(A/N) So for all of you who waited patiently (and not so patiently) Here's an extra long update :D Sorry about not writing this thing faster, it's just been an incredibly busy summer and I just now got some time to myself.
Read, review and enjoy!
Kuwabara winced and carefully finished taping the bandage over his shin. He'd scrapped it up during the final hour of his daily torture a-la sadistic demon and was only now free to do a damage count.
Hiei had vanished as usual, but he thought there might have been an indication of approval somewhere in his barely-there goodbye.
The former delinquent (hey, it's not like he had the energy to invest in anything but training- "Shut up, Urameshi! I am totally still best fighter at Sarayashiki!") put the first-aid box back in the cabinet and sat down with the plate his sister had left out for him earlier.
Thankfully, Shizuru recognized just how starved the training made him afterwards and always left him a meal in the fridge to devour.
The forkful of spaghetti was just barely shoved passed his lips when he was hit by a double-whammy of both terrible cold and stomach-turning nausea that sent him reeling in his mind.
Though, in reality, he simply sat frozen in place.
He realized somewhere outside his thoughts that he must look pretty ridiculous.
It was like his ghost sensing, but a thousand times worse.
Kuwabara's fight-or-flight instincts went into overdrive, but he couldn't make himself put the fork down or, or... do anything except sit there. He suddenly knew how an antelope must feel in the presence of a lion.
The feeling prey gets when the predator has its sights set on it.
An eternity seemed to pass. The pressure increasing slowly on Kuwabara was maddening.
'What is this? I- I can't breathe!'
The intense scrutiny passed then. Kuwabara let the fork drop from numb fingers and gasped shallowly, clutching at his chest above the heart.
He scrambled to his feet and dashed to the window. Whatever that had been was caused by someone (or someone-s, plural) who gave off the same energy as Hiei and Rando did.
But the sky was clear and the setting sun shown red on the rooftops of the houses that made up his neighborhood.
He drew all the blinds in the house and locked himself in his room. He had the vague hope that Shizuru wouldn't be too angry about the plate of spaghetti left out on the table, or the forkful he'd let splatter on the floor.
'Urameshi comes home tomorrow, I'll let him deal with the freaky monsters.' Kuwabara clicked the window lock shut and closed the blinds, giving his backyard a paranoid look. 'Or heck, Hiei can deal with it. It was probably all his fault anyways.'
When Genkai slammed open the door to Yusuke's guest room, intending to gleefully harass him one last time, the delinquent shocked her by already being awake.
"Thought you'd torment me on my last day, huh? Well, think again!" Yusuke grinned at her unimpressed expression and slung his bag over his shoulder.
"Trust me, the walk home will count as my torment well enough," his teacher aptly pointed out.
Yusuke groaned despairingly when he realized the truth of her words and followed the psychic at a trudge. He straightened somewhat when they reached the end and he noticed Yukina waiting at the door.
She smiled and bowed slightly. "It was nice to meet you, Mr. Urameshi. I hope we meet again sometime."
He nodded back a bit awkwardly. "Hey, you've been healing all my stupid injuries for months now. I think we've moved beyond the honorifics. So it's just Yusuke, you know?"
Yusuke smiled when she giggled and agreed. "And don't worry, I'll end up back here eventually. After all, I haven't even finished my training."
Genkai scowled at Yusuke's slow pace and abruptly shoved him out the door with orders to get out of her temple. "And don't come back until you actually intend to train seriously!"
Yusuke would have responded, but the door slammed shut before he could.
He made his way to the stairway and sighed.
"Grandma knows me way too well; this is way worse than any training she could imagine."
So saying, he prepared himself for the pain and began to walk, wishing he at least had Kuwabara there to bitch at instead of going it alone. Hiei would be no help at all, as Yusuke was pretty sure he'd worn out the other's tolerance for his complaints the first hike.
One horrible walk and three bus stops later found Yusuke finally back in his hometown. The sun was shining and he couldn't wait to collapse in his own bed for, oh, say about a week of recuperation.
The welcome-home party he came upon down the road was about the most unexpected group of people he'd ever seen.
Keiko, Kuwabara, and-
The glare he got for that outburst was unable to quell the bewilderment Yusuke was feeling at the moment.
Before he could ask the demon when he'd decided to hang out with humans who weren't Yusuke and who were Keiko and Kuwabara, Keiko flung herself at him for a short hug.
She released him just as quickly. "Yusuke, don't you ever do that to me again, you hear? The least you could do is leave me a note telling me you'll be gone for awhile."
He rubbed his neck sheepishly, trying to apologize and explain himself over her bombardment of questions - without mentioning demons or his sorta-job as spirit detective.
Kuwabara and Hiei walked up, the demon trailing grudgingly and his sour mood readily apparent.
The first thing the carrot-top did was sucker-punch Yusuke in the face, who wasn't quite prepared for the move while Keiko was distracting him. Though he did manage to turn his head to the side, lessening the blow, which turned out to be stronger than Yusuke'd expected.
"The hell was that for?"
He dropped his knapsack and lunged forward to repay the hit in kind.
A short scuffle later and Kuwabara grunted when his face hit pavement. "First of all, I can't believe you left me with him of all people!"
Yusuke hadn't thought Hiei's glare could get any more severe. He was wrong.
Kuwabara shoved himself up. "And secondly, I hope your training went well 'cus-"
Yusuke stopped that sentence flat, before Keiko could hear anything incriminating, by tackling his friend back to the pavement.
"Listen, Kuwabara. I don't want to even think about what I went through these last six months and I definitely don't want to hear your stupid complaints right now." He released the other teen. "So if you don't mind, I'm going home now. And don't bother coming over, 'cus I won't be answering the door."
He stalked off waving a hand at Keiko with a short "see ya" in farewell.
Though he did throw a funny glance at Hiei as he passed. "Do I even want to know why you're here with these two?"
The demon growled. "I didn't come here to be part of a welcoming party. Talk to the Fool about it."
He walked swiftly away after that and Yusuke could tell he very badly wanted to go his normal speed. Thankfully, he had enough consideration in him not to do so until he left Keiko's line of sight.
Still... "Wonder what's gotten into him," Yusuke said to Kuwabara, who had wandered up to his side in his distraction.
He didn't expect Kuwabara to also become serious.
"Listen, Urameshi," Kuwabara's focus darted towards a confused-looking Keiko for a second. "Just meet up with me later at my place, okay? I'll tell you about the problem then."
He turned his head in the direction Hiei had left with an irritated look on his face. "I think he's involved somehow, but he's not tellin' me anything."
Then he too, walked off, leaving Yusuke and Keiko to watch him go.
They stood in silence for a few seconds, then:
"You have some weird friends, Yusuke."
He could only nod his agreement with her all too true statement.
Yusuke parted ways with Keiko after dodging some of her questions with vague replies and made his way home. He knew she wouldn't be satisfied with such evasiveness, but it would have to do. He really was tired after the day's events and just didn't feel up to dealing with people and their issues right then.
It was nagging him about what Hiei and Kuwabara had said, though. They hadn't been very specific, but the fact that both of them were worried over the problem was pretty telling about its severity. Yusuke could only imagine how Hiei had been roped into waiting for Yusuke with the other two.
He huffed in frustration when the thought kept niggling at his mind and finally stopped his trek in the middle of a crosswalk.
"You better have something damn important that I'm giving up my sleep for it."
He turned and headed in the opposite direction towards Kuwabara's, ignoring the honks from irritated drivers urging him to move faster.
The disgruntled teen stalked up to his friend's home intending to get some answers. He was unsurprised when Hiei appeared next to him, having expected the other to pop up at some point during the walk.
"I'm not gonna like this, am I?" Yusuke grumbled as they reached the house. Hiei's silence was all the answer he needed to know he was right. So, without further hesitation, Yusuke began pounding on the door, hoping the obnoxious noise would hasten Kuwabara's steps.
It did, but the wrong Kuwabara.
"Kid, if you don't stop banging on my door I'm going to- oh, it's you two." Shizuru sighed and opened the door further. "Come on in, he's upstairs in his room."
Hiei gave a small nod and Yusuke a quick "thanks" before they headed up the stairs.
"Hey, Kuwabara!" Yusuke threw open the door. "Knock, knock!"
"Yeah, real mature, Urameshi." Kuwabara glared over at them from where he sat at his desk.
Hiei leant against the wall by the window while Yusuke took his place a few feet away. The detective then stared expectantly at the other two.
"Alright guys, what's so important I had'ta interrupt my first break in six months?"
Kuwabara shifted uncomfortably for a moment, sending an unobtrusive look towards Hiei that he thought no one noticed.
"I was eating last night and the scariest thing I have ever felt hit me. I couldn't move at all; I couldn't breathe!"
He shuddered, lost in his own recollection. "It was like ice an' my stomach was feelin' like I had the flu or something."
Yusuke didn't quite get it. "Okay. So what? You forgot to pay the heating bill and you ate something funny. Why's that my problem?"
Kuwabara growled in aggravation. "Darn it, Urameshi, this is serious! It wasn't just those things, it was something worse!"
The teen drew in a breath. "What I sensed, it wasn't like ghosts or nothin'." He looked up, face still somehow comical in its humorless veneer. "I sensed demons. The strongest demons I've ever sensed before."
Yusuke snorted in dismissal. "Yeah, 'cus you've sensed so many demons before. What's the count so far? Two?"
"They were searching for something."
Yusuke blinked. "Whoa, what? What do you mean, 'searching for something'?"
Kuwabara shook his head. "I don't know, man. But whatever it is, they thought I either had it or knew where they could find it. Otherwise, why would they bother with me?"
That was when Hiei stepped forward, catching their attention. "They are searching for me because I stole something from an employer of theirs. He wants what I took back in his possession."
He then glared so fiercely Kuwabara yelped and Yusuke felt his fists tighten involuntarily.
"And I'll be damned if I let them take her back." Hiei's fangs were slightly bared as he hissed the last statement out.
Yusuke's eyes widened in comprehension even as Kuwabara's clouded in confusion.
"Shit, Hiei," Yusuke started. "Your sister's at Grandma's. There's no way these guys can get to her. And we can beat them if them try, right?"
Hiei flinched when he heard Yusuke utter the word "sister", breaking out of his sudden rage.
"Dammit, Detective! I told you, no one must know we are related." He stabbed his arm in Kuwabara's direction. "That includes, I'm sorry, included the Fool!"
Yusuke cringed. "Crap. I'm sorry. I swear you only said she couldn't know." He flung up his arms exasperatedly. "How was I supposed to know Kuwabara couldn't know either?"
That was when Kuwabara cut in, finally fed up with not being able to follow the conversation. "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold up, guys. What are we even talking about?"
Hiei exhaled slowly. He'd deal with this situation somehow. "The two demons you sensed are called the Toguro brothers; mercenaries for hire that specifically target demons."
He pinned the two teens with a solemn stare that had them gulping in anxiety. "They are currently far beyond what we can hope to face and if we try anything, they will kill us before we can move."
"Oh man," Kuwabara gulped. "So, ah, hey. Why are they after you- er, your sister?" His face twisted. "Gosh, that's so weird to think about you having a sibling. Bet she's ugly an' shrimpy, like you."
Hiei glared, somewhat for appearance's sake, but inwardly he couldn't help but wonder at how similar Kuwabara's words were to the ones he had uttered in the future.
He turned his attention back to the matter at hand when Yusuke spoke up.
"This is bad," Yusuke said, eyes straying towards the carpet as he struggled to form his thoughts into words. Finally, he groaned and slumped down onto the edge of Kuwabara's bed, crossing his arms. "How could this get any worse?"
Kuwabara frowned at that question. "You shouldn't have said that, Urameshi. Things always get worse after people say stuff like that."
Hiei scoffed and Yusuke looked at his friend as if he'd like to hit him for his idiotic comment. "It doesn't work like that except in movies and cartoons, Stupid. What are you, five?"
"Whatever, Urameshi. Don't say I didn't warn you."
Yusuke rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to Hiei. "So, what are we gonna do if we can't fight them?"
Hiei hesitated, struggling with what, exactly, he should say. This was where he could easily trip up; more so than he had done already if events were changing like this. He couldn't imagine how to divert the Toguros' attention away from them until the proper time. They'd just have to play it by ear then. There was no other choice.
He knew they just had to make it past the Saint Beasts, otherwise the name "Yusuke Urameshi" would mean nothing to the younger Toguro. Without that acknowledgment, admittance to the Dark Tournament would be impossible and Sakkyo's plan to open a hole to Demon World would be within the businessman's reach.
And, well, then the Human World would likely end in chaos and flames, but Hiei was getting away with himself. He just had to handle things one step at a time.
Accepting his decision, Hiei made sure the other two were focused before he laid out his plan. "We can't hope to fight them now. We will have to keep training and hope Koenma will hand you more missions."
Yusuke frowned. "Why should I care about missions? Won't they interfere with training?"
"And won't that attract their attention?" Kuwabara piped in. "I mean, that's really bad, right?"
Hiei shook his head, although Kuwabara's suggestion was slightly perceptive.
"Wrong. You two want to catch the Brothers' attention. It is known that the younger Toguro has been looking for someone who can truly challenge him in combat. Many have tried but none have even managed to face him at half his strength."
"If you can gain his interest, he may postpone killing you to let you grow stronger." He looked at Yusuke, who was wide-eyed in dawning comprehension, and continued, "He will be most interested in you, Detective. Because your job forces you to fight with many well-known demons, it is likely he will know about you soon."
Hiei thought about what he'd said and revised his words. "It is likely he already does."
Yusuke tried for his usual cockiness while Kuwabara murmured, "This is crazy." to himself.
Hiei ignored their actions, saying, "Just keep training."
He vanished out the window leaving the two boys to themselves. They decided on an impromptu sleepover.
Hiei left the house behind him and traveled to a new sleeping spot for the night, no longer trusting his usual places. He was positive that the Saint Beast mission would be issued tomorrow morning. It couldn't have come at a better time, too. With the mission, they would be out from the Toguros' range for a bit, Yusuke would take down the necessary "well-known" demons, and, most importantly, Kurama would join the team.
He settled down to sleep, knowing it would be fitful. Hiei was a shallow sleeper anyways, but the demon's guard would be up until he was sure the Toguro's were no longer targeting either him or Yukina.
He was sure that, at this point, the Brother's would still be working for Torukane under Sakkyo's orders. Hiei would just have to wait until Sakkyo got what he wanted from Torukane, namely his money, then had him killed. Then the employer would have no interest in the twins; they would be safe until the Dark Tournament.
Hiei froze when hands slid around his neck.
'Spoke too soon.'
"You put up quite the chase," Toguro Ani's voice drifted closer and the clawed fingers dug delicate pinpricks into his neck in warning. He felt the demon's straggly hair brush over his shoulders as he spoke. "But in the end, nobody outruns us."
Hiei sent out a mental shout with the Jagan right before the world went black.
Yusuke and Kuwabara jolted awake at the same instant. Somewhere a few towns over, Kurama did as well.
Kuwabara stumbled out of his bed and stepped on Yusuke, who'd taken the floor, as he searched for the light switch.
"What the hell was that?" Yusuke pulled himself off the ground and rubbed at his poor abused foot, though he wasn't paying attention to the pain.
Kuwabara found the light and they winced when it turned on. "I don't know, man. It felt like Hiei. I think he's in trouble."
"Dammit, I'm not supposed to get these psychic things. So why'd I wake up too?" Yusuke questioned tensely.
"I dunno, Urameshi. Maybe Genkai helped you get better at sensing stuff like that," Kuwabara answered, but the carrot-top wasn't paying the conversation much attention.
Yusuke shook his head slowly. "Nah, Grandma said my psychic sense sucked and always would suck, so that can't be it."
Kuwabara gasped and looked up at Yusuke, speaking hurriedly. "Hey, you don't think those demons, um, the Toguro Brothers got him, do you?"
Yusuke winced and clenched his jaw in dread. "Shit, maybe. Whatever that was felt really bad."
The detective started throwing his clothes on and his friend stared. "Er, what are you doing, Urameshi?"
"What's it look like I'm doing?" His response was muffled by the shirt he was tugging back on as he determinedly answered, "I'm going to go get him back from those bastards, that's what!"
Kuwabara looked as if he'd argue, but stopped as he considered the situation. "Yeah, we're probably gonna die going after them, but who cares. You don't leave friends in the hands of evil vicious demons. Even if the Squirt's just as evil and vicious as they are."
So saying, he pulled on his own clothes and walked over to join the other.
Yusuke smirked, covering up his nervousness with arrogance. "Damn straight. If that Younger Toguro wants a fight so bad, I'll give him one."
He threw open the door and they slammed to a stop in their tracks, bravado wilting.
"What's this I hear about looking for a fight?" Shizuru stood in her pajamas, scowling dangerously. She sent a waspish look towards Kuwabara. "You know you have school tomorrow and it's three in the morning."
Yusuke flung his arms out in frustration. "I'm sorry, Shizuru, but Hiei's in trouble an' we hav'ta go rescue him!"
He sidestepped her, not waiting for a reply, to dash down the stairs, slipping on his shoes and running out the door before anyone could stop him.
Kuwabara gulped and hurried passed his sister too, shouting apologies and begging forgiveness as he followed Yusuke.
"What has gotten into those boys?" Shizuru sighed and ran her fingers through her hair before giving up and heading back to bed. She'd punish her stupid kid brother later.
Kuwabara huffed as he caught up to Yusuke. "H-hey, so where are we even going?"
"I don't know," the other replied with all seriousness.
"What? How can you not know?" Kuwabara glared at his friend. "You mean we're running around in the middle of the night for no good reason?"
Yusuke glared back. "Of course there's a good reason, we're saving Hiei!"
He slowed to a stop. "I just don't know how we're going to do that when we don't even know where to start."
Kuwabara groaned in disappointment. "Come on, Urameshi. You're the detective, why don't you ask Koenma for help or something? He's some all-powerful god of the dead, isn't he?"
Said detective snorted at the other's suggestion. "Yeah, if by 'all-powerful god' you mean, 'all-powerful paper-pusher'. He's a freakin' baby, with a pacifier and everything!"
"Oh, no way, we're all doomed," Kuwabara said melodramatically. "The God of the Spirit World's a baby and demons are real and my sister's gonna' kill me when I get home and I was just starting to get good at school and-"
"Shut up, Kuwabara!" Yusuke shouted in irritation. He now knew what Hiei had meant by rambling being annoying. "I have an idea, but we're gonna be traveling for a while.
We'll have to go to Grandma's place and talk to Yukina."
"Who's Yukina and why do we have to talk to her all the way at Genkai's temple?" Kuwabara asked, still a little disgruntled at having been yelled at in the middle of his panicked spiel.
"She's Hiei's twin sister, the one I accidentally told you about, and she's been captured by this guy before. She'll be able to tell us where he's hiding," Yusuke replied. "So, hurry up. We've got to get to the train station."
He turned and started running again, forcing Kuwabara to chase after or be left behind.
"Dang it, Urameshi! I didn't bring my wallet!" Kuwabara yelled out. "And do the trains even run this late?"
Yusuke had thought this was going to be something of a suicide mission he and Kuwabara were undertaking by themselves.
So when he came up to the train stop and saw a familiar redhead standing there, he was both incredibly curious and incredibly relieved at the same time.
"Hey, Kurama!" he called, waving his hand when the other turned in surprise.
There were very few people taking the train this time of night, so Kurama spotted Yusuke easily and began to jog over to him.
"Yusuke, what on Earth are you doing here?" the demon said once he'd reached them.
Yusuke grinned shakily. "Oh man, am I glad to see you. Hiei's been kidnapped and-"
"Hey who's this guy?" Kuwabara, who had finally reached them, asked. "And why are you telling him about Hiei?"
Yusuke glared peevishly, annoyed at being cut short. "Kuwabara, Kurama. Kurama, Kuwabara."
"It's nice to meet you, man."
Yusuke rolled his eyes. "Great, now you guys have met. Now let's get back to: Hiei's been kidnapped and we need to get a move on before they kill him!"
Kurama nodded gravely. "So I take it you also felt the mental cry he sent us?"
"Yeah, what was that exactly?" Kuwabara asked. "Urameshi was spending the night at my place and it woke both of us up. Scared the crap out of me and we're not sure how Urameshi sensed it, 'cus he has the psychic awareness of a goldfish."
"Hey!" Yusuke said, affronted.
"You know it's true Urameshi, just accept it," Kuwabara shot back.
"Ah, that would be because Hiei specifically sent it to us, possibly in the hopes we would come to his aid. But more likely to warn us he'd been captured and allow us time to plan something." Kurama paused, "How did you know to come to the station? I followed the mental trail, but neither of you appear to have that capability yet."
They had moved on and were about to buy their tickets when he asked this and Kuwabara answered with, "Well, Urameshi was training with Genkai and Hiei brought his sister to the temple after he rescued her from the same place they took him to. So we're going to go and ask her where that is."
Yusuke face-palmed. "Kuwabara! Hiei's gonna kill me now. He told me not to tell anyone and now you're going around telling everyone and their freakin' mother!"
Kurama blinked. "Well, that's interesting. I had no idea that's who she was. However, we have no need to ask her about the location. Hiei woke up briefly and contacted me through telepathy while I was tracking the mental cry back to where he was kidnapped."
Kurama smiled. "Yes, we just have to take the train to the forest a few hours away from here."
Yusuke stopped yelling. "That's a really useful skill," he grumbled. "How come Hiei never taught me that or, hell, why didn't the old hag?"
The other two shrugged and Yusuke sighed at the response. "Well, all right. Let's get tickets to this forest."
They were about to purchase the tickets when Botan ran up to them out of the blue, trailing behind her a baseball bat.
Yusuke groaned. "Why are there so many damn interruptions today?"
The Grim Reaper smiled when she recognized Kuwabara and Kurama standing next to Yusuke. "This is perfect! I need you three to come with me right away."
"What? No!" Yusuke protested instantly. "Some assholes kidnapped Hiei. I don't have time to deal with Spirit World crap."
Kuwabara nodded his agreement. "Yeah, Botan. Can't you guys have someone else handle this new mission?"
She shook her head, ponytail swinging with the force of it. "What's more important, one person or an entire country? Because if you guys don't hurry, we're going to be overrun by Makai Insects released and controlled by the Four Saint Beasts."
Yusuke scowled. "You know, I got a test question like that once and I didn't like it. Who cares if a bunch of bugs try to wipe out the city? Can't people just swat them?"
Kurama had stilled next to them when he heard who, exactly, they were going to be facing. "You mean they have escaped?"
"No, not exactly. They want to be released from their domain and are threatening us with the Makai Whistle and the Insects if we don't comply. But so far, they only take over the minds of depressed people and I've been sent to try and contain them while you guys go in to take down the Beasts." She frowned. "And that is why we need your help. Without you guys, a lot of innocent people will be killed. There is no other Spirit Detective team, you're it."
"Botan, we can't just leave him stuck with those guys," Kuwabara protested. "He's a jerk and he kicks my butt in training, but you don't know how powerful they are and they're after his sist- er, Yukina." He looked guiltily in Yusuke's direction when he almost gave away Hiei's secret again. But the other wasn't paying attention.
Everyone watched as Yusuke struggled with his decision. Kurama sighed and made it for him. "Yusuke, we must go and stop the Saint Beasts."
Yusuke looked up, shocked at what he'd heard. "Are you serious, Kurama? You know what those guys could be doing to him. Even he said he wasn't strong enough to fight them."
Kurama nodded as he listened to Yusuke. "You are correct. However, I know Hiei is strong enough to last until we complete this mission. He has survived long enough in the Demon World to ignore pain and so he will survive this, too."
"Also, I believe they do not wish to kill him," Kurama revealed in an attempt to calm Yusuke and Kuwabara's worries. "Merely make him tell them where he hid Yukina. They cannot hurt him too badly."
"You sure the half-pint can take it?" Kuwabara said worriedly.
"Yeah, and are you sure he can handle it if it's the Toguro Brothers he was kidnapped by?" Yusuke said severely, watching Kurama for his reaction to the name.
"Please, Yusuke!" Botan cut in. "Spirit World will look for Hiei and gather information for you, but we need to get to the Demon World portal."
"Fine!" Yusuke shouted back. "I'll do the mission. But if we get back too late and Hiei's dead, I quit! You hear me?"
She nodded tightly, mouth pressed to a thin line. "Thank you, Yusuke. Now come on and follow me! We have to get back to town."
Yusuke glanced over his shoulder once as they left, silently apologizing to Hiei about the choice he'd just made.
Beta'd by Kurama's Foxy Rose
(A/N) Hope you guys like this one. I'm just now realizing how difficult writing Timetravel semi-AU's can be. I can never tell how well a plot twist will go over but we'll see where it goes from here. So, tell me what you think :)
Also, I think this chapter can aptly be dubbed "Rescue Hiei" Or at least this "arc" can.