Chapter 17 – Party

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“Why am I here, Kurama?” Hiei glared at the redhead as Kurama hung lights along the wall in his mother’s home. His sending had been urgent, if vague, but his behavior was in contrast with the sense of impending danger.

His friend smiled. “Can you hand me that hammer, Hiei?”

Hiei’s frown deepened as he glanced at the tool on the table just out of Kurama’s reach. He hefted it in one hand and contemplated throwing it at Kurama’s head. “You didn’t call me here to help you put up pretty decorations,” he snarled as he handed the hammer to Kurama.

Kurama pounded a series of nails into the wall and draped the lights across them. “No, I suppose not,” he chuckled. He stepped off the short ladder and regarded Hiei with a mischievous glint to his eyes. Hiei did not like that glint coming from the trickster fox. “Enjoying your holiday?”

Hiei’s shoulders tightened. This felt like a trap and it reeked of Koenma. For as much as he respected and even liked Kurama, Hiei had a bad habit of forgetting what a goody two-shoes the other man could be. He couldn’t help wondering if Koenma had sent Kurama to bring him in for the bit of mischief he’d caused over the course of a week.

He wasn’t about to be reeled in again, though. He thrust his hands in his pockets and turned to leave. “I am, actually,” he replied. “And if you’ve no real need of me, I am going to continue enjoying myself.”

“That might have to wait,” Kurama answered him with a sigh. His tone was apologetic, although Hiei wasn’t sure if it was for the false pretense of the summons or for what was to come next.

Hiei leaned against the wall and folded his arms across his chest. “Why?”

Kurama mirrored him on the other side of the hallway. “We’re having a rather large party here tomorrow,” he began. “I know socializing isn’t really your style.“

“No.”

“But I haven’t even said-“

“What is there to say?” Hiei stared down his friend. “I have no desire to mingle with a bunch of stupid humans. In fact, I fervently avoid large gatherings of them.”

“There will be a lot of people here, true, but Yusuke and Kuwabara are bringing the girls. It would be nice to have the whole team together.” Hiei’s stare turned incredulous. Kurama shrugged. “Ali is coming, too.”

“So?” Hiei hoped the other man didn’t notice the half heartbeat of hesitation before his response.

Kurama frowned. “Koenma is concerned,” he stated simply and Hiei waited for him to continue. “He’s really nervous about how long it’s been since there was an attempt on her. His concern is that we’ve gotten too complacent.”

Hiei sniffed. “Maybe he’s been slacking, but we sure haven’t.”

A smirk tugged at the corners of Kurama’s lips, but his smile was that of agreement. “I’d say you’ve been working overtime on that front.”

Hiei didn’t rise to the underlying taunt in that comment. “Someone has to keep an eye on her when she wanders off.”

“I could use another pair of eyes tomorrow,” Kurama intoned. Hiei narrowed his eyes. Why was Kurama so insistent on getting him to attend his foolish party? “You’re the only one who will be able to focus on the details,” Kurama answered his unspoken thoughts.

What irritated Hiei was the cool logic the kitsune used. Ali would be there, among a crowd of strangers, while her so-called guards would be distracted with frivolities and socializing. He couldn’t believe their enemies would try to take her with so many people present, but he also understood that it was likely their best opportunity to strike. Kurama would be busy with his hosting duties. Yusuke and Kuwabara would be with the women, true, but their attentions would be divided. And it wasn’t the sort of event Hiei would usually be caught dead at. In the eyes of their enemies, Ali would be effectively alone.

That just wouldn’t do. Damn Koenma. Not for the first time, Hiei wondered why the prince hadn’t just locked her away in one of his vaults and left them to their lives. Then again, he recalled how easy it was to break into those vaults and how foolish it was to try to cage a wolf.

He refrained from sighing aloud. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll play at security for you tomorrow, but you owe me.”

Kurama’s relief was palpable. His smile resumed its usual faux innocence. “I am glad,” he said as he turned back to his decorating. “Who knows, you might even enjoy yourself.”

Hiei scoffed as he turned to leave. “Perish the thought.”

That was how he found himself skulking in the corner of the living room wearing one of Kurama’s old suits, surrounded by no less than three dozen people all talking and drinking and eating the food Shiori had put out for them. His skin itched. He was grateful the clothes were dark in color, but he felt naked without his sword. Kurama had insisted he leave it upstairs lest it draw the wrong sort of attention.

He scanned the room with practiced eyes for what seemed the hundredth time. There was nothing out of the ordinary. All the guests were human and none stood out in spiritual power like the detective and the idiot or their demon allies. He didn’t bother probing anyone’s thoughts. He was certain there were no enemies among the guests and he wanted to be done with the whole affair.

He moved to find Kurama to let him know there were no threats at his party, but was brought to a halt by a silvery voice behind him. “I didn’t expect to see you here.” Ali’s blue eyes sparkled as they took him in. “You clean up good.” She smiled and her cheeks flushed.

Her long sleeved dress hugged her body, highlighting the athletic lines of her arms and thighs before ending at her knees. The deep crimson evoked memories of blood-soaked battles, memories that made him eager for a fight, if his racing heart was any indication. Hiei made himself focus on her face instead. In her heels she was a couple inches taller than him. “Enjoying yourself?” he asked. He couldn’t think of anything else to say.

Ali shrugged. Her cup smelled of chocolate and she held it tightly. “There are a lot of people here I don’t know,” she admitted, “but it’s good to see a familiar face.”

He turned away from her smile and leaned against the nearest windowsill. He was no good at small talk and her smile brought about uncomfortable feelings, like memories that he couldn’t quite grasp. “Kurama made me come,” he said.

She laughed. “I don’t even want to know what he has on you that he could force you to attend a social gathering against your will.”

Hiei risked glancing at her from the side. She was watching the party with a wistful look and didn’t notice him looking at her. He frowned. She was a demon like him, yet she fit in just as well as Kurama did. He didn’t understand their affinity for humans. Kurama had an excuse in his human mother, but Hiei had no idea what tied Ali to them.

Her smile widened and she waved as Kurama approached. “Ah, Hiei. Ali. I hope I’m not interrupting anything?” His grin suggested he hoped he was doing just that.

Hiei rolled his eyes and folded his arms. Really, the man could be insufferable sometimes. Ali simply shook her head. “I was just getting out of the crowd for a moment and was surprised to find Hiei here. We’ve only been chatting a moment.”

Kurama nodded as if this were all plainly evident. Hiei remained skeptical of his ally’s motives. “Well then he won’t mind if I steal you away to introduce you to someone.” Ali’s grin faltered for a moment and Kurama chuckled. “Oh don’t worry, I’m not playing matchmaker for any of my classmates tonight, though several have asked.” His flashing eyes said he had contemplated it. “My mother has been asking after you since she heard you had arrived.”

Ali laughed and took the arm he extended to her. “Well in that case, I’d best not keep her waiting any longer.” She gave Hiei a parting wave and walked off chatting amicably with Kurama. He heard her ask Kurama which of his classmates had been asking about her before they turned the corner to the main hall.

Hiei contemplated following after them, to tell Kurama of his findings, or lack thereof, and bid him farewell, but he was halted as another group entered the room. Yusuke and Kuwabara with Keiko, Shizuru, Botan, and Yukina. His sister’s laughter floated across the room and paralyzed him.

“Oh wow, Hiei’s here?” Botan exclaimed.

“Thought I felt someone sulking away from the party,” Yusuke laughed.

Yukina bowed respectfully in greeting as Yusuke and Botan exchanged smirks. Hiei glared daggers at them but made sure to soften his face when he nodded his own greeting to Yukina. He was stunned by her dress. He had never seen her in human clothes before. “This is very exciting, isn’t it?” she proclaimed. “It’s so fun when we can all get together like this.”

“Any date with me is a party, baby,” Kuwabara crooned, leaning in so his face was level with hers.

Hiei wanted to throw him through the window, but Shizuru shoved her own fist into his head. “Idiot. Don’t you know anything about personal space?”

Yukina brought her hands to her mouth to stifle a yelp of surprise at the sibling violence. Really, she should have been used to it after the months of knowing them. Hiei hoped he kept his own amusement under wraps. Keiko came to Yukina’s side while Botan joined Shizuru in berating the ginger.

While they bickered, Yusuke joined Hiei. In a low voice that wouldn’t carry over the arguing he said, “Kurama told me you were here. Koenma has been dogging us all week about this stupid party. You don’t really think our enemies would be that bold, do you?”

Hiei shrugged. “I hate to admit agreeing with Koenma’s concerns, especially given my own observations, but he is right to worry.”

Yusuke nodded. He had come to the same conclusions. “I usually leave the worrying to Koenma. I’m impressed he managed to get you here. Kurama must have been pretty persuasive.” Hiei didn’t deign to comment. Yusuke shrugged and went on. “I haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary, but I’ve also been busy keeping that dumbass from making a fool of himself.”

Hiei chuckled. “Fine job you’re doing of that.” Shizuru had her brother in a headlock while Botan cheered her on, Keiko and Yukina urging them to break it up. He shook his head and sighed. “There are no threats here.”

Moments later, Kurama returned, half-heartedly scolding Shizuru for making a scene in his home. She apologized but did not appear the least bit ashamed. Kuwabara rubbed his head with a petulant set to his jaw. Kurama inquired how everyone was enjoying the party and received a round of positive answers.

Hiei straightened off the wall as he realized Kurama’s companion did not return with him. “Where’s Ali?” he demanded.

Kurama quirked an eyebrow. “After I introduced her to my mother, she excused herself to the restroom.” He frowned. He wanted to know if Hiei had discovered something. Hiei shook his head and resumed his position on the sill. “She’ll return shortly,” Kurama said.

Once he determined everyone was sated with food and beverage, he continued on his rounds to the other guests. The girls began filling in Yusuke and Kuwabara on their afternoon and overnight at Ali’s, Yukina apologizing to Kuwabara for their prank while Shizuru scolded her. “They deserved that.” Hiei tuned them out and began to wonder if Ali had gotten cornered by one of Kurama’s classmates after all.

As if thinking it had summoned her, Ali walked back into the room accompanied by a fair-haired man about Yusuke’s height. Her laughter as he escorted her to their group was genuine, that of a joke shared between old friends. It unnerved Hiei.

“Guys, gals, this is Yuki Morimoto,” Ali said as they joined the others. Yuki bowed greeting. “He attends the same junior high as Shuichi.”

Yusuke extended a hand. “Yusuke Urameshi. I sometimes attend Sarayashiki Junior High.” Yuki laughed as he shook Yusuke’s hand. Introductions were made all around, making Hiei’s skin crawl. He, along with Yukina and Botan, were introduced as distant relatives, but he couldn’t care less about such trivialities.

Kuwabara towered over the young man, leaning in close in a pitiable attempt to be threatening. “You better not be thinking about stealing our Ali away from us Morimoto.”

“Please, Yuki is fine,” the blond said, baring his palms in an attempt to pacify the idiot. “We just ran into each other, I don’t want to steal her.”

Ali’s cheeks colored. “I’m really sorry about that,” she muttered.

Yuki laughed. “It was no problem, really. Not every day a beautiful girl falls into my arms.”

She colored even more, her ears almost as scarlet as her dress. The girls all got mischievous grins on their faces as they pulled Ali off to one side of the room. Hiei rolled his eyes and slipped out before he could be drawn into any inane conversations.

Slinking through the house avoiding as many people as possible, he eventually found Kurama in the kitchen fetching drinks for some of the party-goers. “Had as much fun as you could stand, eh?” Kurama chuckled as Hiei walked over to him.

“There are no demons here aside from the ones we already know about,” he reported. “Nor other humans with spiritual awareness. If our enemies were going to attack, they would have been present by now.”

Kurama nodded as if he had expected that all along. “Well at the very least, our vigilance did not lapse here.” He paused as his mother entered the room and took the drinks from him, encouraging him to socialize with his friend a moment. He thanked her and bestowed a kiss on her cheek before she left for the common area with the majority of guests. “I admit I am a little disappointed we still haven’t drawn them out, but I am grateful it was not tonight.”

“Are we certain Hitokiri was not the only one after her?” Hiei asked. “There should have been other incidents before now.” He did not like admitting the quiet bothered him. This was the most complicated mission they’d ever been given.

Kurama shared his concerns. “I am very curious as to what exactly her power is that drew him and which Koenma is sure will draw others,” he said. “At the very least I would have expected someone to fill the gap in power that Hitokiri left behind.”

Hiei shrugged. “He wasn’t all that powerful.” Kurama’s sly grin reminded Hiei that he knew exactly how the end of that fight had gone. “There will be others, Kurama, just you wait. We’ll have our fill of battles before long.”

“That’s what worries me,” the kitsune chuckled. He sighed. “Well, for tonight at least, there’s nothing to worry about. I won’t hold you to your obligations any longer.”

Hiei nodded and turned towards the stairs at the back of the house so he could retrieve his own clothes and sword. He stopped at the door as a thought nagged him at the back of his mind. “Kurama, who is Yuki Morimoto?”

Kurama frowned and brought a finger to his lips thoughtfully. “He goes to my school. He’s in my year I think, but a different class. I’ve not had many interactions with him, but I think he’s friends with a girl in my class.”

“Hm.” Hiei couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off about the man, but he couldn’t place what exactly.

“Did you sense something about him?”

Hiei frowned. “No, I’m just a little on edge.” Kurama nodded understanding. “I think I’m going to do one more round before I go, though.”

He made his way back through the party. After his conversation with Kurama, everyone looked suspicious to him, but he trusted his own senses when they told him there was nothing out of the ordinary about any of the guests.

He returned to the room with the detective and his friends. They were all scattered about in clusters having amicable conversations. Yuki was still present, talking with Ali and Yusuke as the Kuwabara siblings appeared to be engaged in another argument. Botan made mocking impressions of them from the side, making Yukina and Keiko laugh.

Hiei inserted himself between Ali and the blond. “I need a moment with you,” he demanded. He ignored Yusuke’s raised eyebrows and her stammered apologies to Yuki as she followed him out of the room.

“Who is this Yuki?” he asked her once they were out of earshot. “Is he bothering you?”

She laughed. “Hardly. If anything I bothered him when someone pushed me into him on my way back from the bathroom.” She glanced back towards the smaller room, her face flushing slightly.

Something about the curve of her smile irritated him. It was almost as if she was mooning over this human boy she had just met, knowing next to nothing about him. For all she knew, Yuki could be an enemy.

Hiei frowned at that errant thought. There were no enemies at Kurama’s party; he had determined that half a dozen times already. He was sure Yuki wasn’t an enemy, but something else bugged him about the man.

Ali caught him frowning and her face fell. “Why? Did you sense something about him?”

Her widened eyes reminded him that for all her bravado and nonchalance she still knew the constant threat of danger loomed over her. He was glad she hadn’t forgotten, and chided himself for worrying her unnecessarily. He shook his head. “I just don’t trust him.”

She sighed and chuckled lightly. “You just don’t trust anybody.” Her shoulders relaxed again, her smile returning. “You should come back with me and chat with him yourself. That should ease you.” His raised eyebrow elicited a laugh from her. “Right, right. I know better than that,” she said.

Hiei shook his head and turned to leave. “I’ve had enough of human interactions today,” he announced, not sure why he was bothering to say goodbye to her. He didn’t wait for her to respond though. He had a feeling if he let her keep talking she would manage to drag him back into the party after all.

He retrieved his cloak and sword from Kurama’s room, leaving the borrowed clothes in a pile on the floor, and left through the window without another word to anyone. He’d already said all he needed to say to Kurama, and if anything came up, the man knew how to find him.

Being around so many people had exhausted him, and he dozed off rather quickly in his favorite tree in the park. He dreamt of the party, the guests all faceless enemies plotting and scheming as Hiei walked through them looking for Ali.

He found her in the arms of Kurama’s blond classmate, laughing as the man bared fangs and dug claws into her back. Her dress was pure white, making her stand out amongst the sea of grays and blacks. She didn’t cry out as Yuki sank his teeth into her neck, the blood trickling down and turning her dress to the red that made Hiei so nostalgic. Ali continued to laugh as she watched the dress turn crimson, sinking into Yuki’s arms. Her laugh echoed so loudly in Hiei’s head it woke him.

She walked along the sidewalk across from the park, on her way home from the party. Her escort startled him as much as her laughter had. He had assumed Kurama or Yusuke would have seen her home, but she was accompanied by her new friend, Yuki. Their conversation floated up to him across the park.

“Your friends are very entertaining,” Yuki was saying to her.

Hiei could hear the grin in her voice. “It’s never a dull moment with them, that’s for sure. Just yesterday Yusuke and Kuwabara…”

Her words drifted away with the wind as they rounded the bend toward her apartment building. Hiei dropped to the ground and sprinted to the corner. He peered around it and spotted Ali and Yuki strolling down the sidewalk ahead. She had his jacket on her shoulders.

That seemed excessive. It wasn’t that cold, and she already had a coat. Hiei followed in the shadows. If the human boy tried anything, Hiei would gut him. Koenma would understand.

He was disappointed when they arrived without incident at her building. Ali returned Yuki’s jacket with her thanks, and expressed her gratitude for his gentlemanly escort home from the party. The blond bowed and gave her fingers a chaste kiss. “So I’ll pick you up tomorrow around 4?”

“That should work,” she answered. “I promised Mrs. Minamino I’d spend the early afternoon with her and Shuichi, but I should be home by then. I’ll give you a call if I’m running late?”

Yuki nodded. “Unless I hear from you before then, I will be here.”

Ali smiled. “I’m looking forward to it.” She leaned on her tiptoes and placed a kiss on Yuki’s cheek. “Goodnight!”

Hiei went back around the building and headed to the tree outside her bedroom window. It was a simple matter to get it open and he let himself in. He listened as she shut the door at the front of the apartment. She hummed as she took off her shoes and hung up her coat. The party had plainly left her in high spirits.

Abruptly, she stopped. For several heartbeats the apartment was dead silent. Then Ali gave an exasperated sigh. “You’re skulking around my apartment now?”

Hiei almost flinched. He was not used to other people being aware of his presence before he wanted it known. How quickly he could forget she was no ordinary person. There was no use hiding, so he went out to the main living area.

She had taken the pins out of her hair and let it fall in waves to her shoulders. Her eyes flashed dangerously. “What are you doing here?” she asked.

He hesitated for the briefest of seconds. What was he doing? “Kurama asked me to make sure you got home,” he lied.

She eyed him suspiciously. “No he didn’t,” she said. “And I don’t need my telepathy to know that.”

He hardened his mental barriers at her casual reminder that her psychic abilities far outreached even his Jagan. His frustration boiled over. “Stay out of my head, girl.”

She shrugged. “Don’t lie to me. I can smell it, you know.”

How doubly troublesome that she was a wolf demon. Insufferable creatures they were. Had been. So he had heard. He turned to leave the way he had entered. “I was just checking up on you,” he repeated. “And I mean it, stay out of my head.” Hiei was out through her bedroom window before she could retort.

A/N: Hello new character! Aren’t you bright and shiny and new! Yuki is one of my favorite OCs. I have so many. This story alone spawned at least half a dozen.

Next Chapter: Christmas ->

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