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Blades of Oleander

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Beyond being called together by Yusuke or by some disturbance in the cosmic fabrics that held the different realms (and by the times that Yusuke was that disturbance in the universal order of things), Kurama never really knew when he would see Hiei. Hiei had a habit of slipping into Kurama’s room on the back of a light autumn breeze, or crashing in through the back door when Kurama was sitting on the kitchen counter and midway through his third bowl of Froot Loops (it was his stress food).

(Demons didn’t have stress foods.)

(Kurama often wondered how much of him was still demon and how much had become human.)

(These sort of thoughts were complicated and disorienting, hence the Froot Loops.)

Kurama had once considered getting Hiei a cellular phone, one of those big expensive bricks of wiring that somehow could receive calls despite not having any physical connection to any sort of phone line. (Kurama had a lot more respect for humans now than he did one hundred years ago.) But then Kurama remembered the distrustful way Hiei still squinted at public payphones and decided it wasn’t as good of an idea as he’d hoped.

So Kurama was left with Hiei disappearing and reappearing at unpredictable intervals. He couldn’t complain too much though, since a fair amount of his classmates and acquaintances considered him quite aloof. Kurama wasn’t sure if that was a personality trait of Yoko Kurama or of Shuichi, and he wasn’t sure if there was even any point in trying to differentiate between the two.

(He was eating a lot of Froot Loops these days.)

 

Kurama looked up from his notes and textbooks and bowl of dry Froot Loops when the latch on his window popped.

(Unfortunately, they were out of milk.)

(Kurama had already called his mom at work and asked her to pick some up on her way home.)

(She said yes, of course.)

(Having a mom was Kurama’s favorite part of being human.)

Kurama’s notes and textbooks were full of scribbles and diagrams about the orbits of planets. Of course Kurama had known about the planets; they were visible in the Demon Realm too, after all, and some demons had abilities that greatly relied on their positions. What Kurama hadn’t known was that the planets involved so much math and physics and that humans had somehow figured so much of it out while he wasn’t paying attention.

It was difficult to hold onto all the formulas and definitions and what in the world is a freaking penumbra when Hiei was climbing in through his window. Somehow Hiei made the awkward clamber graceful. He stepped across Kurama’s desk, the hem of his black cassock brushing the leaves of Kurama’s window-plants (not to be confused with his bookcase-plants and nightstand-plants and his singular bathroom-window-plant) and feet deftly winding their way across the scattered books and highlighters and papers and pots-waiting-for-plants. Hiei passed through the mess without disturbing a single pencil shaving. Cats envied his grace.

Hiei said nothing as he latched the window behind himself and stepped down onto Kurama’s desk chair. There were dark marks under his eyes--or, at least the two eyes he had been born with--and his hair was a little less spiky despite being just as greasy as normal.

He looked tired, but still his steps didn’t falter.

 

Once, Hiei had said that Kurama was more graceful than he would ever be. He had said it with a sneer and detached sarcasm, but Kurama was still able to tease out what Hiei meant. Hiei was ridiculously wrong, of course. Kurama couldn’t slip through a room and leave it looking and feeling like he’d never been there.

Kurama had stopped trying to point that out. Hiei was fiercely confident about everything; how he could win this fight or beat that guy, how he could master this ancient art, how he could completely make up a new use for his yoki, how everything delicate and beautiful in the world belonged to Kurama, how everything bitter and sharp belonged to Hiei himself.

(Sometimes Kurama worried Hiei forgot that palm trees were built to weather typhoons and roses had thorns and Cerbera odollam was better known as the Suicide Tree.)

(That said, Kurama quite enjoyed the wide-eyed open-mouthed look Hiei had for a split second whenever Kurama demonstrated exactly how unrefined and ugly and deadly he really was.)

 

Hiei didn’t say a word until he had crossed the room and flopped across Kurama’s bed, box springs creaking under his weight and papers crinkling against his stomach and Kurama’s Froot Loops nearly spilling. This was the other side of Hiei, Kurama thought as he looked down at the notes poking out from under Hiei’s cassock.

(He was looking at the words but assuredly at this point not reading them.)

This side of Hiei was aggressively graceless. Aggressively present, too. Kurama liked both sides of Hiei. Moreso, Kurama liked his complicated duality. Fitting, considering he was a fire demon born of an Ice Apparition.

(If Kurama followed that line of thought too far, he started having ideas involving bruising kisses and fingernails digging into skin and a powerful truth between them.)

(He didn’t follow that line of thought.)

Hiei pulled a paper out from under himself and skimmed the diagrams Kurama had written in a steady color-coded handwriting. “Are they making you learn about space?”

“It’s part of our physics unit on gravity.” Kurama stared at the open textbook pages in front of him.

“Hmmmm.” Hiei shoved a handful of Froot Loops into his mouth.

He was definitely tired. Hiei rarely let his guard down even with friends, but here he was, sprawled on Kurama’s bed with his back exposed.

(If Kurama wanted to, he could kill him.)

(He definitely did not want to do that.)

(Kurama didn’t like the idea of hurting Hiei beyond a sparring match that ended with them both breathless and sweaty in the grass of an open field, alone and with Hiei’s fingertips absentmindedly touching Kurama’s thigh.)

(His clothed thigh, of course.)

(They didn’t spar naked.)

He reached his hand over and ran the tips of his fingers through Hiei’s hair. He could feel the grit and sweat and grease and the too-warm heat of Hiei’s body.

(Maybe they should spar naked sometime.)

Hiei’s cassock was dirty, too. There was caked mud and dirt and what looked suspiciously like blood--it was hard to tell, though, with all the black Hiei wore--splattered across the fabric. It was definitely going to get Kurama’s bedspread dirty.

Hiei could have gone to Yusuke’s apartment, where there was always a spare bed for whoever needed one. Both of the Kuwabaras knew Hiei and wouldn’t be opposed to him crashing on their couch. Genkai definitely wasn’t Hiei’s favorite person, but they respected each other in a hateful sort of way. She would have let him take a room. But instead, he’d come to Kurama, where there was no spare bed or available couch. Yusuke’s mom didn’t ask questions, but Kurama’s mom would. His home was the least sensible place to go.

(If they were the kind to ask each other the big, heavy questions, Kurama would have said, “are you okay?” or “thank you for trusting me,” or “am I a safe place for you?”)

Kurama ran his fingers through Hiei’s hair again. “Are you going to take a nap?”

Hiei grunted into Kurama’s blanket. Kurama took that for a yes.

“I’ll trade you a blanket for your cassock-thing. It’s dirty and I just washed my sheets.”

Hiei grunted again, but sat up enough to start wrestling out of his cassock. He nearly fell off the bed trying to yank it out from under the part he was sitting on. All his grace and stealth from earlier was gone.

(Kurama did not mind.)

Hiei’s black tank looked considerably cleaner than his cassock, so whatever trouble Hiei had gotten into had not been too severe.

(Hiei always took his cassock off if the fight got rough.)

(If it got really rough, the tank under that usually got torn or somehow ripped away, too.)

(Kurama did not mind.)

Kurama gathered his notes and class handouts and pencils and milk-deprived Froot Loops and put them in a tidy pile on his nightstand while Hiei relocated to the head of the bed. He nestled into the blankets and pressed his face into one of the pillows. Kurama could feel Hiei watching his movements as he cleared away his calculator and textbooks and other unwelcome naptime guests.

(He had studied enough for the evening, anyways.)

Kurama wiggled under the sheets next to Hiei and lay down facing him. He made sure to leave at least a foot between them. Hiei liked his personal space, Kurama knew.

(Hiei could roll over so they weren’t facing if he wanted to.)

(Kurama hoped that Hiei didn’t want to.)

Hiei tucked his hands under his pillow, his elbow poking Kurama’s shoulder, and shut his eyes. Kurama pulled the blanket a little closer and closed his eyes too.

(Considering Hiei’s reluctance towards physical contact, Kurama felt like two head-pets and one prolonged elbow-shoulder touch was excellent.)

(Somehow the gestures were so much more intimate with Hiei than they would be with Yusuke or Kuwabara or Botan.)

Hiei’s weight shifted after a few minutes, and his touch retreated from Kurama’s shoulder only to be replaced by a press against Kurama’s chest. Hiei tucked his head under Kurama’s chin, his hair tickling Kurama’s nose until he tilted his head to a better angle, and draped one arm across Kurama’s ribs. This close, Kurama could feel Hiei’s breathing, the shift of his muscles, the trusting easing of tension.

Wordlessly, Kurama hugged Hiei back.

(There were no bruising kisses and fingernails digging into skin, but Kurama didn’t mind.)

(He did, however, feel certain that they were closer to that powerful truth between them.)