The star stitch doesn't look like a star. It looks like weed, and no one can tell him otherwise. There is no one to tell him otherwise anyway, because no one would understand what he's talking about. Therefore, he's right on this.
When his mom was still alive, he learned from her. Kazuma would run the neighborhood with his friends, sure, but in the quiet of the evening, he'd curl up beside his mom on the couch and practice. Shizuru didn't care what he did, so there was no teasing from her about it. His dad would pinch his cheeks and come up with dumb nicknames, but when Kazuma made him the ugliest, lumpiest hat in the world for his birthday, he wore it every damn day. Kazuma didn't mind the teasing at all then.
When his mom died, the hat went into storage. So did the supplies, and any semblance of peace it gave him.
And then fucking Urameshi waltzed into his life, and he found that he didn't need it. Urameshi became the daily dose of peace, and later on, so did the team and the friends he made along the way. He never found a way to thank Urameshi for something greater than being his best friend. But then again, Urameshi seemed to already have some inkling about it, and made Kazuma feel that the thanks wasn't necessary at all.
That made him want to thank him even more.
College fucking sucks.
While he's damn proud of himself for muscling through high school and pushing on to Gai Tech, holy shit it sucks. Half his teachers are dicks, he's addicted to coffee, and he's pretty certain his circadian rhythm is fucked up for life.
Between homework and the detective agency, the power of friendship doesn't fucking cut it anymore, so about two weeks into freshman year, he unpacks his yarn and a pair of stainless steel knitting needles and goes to town. It takes no time at all for every single stitch to come back to memory. He knows them by heart, could do them in the dark – does do them in the dark sometimes when the lamplight is too much and the city lights slanting through the blinds are easier on the eyes.
Knitting is brilliant stress relief, and Kazuma wonders why he ever tucked it away in the first place. Then he remembers, and shuts down that line of thought.
Kazuma knits every day. He knits when he turns in a shitty essay, he knits after a particularly difficult case, he knits when his father's in town, he knits after seeing Yukina with another man. It's impossible to put down.
Urameshi finds out, one way or another, but he's so cool about it that Kazuma loves him fifty times over again. The detective only starts giving him shit about it after he knows Kazuma is comfortable enough to take the ribbing, after he assures him that there is nothing wrong with the hobby, "abso-fuckin-lutely nothing to be ashamed about, man, why would you think I'd have a problem? I – I know I'm a shit friend, but—"
And that puts them into a whole different conversation where the tables are turned, because it turns out that Urameshi has this delusion that he could be a better person for the people he cares about, and Kazuma has to literally smack some sense in him by dragging him out to Genkai’s estate and sparring with him until they’re both exhausted enough to say everything they want to say.
Urameshi appreciates it, and there's tears and snot and ugly sobbing, and then he makes him promise to make him a sweater or something.
Kazuma does makes him that sweater, and earns the right to coo and tease, because Urameshi looks too fucking adorable wearing it on chilly nights manning the ramen cart. Keiko tells to Kazuma one busy evening in her restaurant that Urameshi is a lot more huggable now, and Yusuke screeches over the chaos that she loves him and his lanky ass whether he's wearing the stupid sweater or not, so there. A laugh rises from the whole dinner crowd.
Kazuma promises her that he'll make her sweater even plushier, and Urameshi immediately swears on pain of death that he'd better get one of equal plushness if he knows what's good for him.
Later, when he's done with his homework, Kazuma sticks a post-it note on his board as a reminder.
Kiyoshi Mitarai is the best roommate a guy could ever have, and no one can tell Kazuma otherwise.
When they learned, during a get-together, that they would both be attending Gai Tech, they decided that rooming together would be a good idea, mostly because they knew each other, and, if they were being honest, stepping out on their own was more than a little nerve-wracking.
The apartments near campus were nicer than the dorms, and offered more independence. Mitarai offered to pay most of the rent. "It's the least I can do, after—"
Kazuma shut him down immediately. Sensui was years ago, and he thought they'd moved past all this, seriously. "I still got my pride," he grumbled. "I can afford to pay my fair half. So shaddup about it, alright?"
Mitarai looked at him with glistening eyes. Kazuma wondered if the minor hero worship thing going on here would be a problem.
As it happens, it isn't.
Nowadays, he and Mitarai snip back and forth across the apartment in a companionable manner. They take turns cooking dinner on occasion, clean the place when it's needed, and help each other out with homework in shared classes. They have the occasional argument about dirty dishes in the sink, and what to watch on TV, but Kazuma secretly enjoys it all, because Mitarai isn't that awestruck boy anymore. He won't roll over just because Kazuma saved his life once (or a few times more later on).
Therefore, Kiyoshi Mitarai is the best roommate he could ask for—especially because he gives zero fucks that Kazuma knits, and in fact asks him for a few lessons a few months later, because "Mr. Kobayashi's busting my balls, and I'm about to throw him into another dimension if I can't calm the fuck down."
Kazuma lends him some needles, gets him started on a few different stitches, because Mitarai's smart, he won't be thrown by a purl or a raspberry, and lets him loose. A week later, Mitarai's holding up his first scarf, and though it starts off a little loose, the rest of it comes together quickly.
"Ready for something else?" Kazuma asks, and Mitaria says, "Yeah," so they take a jaunt down to the local craft store that Kazuma locked onto the second he started looking for apartments, and pick out some yarn for a hat.
He knows Mitarai's not going to be into knitting like he is, but it's nice to be joined on the couch once in a while for a quiet evening when they're done with homework, and the TV's got some gameshow on, and the underlying sound in the room is the click of their needles.
Kiyoshi Mitarai can take a long stroll through an infinite dimension.
No, wait. It's the landlord's fault, if he really thinks about it.
The apartment building they live in is ridiculous, they discover. Too cold in the winter, blasting the A/C in the summer. The whole building, mostly Gai Tech students, voice their complaints to the building owner, but he’s such a dick who won’t stop twiddling his thumbs that all they can do is bundle up.
During a lounge meeting with some of the residents, Mitarai opens his big fat mouth and says that until they get this solved, they'll just have to hunker down and bundle up, “but hey, maybe Kuwabara will be willing to knit you guys some socks if you ask nicely!”
Kazuma knows he meant it as a joke, but apparently no one picked up on that, because the next morning, there are pieces of paper under the front door with requests for sweaters and socks and blankets. He doesn't talk to Mitarai all day.
It's not awful, though. They're all willing to pay something if Kazuma names a price.
Mitarai wiggles the slips of paper at breakfast the next day. "Those student loans aren't going to pay themselves."
Kazuma flings scrambles eggs at him and really, really hates that he's right.
When Kurama drops by for a surprise visit, he seems unsurprised to find Kazuma on the couch working on a pair of socks for a tenant in the apartment below them – not a Gai Tech student, actually. This little knitwear business is becoming a little too popular.
Mitarai looks extremely guilty about letting Kurama in without giving Kazuma time to hide his knitting, but the demon looks like he doesn't give two shits, because he's rummaging through their kitchen, going on about how he's ready to fire the idiot who screwed up a very important order today, and, "Really, Kuwabara, your tea selection is abysmal. Mitarai, be a good friend and run down to the store for me, would you? And Kuwabara, I expect mittens for my birthday, something in beige, perhaps, or seashell white. Now, as I was saying…"
Either Mitarai is a very good host, or he's just flat out terrified of Kurama (that, probably that), because he's out the door in one minute, and back in ten with an expensive sampler that the demon compensates him for three times over. Kazuma hasn't missed a stitch since Kurama's arrival, and he sees no reason to put his knitting down now that the secret's out, so he keeps working while Kurama paces the living room, ranting about some poor jerk named Himura, and Mitarai tries to work on homework at the dining table, but keeps laughing into his elbow because watching Kurama sip tea and dish tea is hilarious.
When he's all out of words, Kurama takes a deep breath and demands to be shown some of his other projects. Kazuma unpacks a whole box of items he's been amassing and selling.
"Well, these are just lovely, Kuwabara, really," says Kurama irritably.
"Dude, you don't sound like you mean that," Mitarai hums, nose buried in a very boring historical textbook.
That cows him a little. He apologizes in a voice that doesn't sound like he's got murder on his mind, and reiterates kindly that the things in the box truly are lovely, and could he steal that shawl? Yes? Wonderful.
Kuwabara makes about two-hundred bucks from what's in the box, and Kurama later insists that he should try selling his wares to some of his co-workers at the office, especially the ones who are stationed under the air vents.
"But not Himura," he says pleasantly. "Himura can get hypothermia and die."
Mitarai burns his grilled cheese because he spends too much time dying of laughter on the kitchen floor.
Hiei intercepts him in the craft store out of nowhere and sees him buying more yarn.
He has less than kind things to say about Kazuma's manhood, or so Kazuma imagines, because while he doesn't actually say anything, the look he gives him is so disdainful that Kazuma almost starts putting back his items. He hasn't felt this ashamed about his knitting since…well, ever, really. He was bound to meet scorn somewhere, but to have it come from a teammate, from someone he begrudgingly calls "friend", is more than a little disheartening.
“The hell do you want, freak?” It comes out small and sad, not at all what he was going for. God, it hurts.
Hiei’s distain shifts into something else, and he doesn’t say anything for a minute or two. Kazuma uses that time to tiredly pull down a few more skeins and shove them into his basket.
“Are you done being a child?”
He swallows and looks back. The distain is back. “Can you just…not?”
“What?” Hiei does not like being accused of…anything, really.
“It’s not…manly, okay, I get it, but it’s—” He struggles to get the words out. “It’s how I remember my mom, so if you fucking think—”
There is nothing but pure anger. “You think,” the demon growls, backing him into a shelf, “that I give a damn about what you get up to?”
“You look at me like—”
“Like I always do,” Hiei snaps. “Because you’re an oaf, and you always will be, and nothing else will change that, whether you think it’s emasculating or not. Do not presume to comprehend my mind, or I will kill you.”
That…makes him feel a hell of a lot better. Hiei steps back. Kazuma apologizes. Hiei whacks him upside the head and tells him to die.
“Ow! Geez, okay, whatever, why’re you here anyway?”
There's to be a team meeting in less than an hour at the restaurant, and Hiei is here because, one, Kazuma hasn't been answering his phone, and two, he drew the short stick to deliver the message.
"Way to make a guy feel better."
Hiei doesn't give a rat's ass. He tails Kazuma closely as he slips through the aisle and selects a few more colors. He notices Hiei staring at some of the deeper shades of blue, and without thinking, he casually knocks a few skeins into his basket.
At the checkout counter, he realizes what he's done. Usually, when a classmate wants to tag along and pick their own colors out for whatever Kazuma's going to make them, it usually ends up being the first color their eyes are truly drawn to. Some habits are very hard to break.
Unfortunately, it's too late to put the yarn back – actually, it's not, he's just too stubborn to do it, because he knows he's probably right that Hiei likes this color, and the petty part of him takes great satisfaction in knowing about some unconscious part of Hiei's brain.
The smug look he keeps flashing at the demon sparks some choice words, and they just end up fighting all the way back to the apartment. And yet, Kazuma can’t stop grinning, because Hiei doesn’t mind that he knits. Doesn’t think any less of him (though he supposed his opinion is low enough as is).
That’s really all he can ask of a friend.
The meeting is for a new case from old Pacifier Breath.
The actual case, once they get around to investigating, does not go well, to say the least. Kazuma has to work his way through two scarves and three hats over the next week before his nerves decide that he can have a decent night's sleep.
Kazuma and Mitarai both agreed, when they'd decided to be roommates, that a barrier around their apartment building would be mutually beneficial. An easy feat for two masters of dimension manipulation, they'd reasoned. The least they could do was make sure that in between school and the detective business – Mitarai occasionally lends a hand – they could have a quiet place to study, for the love of god.
It had taken them a few days to decide how to weave the barrier, but seeing how the building had plenty of apparition occupants, they'd eventually settled on something basic: those with malicious intent could not enter.
The spellwork behind it is more complex, naturally, and involves a series of additional barriers that would warn them if a malicious energy was approaching, thus allowing them to judge whether to activate the main barrier, and – Kazuma stops trying to explain when Urameshi's eyes glaze over with disinterest, and just settles for, "It keeps assholes out."
"Oh, cool, man."
Going into his second year, he's pleased to find that after four attempts on his life at his place of residence, the barrier was definitely a fantastic idea.
He's a little disappointed that it doesn't actually keep out assholes, though, because Hiei gets through just fine. He starts turning up as the group messenger bird, because according to Urameshi, "he's the only jerk in our group who doesn't have a real job".
Kazuma actually tries to put up another barrier to lock him out. Just as a joke. But Hiei gets through anyway, and seems very angry about it.
"What pathetic excuse of a ward is that?" he spits. "How are you still alive with that kind of shoddy workmanship?"
Kazuma likes to tell himself that he's matured from his middle school days when he was always at ends with the demon, but in truth, he's just as terrible, if not worse on the bad days. Today is a very bad day.
The argument sends Mitarai scrambling to the library, because he'd rather be far away when they bring the building down.
"It's not meant to keep demons out, you jackass!" Kazuma eventually gets in while Hiei is halfway through listing every single issue in every single stitch of the barrier. "It's for people that want to hurt me, and you know, I'd love to put something up that'll zap your tater tot ass if you got within spitting distance, but - god fucking damn it, could you just – augh!"
They're friends, he stubbornly insists in his mind every single time it gets to this point. They are, really. They're just the kind of friends who rub each other the wrong way most of the time. All the time. So he bites his cheek and puts away all the scattered contents of his project box, hoping that he’s not ejected himself, because he's feeling pretty fucking malicious right now.
Hiei waits on the couch, following his every move with narrowed eyes, and when he's done, he passes on the file for the next case and leaves.
When Mitarai gets back, he finds Kazuma weaving a new barrier tailored just for Hiei. Not as a joke.
Mitarai personally thinks it's not going to work, just because Kazuma's spellwork is shaky at best when he's angry, but he keeps that to himself. Better for the man to just learn.
"You could try to not antagonize each other," is Yukina's suggestion.
Kazuma gives her a dead-eyed stare.
She sighs a little. "I know."
Years later, and he still can't believe those two are related. Can't fucking believe it.
He notes with vicious glee that Hiei's stupid scarf is absolutely ruined during their next case. He personally thanks the culprit for the favor, right before he pins him to the concrete with a spirit sword through the gut.
The barrier doesn't work.
Just as he finishes casting off a nice, pale cream scarf, Hiei comes in through the balcony, snatches it up, and vanishes.
Mitarai won't stop laughing. Kazuma pelts him with skeins of yarn.
Hiei stays well out of range at the next meeting. Kurama and Urameshi don't say a word because they're here on business. They're just not interested in breaking up that kind of fight. Yukina remarks to Keiko that it's like watching two parents ignoring their fighting children. Keiko agrees entirely.
When Kazuma stops trying to chase Hiei around the restaurant, he just settles for glaring at the loose strand of yarn that he never got to weave in, because the damn scarf was stolen before it was done.
Hiei is the first to leave when they've been briefed. Kazuma swears a blue streak into the night.
Blue, blue, blue. Midnight blue, to be precise.
Kazuma cannot forget the way Hiei's eyes had lingered on the color in the store. He knows people, dammit. He's gotten good at this. He knows that yarn appealed to the demon. Whether Hiei knew it was another matter entirely.
Out of sheer spite, Kazuma knits a pair of mittens in that color, fully intending to wear them with the knowledge that every time Hiei glances his way, he'll get an eyeful of the color he subconsciously loves, but never consciously knows he loves.
The plan doesn't exactly pan out that way.
The first problem is that the next time Hiei comes to deliver a new case file, Kazuma isn't wearing the mittens. They're sitting on the coffee table. The second problem is that they start arguing again, and when it reaches its pitch, he accidentally lobs the mittens at Hiei's face because they're the closest thing on hand, besides the table or the TV, and he really doesn't want to throw either of those, thanks. The third problem is that instead of making contact with the intended target, the mittens are deftly snatched out of the air. Hiei then flings the case file at him in retaliation, and bolts.
The plan is an utter failure.
No. That plan had to be the most brilliant thing Kazuma has ever concocted in his life.
Hiei is wearing the mittens at the next meeting.
The short stack jackass looks so fucking smug, but Kazuma has to struggle with all his might not to laugh, because of course. He should have thought of this. That little shit is so fucking predictable, thinking he's wearing the mittens to spite Kazuma, when in reality, he's wearing them because he's drawn to the color, oh, yes. This is too good.
"You're playing with fire," Yusuke says delightedly when the meeting is over and Hiei is well off somewhere in the deep night.
Kazuma matches his grin and plots.
Crocheting isn't his favorite thing to do, but he’s feeling adventurous, so fingerless gloves are next on his spite list. The same blue, dark and wondrous.
He doesn't want to fight this time, out of fear that Hiei might destroy his craft, so he enlists Mitarai's help. The next time Hiei drops by, it's to Kazuma obnoxiously bragging about how proud he is of his new gloves, and then he casually insults Hiei.
The next morning, the gloves are gone.
Kazuma is dying.
Mitarai just blinks blearily over his mug of coffee and says, "You can explain it to me when I'm functional enough to give a shit."
Kazuma explains it before he's functional anyway.
Hiei is gone for a few weeks. He doesn’t see him for a while. According to Kurama, he and Yukina are taking a family vacation to Hyouga (for what reason, Kazuma's not sure, but it can't be a good one).
He tries to fix the barrier meant for Hiei, and then he makes another pair of mittens.
Hiei is at the next meeting again. Still wearing those fingerless gloves.
He decides to give the mittens to Hiei to annoy him. Not because they're a good deal warmer than fingerless gloves.
Then he looks at his needles and thinks that his mother wouldn't want him to act like this. To create out of hatred is a mockery of his craft.
So he thoughtfully sews grip pads to the palms of the mittens. It would be easier to wield a sword, wouldn’t it? Then he tackles the neglected backorders from his fellow classmates. He has to pay off those loans somehow.
And if he knits a few extra items with someone specific in mind, well, that's his business.
Kazuma borrows Hiei's sword in the middle of a case when he's drained of his spirit energy.
He’s never actually held the weapon with the intent to use it before. When he’s dragging Hiei’s unconscious body out of the kill zone, sure. But like this, no. Part of him is worried that the thing is going to zap him, because it sings with Hiei’s demonic energy.
When he takes it into his hands and assumes a stance, the sword hums and warms him from his head to his toes. “Hey, I think it likes me!” he shouts over the cacophony to Urameshi, who’s cracking up as Hiei rockets like a bullet towards Kazuma, incensed.
Hiei reaches him the same time the demon does, and Kazuma launches forward and swings.
Koenma nudges the headless corpse with a shiny shoe. “Clean kill as always, Hiei.”
“Hiei?” Kazuma squawks indignantly. “That was all me!”
Koenma gives him a slow clap, which Kurama and Urameshi seem to find hilarious.
Hiei marches over and smacks him upside the head. “Never again.”
Kazuma sulks and rubs the bump. Guy doesn't know how to share, seriously. “Oi,” he starts, and promptly faints.
“Honestly,” Botan tuts, hands aglow. “I thought you’d be more careful than this. Don’t you remember the Saint Beasts case?”
“S’where I got the idea though,” he mumbles, head lolling to the side.
“No,” Hiei intones. “He just did it because he’s a thoughtless idiot.”
It’s a struggle to get his middle finger up, but he manages.
Hiei continues to hover while Botan gives him a full spirit inspection to ensure that there was no permanent damage to his reiki during the fight. Kazuma pretends that it's because Hiei has some shred of kindness in him, but he knows better by now.
At least, he thinks he knows better, because then Hiei walks him home, keeping a firm grip on his waist to ensure that he doesn’t stumble.
But then, when Kazuma is watered, fed, and tucked into bed, Hiei slaps him upside the head and tells him that if he ever touches his personal effects again, he'll break every bone in his hands. Talk about mixed signals.
Kazuma sighs to the empty room. That slap didn’t hurt as much as the last one.
The mittens with the grip pads are gone in the morning, and the desk chair in his room is strangely warm.
The hat he made is stolen when he talks about Yukina too much. It's actually insulting, because Mitarai had only asked a question about the lovely ice apparition, and Kazuma was trying to answer, and Hiei was there stealing their food, so what right did he have to be angry?
"You prattle on like you know the first thing about her, when in reality, you are still the same brainless oaf as you were when you first laid your unworthy eyes on her."
Kazuma lobs the hat he's been clutching at Hiei’s stupid head. "You got some nerve, tater tot, comin' in here and eatin' our shit like you own the place."
"Cease your talk of her—"
"The fuck for?"
Instead of answering, Hiei picks up his things, jams the hat on his head, and leaps off the balcony.
Mitarai sighs. "So dramatic."
Kazuma agrees. Also, he's pretty sure Hiei doesn't even know that Kazuma knows that he and Yukina are related. He wonders how he can use that little surprise against him.
Exams take the life out of him, as they are wont to do.
He's too tired to fight the next time Hiei stops by, so he just gives the scarf to him. Shoves it in his face and tells him that unless he can recite the whole periodic table to him, he needs to get the fuck out.
He's really not thinking about the fact that the scarf matches the hat and the mittens and the fingerless gloves. Not really thinking that he went back to the store for more of that yarn. That he picked it out specifically for Hiei.
It’s when he makes a sweater with Hiei’s slight frame in mind that he knows he’s gone too far. He finishes it, shoves it in his closet, and shakes his head when Mitarai asks about it.
He really tries to fix the barrier this time.
Mitarai is the one who finds Hiei on the balcony. The demon is half buried by snow, sleeping like he doesn't have a care in the world. He probably doesn't. And he won't wake up. Mitarai tries to drag him inside, but the barrier won't allow it.
Kazuma comes home to find him desperately throwing all the blankets they own over Hiei's unmoving body. "He's so cold, Kuwabara, why won't he wake up, oh my god, man, take down the barrier!"
Kazuma dispels it immediately, and together they pull Hiei in and try to wake him.
"Oh, he's hibernating," Kurama chirps when Kazuma phones him after their unsuccessful attempts. "He defeated Mukuro again, but it tired him out. Be sure to congratulate him when he wakes up. That's three times now. Not bad, I'd say, though he still argues that his second victory didn't count. I disagree, of course—"
"But he's freezing!" Kazuma breaks in.
"It only feels that way on the surface. He's a fire demon," Kurama says patiently. "A little chill from this world won't do much to him. Hyouga's eternal winter is far worse, believe me. You'd freeze within five minutes if you stepped foot on the island."
"But," says Kazuma helplessly, hovering over the motionless body. Mitarai has retreated to his room, because this is not his problem.
Kurama sighs gently. “Perhaps, in this weakened state, it would be a slight problem. Alright. Keep his body warm. I'm sure that if he wakes up comfortably, he'll be less likely to kill you before he leaves."
So, after a bit of mental debating and a lot of internal screeching, Kazuma drags the dreaded midnight blue sweater out of the closet and stuffs Hiei into it. He jams socks on his feet, mittens on his hands, a hat on his head, and tries not to strangle him with a scarf. Then he smothers him in blankets, and prays that his own death will be a swift one, at the very least.
He Snaps a picture of the couch cocoon to Yusuke and Kurama: A beautiful butterfly will burst forth.
Yusuke sends back a ton of emojis, and Kurama replies that he will write a heart-wrenching eulogy for the funeral.
Kazuma knows that Hiei has woken up because he can feel his bloody red gaze burning into the back of his head as he does homework at the coffee table.
"What is this nonsense?" he hears him mumble.
"Kurama said I should say congrats, so…um." What was the equation for this? Angular velocity? Acceleration? Hell, he’ll just get Mitarai to explain it to him.
Hiei shifts, but only to burrow deeper into the blankets, as Kazuma notes when he glances behind him. "M'sorry," he says when Hiei stops moving.
There is a deep, electric silence. Hiei snarls, "Why?"
"The barrier wasn't supposed to work." Kazuma refuses to look at him, because apologizing to this guy is hard enough as is. "It never works. I always get it wrong. I didn't know—ow!"
Hiei raises the pillow again to strike. "You will not," he hisses, "apologize to me for being competent for the first time in your life."
"But you nearly froze!"
The laugh is downright mean. "Your idiocy knows no bounds."
Kazuma gathers his energy to yell, but then he takes a good long look at Hiei sitting there, swamped in knitwear, and the fight suddenly leaves him. He turns back to his work, very confused by the burning in his face. "Whatever. I won't bother next time. If there's ever a next time."
A few minutes later, he hears Hiei settle back down, and a few more minutes later, he can't help but ask, "What happened to all the stuff I made for you?"
He twists. "All that shit I gave you – you should have been wearing it outside, but you weren’t. Did you lose it? I took a lot of time out of my days to make all that. You can't keep being this…careless. What?"
Hiei stares at him.
And Kazuma realizes that he has directly admitted to making everything for him.
He whips back around and hunches over the table.
"Mukuro," he hears an hour later.
Kazuma is too brain-dead from his homework to ask for clarification. "Warm enough?" he tries instead. Hiei doesn't answer. Kazuma, daring and a bit manic, shoves a hand under the blankets. "Holy crap, man." It's a furnace. And when he accidentally brushes Hiei's fingers, it's like touching a flame. "Dude, that's insane."
"I was born of fire," Hiei mutters.
"Uh, technically you were born of ice," Kazuma quips. "Still don't understand how that works—"
Hiei clamps down on his hand, making him yelp. Burning red eyes stare fiercely into his, and he realizes his second faux pas. Damn, he’s on a roll.
Kazuma grimaces. "Third year, first semester. She was talking about you, about something you'd done that made her angry, and I put two and two together, and…" He huffs. "Can't believe everyone knew but me. I get why you wouldn't want to tell me though. You and I weren’t…aren’t…close, so. Yeah."
Hiei gives him a strange, quiet look. His grip loosens. "She was supposed to be my business alone. Kurama knew because…"
"Because he's Kurama?" Kazuma finishes, smiling in spite of his tumultuous heart.
Hiei smirks, sharing the joke. Kazuma's heart slams to a full stop at the sight before leaping forward like a jackrabbit. "As for the rest, it was passed around. And…" He falls quiet, lowering his eyes. Thinking. Kazuma can pinpoint the exact moment the demon decides that the conversation is over. He snuggles, actually snuggles back down into the heap, and sighs.
Kazuma isn't sure if he should remove his hand from Hiei's grasp. The decision is made for him when Hiei lets go entirely to support his own head. The warmth underneath the covers is intoxicating, however, so Kazuma leaves his whole arm there, and pulls the rest of his homework into his lap.
The silence that follows is very companionable.
"Ask him how he found the strength to beat Mukuro," Kurama says.
"I really don't care?" Kazuma replies, flipping the grilled cheese onto a plate.
"I think you should." He sounds positively gleeful, and it's worrisome.
"Why don't you just tell me?"
Kurama doesn't say anything for half of his sandwich, but as he's about to dip into his soup, he says, "She ruined his scarf. Your scarf. At least, that's what I heard from Yomi."
"What," says Kazuma as Mitarai bursts into the apartment and shakes a light dusting of snow from his body. As Kurama greets him and starts to complain about the latest drama at work (it's probably the real reason he comes by these days; he just needs friends to rant to), Kazuma sits and stares at his food and thinks about this new information.
The more he thinks about it, the more it seems to imply that…that…
Mitarai asks why his face is so red.
It wasn’t just the scarf, he learns. It was all of the knitwear he made. Mukuro ruined everything Hiei had via surprise attack in his sleeping quarters at her weird bug place. The whole room was demolished in an explosion, as were the clothes, and after that, Hiei's victory was apparently swift. Anyone would be pissed if their clothes died a fiery death, of course, but the problem is that their clothes get ruined all the time for cases, so—
"Oh, god, no," Yusuke says.
"What?" Kazuma squawks.
He jabs a pair of chopsticks at him. "I am never coming to your apartment again if you two start fu—"
Kazuma throws a soy sauce bottle at his face. That conclusion was entirely uncalled for. Wholly unfounded. Utterly ridiculous.
With a heart pounding like mad at the very sight of Hiei's pretty red eyes, it's clear that the conclusion was not so unfounded. Not so ridiculous.
This is bad, bad, bad.
"Listen, shrimp, I don't have time to talk, I was about to make a yarn run."
Hiei sneers and waves the file. "The next case."
"Yarn," Kazuma insists. "They're having a special, and I have orders to fill. But you could, uh, totally tag along if you wanted?" As if he hasn't been waiting here in his coat and boots for an hour after he learned Hiei would be stopping by.
Hiei looks at him like he's lost his mind.
"Or not? I ain't gonna beg. I got things to do." As if he's not a little crestfallen. A little.
Kazuma stares at the empty balcony for a good long minute. Then he begins his lonely trek to the craft store. So. The aloof method definitely doesn't work on people like Hiei. Or maybe just Hiei.
He's browsing bulky yarns when a shadow appears at his side and starts to talk in a low voice about a murder in the next town over. He nearly leaps out of his skin and spills everything in his basket. Hiei looks mildly amused and makes no move to help him pick up his things. Kazuma grumbles a bit to hide his grin. When everything is put to rights, Hiei keeps talking, and Kazuma keeps shopping.
Hiei looks up from the file once to glance at a nice off-white yarn.
Kazuma swipes several skeins into his basket the second he looks away.
Scarf, hat, socks, and gloves with grips.
Urameshi says, "My man. You have a biiig problem."
Mitarai says, “I think it’s sweet.”
Kurama says nothing, because Kurama cannot know that these items exist, because Kurama tells Hiei everything.
The blanket is his coup de grâce. He's certain he's never been prouder of a craft. Or more terrified. Because now he actually has to give it to Hiei. Which means admitting things. Things he's not exactly proud of.
Well. He doesn’t have to. But. He has to. He’s so screwed.
Hiei's face betrays nothing when Kazuma pulls out the bag of clothes he'd set aside for him.
"Heard what happened at Mukuro's," Kazuma says gruffly, praying he can downplay the shit out of all this insanity. "Thought you'd want some replacement stuff. Or not. S'whatever, you know." Some part of his brain is screaming at him to shut the fuck up.
Finally, a scowl he's familiar with appears, and a critical eye rakes over every stitch. "Is this your attempt at a truce? Not even a full set. Where's the sweater?"
Kazuma squints. Is he supposed to take that as a legitimate question? He’s not sure. "Uh. You seem more like a wrap kinda guy." He moves to his box before his brain can tell his body to shut everything down, and suddenly he's wrapping a shawl around Hiei's tense shoulders and arranging it high up on his neck. He steps back, and as he ignores the furious gaze digging into his skull, he suddenly realizes why this is happening.
He likes seeing Hiei wear his clothes.
He never pays attention to the students wearing his knitwear. Lately, with most of the apartment complex taken care of, his customers are people who have heard of him by word of mouth, or people he's barely spoken to for more than a minute about class notes. He's never actually had a model to test out his clothes, the way the item drapes over the body, the way the color compliments the skin or eyes. He's always gone with his gut, and he's been right so far, but something about seeing someone wear them…someone he knows, too…
"S'not your color," he rasps, finally realizing that Hiei probably wants to eviscerate him and leave the balcony door open so birds can fly in and feast on his entrails. "I'd go with gem tones, probably. And a thinner yarn. Give it a vagabond look."
Hiei allows him to yank the wrap off, and the next words out of his mouth nearly put Kazuma into an early grave: "It was suggested that I…broaden my wardrobe." He looks so fucking uncomfortable that Kazuma is ninety-nine percent sure that it was Yukina who told him he needed new threads, because she’s the only one in all the realms the demon would actually take fashion advice from.
"I could do it," he offers before he swallows his own tongue, already mapping out a strong pattern for the hypothetical scarf-wrap-poncho-monstrosity this is not happening. "But you gotta choose the colors, man, I don't need you jamming a needle into my eye when you get pissed off that I made it red or something. You get pissy about a lot of stuff."
Hiei looks like he's seriously considering the needle bit right now.
The next time Kazuma goes to the craft store, Hiei is at his heels. Rather, he just shows up out of nowhere, and Kazuma nearly has a heart attack, not for the first or last time.
After a good deal of bickering, they settle on a nice topaz set. Kazuma refuses to let Hiei know about the pattern, though, because that's his thing, and no one gets to interfere.
"Shaddup," he says firmly. "I'm gonna make it, and you're gonna fuckin' love it."
Hiei has some choice words about that.
Urameshi has not blinked once. Kazuma tries his best not to wail in despair.
Finally, the great Spirit Detective unfolds his hands and says, perfectly serious, "You're on your own."
"You gotta help," he begs, slumping over the table.
"I don't fuckin' know, man!" Urameshi hisses. It's a slow day at the restaurant, and all of the customers have been taken care of. Keiko's wiping down tables, one ear on their conversation. She looks awfully amused. "I mean, it's – it's Hiei."
"Think I ain't aware of that?"
"From what you're saying, I'm pretty sure you aren't!"
Kazuma grips his shirt and bangs his head against the wood a few times.
Uramesh stops him and lowers his voice. "Okay. Okay, don't panic."
"You can't just tell me to not panic!"
"It's just a—a—" He looks faint.
Kazuma resumes hitting his head.
Keiko's gentle hands halt his violent ministrations. "Boys," she says kindly, "it sounds like it's a bit more than just a simple crush."
"There's nothing simple about anything with a crush and Hiei," Urameshi chokes out.
"Seeing him in your clothes riles you up, right? It's probably a newfound kink you never knew you had." They look absolutely horrified that such a blasphemous word would ever leave that small mouth.
“Who are you?” Urameshi cries. “You’re not my wife!”
"Oh, Kuwabara,” says his wife, completely ignoring him, “there's nothing wrong with it. It's normal." Her smile takes a mischievous turn. "Yusuke feels the same way when I wear anything of his. Don't you, hon?"
Kazuma takes one look at Urameshi's dumbstruck face and knows that whatever's going on in that head is not something he wants to be privy to. Ever. "What do I do?" he mumbles, since clearly Keiko has more brains than anyone on this entire blasted planet.
"Well. You’re not exactly subtle with your crushes, so there’s a good chance that Hiei already knows. If he’s been willing to indulge you this long, I’d say he’s on board. So keep going!"
Now he wails his despair.
Hiei likes the new scarf-wrap-whatever. He doesn’t expressly say it, but Kazuma always sees him wearing it, even when they have to work a case, so that's probably a sign that he likes it.
A clothing kink. Of all the fucking things.
Well, if Hiei already knows, it's fine, right? Knows about the crush, not the kink. God forbid.
He's stuck taking care of Hiei's hibernating ass again, only because Kurama's out of town on a business trip.
He bundles the little demon up, even though it's a thousand fucking degrees outside, and waits for him to come to.
It takes a full day for that to happen, and he hasn’t even broken a sweat buried under all those layers. Amazing.
Mitarai's in the kitchen, explaining some complex law of physics that Kazuma has no hope of understanding in time for the quiz, when there's a soft grunt from the couch.
"Morning, Sleeping Beauty," Kazuma hums, ambling over to the lump. Hiei socks him in the thigh. He drops like a rock.
Mitarai, the shittiest roommate ever, cackles and dips out, as he usually does whenever Hiei comes around nowadays. He seems to be under the impression that they're constantly screwing (Kazuma literally choked on a grape when he brought it up), and tries to give them plenty of privacy. So, a considerate, if not misinformed, shitty roommate.
Hiei has no plans on moving, it seems. Kazuma brings his work to the coffee table, puts something mindless on TV, and settles for a study session.
"Too warm?" he asks quietly when Hiei sits up.
He glances back and tries not to faint. He'd been wrong about Hiei not being a sweater guy. He's definitely a sweater guy, if the sweater was made by Kazuma. What’s worse is it’s the same midnight blue sweater he keeps buried in his closet and drags out for occasions like these.
Kink, his treacherous mind whispers, and he's tugging on the collar of the garment before his brain can say, bad idea. "You can keep this, if you want." I made it for you. I made it for the set that got destroyed. I made it because I like you in my clothes.
Hiei inspects it. "I want a different pattern."
I want. It takes all his willpower to keep it together. "Okay. I'll make you a new one."
"I will pick the pattern."
"I already told you—"
"I will pick the pattern."
He lets Hiei pick the pattern.
"I don't think I can do this."
"Yes, you can." Keiko pats his hand in a motherly fashion. "You can allow yourself to like him. It's alright."
"It is?" Urameshi squawks. His wife whips a sponge at his face.
"I let him pick his own pattern," Kazuma sobs into his udon. "I never let anyone pick – damn, dude, this tastes awesome, did you change the recipe?"
"Yeah, trying something new."
"What is it about him wearing your things that you find intriguing?" Keiko presses.
When did this become therapy? "It's just…knowing he accepts something that I made…that he thinks I’m competent enough to keep him warm, you know?"
"But even when we're working, and he doesn’t have any of my stuff, I still…I mean…"
"Even when he's not wearing your things, you find him attractive?"
"I…I think so. Yeah. And sometimes it feels like he might know. Might even…" He grins sheepishly. "Nah."
"Don't say that. It's possible! That's wonderful, Kuwabara!"
"Is it, though?" Urameshi whines. "Is it really?"
"You sleep a lot," Kazuma mumbles. He's been staring at Hiei's unconscious face for thirty minutes now. Mitarai came in, called him a sap, and went back into his room, like his sole purpose for emerging was just to say that.
The TV is on mute, his tea is getting cold, and Hiei's hand slips loose from the cocoon.
Kazuma tucks the limb back in, and lets his hand linger. It's like an oven, and it makes him drowsy, the heat spreading through his arm and down into the rest of his body. "Why bother?" he grumbles, leaning against the couch and staring at Hiei's sleeping face. "You sure as hell wouldn't give a shit."
He feels Hiei tangle their fingers together.
The breath whooshes from his lungs.
Hiei doesn't open his eyes. "Stop making noise."
Kazuma sits as still as a statue, clinging to Hiei's fiery fingers, wondering when his life got to this point. He has no complaints whatsoever.
When Hiei wakes up, Kazuma has gotten very little work done, mostly because Hiei is holding his writing hand. The writing that he's managed to do so far looks like chicken scratch. He's so going to fail.
There is a persistent tugging at his fingers. He looks up. Hiei tugs him again.
If he's not mistaken, it seem that Hiei wants him to sit up on the couch. With him. Next to him.
So he does. Drags the blankets over the both of them and turns on the TV. "I, uh. Kinda need this hand."
Regrettably, Hiei releases him. And then grips the other hand nearest him, slouches back down beneath the blankets, and seems to fall asleep.
Kazuma feels like he's a bit in love.
He doesn't touch Hiei in public at first, per se. He just hovers nearby, waiting for permission, and when Hiei inclines his head ever so slightly, he inches closer until they're shoulder to shoulder.
Kurama seems to find it all perfectly normal when they all meet up to discuss casework. Urameshi looks like he's about to have a cow. Not in a bad way. Just in an "I'll support you, bro, but this has to be an alternate dimension" way. He's trying, and that's what counts.
Kazuma grows bolder and starts hooking his pinky around Hiei's. Hiei usually gives him a long-suffering look before hooking back. Kazuma is certain that he can die happy now.
Autumn is the time for pretty leaves, apple cider, and warm clothes. Hiei starts spending a lot more time at the apartment. Mostly sleeping, but still.
"You're his new safe house," Kurama says, not looking the slightest bit bitter.
Kazuma checks and double-checks that he's completely okay with this, because he doesn't want to get in between anything. Kurama assures him thrice that there's nothing to get between, and that Hiei didn't like listening to his work rants anyway, so, okay, maybe he’s a little bitter about that.
Kazuma sighs and reminds him that his door is always open if he wants to talk to him instead. He knows Kurama's going to take him up on that offer.
He finally gets around to the new sweater. He's been avoiding it, because actually making it means acknowledging that he's willing to make something that Hiei vocally wants. Wants from him.
The yarn is a deep amethyst tone that comes very close to matching Hiei's third eye. Kazuma wraps it up in some nice tissue paper and hands it over the next time the demon drops by.
"Birthday or something?" Mitarai asks, unaware of his own milk mustache.
"Don't stand with the fridge door open," Kazuma says absentmindedly, eyes fixed on Hiei, who unfolds his gift with surprising care. Mitarai puts away his milk, shuts the door, and comes to sit by Kazuma.
Hiei tenses and glares at the both of them. "I wasn't aware that this required an audience."
Kazuma flaps a hand.
With a very put-upon air, Hiei removes his cloak and pulls the sweater over his head. The color looks good against his skin, Kazuma thinks. The pattern Hiei had selected was mostly a simple herringbone stitch, thick, warm, durable, with a few intricacies along the way. Kazuma, however, had made it slightly larger than his frame, so the sleeves came halfway down his fingers, and the collar exposed those lovely (goddammit) collarbones. Large and cozy seemed the appropriate way to go, and if the way Hiei is inspecting it is anything to go by, he made a good call.
Hiei looks up, eyes darting back and forth between them.
"Well?" Mitarai asks, as if he'd helped in any way.
Hiei turns to Kazuma and bows his head a bit. The only thanks he'll get.
Fuck, he'll take anything at this point. He's so far gone, it's not even funny.
Winter hits, and with it comes a freeze so deep that he can feel it in his bones if he stands too close to a window.
He knows that Hiei would normally be fine with the temperature drop – they've been on missions to some of the coldest parts of Makai, and Kazuma never saw the man take a step towards their campfire once - but his next match against Mukuro leaves him exceptionally weak and, worryingly, easily susceptible to the chill.
There is a great deal of bouncing back and forth between this apartment and Kurama’s, and once to Urameshi’s ("never again, man, he's all yours"), but the fire demon eventually settles on the humble little apartment for the season.
"I'd sooner see her melt away in the tar pits of Agrah," Hiei snarls when asked why he doesn't just hang at Mukuro's, which probably means they're having one of their spats that will last for ages. Not that Kazuma minds.
The couch becomes Hiei's at night, not that it's an issue. If there's a party happening, Kazuma will see neither hide nor hair of him, and only after all the mayhem is done does he return to claim his rightful spot. He refuses to use the pullout bed, because he's a stubborn brat. If there's ever an event that requires for people to sleep over – late night study session, or an over the top "we survived the test" party that requires a shit-ton of booze – Hiei retreats to the balcony. Until Kazuma starts inviting him to stay in his room.
"Least I can do," he mumbles the first time. He makes up a bed for Hiei on the floor, because sorry, there's a presentation due tomorrow and he can't afford to wake up with a bad back.
"I've lain my head on a lake of fire, the underbellies of caves, and the bodies of my enemies," Hiei intones derisively, settling beneath the mound of blankets. "Your floor is hardly the worst place to sleep."
That probably wasn’t meant to be a compliment, but Kazuma preens anyway.
He always makes sure that the makeshift pile on the floor is stocked with as many blankets as possible, some made by his own hand. Mitarai even contributes a pillow to the cause.
"Some jerk was giving me a hard time about my presentation," Mitarai whispers when he's sure the demon isn't around, "and came in the next day looking like crap. Said some tiny, spikey-haired dude with three eyes kicked his ass and told him to have some respect for those who actually do their work."
Kazuma doesn’t know why he feels proud of his teammate, but god damn it, he does.
Winter progresses, and the freeze takes his breath away.
"Bundle up," he demands whenever his two roommates start to leave. "Are you going to be warm enough? I think you need more layers. Where the hell are your gloves? No, take this scarf, it's better." Mitarai appreciates the mother-henning, though he likes to whine about it. Hiei bites out a retort for every command, and makes Kazuma feel a little better about his not-so-little crush, because at least they can retain some sense of normalcy through arguing.
And sometimes, when Hiei's just being stubborn, Kazuma has to physically come at him and jam a hat over his head. It happens a lot, and at some point, Kazuma stops leaping back when the deed is done, and instead lets his hands linger.
Hiei lets him linger too.
In the dark, there's a harsh intake of breath. "Mind your own business."
"Dammit, Hiei, I—" He grips his hair and jackknifes out of bed to the floor. "You're cold. Just. If you won't get in, I'll…" He worms his way into the pile and curls around the form he finds there. He can feel the multitude of bandages running up and down Hiei's arms and torso, can feel the violent shivers that rack his horribly wounded body. "Freaking insane, I swear."
"It got the job done."
At what price, he doesn't say. He shifts and squirms until he has the brave, idiotic demon's chilly nose tucked against his neck. There's a sniffle, and then the most irritable sigh in the world. "Fine."
They migrate up a level, and their grateful groans as they sink into a proper mattress prove that it's definitely for the best.
"M'glad you're alright, y'know. You didn't have to do that for me. I could have taken him."
With the silence, he thinks Hiei has fallen asleep. But then he hears, "I know you could have," and he wonders if all the romantic poets who wrote about being burned by the fires of love were onto something.
Hiei carefully strokes Kazuma's own bandaged wounds, and hot lips meet a broad collarbone.
The Christmas market has been open for business since November, but it's about time they all went. They're supposed to meet up with the usual crowd downtown – not far from campus, conveniently – but Mitarai's taking his sweet time choosing what to wear. Apparently he invited someone from class, and he wants to dress to impress.
"She's not gonna care what you're wearing!" Kazuma hollers impatiently from the entry hall. "You'll be wearing a coat over all of it anyway!"
"Shut your mouth!" Mitarai screeches, and slams his door shut.
They're going to be late, no question. Hiei appears around the corner, dressed down for the occasion. The human clothes he's acquired over the past few months have slowly been making their way into Kazuma's drawers and closet, and Kazuma feels blessed whenever he sees him wearing any of it.
"Whoa, you're not leaving without this," he squawks, catching Hiei around the neck with a muffler before he can dart past.
"Fuck you," he hisses, but reluctantly stands still before Kazuma can strangle him. He's slowly burdened down with all manner of winter wear, and finally, a hat.
"Good?" Kazuma murmurs when he's satisfied, fingers tracing the side of Hiei's face. In the small little block of hallway, it's like they're in their own little world.
Hiei snorts. "A little cold is no matter—"
"Shaddup," Kazuma chuckles with unbridled affection that he had no fucking intention of putting out there. "I heard you sneeze the other day, you ain't foolin' no one."
Hiei smirks and tilts his head into the touch when his fingers reach the shell of his ear. "Get your hearing checked, you feckless oaf."
Mitarai comes clomping into the hallway with a glove clenched in his teeth. He doesn't bat an eye at their proximity, because he's still not convinced that they're not already fucking. "We're gonna be late, dammit! Lessgo!"
The lights at Christmas time have always made Kazuma feel warm inside, but tonight there's something exceptionally fuzzy going on in his stomach, and it's not because of the scenery. It's because Hiei is bundled up tight in Kazuma's clothes. It's because Hiei allows him to loop their arms together when they're crossing the street. It's because Hiei doesn't let go when they're safely across, and he doesn't when they meet up with their friends, and Urameshi is looking like he's questioning everything he's come to know.
It's because, when they pause in a shop door, there's mistletoe above them, and when Kazuma bends down, Hiei lets him kiss him on the cheek. When the demon looks at him with wide eyes, he immediately apologizes, he should have asked first, not assumed—
There's a small smile playing at the corner of his mouth. "I simply wondered why."
Kazuma frowns and points to the plant above them. There is zero understanding in Hiei’s face. Kurama is doubled over with laughter off to the side.
"You think he understands anything of human culture?" he wheezes.
Hiei comes down from the step to kick snow at him and send him packing. He comes back to Kazuma's arms. "It's a tradition to kiss beneath this poisonous plant?"
“Then why didn’t you?”
“I—what? I just did!”
"You call that a kiss?"
"Oh. Oh. Sorry. I could try again."
"See that you do."
He does. Now that's a kiss.
Someone is calling his name, but he can't move. He can't do anything. Maybe.
He could head to the light, he supposes. It's all very dark, but there's a pinprick out in the distance. Maybe he's dead. Oh, wouldn't that be nice? No more homework, no more debt, no more cases…actually, he'd miss that. He'd miss a lot of things pertaining to cases, and the agency, and his friends.
He hears his name again. He stops fucking about and opens his eyes. He knows he's not dead. More's the pity, he thinks as pain floods his body. God damn, that sucker was tough.
He drags himself up and scratches his neck, only to notice that his favorite sweater is gone. He twists gingerly, taking in the ruined landscape of the battle site, and sees it in the distance. It's baby blue, extremely well-worn, but he's still fond of it because it was one of his first sweaters, and it's just sitting there, half buried by boulders and doused in blood. Completely unsalvageable.
Hiei calls his name again and comes racing through the ruins. Kazuma has this weird out of body experience as he watches the demon see the sweater, see the boulders, and reach a simple conclusion. He sees the change come over his face, the raw fury that mixes with a deep-seated sorrow that makes him stagger.
No, Kazuma thinks. He's still alive. He's right here, though he might have a…a…hm.
When he's wiping his mouth, he notices that Hiei heard him. It's clear that he's trying not to run over, like he's trying to convince himself that Kazuma isn't going to disappear on him. He kneels when he arrives, and his eyes rove over Kazuma's battered, bloodied form with sharp desperation.
"S'fine," Kazuma croaks quietly, and then turns away to barf again. "Oh, geez, sorry."
"You're concussed," Hiei says matter-of-factly. He rips off his scarf and drapes it around Kazuma's shoulders, then gathers him into his lap as they wait for help to arrive.
Kazuma keeps slipping in and out of consciousness; Hiei shakes him awake each time, and strokes hot fingers through Kazuma's blood-matted hair.
"You're somethin’,” Kazuma mumbles, burrowing deeper into Hiei's chest. "You're special. To me."
Hiei bends and places a small kiss to an untouched part of his temple. "Is that so?"
Kazuma tries very hard not to cry, because everything hurts, and he wants so bad for that kiss to fall to his mouth, so please, please, please—
"Kuwabara!" Urameshi screams by the boulder, obviously drawing the same conclusion. Kurama points to the pair a little ways off. Urameshi screams his name again, only this time, it sounds a bit weepy.
Later, when they're all nursing their wounds in Kazuma's apartment – Mitarai is hovering worriedly, fetching food and drink left and right, while Botan and Yukina carefully administer their healing hands to their fresh hurts – Hiei ushers Kazuma into the dark safety of his bedroom and tucks him into bed.
Stay," Kasuma whimpers over the ache of the freshly healed cuts. His teeth rattle as a cold front sweeps through his body.
Hiei hushes him and stoops to remove his boots. He wasn't planning on leaving, it seems, not really. He shuts the door and climbs into bed beside Kazuma. "Cold?"
"Yeah," he manages, and squawks when Hiei presses against him like a roaring fire.
"Yeah." He tells himself not to cry, but he does anyway, and in the dark, Hiei kisses the tears away like they've always done this, like it's an old dance.
"Can I sleep now?"
"I trust my sister's work," Hiei says, stroking his fiery hair; it's much softer now without all the blood. "You may."
"Can it be warmer?"
Hiei gets out, laughing when Kazuma whines at the loss of heat, and finds more blankets from his makeshift bed.
"You could've just made yourself warmer."
"That requires expending extra energy."
Kazuma swallows. "Can you kiss me?"
"Is that beneficial to your health?"
"It'll, uh, boost morale? People get better faster if they're high in spirits. Or some shit like that."
Hiei laughs. Gently kisses him.
Kazuma clings to him and hopes quietly in the dark that Hiei is still here when he wakes up.
The bed is empty.
Kazuma sulks under the covers until a knock on his door rouses him.
"Are you going to come out here and eat, or shall I stop defending your plate?"
He bolts out of bed and immediately tumbles to the ground. Yukina may have done a lot to heal the concussion, but there are still some lingering effects. He has zero strength right now. Hiei flings the door open, calls him all manner of degrading names in a tone that boasts his worry and affection, and carefully helps him to the kitchen.
The whole gang's there, sprawled out between the kitchen table and the living room, devouring Keiko and Mitarai's breakfast like it's the best thing they've eaten all year. Kazuma takes a bite and decides that it is the best thing he's eaten in his life. That, or he's just starving. Probably starving.
Hiei sits beside him on the couch and laces their fingers together. There's a moment where they just look, and then they both lean in, and Kazuma thinks that the kiss feels like the way hot chocolate melts his insides on a particularly brutally cold day.
About them, to the side, their friends are clapping and laughing, Keiko probably loudest of all. Geez, is that a tear in her eye? She's a bit too invested in his love life, he thinks. Urameshi sighs and says that if he has to watch two of his best friends suck face all the time, he's going to have to bleach his eyes.
Kazuma bends his head down and asks softly, "Can this be…can we keep this? I know it's been weird, we've kinda been dancing around it and stuff, but I…I kinda like you, and I think you like me too, and I was hoping that maybe, since you let me kiss you sometimes – I mean, we don't have to put a label on it, but I wanted to know if – if you'd be my, uh, my boyfriend?"
There is no dramatic silence, no uncomfortable pause. Hiei immediately huffs with amusement, his gemlike eyes glistening. "If you'd like."
Kazuma lowers his head and looks up demurely through his lashes. "If you'd like?"
The small smile is the most bizarre and beautiful thing he's ever seen in his life, and the kiss is the best thing he's ever had. Better than breakfast.
"Wait," Mitarai says. "So you two weren't dating before?"
Kazuma welcomes the break from his studies. He turns, and startles at the sight of the sweater Hiei's holding up. "It's…uh." Well, shit. He'd forgotten all about that. “Don’t you recognize it?”
“I’ve worn this, I’m certain.”
“Yeah. It was a part of the blue set. I usually put that on you when you hibernate, remember? Technically, it was for you."
"Was," Hiei repeats, gripping the fabric. "Is it for someone else now?"
Kazuma's no expert at reading his boyfriend's face just yet, but he recognizes his uncertainty, at the very least. He gives him his full attention, folding his hands, and says, "No. It's still for you, if you want it."
He's not prepared for Hiei to wriggle into it immediately. It's funny, though, and Kazuma teases him as he burrows back under the bed's covers, promising to join him in a bit for a little nap. Half an hour later though, he's still not done with this class's homework, and Hiei, out of sight, has started fidgeting.
"M'almost done, I swear," Kazuma groans, swiveling. "Don’t be mad." He waits, but Hiei's still fidgeting, and then Kazuma realizes that the movement under the covers is too uniform to be counted as randomized shifting. "Hiei?"
His head goes blank when he hears the softest muffled moan in his life. Instantly, he gets to his knees and crawls to the edge of the bed. "Hiei?"
A hand appears from under the covers. Kazuma, trembling, takes it, and crawls under the blankets as though they are a tunnel to be explored. The heat within is mildly damp, and the scent is heady. He tries to lift up, but Hiei whispers to keep the heat in, so he stays put and noses about in the dark until he makes contact with Hiei's silky thigh.
There's an encouraging noise from the dark above, so he noses along until the skin grows hotter, and slightly damp, and well, there's Hiei's dick, and he doesn't know what to do with it because he's been going on impulse up to this point. He's brave, though, and he pulls Hiei's pants off the rest of the way so he can settle comfortably between his legs
Hiei hisses and tries to resume touching himself, but Kazuma bats his hands away. "Um," he breathes into the juncture of his thigh, and feels him shudder, "tell me if I'm doing it wrong."
According to the fairly quick result, he does it just fine.
This new level of their relationship is quite fun. Until Kazuma's brain decides to overthink the word "relationship".
They never did get around to discussing this part of the insanity, did they?
He's trying to have a serious talk, but Hiei is feeling too frisky, and Kazuma is way too willing.
"You look good in my clothes," he rasps, tugging Hiei into the shaft of sunlight with him.
Hiei says, "You'd look good without clothes," the sly bastard, but that's a good thing, because it's a reminder of what needs to be discussed today.
Kazuma falters. "I, uh. Listen."
"I am," comes the lazy drawl. Fingers delicately pluck at his shirt, and oh, god, he is in way over his head.
"I don't want to sleep with you!"
Hiei's wandering hands stop immediately. Kazuma is left speechless. That wasn't all that he wanted to say, but it's all his brain will allow. He waits for Hiei to withdraw, to go leaping out the window as he has been known to do, but those wonderful, wonderful hands patiently take him by the waist, and Hiei just waits. Like he has all the time in the world, and every bit of his attention is for Kazuma alone.
He takes a deep breath and tries again. "I don't know how you guys – demons, I mean – I don't know how you do…whatever you do, but I don't want to be a – a fuck buddy. If that's what you're expecting."
Hiei's head tilts.
"I – I just mean that maybe, if you'd be willing, you and I could go on a date or two first. I'd show you a good time, I swear it. And if you wanna bail, go ahead." Kazuma slumps, unable to read Hiei's face anymore.
Sword-calloused fingers glide over his cheek. "You've given me no reason to leave." A gentle kiss to the cheek grounds him. "I'd like to stay. Also. I need a new pair of gloves. And a blanket."
The gloves are easy. But the blanket – it will take a while, depending on the design. It will have to be big, since Hiei's apparently a fan of oversized things. So Kazuma agrees to make the most beautiful blanket Hiei has ever seen or used. In the meantime, he'd like another kiss, please and thank you.
While the blanket is in progress, he takes Hiei on dates. Lots and lots of dates. He keeps things simple at first – a walk through campus on warm nights, a cup of coffee at the hole-in-the-wall café down the street, a sparring session up at the estate which he regrets immediately because holy hell, he needs better swordsmanship right now.
They move on to more public places like the art museum, the aquarium, or the beach, though Hiei refuses to go anywhere near the water. Kazuma knows he has winner, though, when he just invites him to stay in for the day, cuddling beneath a pile of blankets. Even though he's sweating from all the heat. Hiei loves it.
"I might be sold on you," is the demon's joke, and a rewarding kiss follows.
Kazuma was sold a long time ago.
The sex, when they get around to it, is as fantastic as everything else between them.
Especially when Hiei wears that midnight blue sweater. He'll fuck into Kazuma nice and slow with a layer of knitted fabric between them, or he'll be riding Kazuma's cock and gripping the collar between his teeth as he groans…
Kazuma comes very hard when he does that. He's pretty sure Hiei has picked up on his clothing kink by now, because he's rarely without some piece of knitwear. That, or Hiei has a little kink of his own.
Either way, the things it does to his ego, honestly…
Hiei drags him to Makai for what he presumes is a spontaneous case that no one bothered to tell him about.
Patrol, then, he thinks when they just end up hiking along some border. For such a terrifying realm, the scenery is gorgeous in these parts, and the sky is a shade of blue that just can't be real. They stop for lunch by a lake, and fend off some wild water demons that try to steal their food. They eventually call a truce and share the meal, and in turn, are granted a swim in the lake with the promise that they won't be eaten. It's all quite nice.
When the day is done, though, and they have returned to the apartment, Hiei looks up at him expectantly. Waiting. Waiting for what?
It hits him: today was a date. Oh. Oh. Which means that Hiei is waiting for a kiss.
Kazuma bends down in the lamplight and chastely presses his lips to the corner of Hiei's mouth. It's difficult to read his expression, but Kazuma thinks his eyes look softer.
Today was a date, holy shit, Hiei initiated a date.
"You call that a kiss?" Hiei says. The words are familiar by now. They've shared this joke a hundred times now. He drags Kazuma down and shows him the proper way.
A date. Who knew?
There are many more to follow, drummed up by Hiei. Each one, a new location, usually in Makai. Kazuma's appreciation for the tertiary realm vastly improves as he becomes privy to all kinds of places that aren't constantly plagued by a red-black-purple sky. It is beautiful.
And at the end of every excursion, he'll look over and think Hiei is beautiful too.
Their whole group visits an outdoor market somewhere in Gandara; Yomi plays tour guide and turns his nose up when Kurama takes his hand. Shura sticks to Kurama's other side and shares a mischievous look with him, as though they both think that teasing the great lord in such a manner is the greatest game to ever be invented.
Mitarai, having only visited Makai a handful of times, darts around like a kid in a candy store before Keiko snags him by the collar and makes him help her and Urameshi pick out some spices for the restaurant. (Kazuma learns later that what makes their food taste so great is the ingredients they bring in from Makai and Reikai. How else could those otherworldly flavors be explained?)
Yukina and Botan are plotting birthday gifts, so they keep stopping at every trinket stall. Koenma is just dragged along as their unwitting bag boy. Hiei looks like he knows this place well, because he's constantly pushing food into Kazuma's hands, or directing him to stalls that sell fabrics and clothes, just in case he's "looking for inspiration".
Kazuma spies the most beautiful yarn that looks as though it was woven from true starlight, for the silvery thread twinkles gently by some way of magic. He buys it in secret while Hiei is getting them more food, and then covers it up by stuffing a few trinkets and plants into his basket.
When he gets home, he weaves a bit of the starlight yarn into the already knitted portions of the blanket, overlaying the initial design with a newer, more intricate one. This is going to be his finest piece yet.
Mitarai is out with his new girlfriend, and Hiei falls asleep on Kazuma's couch to some movie on TV. The sparring was tough today. Kazuma had given it his all, and it had proven to be a great success on his part.
The blanket is done.
He sits there staring at it, staring at the stars which shine gently in the dim light of the living room. Then he covers Hiei with it and goes to bed. No sense in torturing himself—
There’s a creak behind him.
He pauses, one foot in bed. Hiei is in the doorway, staring at him with dark eyes. He's drowning beneath the starlit blanket. He looks ethereal.
Kazuma scoots over. Hiei slides in, and covers them both with Kazuma's glorious creation.
"You like?" Kazuma murmurs drowsily.
Hiei tugs his chin and kisses him lazily. "Mhm."
They sleep, covered by the gentle gleam of stars.
"Alright," Kazuma says, bouncing a little. "You ready?"
"Stop fidgeting, or I'm leaving," Hiei sighs.
"The answer for number three is Nobunaga Oda, right?" Mitarai asks from the floor. He's got his homework sprawled across the coffee table, occasionally glancing up at the game show on TV. The balcony door is wide open, and the sweetest spring breeze fills the apartment with the scent of the campus flowers.
A perfect day.
"Kuwabara," Mitarai whines.
"Is it multiple choice?" Hiei puts a hand on Kazuma's thigh, and the bouncing stops. "Ooooh, little man, don't you dare."
Hiei's smile is wicked.
Mitarai throws pillows at both of them. "Swear to god, if you start any funny business right in front of my homework, I'm putting you in another dimension. Yes, multiple choice. Oda, Tokugawa, Toyotomi, or all of the above."
"All of the above."
"Thank you," Mitarai says, though he's watching TV again. He'll probably ask the same question in five minutes.
Hiei lets go and waggles the needles in his hands. "Well?"
Kazuma presses a quick kiss to his cheek. "Okay, so you loop the yarn around your finger like this…"
It's springtime, and he's in love. He's sure Hiei is too. After all, there is probably no greater way for the demon to declare his affection than by letting Kazuma teach him how to knit.