Green and brown sped by below, as if from the view of some winged creature, the landscape both foreign and familiar. A dark glint protruded from the dense
forest, on the very crest of the hill, and the view swept down. He was walking toward that spot, though he couldn't think why. Nervous and hurried, he clutched
the cloth tied over his arms, bent forward to balance the weight. Time was short. The only way was to get his precious burden to that house. The sight rose
again, taking wing to circle the dark house settled in the Makai forest, as if it had been transplanted directly from the human world and in doing so absorbed
the dark nature of the new realm.
The dream ended with a dive toward one of those dark windows, and Hiei opened his eyes to an afterimage of a shadowed face. That was not what he'd
dreamt of before, but it was definite proof that the dreams were manufactured just as Kurama's illness was. He didn't have to look to know there was no trail to
follow. The dream left no residue of power, just a dim feeling of having been turned in the right direction. Obviously whoever had sent the dreams knew he
was acting on them and Hiei understood the message perfectly. Someone wanted him to bring Kurama into the Makai, a forest in the south, to a black house
that looked like a perversion of the former youko's own home.
The few moments of sleep left him feeling wide awake, and Hiei could hear nothing from the open window below him. Those noisy crickets had been joined by
an owl, the night bird taking sudden flight when Hiei stood. A moment later, he was crouched on the windowsill, his eyes darting over the empty bed. He would
have sworn the red-haired kitsune hadn't the strength to move, much less get up. But the shadowed sheets were bare, wrinkles the only proof that Kurama
had lain on them.
He found him on the stairs, curled against the wall a few steps from the bottom. The redhead didn't really look as if he'd fallen, and he shifted a bit when Hiei
jumped down to land silently beside him. He waited a moment, expecting him to straighten, or at least look up. A closer look proved what he'd thought was
recognition of his presence was something else. Kurama seemed to be...vibrating. Blinking sharply at the disturbing thought, Hiei folded his arms. "What are
you doing?" His voice must have been too sharp, because the redhead shifted again, jerking back against the wall. When he moved his head, it was to turn
shiny green eyes up on him.
"Hiei..." The short demon was positively scowling at him, and Kurama dropped his eyes. His arms shook when he pushed away from the stairs, leaning hard
against the wall. He didn't quite trust his legs to hold him yet, so he sat, arms wrapped around himself. "You're...s-still here."
Hiei's eyes narrowed more, and he looked over the redhead. He was still shaking, as if his muscles were all quivering at the same time. The sight unerved
him enough to lean over Kurama and press his palm to the kistune's forehead. Relief came just as quickly as he recognized the problem. "Baka..."
The dark-haired demon had moved too quickly for him, and Kurama barely had time to register the heat pressed against his damp forehead. "Wha-"
Something hit him, swamping over him like a plunge into thick mud and his eyes closed at what was so sharp he could barely feel the pain. "Ah!" He had a
swift thought of knives and needles before he realized it didn't hurt. It was too numbing, dragging him down. He might have sagged against the stairs if that
hand hadn't been holding his head to the wall.
"I thought you couldn't sleep," Hiei sniffed, frowning at the strange expressions shifting over Kurama's face. They were odd, having gone from a grimace into
what looked like a sleepy smile. Green eyes opened slowly and he was glad to pull his hand away. "Idiot."
Kurama's eyes swam for a second before focusing on the youkai's face, his hands releasing the deathgrip they had on his arms. "What did you do?" he
managed, his voice surprising him enough to blink in surprise. The pain was still there, dull for the moment, but his clothes were...warm. His entire body was
warm, as if he'd been wrapped in a blanket of heat.
"Should have brought a coat," Hiei muttered, rolling his eyes at Kurama's confused expression. "You were freezing and wet."
That last word was spat as if in total disgust, and Kurama gave a faint smile. "My appologies," he murmured, running a hand over his forehead to knock loose
the hair that had dried to his temples. "I didn't expect to run into you. And a coat wouldn't have helped."
"Another effect, then." The redhead gave a vague nod, and Hiei turned, watching Kurama ease up till he was standing. The kitsune made slow progress
down the last few steps and he followed. He was moving so slowly that Hiei passed him, going to lean against the wall further down the hall. "Why were you
wet?" he asked, not looking up from his folded arms.
"The shower," Kurama said, shaking his head and immediately wishing he hadn't. Dizziness hit him so fast he stumbled against the opposite wall. "It
Those green eyes were falling closed, and Hiei let out an impatient sigh. "You said you couldn't sleep," he muttered, moving to the kitsune. Kurama was
positively sagging, like another moment and he'd be passed out on the floor.
"Mm." His eyes were so heavy it almost took all his energy just to open them. And then he wished he hadn't. Hiei was looking at him as if he'd just developed
a second skin of slime. The youkai's upper lip was curled as he grabbed Kurama's arm and jerked him away from the wall. If he'd had more time to think
about it, Kurama might have flushed with embarassment. He nearly knocked the smaller demon over with his weight, and he was humiliated at how weak his
legs were. He couldn't seem to straighten his knees. "Hiei-"
"Don't make me carry you," Hiei glared, not meeting Kurama's eyes. It was awkward, trying to support the taller teen, but it wasn't as if he didn't have the
strength. This just wasn't a position he'd ever found himself in. Usually Yusuke or the Baka were there when Kurama collapsed. "Where were you going?"
Kurama gave up on pulling away and focused his attention on moving his legs. "The kitchen. I have to eat now-I don't know how long I have before it starts up
again." The shoulders beneath his arm shifted, and he turned his eyes forward, shuffling alongside Hiei. "I could do this myself," he said slowly, wincing when
Hiei gave a loud snort of contempt. He stopped abruptly, finally managing to lock his knees and pull himself upright. At least, he tried to pull himself upright.
He hadn't noticed the iron grip circling his wrist. The result was a complete failure.
Hiei was ruffled, irritated, and generally in a bad mood. But seeing Kurama sag as if his legs had turned to mush made Hiei's lips twitch in a quick laugh.
"Pathetic." Sharp green eyes shot up at him and he flashed a fleeting grin. "I never thought I'd see you like this."
"I'm so glad you're enjoying it," Kurama muttered, pushing roughly against Hiei's side as he coaxed his legs back into action. "I always wanted my friends to
see me at my worst."
"Your condition isn't what makes you pathetic," Hiei frowned, pulling on Kurama's arm until the redhead was upright again. "It's how stupid you're being about
it." Silence answered him, but Kurama moved when he took a step forward, the two of them making steadier progress into the kitchen. It was with noted relief
that he pushed the kitsune into the chair he'd abandoned earlier. "What's wrong with you?"
"I already told you," Kurama said, his hands gripping the edge of the table. He shouldn't have let Hiei push him down into the chair. Getting back up again
would probably send him right to the floor. "I don't know what it is."
"And Koenma's baffled."
Kurama's eyes widened and he turned to stare at Hiei, taking in the youkai's raised eyebrow. "You heard? All of it?" The demon gave a sharp nod and he
blinked, forgetting about food for the moment. "Then you heard about Yukina. I don't know anything about that-"
"I do," Hiei interrupted. He turned away from the table, his eyes moving over the cabinets before falling on the refridgerator. "Do you have anything in here
He wanted to ask what Hiei knew, but admitted food was more important. As he'd said earlier, he didn't know how long he'd have before the attacks started up
again, and he couldn't move during those. They were pure pain, requiring all of his strength just to keep from screaming. Eating was unimportant when they
hit. Red eyes glinted over a dark shoulder and Kurama sighed. "There's lunch meat, in the little drawer near the top."
Taking a clear wrapped bundle, Hiei sneered in distaste. "Ningen food," he sniffed. It certainly didn't look like meat to him, tiny slices of pale stuff that gave off
a pungent odor. But he wasn't the one who'd be eating it. Tossing the packet on the table, he rolled his eyes at Kurama. "You'll poison yourself with that."
"It's fine," Kurama said, a faint smile curving his lips. "And the bread is on the counter." A half loaf was tossed to join the lunch meat on the table, and he
shook his head, just a bit, at Hiei's expression. "It's food, that's all I care about right now." The demon didn't comment, and Kurama blinked when Hiei returned
to the counter, tea kettle in hand. "Hiei?"
"I've seen you do it," Hiei sniffed, filling the metal container with water. He didn't speak as he looked over the thing, determining how thick the metal was before
heating it with a bit of carefully controlled flame. A sharp hissing whistle made him bare his teeth, but he was familiar enough to that not to be surprised.
Kurama had made tea often when he was trapped in the human world.
His arms were achingly heavy, but well enough to move. Kurama made short work of the food, pulling his chair haltingly to the table and eating as quickly as
he could. He didn't want to make himself sick, but he was starving and surely short on time. A cup was placed to the side of him, striking the table just hard
enough for him to wince. Hiei wasn't the sort to bother with saucers. "Thank you."
"Hn." With a careless sniff, Hiei sat down across from him, watching Kurama pack away that pathetic excuse for food. "You'll eat better when we get to the
Makai." The redhead choked, lurching against the table and shaking it so badly that tea splashed out of the cups. Hiei scowled and lifted his until he was sure
Kurama wouldn't shake any more.
"What are you talking about?" Kurama demanded, taking a quick drink of scalding tea to wash away the food that had lodged in his throat. "I'm not going
"Someone wants you to," Hiei returned, catching the kitsune's eyes. "That's what the dreams were for. To get me here, and to use me to bring you to the
"How do you know that?" Kurama whispered, all of his shock draining suddenly. "What are you dreaming of?"
"You," Hiei sniffed, glaring at those wide green eyes. "Of what you were doing up there."
The demon tossed his black head in the direction of the ceiling and Kurama flinched. "You saw me?"
"That's why you left the window open, isn't it?" Hiei blinked at Kurama's pained expression, his brows knitting in a frown. "It's not?"
"I just...I didn't think I'd be able to open it if you came back," Kurama managed, humiliation burning over him in waves. "I didn't think you'd..." Disgust curdled
his stomach and he turned his eyes to the tea, gripping the mug in both hands. "No wonder you think I'm pathetic."
The silence seemed to thicken the air around them, and Hiei scowled. "That's not the point," he said sharply, turning his glare to his own cup. "Even if I hadn't
looked, it wouldn't matter. I've been dreaming of that for weeks. That's why I came."
A glance found his friend looking just as uncomfortable as he was, and Kurama frowned at himself. It took some effort to shake away the disgust he felt over
what Hiei must have seen, but he managed. "You've been dreaming of this for weeks? From the beginning, then."
"Most likely," Hiei sniffed, glancing over before taking a drink from his cup. "Someone set a curse on you, made me see it until it drove me to distraction, and
then waited for me to investigate before showing the purpose."
"But it's not a curse," Kurama frowned, "or Koenma would have recognized it. I have no symptoms of anything. And nothing works against it - not even poison
to knock me out. The pain wakes me up no matter what I use."
"And your youki?"
"I don't know where it's gone. Genkai wants to have Kuwabara trace it, but there's no use in that. It isn't leaving me in some visible trail or I would have seen it
myself. It's just...gone."
"No," Hiei admitted, "there's no trail, not now. I looked. But it doesn't matter. I'm taking you to the Makai." Wide green eyes flew to him and narrowed
sharply. He glared back. "Whoever is sending the dreams is sending the pain. The quickest way to find him is to take you and wait for him to show himself."
"I can't go," Kurama said sharply, echoing the steel he heard in Hiei's voice. "I won't survive a second there."
"He's in my head, Kurama." The glare disappeared as if he'd struck the kitsune, and Hiei tapped his temple pointedly. "Sending me dreams, giving orders.
Sending nightmares to Yukina."
Those red eyes flashed dangerously with the last statement, and Kurama winced. "Hiei...I'm sorry. Maybe Genkai can ward her so the dreams can't get in-"
"Did wards stop it from getting to you?" Hiei countered. The redhead sighed and he sniffed at him. "I doubted it. If a kekkai can't keep them out, and the
jagan can't stop or follow them, nothing that woman does will keep them from Yukina. I need the source."
"Then you can go," Kurama said, shaking his head. "If you know where to go, there's no need to bring me. You saw me, I can't travel like this. I can barely
live like this."
"The place I'm supposed to take you doesn't exist," Hiei said tightly, glaring at the table. He didn't blame Kurama for the situation, but the kitsune's attitude
was starting to irritate him. If it were that simple he'd have left already, but he knew there was no house like the one in his dream - not in the Makai. "The
dream gave a direction only. If there's anything in that forest I won't find it without *you* being there."
"And I didn't want anyone else to be involved in this..."
Hiei's gaze snapped up at the soft voice, but Kurama was staring at the table. "It doesn't matter."
"Genkai will love it," Kurama muttered, folding his arms tightly around himself as he glowered at the ache in his stomach. "She's wanted to get Yusuke and
Kuwabara since it started."
"They're not invited." Green eyes finally flicked up to him and Hiei sneered. "I'm not bringing those idiots along for the ride."
"Eat," Hiei nodded. "We'll go when you're done."
The demon wasn't listening at all, and Kurama pushed his chair back, eyes wild. "I can't! You don't seem to get it. I can't move, Hiei. It gets so bad I can
barely crawl to the bathroom!"
The kitsune's face was flushed, and Hiei couldn't tell if it were from embarassment or anger. At least he didn't look so sickly pale. "Then I'll have to drag you.
The dream showed a sling, some thick cloth." Kurama was shaking his head, but he ignored it, finishing off his tea. "Could be a blanket."
His mouth opened to argue, but the words locked in his throat as a knot of pain blossomed on his side. It worked its way up so quickly that he bolted out of the
chair, knocking it aside. He shouldn't have stayed in the kitchen so long. One hand clenched over his waist and he turned away from Hiei's startled
expression, his eyes locking in a blur on the stairs. This bout was working its way straight for his head and he stumbled in something of a blind rush. Carpet
registered under his palm, then a new pain sparked in his shoulder as he was turned too quickly. "Don't-"
Hiei jerked back as bloodshot eyes blazed up at him, but they were hidden quickly. Kurama's hands flew to his head as he curled on the stairs, knees drawing
up close to his chest. Leaning back on his heels, Hiei glared. The kitsune was shivering again, but this time he knew the reason. And once again he had a
horrible urge to leave. He didn't want to see this, and Kurama obviously didn't want anyone to see him like this. Hiei's gaze moved to the top of the stairs. He
was sure Kurama had been aiming for his bedroom. He didn't really see how a change in location would help, but it would be better than waiting it out here.
Kurama let out a garbled sound when he moved him onto his back, and Hiei clenched his teeth. If he'd had trouble listening to the kitsune before, being this
close was much worse. And the moan that broke past those curled arms made his stomach lurch. He knew it wouldn't kill him if he moved him. Whoever was
causing this didn't want Kurama dead, at least not until he was in the Makai. That didn't make it any easier, though. Hiei moved an arm under Kurama's
shoulders, pausing when the redhead tried to curl onto his side again. He couldn't lift him like that, but a quiet whimper stopped him cold.
Closing his eyes, Hiei eased closer until the kitsune was half curled against him, thick hair pressing into his arm. He was going to have to get over this. He'd
never get Kurama into the Makai if he was afraid to move him. But seeing his friend in pain was one thing, seeing him in pain that he'd caused was completely
different. It hurt. And that infuriated him.
Hiei didn't realize he'd raised his youki until Kurama shivered against him. Opening his eyes, he glared to find that he'd tightened his grip on the redhead's
shoulder. His right hand curled into an angry fist, and he nodded sharply. He was going to move him. Leaning down, he shifted his arm under Kurama's
knees and pulled him closer. His anger blossomed when the kitsune let out a pained groan, but he lifted him silently, making it to his feet. It wasn't until he
turned to climb the stairs that he noticed it, and he froze again, his eyes falling to Kurama's bowed head. He couldn't see it, but there was definitely something
He sank back down quickly, letting Kurama's legs curl on the stairs as he ripped the band off his jagan. The redhead was still shaking against him, but he
managed to ignore it for the moment, concentrating on that odd feeling. There didn't seem to be any visible energy flow, but something was moving past him
and into Kurama. It felt as if a chill wind were sweeping by him, nearly enough to make his skin crawl. His gaze shifted over the air around him as he raised his
energy higher, and he flinched when a hand closed over his arm. "Not now."
Why couldn't he see it? The sensation was stronger now, as if a light misting rain were falling, burning out when it reached the edge of his youki. And it
effected Kurama because he had none? The thought was as strange as the feeling, and he glared at the walls enclosing them. If he were in the open it would
be better. He couldn't raise his energy any more in here without tearing the place apart. That hand shifted to his shoulder, and he glanced down with a
distracted glare. One look at Kurama's face made him flinch with guilt. Those green eyes were so wide they seemed to fill his pale face. "I was taking you
upstairs," Hiei said sharply, wincing at his guilty tone.
"What did you do?" Kurama whispered, his throat dry from the effort not to scream. But he had no urge to do that now. He was numb again, warm and almost
fluid, as if he could melt away. And the sudden absence of pain as so complete his first thought had been that he'd died. The dark shadowy power
surrounding them caught his eye, and he stared in disbelief. "You stopped it with your youki alone?"
The fact that Kurama was no longer shivering finally registered in Hiei's mind and he caught himself. He'd nearly dropped his youki when his attention shifted,
but he could still feel that force around them pressing down. "It's still there," he frowned, glancing down again. The kitsune wasn't moving, but he didn't seem
to be in any pain. "You don't feel it?"
"Feel?" Kurama closed his eyes, taking a deep breath as he ran a hand over his forehead. "It doesn't hurt, I just feel...heavy."
"That's-" That wasn't what he'd meant, but Hiei didn't finish, his brows drawing together in a dark glare. This meant he could move him, ward off the attacks.
And it was almost certainly part of the plan to get Kurama into the Makai. "I'm taking you upstairs." Dazed green eyes turned on him and he nodded, shifting
Kurama against him again. The redhead moved an arm over his shoulder and he raised an eyebrow at the cooperation. It was hard to believe this was the
same stubborn kitsune who'd put up a fuss over being supported in the hall. "Are you feeling sane?"
"Mm?" His eyes were so heavy it was hard to open them, and Kurama had to fight to keep a smile off his lips. "Sane. I can't remember the last time my mind
was this clear. I had no idea the absence of pain could be so close to pure pleasure."
Hiei's raised eyebrow twitched before arcing even higher. "You sound like you're drunk," he muttered, giving the kitsune a strange look. A quiet laugh
answered him, and he nearly stumbled when Kurama hid his face against his neck, muffling the sound in his scarf. It had to be the youki. If that were the
case, he had no reason to destroy the kitsune's rest. It would be a lot easier to get Kurama to the Makai if he were unconscious. And Hiei knew he wouldn't
be able to keep his youki raised indefinitly. Kurama had said the attacks came and went. He'd just have to count on this one ending before he wore himself
out, or they wouldn't get very far. "Don't fall asleep till I get you to your bed."
Silky hair brushed his cheek as the kitsune nodded, and Hiei tilted his head away, sending a disgruntled look down at Kurama. He almost preferred the
stubborn behavior more than this sort of cooperation.
* * *