly threatening to do something stupid in his chest. Kurama is up and ready before Hiei is even through the window. It's been weeks. He barely gets Hiei's name out before Hiei is on him, crowding him against the wall and going right for his pants.
"This is quite a hello," Kurama says.
"Don't distract me." Hiei pulls his pants and underwear down in one go. "I want you."
Kurama notices then that his hands are shaking, just the slightest bit. He cards his fingers through Hiei's hair, lets those words sit silent between them.
"So have me," he says.
After, they sit next to each other on the floor, and Kurama can't bear to have Hiei leave so soon.
"We should spar," he says.
Hiei snorts. "We basically just did."
"I adore your humor, Hiei, truly. But I'm serious."
Hiei looks over at him, sweaty and disarmed. Then he nods.
They fight in a field on the outskirts of the city, about as secluded as they can get without actually making the trip into the Makai. Though even if a human managed to stumble upon them, they're moving too fast for any human to see. Kurama just really doesn't feel like dealing with restless lower-class demons right now. They usually train on their own, Hiei especially, but every now and again it's good to stay sharp with each other. Hiei readily admits that he doesn't like to fight Kurama. That he would never want to fight Kurama as enemies. The first time they teamed up with Yusuke, Hiei was so boastful about Kurama's abilities that Kurama actually had to tune him out for fear of blushing. He knew it was partially to get under Yusuke and Kuwabara's skin. The other part of him knew, and still knows, that Hiei thinks very highly of him. That a compliment to someone's fighting is the best compliment someone like Hiei can give.
They fight hard, and only stop when they're suitably exhausted and Kurama can taste blood in his mouth. He's vibrating under his skin. Feels something akin to euphoria. He hasn't been able to fight like this for some time, not without the fear of death on his heels. Hiei is collapsed in the grass across from him, shirt torn open, feral grinned and breathing so hard Kurama thinks he can see his heart beating through his skin. He can certainly hear it. That's the fox hearing, though. He can always hear Hiei's heart, even when it's slow and relaxed. Hiei lets out a short laugh and gets to his feet using his sword.
"Not bad," he says, which means that was fucking excellent, and sheaths his blade.
Kurama runs his fingers through his hair and work out the twigs and grass and whatever else he's picked up. He watches as Hiei looks out into the great expanse of this city that's never been a home to him.
Hiei turns to him. He's got blood on his cheek.
"How about some food?" Kurama says.
Hiei just nods.
Kurama tells Hiei he'll meet him back at his apartment, then returns with burgers and fries and milkshakes. The grease smell suffocates the apartment immediately, lures Hiei out of Kurama's bedroom to investigate the smell. His shirtless, wet from having bathed, the ward from his forehead gone but the Jagan kept closed.
"I'm in no mood to cook," Kurama says, pointing. "I hope you don't mind fast food."
Hiei cocks his head at the bags.
"What makes this food fast?"
Kurama laughs louder than he means to. He can see immediately that Hiei is insulted, and what's more, embarrassed, to be caught unawares about something. He forgets sometimes, that Hiei is someone who secretly longs to be included, for all that he claims to be a loner.
"Forgive me, Hiei," he says. "It's a human term. It's just food that is prepared very quickly. Hence the name."
Hiei scoffs, grabs a handful of fries, chews, swallows. Then he grabs the chocolate shake. He takes a long pull from the straw. For a brief moment, Kurama is worried he'll get brain freeze. Then Hiei looks at him. His expression is severe.
"This is," he says. Then stops.
He unwraps the burger and takes vicious bites, fast enough that if he weren't brilliantly coordinated, he'd be at risk of biting his own hand. Kurama watches, absolutely fixated by the sight of it, until Hiei polishes off his fries and reaches for Kurama's.
"Ah," Kurama says, and snatches them away. "Those are mine."
Hiei just frowns and finishes off his milkshake, drinking until the straw makes loud sucking sounds, desperately trying to get every inch of melted ice cream there is in the cup before Hiei throws it down on the table.
"Fast food," says Hiei.
"Yes," says Kurama.
"I want this again tomorrow."
"Well no one is stopping you from getting it," Kurama says, holding back a smile at the way Hiei says tomorrow, meaning he's not leaving.
"I have to work, Hiei. Perhaps after. It's not meant to be eaten all the time."
Kurama excuses himself to finally shower, rolling the bag up on his fries and burger protectively and asking Hiei to please, kindly, not eat his food while he's washing up. Hiei just rolls his eyes, though that's concession enough. When Kurama emerges from his shower, Hiei is gone, but his food is untouched, as asked. His apartment smells like soap and blood and chocolate.
And yes, yes, Hiei does come back the next day. He dozes outside Kurama's apartment in a tree, then stalks Kurama as he gets ready to board the train home from work. So Kurama picks up the same meal from the same fast food restaurant, and walks the rest of the way home. Hiei is already inside when Kurama opens the door. Kurama sets the bag on the table and Hiei rips into it.
Later, he sits in the windowsill while Kurama studies for his class. His eyes follow Kurama's hand as he brings his thumb to his lip, a habit he can't break while thinking. Kurama sits, hyper-aware of Hiei. The washing machine in the kitchen rings finished. Kurama looks over his shoulder, then down to his work, then over to Hiei, who hasn't seemed to notice or care about the noise. His eyes are closed.
Hiei's eyes slide open.
"Would you mind getting my clothes out of the washing machine? You can just put them on the line."
Hiei blinks a moment, apparently having been on the precipice of sleep, then actually gets up and goes into the kitchen. Kurama was expecting a flat out no, or at least an argument. He hears Hiei open the door to the washing machine and put them on the line. Then he comes back in and sits at the window again.
"I still don't understand why you wear underwear," Hiei says.
"I know, but thank you for humoring me."
About an hour after Hiei leaves, Kurama realizes they didn't even have sex.
His night class is on a Wednesday. Hiei knows this, and as a result, usually doesn't visit on that day. When Kurama gets home that night though, he can sense Hiei's youki before he opens the door. Kurama steps inside, tiptoeing in his own apartment, and rounds the corner to the living room. Hiei is in there, curled into the sofa, arms crossed loosely over his chest. The TV is on, playing the same obstacle course show as last time. Kurama isn't sure if Hiei is actually following the show or not—he's got the same expression on his face as he does when he watches the rain falling outside the window. It isn't until Kurama hears a soft "tch," when a contestant faceplants that he realizes Hiei has been paying attention after all.
"Morons," Hiei says under his breath.
Then he looks up at Kurama.
"Took you long enough," he says.
"I had class tonight," Kurama says helplessly.
He's both amazed that Hiei knew how to turn on the TV and amazed that he didn't destroy it. Hiei grabs the remote and that's when Kurama notices the bag on the coffee table.
"Oh," he says. "Did you pick up food?"
Hiei nods. "I already ate. That's for you."
Hiei just looks at him like he's grown a second head.
"Aren't you hungry?"
Kurama steps forward and opens the bag. It's fast food, which he doesn't like to eat all the time, but the gesture is so…he feels on the precipice of something so devastating he can't even speak. He just sits on the sofa next to Hiei while the fire demon holds the remote at the TV like it's a weapon. They're so close that they're thighs are touching, and it feels ludicrously thrilling, like they haven't had each other every single way.
"Thank you, Hiei," Kurama says.
Kurama pops a fry in his mouth. Then he hears the washing machine ding. He chews very slowly.
"Your clothes smelled too human," is all Hiei says.
They have sex, later, right on the sofa, licking the salt from each other's mouths. It's rough, but unhurried, almost tender in that way. Kurama can hear Hiei panting, wound up so tight for him, and when Kurama bites him on the meat of his shoulder he just melts for it, thighs dropping open. He has an iron grip on Kurama's hair, lower back lifting off the sofa every time Kurama thrusts in.
"Kurama," he says, for the first time.
Kurama buries his face in Hiei's hair.
Hiei goes to clean up after, and Kurama sits on the sofa a moment, poleaxed. Then he goes to the bedroom and sits on his bed, still poleaxed. He hears Hiei in the bathroom. He comes back into the bedroom looking the absolute definition of thoroughly fucked. He also looks exhausted. The window is closed because of the rain, and that makes what Kurama does next all the easier.
"You should stay tonight," he says.
Hiei pauses, halfway to the window, and stares at him. As if having sex multiple times, and developing an incredibly domestic routine were fine, but sharing a bed, that's crossing too far of a line.
"Kurama," Hiei says.
Just that. Just his name. Nothing like the way he said it earlier. And in a way this is crossing a huge line. Kurama will be seeing Hiei in his most vulnerable state, because sex is vulnerable, sure, but Hiei could still kill someone mid-fuck. It's not even like when Hiei uses his Dragon and has to hibernate, because that's not really his choice. This is making a choice.
"Surely nothing will happen if you sleep in the bed with me," Kurama says. "Except possibly more sex."
Hiei seems to consider that very carefully. Kurama lets him do so while he brushes his teeth. When he comes back, Hiei is standing at one side of the bed with his arms crossed, staring at the sheets. Kurama walks in gently, and undresses.
"You don't have to stay the whole time," he says.
"I know that," says Hiei, except he says it like he's taking it as a challenge.
Kurama slips into bed, and Hiei waits until he's settled before sliding in next to him. Kurama doesn't expect him to cozy up beside him. In fact, he knows that Hiei won't, and it's an actual relief when he doesn't. Hiei simply turns on his side so he can face Kurama, keep himself at the advantage. If he didn't look so tired, Kurama would actually see about another round. Instead he focuses on falling asleep, because he knows Hiei won't let himself fall asleep before Kurama does. The last thing he sees before he falls into slumber are Hiei's eyes.
When Kurama wakes up the next morning, Hiei is still there. What's more is he's still asleep. His mouth is slightly parted, hands curled loosely, breathing even. Kurama only gets to savor it a moment before Hiei blinks awake, eyes clearing to focus on him. Kurama presses forward without thinking and kisses him.
Which is, in hindsight, a huge mistake.
For a moment, Hiei presses back into the kiss, almost sighing into it, before he pulls away as if burned. He scoots off the bed so fast he actually falls off. Then he's on his feet and looking…betrayed? Embarrassed? Angry? Kurama bites his cheek.
"Why did you do that?"
"I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking."
Hiei is already looking around the room for his shirt, his cloak. Everything is pulled on in a hurry.
"We should never have done that," he says.
Kurama isn't sure which that he's referring to.
"Kissing?" he tries.
"Any of it," Hiei says. "It should have just been once. This is too…human."
He looks ashamed when he says that, and Kurama feels insulted, because this has been part of who he is for twenty-seven years now. Human. Demon. He's both. All of it.
"Some demons mate," he says.
"Not like this," Hiei says.
Kurama so badly wants to have this conversation on a level playing field, but he's stark naked and Hiei is already halfway gone.
"What do you mean?" he says.
"Nothing." Hiei pushes the window open. "Forget it."
Weeks pass. Kurama goes to work, he goes to class. Occasionally, he even goes out with co-workers from his step-father's company for drinks. He visits his mother, which almost always cheers him up. The absence of Hiei is gaping. From the get-go, it was a no-win situation. Kurama would have never refused him. He wanted him, he can hardly remember a time when he didn't. He just didn't imagine it would go quite like this. Hiei might never speak to him again. Or worse, Mukuro might come and take his head back to her territory on a spike.
Yusuke calls him on a Friday for drinks.
"Sorry," Kurama says. "I'm a bit tired."
"Uh, right," says Yusuke. "Catch you next time."
Kurama hangs up and waters his plants. Actually, he waterlogs them beyond health. Then apologizes to each one and goes back inside. About twenty minutes later there's a knock at his door, which is odd. Mother always calls before visiting, and he doesn't really get visitors. Kurama opens the door and Yusuke shoves his way inside with a six-pack of beer.
"Kurama! How's it hanging?"
Yusuke doesn't wait for him to answer. He makes himself right at home at the kitchen table and removes all six beers from the pack. Then he pats the table, urging Kurama to sit.
"Take a seat, fox boy. What's eating you?"
"What makes you think—"
Yusuke twists open two bottles of beer and levels him with a hard gaze.
"Give me a little fucking credit," he says.
Kurama sits. He downs half the beer before he decides he wants advice from Yusuke of all people on this. That Yusuke is actually the only person he can even talk to about any of this at all. There's the small issue that Hiei might really murder the two of them if Yusuke knows about all this, except that Hiei isn't talking to him at all. The beer feels good going down, heavy. Kurama sighs.
"Sorry if this makes you a little uncomfortable," he says before he starts.
Then Kurama tells him. All of it. Well, with the exception of all the sexual details. That is drastically underplayed. But Yusuke listens, nodding along, only pausing to open a second beer. By the time Kurama finishes talking, they're both ready to open their third beer.
"So." Yusuke scratches his chin. "Hiei is mad that you accidentally started human dating?"
"You don't seem shocked by this at all," Kurama says.
"I mean, no? Until you explained demon sex to me I thought you two were hooking up at the Dark Tournament."
"I need to…compartmentalize that for a long time," Kurama says. "But to answer your question, yes, I think that's exactly why he's mad."
There's a long silence where Yusuke seems to be really thinking about this. It's amazing to Kurama how much Yusuke has changed over the years, how incredibly wise he's become, even though he still acts like he's moving through life without any plan at all sometimes.
"No offense," Yusuke says finally. "But I think you got this all wrong. Hiei is a smart guy. He'd catch on to what was happening way before a cute little sleepover."
"So," Kurama prompts.
"So…maybe Hiei does want to date you," Yusuke says. "Just, like, as a demon?"
Kurama stares over Yusuke's shoulder, into his bedroom, and remembers all at once that first time, when he'd pinned Hiei down. When Hiei had come by after being absent for months, and suddenly he let Kurama have him. He let him. And all this time Kurama hasn't once gone to the Makai. Kurama sinks into his chair and pushes his beer away. Some demons mate. Not like this. Kurama stands up and nearly knocks the empty beer bottles over. Yusuke scrambles to right them.
"Wow, Kurama, having a revelation?"
"I'm afraid I have to go out of town for a few days."
Yusuke burps. "Atta boy."
There's nothing, Kurama thinks, more embarrassing than showing up to someone's castle and the guards not knowing who you are. Clearly, Kurama's reputation has lessened somewhat over the years. Or this particular guard is being a real idiot. Kurama stands outside the great doors, patiently, politely, while he's asked to wait just a moment please. Kurama waits. He's only met Mukuro a handful of times. He's never actually been to her castle. Her and Hiei's relationship is, well, as far as Kurama can tell, they're essentially the same person. She's like his very intense, very strong mother. The thought of visiting has always made the soles of Kurama's feet itch. At any rate, Hiei comes and goes as he pleases, and Mukuro doesn't seem to mind, so Kurama has never thought to visit.
Kurama snaps to attention when the doors creak open. He steps inside, and is greeted, surprisingly, by Mukuro herself. Kurama isn't sure if that's a good thing or not. She stands there in the hall, watching him. Looks faintly amused. Kurama is not.
"I'm assuming you're not here to see me," she says.
"That's a correction assumption."
She smiles, barely.
"Good, because if he'd spent any more time around here sulking, I would've had to send him on an errand or something wasteful like that. He's somewhere on the tenth floor, I'm sure you'll be able to sense him."
"Thank you," Kurama says, and thinks, sulking.
He's just gone around her when she speaks again, because of course it wouldn't be that easy.
"You reek of him," she says. "I hope when you leave here, he's in better spirits."
Kurama takes the stairs two at a time. Hiei must know he's there, because his youki is stamped down pretty tight, but he hasn't actually left, which is a good sign at least. He's at the end of the hall on the tenth floor, just like Mukuro said. The energy is faint, but there. Kurama exhales, then knocks.
There's no answer. Kurama should've gone through the window. He knocks again and the door pushes open slightly. Kurama opens it the rest of the way, eyes adjusting quickly to the softer light. There's a bed, a table, a window with a large seat. This must be Hiei's room. Kurama looks around, then up, sees Hiei perched on a ceiling beam, cheek cradled in his palm. It's hard to stop the warmth that blooms in Kurama's chest at the sight of him.
"Hiei," he says.
"Why are you here?"
"Why don't you come down and I'll tell you?"
Hiei studies him from the ceiling.
"I'm sorry," Kurama says.
Hiei jumps down to the floor and lands silently. He hasn't said anything yet, not that Kurama can blame him. They don't usually do this. Talk like this. The entire past few months have been unusual for them. Kurama clears his throat. He's thought about this, the whole way here, and he's made up his mind to do whatever it takes to keep Hiei with him.
"I know you dislike human things," Kurama says. "Human culture. I didn't mean to pull you into something that you didn't want. I know you don't want to mate like a human."
He pauses. A sour breeze floats through the window that makes Kurama oddly homesick.
"I didn't," Hiei says. "I don't."
Kurama has a sudden vision of the floor falling out from under his feet. He closes his mouth so fast that his jaw clicks. Before he can open his mouth again to say what like a complete fool, he's slapped with the memory of the morning Hiei left. Hiei kissing him back, just for that smallest moment. Of Yusuke telling him that Hiei knew what was happening long before then. But of course he did. Hiei is just so very, very weird. Kurama relaxes again. He almost wishes they hadn't made that pact so many years ago to never enter each other's thoughts.
"Hiei, is that why you stopped coming?"
Hiei's jaw works like he's trying to chew the words out.
"It's embarrassing," he says finally.
"My life is hardly embarrassing."
"Don't twist my words, Kurama." Hiei's body is reared up so tight, the whole of him so angry and conflicted. "This isn't how demons act."
Kurama smiles, gently.
"Says who? I'd say we've done a lot of things demons don't normally do. There's nothing wrong with enjoying things, even human things. We're still demons."
Kurama lets his youki spike. Hiei snorts, though he relaxes just a fraction. He steps closer, a move that should be predatory but only serves in turning Kurama's crank.
"Yet you insist on wearing that human body."
"You don't like my body?"
"You're—" Hiei's face is suddenly red. "Stop twisting my words!"
"I still dream as Youko, you know."
He dreams of grass under his feet and blood in his nose. Something stolen in his clawed hands. Kurama doesn't need the reminder that he's feral, he feels it always, just under the surface of his skin. And no one in the room needs to be reminded that Kurama is dangerous.
"I know what you are," Hiei says.
"Would you like to see?"
Hiei's eyes flash.
"Don't say things you don't mean, fox."
Kurama has already given over, though. Ears out, he can hear the subtle shift in Hiei's breathing. Kurama is taller, much taller, as Youko, a fact he always neglects to remember until he's towering over Hiei even more than usual. He can smell things he couldn't quite pick up on before—meat cooking downstairs, the sweet smell of Hiei's blood just under the skin.
They meet each other's eyes for a long moment. Then the air snaps.
They wrestle a great deal before actually getting to Hiei's bed. There's a lot of throwing and grappling and biting and this, this is how demons usually mate. But neither one of them is actually fighting for dominance, at this point. This is just a great big game of foreplay. Hiei eventually slams Kurama down on the bed and sits on top of him, pins his wrists by his head. Both of them are as naked as the day they came into this world.
"Oh dear," Kurama says. "What are you going to do with me?"
"Wouldn't you like to know," says Hiei, then proceeds to ride Kurama into oblivion.
This position is new for them. Feels more intimate, somehow. Kurama has to give up a certain level of control, can't do much else but hold onto Hiei's hips and stare while Hiei works himself on his cock, nails digging into Kurama's chest. Then again, Kurama is content to do just that. He grabs Hiei's hips so tight he knows there will be bruises there only an hour from now. He can't stop staring at the soft juncture of skin where Hiei's neck meets his shoulder. If Hiei were a fox demon, that's where Kurama would bite him. A real mating bite.
"Stop thinking about it and just do it," Hiei says.
Oh. Kurama didn't realize he'd broadcast that particular desire so loudly. He moves a hand from Hiei's hips and presses his fingers to the skin of his neck. Presses in very lightly. Hiei shivers.
"Can I really?" Kurama says. "Right here? Can I mate you?"
Hiei snarls, which is a much less threatening sound when he's halfway to orgasm and panting.
"Don't make me change my—"
Kurama surges up and bites down. Hard. Hiei comes, loudly, pressed into his chest. He clenches so tightly around Kurama that Kurama is following him into orgasm only moments later, teeth still secure in Hiei's skin.
He pulls his teeth out once he's calmed down and is breathing normally again. There's blood pooling in the teeth marks. Kurama laps that away lovingly. Hiei squirms and pinches his ears. Kurama laughs. He goes back down on the bed. Hiei is staring at him, still panting, using his chest for leverage.
"That was pretty good," he says, then he collapses on top of Kurama and falls asleep.
They both doze for an hour before Hiei wakes up and rolls off of Kurama, looking the better part of embarrassed for having inadvertently cuddled. He watches as Kurama goes back to his usual human appearance—silver hair to red, green eyes, slightly shorter. Back to Shuichi. Kurama stretches, keeping one eye open to admire the mating bite on Hiei's skin. Hiei notices and snorts.
"Admiring your work?"
Kurama smiles. "I don't know what you mean."
He knows the bite doesn't really count, technically. But the gesture was, as far as gestures of Hiei's behalf go, very sweet. Kurama leans over and fits his mouth against the marks of teeth, just because he can. It amazes him that he doesn't get a kick in the stomach for it.
"This doesn't mean I'm moving into your den," Hiei says.
"It's an apartment."
Hiei visits a week later and stays for days. Kurama doesn't keep track of how many days, because that's not important.
It's five days though. Hiei's been there for five days.
He comes and goes as he pleases, usually sleeps in when Kurama leaves for work and is there when Kurama arrives home, though sometimes he's gone all night and Kurama has no idea what he gets up to. Hiei comes back, though, and he comes back to Kurama's bed. And very occasionally he lets Kurama feed him something that isn't a chocolate milkshake.
Tonight, Kurama gets home and the apartment is dark, which doesn't necessarily mean that Hiei isn't there, but a quick sweep shows that he's not. Kurama waits a while to have dinner and sits at his desk to read instead.
About an hour later, he senses Hiei coming, smells him, then Hiei appears, perched on Kurama's windowsill like a great black owl, a gentle breeze at his back.
"Welcome back," Kurama says.
Hiei wordlessly takes his boots off and steps inside before shutting the window. He takes his cloak off and folds it over what has now become his side of the bed. Kurama's heart kicks a little at the thought.
"What are you reading," Hiei says finally.
"Ocean Vuong," Kurama says.
He knows Hiei only asks to be polite. Kurama sets the book down.
"Shall we have dinner? I have enough ingredients for hot pot."
Hiei very poorly feigns indifference.
After, Hiei sharpens his blade at the sofa while Kurama continues reading, occasionally catching something Hiei mutters about what some idiot lower-class demon did. Kurama smiles turns the page.
Then Hiei's hand curls over his free hand and squeezes gently.
Kurama stops breathing and stares. For a moment he thinks time stops, because Hiei's hand is just there, wrapped over his, and the next logical step should be for Hiei to pull him somewhere, or literally anything but hold it. Hiei's hand is warm, dry, brutally calloused. Always has been. And it's small. Kurama can see how long and dexterous his fingers are, but if their hands were the other way around, Kurama's hand would completely envelope Hiei's. He swallows. They don't do this. Even kissing is still something Hiei begrudgingly allows. Kurama realizes abruptly that he's said nothing. He has no idea how long they've been like this, Hiei holding his hand. There's something so undeniably intimate about it that Kurama feels like he shouldn't even be allowed to look. He puts his book down.
"Hiei," he says.
"Don't humans do this," Hiei says. "Hold hands?"
"Yes," Kurama says. "They do."
Hiei is still holding his sword in his other hand. Kurama is hopelessly in love with him.
"I don't see the point."
"It's a sign of affection."
"Ridiculous," Hiei says, and doesn't let go.