A pitch black sky loomed over the building, clouds too dark to see congealing in the dry air and blotting out the stars.  He could see those clouds if he wanted.  
One thought, one twinge as the eye focused, and he could see every detail of those clouds, even through them to the stars.  The sight was tinted with a
grayish green and the view was...different.  He could see behind him without turning his head.  He could look down, focus, and track the progress of the hard
insect-like creature creeping over the sand at the edge of the lot.  

Yukina might have known the name of that creature.  Hiei had never seen anything like it.  

He tugged the view back, pulled it inward, and directed it down through the cement at his feet.  There were people moving in the halls below.  He could see
them, too.  They were genderless shadows only a little paler than the dead structures around them.  He didn't know how to make his focus any sharper than
that.  For now.  

The voice in his head had told him it was too soon to fully use what was available to him.  The potential was there, but his body wasn't mature enough to
handle it.

His head throbbed, a sharper twinge, and the vision wavered and died.  He'd seen enough, anyway.

He was standing on the roof of a hospital in a place he'd never been before.  The land was dry and barren past the buildings, despite how cool the night wind
felt.  

Sand.  A desert?  He'd never seen a map.  He didn't need a map to know the house was far from here.  What little green spotted the landscape looked nothing
like the trees and grass he'd known in the past.  Everything out there was dangerous somehow.  It would be more dangerous in the town, though.  He was glad
for the moonless night.  Hopefully no one would see him jump down from the roof.  He knew he could jump.  Just like he'd done from his window, only this time
he wouldn't forget how he'd landed.

He'd thought he could walk out the front doors at first, but he wasn't strong enough.  There was a limit to how many people he could control.  Four.  The doctor
he'd forced to remove the stitches when the man had walked in to find him tearing the eye open.  The man he'd stolen the coat and weapon from, who'd been
standing outside his room with a gun, a sword on his hip, and a silver ensigna on his hat.  The old man with the cart of sheets, who'd spotted him in the hall.  
And the woman behind the desk who'd looked Yukina up on her computer and confirmed everything the voice had said.  

None of them would remember him.  Even when others eventually went into his room and saw the empty bed, those four would be sure they saw him lying
there, still sleeping.  As long as no one else saw him, no one would know he was gone.  Just like he'd convinced the man that Yukina didn't exist, he'd
controlled those four, letting them see only what he wanted them to see.

The voice was right.  He didn't need to know how he did it, or where the power came from.  He'd known immediately that he could.  That was enough.  For now.

He'd woken in a dream, a dark dream where someone spoke to him in his own voice.  His voice, but deeper somehow, more powerful, as if he were older than
he was.  

He hadn't decided yet if he actually believed that voice was him, the part of him he'd forgotten when he and Yukina first found themselves alone in the trailers
with no memories of their past.  Maybe something had happened back then and he'd locked part of himself away.  Maybe the pain and the horror of seeing
Yukina kill had woken that part of him back up.  Or maybe it had always been awake, watching through his eyes and waiting, waiting for him to sleep so deeply
it would be able to talk to him.  

Hiei hadn't decided what he thought of it.  It was enough that he knew the voice was real, as real as the eye.

He'd seen the eye in the mirror when he'd torn the stitches wide enough to glimpse what they were holding closed.  He'd seen it better after he'd used it to
force the doctor to remove those stitches for him.  It was a real eye, as wide as his natural eyes. But it was dark blue, no eyelashes, and it glowed when he
used it to do things.  Purple, when he'd controlled the doctor.  Pale green, when he'd used it to see things his normal eyes couldn't see.  And bloody red, when
he'd used it too much.  The edges bled until the eye filled over and leaked down his face.  Colored water on a window.

Now he knew why Yukina had snapped in the end, so horrified by the sight of him.  They'd locked eyes.  Only his had been a single bloody eye staring out of
the center of his forehead.

Yukina was gone.  The voice had told him that, of course.  Someone had taken her away from him while he slept.  The voice had taunted him with that, urging
him to wake up before they took her so far away he'd never find her.  Because Hiei wouldn't be able to find her the way the voice had before.

How had it found her before?  With the eye?  And before what?  Before he'd forgotten everything in his past but Yukina and the dangers lurking outside their
trailers?  

He didn't like that voice.  Whether it was a part of him or not, he didn't like it.  It knew things it refused to explain.  It spoke of Yukina as if it had as much right
as Hiei to say her name.  And it had promised him that he would be stronger, strong enough to protect Yukina - no, enough to protect anyone he wanted to
protect.  But it hadn't told him when he would get that strength or how he'd gained power his body was too weak to use.  It hadn't explained to him what the
point was, why it was better to wake up and try again, rather than admitting defeat and letting it all go.

What was the point of finding Yukina now, when he wasn't strong enough to protect her?  He was stronger, but not so much that things wouldn't simply happen
the same way again.  And that would hurt her again.  What was the point?

He could die again for her.  It felt like he'd died.  If that voice hadn't annoyed him so much he woke up just to get away, he thought he might have stayed
dead.  He could do it again, die in her place again, but what was the point of it?  Seeing him in that room had hurt her more than anything the man could have
done to her.  She'd killed.  For him.  If he did it again, she would do it again.  They were the same.  She wouldn't let him be hurt any more than he would let her
be hurt.  They'd only hurt themselves, hurt each other trying to protect each other.  Pointless.

Hiei didn't know how she'd done it.  The voice hadn't explained beyond a knowing mutter about females maturing faster.  Something must have woken in her
like it had in him, something stronger, colder, merciless.  And using that had broken her.  Yukina didn't remember anything, not even him.

The voice had warned him of that.  No, the voice had taunted him with that, as if anything it said could hurt him more than his own guilt.  Hiei didn't want to
believe it, but the woman with the computer had told him the same thing.

Amnesia, she'd called it.  They'd found Yukina asleep and when she'd woken up, she hadn't remembered her own name.  The woman said they'd told her what
her name was and nothing more.  They'd taken her somewhere, far away, so she'd grow up without ever having to remember.  Hiei had made the woman see
him as a doctor, so she'd spoken to him as if they were friends.

It was the kind thing to do, she'd said, with a sad sigh.  They gave her a new chance at life, a fresh start.  She'd never be connected to the horrible things in
her past.  If God was willing, the boy would forget it all, too, if he ever came out of his coma.  Such terrible goings on.

Hiei had left the woman then.  Her records didn't name the people who'd taken Yukina, or tell where they'd gone with her.  All she'd known was that it was a
nice man with a daughter Yukina's age.  She hadn't actually met the man, but the nurses had been talking about him.

A handsome man, a bit old, but very polite.  He must have come from money, the way he'd whisked that poor bewildered girl away from those vultures.  Waiting
to question her?  Honestly.  The only crime there was against those kids, so it didn't matter how that monster had died.  And the way they'd found the wife?  
Horrible, terrible goings on.

Hiei learned that Yukina had been taken from the hospital over a week ago.  He didn't know how he could have slept for so long.  It was no wonder the voice
had been so frustrated and urgent.  She could be anywhere by now.  The most important thing to the voice was finding her.  Hiei agreed to a point.  

He had to know she was safe.  He just wasn't sure if he wanted her to know he'd found her.  If she saw him, she might remember.  Things could happen the
same way again.  She was caring, but Hiei didn't think she'd care so much as to kill for a stranger.  He'd find her as a stranger.  It was better that way.

He didn't know how to find her.  He wasn't strong enough to do anything if he did find her.  He'd think about finding her later.  What the woman said made him
think people would come looking for him when they discovered he was gone.  They must have thought he'd killed the man.  He wouldn't talk if they found him,
but he'd probably be punished, or sent to a new house where he was watched all the time.  Getting away was the first thing.

Hiei crouched on the edge of the building.  The buildings were strange to him, too close to each other, but not close enough to jump from one roof to the next.  
His legs ached.  The long sleep must have been good for his body, but moving around still hurt.  The thought of landing on the hard ground so far below
should have scared him a lot more than that jump from the window had.  It didn't.  

He was more worried about his clothes blowing off than he was about how he'd land.  He'd woken in some sort of gown that opened in the back.  He'd taken
another of them and put it on backwards over the first.  And the dark coat he'd taken from the man outside his room was long enough to hide what he was
wearing.  He still felt naked.  He wouldn't jump until he was sure no one was within sight of him, but he still didn't like the idea of his clothes blowing up around
his arms.

He'd just shaken off the annoyance when something hit him.  He inhaled it in a dark wave so sudden he choked and stopped breathing.  His chest burned.  
That eye opened and darted away from him, showing him things his glazed eyes couldn't see.  Fear and pain, helpless and broken, and so important to him
that he would have cried out if he could.  Yukina was being tortured.  He was sure of it.  Except it wasn't her.  It didn't matter that he didn't understand, that he
had no one else so important to him he'd feel their pain like this.  There was no time.  He knew it.  He was already too late.

The jump was nothing.  He hit the ground running and filed the memory of the landing away in the back of his mind where it wouldn't surprise and distract him.  
He was going too fast, using too much.  The voice had warned him that he wasn't ready, his body couldn't handle doing so much.  It didn't matter.  He thought
he'd break down later, lose more days in a sleep too deep to dream, and that voice would nag at him for being reckless.  That was fine.  If there was a later,
then that was fine.  Now was more important than later and now he needed to go faster.

He couldn't see the things around him.  That eye had flown off ahead of him, the vision blurring on the edges but sharp and clear in the center.  He followed it
because it knew where he had to go.  He hit nothing as he ran, and he never wondered if someone would see him.  He just knew no one would, no one he
could help.  He was just another shadow flitting in the dark.

Time blurred just like his surroundings.  It took him forever to get there.  That sharp burst of pain had deepened like muffled sobs that hurt so much more.  It
throbbed and pulsed instead of stabbing.  Lingered like a slow death.  So much worse.  And he felt heady, light and weightless.  He'd used too much.  Or
maybe he was just running so fast he'd forgotten he was only human and had to breathe.  He couldn't feel the wind on his face, or his feet hitting the ground.  
He didn't know if he was still breathing.  As long as he kept running, he didn't care if he wasn't.

There were two words in the back of his head, whispered over and over faster than a person could speak.  That voice had told him he wouldn't hear it
anymore once he woke up.  He still wondered if it were the one whispering.

'Don't die.  Don't die.  Don't die.'

He wondered if it were talking to him, or if it was his own mind talking to the person behind that pain.  The lighter he felt, the deeper the pain.  It was fading,
resigned, and swallowing him whole.

'If he gives up before I get there, I'll follow just so I can kill him myself.'

The thought came sharp and fast, more annoyed than worried.  It made no sense, but it was his own thought.  Hiei stumbled in surprise.  He stopped so
suddenly the coat whipped around him and his eyes couldn't focus nearly as quickly as that third one did.  His gaze dropped, centered on wide, tearfilled
eyes.  Then the vision shifted back, returned to its rightful place, and he took in the scene.  They were torturing him.  He was hurting, helpless, and so close to
giving up.  In a moment all of the desperate fear that had driven him died.  Fury took its place.

Minutes that felt like seconds passed in a blink.  Hiei stood in a daze.  There was a sword in his hand.  It felt right, reassuring and right, as if he hadn't just
used one for the very first time.  He didn't remember picking it up, but he knew the memory was stored away in the back of his mind.  Gift of that annoying
voice - it had promised he'd never forget anything ever again.  Blood was dripping off the blade of the sword.  He would have wiped it off, but the blade had
cracked in a few places.  It hadn't been made to cut through bone.  He dropped it and the sound of it clinking against the concrete hurt his ears.

Those frightened eyes were still watching him.  He felt it.  He forced his body into motion, taking a few steps until he was crouched amid the bloody mess he'd
made.

"Will you live?" asked Hiei.

He hadn't meant to ask that.  He didn't know why he had.  He didn't know why he had so much trouble looking at the person he'd saved, either.  Silence
answered him and he forced himself to meet those eyes.  Vivid green.  Glazed with fear and tears.  They hurt to look at.  It was wrong to see him cry.  Just like
Yukina.

"Don't cry," Hiei said quietly.  His voice sounded strained and his throat burned as if he'd been screaming for hours.  He swallowed and kept his gaze latched
onto those eyes.  

The boy was watching him with an expression he didn't recognize.  When he spoke, it was with a whisper every bit as rough as his own.  It was a strong voice,
suspicious but strong, and the boy wiped the back of his hand over his eyes as he spoke.

"Did they send you?"

"No," said Hiei.  He hadn't been sent by anyone, so it didn't matter who 'they' were.

The boy shifted painfully without looking at him.  He was battered and thin, but taller than him.  His clothes were torn, and he was tugging at them, trying to
cover himself up.  Hiei blinked and stepped back.  The boy was practically naked and it was rude to do nothing but stare.  He shrugged off the stolen coat.  It
would probably fit the boy better, anyway.  It had been long enough to nearly trail the ground on him.

"Here," said Hiei, offering the coat.

The boy shot him a sharp look and reached for it.  His hand stopped halfway and he stared at Hiei, looking him over from his head to his feet and lingering on
his bare legs.

"You're bleeding," the boy said, in a quiet voice.

"You're bleeding worse," Hiei frowned.

"That's true," the boy murmured.  He took the coat and pulled it on with a grimace.  "Not all of this is mine, though.  If you hadn't dismembered them, I could
have taken some of their clothes.  And you got blood in my hair."

Hiei's frown darkened into a scowl.  He was glad the boy wasn't crying anymore, but he didn't know what to make of him.  He wasn't about to apologize to him
when he'd been the one doing him a favor.

"It's red," Hiei muttered, scowling at the boy's dark red hair.  "No one will notice."

"I'll notice," the boy said calmly.  He buttoned the coat from the top down and then turned sober eyes on Hiei.  "How old are you?"

The question made Hiei's head hurt.  He was standing a few inches from the upper half of a leg, blood seeping between his toes, and the boy wanted to know
how old he was.

"Nine," said Hiei.  "Why?  It's not safe here and you're hurt.  If you can stand, I'll help you get home."

"Home is the least safe place for me to be," the boy said, still sounding far too calm.  "Even if I wanted to go home, I doubt a nine-year-old would be much help
in getting me back to Japan."

Hiei curled his toes in the muck he was standing in.  He wanted to sit down somewhere dry and free of body parts.  He'd never seen a dead person before,
and he'd already pushed away the memory of having killed them - it could sit in the back of his mind as long as it wanted.  They'd deserved it and that was all
he needed to know.  Now the sight of it was starting to make him sick to his stomach.  Part of that might have been the way his head was pounding, or how his
chest still burned from running so far without breathing.  Whatever the reason, the boy was acting too strange and he couldn't just leave him there.

"We can talk somewhere else," Hiei frowned.  "Can you stand up?  Do you need a doctor?"

"Is there a hospital near here?" the boy asked in response.  "I'd be killing myself if I went to one, but you clearly escaped from one yourself.  What are you
doing here?  Why are you so intent on helping me?"

"Why are you talking like that?" Hiei snapped.  "You were crying a minute ago and now you're sitting there talking like nothing happened.  What's wrong with
you?"

Calm green eyes stared up at him, and Hiei had a sudden urge to take it back.  Those eyes were calm, but they were also so sad they bordered on
devastated.  Wounded and broken, and if he wanted to pretend like he wasn't, then Hiei should let him.  He didn't want to feel the hurt that had driven him here
again.  It couldn't have just disappeared, no one could feel that bad and make it all go away in a minute.  Hiei should be grateful he was forcing it down and
hiding it away.  He didn't want to feel the brunt of anyone's pain again, but especially not this boy's.  Because it hurt like Yukina's had.  And he didn't know how
to handle that.

Hiei dropped his eyes.  "I'm-"

"I'm coping," the boy interrupted.  "I've read about things like this, but I've never experienced it firsthand.  I have two options available to me.  I can break down,
or I can ignore the issue and cope until I'm able to handle it better.  I chose the latter."

Hiei looked at him funny for a second before dropping his eyes again.  It wasn't just his calm and seemingly careless attitude.  It was the way the boy spoke.  
He sounded...too smart for his age, or at least much smarter than any of the adults Hiei had seen.  And he used too many words Hiei had never heard before.  
He frowned and looked back up.

"You're from Japan?" asked Hiei.  The boy nodded, and he let out a sigh of relief.  He switched into Japanese.  "I haven't learned much English.  I was
supposed to start school a year ago, but it never happened."

"I wondered about the accent," the boy admitted, tilting his head with a wry smile.  

This time, Hiei didn't let the seemingly careless behavior bother him.  He gave a nod and stepped closer.

"I can't stay still long," he said quickly.  "It's not safe for you here, either, if people come looking for them."

"It'll be morning before anyone comes here," said the boy.  "They were the only group in this area, ordered to do a thorough all-night search.  That's why they
were taking their time with me."

The boy's eyes darkened and he took a hitching breath, like he were swallowing the urge to cry or gag.  Hiei grimaced.  He wanted out of here.  Now.  But he
didn't know how far he'd be able to go before he collapsed.  If he had to drag the boy along with him, it wouldn't be far at all.

"I can help you," Hiei said, a little too quickly.  "If you can walk, I can help you get somewhere else.  But I can't carry you.  I ran too far to get here.  I don't have
much left."

That third eye wouldn't open.  His head throbbed when he tried to make it.  Besides how tired he was, he also felt sick to his stomach.  He wanted to throw up,
and he had an idea that wouldn't help any.  It wasn't his stomach making him feel like this.  And he didn't think it was the blood, either.  He'd felt that pain from
the boy earlier.  This growing sickness, revulsion, was probably coming from him, too.  In that case, staying here definitely wouldn't help.

The boy sighed and pushed himself to his feet.  His face twisted in discomfort, and he picked his way out of the bloody area without looking down.  "I can walk
anywhere," he said to Hiei, "as long as it's away from them and the people they work for.  The problem is, I don't know where to go, and since I didn't see any
hospitals around here, I doubt you know the area any better than I do.  It's not as if we could ask for directions."

"Somewhere to hide," Hiei frowned.  "Anywhere.  I can find a better place later."

"With that eye?" asked the boy, his tone curious and interested.

Hiei gave a slow nod.  "It found you before I knew what was happening."

It had led him here.  And maybe, if he were closer to Yukina, it would lead him to her as well.  The problem was distance, then, and his own weakness.  The
voice was right.  His body just wasn't ready to be doing these things.  He hated to admit it, but the first step he took for the street outside the alley left him
wavering.  That redhaired boy gave a quiet laugh that reminded him of bells.

"You offered to help me and you can barely walk straight," the boy teased softly.  He pulled one of Hiei's arms up over his shoulders so they were walking
together.  "I'll find someplace to hide for now.  After you rest, you can tell me about this eye of yours.  I found my talent very early, but even I've never heard of
mutants as young and deadly as you."

Hiei glared a little at the help, but he didn't argue with it.  His vision was every bit as blurry as it had been when he was running.  He'd thought that was
because he was moving so fast.  Now he could barely make out the darker ground from the dark air in front of him.

"Mutants?" asked Hiei.

"Mutants," the boy said again, using the english word this time.  He let out another of those whisper soft laughs when Hiei frowned in confusion.  "I'll explain
that later, in exchange for your story.  I'll get around to thanking you, too, later.  I didn't think I'd have a later, and I'm not quite used to it yet."

Hiei didn't respond.  He'd taken for granted that they would have time to talk later.  Maybe he shouldn't have.  It was just...it didn't seem right that he could
have made it to the boy only to have someone find them, separate them, and send them away somewhere.  He was too weak right now to protect them if
someone attacked, and besides keeping them walking in a straight line, the boy didn't seem much stronger at the moment.  They were more likely to be caught
than to find a good place to hide.  And still, he knew they would.  The voice had said he'd find someone to help him get stronger.  He didn't like that voice, but
it had been right about everything so far.  He couldn't think of any other reason he'd have been drawn to the boy from so far away when they'd never even
met.

"What's your name?" asked Hiei.  "I'm Hiei."

"What a bold name," the boy smiled, that softly teasing note back in his tone.  "It suits you.  My name was Shuuichi, but he's dead now.  He died in a car
accident recently.  There are a lot of people in Japan who would be quite upset to find me using his name."

"His?' Hiei frowned.  "Or yours?"

"His," the boy said firmly.  "He's dead, after all."

"So what's your name," Hiei asked.  He was actually scowling a little now.  He didn't want to argue with how the boy chose to 'cope', but this banter was
annoying when he couldn't even see straight.  It wasn't as if he'd asked the boy a troubling question.  Just his name.

"I haven't decided yet," the boy said back, as if he didn't notice Hiei's annoyance.  "What's your favorite mountain in Japan, after Hiei?"

Hiei didn't even try to understand that question.  He sighed and shook his head.  "I don't know of any Japanese mountains.  I've never been there.  I don't
know anyone who has."

"You know me," smiled the boy.  "But that means you don't even know the significance of your own name.  So much room to tease, but you're tired, so I
shouldn't pick at you."

"Good," Hiei sniffed.  "We'll have a better chance hiding if we're quiet."

"Oh, don't misunderstand.  I didn't say I wouldn't pick at you anymore," the boy said brightly.  "I just admitted that I shouldn't."

Hiei glared so hard that his eyes crossed.  He might have growled a little under his breath.  But he wasn't really angry.  It felt normal somehow, to have the boy
playing merry at his expense.  Much better than that first sight of him lain out and devastated.  Anything was better than that.

"You talk too much," Hiei muttered.

"I didn't before," the boy admitted.  "Shuuichi was a certified genius, very quiet and bookish.  He was more of a scientist than a boy, never the sort who'd get
into trouble or risk his neck teasing little mountains so handy with a sword.  No, Kurama has very little in common with him."

Hiei was too tired for this, but he had to ask because the name was strangely familiar to him, "Who's Kurama?"

"That's me," the boy smiled.  "It's not my favorite mountain when it comes to naming purposes, but I heard Hiei was taken."

"You're strange," Hiei stated.

"I'm aware of that," Kurama nodded soberly.  "I talk more to plants than I ever did to humans.  That's something else I'll have to change if I want to make a new
identity for myself.  I might as well start practicing with you."

Hiei blinked dully.  "Practicing what?"

"Talking more, of course."

Hiei shot him a sharp look.  "You already talk too much."

"Really?" asked Kurama, as if he were both pleased and surprised.  "Beginner's luck, I'm sure, but thank you all the same."

Hiei glowered tiredly.  Maybe the voice was wrong.  Even if it was right, it hadn't said anything about finding a partner who would talk his ear off when anyone
else would have been silent and hurting.  At least his stomach wasn't clenching itself into knots anymore.  The more Kurama talked, the less it bothered him.  
In that case, he'd just have to get used to it.  As annoying as the boy was, he still preferred him like this.  His eyes were still far too dark, but at least he was
trying.  He hadn't given up after all.

.-.
TBC


SEQUEL:  Gmen


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