AN: I apologize for the long, long wait with this chapter. Life got busy, what with graduation and more college and such. I also went back over the plot outline for this story and fixed plotholes and gave myself a clearer plot to write. Now, I have also gone over and edited the previous chapters. You need to go reread them as I've added or changed quite a few points. They won't seem major right now, but they will be important later on. You'll also notice a title change. It was something I felt I needed to do and the new title fits the story much better.
Now, I've kept you long enough. Please enjoy.
Chapter Four: Magic-Users
He had expected to find his child in Makai. After all, it only made sense that a kit would be in its home world. It's never so easy is it? That's why he was here, in front of what had been a house in the very recent past. If by 'in front of' one meant 'hiding behind the bushes of the vacant house across the street from invisible men in robes' that is.
Kurama had followed the voice to Ningenkai's England, growing evermore worried as he went. He had made good time, as Makai's landmass was not a mirror of Ningenkai's. It had barely been eighteen hours Makai time, which translated to about ten, Ningenkai time. Too long, he should not have stayed with Hiei but how could he have known that his destination would be so far away?
The Issei sent pictures of the house burning and he had run all the faster to find it. The magic-users had shocked him when he finally stopped his panicked race. He did not want to think too long on why they were there. If they had some hand in the death of the kit's parents…there was a reason yokai tried to stay away from England. No good came from magic-users.
Face pale, he had sunken down to crouch behind the bushes of Number Seven Privet Drive with a tight hold on his energy. Plans and counter-plans flew through his mind, interwoven with the Issei's shrieking. Before anything could be done, or any intelligent plan created, he would have to know more about the situation. He wouldn't do any good rushing in like Yusuke and getting killed. Or worse.
A jerk of his head sent long red hair twisting over his shoulder and the dangerous thoughts from his head. Thoughts like that could wait for later. Absentmindedly, a hand flicked the wayward strands over his shoulders, then froze. Kurama had automatically assumed his human form when he crossed the border near Stonehenge. Perhaps he could…? Yes, that might just work. It had better.
"Excuse me? What's happened?" Several of the Aurors closest to the road looked up to see a young man with very red hair walking up to the crime scene border, looking curiously at the demolished structure.
"And who might you be?" The head of the investigation stood near the demolished entryway.
"I live nearby. Could you please tell me what happened?" The stranger was staring over the auror's shoulder at the site, as if looking for something.
"Sir, I'm afraid I am not at liberty to say. I'm sure you'll see it in the Prophet," he turned to leave. Really, some people could be so nosy…
He hadn't managed to take a step when a hand descended on his shoulder, stopping him. The hairs on the back of his neck rose sharply and a chill ran down his spine. "Please. I need to know. What happened?" The auror's grip on his wand tightened. There was something not quite right about this man; his manner had cracked, showing something dark and strange underneath, something he could almost name.
His men were paying attention now as they continued to work with the scene. They were a comfort, but there was talk of dark forces moving in the country these days and one could not be too careful.
"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave. There will be an article in the Daily Prophet tomorrow and you can read all about it then," the auror's voice was hard and brooked no argument. He put his shoulders back and tried to take another step forward.
"Was anyone killed?" The stranger's voice was softer now, clearly dreading the answer. Turning to look at him, the auror could see the dread there, too. He could spare him this one answer. Maybe it would make him leave.
Kurama had known the answer before he asked the question. It was obvious, really, but he'd wanted to see how the magic-users reacted. And no matter that he had known, hearing that part of his family, his grandchildren, had been killed was painful. For a long moment after he let the human go he stood there, steeling himself. He desperately wanted to hit something, these men, preferably. No good came from magic-users and if what he suspected was true and these men had killed his family-
But no. He had to focus. If he attacked now, outnumbered as he was, he would be at least wounded and that would slow him down. He had to find the child. Later, he could come back and find these men. But the child had to come first.
Kurama turned away and started down the street, focusing on the scared little voice in the back of his head. He had found the last place the child remembered and it hadn't been there. Hopefully, the kit would be somewhere nearby. The Issei had led him here, but now Kurama would have to track the child another way. He would try to track its energy, he decided, but he had to get farther away from the magic-users before he could loosen the tight hold he had on his own power. If they realized what he was, they would attack and Kurama couldn't afford to die again anytime soon.
Once he had left Privet Drive, the demon relaxed and let some of his power seep out again. He concentrated on the Issei, which he hoped to use to catch a hint of the child's power. There wouldn't be many demons in this part of the country and that would make his task easier, but knowing the energy pattern he was looking for would be far quicker than checking every demon in the city.
As he walked along the sidewalk he discovered quite quickly that there were no demons in the suburbs. Kurama had expected this; he hadn't thought that a kidnapper would stay too close. Kidnapping was the most plausible scenario right now anyway, since the child's parents were dead and it didn't know where it was. And so the demon changed course for the city proper where he could hide in the crowds and expand his search radius without being found by magic-users.
A pair of arms wrapped around him from behind and a soft voice murmured next to his ear, "How is he?"
On any normal day, the two coroners would have been sleeping by now. Instead, they had spent the morning and afternoon keeping an eye on the unconscious boy who had ended up on Astor's table. "He's healing. I think his ribs are mostly good now and a few of his cuts are gone," Astor brought up a hand to the arms draped over him and looked up, "I don't think he'll wake up for a while, though. There's still a lot to heal."
Behind him, Gabriel pressed a kiss between his ears, "You should try to get some sleep, I can watch him for a while."
Astor turned back to the sleeping boy and his ears turned down, "I know, but…what if he does wake up?"
"Then I'll wake you up. Don't worry, love, we'll both be fine. Please try to sleep, you've been awake too long as it is." He knew he'd won when Astor got up with a sigh and turned towards the door. Gabriel took his seat and watched the barely noticeable rise and fall of the boy's chest.
He knew Astor had a soft heart, it was one of the reasons he loved the demon, and he hoped no harm would come from harboring a throw-back. They didn't even know his name. At the same time, he couldn't abandon a child who had obviously been abused for years. His lover hadn't said anything, but he didn't have to. There were scars all over the boy's back and some of the bruises on his chest were old. He was too thin and even in sleep he looked wary.
There was also the fact that Astor had said the boy's eyes were green and if Gabriel looked at the boy just so he looked a bit like Astor and they had been thinking of adopting a child for several months. This child was already too old to adopt, but there was something in him that seemed young and vulnerable. Something Gabriel wanted to protect.
The sun was just fading from his window when Astor started awake. He hadn't slept more than four hours, but there was enough adrenaline in his veins that it didn't matter. He hadn't felt an aura this large since he left Makai and it terrified him. He was darting into the second bedroom before he knew it, suppressing his energy to make himself as non-threatening as he could in the presence of a stronger predator.
Gabriel hadn't noticed (of course he hadn't, he was human, why should he?) but Astor's panic let him know something was wrong and he stood up as his small partner dug into a trunk in the corner, pulling out a pair of old daggers and strapping them to his waist.
The human snagged his lover around the middle as he tried to rush passed and he could feel the nervous energy thrumming under his skin, "What's going on?"
"There's a really strong demon and it's coming this way. Dammit, I left Makai so I wouldn't have to deal with this!" The human watched his panicked lover's ears flick between lying flat on his head and rigid alertness and was reminded of a scared child peeking through his fingers.
"Shh, shh. The door is locked, the windows are locked, we are on third floor. It's not coming for us; we're safe right where we are. It's probably just passing through. We'll be fine," even if he wasn't sure he believed it, there was nothing they could do to prepare more. If worst came to worst, they could run, but if the stories Astor had told him were true…
There was a knock on the front door.