*looks over the chapter*


I missed you too.

Stolen Precious

Chapter Thirteen

There was anxiety in the air and it was heavy on the lungs.

Two days had passed since their departure from the village where Shizuka died. A few conversations would be half-heartily attempted but it quickly died with the stifling, oppressive atmosphere. It was a relief to be out of the wretched village though. As expected, Shizuka had no family to speak of and it was discovered that in life she was actually quite recluse. The villagers took the tale sadly but in a manner of sadness that comes from sympathetic albeit unattached bystanders. Inuyasha and Susumu had not been around when the news was delivered in order to make their departure from the village as clean and hasty as possible. It would be better to have the townsfolk believer the poor woman died from a heart attack during the night then for them to grow suspicious of the beings with demon-blood in their veins.

Kagome and the other humans apologized extensively for having to leave but the towns people were not outwardly insulted and assured that the old woman's body would be taken care of; her soul properly sent off. Nonetheless, a few of them noticed the strange glances shot their way and Inuyasha could pick up whisperings of conspiracy theories on the wind.

They left in a hurry.

Kagome felt terribly for it but had uncharacteristically kept her mouth shut about her desire to be at the memorial service or to do anything else that would somehow relieve this guilt. Telling the story of a heart attack while the vision of blood gurgled out of Shizuka's eyes in her mind had not been an easy thing to do. However it was the knowledge that another attack could be on the way, and for the boy a few yards in front of her, which perpetuated Kagome forward with a false smile on her lips.

Inuyasha certainly worried her more. Not just for his future well-being but also because presently, he didn't seem to be holding up well. He hadn't eaten a thing since Shizuka's death. It was true that the memories were painfully fresh, the images still haunting their every move, but Kagome had a nipping feeling that a day or two of fasting would soon become longer. Inuyasha also wouldn't speak unless spoken to with a question that couldn't be answered with just a shrug or a movement of the head. And he wasn't sleeping, of what Kagome could see. Instead, every night after dinner, his plate cool and untouched, with everyone tucked in and starting to nod off, Inuyasha would walk off into the forest. Kagome once waited up for hours and he never returned. Before she had succumbed to slumber, Kagome's watch said Two. They were always woken up by him in the morning and another day's travel would begin.

It was almost like the days of memories, except with silence instead of arguments and there were certainly more members to the group.

Nothing had been said yet about their destination. Sesshomaru was leading them while in the shadows, that much was certain. And that was all.

Sure, it had been asked. But only once.

The morning after they had left the village, and Inuyasha held true to his promise that they would "be getting up early", the human members of the gang made their inquiries. With the sky still dark, firelight flickered bleakly on Inuyasha's features when he tried to come up with an answer.

He appeared to be in physical pain and Kagome felt an ache swell up inside her while watching him struggle. Everyone else noticed too. It had been the first real show of emotion on Inuyasha's face since before he had vomited at the sight of the old woman's demise. And it would be the last.

The hanyou's lower lip was gnawed on between his teeth and a bead of blood welled up on the fragile flesh. Susumu met his almost pleading glance and shrugged to his unvoiced question. It was the kind of shrug Kagome was accustomed to seeing her mother do; the parental 'it's-up-to-you' shrugs. Inuyasha then had wearily exhaled and licked his lips, thankfully wiping away the wound he had caused.

"Just get ready to go, please. I…I don't want to talk about it right now." His voice had been hoarse and threatened to crack under some pressure the group could feel but couldn't understand.

Shippo had been the only brave or perhaps dim-witted one, to voice out a timid: "But--!"

Inuyasha's expression then had congealed their resolve to never bring it up again. The fierceness of it, of anger and a desperate beg to accept the condition and move on, oh please, had been so terrible and so real that their tongues were paralyzed to the rim of their teeth. Never had such a thing been showed on that face before. And really, they didn't want to see it again. The vulnerability of it, the desperation, was somehow worse and more uncomfortable to look at then the blatant fear he had expressed after the initial full-blown amnesia.

And so, here they walked, unknowing of where they would end up.

Kagome watched Inuyasha's rigid back as he, once again, rubbed his temples.

"Are you alright?" Susumu asked in a low tone.

Inuyasha grunted, massaging the constant throb in his brain. "It's just a headache."

Susumu was visibly concerned for it wasn't normal for demons, or hanyous alike, to get migraines but he changed the subject instead of questioning more. However, it did remind him eerily of when the boy was a youngster. His words were ominous. "We are almost there."

"Yeah." Inuyasha squeezed his eyes shut. "Will they be alright?"

Susumu looked over his shoulder at the gaggle of humans trotting behind them. "Sesshomaru said it was a human village. They should be fine. They can even help us search for information while we are there. And if nothing turns up, staying in the village should be okay while we head out into the more…dangerous territory."

Inuyasha sighed, nodding absent-mindedly. "How much longer?"

Both of them stopped when a sudden flash of wind swirled through the area. Sesshomaru was suddenly in the middle of their path, eyes stoned set. Inuyasha scowled, patting back a burst of pain that flared up from the wind's noise. Pansy show-off.

"We are here." Inuyasha narrowed his eyes at his demon brother, simply not happy with the guy, and when he did so needles trickled into the area behind his eyes. In the background, behind the abrupt buzzing in his ears, Inuyasha heard Miroku ask, "There is nothing here."

The grass was losing its color; fading into gray dots. Inuyasha swallowed a small moan.

Sango looked around the muddy hills and sporadically placed trees. "Is this what you meant? How will this area help us find the cure?"

"Are we supposed to stick his empty head in mud or something?" Shippo muttered to himself.

Sesshomaru did not look pleased with the questions. "This is our destination." His lips were parted to say more when he was interrupted by Inuyasha collapsing to his knees.

The humans called out his name in shocked concern. The hanyou's shoulders were trembling ever so slightly and his hands were clenched deep into the earth. Sesshomaru was thrown back into the past and remembered how the boy had done the same thing that night when he saved Rin from falling into a puddle. Unease bubbled up in the pit of his stomach. The demon then randomly noticed that Susumu was not next to Inuyasha like the humans were, demanding if he was alright; shaking his shoulder. Instead he was staring at the hanyou with a troubled expression, haunted.

"Inuyasha?" Sesshomaru looked back and saw that he was getting back up to his feet. Inuyasha did so in a strange manner, with his arms hanging limply at his sides. White bangs concealed his amber eyes. "Inuyasha?" Kagome timidly quipped again. Inuyasha ignored her and started walking in Sesshomaru's direction in a bumbling, almost drunken way.

The unease hardened, tensed. When Inuyasha was at Sesshomaru's side, he straightened and Sesshomaru saw the hanyou's face. His face was deathly pale, his lips thinned and parted, but what made Sesshomaru tense was the purple tributary of veins which fanned out from Inuyasha's temples. The capillaries in Inuyasha's eyes seemed filled to burst as well. Sesshomaru's muscles tightened to flinch, but he controlled the urge, when Inuyasha's clouded amber eyes flickered up to meet his. He was looking right through him.

Softly, air whispered through his lips. "Hush now my baby…be still now…don't cry…" Inuyasha walked past him, his steps now stable and determined. Sesshomaru doubt the humans could hear but he could very distinctly make out the breathy lullaby still lilting on the air. He was heading towards a patch of trees. It was a strange random clumping in the middle of the sloped valley. Inuyasha held out an arm as he neared the trunks.

Susumu's bark was loud and disturbing. "Follow him!"

Everyone complied. Sango talked evenly while she ran, "What's wrong with him?"

Susumu shook his head. "I can't explain it to you. Just don't lose track of him."

"What? What are you talking about? What's going on here? He's not going any—" Shippo ate his tongue when Inuyasha finally touched the bark of one tree. The leaves shook in reaction, the wood rippled out of place, transforming into a liquid-looking state, and then Inuyasha was walking straight through into the mass, disappearing. "What the heck!?"

Susumu quickened his pace, "Hurry! Before it closes!" He grabbed on to the fluttering edge of Inuyasha's haori sleeve, right before it disappeared along with the rest of him, and then held out his own hand towards Sango. The taijiya understood what needed to be done, gripped his hand, and subsequently wrapped her fingers around Miroku's. And down the line it went, following each other through the melting trees.

Rin peered up at Sesshomaru, alight with trepidation. Jakken was pulling at her kimono and growing frustrated, "Hurry, girl! Before we get stuck!"

Sesshomaru met her gaze squarely, bent his knees, and gently held her hand. The little girl's face flushed from the exuberant smile which pulled up at the sight of her lord's regal fingers wrapped around hers. She gave one firm nod and gave in to Jakken's pull. Sesshomaru was right behind her.

The darkness seemed a little different. He couldn't put his finger on it. His friend appeared the same, naturally, but the tugging it exuded on him was a little stronger than normal; a little bit more controlling. He didn't know where he was going; simply that he knew how to get there. Or rather, the darkness knew how. It was pulling him there. Forcefully.

The music was so loud. The singing and the buzzing were wracking his mind and making it near impossible to think. Usually when the darkness came to take him away, it released him from pain, filling him with drugging calmness. This time was…a little different. His headache persisted; the music just making it worse.

He was stuck in a rhythmic circle of throbbing hurt and he knew that while he was stuck in it, the darkness was taking his body wherever it darn well pleased to take it. Colors and flashes of images twisted around in his vision. Nothing to grasp on to. At one point, he saw his hand touching what looked like blurry tree bark. The darkness shivered. The lullaby hissed an octave louder. He was swirling around and around in browns and greens and blues.

In the noise, in the colors, he had the notion that he should probably fight against this. His good friend wasn't acting how it had in the past. But when that notion surfaced into his conscious realm of thought, a terrible screech ripped him in two and momentarily froze the workings of his brain. The screech pulsed higher, quieter, higher again, and then it drizzled away when the darkness knew he wouldn't fight anymore.

Writhing in phantom pain, frightened of the possibility that the horrible screech would come back again, he lost track of all his senses. He drowned in the black.

He drowned. Until he felt the ghostly fingers tearing and shaking the darkness' shoulders. No. His shoulders. His body. Right? His good friend had never taken his body before. Wait. What was going on here?

He questioned the darkness and was given no answer. In their meetings before, his friend would give him a taste of apology or of assurance. This time, he could feel a metallic tang of...of danger. There was still something shaking his, yes his, they were his shoulders and it was making the darkness frustrated. The screeching returned, amplified by the woman's lullaby. Loud. Loud. LOUD! He fought. He fought as best as he could. He needed to get control again. He didn't know how the darkness got control but somehow he needed…to get it…BACK!

Something changed. The screeching left. The danger had dissolved. Darkness clawed around, angry, but was losing its hold. As it completely left, he almost, almost heard an audible growl underneath the receding buzz.

He fell into himself and felt the full brunt of the claws tearing into his shoulders. Inuyasha winced when they were detached. He blinked rapidly and the swirling colors realigned together to form Sesshomaru's fierce face.

Right before his eyes, the veins threatening to pop right out of Inuyasha's flesh sunk away and the cloud in his amber orbs cleared. His little brother blinked up at him, tense lines of pain around his brows. "Sesshomaru? What…happened?" He touched a hand to his head and as if his fingers touching skin were a cue, Inuyasha's knees buckled.

Sesshomaru effectively caught him, no trouble at all. Susumu was at the hanyou's side as well and he answered, "You showed us the door." Inuyasha' head lolled forward but he quickly righted it.

"Door?" He mumbled. Inuyasha then realized what their surroundings were.

Cobbled walkways beneath his feet. Ornately designed houses all along the sides. It was obviously a place which enjoyed financial benefits. At one time. Dust was whistling up from the ground. Boards were nailed across windows and shingles were missing on the rooftops.

But that wasn't what was making Inuyasha's eyes widen.

It was the fact that they were surrounded by humans.

And they were on their knees, bowing.

Hesitantly, an old crotchety man, hunched painfully over upon a staff, came into the circle. A tall young man, broad shoulders, stiff jaw, was at his side, helping him to walk but the old man quickly shooed him away. When the old man's narrowed eyes, being drowned by wrinkled skin, saw Inuyasha, a smile bloomed upon his face.

A pang of pain touched Inuyasha's temple and then quickly left.

It was a sad smile. The old man was sad to see him. But also pleased enough to smile. Inuyasha knew.

The old man bowed his head reverently and then lifted a hand to behold the hanyou before him.

"Hello, Inuyasha. Son of the late Princess Izayaoi. It is so good to see you again."

AN: Yyyyyeaaaaaaaaah. *shruggs again*