Author's Note - So this is unedited, therefore if you find any grammar trouble, please let me know, and it's rather short... I know, I know. I'm sorry, but I wanted to get you guys something. I went on vacation for a week sans laptop, hence my tardiness.

Anyway, onward to a shiny new chapter 3.

Shadow Dreaming

A Calm Before the Storm

Getting himself off the ground in the next ten minutes proved to be the hardest task Kazuma had ever taken in his entire existence. Not even going up against Risho barely able to stand, completely drained of energy, and nursing a few broken ribs while more daunting, wasn't as difficult. Granted there was a Yukina present and it was kind of a life or death situation. This was just hard. Not to mention the fact that it would be totally inessential were it not for an irate fire demon having just threatened to kick his head into next Tuesday unless he got his "worthlessly, heavy bulk off the ground." Between the percussion studio rehearsing behind his eyeballs and the medicine singing a lullaby to his legs, it was hard even finding the strength of will to get up. His only saving grace was the fact that Hiei, in all his disgruntlement at having to deal with a headache, was too preoccupied cursing the pathetically low-tolerance of lazy, bullheaded ningen while gathering his belongings around their makeshift camp to pay him much attention after delivering the aforementioned threat.

It was as Kuwabara was half-heartedly swatting the dirt off his trousers that a bandaged hand decided to appear just below his nose holding a handful of what looked like wild black berries.

"Eat."

A terse command but one Kuwabara had no qualms with obeying, especially considering the loud growl his stomach decided to unleash right at that moment.

"Thanks," he mumbled, taking the offering with much gusto and promptly the cosuming the morsels once Hiei had turned his back to stamp out the fire.

The redhead exhaled deeply, the small puff of air visible in the autumn chill, after inhaling the small meal suddenly invigorated with energy and the desire to return home. Of course first there was the matter of seeing what Urameshi wanted. The mazuku's home was closer than the Kuwabara residence anyway, so he might as well see what the punk wanted.

But first…

In the few moments it took Kuwabara to down the entirety of the fruit, Hiei had begun walking the direction of the city.

"Uh… Hiei?"

"Hn."

The small demon didn't stop to acknowledge the call of his name, so Kuwabara jogged to catch up with the apparition.

"How's your uh…?"

His voice drifted off, uncertain on how to broach the subject of the fire demon's obvious discomfort, if a previously bleeding eyeball can be named something as mild as a discomfort. It was really none of his business. At least, that's what Hiei would have said a couple of years ago, but after the incident, which he is not blushing about, the other night, he wasn't so sure.

"My what?"

Kuwabara gulped at the snipped inquiry. Come on, Kuzuma, you're a real man remember!

"Your eye? I was wondering if it was okay."

At this Hiei suddenly stopped walking, back rigid, hands in pockets, head down. Kuwabara had to stop as well to turn at look at the Jaganshi. The demon grins into his scarf.

"You needn't concern yourself."

And he began walking forward again. It wasn't until he came level with Kuwabara that the human teen found his voice again.

"Wh- But, Hiei-"

"I said you needn't concern yourself, human."

A bandaged hand took hold of Kuwabara's, and the world around them faded to the shock and confusion of both fighters only to be replaced by a shared dream fast.

Little five-year-old Kuwabara plays with a child ghost in the safety of his room. Hiei sits in an over-sized tree branch overlooking a young ice maiden at play with the surrounding wildlife. A younger Kazuma sits alone in a park swing afraid to interact with a group of children nearby. A baby bundle drops over the edge of a floating glacier. Hiei trains with Shigure in a makai clearing, his head tightly wrapped in fresh bandages. Teenage Kuwabara sits at his desk writing in an old, worn journal before tucking it away into a warded bag. A shared kiss on the front doorstep of an unsuspecting Kuwabara.

They both blinked and the vision drifted away as a sigh on the wind.

Hiei stumbled backwards a few steps while Kuwabara mentally slapped himself with his spirit flyswatter.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. What-"

"I see you've decided to play, Kuwabara," said Hiei, a single fang peeking out from between smirking lips. The jagan glows beneath its bandana.

"Hold on a sec, Hiei. I don't think-"

"Until next time, human."

And the apparition disappeared, leaving with only the farewell of a phantom touch against the bare skin at the back of Kuwabara's neck. He'd rationale off the shudder that coursed down his spine to the brisk air, wholly denying it had anything what so ever to do with the warm touch of a fire demon's fingertips over one of his more sensitive areas.

1234

It took him about twenty minutes to get to Urameshi's flat. Not bad, considering, but it would have probably been a hell of a lot faster if he had been up to his full strength. It was now full twilight out with the sun closer to setting than anything else. Kuwabara actually shivered in the cold as he knocked on Yusuke's front door. He was not expecting to be out past sunset when he dressed this morning, and he certainly wasn't expecting to be knocked unconscious for the majority of the day.

"Well it's about damn time, Kuwabara! Get your ass in here!"

Yusuke, sporting a heavy bandage across his head, might as well have been an infomercial for every possible assortment of Band-Aid when he opened the door. It would have been a feat indeed for anyone to hold back laugh at the sight. Kuzuma, for all his self-restraint, managed to restrict himself to a light chortle.

"What the hell happened to you, Urameshi?"

"Two words: Kurama and a Frying Pan."

"That's five words…"

"Whatever," scoffed the brunette ushering Kuwabara into the living room. "You try remembering how to count after trying to cook an egg, put it back in its shell and then eat it upside-down in from of the child from the black lagoon, and I will have you know that Kurama, for all his knowledge of plants and herb and crap, sucks a frying an egg."

Kuwabara winced. Yusuke gagged.

"Anyway," continued Yusuke. "What happened to you? Last I heard from Hiei you were out cold."

"Yeah, damn demon decided to try and take a bite out of me. Nothing deadly, just wickedly draining. Then Hiei goes and shoves some sort of medicine down my throat and the next thing I know I'm dreaming about-"

He cut himself off with a violent shake of his head as his face turns scarlet.

Yusuke quirked an eyebrow.

"Oh! And what might you have been dreaming about? You didn't have a wet dream while Hiei was watching, did ya?"

"Eww, ill! Gross!" Both hands vigorously waving the denial. "Heck no! I don't even know man. Between the poison and whatever that medicine stuff was, let's just say it did something screwy with my brain."

That's my story and I'm sticking to it, he finished to himself.

"Which means, by the way," he continues pointing an accusing finger at Urameshi. "…That I haven't eaten since this morning and I'm starving. Do got any food around this place."

"If you say so, man" laughs Yusuke. The brunette rose from his seat. "Let's see what I have around the place. Don't be surprised if all you get is ramen."

"Knowing you, I'd be surprised if you even had that," said the redhead as Yusuke disappeared to rummage through his own kitchen.

Kazuma lets himself fall heavily back into the couch cushions, congratulating himself on such a smooth cover-up and hoping that Keiko did some kind of grocery shopping recently, lest Yusuke bring him back a jar of peanut butter and nothing else.

Amazingly, it would seem she had as Yusuke returns bearing a plate full of small, delicately decorated sandwiches only a loving chef could have organized. Who'd of thought Yusuke Urameshi, number 1 punk of Sariaski Junior High, would one day learn how to wield any kind of cooking utensil for anything other than violence? Certainly not Kuwabara, but he wasn't about to complain. Clearly as the plate barely touch the coffee table's surface before the morsels started to disappear from the porcelain.

Yusuke looked on in smug satisfaction, trying to stifle a laugh and noting how the redhead ate like a man dying of hunger in a nutrient depleted void.

"Hungry much?" he asked once Kuwabara began to slow down.

"Well, I said I hadn't eaten all day."

"Really, because from this angle it looked as though you hadn't eaten in a week."

Kuwabara grunted, taking a sip of water before moving onto why exactly he was pigging out on Urameshi's food stores in the first place.

"So what did you want to talk to me about anyway, Urameshi?"

"Oh right. Well, Genkai's wanting all of us to go down to the shrine over the next couple of days. I know you've got exams coming up, but do you think you can swing it?"

"Uh, yeah, I guess," mumbled Kuwabara, scratching his chin. "But why'd you have to have me come over here to tell me that? You could've just told me that over the phone."

"Because," scoffed Yusuke. "I need you to help me with something while we're there, okay. There's something I've been meaning to do, and it's about time I just do it, but I need you…" Urameshi pointed a figure directly at Kuwabara's nose. "…to make sure Keiko is preoccupied while I do it."

"Me distract Keiko?"

The redhead pursed his lips and squinted suspiciously at the demon across from him.

"You're not trying to sneak back into demon world, are you?"

"No! Look!"

Yusuke grabbed Kuwabara by the shoulder, leaning in close to whisper his conspiracies into the carrot-top's ear. Kuzuma can only listen in two parts rapture, three parts delight.

1234

Hiei retreated to Genkai's. It was the safest place to go. He debated on going to Kurama's, but foxes unlike cats, more often than not, manage to survive their reckless bouts of curiosity, whereas the old hag wouldn't ask any strange questions. The only question she did ask was, "What happened to you, dimwit?"

And here he thought that nickname was only reserved for the detective.

Anyway, after initial greetings, Genkai set him up in the spare room she offered wandering apparitions. Of course, that room came with the threat that if any needy lost souls passed through while he was there, he butt would have to find some other place to stay until they left. Understandable. He was actually betting on the off chance that he'd have a… warmer place to sleep within the next week.

"Hn."

No matter. Hiei wasn't planning on staying with the old bat that long anyway. So long as this game turned in his favor, Hiei would be willing to bet his Jagan that he'd be out of the old hag's hair in less than a week, but if that was going to happen…

Hiei hissed as he pulled the bandana from his forehead and immediately winced at the sight that greeted his natural eyes. The skin around his Jagan was puffy and red, small blisters lined the edge of the eye's lid. The eye itself was bloodshot and off color. Rather than its usual vibrant purple shade, the iris had turned a pale blue, almost gray in the centermost rings. Not that he could see the iris that well as the lid refused to open more than a centimeter.

Raising his left hand to his forehead, Hiei pulsed demon energy over the wound in a rhythm of varying temperatures from a pleasant hot to a gently numbing cold similar in the way humans treat their injuries. He would continue this for several minutes in front of the mirror before wrapping his head in gauze and dragging himself onto the futon to lie still with his hand still circulating energy into the jagan.

The pain of his headache started to ease, but still the eye throbbed angrily under the attentions of his energy.

Damn!

"I can't believe he was able to cause this much damage in such a short amount of time."

If he'd known getting into Kuwabara's head would prove so costly, he would have tried a different approach. By the looks of this he wouldn't be able to properly play the game until the end of the week, but no matter. The task was done, and it shouldn't take too long for his Jagan to heal. Though perhaps, he shouldn't attempt to look into the psychic's brain again anytime soon while the man was awake. Even then, it would probably be best to approach with caution. No telling what kind of defenses the child must have learned to implement while asleep. Of course, this was still Kuwabara he was taking about, and it was more the like that the fool was still innocently ignorant of just how dangerous the creatures lurking in the dark can be, meaning any defenses his abilities place about him would be instinctual and subconsciously placed and therefore volatile.

Hiei breathed out slowly, allowing his hand to fall onto the mattress and his eyes to slide shut.

Hibernation. It was always the best means for him to regain his energy. He can worry about winning this game once he woke up from a rejuvenating slumber. He only hoped, as he drifted off, that the old lady wouldn't kick him out of bed before he woke.

1234

"Taidaima," called Kuwabara stepping onto the threshold. He peeled off his coat and made to hang in on the coat rack when his foot nudged something.

"Eh!" he exclaimed, squinting through the darkness to the floor.

Lying upside-down next to the welcome mat was a small ceramic tea cup about the size of his palm. He bent over and picked up the gray piece of kitchenware.

"It's broken," he said, noting the crack splitting the rim. He was about to turn it over in his hand when the damn thing started to wiggle before promptly hopping out of his hold to scurry away on a pair of stubby little legs, kick open a nearby floor vent, and disappear into the walls of the house. The grate fell shut with again with a click.

"What the..!"

He knelt down and pulled open the grate to peer in.

"Oi! Get back here!"

Something moved in the shadow of the duct. Kazuma reached a hand into the opening, his fingertips just brushing against the smooth plating of the cup before…

"Kazuma, what are you doing?"

Kuwabara snapped up to standing with a loud gaffing laugh.

"Oh, I was just dusting underneath the vent, here. Nothing to worry about, Yukina-san."

"Okay…"

Kuwabara nearly collapsed back onto the carpet in relief as Yukina turned back around, throwing an "Oyasumi" over her shoulder, to head upstairs. With nothing to be found upon a brief inspection of the vent, the teenager replaced the grate and trudged a path to mimic the koorime. Falling into bed, he couldn't help but wonder on what exactly that little teacup had been. Ghost, apparition, or possibly demon?

Surely there had to be something on running teacups somewhere. Maybe in his grandmother's journal?

He told himself never mind More than likely it wasn't dangerous, and something told him he would be seeing the little thing again sometime soon. In the meantime, he would just have to wait and see and maybe do a little research on what exactly that creature was. After he finished his studies for final examinations, that is.

And so he set his head against his pillow and brought an end to his day.

Of course there was still one thought bouncing around in his head as he drifted off to sleep: What on earth was going on with Hiei?

TBC

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