The Price of Love

The wound is a mortal one, I can tell it even as it hits me, and I let out a harsh cry, flying backwards into the one I'd run into the path of to protect. Together we hit the ground, and I try unsuccessfully to bite back a scream from escaping my lips as every inch of my body burns in agony.

"Kurama!" Two of my teammates cry my name in outrage and anguish, spinning back to our adversary, but I only pay attention to the third, who can simply stare down at me, shock and confusion swirling in his crimson orbs. Finally, after an eternity of silence nearly as agonizing as the pain racing through me, his pale lips part, and he utters three letters that make my dying heart ache more then anything else.


Why, Hiei, did I step into the way of the blow that was meant for you? That answer, I'm afraid, is something you could never understand, no demon could know. It's something that I've considered telling you endlessly ever since the Dark Tournament so long ago, but refrained from, because you would only consider the words an act of weakness.

A wavering smile makes its way to my lips, and I raise a shaky hand from where it fell near his lap, only then realizing that both the pinky and ring finger had been shattered as I'd raised my hand in a pathetic defense against the impact of the energy. Ignoring the irrelevant injury, I trace the line of the fire youkai's jaw fondly.

I love you, Hiei. I love you more strongly and deeply then I ever believed possible, for indeed it was impossible to feel this in my Yoko form, so long ago. I love you like no demon should be able to.

Once again, confusion covers his face at my touch, and then sorrow. I am fading, and he knows it.

Will you mourn me, Hiei? Sorrow, at least, demons can feel.

"Hiei . . ." The one word is enough to make me lose my breath and I gasp raggedly for a new one, body shuddering violently.

"No, baka fox, you can't die like this."

But what other way would you have me die? What other way than protecting the most precious thing in my entire existence? My eyes darken once more, and my hand slips from my love's cheek. I'm too weak to hold it anymore.

And that's when I feel an old power flicker within me. It seems that Hiei does too, because he looks me over with a glint of hope in his garnet gaze.

"Yoko, Kurama, change into Yoko right now."

That indeed seems to be my body's plan, because I can feeling it tensing, preparing for the transformation. Yes... Yoko is strong enough to survive this.

But Shuichi isn't.

Closing my eyes I shake my head, willing myself to force back the transformation.

Yoko... I cannot return to being what I was back then, My demon counterpart will be able to live on, at the expense of my human existence. The final transition that my body has been prepared to make since I was ten years old. But if I do this Shuichi Minamino will be dead.

I cannot.

Hiei shakes me softly, gruff voice reaching me through my inner struggle.

"Foolish fox, what are you doing?"

Yoko cannot love. The demon is incapable of that emotion. He would be able to remember the feelings we'd had for Shiori . . . for Hiei... but he will be no more able to understand it than my love is.

And I would rather die than forget.

But my instinct doesn't feel the same way. As my body continues to slowly shut itself down my demon screams to get free. It will not let itself be killed so easily.

"Hell no... Kurama!" My eyes open to see foggy silhouettes of Yusuke and Kuwabara against the harsh sunlight. They are both kneeling before me, and I can only assume that the battle has finished in our favor.

"N-no way. He's gonna be ok, right?" There's absolutely no conviction in Kuwabara's voice, and I wonder absently how I must look. Well, there's a huge, gaping hole in my chest for starters.

My body convulses again, and I fall back into Hiei's gentle arms painfully, gasping now in harsh desperation. There's not enough oxygen... to my brain. My synapses are dying... nerve endings...shutting down. Everything really is going black like they say.

Yet I still have the energy to be crying.

"Just change, fox." Hiei's voice is desperate, and I smile almost deliriously. The pain doesn't matter. My death doesn't matter. All that matters is that he cares. He's worried, frantic even, for me to survive, but he'll never know. He cannot know... but I'll never forget.

Let me out!

I'm too tired to hold Yoko back any longer, too tired to fight. I just want to rest. I just want to be warm again.

"Cold..." I'm so cold. The wonderful closeness of my fire partner's body isn't helping. Spastic shivers begin to run through me along with my convulsions.

At least it isn't hurting anymore, Yoko is taking care of that. Yoko... I suddenly remember, frantically, what I'd been fighting for.

"No!" I grab Hiei's arm desperately, clinging to it as though the contact will be able to save my dissipating humanity.

I love you. I can't forget, Hiei. I won't forget.

"I... Hi... I lo... lo..." I have to let him know. I don't care if he doesn't understand, or if he thinks me weak. I need to let him know now, before the feeling is gone forever. From my left I hear a choked sob.

My body slowly begins to change as Shuichi dies.

I won't forget. I won't forget. I love you, Hiei, I won't forget.

"I won't . . . H-Hiei!" His name comes out a strangled cry as the particularly violent transformation completes itself, my red tresses bleeding into silver, my strength returning to nearly full, and Shuichi fades away forever.

I close my eyes briefly in thanks to the mortal piece of me, for all he has given me over the years. Then my golden eyes flicker up to meet the gazes of my three companions.

Kuwabara looks confused but relieved, Hiei nods at me, eyes going to the quickly healing wound in my chest and seeming satisfied. Yusuke's is the face that bothers me, the Spirit Detective's dark eyes dart over me and with a wince turn to Hiei. Silent tears stream down his pale cheeks.

Yes... Hiei... my own expression melts into one of confusion as I look back to my partner. Shuichi had cried for him as well.

/I won't forget. I love you, Hiei, I won't forget./

My hand moves up to trace his jaw line as it had before, hoping to recapture the feeling that I had had earlier, but nothing comes.

What was it I was so desperate to remember? I... loved him.

It was important, or it had been only a moment ago. It's a bit disconcerting that I can't remember why anymore.

"Kurama, are you alright?" I glance down to my chest and flex my fingers experimentally before slowly sitting up.

What had I meant? I worry about Hiei. He's a strong ally and a good companion. I would trust him to protect me in battle, and I would do the same for him. Was that what I had meant by that vague word, love?

Something seems to be missing from that conclusion, and I'm surprised at the small ache I feel in my chest when I can't think up a better description. As though I'm missing something.

But if I don't remember then it can't be too important.

"Yes," I reply slowly, nodding and smiling at my ashen haired teammate. "Yes, I'm fine."


A/N: If you liked this, please read the sequel: "The Way Things Were". Kurama managed to survive the battle, but at a terrible price. Hiei's just beginning to realize how much he's lost.