Author's Note:  This is based on Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders saga, though I haven't read the books in years so I don't know how closely it will follow any
one of them.  And I don't remember all the names for things, so don't be surprised if I rename them, it's not a direct fusion.  
Category:  Anime, Yaoi, Yu Yu Hakusho, AU
Warnings:  none
Pairings:  will be KuramaxHiei, with slight YomixKurama
Author:  Arigatomina

Shadow Dragon

Part 1

The search was on again, evidenced by the two riders visible above the mountain.  The dragons were familiar.  Hiei recognized them as the same two that had
come on multiple searches, looking for the same thing each time.  He knew the dragons sensed her.  He'd never asked her if she could hear them the way he
could, but she must have.  Because they kept coming back.  Every six months, every time there was a golden egg laid.  They hadn't come so often, or so
predictably in the beginning.  Most queens didn't lay eggs that regularly.  The last few years it had gotten to the point where he could predict the week, if not
the very day, those dragons would shadow the mountain.  Looking for her.

Hiei was sure she would have made a perfect candidate.  Yukina was young, pliable, and beautiful.  Just the sort of candidate considered worthy of a queen
egg.  But he wouldn't allow that.  He knew what happened to those few girls that had been taken from the mountain. His own mother hadn't been a queen rider,
but she'd been ruined all the same.  Ice maidens never mated.  He was proof of how strongly they held to that vow.  To take one and force her into a life with
multiple mates, bound to whoever happened to have the fastest dragon when hers went into flight, was unforgivable.  He would never allow that to happen to
his sister.  

Yukina was curled comfortably, just inside the cave Hiei stood guard over.  He glanced back at her, stiffening a bit at her knowing smile.  It wasn't that she
mocked him, just that her smile made him uncomfortable.  The headwomen had hidden her better this time, holding her for the riders they knew would come.  
But they couldn't hide her from him, not this time, not ever.  He'd made sure of that.

"You really shouldn't keep doing this," Yukina said softly.  "We aren't allowed to refuse the riders, Hiei.  They just want to guarantee our safety.  After all,
golden eggs aren't laid that often."

"Seven times in the last five years is often enough," Hiei growled.

The smaller of the two dragons, a glittering blue, lifted into the air below the cliff.  He glared at it, watching the way it hovered over the valley.  The larger one,
a broad brown dragon with a wide beak, was still crouched near the center of the snow-covered clearing.  The rider was speaking with the headwoman.  The
man was waving his arms, his head shaking quickly.  

Hiei couldn't hear their words, but he knew what the woman was telling him.  The riders had just learned that their mission was bound for failure.  Again.  She
told them the same thing every time they came.  Hiei sometimes wondered why she bothered to hide Yukina from him, when she took so much pleasure in
telling the riders to leave after they failed to find the candidate they were looking for.  He could only assume her hatred for him was greater than her
resentment toward the only men allowed within the moutain.  Dragonriders.

"Let them go elsewhere," Hiei glared.  "They aren't welcome here."

"Why are you so certain they're after me?" asked Yukina.  "The headwoman said they didn't know who they were looking for."   

Hiei shot her a look over his shoulder, and Yukina sighed, leaning back against the wall once more.  

"I know," she murmured.  "They always leave without taking anyone.  But I don't see why they would want me.  I'm no different from any of the other girls.  
Except for you, of course!"  

Hiei snorted and turned away again.  

Yukina dropped her eyes, a light blush marring her pale cheeks.  She was different from the others, very different.  After all, none of their mothers had given
birth to twins, the result of mating with a male.  They'd never had a brother thrown from the mountain at birth, never had the feeling of being incomplete while
that brother searched for a way back.  They had never had someone risk so much just to make certain they were safe.  

"...thank you, Hiei."

"I'm doing this for myself," Hiei muttered.

That blue dragon was circling the sky, far too close to where they were hidden in the cliff face.  Hiei glared harder and took another step back into the
shadows.  One of his hands rose and slid over the white band he kept wrapped around his forehead, just in case.

"If they took you," Hiei continued, "I'd have to kill dragonriders to get you back.  That would be troublesome."

"You couldn't do that," Yukina blurted.  She stood quickly, her red eyes wide as she stared at him.  "They protect us all - you couldn't fight them!  Besides,
they're the strongest...everyone knows that."

"Ch', their strength is nothing to me.  What are living dragons?  Nothing but weaknesses bared to the world.  If a dragon dies, the rider dies.  And it works both
ways.  They're more weak because they're dragonriders."  

That blue dragon was definitely moving closer.  

Hiei waved an arm at the girl behind him, his right hand curling slowly.  "Deeper now."

"I don't want you to fight!"  Yukina winced when that dark head jerked at her cry, but she took a small step in his direction.  "What if I want to go with them?  
You never asked me that."  

Red eyes turned on her sharply and she flinched, her pale blue hair falling into her face as she dropped her gaze.

"You don't," said Hiei.  "We both know that.  Go."

Turning away, Yukina stared at the rocky floor for a moment.  "It might be better if I went.  You wouldn't have to sneak like this.  I'm sure they aren't like our

"Your people," Hiei corrected, but his tone wasn't harsh.  He knew she was just trying to do the right thing, or rather, the safest thing for everyone involved.  
She'd never liked to see people hurt.  

"Only dragonriders are allowed into their nests," said Hiei.  "You don't want violence, so don't force me to kill them to keep you free."  

She nodded slowly and he watched her move deeper into the cave, not hesitating any more.  It was a never-ending battle, hiding her from the searches.  He
knew it would have been so much easier if he could just take her away from the mountain.  But she wouldn't go.  Like all of the ice maidens, she was sworn to
stay on the mountain until her death.  The least he could do was make certain her simple wish was fulfilled, that she didn't face the same shame her mother
had, giving birth through unclean methods.  Ice maidens never mated, giving birth to girls without ever knowing the touch of a man.


Climbing back onto his dragon, Kuwabara gave another smile to the pale headwoman who was currently scowling at him.  She was as cold as any of the ice
maidens he'd met in the last two years, but she was just as pretty.

Kenji, his large brown, lifted with a quick sweep of wide wings.  Kuwabara held tight to the knob in front of him, not quite trusting the harness that was
supposed to keep him in place.  No matter how often he rode, he never seemed to get over his fear of falling during the lift-off.  Yusuke was circling on his blue
above him and he didn't relax until he reached them.  The blue dragon swivled its long neck, dark blue eyes spinning at him and Kenji.

"Nothing, of course!" Kuwabara called, more for Yusuke's benefit than the dragon's.  "I swear this is a waste of time.  Every trip, it's the same thing.  Whoever
we're looking for isn't here."  

Kenji countered that with an irritated hum.  [Yes here, right here.]  

Kuwabara's face screwed up and he scowled when the brown dragon's neck curved so it could look back at him.  "There's no one here!  You heard what she
said.  They send whoever we want, we just have to find them.  But there's no one down there with the spirit we're looking for."

"I'm getting the same thing from Fu," said Yusuke, shaking his head at his frustrated friend.  "There's definitely someone here on this mountain, he can feel it."

"What's the point, anyway," Kuwabara muttered, rubbing his forehead.  "If it's an ice maiden, we can't just take her back with us when she's so determined to
hide.  She'd never make it through hatching.  The queen would rip her to shreds the moment she sensed the fear."

"Eh, don't be so pessimistic," Yusuke grimaced.  

He knew Kuwabara was right, but he didn't like the vivid image that sprang to mind as he remembered the last hatching.  There was always at least one
casualty.  The queens were more violent than the males, at least when they hatched.  Any scent of fear and they tore through the candidates, searching for
someone calm enough to protect them.  That was the wonderful part, when the queen found a candidate who would wrap her arms around her.  Or his arms.  
It didn't really matter so long as the queen was happy.  

"Besides," said Yusuke, "if she's injured at least she could go back home.  We wouldn't have to keep coming here to look for her and she could live her
solitary life just like she wants."

"I feel sorry for them, up here like they are."  Kuwabara's eyes dropped to the snow-covered village below, but his sympathy melted when he saw that the
headwoman was still glaring up at him.  "So if she's here, where are they hiding her?"

"Well, Fu's got a hint of it something, but he's not sure where."  Patting the neck of the blue dragon, Yusuke let his eyes move around them.  

The mountain was a barren wasteland as far as he could see, except for the village planted within the circling rock.  It was just another bit of evidence of how
the ice maidens sought to keep the rest of the world out.  The only way in was to fly, unless a person were an excellent climber immune to the icy cold.  
Although, he'd heard rumors that the ice maidens capped their valley with an icy shield when they weren't expecting riders to visit, so even flying in needed
permission of the denizens.  They were lucky that their flight suits were geared to endure the frozen trips between places.  Compared to the void their dragons
jumped through, the mountain was almost pleasant.  

Futaro was staring at the cliff closest to them and Yusuke let his gaze fall there, trying to see the place the dragon was looking at.  

[There, don't you see?  It's there.]  

Raising an eyebrow, Yusuke shook his head, patting the blue neck again.  "Sorry, buddy, but I don't see anything but rock and snow."

"Kenji sees something," Kuwabara said, his brown dragon moving closer to Yusuke's.  "He wants to land."

"Land where?"  The cliff had out-hangings, bits of rock that stood a few feet from the jagged surface, but there were so many narrow ledges and shadowed
spots that were much too small for a dragon.  Futaro dove toward the cliff and Yusuke gritted his teeth, holding on for the slight drop.  "You planning on
dropping me off?" he asked, glaring at the snort Kuwabara gave as Kenji hovered close to the rock.  "I get it, so we just hop over there and check out the cliff,
right?  I didn't bring any climbing equipment."

"We don't have time to be climbing some bluff," Kuwabara complained, trying to hide the fact that he didn't want to jump the four feet separating him from the
rock platform.  He really didn't like falling.  "We still have to pick up four more candidates today."  Kenji gave a lurch beneath him and he let go quickly, glaring
at the reddish blue eyes that whirled at him when the dragon turned its head.  "Fine, but I say it's a waste of time if she's hiding out here."

"You won't think that if she actually gets picked," Yusuke smiled.  He'd never heard of an ice maiden being picked by a queen dragon, but he could imagine
many of the riders would be at that mating flight.  He hadn't missed the way Kuwabara's eyes glowed after talking with the headwoman, and she had been
nothing but cold toward him.  There was no help for it, though, they were simply too exotic and lovely to ignore.  "Let's go!"

* * *

They couldn't see the cave, Hiei was sure of that, not with the ice wall Yukina had made to blend the entrance in with the rocky cliff.  But the dragons knew, he
could hear them prodding their riders to investigate.  The place they wanted to land was close enough that they would see the ice wall as soon as they
touched the cliff.  While dragons only used fire against the deadly Threadfall, he knew they were willing to melt one icy shield.  The riders wouldn't be able to
get into the cave otherwise, only ice maidens could do that without violence.  And him.  With a quick glance back to make certain Yukina wasn't in sight, he
stepped through the thick barrier, leaving it intact as he hid in the dark corner of rock.

She didn't want him to attack dragonriders, but he had no sympathy for them and their quest against Thread.  Their flights were over populated areas, the
towns, cities, villages, even the ice mountain.  But he'd never been saved by them in his entire life.  They didn't stop the Thread that fell over general areas.  
He had no use for them and the ice mountain was able to protect itself.  Thread could burrow through anything, but it lost strength in water, and ice worked
just as well.  They didn't need the dragonriders.  His right hand clenched tighter and he could feel the burn on his forehead, the thin kekkai resisting the power
it sought to block.  

* * *

Yusuke jumped from Futaro's back, his gloves bracing him against the curve of rock that jutted above the platform.  It was wider than he'd thought, nearly
three feet away from the wall, but he would have preferred to jump onto one of the higher spots.  Snow closed around his boots, and he couldn't see anything
special near him.  The cliff really was that, rocks jutting out at odd angles with snow filling the strange crevices.  [Left a ways, around the rock.]  Reaching a
hand out when Kuwabara joined him, Yusuke frowned at Futaro.  "Why didn't you just drop us off there, then?"  The dragon's eyes whirled with blue spiraling
color and he smirked when Kenji jerked his head.  

"He says there wasn't room," Kuwabara said, looking at the thin, snowy ledge a few feet to his left.  The footpath couldn't even be called that, it didn't look
more than a foot wide, but there were rocks they could hold onto.  [If you fall, I'll catch you.]  The comment made him glare and he pushed Yusuke's shoulder,
jerking his head to the left.  "What are you waiting for?"

"Why do I get to go first?" Yusuke asked, raising an eyebrow as he looked his friend over.  The orange-haired teen had a green tint around his eyes that
made Yusuke's lips curve into a smirk.  After two years as a dragonrider, the guy still hadn't mastered his fear of falling.  "Fine, guess I am closer, anyway."  
His steps were careful, but quick enough to leave Kuwabara behind when his tall friend didn't move immediately.  He wasn't worried about falling, though, even
if that happened, he knew Futaro would catch him.  His foot slipped once on the small icy ledge and he clutched tighter to the rocky overhang.  [There's a
small platform into the rock, jump left and in.]  The advice had him sneering, but Yusuke wasn't about to be a coward.  Glancing back at Kuwabara, he jerked
his head to the left.  "I'm jumping around the corner, so don't go thinking I fell or something."

"Are you kidding?" Kuwabara asked, his eyes wide as he held to the rock, pausing in his slow progress.  "How was she supposed to have gotten up here in the
first place?  I'm telling you, Urameshi, I don't sense anything up here.  And you know I'd feel it if she were here."

"They feel it," Yusuke reminded him.  "I'm going!"  Turning back, he pivoted his weight on his right foot, holding the rock before jumping around the edge of the
block.  He barely caught sight of a drop before he landed in a crouch within a small opening in the cliff.  It was surprisingly dark, but he stood and turned to call
back to Kuwabara, his eyes glancing off a glimmer in the shadow.  A blue head peaked around the corner and he smirked at Futaro before waving a hand at
the wall of ice he could barely make out in the recess.  "This the reason you didn't want us to just jump here?"  The dragon's eyes whirled at him and he
moved closer to the shield, his hand touching it as he tried to see through it.  The ice was thick and cold, chilling him even through the thick gloves and he
pulled back quickly.  "Don't see anything.  Kuwabara?  You coming?"

"What's over there?"

The teen's voice was irritated and Yusuke smirked, laying a hand on his hip as he shook his head.  "It's just a hole, probably a cave or something. But there's
an ice shield here.  I don't know if she's on the other side of it, but I'm guessing it would be better if you cut it than me blasting through it.  I might cause a cave
in or something."

"Right," Kuwabara said, leaning around the edge and trying to see the boy.  He finally shook his head, shoving Futaro's shoulder when the dragon got too
close for him to jump.  "Either you move, or I'm climbing over you!"  Yusuke laughed at him, but the blue dragon moved back and Kuwabara took a quick
breath before jumping.  There was a second where his balance ended and he let out a yipe, but Yusuke jerked on his arm and he landed on his knees.  "You
could have told me how far it was," he muttered.

"Stop whining and cut this already, will you?"  The orange-haired teen gave him a disgruntled glare and he folded his arms, tapping a foot on the ground.

"Give me a second," Kuwabara complained.  Lifting his arm, he pulled the glove off his right hand, tucking it in a pocket before curving his fingers.  Golden
light surrounded him for a second, then he grinned, pulling the long blade with his left hand.  Throwing Yusuke a smirk, he lifted the blazing sword and pointed
it at the boy.  "Bet you wish you could do that, don't you."

"Stop bragging and cut that thing before she runs off.  I really don't feel like crawling around in some cave all day."  The orange-haired teen blinked, his face
going a bit paler and Yusuke smirked at him.  "Unless you're planning to carry that around while we look through tunnels."  He didn't think so and he moved to
the side when Kuwabara turned toward the shield.  The sword blazed a bit brighter and Yusuke blinked as it fell toward the ice.  When he opened his eyes
again, he nearly fell off the cliff, scrambling to get his balance as his mouth fell open.

Kuwabara jerked back in shock as his spirit sword was halted by a slender blade and he stared into wide red eyes feet below his own.  They glared at him and
he let out a cry when the blade shoved against his, nearly sending him off the ledge.  "What the hell?!"  He had enough time to make out a short figure before
something hard connected with his stomach and he fell back, a high pitched shriek leaving his lips and not ending until he crashed onto Kenji's back, ten feet
below.  "Urameshi!!"

Yusuke saw Kuwabara go down but didn't have time to react, ducking to the side as the small figure flashed at him, a silver blade trying to cut through him.  
"Hey!  Stop, I'm a dragonrider!"  The attack continued as if his voice was inaudible and he dodged too many blows to count, the movement almost too fast for
him to see.  Then he ran out of ground and jumped backward, a strong back placing itself beneath his feet as Futaro hovered near the cave.  For a second he
was sure the small figure would follow him, but it didn't happen.  Blinking quickly, he wiped a hand over his face before staring at the short person.  Then he
blinked again, his mouth falling open.  It was a boy, much shorter than him, but definitely male.  But they were inside the mountain wall, no males except
dragonriders were allowed inside the ice shield that usually covered the place.  "How did *you* get in here?"

Hiei glared, the muscles in his right arm twitching furiously.  He could feel sharp pain between his eyes as the kekkai strove to keep the power in but ignored it,
sliding the sword into the back of his cloak.  "You can't have her."

"Wait a minute!" Kuwabara cried, Kenji flying close to Futaro so he could see the short male.  He glanced at Yusuke before glaring at the black-haired boy.  
"Are you trying to keep us from the candidate?  Men aren't allowed on this mountain!"

"Exactly," Hiei growled, his eyes on Yusuke.  The orange-haired one was no threat to him, but he didn't know what power the other one had yet.  "Get out."

"You don't seem to get it," Yusuke said calmly, relaxing his stance as if he weren't standing on a dragon's back.  "We were invited here.  We're looking for a
candidate sensed by the dragons."  The boy raised an eyebrow at him and Yusuke glanced from him to the ice wall behind him, his own eyes widening.  His
lips twitched for a second before he let out a sharp laugh.  "I get it!  You've got a thing for an ice maiden, right?  Look, I understand, but we have to complete
our search.  I commend you for sneaking in while the shield was down, but you can't hide a candidate from dragonriders.  It's not allowed."  Red eyes narrowed
and Yusuke frowned, looking down at the boy's right hand.  It was covered in bandages, but they looked as if they were smoking.  He blinked for a second
then looked at Hiei again.  "You have to move."

"Get through me first," Hiei said slowly, his eyes finally turning to Kuwabara.  "Defeat me, if you want her."  The orange haired teen straightened quickly and
Hiei smirked.  Just as he'd thought, the taller one was an idiot.  "But not here.  We take our fight outside of the mountain."

"We don't have time to play with you," Yusuke said, his words cut off when Kuwabara nodded suddenly.  He groaned, frowning at his friend.  "Kuwabara, didn't
you say earlier that we had other candidates to get?"

"I don't want to fight here," Kuwabara said slowly, his eyes narrowing as he looked to Yusuke.  "There isn't room to move him with my sword, not on that little
ledge.  And you can't blast him or you'll blow the cave.  Right?"

"I *hate* being lectured by *you*," Yusuke muttered, rolling his eyes.  The black-haired boy was still glaring at him and he waved his hands, plopping down on
Futaro's back.  "Fine, where do you want to fight?  I guess we have time for a little workout.  And I guess you have a point.  After all, we're taking your girl so
the least we could do is let you fight for her first."

"Baka."  The black-haired youth looked insulted, but Hiei raised his head, nodding toward the top of the mountain.  He couldn't actually see it from inside the
cave entrance, but he knew they could.  "Follow me."  They both nodded at him and he thought again of how stupid they were.  It would have been easier to
get into the cave while he fought with one of them, they should have thought of that.  But they didn't and it was just as well.  He couldn't risk having a fight
inside the mountain, certainly not with Yukina within the cliff.  Stepping to the edge of the opening, he jumped down.

Yusuke let out a warning cry but it ended at his lips as the short male seemed to rebound from a small rock, jumping upward again.  It was more impressive
than he wanted to admit, but he wheeled Futaro, following quickly since the black-clothed boy was jumping up the cliff.  //So much for climbing.  Who *is* he?//  
Futaro rumbled beneath him.  [I get nothing from him, nor does Kenji.]  They reached the edge of the cliff and he glanced back, looking down at the encircled
village.  "What about the candidate?" he hollered, wanting Kuwabara to hear.  [I don't feel anyone now.  Not since earlier.]  It was always the same, they would
sense the candidate inside the mountain village and then as soon as they tried to search it just disappeared.  But she could easily be shielded if a kekkai were
placed on the inside of that ice wall.  As soon as they finished with the kid they could go back and get her.  //I just hope she doesn't cry, I hate that.//   

Hiei stopped on the flat surface of the circular cliff, his eyes burning as he walked along a familiar ledge.  It stretched away from the rest of the rim, four feet of
rock hanging above a drop that was obscured by clouds.  The dragons neared him and he pointed down, catching Yusuke's eyes.  "On your honor, you will

Yusuke knew there was flat land below, but his eyes widened at the boy.  "We'll follow, but you're never going to get back up here again.  I don't care *how*
high you can jump."  The boy nodded, then turned away from him.  Futaro had lowered until he was a foot from the flat edge of the cliff and Yusuke wondered
why the boy didn't just fight them there.  Then the black-clothed figure jumped, a white scarf trailing the air behind him for a second before he disappeared
into the clouds.  "Shit...if he dies we'll never hear the end of this."  

"Whatever," Kuwabara muttered, holding tight as Kenji dove toward the clouds.  "What's one little upstart compared with a candidate we've been looking for
year after year?"

"That's heartless," Yusuke yelled, the wind nearly sweeping the words way.  The cloud was wet and he shook his head when they made it through, one hand
smoothing his black hair back into place.  There was a rocky plain below, and he could see the black-clothed boy standing near the river.  He didn't look wet,
but it could have been the cloak he wore.  Futaro landed near the boy and he hopped off, cracking his knuckles as he waited for Kuwabara.   "That was some
jump, but you're about to get your ass kicked.  I hope you realize that."  Kuwabara landed and he nodded when his friend moved to stand beside him.  His
eyes flicked back to the boy as if he were about to take a nap.  "Guess we might as well get this over with.  What do you want, one-on-one?  Or would you
rather fight us both?"

"Don't be stupid," Kuwabara said quickly, glaring at Yusuke.  "That's not even a fair fight.  The least you can do is give him a fighting chance, he's trying to
keep his girl, remember?  You have to give him some credit for that."

"Right, right," Yusuke muttered, rolling his eyes.  "I guess I'll sit this one out, then."

"I don't want to kill dragons," Hiei said coldly, "so if I win you never come here again."

"We can't promise that," Kuwabara said sharply, his eyes wide.  Yusuke was shaking his head at him and he blinked for a second before remembering.  "Oh,
sure.  After all, you won't win so I guess it doesn't matter what we promise."

"Baka."  Ignoring the way the tall youth jerked at that, Hiei lifted his left hand lazily, unwinding the bandage from around his right arm.  "You lie with that
promise.  I'll kill you both."  

Yusuke frowned as the boy's arm was revealed and he took a step closer, trying to make out the black shape that curled around it.  Futaro shifted beside him
and he relaxed.  It just wasn't that often that someone threatened to kill dragonriders, he almost believed that deep, cold voice.  The boy stared at Kuwabara,
dropping the strip of bandage and Yusuke raised an eyebrow.  He wondered if they were supposed to be intimidated.

Clenching his right fist, Hiei lifted his left hand and pulled away the band that had covered his forehead.  The black light flashed in his eyes, then he had a
third view of the dragonriders, one tinted with a green shadow.  "Now, you will die.  And others who come for her will die."

Kuwabara jerked back, a hand clutched to his chest for a second before he turned on Yusuke.  "Do you *feel* that?!  What is that thing?"  Yusuke was shaking
his head, but the two dragons reared back on their hind legs, bugles sounding.  [The candidate!  That's it, him.]  He didn't want to believe it, but Kenji's eyes
were whirling with a brilliant purple reserved for feelings of passion, and for announcing candidates.  His eyes turned to Yusuke and he could tell by the boy's
stunned expression that he was having just as much trouble with the idea.  "No!  No way in hell!"

"It's supposed to be a girl," Yusuke whispered, turning to stare at Futaro as the dragon's eyes whirled at him.  "I thought it was a girl."  The dragon gave
another throaty bugle.  [In the ice mountain, that's all, the candidate has always been felt in the ice mountain.  Natural to expect a girl, isn't it?]  His expression
turned doubtful and he shook his head, including Kuwabara in his confusion.  "So much for the queen egg.  I hate it when those go to guys."

"Who are you kidding?" Kuwabara muttered, shoving the boy.  "You're right there when Delana flies!"  His friend's hands curled into fists and he moved in a
defensive stance, ready for the fight.  A roar made them both whirl and Kuwabara let out a shocked cry, diving to the ground at the same moment as the
dragons lifted.  A black shape twisted at him and he rolled to the side, his eyes huge.  It looked like a dragon of fire, black fire, and it curved between he and
Yusuke, rising until it was writhing over the black-haired boy's head.  He'd completely forgotten about him.

"Fight or leave," Hiei said scathingly.  "If you aren't after her you have no business here."

"Hold up," Yusuke said quickly, rising to his feet again.  His eyes rose to that hateful black shape that was larger than any dragon, despite its serpent form.  He
could almost believe the thing had a life of its own.  "We came for a candidate, but-"

"It's not her," Hiei interrupted, glaring as he tugged his right arm downward a bit, the black dragon curling so its gaping jaws faced the two dragons that were
currently hovering overhead.  "So leave."

"How do you know?" Kuwabara asked, still fuming over the near miss.  He didn't know what type of thing that was above the boy, but he'd felt the power, could
still feel it, and it was far enough beyond him for his anger to seem meaningless.  

"Nothing is hidden from me now."  Glaring, Hiei turned his jagan on the orange-haired youth, a green flash mixing with the dragon shadow within.  

"Are you saying you can hear them?" Yusuke asked, stepping toward the boy.  He stopped immediately when that black dragon turned its head in his
direction.  It was so odd, a candidate who already had a dragon?  Of course, the thing was nothing like a real dragon, it seemed to be made completely of
black fire.  "You heard our dragons?"  Red eyes stared impassively at him and he relaxed a bit, glancing up at Futaro and Kenji as the two touched down a few
yards to their right.  "Then you already know, you're the candidate we were looking for.  You don't have to worry about that girl you were hiding."

"I have no need for dragonriders," Hiei said coldly.  They obviously weren't going to challenge him now, so he raised his arm, the black flame curling around
his wrist before taking its place again.  

"But you're the candidate," Kuwabara muttered, irritated by the boy's denseness.  "It doesn't matter if you like it or not."  Hiei raised an eyebrow at him and he
glared.  "How could you not want to be a dragonrider?"

"That doesn't matter," Yusuke interrupted, stepping closer to Hiei now that the flame had disappeared.  He could see the black tattoo better now, the winding
serpent that curled around the boy's right arm.  That third eye on his forehead was no longer glowing, a dark blue iris staring out at him.  "You didn't want us
to take your girl, that's why you challenged us, right?  Well, if you come back with us then you won't have to worry about her.  After all, we only take one
candidate from an area at a time.  If you're accepted, then we won't be back here for at least five years."  The boy was staring at him and he could almost
imagine the thoughts passing behind the expressionless face.  "Which means, she can't be chosen, or even positioned as a candidate.  That's what you

"If I go, you don't come back for five years?"  Hiei raised an eyebrow, staring at the black-haired boy.  He didn't trust him for a minute and he knew there had to
be a catch.  His knowledge of dragonriders was little, but he knew that he didn't trust them, that was enough.

"Well, if you're picked by a dragon," Yusuke qualified, "we thought we were looking for a queen rider, but you might be put in the pit for any of the eggs.  But if
a dragon does choose you, then we won't be back for five years.  And then, we only come back if there's a candidate here."

Hiei thought about it, but only for a short minute.  Even if he wasn't accepted, he knew they wouldn't come back for a year.  If nothing else, it saved him from
having to kill them both now.  He didn't doubt that they'd try to take him by force if he resisted.  He knew how the dragonriders operated when it came to
candidates.  "Fine."

"Really?" Yusuke asked, his eyes wide.  He hadn't expected such a quick agreement, but he waved a hand to Futaro quickly.  "Well, come on over and I'll fix
you up with a flight suit.  It's much too cold between for regular clothes, but we brought suits for the candidates..."  The boy raised an eyebrow again and
Yusuke thought of the suit they'd brought.  It was much too big, even though it had been made for a girl.  But he thought it *might* fit.

"I don't need it," Hiei said shortly, tired of waiting for the boy to speak.  

"No way," Yusuke said, "no one goes Between without one.  It's too dangerous.  Do you have any idea how *cold* it is between jumps?"

"You think cold affects me?" Hiei asked, snorting at the boy's expression.  "You obviously don't know what I am."

"What are you?" Kuwabara asked, moving to them and staring down at Hiei as if he were an unidentified species of bug.  "What kind of guy hooks up with an
ice maiden?"  The boy stared at him and he felt a tingle of cold creep up his back.

"I am immune," Hiei said, turning to Yusuke.  "Let's go."  The boy looked unsure, but Hiei turned his back on him, retrieving his bandage and headband.  By
the time he'd replaced them, they looked as if they'd reconciled themselves.  "Well?"

"If you get sick, don't blame me."  Yusuke scowled when the boy snorted.  "Wait till you see who the medic is, then you'll regret not taking me seriously."  He
still didn't get a reaction and he turned to Futaro, offering the boy a foot up.  His expression dropped when the boy ignored him, hopping up until he was
standing just behind the harness.  Climbing in, Yusuke waved to the space behind him, heaving a sigh when the boy sat down but refused the harness straps.  
"Look, I'm letting you go without the suit, but we aren't lifting off unless you have the harness on."  He was turned in his seat and he glared back at Hiei when
the boy's red eyes narrowed.  "That's not negotiable."

"Ch'."  There wasn't any point arguing over such a small thing and Hiei held still when the teen fastened the straps around them.  It had to be one of the most
ridiculous things he'd ever heard of, as if they were incapable of holding on for themselves.  Then the dragon lifted off and he waited, eyes closing briefly as
they passed through the cloud.  He let himself have one glance at the mountain, wondering what Yukina would think when she realized he wasn't coming
back.  But he knew, she'd join the village again as if nothing had happened.  The headwoman knew better than to blame her for his actions; she couldn't help
it if her mother had broken the rules.