Hiei Jaganshi leaned back in his armchair, sipping his glass of wine. The sky outside the window of the sitting room was dark. Hiei had been working late and he was enjoying a small moment of peace before he went to bed.
He looked up as a light knock sounded on the door. "Come in," he said, already knowing who it was.
He was proven correct when the door opened to reveal a short girl with teal coloured hair and red eyes. The eyes were a genetic quirk that both he and his sister shared.
Hiei and his sister Yukina had been placed up for adoption as children and adopted by different families. Hiei's new parents had been wealthy but distant. Yukina's had been the opposite. Hiei had been raised to be self-sufficient and ruthless, particularly in business matters but he had always harboured a desire to reunite with his sister. Two years ago he had found her working at a department store. Now she lived with him and worked in his company as a receptionist.
"Hello, brother." She settled on the other armchair, sitting with her hands folded in her lap. She wore an elegant kimono patterned with waves of water. It had been a gift from Hiei. He liked to shower her with all the lovely things she never had when she was growing up. "I'm glad you've finished your work. It's quite late."
Hiei frowned at her. "Yes, and you should be asleep now."
She smiled at him. "I wanted to spend a little time with you. You've been so busy lately."
Hiei's frown disappeared in the wake of his sister's concern. "I'm sorry," he said, setting his glass aside. "I have some important negotiations coming up and my employees are not capable of having everything organized in time. I'll be able to spend more time with you soon."
It was Yukina's turn to frown. "You mean that you don't trust your employees to do the work," she told him. She had figured Hiei out very quickly after meeting him and it both alarmed and relieved him. It meant that she was much more forgiving of him than others in his life but it was disconcerting to have someone who could read you so well.
Hiei didn't get a chance to respond because just as Yukina finished speaking, the door flew open. Hiei jumped to his feet, moving to put himself between Yukina and the entrance. His bodyguard Yusuke strode in. He half-dragged, half-marched a struggling figure into the room. He let out a yelp of pain as the figure managed to twist around in his grip and bite his arm.
Yukina let out a distressed cry from behind Hiei.
"Stupid bitch!" Yusuke swore, roughly throwing the person onto the rug in the middle of the room.
"What... the... hell?" Hiei demanded, furious at his bodyguard for not having more discretion.
"Found this bitch in your office trying to open the safe," Yusuke growled. "Can't believe she even got that far. Must have disabled the alarm system."
Hiei stared down at the figure huddled on the floor. She was dressed entirely in dark clothes. A dark scarf covered her hair though strands of it had come loose from beneath the material. She was obviously of slim build and likely to be taller than Hiei when she was standing. Then again, most people were taller than Hiei. She looked between Hiei and Yusuke, obviously not sure what to do. Hiei suspected that she wanted to move away from him but she was clearly aware that it would put her closer to Yusuke. She was stuck in between them.
"Weapons?" Hiei asked.
Yusuke shrugged. "I didn't check," he admitted. "She pulled a knife on me but that was all."
Hiei sighed in exasperation. At times it seemed as if Yusuke was more of a thug than a professional bodyguard but he always seemed to handle any situation.
Hiei knelt and yanked the scarf from the woman's head. Long red hair spilled around her face, emerald green eyes blinking up at him. Small, delicate gold earrings shaped like roses dangled from her ears. She looked terrified.
"Who are you working for?" he demanded.
"No one," she whimpered, her voice soft and alto. Hiei would have found it pleasant under any other circumstances. Her looks were also pleasing to Hiei, though she was not his type. Her face was fine-boned and her skin flawless, though she had a bruise forming on her cheek. That had probably occurred when Yusuke was subduing her.
"Don't lie to me," Hiei told her. "What were you looking for?"
She looked down. Hiei grabbed her chin and forced her to meet his eyes. Her full lips trembled. Finally she said, "The gems."
Hiei laughed quietly. "I don't even keep them in that safe," he informed her.
The gems she was referring to had belonged to Hiei's adoptive father and had been handed down to him when he inherited his father's company. They were the cornerstone of his family's wealth and priceless.
"Should I call the cops?" Yusuke asked. His lips twisted into a grimace. He didn't like the police as he'd had a rough childhood and had often ran afoul of them.
The woman immediately began to shake. "Please, no," she begged. "I promise I won't come back. Just let me go. Don't call the police." Her voice was panicked.
Yukina put a hand on his arm and Hiei glared at her. "Stay back," he said. "We'll take care of this."
"Brother, do we have to involve the police? She didn't take anything," Yukina protested.
Hiei growled. Things would be so much simpler if Yukina wasn't present.
The woman looked up hopefully at Yukina, her pretty forest green eyes brimming with tears. "Please," she pleaded. "I won't bother you again."
Hiei looked at Yusuke. The man was leaning casually against the door, rubbing his arm where she had bitten him. He seemed unfazed by the injury. He caught Hiei's gaze and shrugged. He obviously wasn't going to weigh in on the dispute.
Hiei released the woman and looked at Yukina after rising to his full height. "Sit down," he told her. She hesitantly did, anxiously arranging her kimono as she did so. The woman remained on the floor, though she moved to her knees. Her eyes followed Hiei as he sat down in the armchair he had previously occupied. He wasn't worried that she would try to escape as Yusuke was blocking the entrance to the hallway.
"I'm not willing to just let this go," Hiei said with a frown. "She's a thief."
"Maybe she just got caught in a bad situation," Yukina protested. "Not everyone has been lucky enough to have your upbringing, brother."
Hiei winced at the reminder of their different pasts.
"Give her a chance," Yukina pressed. "You could give her a job. That way you could keep an eye on her. And she'll have a chance to make an honest living."
The woman looked back and forth between Hiei and Yukina, stunned. "A job?" she asked doubtfully. "What kind of job?" Her tone was suspicious.
Hiei would never admit it out loud but he could never refuse his sister, no matter how ridiculous her ideas were. She might have grown up poor but her parents had always sheltered and protected her. As a result, she could be quite naive and always believed the best of people. Hiei had grown up in the business world and knew how two-faced and cruel people could be.
Hiei thought for a moment. Finally he said, "I suppose I could use a maid."
The woman's eyes widened and Yusuke chuckled. "It's about time you got a new one," he said.
Hiei continued, ignoring Yusuke. "You won't get paid for days off, you'll have to wear a uniform and you'll have to show up on time. Do you think you can manage that?"
"If I agree, you won't call the police?" she asked nervously.
"As long as you do what you're told and don't try to steal from me again," Hiei said. "As my employee, your behaviour reflects back on me so you'd better keep your nose clean."
She nodded, raising a slender hand to brush hair from her face. "I understand," she said.
"Yusuke will escort you off the grounds. I expect you can find your way back here tomorrow morning at eight?" the businessman asked.
"Yes, of course," she said. Yusuke strode over and offered her a hand. After hesitating a moment, she took it and he helped her to her feet.
"What's your name, anyway?" he asked. "I'm Yusuke, the nice girl is Yukina and the arsehole is Hiei."
She hesitated before answering, making Hiei immediately suspicious. "Kurama," she said finally. It didn't escape Hiei that she had not given a last name.
"Sorry about the bruises, Kurama," Yusuke said, a little sheepishly. "No hard feelings, right, since we'll be working together?"
"No, it's fine," she said quietly. She threw a wary look over her shoulder at Hiei before Yusuke escorted her to the door and they departed through it. As soon as they left, Yukina threw herself at Hiei and hugged him.
"Thank you, brother," she told him. "I know this will work out fine. You'll see."
Hiei gave her a skeptical look. "She gets one chance. She'd better not mess it up." He wondered if his sister realized that the woman had lied about her name.
Yukina giggled and kissed his cheek. "Go to bed," she told him. "You have a long day tomorrow."
Lately, every day had been a long day for Hiei. "Take your own advice," he told her.
"I will. Good night, brother," she said. After kissing his cheek again she left him. Hiei was uncomfortable with her displays of affection. He wasn't used to it because he had never grown up with it. It came so easily to his sister, however.
His thoughts wandered to the thief he'd just hired. If she had been male, he would have been attracted to her. It made him wonder why she'd resorted to thievery for income. Surely it would have been easier for her to use her body to earn a living. Thievery was a very risky profession.
He shook his head to clear away the image of her. Despite his cynical view, he hoped Yukina would be proved right and the woman would take the opportunity she'd been offered and make a decent life for herself.
Kurama stepped into the small apartment, breathing a sigh of relief. The night had gone completely wrong. It was supposed to be a simple job. Get in, get the gems, get out. But nothing had gone how it was supposed to.
The interior of the cheap, one-room apartment was dark. Kurama flicked on the light and froze as the room lit up.
"Hello, Shuichi," a very unwelcome voice said. A large man sat on the edge of the bed against the far wall. Leaning against the kitchenette bench stood another man with greasy hair. Kurama began to tremble.
"We need to discuss the money you still owe Mr. Sekyo," the man on the bed continued. He wore sunglasses, despite the fact that they were inside. He was the largest man Kurama had ever seen. His bulk was not fat, however. Kurama was all too aware that it was muscle. His tight-fitting t-shirt and jeans showed off his frame nicely.
It was hard to believe that the two men were brothers. In contrast, the other man was skinny, with sharp features. His eyes gleamed malevolently as he watched Kurama like a cat watching a mouse, prepared to pounce. Kurama swallowed. The two men were the Toguro brothers. They worked for Sekyo, a well-known and wealthy businessman who also ran several criminal enterprises.
"I don't have it," he said quietly. "But I can get it soon."
"That's not good enough," the man on the bed said. "Mr. Sekyo has already been very patient with you."
"I-I have a job," Kurama said desperately. "I'll pay everything back, I promise."
"A job doing what?" sneered the slim man. "Sucking cock?" His expression was lecherous.
"No," Kurama snapped, angry at the little man. Surely that wasn't what the businessman had in mind?
"It doesn't matter," the man on the bed said, standing up. "You've missed another payment." He began to unbuckle his belt and Kurama backed towards the door, terrified.
The smaller man shot forward, deceptively thin fingers wrapping around Kurama's upper arm like a vice. Kurama cried out and tried to pull free but the man's grip only tightened.
"Over here, Ani," the large man said. He stood by the bed, belt in hand.
Kurama whimpered and begged for mercy. Neither man listened. Kurama was dragged towards the bed and shoved face-down onto it.
"Can't we have a bit of fun this time, Ototo?" Ani purred, running his hand over Kurama's firm arse. "I bet the little fag will enjoy it."
"No," his brother answered. "That's not part of our job. Now gag him so he doesn't scream the place down."
"Karasu wouldn't care," Ani muttered as he shoved one of Kurama's panties in his mouth. Kurama choked on the lacy red material, furious that they had gone through his private things. Ani held his head down firmly, shoving his face into the mattress.
Ototo glared at Ani.
"Then go work with Karasu," he snapped. "I won't put up with your sadistic games. Mr. Sekyo wants his money. He can't get it from a corpse. Besides, Karasu has already messed this one up enough as it is."
He brought the belt down and Kurama screamed into the makeshift gag.
Ani's cruel laughter lingered in Kurama's ears long after the brothers had left. Numbly, he stared at himself in the mirror of his small bathroom. He was skinny from malnutrition and his eyes were red-rimmed from crying. The bruise Yusuke had left was dark now. He would need to cover it with makeup tomorrow. At least the brothers hadn't left any bruises where they would show.
He had tossed the pair of panties that Ani had used as a gag in the trash. He would not be able to bring himself to wear them again, even after washing them. He cursed Karasu. He was glad that the sadistic predator wasn't there tonight. If Karasu had seen him wearing pants meant for a man, he would have beaten the redhead until he lost consciousness. Karasu liked to force Kurama to dress up like a woman and Kurama was in no position to refuse. As long as he still owed Sekyo money, he was their plaything.
Ototo Toguro was probably the most decent of the group. At least he was straightforward and had never showed any sexual interest in Kurama, though he was uncompromising and did not listen to excuses or pleas for mercy. He kept Karasu and Ani from indulging in their twisted desires within his presence, however.
After bathing and putting some salve on his sore arse, Kurama heated up some rice in the microwave. He wasn't hungry but he knew that if he didn't eat something he would not be able to function properly tomorrow. The situation could still be salvaged, if he was careful. He didn't know how much Hiei Jaganshi intended to pay him but if he gave every cent of it to Sekyo's men it might be enough to appease them. Or he always had the option of stealing valuables if he became truly desperate. The mansion had to be full of items that he could sell and as a maid, it should be easy to smuggle some of those out.
A maid. Kurama grimaced. He was not surprised that he had been mistaken for a girl, despite the fact that he'd been wearing pants. It was something that happened a lot, even before Karasu had ordered him to dress as a girl all the time. His frame was slim and his features fine and girlish. His long hair only added to his feminine looks. He was appalled however, that he would have to work as a maid and wear a uniform. He hoped it wouldn't be too revealing. Karasu would enjoy hearing about this. Kurama made a promise to himself that he would do anything to keep him from finding out.
His mind flashed back to the nice girl with the teal-coloured hair and the lovely kimono. He hoped he wouldn't have to steal from the Jaganshis. He hoped that his pay would be enough to satisfy Sekyo. Somehow, he didn't want to disappoint that nice girl. He felt bad that he had even tried to rob them but he had been desperate. He had thought that with the gems he could pay off his debt all at once, but that clearly wasn't going to happen. Hiei Jaganshi would surely have him watched closely now.
Getting into bed should have been a relief for Kurama, but sleep had long since failed to provide him with respite. Instead, his dreams were filled with leering men with long, greasy hair, like Ani's and glowing red eyes, much like Hiei Jaganshi's. Their thin, gnarled fingers stroked Kurama's bare skin until he felt as though a thousand ants were crawling over him. He woke before dawn, body slick with sweat and tears sliding wetly down his cheeks.
Hiei was a little surprised when Yusuke escorted Kurama to his office the next morning. He had been expecting the woman to not show up at all.
She stood in front of his desk, dressed in a plain brown skirt that fell to just above her knees and a white blouse. Hiei personally felt that it didn't suit her. It was too drab. Her long hair was tied back into a ponytail. The bruise on her cheek was not visible, likely hidden under makeup.
"You showed up," Hiei grunted as he put some files into his briefcase.
"Did you think I wouldn't?" she asked, her tone offended. Hiei looked up to see her frowning at him.
"You'll be mostly responsible for my area of the house," Hiei told her. "I have maids who take care of the rest of the house but I don't like them coming in and out of my room or handling my personal things. Yukina will arrange a uniform for you."
"Why do you trust me to come and go from your rooms?" Kurama asked. "You have every reason not to trust me."
Hiei glared at her. "I don't trust you," he said flatly, "but you have more to lose than the other maids if you mess this up."
"Oh, good, you're here."
Kurama turned at the sound of the voice coming from the door. Yukina stood there, dressed casually in a pleated skirt and blouse. "I'm so glad you came back," she smiled kindly at Kurama.
"Yukina, get her uniform and show her what her duties will be," Hiei said. "I'll be at the office until late."
"Okay. Have a nice day, Hiei," Yukina said. She offered Kurama her hand and Kurama took it with a small smile. "We're going to have so much fun," she told Kurama.
Hiei pointedly cleared his throat. "She's here to work, not amuse you all day," he told Yukina sternly.
She pouted at him over her shoulder. "Well, since you're not here I need someone to keep me company." She guided Kurama from the room and Hiei groaned quietly. He was beginning to feel as if this had been a bad idea.
Yukina provided Kurama with a uniform. Much to his relief, it was not the skimpy sort he had been half-expecting. Instead, it was quite sensible. It was a black button-up dress with white trim on the collar and sleeves. There was also a white headband to keep his hair out of his face.
His duties would consist of keeping Hiei's living area and office clean, doing his laundry and anything else he needed throughout the day.
His pay was very reasonable, which surprised and pleased Kurama. He would have one day off a week, which was Saturday, and that just happened to be tomorrow.
Yukina showed him around her brother's rooms, letting him familiarize himself with the layout and how Hiei preferred things. It seemed that he was very particular. Everything had a place and his clothes had to be folded in a certain way. That suited Kurama, since he was quite particular himself. Despite the fact that his apartment was cheap, he kept it spotlessly clean.
Kurama also approved of Hiei's taste in decor. It was simple and elegant without being opulent. Everything was obviously of good quality but not showy.
Hiei's bedroom had only one piece of artwork in it and it left Kurama breathless with awe. Over his bed hung a tapestry of a red and black dragon. Kurama was so entranced by it that Yukina had to touch his arm gently to get his attention. When he glanced at her she smiled at him.
"It's his family crest," she informed him.
Kurama was puzzled. "Isn't it your family crest, too?" he asked. "You are his sister."
Yukina looked uncomfortable and Kurama immediately wished that he could retract his words, though he didn't understand why she was affected by them.
"I suppose," she said, twirling a strand of her teal hair around her finger. She seemed to notice Kurama's confusion and added, "We were separated as children and adopted by different families. The dragon crest is the crest of Hiei's adopted family."
"I see," Kurama said. It occurred to him that perhaps Yukina felt as though she didn't exactly fit in with Hiei's family. "It's very beautiful," he added in an attempt to make her feel better.
Yukina turned a bright smile on him. "I like it, too," she said. "I think it suits Hiei."
Kurama had to agree. His new boss did seem to have the attitude of a large and temperamental beast. He smiled as the image of Hiei breathing fire instead of sharp words came to his mind.
After spending the morning showing Kurama around, Yukina took him to the kitchen for lunch. He was surprised to see that Hiei's cook was a young woman with brown hair and a sensible air. He had been expecting someone more matronly.
The smell of the food cooking almost made him drool. He hadn't realised how hungry he was. It seemed lunch was an informal affair as the cook, Keiko, joined them after serving. Yukina had informed Kurama that there were no set breaks. Hiei didn't care when the maids ate lunch as long as the work got done. Keiko would usually have small meals set aside for the maids throughout the day if they didn't bring their own.
"This is Kurama," Yukina told her. "She's Hiei's new maid."
Keiko smiled at him. "I hope you last longer than the previous girl he hired," she said. "He's hard to please. Honestly, if my husband didn't work here, I don't think I could put up with him."
Yukina giggled. "He's not that bad," she said.
Keiko smiled at her. "You're family," she said. "I think you may be the only person he really cares about. Well, at least he and Yusuke seem to get along. I can't think of anyone else crazy enough to hire Yusuke."
"Yusuke is your husband?" Kurama asked curiously.
"Yes. Have you met him yet?" Keiko inquired.
Kurama suddenly felt uncomfortable. It seemed Keiko was unaware of the circumstances surrounding Kurama's employment. Yukina came to the rescue.
"They met yesterday evening," she said. She did not elaborate and Keiko didn't press for more information. Kurama was glad.
After lunch, Keiko returned to the kitchen and Kurama spent the afternoon cleaning Hiei's office. He wasn't sure what to do with the papers he found on Hiei's desk so he tried to organise them as best he could, hoping the little man wouldn't take offence that he had touched them.
Yukina bid Kurama a cheerful goodbye when his day was over. He wished her a good night and headed home. He found that he was a little disappointed that he had not seen Hiei again. Despite the man's unpleasant demeanor Kurama couldn't help but admit that he was attracted to him. Though he was of short stature, he looked as though he was well-built beneath his tailored suit. Kurama had never really been attracted to anyone before, male or female, so he had never given much thought to his sexuality. He had always assumed that he was attracted to women, as that was what was expected of him. However, since his encounter with Hiei, he began to suspect that he was actually attracted to men.
The thought scared him. He hadn't liked it when Karasu and Ani raped him. Ani liked to make it as painful as possible, but Karasu took perverse delight in pleasuring Kurama. It made Kurama sick to think of it.
Would it be different with Hiei? Would it be different if it was an act he chose to engage in, rather than something forced on him?
Kurama hesitated before opening his apartment door, silently praying that tonight he would have no unwelcome visitors. He was relieved to find that, when he turned the lights on, his apartment was empty. He put his handbag on the small dining room table and began to undress, making his way to the bathroom.
He peeled off the dress and the headband. Kurama had worn his uniform home minus the apron since it was sensible enough. Yukina had also given him a spare. He removed the padded bra and panties, tossing them in the washbasket along with his other clothes and ran the shower.
The water was warm and soothing and the scent of his soap was relaxing. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the small amount of peace. It was nice to forget about his problems even for just a short time.
He felt he could have stayed there all night but the water soon began to cool. There was never enough hot water. Kurama stepped out before he could begin to shiver and dried himself off with a towel. He wrapped another around his hair and pulled on sweatpants and a loose-fitting t-shirt. Karasu wasn't here to object to his clothing choice so he felt safe enough.
He went out into the kitchenette and heated up a frozen meal in the microwave. He liked cooking but lacked the equipment and room to do so. He lived mostly on frozen meals.
That night, he fell asleep quickly, a rare occurrence these days. His sleep was mercifully dreamless.
The next day Kurama rose and dressed in one of the nicest sets of clothes he owned; a white button-up dress shirt and dark slacks. Karasu would object if he were present but Kurama would happily risk it. He removed his earrings and applied his makeup carefully. Just enough to cover the bruise on his cheek.
His first stop for the day was a nearby florist. He purchased a bouquet and then got on the train.
He took the train to the nearest hospital, bypassing reception and heading straight for the third floor. He had been here many times lately.
When he entered the room the woman inside was asleep. Her dark hair was pulled back, though some of it had come loose. Her face was pale and her cheeks sunken. Her form beneath the sheets was thin and frail. Kurama's stomach twisted as he placed the flowers in the vase on the dresser. The sweet scent of the flowers helped to mask the horrible antiseptic smell of the hospital room.
Kurama sat down on the uncomfortable chair next to her bed, not wanting to wake her. He picked up the book on her bedside table and began to read. He'd left the book there the last time he'd visited.
After some time, Kurama felt a hand on his arm. He looked towards the bed to find the woman awake and smiling at him.
"Shuichi," she said fondly. "Don't you have better things to do on the weekend?"
"No, mother," Kurama said, smiling at her.
"Well, you should," she told him.
"I don't want to be anywhere but here," he assured her.
She shook her head, smiling thinly. "You're a good boy," she said softly, squeezing his hand. Kurama fought to hold back his tears. He'd vowed he would never let her see him cry.
"The doctor said I'm making progress," she told him. "It looks as if the new medication is helping."
"That's excellent," Kurama said, feeling hope stir in his chest. The medicine had been extremely expensive, which had led to him seeking a loan from Sekyo. His mother had been unable to afford the treatment and Kurama had been desperate. He would endure anything if it meant that his mother would be well.
"How are you doing?" she asked.
For once, Kurama had good news for her and he wouldn't have to lie. "I have a job," he told her.
"Are you enjoying it?" she asked and Kurama didn't miss the worry in her tone. It did not escape Kurama’s notice that she had not asked him what the job was. He often wondered exactly how much she knew or guessed about his current circumstances.
"Yes, I am. My colleagues seem very nice." He smiled at the thought of Yukina and Keiko. "My boss is a little stern, though."
She laughed. Something about his expression must have allayed her worries. "I'm sure you'll do just fine," she told him.
Kurama patted her hand. "Don't worry about me, mother. Just concentrate on getting better."
She coughed, and Kurama rose to get her a glass of water. After she sipped it, she smiled weakly at him. "You're my only son," she said. "Of course I worry about you. I don't know how you've managed on your own, what with looking after yourself and paying for my medical bills."
Kurama had always been tight-lipped on that subject. She would never find out how he'd gotten the money. He knew that she would be devastated.
Kurama spent most of the day at the hospital. Before returning to his apartment, he went to the grocery store. He wasn't able to afford very much as Hiei had yet to pay him anything. Kurama had been told that he would receive his first pay at the end of the week. Likely Hiei still thought that Kurama would bail out on him.
Kurama knew as soon as he opened the door to his apartment that someone was there. The lights were on and he was certain that he had turned them off before he'd left that morning.
A tall, slender man with long dark hair lounged on Kurama's bed as though he owned it and Kurama swallowed a lump in his throat. He toyed with the idea of simply turning around and leaving, but he knew that it would only delay the inevitable.
"Hello, Karasu," he said quietly. He walked to the kitchenette bench and set his two bags down.
"How is your lovely mother today?" Karasu asked, his voice silky sweet.
Bile rose in Kurama's throat at the sound of Karasu's voice. His hands shook as he put away the groceries. It took him some time to answer.
"She's... fine," he finally managed to get out. He leaned against the bench, needing the support and not wanting to move any closer to the man.
"You must be pleased," Karasu said, sliding gracefully off the bed. He had removed his black jacket and now he wore a dress shirt, several buttons undone to show off his chest and tight leather pants. He walked slowly towards Kurama, as if he were a lion stalking his prey. His eyes remained locked on Kurama, pinning him in place.
When Karasu was right in front of Kurama, he lifted the redhead's chin so Kurama was forced to look him in the face.
"Right?" he asked, his voice still silky.
"Y-yes," Kurama stammered out. He began to tremble with apprehension and fear.
"Good." Karasu rubbed his thumb over the corner of Kurama's lips and he parted them on instinct. Karasu lowered his face to Kurama's and kissed him gently. Kurama turned his head away, disgusted.
Karasu stepped back and slapped Kurama's face, leaving a sharp sting. Kurama cried out in surprise and pain.
"Your mother is alive because of my boss's generosity," Karasu sneered. "You should show a little gratitude."
Kurama wanted to point out that he didn't have to show any kind of gratitude to Karasu since he wasn't Sekyo, but kept his mouth shut. It would only enrage Karasu more and Kurama didn't want to find out what the man was truly capable of if he were angered enough.
Karasu grabbed a fistful of the redhead's hair and this time Kurama didn't resist as Karasu kissed him again. He felt Karasu's hand groping his butt as he deepened the kiss.
Karasu finally pulled back, a thin strip of saliva connecting his mouth to Kurama's for a moment before it snapped. His hand continued to grope Kurama's backside and Kurama couldn't help but squirm uncomfortably. From the smirk on Karasu's face, he was obviously enjoying it. He pushed his body hard against Kurama, pressing him back against the bench. Kurama could feel Karasu's growing erection.
"Since you went to visit your mother today, I'll forgive your choice of clothing," Karasu purred. "Go put on something more suitable. And put those lovely earrings I bought you back on as well.“
He stepped back, allowing Kurama room to move. Kurama took a deep breath before walking past Karasu to the bed. Karasu slapped his backside lightly as he brushed past him, chuckling quietly.
Sitting on the corner of the bed was a pair of pink lacy panties and a matching pink bra. Kurama knew that he didn't own them so Karasu must have bought them. He liked to buy Kurama female clothing and make him wear them, particularly underwear.
Kurama hesitantly picked up the small garments, feeling sick to his stomach.
"I told the sales assistant that they were for my girlfriend," Karasu informed him. Kurama chose not to respond, deciding that it was information he preferred to forget. He walked to the bathroom, all the while expecting to hear Karasu object from behind him, but there was only silence. It seemed Karasu was content to allow him to change in private today. Kurama closed the bathroom door behind him, wishing he could stay in there all night, or at least until Karasu left. It was a futile hope, he knew.
Karasu kept Kurama occupied until very late. Kurama had been terrified that he would spend the entire night but after midnight he had finally left. Kurama had drifted into an exhausted sleep.
He felt awful when he woke to his alarm the next morning. He wished he could just stay in bed all day. Karasu had made him cum several times and he was sore and tired. At least there were no new bruises that would show and he would have to cover up with makeup.
He made it to the Jaganshi mansion on time. He was again escorted to Hiei's office and this time both the businessman and his sister were present when he entered.
"Oh, Kurama. You look exhausted," Yukina told him when she caught sight of him.
Kurama sighed. It seemed that the copious amount of makeup he'd applied wasn't enough to conceal his exhaustion. He had also not eaten the night before and hadn't had a chance to have a decent breakfast.
Hiei looked up from his desk and scrutinized Kurama. "You'd better not have gone out drinking yesterday," he finally said. "I won't tolerate that kind of irresponsible behaviour."
"Who went out drinking and why wasn't I invited?"
Kurama turned to see Yusuke leaning casually against the door. He looked just like he had on the evening they had met. He was wearing a suit, though the tie was askew and his black hair was slicked back.
"is the car ready?" Hiei asked, choosing to ignore Yusuke's opening words.
"Yep. Hurry up, you slacker," Yusuke said. "You're not going to blame me if we're late."
Yukina giggled behind her hand. "I'm sorry, Kurama," she told him. "I have to go work at the office. I hope you'll be okay on your own today."
"Of course," Kurama told her, though he felt disappointed. Yukina had been good company.
"Hey, Kurama," Yusuke said. "Still here, huh? You won me a bet."
"A bet?" Kurama asked, confused.
"Yeah. Kuwabara bet me that you wouldn't last past the first day but here you are. Nice going, babe." Yusuke congratulated him with a grin.
"Let's go," Hiei snapped, his tone irritated. He didn't even look at Kurama as he strode past Yusuke and out the door.
"Don't worry. I'm sure you'll do fine," Yukina said reassuringly. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Have a nice day," Kurama told her.
"See ya." Yusuke waved at him as he and Yukina left, leaving Kurama alone in the office.
He sighed as he looked around. Papers littered almost every surface. Hadn't Hiei heard of computers? He would have to straighten all of them up before he could properly clean. He decided to start on the office first, since he was here already and then move on to Hiei's living area.
The day was a lonely one for Kurama. The other maids were not unkind but they were distant. His one bright spot during the day was lunch with Keiko. Again, she interrupted her work to eat with him. He told her about the bet and was amused to see that she seemed caught between laughter and annoyance at her husband's antics.
"I'm so sorry he did that," she told Kurama. "But really it has more to do with Hiei than you. He's really tough on his employees."
"I admit, I haven't really seen that side of him yet," Kurama told her. "I've spent very little time with him so far."
"That's probably for the best," Keiko said. "I hope things keep going well for you here."
"So do I," Kurama said sincerely. He was really looking forward to his first pay check.
Keiko had explained to him that the other maids' distant attitudes came from the fact that they didn't want to get close to someone who might not be there long. "Just give them time," she told him. "They're nice people. Don't be afraid to ask them for help or advice if you need it."
Kurama felt infinitely better after speaking with Keiko. His mood remained cheery for the rest of the day.
When Kurama returned home that night, he never even made it to his apartment before he was accosted. Two men were leaning on the wall next to his apartment door. One was the younger Toguro brother and the other was Karasu.
Karasu smiled brightly when he caught sight of Kurama. "Hello, pet," he said. Ototo turned his head to look at him but his eyes were hidden behind his sunglasses again. Kurama wished he would remove them.
Kurama stood at the end of the hall several meters away from the pair. He didn't want to approach but Karasu pushed off from the wall and strode towards him. His arm slid around Kurama's waist, pulling the redhead to him. Kurama tensed but didn't try to pull away. He had no idea what was going on here and didn't want to antagonise the situation. Ototo did not like working with Karasu and would not do so unless directly ordered to by Sekyo.
His question was answered a moment later when Karasu murmured, "Mr. Sekyo wants to see you, sweetheart. You'll have to come with us."
Kurama's mind raced, searching frantically for an excuse to refuse, but he knew Ototo would not listen to him. So he allowed Karasu to guide him towards the elevator, holding him close like a lover. Ototo followed a little ways behind them.
Once on the elevator, Karasu spent the entire time kissing Kurama's neck. He was disgusted. A quick glance at Ototo showed that his mouth was turned down in a frown. When Karasu's hand slid under Kurama's dress and up his thigh, Ototo cleared his throat. With a pout Karasu retracted his hand, much to Kurama's relief.
ONce outside the building, Kurama was escorted to a black limousine. The chauffeur held open the door for him and he proceded into the vehicle, followed by his two abductors.
Mr. Sekyo sat on the black leather seat, a wine glass in one hand. His suit was immaculate and his long dark hair straight and neat. The interior of the vehicle smelled like cigarette smoke and Kurama coughed. Ototo's large hand pushed Kurama to his knees in front of his elegant employer. Karasu and Ototo sat on the seat behind him.
"Good evening, Mr. Minamino," Sekyo said pleasantly.
Kurama did not answer. The smoke was overpowering and he was worried that he would choke on it if he opened his mouth.
Sekyo didn't seem bothered by his silence. He continued, "I understand that you have recently found employment with Hiei Jaganshi."
Kurama's blood ran cold. He couldn't believe the businessman had found out about his job so fast. All he could do was numbly nod.
"Do whatever you have to do to keep your job," Sekyo told him. "You are currently in a position that might be useful to me one day."
Kurama swallowed. He could sense an opportunity here but he was almost too afraid to take it.
"What about my payments?" he asked cautiously.
Sekyo frowned at him. "Perhaps we can come to some other arrangement," he said thoughtfully.
If Kurama had turned around and seen the smirk spread across Karasu's face he might have backtracked but he did not.
"What kind of arrangement?" he asked.
"Some of my employees have taken quite a shine to you, Mr. Minamino," Sekyo said.
Kurama's face paled. He resisted the urge to turn and look at Karasu. He began to feel sick.
"Perhaps if you were willing to accommodate them, adjustments could be made to your payments," Sekyo said.
Gamely Kurama said, "I want the debt wiped."
"I'm not willing to do that," Sekyo said tightly.
"Do you have any idea the kinds of things your employees do to me?" Kurama snapped, his anger building. "Either you agree to wipe the debt or I'll go to the police."
A large hand fisted in his hair and yanked painfully. Kurama cried out as his head was jerked back. He found himself staring into Ototo Toguro's face. His back arched painfully as he tried to adjust to his new position.
"You insolent little boy," he snapped, jerking Kurama's head roughly from side to side by his hair. "Show some respect."
Kurama whimpered in pain, tears leaking from the corners of his green eyes.
Sekyo's voice cut through his sobs. "You'll sign a contract," he said, his voice hard. "You will agree to service my employees at their convenience for a set fee. That fee will be taken off your repayments. In addition, you will give me half of what Jaganshi is paying you. I estimate that in three years or so your debt will be entirely paid off. That's not such a bad deal. Provided you do not incur more debt, that is."
Three years. Three years of being under this man's thumb. Three years of being Karasu and Ani's plaything. Three years of working as a maid for Hiei Jaganshi and possibly having to betray him. Kurama seriously doubted that Karasu would let him go, even after three years, though. His head ached. Ototo still held his hair firmly, exposing his vulnerable throat to his abusers. Karasu leaned over and idly ran one fingernail along it, enjoying the way Kurama shuddered. Did he have a choice?
"Fine," he gasped out. "I'll sign your damn contract."
"Good boy," Sekyo said. "And just in case you still have thoughts of going to the police, I think I will let Ototo give you a taste of what happens to naughty little boys."
The limousine stopped and Sekyo stepped out, not even looking back at Kurama as he did so. Karasu followed him after condescendingly wishing Kurama a good night,, leaving him alone with Ototo. The large man used his hold on Kurama's hair to pull him onto his lap. The smell of leather mixed with the smell of tobacco as Kurama rested his forehead on the seat. His hair fanned out across the expensive black leather and over the side of the seat.
By the time Ototo finished spanking his backside Kurama was in tears. Humiliatingly, Ototo had escorted him all the way to his apartment door. He could barely walk and needed to cling to the large man for support. He stumbled through the door and locked it behind him with relief. He collapsed to the floor and cried. Soon he would be getting another visit from the men, he knew, and they would bring the contract that would bind him for the next three years, at least.
Yukina noticed that Kurama was depressed the next day and tried to cheer him up. She suggested that he go out with them on the weekend and Kurama didn't have the heart to refuse. Especially not when Yukina and Keiko tag-teamed him. Yukina kindly allowed him to leave work early so he could get some rest.
He never made it back to his apartment. Ototo and Karasu were waiting for him at the train station. He had no idea how they even knew he’d gotten off work early. They again escorted him to a limousine. Kurama sat on the expensively upholstered seat and signed the contract Karasu handed him. He didn't even bother to read it. He didn't really want to know what was in it.
"From now on you'll be living in my apartment," Karasu told him. "It will be much more convenient for us."
Kurama's blood ran cold. "I don't want to," he said.
Karasu, who was sitting beside him, slid his hand along Kurama's leg. "What you want doesn't matter anymore," he told the redhead as he caressed his skin. "You'll be living as my girlfriend. You'll wear what I tell you to wear and do what I tell you to do. Your stuff has already been moved from your apartment. What little that was worth keeping anyway."
Kurama fought to hold back the tears. "What about my photo albums?" he asked. He didn't want to lose the photos of his mother and deceased father.
"They are in Karasu's apartment," Ototo assured him, speaking for the first time. He then went back to staring out the tinted window, eyes hidden behind his sunglasses as usual.
The building Karasu lived in was owned by Sekyo's company. Karasu's apartment was lavish and tastefully decorated. Kurama hated it. It had a cold, impersonal feel to it. Everything was expensive and Kurama was scared to touch anything, lest he break it and it be added to his ever-growing debt to Sekyo.
He learned that he would be sleeping in Karasu's room. Most of his clothes had been discarded. Karasu had purchased him an entirely new wardrobe consisting solely of feminine articles of clothing. They were obviously expensive and Kurama was sure that most women would be thrilled to be presented with such a gift. It just made him want to throw up.
Karasu left him alone to bathe. The bathroom off the master bedroom was large and decorated in black and red tiles. Kurama privately thought that it suited Karasu. He was relieved to be alone for a while. He took his time in the bathtub, basking in the hot water and sweetly scented soap.
The towels were thick and soft. Kurama dried himself off and reluctantly dressed in what Karasu had left for him; a set of green silk lingerie. He lingered in the bathroom, not wanting to face Karasu, however he knew he couldn't stay there forever. He eventually left the bathroom.
Karasu was not there when Kurama exited. Kurama immediately crawled under the thick covers of the bed. The bedroom was done in the same style of decor as the bathroom. It certainly wasn't to Kurama's taste.
When Karasu entered the bedroom he carried a tray of food with him. Kurama eyed it suspiciously. A plate of salad and a glass of juice sat on it along with a pill.
Kurama stared at the pill doubtfully.
"I know you haven't had any dinner, darling," Karasu told him, setting the tray down beside Kurama. "Normally I will expect you to do the cooking but today will be an exception."
“What is that?” Kurama asked, his eyes lingering on the tablet.
“A vitamin,” Karasu told him. “I want you to stay healthy.”
Kurama grimaced but pulled himself up to lean against the headboard. He wished he could stay under the covers entirely and hide the lingerie but it would be difficult to eat like that.
As he picked at the salad, Karasu's eyes lingered on the green bra. Much to Kurama's relief, Karasu did not touch him, however.
Kurama tried to push the tray away after eating half the salad but Karasu insisted that he eat all of it and drink the juice as well. Kurama obeyed. The suspicion that the food might be drugged came to his mind but he immediately discarded it. He couldn't see what Karasu stood to gain by drugging him now. He was already entirely at Karasu's mercy.
When he was finished Karasu set the tray on the nightstand. He stood and went to the bathroom. Kurama gratefully sank under the covers again. He closed his eyes and prayed for sleep.
He had almost dozed off when he felt the bed shift next to him. A warm body slid under the covers beside him and Kurama curled onto his side, facing away from Karasu. He felt Karasu adjust his position so that he was spooning Kurama, pressed against his back. Kurama was disturbed to realise that Karasu was entirely naked. His cock was hard and pressed against Kurama's rear. Tears stung his eyes but Kurama refused to cry. He kept his eyes shut and his breathing even as Karasu wrapped an arm around him.
"Good night, sweetheart," he murmured into Kurama's hair.
Kurama swallowed thickly. He said nothing back. He wished he were anywhere else right now.
Karasu's breathing slowly evened out into sleep but it was a long time before Kurama was able to sink into the darkness.
The next morning Kurama woke to Karasu's fingers caressing his long red hair.
"Good morning, darling," Karasu said, leaning over to press his lips against Kurama's bare shoulder. "Did you sleep well?"
Kurama couldn't truthfully answer that. Instead, he pulled away from Karasu, sliding his long legs out from under the covers and getting to his feet. "I have to go to work," he said. He had almost reached the closet when he felt arms close around his waist. He was pulled back against Karasu's hard chest.
"Without breakfast?" Karasu murmured. "Such a bad habit, Shuichi."
Kurama squirmed in Karasu's hold. "I'm not hungry," he said.
Karasu transferred his grip to Kurama's arm and tugged him towards the door. "You'll make breakfast for both of us," he told Kurama.
"I don't have time," Kurama protested, though he knew it was a lie. The clock on the nightstand had read 6:30. He had plenty of time.
"I made sure you have time," Karasu told him. "I'll be dropping you off at Jaganshi's on my way to work."
Kurama was towed into the kitchen. It was well stocked and the equipment was top grade. Kurama was able to make a decent breakfast for both of them, though he could barely bring himself to eat his. Karasu made no complaint about his cooking, much to Kurama's relief. It was humiliating however, to have to cook dressed only in the skimpy lingerie he had been wearing last night. Karasu seemed to enjoy the view, though.
Kurama was relieved when Karasu let him return to the bedroom and shower. He dressed in his uniform as Karasu took his own shower. Kurama carefully avoided looking at Karasu's naked body. He did his makeup while Karasu dressed in his suit.
"That dress is quite flattering on you," Karasu commented as Kurama applied his lipstick. Kurama decided to ignore him. He didn't really care what Karasu thought about the uniform.
Kurama was still in the bathroom fixing his hair when Karasu finished dressing and went into the bedroom. Karasu had also purchased several hair ornaments for Kurama but he did not make use of any of them. After tying back his hair and adjusting the headband, he joined Karasu in the bedroom.
"All ready, darling?" he asked.
Kurama nodded mutely.
"My chauffeur will be here shortly," Karasu said, retrieving his phone from the nightstand on his side of the bed. Kurama retrieved his bag, which contained his own phone.
At 7:30 the two left in Karasu's limousine. Karasu assured him that they would arrive at Jaganshi's with plenty of time to spare. Kurama stared out the window the entire way. Karasu spent the time on his phone. When they arrived at the mansion, Karasu bid him good day. Kurama couldn't remember what he said in response. He couldn't get out of the vehicle fast enough.
He breathed a sigh of relief as it disappeared around the corner. He finally had a respite from this nightmare.
"Hey, Kurama!" Kurama turned to see Yusuke sauntering down the steps towards him. Keiko stood by the door, arms crossed. "Nice ride," Yusuke said as he reached him. He wore a cocky grin on his face.
"Mmmm," Kurama said, non-committally.
"Let me guess... Rich boyfriend?" Yusuke asked as he trailed Kurama up the steps.
"Leave her alone, Yusuke," Keiko snapped at him. "Some girls like to keep their love life private."
"Not according to all those girly magazines you read," Yusuke shot back. "Girls tell each other everything."
"Yusuke, did you read my girly magazines?" Keiko asked suspiciously. Kurama's mouth twitched upward into an amused smile.
Yusuke's cheeks turned slightly pink. "You're missing the point, babe," he protested.
Kurama hid his smile behind his hand as Keiko exclaimed, "Yusuke!"
"I only read them for dating tips, all right?" Yusuke said. "Girls are so hard to please."
Keiko sighed and shook her head. "Come on, Kurama," she said, taking his arm. "Get going Yusuke, or you'll be late."
"Whatever," Yusuke said, waving his hand in the air. "I bet Hiei won't even notice I'm not there."
"Did Hiei leave early this morning?" Kurama asked in surprise.
"Yeah," Yusuke said. "He goes in early some days. At least he doesn't expect me to go with him."
"Not that it would hurt you," Keiko grumbled. She pulled Kurama through the door and shut it behind them, leaving Yusuke on the steps.
"Yukina's here today so we can all have lunch together, okay?" she said to Kurama.
"I'm looking forward to it," he assured her.
"I'll see you then." She waved as she left him standing in the entryway.
Kurama made his way to Hiei's office. Hiei's OCD habits in his living space didn't seem to extend to his office. Again, it was a mess. Kurama sighed. Organizing all of the paperwork into something resembling order always took a large bulk of his time. He hoped Hiei appreciated the effort but he doubted the short man even noticed.
After finishing the office and a few other chores, he sat down to lunch with Keiko and Yukina. Yukina seemed especially happy today.
"You seem in a good mood today," Kurama told her. "May I ask why?"
Yukina smiled brilliantly at him, her cherry red eyes dancing. "Kazuma finally asked me out," she said happily.
Keiko squealed. "It's about time!" she cried. "It's taken him forever."
Yukina laughed. "I guess he's finally worked up the courage. Honestly, until he asked me out I wasn't really sure how he felt about me. We're going out for dinner tonight. Though I don't think Hiei will be happy about it. He doesn't seem to approve of Kazuma."
Keiko patted her shoulder sympathetically. "I don't think he would approve of anybody dating you, to be honest," she told her. "So don't worry about it." Her face took on a wistful look. “I wish Yusuke was as thoughtful as Kuwabara. He never takes me out to dinner.”
"Who is Kazuma?" Kurama asked curiously.
Keiko turned to him. "He's Yusuke's best friend. We all went to school together. He's a doctor now."
"I'm very happy for you," Kurama told Yukina. "I hope your date goes well." He really did feel that way. It was nice to see someone's love life going well.
"Thank you, Kurama," Yukina responded. Then a devilish gleam came into her eyes. "And what about you?" she asked.
Kurama's face went white. "What about me?" he asked warily.
"Who dropped you off this morning? Was it your boyfriend?" Keiko asked eagerly.
"Please, I don't want to discuss it," Kurama pleaded.
"So it was?" Yukina asked. "That's wonderful."
No. No, it wasn't wonderful. But Kurama couldn't tell them that. He lowered his head and concentrated on finishing his meal. The girls noticed his discomfort and dropped the subject, but when he looked up he saw them both staring at him with identical worried expressions on their faces.
Hiei arrived home from work and got settled in his office. He was surprised and pleased to note that his papers had been neatly organised once again. Kurama's doing, no doubt. It made things much easier for him. His previous maids used to simply shove them all in one large, disorderly pile on his desk. Kurama's stacks were neat and sorted, expediting Hiei's work.
A soft knock sounded on the door and Hiei looked up to see Yukina peering in at him, her face apprehensive.
“Come in,” he said, leaning back in his chair. She edged into the room and settled onto one of the chairs in front of his desk. She fiddled awkwardly with the hem of her skirt.
“What’s wrong?” Hiei asked. “Did something happen today?”
A shy smile spread across her face. “Actually, yes,” she said. “Kazuma asked me out this morning.”
“Kazuma?” Hiei frowned. “Yusuke’s friend? The idiot that always dyes his hair that hideous orange colour?”
“Hiei!” Yukina admonished. “Please don’t say those sort of things about him.”
Hiei sighed and pressed his fingertips to his temples. “I take it you said yes,” he said snippily.
Yukina’s eyes blazed disapprovingly at him. “I did,” she informed him bluntly. Her tone told him that she wouldn’t change her mind, no matter what he said.
“I just think you could do better,” Hiei muttered, sliding papers around in an attempt to distract himself.
“You would say that no matter who I dated,” Yukina said. Her smile was fond now. “Please support me in this, Hiei.” Her eyes were large and her tone was pleading. Hiei melted.
“Alright,” he said. “But he’d better not hurt you.”
Yukina smiled brilliantly at him. “Thank you, brother,” she said. “I was thinking we could all get together sometime soon and go out. You and Kazuma could get to know each other better. And Yusuke and Keiko could come with us as well. Maybe even Kurama.”
“Kurama?” Hiei demanded. “Why Kurama?”
Oh, she’s very nice, Hiei. I know you haven’t spent much time with her but I’m sure you’d like her. I think she’s a little lonely, actually,” Yukina said. "We were planning on taking her out with us this weekend, anyway."
Hiei did the math. Yukina and Kuwabara. Yusuke and Keiko. Kurama and… “Are you trying to set us up?” he asked, a suspicious frown crossing his face.
“No!” Yukina exclaimed. “Actually, I think she has a boyfriend, though she won’t admit to it. I just think she might like to come out with us.”
Hiei shook his head. His sister was far too nice and thoughtful. And as usual, he couldn’t refuse her. “All right,” he said. “But it will definitely have to be on the weekend. I have a lot of work to do.”
“That’s fine,” Yukina said happily. “I’ll talk to the others.” She stood up and left the room. Hiei sighed. A night out with the people who annoyed him the most didn’t seem like a good idea to him but he would do anything to make Yukina happy. If that meant accepting the oaf into his family, then so be it. He hoped Kurama wouldn’t come, however. He still wasn’t sure how he felt about her. She had held to her end of the bargain, doing her job efficiently but she hadn’t been working for him for long enough for him to judge her character. He disliked the fact that Yukina seemed to be growing closer to her. He didn’t want to see his sister get hurt if Kurama betrayed them.
When Kurama arrived at Karasu’s apartment (he couldn’t bring himself to call it home) he found a note sitting on the kitchen bench. It informed him that Karasu expected him to clean the apartment before he arrived home. Kurama was relieved to have something to do besides wallow in self-pity. The note also informed him that they would be going out to dinner so, as like last night, he wouldn’t have to cook tonight.
When Karasu arrived home he kissed Kurama on the cheek. Kurama flinched but didn’t pull away, nor did he return the affection.
"Go and have a shower, love," he told Kurama. "i'll get your clothes ready."
Kurama frowned. "I can get my own clothes," he grumbled.
He suddenly felt a hard jerk on his ponytail. He squeaked as his head was pulled back so hard he stumbled. One of Karasu's arms slid around his waist and his hand slid around Kurama's throat. Kurama began to panic, though Karasu did not press down hard enough to cut off his breathing.
Karasu held him there for several seconds before speaking. His voice was low and dangerous.
"Don't forget your place, sweetheart," he murmured. "You'll do what I tell you to. Now go get yourself all pretty like a good little girl."
He released Kurama and shoved him in the direction of the bedroom. Kurama fled. As he closed the bathroom door behind him he wished it had a lock so he could shut out his tormentor.
When he got out of the shower and dried himself off he went into the bedroom and found that Karasu had laid an outfit on the bed. It consisted of an elegant fitted dress and stockings. Kurama put it on, feeling sick.
Karasu eyed him over critically when he entered the room. "Do something with your hair," he told Kurama as he entered the bathroom.
Kurama scowled, but obeyed, not wanting to make the man angry again.
The restaurant was very fancy and the food excellent. Kurama had never been to such an expensive restaurant before and he felt very uncomfortable. Karasu ordered for both of them, something that didn't surprise Kurama. He felt he had no right to object since Karasu was paying the bill. The food was delicious, and Kurama would have enjoyed his meal if his company weren't so unpleasant.
On their way out he was horrified to see a familiar face also exiting the restaurant. He prayed that she wouldn't recognise him. His prayers were not answered.
"Kurama!" the teal haired girl exclaimed excitedly. "I never expected to see you here."
Holding her arm and smiling goofily was a man Kurama had never met. He was dressed in a grey suit and had his hair styled in an orange pompadour.
"Kurama?" Karasu murmured against his ear. Kurama couldn't bring himself to answer Yukina. His mind was entirely blank with shock. Yukina was undeterred, however.
She turned to Karasu with a smile. "You must be Kurama's boyfriend," she said. "I'm Yukina Jaganshi and this is my boyfriend Kazuma Kuwabara. Kurama works for my brother."
"Ah, yes." Karasu's smile was sickly sweet as he slid an arm around Kurama's waist, pulling him close. "Shuichi's told me all about you."
That was a lie. Kurama hadn't said a word to him about his job or his new friends.
Yukina's nose scrunched up adorably in confusion. "Shuichi?" she asked.
Karasu's fingers dug into Kurama's side. He got the hint.
"It-it's my real name," he stammered. "Kurama is a nickname."
"Oh, I see," Yukina said. "Well since you're here, I want to ask you if you'll still come out with us this weekend. Your boyfriend... ah..." she trailed off uncertainly.
"Karasu." The dark-haired man smiled sweetly at her. "My name is Karasu."
"Karasu," she said, relieved. "You're welcome to join us as well."
"That sounds lovely," Karasu said. "Doesn't it, Shuichi?"
"Y-yes," Kurama stammered, unable to see a way out of his predicament.
"Fantastic!" Yukina exclaimed. "I'll get back to you with the details in the next few days, Kurama."
"All right," he said, resigned.
"I'll see you tomorrow then." She waved as she began to pull her boyfriend down the street. He smiled back at them as they left.
"It was nice meeting you," he called over his shoulder. "See you on the weekend."
Karasu raised one hand in a wave, but Kurama stood rooted to the spot, watching them go and wishing the ground would swallow him up.
"Such a nice girl," Karasu said to Kurama as he led the redhead to the limousine. The chauffeur waited for them beside it. Karasu ushered Kurama in first. He stumbled a little awkwardly in his high heeled shoes but Karasu held him steady. He settled on the seat against the far side of the vehicle.
He hoped Karasu would leave him alone during the ride but his hopes were dashed when Karasu sat down beside him. One of his pale hands ran over Kurama's stockinged leg.
"Wasn't dinner nice, my lovely?" he asked, a purr in his voice.
Kurama turned his face away, staring out at the muted lights of the city through the tinted glass. Karasu didn't seem to notice his discomfort. His hand slid further up Kurama's leg, until it was under his dress and stroking his thigh.
When Karasu's hand brushed his lacy underwear, Kurama squirmed. "No," he whispered.
"Shhh," Karasu soothed. He retracted his hand after a moment and Kurama hoped he was done. But then Karasu hooked an arm around him and pulled him onto his lap. Kurama awkwardly straddled Karasu as Karasu's hand slid under Kurama between his legs.
"Please, no," Kurama whimpered. Karasu's fingers pushed aside his underwear and found his entrance. One finger slid inside and Kurama gasped. With his other hand Karasu began to expertly undo the buttons of the redhead's dress, exposing the lacy red bra.
As he inserted another finger into Kurama he began to play with Kurama's nipples through the material. Kurama bucked helplessly on the man's lap, riding Karasu’s fingers and writhing in pleasure. Karasu watched him with eyes glittering with lust as Kurama's moans grew louder. Finally Kurama orgasmed and Karasu smirked in triumph.
"The perfect end to a perfect night, isn't it, pet?" he asked Kurama. Kurama scrambled off his lap and curled up against the window. Karasu laughed softly at him. "Such a shy little thing, aren't you?" he said.
Humiliated, Kurama closed his eyes and tried to pretend he was anywhere else. This was a nightmare, but he had to admit, it was a nightmare of his own making. He'd gotten himself into this situation and he couldn't see a way out of it anymore.
The next day Yukina informed Kurama that their outing had been arranged for that Saturday. When Saturday came Kurama was a bundle of nerves all day. Karasu was in an unusually good mood, though. Kurama was forced to spend the day with the older man as he didn't want to go to the hospital to see his mother. He knew that Karasu would not let him out of the apartment in masculine clothing and he did not want his mother to see him wearing a dress.
He did call her, however. He didn't want her to worry. He told her that he was spending the day with friends. He knew that she would be happy to hear that.
With nothing better to do, Kurama spent the day cleaning the apartment. Karasu left him alone for the most part, though he invited Kurama to eat lunch with him in a tone that let him know it was not a request.
When evening came, Karasu laid Kurama's outfit for the night out on the bed, Kurama glared at him when he saw it.
"Really?" he asked, irritated. He was beginning to lose his patience with the entire situation.
"Yes," Karasu told him flatly. Kurama sighed in resignation and went to have a shower.
When they arrived at the nightclub Kurama stepped out of the limousine wearing a green miniskirt and white blouse. Several buttons on the blouse were undone, showing the bra underneath. Kurama thought it looked slutty though Karasu clearly had no problem with it. He mentally cursed his high heels, feeling that they were incredibly impractical for a nightclub. He was beginning to suspect that heels were originally invented as a torture device rather than footwear.
Karasu's own outfit was much more sensible. He wore a partially buttoned-up red shirt and black pants. His long black hair was loose around his shoulders. If Kurama didn't already know what a monster he was, he would have thought he was handsome.
They had no trouble locating Kurama's friends. Yukina greeted them with a bright friendly smile. She introduced Keiko, Yusuke and Hiei to Karasu. Kurama was pleased to see that Hiei was unimpressed with Karasu, his face twisting into a scowl when Yukina introduced him as Kurama's boyfriend.
"I'm so glad you could join us," Yukina told them as they found a table.
Kurama remained silent as the group chatted around them. Karasu's charming manner was quickly winning the others over. Though not Hiei, Kurama was pleased to see. For once, he was glad that Hiei was so prickly.
His boss seemed unhappy with the entire evening, Kurama thought. Like Kurama, he participated very little in the conversation. Occasionally he would glower at Kuwabara. Kurama suspected that he didn't approve of Kuwabara dating his sister though the couple seemed very happy.
Karasu continued to ensure that Kurama's cup was filled as soon as he emptied it and Kurama was grateful for the fuzzy feeling that the alcohol gave him. A part of him felt bad for being so depressed since Yukina had so been looking forward to the night but he just couldn't muster up any enthusiasm. He was tired of faking being happy.
After some time he stood and left the table, swaying a little unsteadily as he moved through the crowd of dancers. He went to the bathroom and washed his face with water, hoping it would make him feel less depressed. It didn't. Though it did seem to make him a little less fuzzy. He didn't think that was a good thing.
When he left the bathroom he was surprised to find Hiei leaning against the wall opposite the door. The businessman wore casual attire for the evening. He was dressed in a black button-up shirt and tight dark jeans. The rolled-up sleeves of the shirt revealed that Hiei had a large tattoo of a black dragon on his right arm. Kurama couldn't help but stare as Hiei's crimson eyes looked over him critically.
"What's wrong with you tonight?" he demanded. "You've barely said a word to anyone."
"Neither have you," Kurama pointed out, a little resentfully.
Hiei scowled at him. "And why are you dating that man? He must be twice your age."
Probably true, Kurama thought darkly. "Who I date is none of your business," he informed Hiei. He began to make his way down the hall and onto the crowded dancefloor.
Hiei caught up to him quickly, despite his shorter stride. Kurama felt a sharp tug on his arm as Hiei turned him to face him.
"What?" Kurama demanded, irritated. He just wanted the night to be over. The loud music was giving him a headache.
"Tell me why you're downing alcohol like it's water," Hiei snapped. Dancers moved around them but they both ignored them.
"Let me go," Kurama pleaded, trying to yank his arm from Hiei's grip.
"Answer me," the smaller man said.
Tears began to prick at the corners of Kurama's eyes. He swallowed. The headache was getting worse.
"I can't," he whispered. He wasn't sure if Hiei could even hear him over the noise around them. Hiei's grip tightened on his arm. He tugged on it and Kurama allowed himself to be towed back into the hallway that led to the bathrooms. Hiei pulled him further down the hall until they turned a corner. Kurama found himself shoved against the wall, Hiei's red eyes glaring up at him threateningly.
"Tell me," he said coldly.
Kurama couldn't hold back the tears anymore. He slid down the wall and sobbed into his arms. Hiei stood over him, staring down at his huddled form.
"This is pointless," he muttered, turning to kick the wall behind him. "Are you going to tell me what's going on or not? Is your boyfriend hurting you or something?"
"He's not my boyfriend," Kurama managed to get out through the tears. Somehow, in his clouded state, it seemed important to him that Hiei understand that. He had no idea why he was being so emotional. Perhaps it was the alcohol.
"Then why are you with him?" Hiei asked.
Kurama lowered his head, hiding his face in his arms again.
"I really don't understand," Hiei muttered. Kurama glanced up to see that he had sat down against the opposite wall and was giving him a confused look.
"It doesn't matter," Kurama said. "It's my problem and I'll sort it out."
"So there is a problem," Hiei said. "You just aren't going to tell me what it is."
Kurama glared at him and awkwardly stood, steadying himself with a hand against the wall. "I'm leaving," he said flatly. He turned in the direction of the main area of the club.
"Be at work tomorrow," Hiei called after him. "I don't care how hung-over you are, Shuichi."
Kurama froze at the sound of his real name but said nothing. Yukina must have told her brother about her run-in with them at the restaurant. Looking back at the businessman, he saw that Hiei was smirking at him. Kurama turned away again. No doubt he was satisfied that he had at least partially unravelled one of Kurama's lies. He probably didn't realise that he had barely scratched the surface, though.
Kurama returned to their table and tugged on Karasu's arm. "I want to go home," he told the dark-haired man. "My feet hurt and I have a headache."
Karasu smiled sweetly up at him. It made Kurama's stomach twist unpleasantly.
"All right, honey," he said, rising and taking Kurama's arm. They said their goodbyes to the group. As they were doing so, Hiei joined them again but said nothing to anyone, simply glowering silently at Kurama and Karasu.
Kurama was relieved when he found himself back in the limousine. Karasu pulled Kurama onto his lap but didn't try to touch him inappropriately. Instead, he allowed Kurama to rest his head on his shoulder while he slowly stroked the redhead's hair.
"You drank too much," Karasu told him. "You're certainly going to be feeling it tomorrow."
Kurama closed his eyes, drifting off to sleep. He didn't want to face the wreck his life had become right now and the oblivion was welcoming.
Hiei sat in his sitting room sipping a glass of water and looking over at his sister sitting opposite him. Beside her sat Kuwabara. Yusuke lounged on the floor and Keiko sat primly to Yukina's side.
"So, what's this about?" Yusuke yawned. "Couldn't it have waited until tomorrow?"
"Something's off with the maid Kurama," Hiei told them flatly.
Yukina's eyes hardened. "You said you would give her a chance, Hiei," she told him sternly. "She hasn't done anything wrong."
Hiei's eyes widened for a moment until he realised that his sister had misunderstood him. "No, I didn't mean it like that," he amended hastily. "I meant that she's acting strangely. At least, I think she is. You've spent more time with her, Yukina. What do you think?"
Yukina frowned thoughtfully. She now realised that she'd been too focused on Kazuma to pay much attention to Kurama. "She was quiet," she said eventually. "Wasn't she, Keiko?"
The brown haired girl nodded. "I noticed that, too," she said. "She seemed unhappy about something."
"And who is this boyfriend, anyway?" Hiei scowled. "He's too old for her."
Yusuke laughed. "Are you jealous, man?" he asked. "With a killer body like that, of course she's got a boyfriend. Besides, aren't you gay?"
Keiko was in the perfect position to swat him over the head with one of the cushions and she did just that. "Yusuke," she admonished him. He leaned back to look up at her.
"Just sayin' it like it is," he retorted.
"I thought he seemed nice," Kuwabara said. He was holding Yukina's hand in one of his large ones.
"You're an idiot," Hiei muttered. Yukina gave him a disapproving look.
"Did she say anything to you while the two of you were gone?" Yukina asked Hiei.
"Sort of," Hiei said. "She didn't admit to anything but I'm sure something's wrong."
"There must be," Yusuke said. "Don't forget how we first met her. She tried to steal from you and we never really found out why. She must have had a reason."
"There isn't much we can do," Keiko pointed out. "Not unless she tells us what's going on."
"I don't think that's going to happen," Yusuke said. "She doesn't trust us. And shorty hasn't exactly made much of an effort to be friendly."
Hiei scowled at him. "If you're angling for a pay rise, you're going about it wrong," he informed Yusuke.
Yusuke snorted. "Take your money and shove it up your- Ow, Keiko!" Yusuke rubbed his head. Keiko had yanked his hair hard. Kuwabara snickered. Yusuke turned his head at an awkward angle to glare up at him. Then he turned back to Hiei.
"Okay, so Kurama's acting weird, but none of us know her that well so how can we judge? Also, her boyfriend is shady but again none of us knows him. And she's lied about her name but we don't know her last name so we can't use that to learn anything about her," Yusuke said. "I don't see where this gets us. We just don't know enough."
Hiei sighed and rubbed his eyes. "All right. Let's just see what happens," he said. "I guess there's nothing else we can do."
Yusuke stood and pulled Keiko to her feet. "Great. Now that we've just established that this entire conversation was a giant waste of time, let's go." He pulled Keiko to the door.
Kuwabara also stood, smiling down at Yukina. "I'll see you tomorrow, my love," he told her.
Hiei turned away as his sister responded to Kuwabara. He still had difficulty with emotional situations. He didn't know how to deal with his sister's new relationship and he hadn't known how to deal with Kurama's earlier breakdown. He felt that Yukina would have handled it better. She always seemed to read people so well and she knew the right things to say. She could make someone feel better with just a few words.
Hiei found that he was a little jealous of his sister in that moment. She had the kind of relationship with Kuwabara that Hiei wanted but knew he wouldn't find. He didn't really know how to love someone or give them all of himself the way Yukina did. Kuwabara clearly loved Yukina with all his heart. It was really the only reason Hiei tolerated him courting his sister. He doubted anyone would ever understand him enough to be willing to forgive his shortcomings and love him unconditionally.
Kurama had no idea how he'd gotten into bed that night. He presumed that Karasu must have put him there. When he opened his eyes he was annoyed to find that he was entirely naked. When he crawled out from under the covers he went immediately to the bathroom, where he threw up.
After cleaning himself up and getting dressed in his uniform he stumbled into the kitchen, finding Karasu's stash of medicine.
"You're going to work today?" Karasu asked from behind him.
"Mmm-hmm," Kurama said incoherently. He downed two pills with a gulp of water and turned to face the other man. Karasu sat at the table, his laptop in front of him, looking entirely too composed for Kurama's liking. He was jealous.
"Did you take your vitamin?" he asked Kurama.
Kurama glared at him. "I don't need it," he said.
"Yes, you do," Karasu snapped. "Take it or I'll shove it down your throat."
Kurama growled but obeyed. It wasn't worth starting a fight over. Karasu smiled sweetly at him after he watched Kurama take the tablet.
"Why not take the day off?" he asked. "Surely Jaganshi would understand. After all, you're already late."
Kurama checked his watch and squeaked. "Crap!" he exclaimed. He bolted back into the bedroom searching for his bag.
Karasu was laughing as Kurama returned from the bedroom. "Come and give me a kiss, dear," he said to Kurama.
Kurama scowled but obeyed. He leaned down, intending to kiss the man on the cheek but Karasu reached up and grabbed the back of his head, forcing Kurama's lips to meet his.
"Have a nice day, sweetheart," he told Kurama when he pulled back.
Kurama glared at him. He wanted badly to tell Karasu where he could shove his endearments but he was late and didn't have the time.
Kurama slammed the door of the apartment behind him as he left. "Bastard," he muttered under his breath as he stalked down the hall to the elevator. It would take him three quarters of an hour to reach the mansion and that was if the train was on time. But his boss had told him to be at work so he had no choice. He hoped Hiei wouldn't be too angry with him for being late.
Hiei watched Yukina anxiously pace his office from wall to wall.
"You're going to wear a hole in my carpet," he complained.
She frowned at him. "What if something happened to her?" she asked worriedly.
"She's late," Hiei said. "After last night, it's not a surprise. I'm sure she's fine."
"Can't we get Yusuke to check on her?" Yukina asked.
Hiei found himself regretting that he'd chosen to confide in his friends and family about his concerns regarding Kurama. He didn't like to see his sister upset and he felt that she was overreacting.
"Get Yusuke to check on what?" The man in question strode in, grinning at them. Yukina let out a relieved gasp when she saw who followed him in.
"Kurama! Is everything alright?" she asked, approaching the redheaded woman.
Kurama gave her a puzzled look. "Everything is fine," she assured Yukina.
"Then why are you late?" Hiei snapped at her.
Her head shot up to meet his eyes and she paled. Her mouth opened, then closed. She looked down at the ground. Hiei frowned in displeasure. He wondered how much she remembered of their conversation from the previous night. She clearly remembered something, given how she wouldn't look at him.
Yukina patted her arm sympathetically. "I bet you're still a little sick from last night, aren't you?" she said kindly. "Why don't you take it easy this morning?"
"Hey, can I have the morning off, too?" Yusuke asked. "I drank a lot last night as well."
Hiei scowled and strode towards Yusuke. "Let's go," he said. Yusuke pouted.
"You're such a dragon," he muttered, bringing a smile to Yukina's lips.
Hiei glanced at Kurama as he left. "I want my office cleaned," he said. "And the papers put in order."
"Yes, sir," she said quietly.
Hiei continued to stare at her for a moment longer before exiting. Yusuke shot her a confused look over his shoulder as he followed his boss.
Yukina kept Kurama with her for the entire morning. She chattered on about Kuwabara and how much they had enjoyed the outing. She also talked about Keiko and Yusuke. She didn't ask about Karasu, much to Kurama's relief. The girls had so far been respectful of his wish not to share details of his relationship.
Kurama became uncomfortable, however, when she asked him about his family. He had been as honest as he could, saying that his mother was ill, but recovering. Yukina accepted his sparse explanation, obviously realising that the topic was an emotional one for Kurama.
After lunch, Kurama insisted on cleaning Hiei's office and Yukina finally left him alone. Kurama took longer than was necessary to straighten things up. He liked the solitude and didn't really want to talk to anyone today. He knew they meant well, but it was getting harder and harder for him to keep lying to them.
When his day was done he left in a hurry, making some excuse to Yukina about needing to get home in order to avoid a conversation with the small girl. When he saw the look of disappointment on her face he felt bad but he left anyway.
Karasu was there when Kurama arrived back at the apartment. Kurama wasn't surprised since Sunday seemed to be the man's day off. What did surprise him was Ani's presence. He knew this didn't bode well for him.
Both men sat in the living room, sipping glasses of wine. They looked very relaxed.
"Did you have a nice day, honey?" Karasu asked, his voice sickly sweet.
"Fine," Kurama said shortly, heading for the bedroom. He didn't want to be around Ani if he didn't have to be. The man was evil.
Ani's laughter rang out behind him. "You need to train it better," he told Karasu. "That was quite rude."
It? Kurama bristled angrily. Ani had never referred to him as 'it' before. The sound of footsteps behind him made him tense. A hand fisted in his hair, pulling harshly. Kurama cried out, hands coming up and clawing at the hand in an attempt to try to free his hair. He was practically forced onto his tiptoes.
"I'll teach you to show respect, you little bitch," Ani's cruel voice hissed in Kurama's ear.
Karasu's voice came from the doorway behind them. "Don't leave marks where they'll show, Ani," he warned.
"I know," Ani snapped as he pushed Kurama face-down onto the bed maintaining his grip on Kurama's hair. As he struggled, Kurama heard the door shut. He knew he would get no help from Karasu.
Kurama woke to the sound of water running. Soon after he was lifted into someone's arms. He whimpered in pain. His arms hurt from his wrists being held above his head for an extended period of time and his backside was very sore. His back ached as well.
He was placed in a warm bath. Hands scrubbed him clean of the blood and fluids that coated his body. When the bathwater began to cool he was lifted out and wrapped in soft towels. Someone dried him off and then he was carried into the living room and settled under a blanket on the couch. He drifted in and out of consciousness during the entire process.
He woke briefly when he was lifted again, his body protesting the motion. He was placed back into bed. The smell of fresh, clean sheets met his nose and he slipped completely into darkness again as someone's calloused hand stroked through his hair.
Kurama opened his eyes and groaned softly. It was still dark in the room. He rolled onto his side and curled up. He could hear Karasu's steady breathing from nearby. He hoped that he would stay asleep. Memories from the evening before flitted through his mind though Kurama tried to ignore them. He hated Ani and his sadism but at least Ani was predictable and honest about what he was. Karasu confused Kurama. He had allowed Ani to hurt Kurama yet had cared for him afterwards. In a twisted way, that was even crueler than what Ani had done to him. It made him think that Karasu loved him. But Kurama knew that was a trap. Karasu didn't love him. He loved what he wanted Kurama to be, not what he was. Love was about accepting someone for who they were and not trying to change them. Why couldn't someone just accept him for who he was?
Maybe if he pretended it had been someone else it would be easier to handle. Kurama couldn't help but think of Hiei in that moment. He wondered if Hiei could ever be that nice to anyone. He must be capable of it since he obviously loved his sister. And he had noticed that Kurama was unhappy at the nightclub. And bothered to ask about it, even if he had done so rudely.
Kurama bit down on a laugh. Karasu's charming mask hid a monster and Hiei's grumpy attitude hid a kind heart. He couldn't help but find the contrast amusing.
Kurama did not go to work the next day. Karasu insisted that he stay home to recover. Kurama spent most of the day in bed, pretending to be more incapacitated than he really was. He knew Karasu would leave him alone if he thought that Kurama needed the rest. While he could be rough, he didn't enjoy inflicting pain the way Ani did. Karasu tended to use pain only as a punishment or a means of control.
It was a boring day, however. Kurama was in the process of reading one of his favorite novels when his phone rang. He answered it quickly, surprised that the caller was Hiei.
"Are you really sick?" the little man demanded, sounding irritated.
Kurama was insulted. "Yes," he snapped. "Didn't Yukina tell you that?"
"She did, but I wasn't sure whether to believe her, Shuichi," Hiei said bluntly.
Kurama winced. He had certainly lied about his name, something Hiei clearly hadn't forgotten. If he were being objective he supposed that he could see why his boss would question his excuse, but he didn't feel like being objective.
"Where is the file with last week's figures on it?" Hiei grumbled. "I had it open yesterday but I can't find it now."
Kurama scowled. He'd organised all of Hiei's paperwork yesterday. The businessman should have found the file easily. "That wasn't the one you had open," he pointed out. "The one you had open was the file for the week before. Look under it."
There came the faint sound of papers shuffling. "Got it," Hiei finally said.
"Is there anything else you can't find?" Kurama growled, a little sarcastically. He was incredibly annoyed that Hiei had called him over something so trivial.
"That's all," Hiei said. "Will you be able to come to work tomorrow?"
"Probably," Kurama said. What he actually thought was, "God, I hope so." He really needed to get out of this apartment.
"Good," Hiei said. Then he hung up. Kurama stared at the phone in disbelief for a moment before setting it aside. He couldn't believe how rude the businessman had been.
"How did she sound?" Yukina asked softly from beside Hiei as he set his phone down. He stood behind his desk, several files spread out in front of him. The call had been a ruse. Yukina had insisted that Hiei check if Kurama was okay. Hiei had to admit that he was worried about the redhead as well.
"Like herself," he said grumpily. "Didn't sound like she was sick, though."
Yukina frowned. "Why would she lie about that?" she asked uncertainly.
"Probably because she wants a day off," Hiei said. "Employees do it all the time." He knew that his words weren't kind but he wanted to reassure Yukina.
"But..." Yukina wrung her hands together. Finally she said, "I think you're right. There is something wrong."
Hiei sat down heavily in his chair. Yukina perched on the desk beside him, smoothing down her pale green skirt. "We can't do anything," he reminded her. "Not unless Kurama... Shuichi... asks us to."
"Maybe we should talk to Karasu about her?" Yukina suggested.
Hiei's head shot up. "Don't do that," he said fiercely. Yukina stared at him, her cherry red eyes wide in surprise.
"Why not?" she asked. "He seems like a nice man."
"He may be the problem," Hiei told her.
"Oh, that can't be right," Yukina said with a frown.
"Does she ever talk about him?" Hiei pressed.
"No," Yukina admitted, "But she's a very private person."
"Yukina," Hiei said warningly, placing a hand on her knee. She stared down at him. "Do not say anything to Karasu. Not until we've learned more."
"All right," Yukina agreed reluctantly.
"Thank you," Hiei sighed. "Now I really do have work to do."
Yukina slid off the desk and headed for the door. "Please come see me before you leave for the office," she told him. "It's annoying when you just sneak out."
"I will," Hiei sighed. Yukina left the room, shutting the door quietly behind her.
Two weeks later Kurama stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom, eyeing his naked form critically. Something was different. He touched his breasts tentatively. He was unusually sensitive there. Also he had noticed that his hips seemed to be a little wider. He couldn't possibly be putting on weight. His diet hadn't really changed much since he'd been living with Karasu.
Karasu pressed up against Kurama from behind. "Something bothering you, darling?" he purred. He had yet to shower and was still dressed in his suit.
Kurama scowled. Karasu hardly ever used his real name anymore. He found the endearments degrading. Perhaps that was what Karasu intended.
Karasu's fingers moved along Kurama's flat stomach and up to his nipple. Karasu flicked it gently and Kurama gasped.
Encouraged by the response, Karasu wrapped an arm around Kurama's waist holding him in place. He used his other hand to play with Kurama's nipple.
Kurama bit his lip, trying to keep silent, but his nipples were incredibly sensitive. When Kurama began to make small noises and press back against him, Karasu turned Kurama and sat him on the basin. He brought his lips to Kurama's right nipple and began to suck on it while he played with the other one.
Kurama lost control. He pressed his hands into Karasu's long dark hair, shoving his breast against the man's mouth and moaning in pleasure. Karasu pulled back. He grabbed Kurama's wrists and pushed them behind his back.
"Don't move," he ordered Kurama as he removed his tie. He used it to tie Kurama's wrists together behind him before returning his mouth to the nipple he'd been sucking.
Kurama arched and moaned helplessly in pleasure as Karasu toyed with first one nipple and then the other, moving back and forth between them. After some time, he began to stroke Kurama's cock as well.
Kurama could feel the pleasure building inside him until he couldn't hold back anymore. He came, crying out as he did.
Karasu rose, adjusting Kurama's position so that he could enter Kurama. He began to slowly move inside Kurama, gripping his hips as he rocked. Karasu's orgasm was quick, though Kurama did not cum again.
"Good girl," Karasu said approvingly after he'd pulled out. His voice was breathy as he spoke. "You're coming along nicely." He freed Kurama's wrists.
What was that supposed to mean?, Kurama wondered. But he was a little more concerned with how good it had felt when Karasu had played with his nipples. He found that humiliating.
He pushed Karasu away from him and headed for the shower, intent on cleaning himself off. He felt disgusting. Karasu watched him with a satisfied smile on his face. Kurama mentally called him every horrible name he could think of as he washed himself off.
Yukina had been attempting to arrange another get-together for everyone for some time but had met with no success. Finally she managed to arrange a picnic at the park. It was on a day when Kurama would usually be working but Yukina had insisted that it would be fine, since Hiei would be coming as well. Keiko and, surprisingly, Yusuke, had prepared a picnic lunch for everyone. It seemed that Yusuke was actually a pretty decent chef himself.
The day was bright and sunny, which suited Yukina's happy mood. Kurama sat in the shade of a tree and watched everyone chat. Karasu was not there. Kurama had not even bothered to inform him of the outing. Karasu thought that Kurama was working today.
Kurama was surprised when Hiei got up and came over to him. He sat down beside Kurama and handed him a sandwich.
"Thanks," Kurama said, taking it from him.
"You look like you need to eat more," Hiei curtly informed him.
Kurama frowned. Karasu kept telling him that he was putting on weight. Between that and the changes he had noticed in his body recently, he was very confused.
"Where's your boyfriend today?" Hiei asked, unable to completely keep the hostility out of his voice.
"I didn't invite him," Kurama admitted.
Hiei stared at him. "Why not?" he asked.
"I just... didn't want to," Kurama said. He took a large bite of his sandwich and tried to avoid looking at Hiei. Today the businessman wore casual jeans and a black short-sleeved t-shirt. His tattoo was on full display. It was difficult for Kurama to keep his eyes off the handsome man but he didn't want Hiei to notice his interest.
Kurama was dressed in a light sundress of a modest length. He'd worn his uniform when he'd left the apartment, then changed at the train station. The dress had been the most casual item of clothing he'd been able to find in his wardrobe. He still wore his headband and work shoes though.
"I get the impression that you don't like him very much," Hiei said.
"Please, can we not talk about this?" Kurama asked. "My private life is not your business."
Hiei frowned but let the subject drop. He stared at the others sitting on the picnic blanket. Kuwabara was waving his hands in the air, energetically trying to illustrate a point. He and Yusuke appeared to be arguing. Yukina and Keiko were both watching them, Yukina with a fond smile on her face and Keiko with a look of exasperation.
"I'm a little jealous of them," Hiei suddenly confessed, startling Kurama.
"Jealous? Why?" he asked, turning his head to look at Hiei.
Hiei stared down at his lap and took his time considering his answer. Eventually he said, "They're in love and they're happy."
"Have you ever been in love?" Kurama asked him curiously.
"No," Hiei said shortly.
"But there must be plenty of girls-"
"No," Hiei said flatly, cutting him off. "I don't like girls."
Kurama's eyes widened. "I see," he said quietly. "I've never been in love, either," he admitted.
"Not even with Karasu?" Hiei asked. His crimson eyes were focused unflinchingly on Kurama and he felt a little uncomfortable.
He remained silent, deciding not to answer that question. He was relieved when Hiei also stayed silent. He had already admitted more to this man than he wanted to. Somehow, Hiei had that effect on him. It was hard for Kurama to lie to him.
"Hey, you two loners!" Yusuke bellowed. "Get over here!" He pointed a finger at them. Hiei scowled but stood, heading back over to the picnic blanket. Kurama quickly followed.
"There's plenty more food here," Yukina told them. "We don't want to waste it."
"Yeah. Get in before Kuwabara eats it all," Yusuke cheerfully advised, reaching over to grab a sandwich.
"You're eating as much as I am, Urameshi!" Kuwabara protested.
Kurama smiled at the group. He felt normal and happy for the first time in quite a while. He had certainly needed this break.
Over the next few weeks Kurama began to feel unwell. Karasu refused to allow him to go to the doctor, insisting that Kurama was just stressed out and needed to relax. Kurama suspected that he was wrong but was worried about what Karasu would do if he went behind his back and consulted a doctor anyway.
Kurama stumbled through the door of the apartment, for once relieved to be home. He just wanted to collapse into bed. He was exhausted. He knew that he probably shouldn’t be working, but he needed the escape. It was the only time he was free from Karasu.
Karasu was in the living room, reading a book when Kurama walked past. He looked up and said, “Where are you going?”
“To bed,” Kurama mumbled. “I don’t feel well.” He entered the bedroom and flopped face-down on the bed. He heard Karasu’s footsteps behind him. He was unceremoniously flipped over onto his back. Karasu’s hand rested on his forehead for a moment.
“You don’t have a temperature,” he informed Kurama, frowning.
“Fuck off,” Kurama grumbled. If he had been thinking clearly he wouldn’t have said it, but by the time he realised what had came out of his mouth, it was too late.
Karasu slapped him across the face. “My tolerance has limits,” he snarled at Kurama.
Kurama winced, rubbing his stinging face. His illness, whatever it was, was leading him to become careless. He felt as though he were walking a tightrope when he was around Karasu and it was becoming harder and harder to keep his balance.
“Perhaps you need another session with Ani,” Karasu mused thoughtfully as he stared down at Kurama.
“No. I’m sorry,” Kurama whimpered. Why couldn’t Karasu just leave him alone?
Karasu turned and exited the room. Kurama curled into a ball, sure that the other man was going to call his colleague. He sobbed quietly into the pillow.
"Kurama? Are you sure you're feeling all right?"
Yukina's sweet voice made Kurama look up. He'd just finished carrying a basket load of Hiei's laundry back to his room so it could be folded and put away.
"I'm fine," he said, though his breathing was short and rapid and his body ached. He really didn't feel well but he didn't want to go back to the apartment and be subjected to Karasu's sick games again.
"Keiko said you don't look well," Yukina pressed. "I think she's right. You're very pale, Kurama, and I think you've been losing weight."
Kurama wanted to growl something rude at her but stopped himself. She was far too kind to him and didn't deserve that. With an effort, he said, "I'm fine, Yukina. Please don't worry about me."
Yukina took a step into the room. "Promise me you'll go to the doctor tomorrow," she said to him.
Kurama sighed. "All right," he said, after a beat of silence. If that's what it took to make her go away and leave him alone he would promise that. He turned back to the laundry basket sitting on the bed.
Yukina left but not before giving him a worried look. Kurama finished putting away the laundry and moved onto Hiei's office. Yukina’s voice floated down the hall. It sounded as though she were on the phone. Kurama filtered it out as it held no interest for him. He was too tired to indulge his curiosity. He just wanted to get his work done and rest.
He was almost done when he felt his body begin to weaken. He frantically fought for air, trying to gulp more into his lungs but it didn't seem to help. Faintly he heard voices as he grasped at the edge of the desk, trying to remain on his feet. His legs felt as though they would give out on him any second now and his heart was racing in his chest.
The voices faded away as darkness closed around him.
"Kurama!" Yukina flew into Hiei's office with a horrified cry. Hiei followed her, knowing immediately that something was very wrong. He'd thought the redhead looked ill over the last couple of days but she'd insisted that she was fine. Now Hiei could see that she lay on her back on the floor. He was alarmed to see that her lips were blue and she was shaking. Yukina knelt beside her. Hiei joined her. He was very glad that she had called him and asked him to come home early.
"Go call the ambulance," Hiei told Yukina curtly. She looked up at him, hands hovering helplessly over Kurama's form and tears spilling down her cheeks. "Go, Yukina!" Hiei snapped.
She left, stumbling from the office. Hiei undid several buttons on the redhead's dress and rolled her onto her side, keeping his hand on her shoulder. He prayed that the ambulance would come soon because he had no idea what to do.
"Man, what happened?"
Hiei looked up to see Yusuke entering the office. Yusuke hurried over to him and knelt on Kurama's other side.
"She just collapsed," Hiei said. "Yukina's calling the ambulance."
Yusuke turned Kurama's face and slapped her cheek lightly. "Totally out of it," he said. "Is she breathing?"
"Yes," Hiei said. Kurama's chest was rising and falling with her rapid breathing but her lips were still blue. Her heart was thudding quickly in her chest.
Hiei pulled her into his arms, cradling her. Yukina came back into the room, followed by Keiko. "They're on their way," she told Hiei.
"Keiko, go wait out front for them," Hiei instructed. A very pale and trembling Keiko left to do as he'd asked. Yukina joined Hiei and Yusuke on the floor. Several tense minutes passed by. It felt like forever to Hiei. Where the hell was the ambulance?
"Hey, I think she's waking up," Yusuke said.
Hiei looked down to see that Kurama's green eyes were open though she seemed to be staring into empty space.
"Kurama?" he asked. "Can you hear me? Shuichi?" He received no response. The redhead's eyes never even flickered towards him. She hadn't heard him.
"Hey, Kurama," Yusuke tried. "Say something."
"What's wrong with her?" Yukina asked uncertainly.
"I don't know," Hiei said quietly. Kurama blinked, still staring at nothing. Then she turned her head towards Yukina. She appeared to be staring at the pattern of Yukina's dress. She remained that way for several minutes. Hiei stroked her hair, hoping the touch would help bring her back. Some of it had come loose from her headband.
Finally her lips parted and she spoke. "W-wha..."
"Kurama, it's okay," Yukina soothed. "You fainted. An ambulance is coming."
"I what?" Kurama's voice sounded small and confused.
"Just relax," Hiei told her.
"Hiei?" she asked, blinking up at him. "I can't remember..."
Keiko came flying through the door, followed by two paramedics. Yukina and Yusuke backed off as they took charge of Kurama. An oxygen mask was placed over her face and she was loaded onto a stretcher. Hiei insisted on going with her to the hospital. None of the others argued. Yusuke volunteered to drive them in his car. Hiei told him to call Kuwabara. He knew that the doctor was on call today at the hospital. He also knew that the ambulance would take Kurama to that hospital since it was the closest one.
On the way the paramedics asked Hiei several questions about Kurama since the redhead was too dazed to answer, but he couldn't answer them very well. He really didn't know much about her at all.
Kuwabara met them at the hospital. Hiei had never been so glad to see him. He had to wait in the waiting room while Kuwabara took Kurama away. Yusuke showed up not long after with Yukina and Keiko. They sat on the uncomfortable plastic chairs, anxiously waiting for news.
When Kuwabara returned more than an hour later, Hiei shot to his feet. Keiko was dozing on her husband's shoulder and Yukina was reading a magazine, which she put down as soon as she saw Kuwabara. She joined Hiei. Her face was pale and she'd obviously been crying.
Kuwabara's expression was solemn. "There's good news and bad news," he said.
"Will she be okay?" Hiei demanded.
"Yeah. We figured out pretty quick what's wrong with ... her," Kuwabara said, frowning. Hiei noticed the hesitation but chose to ignore it for the moment.
"And?" he asked.
"It's a DVT," Kuwabara said.
"In english," Hiei snapped.
"A blood clot," Kuwabara explained. "It was in between her heart and her lungs. The oxygen was cut off from her heart and that's why she passed out."
"Can you fix it?" Hiei asked.
"Yeah. We've got her on the medication now," Kuwabara said. "She'll be fine. But..."
"But what?" Hiei snapped, beginning to lose his patience with the large man.
Kuwabara ran his hand through his pompadour, messing it up. "Did you know that she's a guy?" he asked helplessly.
"What?" Yukina asked quietly from beside Hiei.
"No, that can't be-" Hiei stopped at the look on Kuwabara's face. The other man was dead serious.
"I can't be sure yet because we're still waiting on the blood test results but I expect that she's been taking hormone replacement pills," Kuwabara said. "It's likely to be the cause of the DVT. That's a rare side effect of that kind of medication, though it usually only affects older people. I guess Kurama got unlucky. Funny thing is, when I asked her about it, she didn't know anything. She says she's not taking anything like that."
Hiei frowned. Something definitely wasn't right here. "Can I see her?" he asked.
"Sure," Kuwabara said. Yukina started forward as well but Kuwabara reached out to stop her. "She's in ICU," he told her. "For now it's only one visitor at a time. I'm sorry."
Yukina's face fell. "Tell her we're all here, okay?" she asked Hiei.
"I will," Hiei assured her. Yukina sat back down beside Yusuke as Kuwabara led Hiei down the hall.
"Holy crap," Yusuke said softly. "Sounds like this is quite a mess. But at least she'll be okay."
"Yeah," Yukina said quietly, her gaze lingering down the hall her brother and boyfriend had just gone down.
"Kurama?" Hiei approached the side of the bed the redhead lay in. Her long hair fanned out over the pillow. She still wore the oxygen mask. One arm was tucked under the covers and the other rested on top of the covers. There was an IV inserted just above her elbow and it was connected to a drip. Hiei could hear the soft beep of the machines monitoring Kurama's vitals. The nurse who'd been standing by her bed left when Hiei and Kuwabara entered.
Kurama reached up and removed the mask from her face. She was pale and washed out under the harsh hospital lights.
"Not for long," Kuwabara reminded her. She nodded tiredly.
"Yukina said to tell you that everyone's glad you're okay," Hiei told her. He rested his hand on her thin one. He was appalled that he hadn’t noticed how much weight she’d lost recently. She looked so thin and fragile.
Kurama smiled thinly. "Tell her thank you," she said. "And I'm sorry for frightening everyone."
"You're really a guy?" Hiei asked her.
She pursed her lips but nodded again. "Yes," she said quietly, shifting her gaze so that she didn’t have to meet his eyes.
The admission surprised Hiei but he found it pleased him as well. His attraction to Kurama now made sense to him. "Why didn't you tell us?" Hiei asked.
"You all just assumed and... it's complicated," she said.
"Complicated how?" Hiei questioned. "Does this have something to do with Karasu?"
Kuwabara shot him a dark look. "Just because you're jealous of the guy," he muttered.
"Jealous?" Kurama asked in confusion.
"Nevermind," Hiei told her. "Do you really not remember taking hormone replacement pills?"
"I'm not taking them," Kurama said angrily. "I told you that." She glared at Kuwabara.
"I'll get that test back in a few hours," he told her. "And it's going to say that you are, whether you knew it or not." He crossed his arms over his chest stubbornly.
Hiei may not have liked Kuwabara personally, but he knew that the other man was an excellent doctor. His intuition was usually spot on.
"Could someone have given them to you without you knowing?" Hiei asked, keeping his voice gentle, hoping not to further upset the redhead.
She... no, he... frowned."I think Karasu did," he said reluctantly. "Now that I think about it, it makes sense. Some of the things he said to me..."
Hiei felt a boiling rage beginning to build in his chest. He turned to Kuwabara.
"Don't let that guy in here," he told Kuwabara. "In fact, don't let anyone but Yukina, Yusuke and I in here. Got it?"
"Okay," Kuwabara said uncertainly.
"I mean it," Hiei told him firmly.
"Okay," Kuwabara snapped back. "I heard you."
With one final glare at Kuwabara, just to make sure the other man got the point, Hiei stalked out of the room. The nurse hurried back in as soon as he had left and began fussing over Kurama. Kuwabara stared after Hiei, certain that he didn’t understand half of what was really going on.
It didn't take long for Hiei to find Kurama's real full name. All he had to do was return to the mansion and find Kurama's handbag. Yukina had protested when Hiei had suggested that they all leave the hospital but eventually gave in. Now Hiei sat in his office, working on his laptop. Yusuke was also present, lounging on one of the chairs.
"Shuichi Minamino, huh," Yusuke said thoughtfully. "This is all too weird."
Hiei stared at his laptop screen. "He dropped out of high school in his last year despite the fact that he had top marks," he said with a frown. "I wonder why?"
"Ask her... I mean him. God, this is confusing," Yusuke groaned. "Did you have a look at his phone?"
"Yes,” Hiei said. He felt a little bad about invading Kurama’s privacy but he also felt that it was necessary. He knew that he wouldn’t regret it, even if Kurama became angry with him. “He doesn't have a lot of contacts. His only family contact appears to be his mother. No father. And I checked his messages. Looks like he never bothers to delete them. Some of them talk about some kind of repayments."
"Explains why he tried to steal your gems," Yusuke said. "He needed the money to pay off a debt. Is there anything in there about who he owes the money to?"
"Toguro," Hiei said with a frown. "The Toguro brothers both work for Sekyo, the CEO of another wealthy corporation. I've dealt with him before."
"I've heard of that guy," Yusuke said, making a face. "I've heard he's a slimy bastard. Do you think Karasu works for him too?"
"I'd bet money on it," Hiei said. "The messages demanding repayment seem to stop a few weeks ago. Shortly after he began working for me. Sekyo probably found out and decided that he could use Kurama to spy on me."
"So, now what?" Yusuke asked, leaning forward. "Do we go to the police?"
"With what? Wild speculation?" Hiei asked, shutting his laptop. "If Kurama denies it all then we have nothing."
"They can’t just get away with this. We have to do something," Yusuke told him.
"We will," Hiei said. "I'm going to talk to his mother. She needs to know what has happened."
Hiei was very surprised to learn that Shiori Minamino was ill and actually in the same hospital as her son. She had been extremely distressed to hear of her son's condition. She had already been worried about him since he hadn't been to see her for several weeks, though he had phoned regularly. She insisted on seeing him. The nurse allowed Hiei to take her to Kurama in a wheelchair. The one-person rule was temporarily waived for them by Kuwabara.
Kurama cried when he saw his mother. Hiei gave them some time to talk alone. Shiori had a lot of questions for Kurama, Hiei knew. He hoped Kurama would take the opportunity to come clean with her. Between what he knew and what Shiori had suspected, they had both pieced together what they believed happened.
Shiori had been upset to learn that her son had been dressing like a woman. He had kept it entirely secret from her, though she had suspected that he'd taken out a loan from shady people to fund her treatment. Or that he'd somehow stolen it. It simply wasn't possible for someone like Shuichi to get their hands on such a large sum so quickly.
Hiei had assured her that he would deal with Sekyo. He knew that he could convince the man to back off, since what he'd done was completely illegal. Also, if what he'd done was made public it would ruin his company. Public opinion would be squarely on Kurama's side as he'd only been trying to help his dying mother. Sekyo was no fool. He'd let the debt go in favour of keeping his reputation intact.
After some time, Shiori waved Hiei back into the room. The oxygen mask once again covered Kurama's face. His eyes were red rimmed. Shiori stroked his red hair. Someone had brushed it, Hiei noticed.
"Shuichi needs somewhere to stay when he is released from hospital," she told Hiei. "Can you arrange that?"
"He'll stay with me until he finds a place of his own," Hiei said. He stood on the opposite side of the bed, hand resting on the rail. The book that Shiori had been carrying on her lap when Hiei had taken her here now rested on Kurama’s bed. It seemed that reading was one of Kurama’s favourite hobbies, along with growing plants. Hiei hadn’t known that. There was a lot he didn’t know about Kurama.
Kurama made a noise behind the mask that sounded like a protest when he heard Hiei’s response. Shiori squeezed his hand in reassurance, smiling fondly down at him.
"Yukina will insist," Hiei told him sternly. "And Kuwabara will be able to easily check up on you." And see Yukina at the same time, he added silently. Both Kuwabara and Yukina would be thrilled with that arrangement.
"Thank you, Mr. Jaganshi," Shiori told him gratefully.
"It's just Hiei," he said and she smiled thinly. She had been crying as well, Hiei noticed.
"And please don't let that man Karasu anywhere near him," she added vehemently.
"If it makes you feel better, we'll take out a restraining order," Hiei assured her. "He won't be getting anywhere near Kurama... I mean, Shuichi."
The truth was that Hiei was also concerned about Karasu. Sekyo might be willing to back off but that didn't mean that Karasu would as well.
Shiori nodded. She looked tired. Her hand was wrapped around her son's tightly.
"I need to make some phone calls," Hiei informed her. "I'll be back soon. Can I get you anything?"
Shiori shook her head. "No, thank you," she said. “You’ve already done so much.”
Hiei left the pair alone once again. He heard Shiori murmuring quietly to Shuichi as he walked away.
After a week in hospital Kurama was released. He was still on medication and would require regular blood tests for some time though. As Hiei had promised Shiori, he arranged for Kurama to stay in his home.
As he had expected, his meeting with Sekyo went decently. Sekyo had agreed to forgive the debt on the condition that Kurama not go to the police. He promised to keep Karasu in line but Hiei made Kurama take out the restraining order anyway. He didn't want to take any chances.
A few days after his meeting with Sekyo Hiei received a package from an anonymous sender. He was surprised to see that it was a set of photo albums. A quick glance through them showed that they belonged to Kurama. Hiei immediately put them away. Looking through them felt as though he were invading Kurama's privacy. Although he thought the baby photos were extremely cute.
Two days after he was released from hospital Shuichi lounged on Hiei's sitting room couch under a blanket and reading a book. Hiei had just finished a phone call. The redhead was exhausted and needed to rest a lot but he was also bored and liked company, even if said company didn't engage in conversation with him. It was something that Hiei appreciated, because he wasn't big on conversation. Somehow he seemed to be Shuichi's preferred companion.
Hiei looked up to see that Shuichi had put his book down and was staring at him.
"What?" the businessman asked, setting his phone down.
Shuichi bit his lip, looking anxious. Hiei frowned. "What?" he asked again.
"Do you think..." Shuichi trailed off, his cheeks turning slightly pink.
Hiei began to grow annoyed. "Out with it, Shuichi," he demanded.
The redhead now wore exclusively male clothing, which made it easier for Hiei to remember to call him Shuichi, though Shuichi didn't seem to mind if he slipped up. Shiori, however, did not like hearing her son being called Kurama so Hiei took special care in her presence to always refer to him as Shuichi.
Hiei growled and Shuichi paled.
"This isn't easy, okay," he muttered.
Hiei sighed. "Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Then just say it," he advised.
Shuichi obeyed. Finally he said, "Do you think you could ever like me?"
Hiei's heart skipped a beat. "What do you mean, 'like you'?" he asked carefully.
"It's just... I think I like you," Shuichi confessed. He raised his novel, hiding his face behind it.
Hiei couldn't help it. He burst into laughter. Shuichi looked so embarrassed and adorable.
Shuichi glared at him over the book. "It's not funny," he snapped, his cheeks red.
"I'm sorry," Hiei apologised. "It's just that you look so cute."
"Cute?" Shuichi demanded, his tone implying that he didn't like the description at all. He had become a little sensitive about things like that.
Hiei quickly brought himself back under control. Shuichi's question had been a serious one, after all. Making light of it would only insult him further.
"You've really confused me," Hiei admitted.
"How?" Shuichi asked curiously, lowering the book.
"When I first met you, I thought you were a girl," Hiei explained. "But I was attracted to you. I didn't understand it. Then I found out that you were really a man. It suddenly made sense."
"You're attracted to me?" A smirk was crossing the redhead's face. "Even when I was wearing a dress?"
"I prefer you in pants, though," Hiei informed him.
"Good, because I don't like dresses," Shuichi told him. "And high heels were invented by the devil."
"I'll take your word for it," Hiei said.
"So..." Shuichi trailed off. "You'd consider going out with me?" he asked nervously.
"I would," Hiei said. "If you're comfortable with that. But how will your mother feel about it?"
Shuichi's eyes widened. He obviously hadn't thought of that. It could very well be a sensitive topic for his protective mother.
He took some time to consider his answer. Finally he said, "I think she'd be fine with it, if she knew that it was my choice and I was happy."
"Maybe you should talk to her first," Hiei told him. "She doesn't need any more surprises."
"That's a good idea," Shuichi agreed. "What about you? Will Yukina be okay with this?"
Hiei snorted. "Do you have to ask? She'll be ecstatic. I'm sure that she'll be planning our wedding before we've even gone on a date."
Shuichi began to grin. "I guess we'd better hurry up with that date, then," he said impishly.
Hiei pointed one finger threateningly at him. "You can't overdo it. You can't even walk to the front door without losing your breath."
Shuichi scowled. "It's not my fault that your house is huge," he protested.
At that moment Yukina and Kuwabara came in. "time for your medicine," Yukina announced with a cheery smile.
Shuichi sat up and took the cup Yukina handed him. He took the pills and handed the cup back.
"You're doing really well," Kuwabara told him. "We can cut back on the blood tests since your levels seem more stable now."
"Good," Shuichi sighed.
"Are you still tired?" Yukina asked him, sitting down beside him.
"Yes," Shuichi admitted, "But I'm getting better."
"Just make sure you walk around regularly," Kuwabara told him. "You need the exercise but don't push it."
"I'm taking him out tonight," Hiei said abruptly.
"What?" Shuichi and Yukina asked at the same time, turning to Hiei in surprise.
"I'm taking him out. To dinner," Hiei clarified.
Shuichi's mouth dropped open. Yukina turned to Kuwabara, her expression concerned.
Kuwabara read her expression. "It's fine," he told her. "There's no reason why he should stay house-bound. It'll be good for him to get out."
Yukina looked relieved. "Well, that's all right, then," she said, smiling. "Do you have something nice to wear, Shuichi?"
"He does," Hiei confirmed before Shuichi could answer.
"I do?" Shuichi asked.
"Haven't you looked through your wardrobe?" Hiei inquired, raising one eyebrow. "Your mother and I bought you clothes while you were still in the hospital."
"My mother helped you shop for me?" Shuichi asked.
Hiei shook his head. "You haven't taken much notice of anything lately, have you?"
"I guess not," Shuichi laughed.
Yukina clapped her hands excitedly. "I'll help you find something to wear," she said, her eyes dancing. "Hiei hasn't been on a date in ages. This is so exciting."
"Wait. A date?" Kuwabara asked.
"Could you two get out, please?" Hiei requested.
A grinning Yukina dragged a dumbfounded Kuwabara from the room. Hiei could distinctly hear Kuwabara say, "Hiei's officially dating Shuichi?" in the hall.
Shuichi had one of the cushions over his face. His shoulders were shaking. Finally he set it down in his lap, still grinning. "Maybe you shouldn't have said anything to them," he said. "I think I'm going to have a very busy afternoon."
Hiei's expression was unsympathetic. "That's nothing to what's going to happen when we get home," he informed Shuichi. "She'll interrogate me on every little detail. Then tomorrow she'll tell Keiko. Then Yusuke will find out. And then the trouble will really start."
Shuichi laughed. "At least it won't be boring," he said.
"It certainly won't be that," Hiei agreed.