Shuichi Minamino leaned back in his desk chair Holding his phone against his ear. The only light in the dorm room other than the moonlight from the window came from the glow of the laptop screen in front of him.
"Mother, please don't worry about me," he begged.
"Of course I worry about you. You're so far away," she said.
"I am only an hour and a half away," the redhead pointed out. "I am fine. Please just look after yourself. Your doctor said that stress is not good for your recovery."
'Recovery' was perhaps the wrong word to use. Shuichi was fully aware that his mother's illness was incurable and would eventually end her life.
"Do you need any money, sweetheart? For new clothes? Books?"
"No, mother. I do not need anything. I have everything taken care of."
After his mother finally hung up the phone after telling him to be sure he got a good night's sleep, Shuichi set the phone down and went back to his laptop. He was doing homework. Not his own, though.
"Why do you always tell her you don't need anything?"
The question came from the other side of the room and he turned to see his roommate's face peeking out from beneath his covers, crimson eyes regarding him with mild contempt.
His roommate continued; "She wants to help you but you won't let her. Instead, you decide to start this ridiculous business writing papers and doing homework for students too lazy or stupid to do it for themselves. Seems like a lot of unnecessary trouble to me."
Shuichi frowned. "What I do is not your business," he told Hiei stiffly. Shuichi was a very private person and preferred that none of his classmates knew that his mother was ill. He had started the business Hiei was referring to because he didn't want her to have to worry about finding money to provide him with books or clothes. He tried to remain as self-sufficient as possible. He operated the business through e-mail using the alias 'Kurama' to protect his identity.
"Suit yourself. Just don't fall asleep at your desk again." Hiei turned away from him, burying himself in the covers once again.
Shuichi turned back to the laptop and started on his work, stifling a yawn as he did so. He knew it would be yet another long night.
Shuichi did fall asleep at his desk and was awakened by a light kick to his ankle. His short spiky haired roommate stood beside him, fully dressed and glaring at him.
"Hurry up or you'll be late," he said grumpily.
Shuichi staggered ungracefully to his feet, massaging his neck and searching for his uniform. He'd already set it out over his dresser the night before so he had no trouble finding it.
"Thank you," he said but his only answer came in the sound of the door shutting after the dark haired boy. Shuichi shook his head. He really didn't know much at all about Hiei, despite the fact that they'd been roommates for months now. The side of the room belonging to Hiei was bare of anything personal. No photos or posters covered the walls. His desk contained only his schoolwork and supplies.
Not that Shuichi was in a position to judge. There were no posters on his side of the room either though he did have a photo of his mother sitting in a frame on his desk. A small bonsai tree sat on his dresser. It had been a present from his mother when he had left to attend the boarding school. Shuichi was very fond of plants.
He finished dressing and grabbed his phone, hastily checking to be sure he'd e-mailed the assignments he'd completed last night to the respective clients. He then tucked his phone into his pocket and hurried out of the room.
Despite the fact that students had the option of remaining in their classrooms or the cafeteria for lunch, Shuichi preferred to sit outside, especially when the weather was pleasant, as it was today. He found the noise of his classmates' chatter distracting. He would often eat his lunch at one of the tables scattered across the school grounds and study at the same time. Today, however, found him slumped over the table, fast asleep.
"Hey, man!" A light tug on his long, red hair brought the teenager out of his slumber.
"Mmmm... Yusuke?" He asked, blinking blearily up at the dark haired boy smirking at him. Instead of the usual blue uniform of the school, Yusuke wore a green jumpsuit. His hair was slicked back with gel. He had the reputation of a delinquent but he had befriended Shuichi last year. Despite his roughness he had a good heart. He was really the only person Shuichi could call a friend. While the other students liked him well enough, he wasn't close to any of them.
"Let me guess." Yusuke placed his finger under his chin and pretended to think. "Wild party, right? Hot girls, booze and strip poker?"
Shuichi laughed. Yusuke often talked as though they were in college, not high school. "No. I was working on homework," he said.
"Aw, man, you need to get a life," Yusuke told him. "Though, speaking of homework..."
Shuichi sighed. "Which one this time?" Yusuke was one of Shuichi's best clients. He was the only client who knew of Shuichi's identity and dealt with him face-to-face. Though Hiei knew of Shuichi's scheme he had never made use of it himself.
Yusuke wrinkled his nose. "Maths," he said.
Shuichi reached into his pocket for his phone to note down the details of Yusuke's request but was puzzled to find it wasn't there. He searched under the papers on the table but found nothing.
"Something wrong?" Yusuke asked.
"I seem to have misplaced my phone," Shuichi said. He was certain he'd had it when he'd sat down.
"It'll turn up," Yusuke said flippantly. "Happens to me all the time."
"But I am sure I had it in my pocket," Shuichi muttered.
The bell that announced class would begin shortly pierced the air. Yusuke clapped Shuichi on the shoulder. "Talk to you later, man," he said before striding away. Shuichi gathered up his papers and the remains of his lunch. His phone was still nowhere to be found.
Shuichi's phone did not turn up during his afternoon classes and none of the classmates he'd spoke to had seen it.
After class, Shuichi was surprised to receive a summons to the principal's office. He had never been called there before.
When he arrived he was greeted by Principal Koenma's pretty secretary Botan. She looked young enough to be a student. Her blue hair was pulled back into a ponytail and her eyes were an unusual magenta colour. For reasons unknown to Shuichi, she always wore a pink kimono to work. The rumour mill had it that her relationship with Koenma was romantic in nature, rather than professional. The two were discreet, however, and no one had been able to prove it.
After a short wait Shuichi was invited into the principal's office.
Principal Koenma sat behind a large desk, the surface entirely buried under paperwork. Alarmingly to Shuichi, accompanying Koenma was the Vice-Principal, a wizened old woman named Genkai who also taught Science.
And sitting between them atop the papers on the desk was Shuichi's missing phone. He suddenly had a very bad feeling about this meeting.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Minamino," Koenma said. "Please take a seat."
He was very young to be holding such a lofty position. Most of the female population of the school considered him very handsome. He had the good looks of a movie star. Though they were somewhat ruined by the pacifier in his mouth.
Shuichi numbly sat in the chair beside Genkai. "Good afternoon," he said quietly.
Koenma reached forward and tapped the phone. "This is yours, correct?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," Shuichi said, feeling that there was no point in denying it. It was obvious that they already knew that fact, given that he was sitting there in the office.
"Then you can probably guess why you are here," Koenma went on.
"Yes, sir," Shuichi said again.
"I am very disappointed in you, Mr. Minamino. Your grades have always been excellent and your behaviour exemplary. But this is a very serious breach of school rules and I can't ignore it."
Shuichi's heart sank. "May I ask, has my mother been contacted regarding this matter?" he enquired.
"Not yet, but that will happen very soon," Koenma said. "I hope you understand that you may be expelled, Mr. Minamino."
"I understand," Shuichi said.
"May I ask why you would do something like this? It seems very out of character for you," Koenma said. "As I said before, you are an excellent student. Why would you risk everything you have here?"
Shuichi frowned. He wasn't sure if he wanted to answer that question. Finally he said, "I needed the money."
"I thought it would be something like that," the old lady beside him muttered. Then she raised her voice to address Koenma. "I told you, the boy's mother is ill. Likely he doesn't want to be a burden to her. As students aren't allowed to get a part-time job his options were limited."
"But, still, we simply can't allow this to slide," Koenma protested.
"I know. But we can take into account his record," Genkai said.
Shuichi glanced back and forth between them, hope stirring in his chest. He hadn't expected to be defended by anyone. He had expected to be expelled and sent home to his mother in disgrace.
Koenma looked thoughtful. "It would be a shame to lose such an exceptional student," he admitted and Shuichi knew he was thinking of the school's rankings, not Shuichi's welfare.
Seconds passed while Koenma remained silent. Genkai, too, was silent, waiting for the principal's decision.
"All right," he said finally, Sliding the phone across the papers and towards Shuichi. Several of the papers fluttered to the ground but Koenma didn't seem to notice. "You won't be expelled but we'll be keeping a very close eye on you, Mr. Minamino. One more foot wrong and you will be expelled. Your mother will have to be informed of this. Vice-Principal Genkai will handle your punishment."
"Thank you, sir," Shuichi said gratefully. He couldn't believe he'd gotten off so lightly.
Genkai glared at him. "Don't relax yet, boy. You haven't heard what your punishment will be yet."
Shuichi winced. He knew that Genkai was often tough on her students. She seemed to take a particular interest in Yusuke. The younger boy often referred to her as 'that old hag' and that was when he was being polite. Still, as long as he wasn't being expelled, Shuichi felt he could live with it.
"I'm very sorry for the trouble I've caused," he said to both of them.
"Are you?" Koenma asked doubtfully. The old lady only snorted.
"Meet me in my office tomorrow afternoon," she told him.
"Yes, ma'am," he said, retrieving his phone and putting it into his pocket. He resolved to keep a closer eye on it, and add a passcode.
"If I may ask, who turned my phone in?" he enquired.
Koenma gave him a stern look. "I think that it would be best if I didn't say," he answered.
Shuichi frowned, but decided not to push his luck. He'd used up far too much of it today as it was. He left the office, Botan waving cheerfully at him as he passed. He couldn't bring himself to return her farewell. He knew he would be getting a call from his mother in the very near future and he would have to explain himself to her. He hoped she wouldn't be too disappointed in him.
Yusuke was angry when Shuichi joined him and his girlfriend Keiko the next day for breakfast. Word had spread quickly through the school that Shuichi was Kurama and the faculty had caught him.
"I'm gonna beat up the bastard who dobbed you in," Yusuke said venomously.
Shuichi looked up from his bowl of cereal. "Please do not do so on my account. Things could have turned out a lot worse for me."
His mother had called him the night before and it had been a very difficult conversation for Shuichi. Hiei had, as soon as Shuichi's phone had rang, left the room so Shuichi could speak to her in private. Shuichi was grateful for the other boy's unexpected consideration. His mother had not been angry but had expressed disappointment in him, which was somehow worse. He knew his actions, however well-intentioned, had caused her more stress and that had been exactly what he'd been trying to avoid. After he'd hung up, he'd had a very sleepless night.
"Yusuke's just mad because now he has to do his own homework," Yusuke's girlfriend Keiko said. "Which he should have been doing from the start." She glared at him.
Yusuke waved a piece of toast at her. "Well, not all of us are geniuses like you and Shuichi here."
Irritated, Keiko swiped at his hand and he hurriedly retracted it, not wanting to lose his toast. "If you put some effort in you might be surprised by what you can achieve," she told him.
Yusuke rolled his eyes. "You sound like that old hag," he said.
"Well, maybe you should listen to her, then," Keiko snapped. She gathered up her tray and stood up. "Bye, Shuichi," she said, pointedly ignoring her boyfriend. She flounced away, skirt swaying. Yusuke watched her leave, obviously admiring the view.
Shuichi couldn't believe the two were a couple. They seemed like complete opposites. Keiko clearly saw something redeemable in Yusuke, though. She was unwilling to give up on him, no matter how many times he disappointed her.
"I'm still gonna kick that jerk's arse when I find out who it is," Yusuke told Shuichi.
Shuichi shook his head, knowing it was pointless arguing with Yusuke. Once he made up his mind to do something, he did it, for better or worse.
Yusuke stood and headed in the direction of the bins, followed by Shuichi. They both deposited their trash in the bins and set their trays on top.
"You gotta go see the old hag after class, right?" Yusuke asked. "Good luck, man."
"Thank you," Shuichi said. "I think I may need it."
Yusuke clapped him companionably on the shoulder before leaving him.
Vice-Principal Genkai's office was small. Her desk was much tidier than Koenma's, papers neatly stacked.
Shuichi was startled to see that another boy was already present when he arrived, seated in one of the chairs. He looked just as confused as Shuichi felt.
He had bleached hair styled into a pompadour and his frame was bulky. Shuichi was sure he'd seen the boy around but couldn't remember his name.
Genkai addressed the boy, gesturing at Shuichi as she did so. "This is Shuichi Minamino, top student and in his spare time, criminal mastermind."
Shuichi sighed. He felt that she was being a little overly dramatic.
"This," she said, turning towards Shuichi, "is Kazuma Kuwabara, who is currently flunking my science class."
The two boys looked each other over. "Hey, you're Urameshi's friend," Kuwabara said. "He never mentioned you were Kurama. I'm his roommate." He stuck out his hand and Shuichi shook it. His manner was friendly, contradicting his thug-like appearance.
Genkai cleared her throat and both boys turned back to her.
"Mr. Minamino, you will be tutoring Mr. Kuwabara for the next three weeks," she informed him. "If Mr. Kuwabara can pass his next science test without cheating, no further action regarding your recent misdemeanours will be taken and your record will remain clean."
Kuwabara looked alarmed. "But I'm terrible at science," he protested. "Even with Minamino helping me, I'll never pass."
Genkai frowned at him. "You might be surprised at what you can achieve if you actually bother to try," she told him.
Shuichi resisted the urge to laugh. It sounded very much like what Keiko had said to Yusuke that morning.
Shuichi thought it shouldn't be too hard to tutor Kuwabara. The boy was in the year below Shuichi, along with Yusuke, so he had already covered the material they would be going over.
"I'll do it," Shuichi said decisively.
"I know you will," Genkai said, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms. "Now get out of here," she ordered. Both boys rose, Kuwabara preceding Shuichi out the door. Shuichi felt relieved. His punishment wouldn't be so bad after all.
The next morning at breakfast, Yusuke joined Shuichi, looking smug. He was trailed by Kuwabara, something that had never happened before.
"Hey, Shuichi. Heard from this lug that you're gonna be tutoring him. Good luck with that. You'll need it," Yusuke informed him. "And by the way, I found out who turned you in," he added triumphantly. "It was that little weasel Kaito Yuu."
"Who?" Shuichi asked, puzzled.
"Arrogant little shit with glasses who's always trying to beat your test scores?" Yusuke asked. "He stole your phone while you were asleep at lunch."
Shuichi racked his brain. "Oh," he said suddenly. "Now I remember him." He didn't think he had ever said two words to the other boy. He had never made much of an effort to get to know his peers.
"I gave him a hell of a black eye," Yusuke said proudly.
"Yeah, and you got busted for it," Kuwabara told him.
That explained why Keiko wasn't accompanying Yusuke this morning. She was likely mad about Yusuke getting into another fight.
"The little snitch went whining to the teacher about it," Yusuke said. "Now I gotta join the old lady's martial arts club or get expelled."
Shuichi wasn't surprised that Yusuke was close to getting expelled. He got into fights on a regular basis and was regarded as a troublemaker by most of his teachers.
"It's not so bad," Kuwabara told him. "I was in it last year. It was fun."
Yusuke shrugged. "Too many rules for me, man. But Mum'll be furious with me if I get expelled so I suppose I have to do it."
"It might do you some good," Shuichi told him. He hoped Genkai knew what she was getting into. Yusuke was certain to be a difficult student, particularly if he had no interest in participating in the club.
Kuwabara's tutoring sessions went surprisingly well. Shuichi learned that he was, in fact, not stupid but lacked confidence. He didn't believe he could pass the test so he didn't really try.
They met every second afternoon, either in a spare classroom or Kuwabara's dorm room. Shuichi preferred the classroom, however, as Yusuke's presence was usually distracting. They never studied in Shuichi's room as Shuichi doubted his roommate would appreciate the intrusion.
Kuwabara and Yusuke's dorm room was much more untidy than Shuichi's. There were clothes tossed randomly around, particularly on Yusuke's side of the room. Empty wrappers and cans littered the floor. Kuwabara at least managed to make his bed every morning but Yusuke never bothered. The wall on Kuwabara's side of the room was covered in cat photos and posters, which Shuichi found a little disturbing.
During the course of tutoring Kuwabara, Shuichi learned more about him. He was very open about discussing his personal life. He told Shuichi that he had an older sister, who had practically raised him since their parents were mostly absent and he had a girlfriend named Yukina.
Yusuke had promptly refuted his statement regarding Yukina. "Dude, you've never even been on a date with her," he said.
Kuwabara glared at him. "You can't rush true love," he told Yusuke.
Yusuke tossed an empty soft drink can at his head. "You're not getting anywhere at all," he told Kuwabara. "You just follow her around making pathetic puppy-dog eyes. It's disgusting."
An argument ensued and Shuichi resigned himself to the fact that they wouldn't be getting much more done that day. He personally thought that the way Kuwabara talked about Yukina was sweet. He always had nice things to say about her, unlike Yusuke, who frequently complained about Keiko.
Shuichi sat back in his chair. He'd just shut down his laptop and stacked his notebooks into a neat pile. He was now staring out at the dusky sky beyond the window, wondering what to do next.
"Yes. Now that I'm not doing anyone else's work, I seem to have some free time," he said.
"Why don't you go spend it with your friends?" Hiei asked.
Shuichi turned to him. "If you want me to leave, just say so. I won't be offended."
Hiei glared at him from his position lying on his bed on his back. "That's not it," he said bluntly. "I wasn't trying to get rid of you. It was just a suggestion."
"You could always join us," Shuichi said, a little hopefully, though he doubted the stand-offish boy would accept the invitation.
"No, thanks," Hiei said, returning to his book.
"They are really nice people," Shuichi pressed. "Yusuke's a little rough but means well and Kuwabara's really quite nice. He likes cats and he has a girlfriend named Yukina, who sounds very sweet."
Hiei froze, but Shuichi went on obliviously.
"I think she's in our year and she's friends with Keiko, Yusuke's girlfriend. I'm sure once you met them-"
Shuichi almost fell off his chair as Hiei vaulted off the bed in a move so fast that it would have impressed Shuichi if it hadn't scared the crap out of him. Hiei's hand fisted in Shuichi's collar, holding the terrified teenager in place.
"What was her name?" he demanded, voice grating harshly.
Shuichi gulped. "Who?" he asked carefully, hoping not to anger his roommate further.
"The girlfriend," Hiei snapped.
"Keiko?" Shuichi asked. "Or, did you mean, Yukina?"
"Yukina." Hiei snarled at him. "Is one of those idiots dating Yukina?"
"Ah, yes, I think so," Shuichi said uncertainly. "Why?"
Hiei suddenly paled, releasing Shuichi and striding towards the door. "Forget about it," he muttered as he left, slamming the door behind him.
"Wait!" Shuichi called but it was already too late. He stared at the closed door, very puzzled by his roommate's behaviour. This sort of outburst was very out-of-character for the solitary boy. Shuichi resolved to get to the bottom of it, though he suspected it would take a while. Hiei wasn't the sort of person to open up easily.
Hiei did not return to their room until very late. Shuichi heard his roommate getting into bed but chose not to say anything, not sure if Hiei was still upset with him.
The next morning, Shuichi was surprised when Hiei accompanied him out of the dorms. Hiei walked beside him, offering no explanation for his strange behaviour.
Shuichi was greeted by Yusuke and Kuwabara, who were on their way to breakfast as well. He introduced them to Hiei.
"This is Yusuke Urameshi and Kazuma Kuwabara," he said. "I told you about them last night."
Hiei turned a baleful glare on Kuwabara. "You're that idiot who said you were dating Yukina, right?" he asked.
"I am dating Yukina," Kuwabara stated. He suddenly leapt back, startled when Hiei launched a punch at his face. Hiei was so fast that he only barely managed to dodge.
"Hiei!" Shuichi yelped, horrified. Yusuke had stepped back, giving the boys more room and grinning as they glared at each other.
"What's your problem, runt?" Kuwabara demanded. "I ain't ever done anything to you."
"Shut up and stay away from Yukina," Hiei demanded.
"What's it to you?" Kuwabara snapped. "You can't tell me who I can talk to."
Hiei lunged towards Kuwabara again but Kuwabara blocked his punch.
"Go for it, Kuwabara," Yusuke cheered.
"Yusuke, I don't think you should be encouraging them," Shuichi said, disapprovingly.
"Stop that right now!" A voice snapped from Shuichi's left. He looked to see Genkai standing there,glaring at the two boys.
"Get to breakfast," she said, "If this happens again both of you will be cleaning toilets all afternoon!"
The combatants glared at each other while Yusuke muttered, "Damn, you old hag. You always ruin our fun."
Genkai gave Yusuke a pointed look. "I'll see you this afternoon, dimwit," she said to him.
"Yeah, yeah, for that stupid club thing. Right, whatever," Yusuke said carelessly.
Hiei turned and stormed off, ignoring everyone entirely.
"What's his problem?" Kuwabara asked Shuichi.
"I don't know," Shuichi admitted. "But it seems to be centered around Yukina."
"I can't picture my sweet Yukina having anything to do with a violent little shrimp like that," Kuwabara protested.
Yusuke rolled his eyes. "You realise that you barely know anything about her, right?" he asked. He looked as if he already knew it was a lost cause.
"She's way too nice to be friends with someone like him," Kuwabara said.
"He is not that bad," Shuichi protested but Yusuke spoke over him.
"Maybe he's got a thing for Yukina," Yusuke suggested.
Shuichi had considered the possibility himself. It seemed to fit.
"No way, man," Kuwabara argued. "She'd never date somebody that nasty."
"Keep telling yourself that, but girls like the bad boys," Yusuke said. "Why do you think Keiko likes me?"
"Well, I had wondered," Shuichi muttered. Yusuke heard him and grinned at him, throwing an arm around his shoulders.
"Just stick with me, man," he told Shuichi. "I'll help you get a girlfriend in no time."
Shuichi tried to wriggle out from under Yusuke's arm but Yusuke wouldn't let him. He found himself stumbling through the door of the cafeteria with Yusuke's arm around his shoulders and Kuwabara laughing behind them.
Kuwabara looked shiftily around when he and Yusuke joined Shuichi for breakfast the next morning.
"Is that little shrimp with you?" he asked Shuichi.
"No. Not today," Shuichi answered.
Yusuke snickered. "You scared of him, man?" he asked. "You know, he's in Genkai's club and as much as I hate to admit it, he's actually pretty good."
"Well, I can take him," Kuwabara said confidently. "There's no way he's better than me."
"Wouldn't be so sure about that," Yusuke muttered. Kuwabara glared at him.
"How did your club meeting go?" Shuichi asked curiously.
"Why? Thinking of joining, Red?" Yusuke asked.
Shuichi hastily shook his head. "I'm afraid I don't have the time. I have exams coming up soon."
"Don't remind me," Kuwabara moaned. "That damn science test..."
"You will do fine," Shuichi assured him. Shuichi was confident that Kuwabara could pass the test if he put the work in, but Kuwabara still had trouble believing it.
"Looks like I'm going to be busy, too," Yusuke said. "The old hag said that there's some kind of tournament coming up in a few weeks. I'm gonna enter and I'm gonna do better than that little shit, Hiei."
"Well, I'm not sure I approve of your motivation," Shuichi said, "But I hope you do well anyway."
"Thanks, Shuichi," Yusuke said. "You'll cheer me on, right?"
"Definitely," Shuichi assured him.
Hiei was in his room when Shuichi returned from classes. He dropped his bag onto his desk and sat down on his bed.
"Good afternoon," he said to Hiei, but the other boy only grunted in reply.
Shuichi decided to brave a question. "Will you be entering the martial arts tournament like Yusuke?"
Hiei glanced at him. "Yes," he said.
"Okay, then," Shuichi said. "Good luck."
"Save your well-wishes for your friend," Hiei told him. "This tournament won't be a walk in the park. The other school has won the last two. And they aren't particularly picky about how they win as long as they do. In previous years, fighters from other teams have mysteriously dropped out of the tournaments involving this school. You should warn your friend to be careful."
"Shouldn't you be careful too?" Shuichi asked worriedly.
"I can look after myself," Hiei snapped.
Shuichi bit his lip, knowing his next words likely wouldn't be received well. "And Yukina?" he asked.
Hiei sat up, his face stormy. "Keep your prying nose out of it, fox," he ordered.
Shuichi raised his hands. "I didn't mean anything by it," he assured him. Hiei did not look convinced.
Shuichi moved to his desk and started to remove the books he would need for his homework from his bag. He sat down and opened the first book, finding his math notes. After several minutes of working, and silence from Hiei, he asked, "Fox?"
"It's the hair," Hiei mumbled. "Looks like a fox's tail."
Shuichi laughed. "Should I cut it?" he asked, wondering what his roommate's opinion would be.
"Do what you like," Hiei said to his book.
"Well, that's not helpful," Shuichi said, a little put out. He returned to his math homework.
Suddenly his phone buzzed and he picked it up. He'd received a text message from Yusuke. He read it and then glanced over at Hiei.
"Yusuke and Kuwabara have invited me over to their dorm tomorrow night, since it is Saturday," he said.
"So?" Hiei asked.
"Would you like to come with me?" Shuichi asked.
"Why would I want to do that?" Hiei questioned.
"Because Keiko and Yukina will be there," Shuichi said. "I thought you might like to see Yukina."
"Do you meddle in everyone's lives or just mine?" Hiei demanded. "I thought I already made myself clear. Let me put it bluntly. Butt out."
"Okay, okay," Shuichi said. "But the offer's still open if you change your mind."
"I can't put up with this," Hiei muttered. He left the room, book tucked under his arm.
Shuichi smiled as he left. He was finding that he enjoyed irritating his roommate just a little. He had been intimidated by him when they first met but that was rapidly fading. He suspected that Hiei wasn't as nasty as most people believed him to be. Perhaps Shuichi wasn't the only one hiding behind a mask.
Much to Shuichi's surprise, Hiei did accompany him to Yusuke's dorm room the next afternoon.
"I'm only coming because that delinquent will probably have alcohol," Hiei told him.
"You're out of luck," Shuichi informed him. "Keiko won't let him have alcohol on campus."
"Damn," Hiei muttered. But he continued to follow Shuichi.
When they arrived, Kuwabara didn't look pleased to see Hiei, though Yusuke didn't mind. Shuichi introduced Hiei to everyone. It was immediately apparent to him that Yukina had not met Hiei yet. Hiei stayed on the opposite side of the room from where she sat with Keiko.
Yukina was short, like Hiei and her eyes were a similar colour, but there the similarities ended. Where Hiei's hair was dark and spiked up, hers was a lovely shade of green, tied back with a ribbon. Shuichi wondered if she dyed it. She was just as sweet as Kuwabara had said she was.
Shuichi had been hoping that Hiei would talk to her but instead he mostly ignored her, in favour of tossing mild insults at Kuwabara and occasionally Yusuke. Kuwabara was incensed, but Yusuke seemed in good humour, bantering back and forth with Hiei. He looked like he was actually enjoying himself.
Shuichi sat with the girls. He tentatively asked Yukina about her home life. She told him that she and her twin brother had been put up for adoption as babies. They had both been adopted by different couples and she hoped to find her brother one day.
"I'm sure you will find him," Shuichi assured her. "Perhaps he is looking for you as well."
"Oh, I hope so," Yukina said wistfully.
Someone coughed and Shuichi glanced over to Yusuke's side of the room. He met a pair of glaring crimson eyes. Hiei abruptly stood up and left the room.
"Hey, where you going, shrimp?" Yusuke called after him.
"None of your business," Hiei said just before the door closed behind him.
"He's a little strange," Keiko said. "Are you sure he's all right, Shuichi?"
"Yes, he's just a bit shy," Shuichi said. "He doesn't like crowds much."
"Oh, well, it's good that you're helping him make friends, then," Keiko said.
Shuichi didn't want to admit that he had only invited Hiei to satisfy his own curiosity. He simply nodded, long hair falling to cover his face.
"He must be lonely," Yukina said quietly.
"Nah," Yusuke said airily. "He's just antisocial. He likes it that way."
"I'm not so sure about that," Shuichi said, thoughtfully. "I think Yukina may have it right."
"Well, you'd know best, man. You're sleeping with him, after all," Yusuke said, a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
Kuwabara spat out his mouthful of Coke. He coughed and spluttered.
Keiko and Yukina both stared at Shuichi in surprise.
"Really?" Keiko asked, one eyebrow raised. "Not that there's anything wrong with that, but..."
Shuichi began frantically shaking his head, his face bright red. "No, no, it's not like that at all," he exclaimed.
Yusuke slid off the bed and onto the floor, laughing. Shuichi picked up Kuwabara's pillow and threw it at him. Yusuke threw it back and an impromptu pillow fight began. Even the girls got involved, tossing whatever they could grab at Yusuke and Kuwabara.
"Hey, this isn't fair," Yusuke protested. "It's three on two."
"But two of the team members are girls," Kuwabara pointed out.
Keiko glared at him and he gulped. "Are you saying girls can't hit as hard as boys?" she demanded.
Yusuke immediately took a very large step away from Kuwabara. "You're on your own, man," he informed him.
"I-I'm sorry," Kuwabara said quickly. "I didn't mean it like that."
"Good, because girls can hit as hard as boys," Keiko told him.
"That one can, anyway," Yusuke muttered.
Shuichi looked over at Yukina to find her smiling. It suddenly occurred to him that he'd never seen Hiei smile. He wondered what the other boy's life had been like, to make him the way he was. Yukina had been very fortunate to end up with a loving family.
Though why he should think of Hiei while looking at Yukina, he didn't know.
For the next two weeks Shuichi continued to tutor Kuwabara in science. The morning of the test came and Kuwabara was a nervous wreck at breakfast.
"What if I don't pass?" he wailed. "I know my sister will be so mad at me."
Yusuke clapped him on the shoulder. "It's just a test, man. It's not the end of the world if you fail."
Keiko glared at him over her glass of juice. "He's not going to fail like you," she informed him. "Kuwabara has put so much work into this. I know he'll pass."
"Of course," Yukina agreed from her seat beside Keiko.
"We've covered everything you need to know," Shuichi assured him. "Just relax and you'll do fine."
"Yeah, I guess," Kuwabara muttered.
"If you pass, we're gonna have to celebrate with a party," Yusuke said. "And if you fail, we're still gonna have a party."
"That makes no sense," Hiei scoffed from the end of the table beside Shuichi. Shuichi had no idea why Hiei had decided to join them for breakfast but it had become a regular thing. It had started right around the time Yukina began accompanying Keiko. He rarely contributed anything to their conversations, however, unless it was to insult someone.
"Well, you don't have to come, shrimp. It's got nothing to do with you," Yusuke retorted.
"When is the test, anyway?" Shuichi asked. He and Hiei were not in the same year as the rest of the group so he didn't know what period they had science.
"Third period," Keiko told him. "Yukina and I have to take it as well."
"Good luck to all of you, then," Shuichi said.
Yukina smiled at him. "Thanks, Shuichi," she said.
"All this fuss over one little test." Yusuke yawned, covering his mouth as he did so. "It's no big deal."
"Some of us actually care about our schoolwork," Keiko snapped at him.
"I've got more important things to do," Yusuke said. "Like practice for that tournament."
"Well, I'm pleased to see that you are actually taking something seriously for once," Shuichi told him. "Even if it isn't your schoolwork."
"Those bastards we're up against are arrogant pricks. They need to be taken down a peg or two," Yusuke told him.
Looking up from his bowl of cereal, Hiei said, "I agree," surprising everyone.
"Glad we're on the same page, short stuff," Yusuke said. During the last two weeks Shuichi had noticed that Yusuke seemed to get along well with Hiei despite his terrible attitude. The two of them seemed to have something of an understanding, though Shuichi couldn't make sense of it. He wouldn't call them 'friends' exactly but it seemed they weren't enemies. In fact, they seemed to enjoy needling each other.
The bell rang and everyone stood up, preparing to leave for class.
"Let's meet for lunch?" Keiko suggested.
"Can't," Yusuke said. "I'm training in the gym."
"You really are taking this seriously," Keiko observed. She sounded as though she wasn't sure whether to be happy about that or not.
After saying goodbye Shuichi left the group to attend his own classes. Hiei had already left as soon as the bell rang. They were in different classes so Shuichi was unlikely to see him again until the evening.
Two days later Kuwabara's class received their test results. Shuichi was sitting at his usual table eating his lunch and working on his homework when he was suddenly grabbed from behind, arms wrapping around his chest. He let out a startled cry and dropped his pen.
"I did it," a voice exclaimed, far too loudly in Shuichi's opinion. His pen rolled under the table.
"That's great," Shuichi choked out. "Can you let me go now, please?"
"Oh, right. Sorry, man."
Shuichi was released and he breathed a sigh of relief.
"Congratulations," he told Kuwabara, who was practically hopping from foot to foot in his excitement. He ducked under the table to retrieve his pen.
As he rose, he heard Yusuke say, "Anyone would think he'd won the lottery."
"Shut up, Urameshi," Kuwabara said to him. "You barely passed."
"He passed, too?" Shuichi asked in surprise, retaking his seat.
"Yeah." Yusuke rubbed the back of his head, looking embarrassed. "Maybe listening to you guys studying in the dorm room helped?"
Shuichi laughed. "Keiko must be thrilled."
Yusuke frowned. "She accused me of cheating," he said flatly.
"Can you blame her?" Kuwabara asked. "You've never passed before."
"Yeah, but I didn't cheat," Yusuke protested. He sat down beside Shuichi and Kuwabara sat down on his other side. Shuichi sighed. He liked sitting alone so he could finish his homework early but it seemed like that wouldn't be possible anymore. Still, it was nice to have company. He closed his books and turned his full attention on his friends.
Yusuke did have the party he'd promised and Keiko didn't argue, no doubt happy that Yusuke had passed the test. Yusuke had convinced Genkai to tell Keiko that he hadn't cheated and Keiko seemed satisfied to take the old woman at her word. Yukina also attended, as well as Hiei. Once again, he kept his distance from Yukina, speaking with her only when she addressed him directly. Shuichi noticed that he was always polite to her.
Back at their dorm room after the party, Shuichi decided to push Hiei a little.
"Why don't you talk to her?" he asked as Hiei gathered a set of clothes for his shower.
"Who?" Hiei asked, not even glancing at him.
"Yukina," Shuichi said from his position lying on his bed.
Crimson eyes turned to glare at him. "Fox," was all he said before leaving the room. Shuichi sighed in exasperation. Hiei had gotten into the habit of calling Shuichi 'fox' every time he thought the redhead was sticking his nose where it didn't belong. When it came to finding out why Hiei was interested in Yukina, Shuichi kept hitting a brick wall. It was very frustrating.
Warning: This chapter contains rape. Please don't read if this makes you uncomfortable.
The next evening, Shuichi was returning to his dorm from the library. He'd been there late, finishing an assignment. Technically, the librarian should have kicked him out with the other students an hour and a half ago but she let him stay because he was a good student.
The school grounds were dim and poorly lit at night but Shuichi knew the way well though he couldn't help but shiver as the trees cast eerie shadows over the ground.
The sound of leaves crunching behind him made him tense, but Shuichi immediately disregarded it. It was probably another student, though it was late and most students should be in the dorms. Nonetheless, he quickened his pace.
When the footsteps behind him also picked up their pace, Shuichi felt a knot of fear coil in his stomach. Again, he tried to push it aside.
Feeling silly, Shuichi spun around, intending to confront whoever was behind him. Suddenly, he felt something hard impact his left cheek. He stumbled back and fell onto the grass. Before he could get to his feet, a hand grabbed his hair and pulled his head back. Something hard was pressed into his chin.
“Don’t scream,” a cold voice said. “Just do what I tell you.” Looming over Shuichi was a tall, dark figure whose face was covered with a balaclava. Only his eyes were visible. Leather gloves covered his hands.
“W-what do you want?” Shuichi stammered. He knew that the object pressing into his chin was a gun. He was terrified.
“Are you going to behave?” the man asked.
“Y-yes,” Shuichi said, sure he didn’t have a choice. His mind was racing, trying to formulate a plan to extract himself from this situation but he kept coming up empty. Cooperation seemed like his only option.
“Good.” Suddenly the man whipped the gun across Shuichi’s face, making him cry out in shock and pain. “Remember what that feels like. You’ll get far worse if you try anything.”
Shuichi stared up at the man through eyes blurred with tears. He knew he was in serious trouble.
The man tucked the gun into his jacket pocket. To Shuichi’s horror, he then began to undo his pants.
Shuichi shook his head. “No, no,” he said. He wanted to move away but he was too scared.
“Shhh.” The man patted his head. “Such pretty hair. Just like blood.” He ran his hand through Shuichi’s thick red hair. Shuichi whimpered.
"What's your name, boy?" the man asked.
Shuichi didn't want to give him his real name. "Kurama," he said. It was the only thing he could think of.
“Open your mouth, Kurama,” the man ordered, his tone now stern.
Shuichi briefly considered disobeying but then realized that doing so would probably only bring him further pain. Obediently he opened his mouth.
The man brought his member to Shuichi’s lips and pushed in. He gripped Shuichi’s hair, using it to keep him from pulling back.
“Suck it, boy,” he said roughly.
Shuichi choked around him and the man moaned. He worked himself in and out of Shuichi’s mouth in a steady rhythm.
With the hand not holding Shuichi in place, the man then pulled out a phone, holding it out. Shuichi stared up at it in wide-eyed horror. The man’s moans got louder as he increased his pace.
Black spots began to gather in Shuichi’s vision as he fought for air. Tears were spilling freely down his cheeks and he knew he wouldn’t be able to stay conscious for much longer.
The man didn’t seem to be aware of Shuichi’s difficulty. He continued to push in and out of Shuichi’s mouth. Finally, it became too much for the redhead and he passed out.
Shuichi didn’t know how long he remained unconscious but when he woke, his mind felt fuzzy. He didn’t know where he was or what was happening. He could feel something large pushing inside him. It moved back and forth, the sensation it caused strange and new to Shuichi. Every time it hit a certain spot deep inside him a jolt of pleasure went through his body. He moaned helplessly with each thrust.
However, there was a horrible taste in his mouth and his face felt wet and sticky. He slowly became aware that he was lying on his back on the grass, legs spread and knees raised, the dark-clad man between them. Fear gripped him.
“S-stop, stop, ah...” Despite the pleasure he felt, Shuichi still tried to protest. He didn’t want this. He’d never had sex before and he was horrified that his first sexual experience would be with a man and against his will.
The man didn’t respond verbally. Instead, he quickened his pace, pushing deeper into Shuichi. Then he wrapped one gloved hand around Shuichi’s member and started to roughly jerk him off. To his horror, his body refused to obey his mind and rocked in time to the man’s thrusts, his moans growing louder as the pressure inside him built to an intolerable level.
“You like that, don’t you, Kurama?” the man above him moaned. “You want it, you little whore.”
Finally Shuichi couldn’t hold back anymore and he came all over himself, crying out as he did.
Ashamed of his body’s reaction and humiliated, Shuichi could only lay there as the man’s movements grew more forceful and his rhythm unsteady. The obscene sounds coming from the man’s mouth made Shuichi want to throw up. All he could do was pray for the nightmare to end. Tears were rolling unchecked down his face and his nose had begun to run.
Eventually, the man stilled inside Shuichi, a warm, wet substance filling him.
“Good boy, Kurama,” The man’s tone was approving as he rose from Shuichi and did up his pants, much to Shuichi’s relief. He prayed it was over, but his hopes were shattered a moment later when the man straddled him again. He pulled something from his belt and it gleamed menacingly in the dim light.
Shuichi began to thrash violently under the man, certain he was about to die. A sharp slap to his face made him freeze.
“I’m not going to kill you, Kurama,” the man snapped at him. “Just hold still. I’m sure you don’t want to lose an eye.”
The man put one hand over Shuichi’s mouth and brought the knife to his face. He slowly cut into Shuichi’s cheek. Shuichi sobbed into the man’s hand. It hurt so much.
The man’s hand left Shuichi’s mouth and the knife was tucked away out of sight again. “Don’t bother going to the police,” he told Shuichi. “They won’t believe you didn’t want it. Not after they see the video of you cumming all over yourself.”
The man stood and pulled out his phone again. Shuichi turned his face away, squeezing his eyes shut.
“Look at me, you little whore,” the man snapped angrily. Shuichi didn’t want to but he remembered that the man still had the gun so he turned his head back, blinking up at the dark figure standing over him. In that moment, to Shuichi, he looked like a demon sent from hell. After a few seconds that seemed like an eternity to Shuichi, there was a bright flash that blinded him and then the man tucked the phone back into his pocket.
“I need you to do one more thing for me, Kurama,” he said, and Shuichi started to shake in terror. “Tell your friends not to compete in the tournament.”
Tournament? Shuichi couldn’t figure out what kind of connection this had with the tournament. It didn’t seem logical.
Without another word, the man melted into the darkness.
Shuichi lay on the grass for some time, sniffling and sobbing quietly. The cool night breeze caressed his bare sweaty skin and made him shiver. Finally, he found the strength to rise and assess the damage.
His face was wet with tears, blood, snot and another substance he didn’t want to think about. It was also in his hair, which was tangled and damp with sweat.
He found his clothes nearby where the man must have thrown them while undressing Shuichi. He pulled them on with relief.
He had no idea how he would get back to the dorms when he was in so much pain but eventually he made it. He was relieved not to meet anyone on his way to the bathroom. He didn't want one of his classmates to see his poor state and inform the faculty, who would then call his mother. The thought of his mother finding out what had happened made his stomach twist.
He considered going to his room to get a change of clothes but the thought that Hiei might still be awake kept him from risking it.
He showered, trying to tidy himself up as much as possible. The warm water helped sooth his pains. It did nothing to lessen the pain in his face, however. The water running down the drain was tinged with red. When he got out of the shower, his hair was still a tangled, damp mess but there was nothing he could do about it, as he didn’t have a hairbrush. He dried himself off and dressed again, then made his way back to his room. For some reason he didn’t understand, he couldn’t stop shaking.
He made it to his room, hoping that Hiei would be asleep already and he could get into bed without facing him. He could crawl under his covers and sleep. Hopefully, some rest would help with the soreness.
It seemed he was out of luck. Hiei was laying on his bed, beneath the covers and reading a book. Without looking up from his book, he said, "Where the hell have you been?"
Shuichi made it to his bed, praying Hiei would not look at him but when he received no answer the dark haired boy looked up from his book.
"Shit," he said. "What the hell happened to you?" He tossed his book onto his desk and threw the covers back. Shuichi collapsed onto his bed. He heard Hiei's footsteps cross the room to his side.
"You okay? You're shaking," the other boy said.
Shuichi still couldn't answer. He was certain that if he did he would burst into tears again and not be able to stop crying.
"Shit," Hiei said again. "What happened to your face? I'll get a teacher."
Panicked, Shuichi twisted around to grab his arm.
"Ow!" Hiei yelped, and Shuichi realised he'd held on too tight. He loosened his grip a little.
"Don't be stupid," Hiei told him. "You're hurt."
"No," Shuichi whispered hoarsely. "They'll call my mother."
"Seriously?" Hiei demanded incredulously. "That's what you're worried about?"
Shuichi's grip tightened desperately on his arm again.
"Okay, okay, just let go," Hiei complained. "I won't get a teacher."
Satisfied, Shuichi released his arm and Hiei helped Shuichi into a more comfortable position on the bed. After that he rose and began rummaging around in the bottom drawer of his dresser. He came up with what looked like a first aid kit. He brought it over to the bed and opened it.
At Shuichi's questioning look he said, "Sometimes I get hurt in training so I keep this in my room."
Hiei turned Shuichi's face in an attempt to see the cut. His touch was gentle.
"Damn, I need more light," he said, rising and turning the light switch on before returning to Shuichi. He gently wiped the blood from the cut and examined it critically.
"That's weird," he said. "It looks like a 'K'."
Shuichi couldn't help the small sob that escaped his lips. Hiei rubbed Shuichi's shoulder in a soothing manner.
Finally he said, "You're a lucky bastard. I don't think it needs stitches, but you might end up with a scar."
He began to clean the cut in earnest, Shuichi whimpering at the sting of the antiseptic.
"Don't be a baby," Hiei told him. He put a bandage over the cut. "What are you going to tell everyone tomorrow?"
"You're going to tell them that I'm sick," Shuichi informed him. "Preferably with something contagious."
Hiei stared at him incredulously. "There's no way you'll get away with that," he speculated.
"We'll see," Shuichi said tiredly.
"Come on. Let's get you into some more comfortable clothes." Hiei reached for Shuichi's shirt only for the teenager to jerk away in fear.
"No!" he said desperately. Hiei pulled back, surprised.
"You're going to sleep in your uniform?" he asked doubtfully.
Shuichi turned his face away from him, refusing to answer.
"What happened?" Hiei demanded suspiciously. "Who did this? You need to tell someone."
"No," Shuichi mumbled. "Just mind your own business and let me sleep."
Hiei sighed and Shuichi felt his weight leave the bed. He took the first aid box with him. Shuichi heard the drawer shut as he put it back.
Almost immediately after, Shuichi felt a hand on his shoulder. He tensed up.
"Up," Hiei said. "You're not sleeping on top of the covers. And for God's sake, take your shoes off."
Shuichi eased himself off the bed and Hiei pulled the covers back. Shuichi sat on the bed and bent to remove his shoes and socks, moaning in pain as he did so. Hiei knelt by his feet and assisted him. With his shoes now off, Shuichi crawled gratefully back onto the bed and reached to pull the covers over him. Hiei beat him to it, tucking them around him. Shuichi rolled to face the wall and curled up under the warm blanket.
A moment later, the lights went out, first the overhead light, then the lamp on Hiei's desk, plunging the room into darkness.
"Wake me if you need anything," Hiei said to him as he climbed into his own bed. Shuichi didn't answer. Instead, he waited until he heard Hiei's breaths even out into sleep and then he cried quietly into his pillow.
Hiei was not in the room when Shuichi woke the next morning. The sun streamed through the partially open window, bathing the room in light. Shuichi knew he'd slept late. He found that his body still hurt but not as much as it had last night.
When Shuichi crawled out of bed he discovered that a note sat on his desk.
I'll get your classwork. Call me if you need anything.
Beneath the scrawled words Hiei had written his phone number. Shuichi gathered a change of clothes and headed for the bathroom. The hall was thankfully empty, the rest of the students having gone to class.
Shuichi had a long, hot shower. The scents of his shampoo and soap were heavenly. When he finally felt clean he toweled himself off and put on his clothes. Since he had no intention of going to class today he put on casual jeans and a comfortably loose t-shirt.
He waited until he got back to his room to brush his hair. When he finished, it was still damp but he decided to leave it alone.
He considered going to the kitchen for something to eat but the thought of running into someone along the way made him dismiss the idea. He decided that he really wasn't that hungry. He didn't want to go back to bed either. He needed a distraction.
He sat down at his desk and opened his laptop. Then he did something he reasoned that he should have done some time ago. He put his roommate's name into the search engine of his internet browser.
He wasn't surprised when he received no information of use. The only articles that came up were from the last year and related to Hiei's achievements in martial arts. Yukina's name brought up her social media account. To Shuichi, it seemed like a typical teenage girl's account. There were photos of Yukina with her friends but Hiei was not in any of them. He was not even mentioned at all. Shuichi was amused to note, however, that Kuwabara was in some of the photos, something that would no doubt infuriate Hiei.
He closed the laptop with a disappointed sigh. That had been a waste of time.
The creak of the door opening behind him made Shuichi jump. He twisted around in his chair to see Hiei entering the room. He approached Shuichi and set a bottle of pills and a water bottle on the desk.
"Painkillers," he said. "Don't be stupid and overdose on them."
Shuichi didn't know whether to glare at him or thank him. He settled for both. Hiei made a face at him, indicating that he wasn't pleased with Shuichi's response. Shuichi wondered where Hiei got the painkillers from. Had he gone to the pharmacy that day? He would have had to skip class to make the trip.
"Rather unbelievably, the teachers are actually buying your crap story," Hiei informed him. "Though I don't think it'll last longer than a few days."
"That's good enough," Shuichi said with relief. He removed a tablet from the pill bottle and took a gulp of the water, swallowing the tablet down.
"You do have another problem, however," Hiei continued. Shuichi looked up in alarm.
"Well-meaning friends," Hiei said, scrunching up his face. "I don't think the contagious part will be enough to hold them off for long."
"I'd appreciate it if you'd try to keep them away," Shuichi said. "Tell them I'm sleeping or something."
Hiei frowned at him. "I'll try, but I don't think it will work. Kuwabara never listens to me and Yusuke never listens to anybody."
Shuichi stood from his chair and moved to his bed. "I guess I can't really do anything about it," he said. "Can you return some library books for me?"
"What do I look like? Your servant?" Hiei snapped. He turned on his heel and left the room. Shuichi chuckled quietly as the boy left. Hiei's kindness only went so far.
Shuichi read for a while until he felt his eyelids growing heavy. He set his book aside and let himself drift into darkness as the pill took effect.
Shuichi's sleep was dreamless thanks to the medication. When he woke he was surprised to hear soft voices in the room. He opened his eyes and turned his head, startled to find Yukina sitting in his desk chair. On his desk was a bento box. Hiei was standing just behind Yukina. He'd been speaking but broke off abruptly when Shuichi turned his head.
"Hello, Shuichi," Yukina said kindly. "How are you feeling?" Her smile seemed a little forced to Shuichi. He supposed his face still looked terrible.
"Not too bad, thank you," Shuichi responded. That was a bold-faced lie. The medication was making his head a little foggy. He wanted to go back to sleep.
"Everyone's been worried about you," she informed him. "I brought over some food since you haven't been to breakfast or lunch."
"Thank you very much," Shuichi said. "I actually am a little hungry."
'Little' was an understatement. Shuichi's stomach was uncomfortably empty.
Yukina rose from the chair. "I'd better leave and let you rest," she told him. "I hope you feel better soon."
"Thank you," Shuichi said again. She really was a very kind girl.
Hiei moved towards the door to open it for Yukina, a gesture that surprised Shuichi. It was something he never would have done for anyone else.
Seeing the two of them standing side-by-side, Shuichi was suddenly struck with how alike they looked. They had the same crimson eyes, the same bone structure and the same short stature. If it weren't for the different coloured hair, they could be twins. But Hiei was a grade above Yukina which had to mean that he was a year older, didn't it?
"Goodbye, Shuichi," Yukina said over her shoulder as she left the room.
"Goodbye, Yukina. And thank you again," Shuichi told her. Hiei closed the door behind her.
"She's an angel, isn't she?" Shuichi asked, sitting up and reaching for the bento box. He began to eagerly scarf down the contents with Hiei looking on disapprovingly.
"I had to tell her that you got into a fight," Hiei informed him. "Your face makes it sort of obvious. I asked her not to say anything about it to anyone else."
"Thank you," Shuichi said between mouthfuls. "Everyone will find out eventually, I imagine, but I'd like to delay it as long as I can."
"I have to go to the gym," Hiei said. "I'll bring you some dinner tonight but it'll probably be late."
Shuichi simply nodded, his mouth full of food.
"i'm not getting you meals tomorrow," Hiei added. "The sooner you get out and face people, the better. You can't hide in your room all day." He left the room, not waiting for a response from Shuichi.
Shuichi knew he was right. Sooner or later he would have to face the rest of the world. He just wasn't ready yet. Whenever he thought about walking down the hall with everyone staring at him his suddenly couldn't breathe. He felt as if they could all see his shame.
After finishing the contents of the bento he took more pills and went to sleep.
Shuichi was rudely awakened by a hand shaking his shoulder roughly. He buried his face in the pillow, mumbling a groggy and incoherent protest.
“Wake up, you idiot!” a familiar and unwelcome voice snapped at him. Shuichi raised his head to glare at his roommate. Sunlight streamed into the room and hurt his eyes. He moaned and buried his head back in the pillow.
“How many did you take?” Hiei demanded, yanking the covers off the redhead and pushing him onto his back. Shuichi didn’t understand what Hiei was so upset about. He just wanted to go back to sleep.
A sharp sting across his unbandaged cheek brought him fully awake. He cried out partly in shock and partly in pain. Hiei had slapped him.
“How many?” he demanded, picking up the bottle of painkillers and shaking them right in front of Shuichi’s face.
“Can’t remember,” Shuichi muttered. His mind was fuzzy and he couldn’t focus on anything.
“You stupid idiot,” Hiei seethed. “You slept all through last night and most of today. You’ve missed breakfast and lunch again.”
“Go away,” Shuichi mumbled and rolled to face the wall. He didn’t understand why Hiei was so upset and didn’t care.
“Goddammit,” Hiei muttered. Shuichi heard his footsteps retreating and he quickly sank back into sleep.
The next time Shuichi awoke it was to the sound of raised, angry voices.
“What the hell is your problem?” Shuichi heard Hiei’s voice demanding. He opened his eyes and rolled onto his back to see Hiei with his back to him, positioned between his bed and Yusuke. Thankfully for Shuichi’s sensitive eyes, it appeared to be evening and the room was dim.
“None of your business, shorty. Just get out of the way,” Yusuke snarled. Shuichi was surprised to see that the ordinarily friendly boy was actually angry. There was real venom in his voice. Yusuke roughly pushed Hiei aside and moved towards Shuichi. Shuichi felt himself curl up under the covers instinctively.
Yusuke loomed over him, his face a mask of fury. “What the hell did he mean?” he snapped at Shuichi.
Shuichi could only give an unintelligent “Huh?” in reply to Yusuke’s question. He had no idea what Yusuke was asking.
“He doesn’t know what you’re talking about.” Hiei’s tone was condescending, implying that he thought Yusuke was an idiot. “And neither do I.”
Yusuke glared at Hiei for a moment before taking a deep breath. Finally he said, “I ran into one of the guys from the other team competing in the tournament,” he said. “First he spewed some shit about how he’s gonna kick my arse in the tournament. Then he said something weird. He said, “Tell your friend Kurama I’m sorry. Karasu was never supposed to go that far.” Tell me what the fuck he means by that. What did he do to you?”
Shuichi swallowed hard. Yusuke’s expression was determined and Shuichi knew that he wasn’t leaving without an answer. But he still couldn’t bring himself to talk about it.
“Well?” Yusuke demanded.
“Nothing,” Shuichi finally said. “Nothing happened.”
“Bullshit,” Yusuke told him. “Your face is a mess.”
A surge of anger ran through Shuichi. He just wanted to be left alone. He didn’t need this. “It’s none of your business,” he snapped. “Leave me alone.”
Yusuke stepped back, clearly surprised by Shuichi’s uncharacteristically hostile response. Hiei grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the door.
“Hey,” Yusuke protested, trying to pull away. Hiei was undeterred.
“Outside,” he said, his tone firm. He shoved Yusuke out into the hall, following him and shutting the door behind them. Shuichi raised himself from the bed and searched his desk for the pills Hiei had left. He couldn’t find them. After two minutes of fruitless searching around and under his mounting pile of unfinished schoolwork, Hiei reentered the room and Shuichi rounded on him.
‘Where are the pills?” he demanded.
Crimson eyes glared up at him. “You don’t need them,” Hiei told him.
“Yes, I do,” Shuichi protested.
“No, you don’t,” Hiei said. “You can’t be responsible with them. You took too many last night.”
“Give them back,” Shuichi demanded, taking a step towards the smaller boy.
“No,” Hiei said flatly. Shuichi grabbed his shirt collar and pulled him up, almost off his feet. He shook him roughly.
“I need them,” he growled. Hiei’s expression didn’t change.
“Put me down,” he said, his voice calm and quiet, though a little breathless.
Shuichi suddenly realised what he was doing and released Hiei. He felt like throwing up. He moved unsteadily back to the bed and sat down heavily on it while Hiei straightened his uniform collar.
“I’m sorry,” Shuichi said quietly. He lowered his head, ashamed and unable to look at Hiei. He knew it wasn’t fair to take his negative feelings out on his friends.
Hiei did not acknowledge Shuichi’s apology. Instead, he said, “Yusuke’s gone to get you some dinner. Lay down and try to sleep. I’ll wake you when he gets back.” He turned away, settling on his own bed and taking his phone out, the screen casting an eerie light over his face.
Shuichi curled up on his bed, not bothering to pull the covers up. The thought that he didn’t deserve such good friends kept going around and around in his head.
Shuichi was not able to fall asleep so he sat up warily when Yusuke entered the room without knocking. He held a bag in his hand and the smell wafting from it almost made Shuichi drool. He’d been missing too many meals lately.
Yusuke seemed just as wary of Shuichi as Shuichi was of him.
“Hey,” he said, a little uncertainly, shoving the bag at Shuichi. Shuichi took it gratefully.
“Thanks,” he said quietly.
“Yeah. No problem.” Yusuke’s manner was subdued and Shuichi wondered what Hiei had told him to change his mood so drastically.
Shuichi opened the bag to reveal french fries and chicken. He bit his lip to keep from smiling. Of course Yusuke’s idea of a good dinner would be fast food.
“Look,” Yusuke started and Shuichi looked up at him. From across the room he could see that Hiei was watching them though he still held his phone. He was frowning, his expression dark. His eyes kept traveling between Shuichi and the phone in his hand.
“You’re right, it’s not my business,” Yusuke said. “But you need to tell someone, man.”
When Shuichi opened his mouth to respond unfavourably, Yusuke raised his hand.
“I’m not gonna hassle you,” he said. “I won’t mention it again. “I just wanted to tell you that.”
Shuichi nodded, relieved that Yusuke had decided to back off.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Yusuke said and quickly left the room, clearly uncomfortable.
“He’s got good advice, for once,” Hiei said quietly from across the room. He was still frowning.
“Shut up,” Shuichi mumbled around a mouthful of chicken.
“Don’t speak with your mouth full,” Hiei admonished him.
Shuichi swallowed then stuck his tongue out at his roommate. Hiei rolled his eyes and Shuichi thought he might be amused, but then he glanced back down at the phone and Shuichi saw his face twist into an expression of distaste.
“What’s wrong?” Shuichi asked him, concerned.
“Nothing,” Hiei responded. “Just eat your dinner.”
“Fine,” Shuichi muttered. He supposed it wasn’t right to pry at that moment since he’d been telling everyone to mind their own business all day. He went back to his meal.
Hiei had known this would be a bad night for Shuichi. He had taken away the boy's painkillers so when the redhead woke him at three in the morning, moaning and thrashing under the covers, Hiei wasn't surprised.
"Ah, please," Shuichi whimpered pitifully. It was plain to Hiei that he was reliving the events of Wednesday night, or some twisted variation of. Despite the fact that Shuichi had shared no details, Hiei knew more about those events than Shuichi suspected.
After Yusuke had barged in and mentioned someone named Karasu, Hiei had put that name coupled with the 'K' cut on Shuichi's cheek into the search bar of his phone's browser. He had been horrified to discover the results. The bastard had posted explicit photos of Shuichi online. Hiei had felt dirty just looking at them, and terrible for his new friend. He had decided not to tell Shuichi, as the student seemed to be having a hard enough time coping as it was. His mood see-sawed between almost normal and then depressed or angry. Hiei tried to be understanding but he had no idea what the redhead would do from moment to moment.
The only other person who was aware of the website’s existence was Yusuke. Hiei had met him after Shuichi had fallen asleep that night and told him what he’d discovered. He had also informed him that fast food was not an appropriate dinner for someone who had been skipping meals.
"Mmmm, no," Shuichi moaned, body rocking under the covers. His long hair fanned out over the pillow as he twisted his head from side to side. His green eyes were squeezed shut and his lips were parted.
Hiei stood from his bed and moved over to Shuichi. He wasn't sure what to do. He'd heard that you shouldn't wake a dreaming person. But Shuichi certainly wasn't enjoying this dream.
Shuichi suddenly arched, crying out, "Ahhh!" Hiei almost jumped out of his skin as he saw his roommate's eyes fly open, wide with panic and terror.
Hiei didn't attempt to touch the redhead. Instead he said, "Shuichi?" in a tone he hoped was calming.
Shuichi's eyes flicked wildly around. "No," he said desperately. "No more. Please."
"Shuichi," Hiei said again, this time more firmly. Shuichi's eyes finally flicked to him and Hiei could clearly see the moment when the redhead recognized him.
"H-Hiei?" he asked. He clutched the covers, curling onto his side, though he still faced Hiei.
"It's alright," Hiei told him. "You just had a nightmare."
After a moment of silence, Shuichi said, "I'm sorry for waking you. You can go back to bed now. I'll try to be quiet."
Hiei sighed. "You're an idiot," he told Shuichi. "You think just ignoring this and pretending you're okay is going to make it go away?"
Shuichi's mouth turned down and Hiei braced himself for another angry outburst. He wasn't disappointed.
"What would you know?" Shuichi snapped bitterly. "You don't even know what happened!"
Hiei couldn't help it. The words were out of his mouth before he stopped to think about it and he immediately regretted them. "I know more than you think!" he snapped back.
It was difficult to tell in the dim moonlight but Shuichi's face seemed to turn pale, his eyes widening in shock. "What?" he asked.
Hiei backtracked quickly, panic rising in his chest. "Forget it," he said hastily. "It's nothing."
Shuichi released the covers to grab a fistful of Hiei's shirt with one hand. He sat up, glaring at Hiei.
"What do you know?" he demanded.
Hiei's shoulders slumped. He knew that Shuichi wouldn't let up on him. He decided to be truthful and hope Shuichi could handle it.
"Can I get my phone?" he asked.
"Your phone?" Shuichi's angry expression turned to confusion.
"Yes," Hiei said, refusing to elaborate.
"All right," Shuichi said warily, releasing Hiei's shirt. Hiei moved to his desk and retrieved his phone. Shuichi settled himself more comfortably on his bed. Hiei pulled out Shuichi's desk chair and sat on it. He fiddled with his phone for a moment, finding the relevant site.
Finally he said, "You may not want to see this."
Shuichi met his eyes squarely. "Show me," he demanded. His mouth was set in a stubborn line.
Hiei handed him the phone. Shuichi was silent for some time as he looked over the contents of the website.
"Has anyone else seen this?" he asked quietly as he handed the phone back to Hiei. His hand was trembling. "Yusuke, Kuwabara, Yukina, anyone?"
Hiei immediately snapped, "I would never show Yukina something like this!"
Shuichi frowned at him.
Hiei shook his head. "No, the others haven't seen it," he told him. "Yusuke knows about it though. He said he didn't want to see it."
"Thank God," Shuichi muttered. He stared down at his lap. His hands were shaking.
Hiei waited for a few seconds before asking, "Are you okay?"
"What do you think?" Shuichi retorted. "It's bad enough he raped me but then he put those damn photos up for the whole damn world to see!" Tears began to leak from Shuichi's eyes and he wiped them angrily with his sleeve.
"I'm sorry," Hiei said quietly. He wanted to tell the other boy to go to the police but Shuichi had already proven that he wasn't receptive to that idea. Hiei had a feeling that suggesting it would only give the redhead another excuse to yell at him.
"I liked it," Shuichi said softly, interrupting Hiei’s thoughts. His voice was barely above a whisper.
Hiei wasn't sure he'd heard the teenager correctly. "What?" he asked.
"I liked it," Shuichi repeated. ”It felt good.” He stared down at his lap. His face was hidden by the curtain of his red hair.
Hiei thought over his next words carefully, aware that tact was necessary. Eventually he said, "Why do you think you liked it?"
"I-I..." Shuichi whimpered, burying his face in his hands. Hiei rested a hand on his knee. After several seconds, Shuichi looked up and said, "You saw the photos."
Hiei thought back over the images he'd seen, though they made him sick. Shuichi with his mouth wrapped around the man's dick, the man's leather-clad finger buried in Shuichi's arse, Shuichi laying on his back covered in... "Oh," Hiei said softly. "You think that just because you orgasmed, that means you liked it?" he asked.
A small nod and a sob was his answer. Shuichi had buried his face in his hands again. His shoulders were shaking,
"Did you want it?" Hiei asked. "Did you want to have sex with him?"
Shuichi's head shot up, his face streaked with tears. "No!" he cried.
"Then you didn't like it, no matter how your body reacted," Hiei informed him. "That's how bastards like that can prey on people. They convince them that they wanted it, that they liked it. That way, their victims are too ashamed and humiliated to go to the police."
Shuichi was staring at him, eyes wide as if he'd never seen Hiei before. "I didn't think about it like that," he admitted. “H-he said-” Shuichi broke off, looking down again.
"Forget what he said," Hiei snorted. "You're so messed up you can't think straight right now." He stood up and moved Shuichi's chair back to it's proper place, eyeing the pile of papers on the redhead's desk.
"Maybe you should spend tomorrow catching up on your schoolwork," he suggested.
"Don't you mean 'today'?" Shuichi asked. Hiei turned to find that his roommate had a small smile on his face. Hiei was relieved to see it.
"Whatever," he muttered. "it's too damn early for all this shit, anyway." He strode towards the door.
"Where are you going?" Shuichi asked. Hiei noted that his tone was a little panicked.
"To the bathroom," Hiei told him over his shoulder. "Go back to sleep."
He watched the other boy slide back under the covers. As he reached to open the door he heard a soft voice say, "Thank you, Hiei."
Hiei left the room without replying. He hoped that Shuichi would think about some of the things he'd said. It was clear that Shuichi's perception had been warped by his rapist. Shuichi would not recover until he was able to set it straight.
Shuichi's remaining hours of sleep were restless. He woke several times, disturbing Hiei. He knew he'd been dreaming but was unable to remember what the dreams were about.
It wasn't until dawn that he finally slept soundly. He woke to see sunlight streaming through the window. Hiei was gone. Shuichi got out of bed and gathered his clothes for a shower. It was Saturday, so his chances of avoiding people were low. Some students spent the weekend off-campus but many remained to take part in club activities or study.
When he entered the hall, several of the students turned to stare at him. Shuichi resisted the urge to duck back into his room and began to make his way to the bathroom, hunching his shoulders self-consciously as he walked.
"Hey, Shuichi," one of his classmates said, stepping in front of him. The boy had short black hair and wore glasses. "You've missed a lot of class. Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine," Shuichi answered.
"Someone banged you up pretty good, huh? Kind of surprising since you aren't the sort to get into fights," the boy continued. Shuichi couldn't even remember his name. He wished the boy would leave him alone.
"I'm sorry. I have to go," he said, hoping the boy would get the hint.
"Oh, okay." The boy stepped to the side, allowing Shuichi to pass. Shuichi gratefully took the chance to escape. He was several steps away when the boy's voice rang out behind him.
"You need any notes for your classes?" he asked. "You can borrow mine."
Shuichi was surprised by the offer. Given that he didn't socialize with any of his peers, he had not expected them to go out of their way for him.
"No, thank you," he said. "I have what I need."
"No problem," the boy said. "I hope you feel better soon."
Shuichi continued down the hall. He was stopped twice more by classmates asking him how he was. Finally he made it to the bathroom.
After showering, he returned to his dorm room to find that Hiei was there, sorting through a stack of textbooks on his desk. He appeared to be looking for something. Perhaps he’d lost a library book, Shuichi guessed. It wouldn’t be the first time. The shorter boy looked him over critically.
"I know you have more decent clothes than that," was all he said.
Shuichi winced. He was wearing a baggy dark red sweater that his aunt had knitted him and sweatpants. He was uncomfortable wearing anything that showed off his figure.
"I haven't done laundry," was his excuse.
Hiei scowled at him. "Bullshit," he said flatly.
Shuichi began to feel annoyed as he moved to his bed and began to make it. He very much wanted to move the conversation away from himself. After a moment of consideration, he said, "Are you related to Yukina, by any chance?"
There was a clutter behind him. Startled, Shuichi spun around. Hiei stood beside his desk, several books lying on the floor at his feet. He'd obviously just dropped them. He stared at Shuichi, eyes wide like a deer in the headlights.
Shuichi felt a surge of triumph. "I'm right, aren't I?" he said.
Hiei glared at him. "God damn fox," he muttered. "Since you've somehow figured that much out you might as well know the rest. And wipe that smug smirk off your face!"
Shuichi hadn't realized he'd been smirking. He made an effort to contain it and sat on his half-made bed. Hiei sat on his.
"Well?" Shuichi asked eagerly.
Hiei sighed. "She's my sister," he said. "My twin sister."
"Twin?" Shuichi asked in surprise. "But isn't she a year younger?"
"No, you idiot. I skipped a grade," Hiei told him.
"So you're the brother she's been looking for? Why haven't you told her?" Shuichi was genuinely confused. He knew that Yukina would be thrilled to learn that she'd found her brother.
"We were seperated when we were put into foster care when we were children," Hiei said quietly. "My family was not as kind as Yukina's was. I got into a lot of trouble when I was younger. Things are better for me now, but Yukina doesn't need someone like me in her life. I'd just cause problems for her."
"Do you think you aren't good enough for her?" Shuichi asked.
Hiei nodded. "I suppose you could say that," he said.
"That's crazy," Shuichi told him. "I'm sure Yukina will be very happy to learn that you are her brother. She's been looking for you too, you know. You should tell her."
Hiei's eyes hardened. "Look who's talking," he snapped. "You aren't exactly the poster child for honesty lately."
Shuichi flinched as if he'd been slapped. His own eyes hardened. "My situation is a little different," he said defensively.
"You're such a hypocrite," Hiei told him bitterly. "It's not different at all." He stood up and stalked out of the room, leaving Shuichi bewildered and upset. That hadn't gone well at all.
Hours later, Shuichi had worked through most of his schoolwork. Hiei had not returned. Shuichi wasn't sure how he felt about the small argument. He wasn't exactly sorry for pushing Hiei but his roommate's defensiveness when it came to his sister surprised him. He felt that Yukina really deserved to know the truth about her brother.
The door suddenly banged open behind Shuichi and he jumped out of his chair. Kuwabara and Yusuke barged in.
"Good, you're here," Yusuke said, striding forward and grabbing his arm. "Come on." He pulled Shuichi towards the door.
"What? No. I have to finish my schoolwork," Shuichi protested.
"We think you've been holed up in here long enough, right, Kuwabara?" Yusuke said.
"Yeah," the orange haired boy agreed. "You're coming to practice with us." Kuwabara took hold of Shuichi's other arm as he attempted to break free of Yusuke's hold. Students stared wide-eyed at them as they passed.
"But my schoolwork!" Shuichi protested. His pleas fell on deaf ears as his friends marched him out of the building.
Shuichi found himself sitting on the gym bleachers with Keiko and Yukina. They were watching Kuwabara and Yusuke spar. Other than a couple of younger students shooting hoops on the other side of the gym, they were alone.
When Shuichi had sat down, Keiko had passed him a bento. He smiled gratefully at her. "Thank you," he said.
She waved away his gratitude. "It's no problem. Where is Hiei today, anyway? Isn't he supposed to be here?"
Shuichi stared down into the contents of the bento. "I don't know where he is," he said, his tone subdued.
Keiko's expression was worried as she asked, "Did the two of you have a fight? You always seemed to get along okay."
"You could say that," Shuichi said.
"You should talk to him," Yukina said. "I'm sure the two of you can sort it out."
Shuichi shrugged. "I guess," he said.
"Hey, there's Ms. Genkai," Keiko suddenly said, pointing towards the floor of the gym. The vice-principal stood, arms folded and observing Yusuke and Kuwabara. As if she'd heard Keiko, she turned to look back up at them. After glancing back once at the boys she turned and walked up the bleachers to where they sat.
"I hadn't expected Yusuke to be so enthusiastic about this tournament," she commented. "It's almost as if he's taking it personally."
"I think he is," Keiko agreed, "but I'm not sure why."
Shuichi knew why but there was no way he was telling them. He stuffed a rice ball into his mouth.
"Haven't seen you in class, Mr. Minamino," Genkai said to him. Shuichi almost choked on his mouthful of rice. "I hope you will be attending class on Monday."
Shuichi hastily swallowed. After several seconds he said, "Yes, I will." There really was nothing else he could say.
She studied his face critically. The bandage was still in place, hiding the 'K' shaped cut but Shuichi felt uncomfortable under her gaze, as if she could see straight through it.
"I'm quite surprised to hear rumours of you getting into a fight," Genkai told him. "It's not usually in your nature."
Shuichi winced. "I would rather not discuss it," he said.
Genkai frowned at him. "Monday, Mr. Minamino," she told him sternly.
"Yes, ma'am," he said. He somehow had the feeling that he'd just been scolded. A glance at Keiko and Yukina showed him that their expressions were sympathetic. It seemed they had picked up on it as well.
"Hiei's training with them, too?" Genkai muttered.
Shuichi's head shot around to see that Hiei had joined Yusuke and Kuwabara.
"I have the feeling that something is going on here," the grey-haired woman said.
"Me, too," Keiko muttered under her breath.
After their practice session ended, Shuichi hoped he could go back to his room but he was cornered by Yusuke and Kuwabara. Yusuke had a firm grip on Hiei's arm and the spiky-haired boy's expression was murderous.
"What's going on, you two?" Yusuke demanded. "You were all buddy-buddy before and now you both look miserable."
"I'm not miserable," Hiei snapped, trying to pull his arm free from Yusuke.
"Whatever the hell you two are fighting about, you'd better get over it," Yusuke told them. "Neither of you need this shit right now."
Hiei's face dropped and so did Shuichi's. Still, neither of them said anything.
Yusuke sighed. "Do I have to lock both of you in a closet somewhere?" he asked. "Because I swear, I will."
Shuichi's mouth twitched upward. Hiei looked horrified at the thought.
Shuichi knew that Yusuke was right. Hiei had been a huge help to him over the last few days and he had repaid him by prying into his private business.
"I'm sorry," he said. He held out his hand to Hiei in a gesture of goodwill.
After a moment, Hiei said, "I'm sorry, too. I shouldn't have lost my temper like that." He grasped Shuichi's hand.
With a relieved sigh, Yusuke released Hiei's arm. "Now that you lovebirds have made up, care to share with the rest of us what that fight was all about?"
Hiei's expression turned panicked.
"No," Shuichi said firmly. Hiei's shoulders sagged in relief. He'd obviously thought that Shuichi would spill the beans about Yukina being his sister, but Shuichi knew that it wasn't his place.
"Leave them alone, Urameshi," Kuwabara protested. "They've made up so that's all that really matters."
"Whatever," Yusuke said. "I was just curious."
"Can I go now?" Shuichi requested. "I still have some homework to catch up on."
"Fine," Yusuke said. "But you're coming to dinner, right?"
Shuichi paused, mind racing to find an excuse.
"I'll drag him there," Hiei told them before Shuichi was able to respond.
"Good man." Yusuke clapped him on the shoulder. "Nice to know we have an accomplice."
Shuichi glared at them. "I hate all of you," he said flatly.
"We know," Yusuke told him, grinning broadly.
Much to Yusuke's relief, Shuichi attended dinner and breakfast the next morning as well. He deliberately tried to keep the conversation light, not wanting to upset his friend. He was amused to notice Hiei shadowing Shuichi like a mother duck protecting her ducklings. The short black-haired boy glared at anyone who dared to get too close to Shuichi, saving the redhead from having to answer awkward questions. And damn, those blood red eyes were an excellent weapon. Yusuke had to admit that he found them unsettling as well.
Speaking of unsettling gazes... Yusuke tried to avoid looking at Keiko as she tried to catch his eye over the table. She'd been getting nosy recently, asking questions about what had happened to Shuichi. At first, he'd played dumb but she wasn't stupid. She was beginning to realise that he knew more than he was telling her. And she absolutely hated it when he kept secrets from her.
Shuichi sat between Hiei and Kuwabara. He seemed happy this morning, though he kept rubbing his eyes as if he were tired. He wore a bulky brown sweater today. Yusuke didn't give a crap about fashion himself, but even he had to admit that it was hideous. His cheek was still bandaged.
"Are we training again today?" Kuwabara asked Yusuke and Hiei.
"Yeah," Yusuke said. "The tournament's next week so we don't have a lot of time. But you don't have to help us if you don't want to."
"Of course I'm going to help. You need all the help you can get," Kuwabara informed him.
Hiei snickered. "That's true," he said.
Yusuke leaned around to throw an empty cup at him. "Shut up, you nasty little shrimp," he told him. The cup rolled under the table. Hiei ignored it and carried on eating his breakfast.
"Will you come and watch again?" Kuwabara asked the girls. Yusuke knew that he really only wanted to find out if Yukina would be there.
"I have homework to do," Keiko said.
"I will be there," Yukina smiled at him. Kuwabara practically melted in the glow of her smile and Yusuke rolled his eyes.
"I'm going to get out of here before this gets really mushy," he declared, rising from his chair.
"I'll come with you," Keiko said hastily, also rising.
"But you haven't finished your breakfast," Shuichi pointed out, staring up at her with puzzled green eyes.
"Um, I'm not that hungry," she said awkwardly. Shuichi frowned at her, obviously realising something was going on. That guy didn't miss anything.
Keiko followed Yusuke to the bins but didn't speak until they were outside. She grabbed Yusuke's arm and dragged him to one of the nearby tables situated under a tree. Yusuke perched on the tabletop, feet resting on the seat.
"What's going on?" Keiko demanded. Her tone and the hard determined look on her face told Yusuke that she wouldn't be easily placated this time.
He decided to play dumb as he usually did. "What do you mean?" he asked.
She glared at him, hands on hips. "You're not fooling me, Yusuke," she snapped. "What's going on with Shuichi? Did he really get into a fight? Why is he wearing those ugly clothes? Why is he acting so quiet lately?"
Yusuke's heart sank. He'd been hoping he wouldn't have to tell Keiko the truth. "He's usually quiet," he said lamely.
"Not like this," Keiko said. "He's barely left his room over the last few days. And Hiei's been following him around like a mother hen. Something's happened. I feel like everyone else knows but isn't telling me. It's very irritating."
She was right. Even Kuwabara was aware of what had happened. Yusuke had told him to be sure he didn't put his foot in his big mouth as he was sometimes apt to do. And also because he'd needed someone to talk to. He'd never admit it, but hearing about what had happened to his friend had shook him up.
Reluctantly he said, "You can't tell anyone. Shuichi doesn't want anyone to know. He never even told us. We figured it out."
Keiko frowned, sitting on the bench by his feet. "Can I tell Yukina?" she asked. "If you tell me, she'll be the only one who doesn't know. That doesn't seem fair."
Yusuke thought about it. She was right. It wasn't fair. "All right," he said. "But you're not going to like hearing this."
Yusuke was only partway through his account when Keiko began to cry. He awkwardly tried to comfort her but nothing seemed to help. He was no good at dealing with emotions. When she calmed down he finished the story.
She wiped her eyes with her sleeve. "I can't believe he hasn't told anyone," she said. "It's just awful."
"You can't tell anyone," Yusuke told her. "You have to make Yukina understand that as well. It's not our place to do it. Shuichi has to come forward himself."
"What if he never does?" she asked. Yusuke slid from the table onto the seat beside her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "What if he just keeps it bottled inside?"
"It's not our place," Yusuke repeated. "All we can do is just try to be supportive."
"It sucks," Keiko mumbled, turning to bury her face in Yusuke's shoulder.
"Yeah, I know," he said. "But the good news is that if that bastard's on Toguro's team like I suspect he is, we'll have the opportunity to kick his arse."
"For once, I hope you do get the chance," Keiko said, her voice muffled.
"So now you approve of my fighting," Yusuke chuckled.
"When it comes to that guy I'll be there cheering you on," she told him.
"Good," Yusuke said. One way or another, that arsehole was getting what he deserved.
Shuichi used the rest of the morning to do his laundry after dropping by the library and borrowing some new books. He decided not to accompany Hiei to the gym today and Hiei didn't attempt to force him to come. During the afternoon he finished the last of his schoolwork and started reading one of his new books. He chose not to go to dinner. Hiei had given him a disapproving look but had left him alone, returning with a plate for him. He seemed unhappy about something but Shuichi decided not to press him for details.
Shuichi was just about to head to the showers when a knock sounded on the door. Both he and Hiei looked at it. Hiei had already had a shower and was on Shuichi's laptop browsing the web.
"Come in," Shuichi called. He expected it to be one of the girls, since Yusuke and Kuwabara usually never knocked but was surprised to see Yusuke enter.
Hiei stood, frowning at the younger boy. "What do you want?" he asked, his tone defensive. Shuichi was puzzled. He didn't think the two of them had any kind of an argument recently to warrant Hiei's tone.
"I'm here to talk to Shuichi, not you," Yusuke told him. Unlike Hiei, there was no hostility in his tone. Instead, he sounded resigned.
"This is a mistake," Hiei said quietly. "Don't make things worse."
Shuichi was even more confused now. Make what worse?
Yusuke approached Shuichi cautiously as if he were a wild animal. The redhead sat on his bed, staring up at his friend worriedly.
"Look, don't freak out or anything, okay?" he said. "It's not a big deal."
"What isn't a big deal?" Shuichi asked, green eyes wide as he stared up into his friend's face.
"Well..." Yusuke awkwardly ran his hand through his slicked back hair, messing it up. "I, ah... I kind of told Keiko what happened to you."
Shuichi's face drained of colour. He felt sick. "Did she tell anyone?" he asked, trying to keep his voice steady.
"Just Yukina," Yusuke said. "I swear, no one else."
Shuichi's mind reeled. He didn't know why he was so upset but the thought that now more people knew what had happened to him made a knot of panic form in his chest. Things were fast slipping out of his control. Now Keiko and Yukina knew. What if they told their classmates, or worse, a teacher.
"Shuichi?" Yusuke's voice sounded very far away. "Shuichi?"
Shuichi tried to speak, but no words came. His vision was hazy and time seemed to slow down. Hiei was saying something now, but Shuichi couldn't understand him. He felt as though he were drowning. The world tilted around him.
Shuichi woke to find himself on the carpeted floor of his dorm room. He was sitting in someone's lap, his back pressed against their chest and arms wrapped tight around him.
"Shuichi? Come on, man, just breathe. Breathe," a voice said near his ear. A dark shape moved in front of him. A hand lifted his chin. He blinked blearily at Hiei as he tried to focus on him.
"Breathe, Shuichi," Hiei said sternly. Only then did Shuichi realise that, in fact, his breathing was shallow and irregular. His chest hurt. He tried to take a deeper breath but ended up coughing.
"That's it," Yusuke said from behind him. "Try again."
Shuichi did so and this time he was able to get more air into his lungs. When he was breathing steadily again, he spoke. "What happened?" he asked hoarsely.
"You freaked out, man," Yusuke told him. "You stopped breathing. You scared the shit out of us."
Hiei had left Shuichi and now returned, pushing a bottle of water into his hand. Yusuke released his arms so Shuichi could uncap it and raise it to his lips. He took several large gulps before a coughing fit overtook him. Hiei took the bottle back before he could drop it. Yusuke helped him onto his bed.
"You should probably go," Hiei said to Yusuke. "It's getting late."
"Yeah, but-" Yusuke glanced back reluctantly at the redhead laying on the bed.
"Just go," Hiei told him. Yusuke left after wishing Shuichi a subdued good night.
Shuichi tried to fall asleep but only ended up tossing and turning. Finally fed up, he stood and put a coat on over his clothes.
"Where do you think you're going?" Hiei asked snippily. He had been reading by lamplight. It was one of Shuichi's library books, he noticed.
"For a walk," Shuichi told him.
"It's late," Hiei said disapprovingly.
"I don't need your permission," Shuichi said irritably.
"Fine. Go, then," Hiei snapped.
Shuichi left, closing the door with a little more force than was strictly necessary. He earned curious looks from a few students still lingering in the hall but they didn't approach him. He guessed that the harsh expression on his face deterred them.
The air outside was crisp and Shuichi was glad he'd brought the coat. He went to one of his favourite tables under a cherry blossom tree and lay on the tabletop, hands beneath his head. He stared up at the night sky and tried to order his thoughts. It was a dark night, the moon hidden behind the clouds. The school grounds were quiet except for the breeze that picked up scattered leaves and made the branches of the tree above him sway a little.
He felt very alone out here and it was somehow soothing. For the first time since the incident, he began to analyze his actions, attempting to remain objective. It felt safe to do so in this dark, quiet world where no one could see him.
He knew he'd acted irrationally. He'd lashed out childishly at his friends, who had tried to be kind and understanding. They had given him good advice and he had ignored it.
He realised now that he'd been acting like a coward. He hadn't told anyone because he felt ashamed and dirty. He thought that everyone would judge him and think he was disgusting. He had thought that if he kept it secret and tried to forget about it, it would go away.
After today he could no longer hide from the truth. He really wasn't handling it. What had happened that evening had terrified his friends and he had no right to put them through that. They'd coddled him enough. It was time for him to stand up for himself and do what he should've done from the beginning.
Mind resolutely made up, he got up from the bench and headed for the main school building. The person he sought had a reputation for working late, so he hoped he could still catch her.
His footsteps echoed in the dim empty hallway. Luckily, the person he sought was just coming out of her office. She stared at Shuichi in surprise after turning at the sound of his footsteps.
“It’s late, Mr. Minamino,” she said disapprovingly. “This must be serious.”
Shuichi smiled wanly. “I’m afraid it is, Ms. Genkai,” he said. “May I have a moment of your time?”
“Are you sure it can’t wait until morning?” she asked.
“No,” he said quietly. He knew that if he waited he would lose his nerve.
“Come on, then,” she said. The old woman opened her office door and waved him in ahead of her.
Shuichi was absent from his classes the next day, as was the vice-principal. He was in the dorm room, however, when Hiei returned from his last class. The redhead looked as if he'd been crying. He had also removed the bandage from his cheek. The cut stood out starkly against his pale skin. He brushed away Hiei's questions, refusing to tell the other boy where he'd been.
Hiei was surprised when Shuichi produced a bottle of pills as he was getting ready for bed.
"Where did you get those?" Hiei demanded suspiciously.
"From the doctor," Shuichi told him. Hiei strode over and took the bottle from Shuichi, checking the label. It did, indeed, have the redhead's name on it. They were sleeping pills.
"I'll stick to the prescribed dose," Shuichi said defensively. He reached for the bottle hesitantly, as if afraid Hiei would refuse to give it back. Hiei handed it back to him with a frown.
"You went to the doctor?" he asked.
"Yes. I don't want to talk about it," Shuichi said, shoulders hunching defensively. Hiei decided not to push him further. He looked as if he'd had a stressful day. He did watch closely, however, as Shuichi took the pills, making sure he did only take the prescribed amount.
Both boys were able to sleep soundly that night.
Shuichi was awakened by the sound of his phone ringing. Hiei moaned in protest from beneath his covers.
"Sorry," Shuichi hissed at him as he grabbed his phone. He answered it immediately when he saw the caller ID.
"Mother?" he asked in alarm. "Is everything alright?"
Hiei rolled over to stare at him, his expression worried.
Shuichi spent several minutes on the phone to his mother. Hiei was reassured when the redhead's anxious expression was replaced with happiness. When he got off the phone, Hiei asked him, "So, what's the good news?"
Shuichi looked startled for a moment before smiling. "I suppose I can tell you," he said.
Hiei sat up, interested.
"My mother has been very ill for some time," Shuichi told him. "Her disease is fatal in most cases."
"I'm sorry," Hiei said sincerely.
"She called to tell me that she will be taking part in a test for an experimental treatment that is very promising," Shuichi said. "The treatment appears to have a high success rate. Her doctor told her that even if she isn't cured it may extend her life by five years or more."
"That's great," Hiei said. "You must be very happy."
"She will have to go to America for at least six months, though," Shuichi said. "I think she is worried about being so far away from me."
"I would be worried if I were her as well," Hiei informed him.
"Excuse me?" Shuichi asked, confused.
"You sometimes act like a five year old," Hiei told him, a playful smirk forming across his lips.
Offended, Shuichi told him, "I hate you."
Hiei rolled his eyes. "I don't care."
Shuichi stuck his tongue out at him.
"See? There you go again," Hiei said. "Five years old."
Shuichi began to laugh. A moment later, Hiei's own laughter joined his.
The day of the tournament was bright and sunny. The schools had rented out a local hall for the event. It wasn't large as most of the spectators were either students of the schools or faculty or family. Shuichi sat in the stands with Kuwabara, Yukina and Keiko. The girls had dressed up for the day but Kuwabara wore his usual jeans and jacket. There had been discussion about making uniforms mandatory but the students had petitioned against it and the school had given in.
Hiei had been knocked out in the semi-finals but Yusuke had made it to the final, much to Shuichi's surprise. He would be fighting Toguro, the young man who had approached and challenged him.
Shuichi turned towards Kuwabara to see the boy staring at him with an uneasy look on his face.
"Yes?" Shuichi asked. It was several seconds before Kuwabara spoke, making Shuichi uneasy.
"That guy who... you know," Kuwabara waved his hand in the air between them helplessly.
"Kuwabara!" Keiko hissed. Kuwabara ignored her.
"Do you mean Karasu?" Shuichi asked. He couldn't help that his face twisted in disgust when he said the monster's name.
"Yeah," Kuwabara said uneasily. "He's not here."
"No, he isn't." Shuichi's tone was smug. Even the girls noticed.
"Why not?" Kuwabara asked. "Isn't he on the other school's team?"
"He was," Shuichi confirmed. "But he's been arrested."
Keiko squealed excitedly, leaning over to hug Shuichi. "You went to the police!" she said happily. Kuwabara's face lit up as Shuichi nodded in confirmation, his cheeks bright red. “Yes. It seems that the police have suspected him of committing various crimes but none of his victims have come forward, until me, that is. Once they had cause to execute a search warrant, they found plenty of evidence at his house.”
"Awesome, man," Kuwabara said. “He deserves to rot in jail.”
"Well done, Shuichi," Yukina told him. "That must have been very difficult for you."
Shuichi smiled at her over Keiko's shoulder. She was still hugging him and she'd begun to cry. He patted her back awkwardly, hoping Yusuke wouldn't see this.
"It was difficult, but I feel better now," Shuichi said.
Keiko pulled back, wiping her eyes. "Yusuke will be so happy," she said. "Though he will be disappointed at not getting a chance to fight Karasu."
"I shall have to apologize to him, then," Shuichi laughed.
"Shhh, you guys!" Kuwabara said. "The final's about to start!" Everyone's attention turned to the floor beneath them, where Yusuke and Toguro were getting ready to face off. Shuichi was glad to no longer be the center of attention.
Yusuke lost against Toguro but Genkai had stated that she was proud of the progress he'd made. As predicted, he was furious at not getting the chance to beat up Karasu.
Despite the loss, the school allowed the students to hold a party in the gym that night. Shuichi stayed on the fringes of the party, watching Yusuke bask in the attention. Hiei spent some time with him but soon disappeared. Shuichi was surprised to see him leave with Yukina.
"Where are they going?" Shuichi jumped. Kuwabara had come up beside him and was staring at the door through which Hiei and Yukina had just left.
"Ah..." Shuichi said, wondering what to say. Kuwabara turned to him, his face scrunched up in worry. "He's not gonna ask her out, is he?" he asked Shuichi.
"No, no, it's not like that," Shuichi assured him.
"Then why are they sneaking off?" Kuwabara demanded.
"What makes you think I know anything about it?" Shuichi protested.
Kuwabara's expression was hard. "Because you know about everything," he informed Shuichi, as if it were the most obvious fact in the world.
Shuichi wilted under that look. "Look, he's not interested in her like that. You have nothing to worry about," he told Kuwabara. "But I can't say any more than that. It's not my place."
Kuwabara looked less than satisfied with his answer but Shuichi was determined not to say any more.
Yukina and Hiei were gone for so long that Shuichi gave up on waiting for them to return and headed back to his dorm alone. The noise of the other students' chatter was giving him a headache and he had never much liked large parties in the first place. He preferred more intimate gatherings.
He had been reading for a while when Hiei entered the room. Shuichi looked up over the top of his book as his roommate kicked off his shoes.
"Well?" he asked.
"Well, what?" Hiei responded, removing his coat.
"Did you tell her?" Shuichi asked impatiently.
Hiei was silent while he hung up his coat and flopped down onto his bed. Shuichi suspected that the other boy was taking his time deliberately to annoy him.
Finally he said, "Yes, I told her."
"And?" Shuichi asked.
"And what?" Hiei demanded, his irritation coming through in his voice.
"And how did she take it?" Shuichi pressed.
"You're impossible," Hiei muttered. He raised his voice to say, "She's ecstatic. She wants me to meet the rest of her family."
"That's wonderful!" Shuichi said happily.
"They probably won't like me," Hiei said.
"Such a pessimist," Shuichi muttered, turning his attention back to his book.
"Such a nosy bastard," Hiei retorted.
Shuichi sat up, set his book aside and then threw his pillow at his roommate. Hiei took it and put it on top of his before resting his head on it.
"Hey!" Shuichi protested indignantly. "Give it back!"
"Come and get it," Hiei told him.
Shuichi got up and moved towards Hiei's bed, reaching to grab the pillow from under the other boy's head. He let out a startled yelp when Hiei grabbed his wrist and pulled him onto the bed. He took advantage of Shuichi's surprised and winded state to get him onto his back. He began to mercilessly tickle Shuichi's stomach and sides until he laughed so hard he couldn't breathe.
"Stop!" Shuichi finally managed to gasp out between fits of laughter. Hiei did so, leaning back to stare down at his roommate. Shuichi sucked in deep breaths, before noticing the strange look on Hiei's face. Hiei's crimson eyes were locked on his face and Shuichi was suddenly acutely aware of their position. He was on his back with Hiei straddling his hips.
"I-" he started, attempting to put an end to the silence that was stretching on for far too long. He couldn't think of anything to say, however.
Hiei leaned forward slowly, his expression an odd mix of hope and fear. Shuichi didn't move. He could barely believe what was happening. Hiei's lips pressed and moved lightly across his own. Shuichi had very little experience with kissing but this was the gentlest kiss he'd ever had.
After several seconds Hiei pulled back, staring into Shuichi's eyes. Shuichi turned his face away. He couldn't help it. Looking into Hiei's eyes was far too confronting. His mind was a jumble of emotions. He hadn't even known the other boy was gay, let alone suspected the depth of feeling Hiei had for him. He hadn't even thought about his own sexuality.
Hiei abruptly slid off him, obviously taking Shuichi's reaction for rejection and Shuichi felt a sharp pang of guilt in his heart.
"I'm sorry," Hiei said quietly, standing awkwardly beside his desk and looking out the window. "Forget that happened, okay?"
"No," Shuichi said, sitting up. "I don't want you to misunderstand."
"What's to misunderstand?" There was an undercurrent of bitterness in Hiei's voice.
"I like you," Shuichi told him. "But I'm not ready for a serious relationship yet. If this happens..." he waved his hand in the air between them, attempting to convey something he couldn't find the words to verbalize. "If whatever this is happens now it probably won't go well. I need time. Time to sort myself out. Do you understand?"
"So it's not a 'no', exactly?" Hiei asked, seeking clarification, his expression hopeful.
Shuichi smiled. "It's not a 'no'," he confirmed. "I just need a little more time, that's all. I don't want to mess this up because I'm still dealing with… issues."
Hiei returned to the bed, sitting down beside Shuichi. "Are you seeing a counselor?" he asked.
"Yes," Shuichi said.
"Good." Hiei reached out and gave his hand a squeeze.
"So, you'll wait, then?" Shuichi asked hopefully. "I know it isn't fair but I'm not ready."
"I understand," Hiei assured him. "And I'll wait for you."
"Thank you," Shuichi breathed, relieved. He knew it would be some time before he felt steady enough to enter into a new intimate relationship but he was confident that it would happen. He was very lucky to have someone willing to make such a sacrifice for him.
As if Hiei had overheard his thoughts, he murmured, "You're worth it." Then he ruined it by adding, "Even though you're stubborn and nosy."
Shuichi stood up in a mock fit of temper. He grabbed his pillow and marched back to his bed, crawling beneath the covers and turning his back to Hiei. "Forget it," he told the other boy.
Hiei's laughter filled the room and Shuichi smiled to himself as he relaxed. It would take time, but things would be all right in the end.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to read this and especially to those who left comments. I appreciate it very much.