Author's Note: I'm so happy it's finally time for this chapter! :D If anyone remembers back when (a few chapters ago, I guess) I said I had started writing a chapter but realized it wasn't time for it yet, this was it. I'm so excited, because it's just been sitting here teasing me to be finished :) I hope you enjoy reading this one as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks for reading!

Chapter 16

Blood. So much blood. It painted the walls. It saturated the carpet. Kurama's mouth hung agape, and his eyes widened in horror. His vision was completely red, his nostrils filled with the smell of the red liquid that pooled around his feet, and his tongue tasted the coppery substance, licking it from his coated fingers. Kurama wanted to gag, but the hot liquid passed down his throat unhindered. Delicious. Human blood was best, a delicacy, really. Kurama's mind waged war against itself—the taste was revolting and intoxicating at the same time. He licked his fingers again, slowly, enjoying the way it tickled his taste buds.

Then he saw it, a heap on the floor he had not noticed before—a body. He hadn't had time to consider where the blood had originated from; he had been too in shock. But this…his mind couldn't wrap itself around the vision before him—Shiori, lying on the floor, broken and mangled before him. He tried to look away, but he was forced to keep looking, to keep seeing. It was horrific. She lay on her back, her legs doubled unnaturally beneath her limp body. One foot was slippered. A hand rested on her stomach, the other close to her side. Her clothes were torn, ripped, animalist claw marks marring her body—at her chest and neck. The neck was clearly the fatal wound. His eyes fell on her chest again and he noted it rose and fell, only slightly, though. Afraid of what he would find, his eyes flicked to her face.

Her cheeks were pale, and her lips parted and trembling. Her hair was torn from its normally neat bun, the strands haloing her face. His gaze shifted to her eyes. Tears streaked her face. Her eyes bore into him, pleading. His sensitive ears heard a faint whisper. "…ichi. Shuichi." Her trembling hand reached out to him. "I love you."

"Kaasan!" Kurama tried to run to her, but his body wouldn't obey. Suddenly, he started to walk toward her, and he thanked the gods or whoever was out there that he would be able to help her. Reaching her side, he glanced down, taking her form in. Softly, he knelt down next to her and put a hand on her head. "You'll be alright, Kaasan. I'm going to take care of you." The hand on her head gripped her hair tightly and leaned her head back. Then, before Kurama's own eyes, his other arm picked itself up, brought itself back down, and slashed his mother's neck again.

"NOOOOOO!" Kurama screamed out, but the scream never physically left his lips.

Shiori's eyes widened, shocked. When her head fell back to the ground, it rolled limply. The life had left her eyes and was replaced with a glassy sheen. She didn't move again.

Kurama leaned down and bent over the form before him. Slowly, sensually, he licked his mother's neck, lapping at the gaping wound. It had been so long since he'd fed on a human. The smell and taste pushed him past his limits of control, and he leaned over the body, savagely sinking his teeth into his prey. He tore through skin, sinew, and muscle. Bone snapped. He glorified in the taste that filled his every sense.

Every fiber of Kurama's being longed to rip his own throat out. How could he murder his mother, the only person who had ever truly cared for him…one of the few people he had ever truly loved? Kurama stood up and rubbed his hand against his cheek. Warm, sticky liquid stuck to his face. He inserted one finger in his mouth and sucked. Warm blood coursed across his tongue and down his throat. He turned and froze. Youko. Youko was in the room. He cursed, longing for the strength to rip him to shreds. Then he realized he was alone. It was a mirror; he was Youko. And he had killed his mother.

Snapping awake, Kurama jumped, looking around wildly. Sweat covered his face, permeated his clothes. His palms were slick in the lush grass he lay on. He gripped at it frantically. He tried to breathe and couldn't. There was no oxygen. It felt like his lungs were going to implode. He heard someone yelling his name, but he couldn't concentrate on the voice. Where was his mother? What had that sadistic bastard done to her? Did he do it? Was he really his mother's killer? So many questions went through his head that he couldn't think straight. Suddenly, one voice rang out above all the others. He didn't think he actually heard it; it was inside of him. Youko. "It will happen, Shuichi. Your poor mother who worked all these years by herself to take care of you. It's really quite ungrateful of you. But her blood will be delicious. We will have it. And then, when I have drank her dry…I believe your lover will make a fine dessert."

"No," Kurama rasped, drawing in harsh breaths. "You…stay…away…from…them." The redhead coughed violently.

Far away, a voice Kurama did not hear sounded, "Damn it, Hiei, what the hell is going on?" Yusuke asked.

Hiei looked just as unnerved as Yusuke. Something was definitely wrong with Kurama. He wouldn't even respond to them. His green eyes were too bright, and his breaths were too sharp. Even though he knew he needed to act quickly, he hesitated, debating his decision. He finished debating; he was afraid of what he might find in Kurama's mind, but even more afraid of what would happen to Kurama if he did nothing. He ripped the cloth from his Jagan; the eye beneath glowed a warm violet. He closed his eyes, letting his third eye work. Gently, he entered Kurama's mind.

Kurama's mind was like a wild storm. He had never seen a mind so confused, so wild, so lost, in such disarray, so unlike Kurama. Hiei felt his mind carefully, looking for Kurama's essence. He finally found him, huddled in a dark corner, staring at blood-covered hands, tears streaming down his face. He looked up at Hiei, and for the first time in his life, Hiei was scared. Scared that whatever had happened to Kurama, he might not come back to him.

"Don't come closer, Hiei. Don't. I…I'll kill you if you do. I won't be able to stop myself. Please…."

Hiei stopped momentarily, but then carefully took another step. It looked like a very short distance to Kurama, but space was always skewed in the mind. What should have taken him only a ten or so paces in reality, took him hundreds. Kurama had set himself to farthest reaches of his mind he could manage, to terrain that was normally uninhabited; a place most people didn't even know existed in their minds. All the while, Kurama begged Hiei to turn back.

Hiei crossed the dark space to Kurama and knelt down next to him. "Kurama, you have to take me there. To the place that made you this way. Show me."

The look on his lover's face tore at his heart. Kurama's green eyes pleaded with him as he spoke shakily, "I can't…Hiei, don't make me see it again. Don't make me go back. I don't want it to be real. I've already lost her…I can't lose you, too. Please, Hiei, don't you understand? You're all I have left," he whispered. "Don't take it away."

Hiei, thoroughly confused, embraced his fox. Despite his larger size, he felt very small and fragile in Hiei's arms. He pushed him back slightly, keeping his hands on his shoulders. Leaning forward, he kissed him on the lips gently. "We have to."

Standing, he took Kurama by the hand, and leading him like a child, searched for the most chaotic part in his mind. He found it easily—the eye of the storm. It was a different color from the rest of Kurama's mind, a terrible, terrifying bright red. He stopped short, Kurama's hand tugging slightly, searching for an escape, and looked down. Water. Blood-stained water, circling the area. On the other side of the water, a thick forest. Kurama's mind's way of trying to make the area inaccessible. There would be no way to remove it. Kurama would have pass through everything he had set up in an effort to block away the memories—though Hiei had a feeling that these memories were not real in the physical world, but only existed inside Kurama's mind.

Hiei reached out with his ki. He growled, sensing Youko's signature all over the area. The fire demon placed one booted foot in the water, crinkling his nose at the smell of the human blood flowing through it. He turned, eyes meeting Kurama's. "Come with me. It will be alright, I promise." He cringed as he lied to his partner. He was going to make Kurama face his worst fears, make him relive the nightmare within. But it was the only way to get past it, the only way for Kurama to take back his mind and return to him. And so, he had no regrets about the lie. Even if Kurama never forgave him, he was fine with that. As long as he was no longer broken and scared and shut away from everything that made him the bright person that had been able to crawl beneath Hiei's skin, there was no way he could have any regrets.

Timidly, Kurama joined him. The water was waist deep, the bottom muddy, sucking at their shoes, making each step more difficult than the last. Hiei felt something brush against his leg and tried his best to ignore it. Kurama was nothing if not thorough and complex. He had never seen such an advanced mental defense system. They didn't speak, but just kept wading endlessly. He had no idea how wide this river truly was. Hiei finally reached the other side, and Kurama's hand grasped his more tightly. He looked back at his mate, nodding reassuringly. Kurama hesitated, but nodded back, lifting himself onto the shore. They walked the few paces to edge of the wood, but the forest was so dense, Hiei had no idea how they were supposed to proceed. He looked up at Kurama, waiting patiently.

Kurama's fist clenched by his side, but he raised it slowly, pressing his hand gently but firmly against the bark of the tree in front of him. The giant forest receded slowly, spreading apart, clearing a small path. Even the path was dangerous and wild, though. Roots stuck up through the ground precariously; thorn bushes grew high. It was eerier than any real forest ever could be, and certainly more treacherous.

Hiei looked up at Kurama, meeting his frightened gaze. "Let's go. We're together; I won't leave you."

Kurama said nothing but nodded his head slowly. Together, keeping pace with one another in perfect synchronization, they stepped into the wild growth. Hiei looked down at his wrist as, almost immediately, a vine wrapped around his wrist. He gazed at Kurama, where a large thorn bush had wound a branch around his arm. Kurama shook it off absent mindedly, tearing his clothing and skin. If Kurama felt anything, he did not show it. Hiei followed his lead, shaking it off. The vine slunk back into the patch it had come from.

Kurama, noting the curious look on Hiei's face, answered simply, "I don't want you to see what I'm capable of. I don't want to remember. We may not be able to get through."

Hiei stared ahead steadfastly. A root snaked its way around his ankle, and he cut it with his katana. It fell away, shrieking, something Hiei had certainly not been expecting. Kurama cringed slightly. "You always were able to easily break down my defenses, Hiei," he said with a ghost of a smile on his face.

Hiei stared, amazed all over again at the complexity of his mate. "If I asked you to remove them all, could you?" he asked.

Kurama shook his head. "I'm only protecting you. I'm not the person you think I am."

"What are you afraid of?" Hiei asked quietly.

The thickness of the forest felt like it was closing in. "Losing you forever. Killing you," Kurama whispered.

Hiei looked at him, shocked. "You would never do that. I do know you, Kurama."

Kurama shook his head, red locks waving. "You don't know what I'm capable of. But you will soon," he said, haunted. He raised a hand, pointing. "There. See the monster I truly am."

Hiei looked up. Sure enough, the forest cleared. He stepped into what looked like Kurama's bedroom, with a few critical exceptions which interrupted the normality of the appearance. There was blood everywhere—human blood, he noted as he sniffed. Then he saw the human the blood had come from. On the floor lay Kurama's human mother, brutally mauled and dead.

Next to him, Kurama dropped, bringing his knees close and grabbing his hair nearest his scalp. "It was me, Hiei! I killed her!" he exclaimed hysterically. He brought his quaking hands, now covered in blood, in front of his face. "Why?" his voice rasped. He turned forlorn eyes on Hiei. "It will be you next! I've seen it. You can't be with me anymore. Don't you see?"

Hiei rushed to his frantic lover's side. "Kurama!" he yelled. "Get a hold of yourself. This isn't you! You didn't do this! You love Shiori; you've proven that countless times by putting your own life on the line for her sake. You know who this really was. This was Youko."

Kurama put his head on his knees, sob wracking his frame. "Youko, Shuichi, Kurama…what does it matter? We're all the same. We're all together in this. I can never escape him; he can never escape me."

Hiei growled. Something had to be done; he wasn't going to get anywhere coddling Kurama. He had to see the fool he was being. Drawing his fist back, he hit Kurama in the jaw with all his might.

Kurama recoiled, grabbing his cheek. Stunned eyes fell on Hiei's panting form. "Hiei…" he began.

Hiei straightened and held a hand up. "Now that I have your attention, I have every intention of showing what an idiot you're being. Don't you remember what you told me? You are not Youko. You are not Shuichi. You are simply you. Kurama is Kurama. Kurama loves his human mother. Kurama is not human, but at the same time is not demon. Kurama is one of the most caring people I have ever known, almost to the point of foolishness, and hold's all life in high esteem. I know the person I fell in love with," Hiei finished softly. He walked over to Kurama, laying his hand over his lover's heart. He looked up, locking his crimson eyes with Kurama's green ones. "A long time ago, you saved me by showing me compassion, friendship, and love. Let me save you." He stood, pulling Kurama up with him. "Look at your hands."

Kurama obeyed, a little afraid, but was shocked to find no blood covered them.

"Let's go back," Hiei said.

Kurama nodded.


Kurama's eyes blinked open. His gaze fell on a starry night sky. He sat up, rubbing his head. He looked around, taking in his surroundings. Hiei was next to him, also just now sitting up. Kurama felt a rush of emotion wash over him. Shaking, he laid his hand over Hiei's. "Hiei…thank you. For everything."

Hiei smiled slowly back at him, covering Kurama's hand with his free one. It still felt slightly awkward to show so much emotion, but he had decided Kurama was going to be the one he would not allow himself to wear a mask in front of.

The moment was interrupted, and each slid away from each other a bit as Yusuke ran over, waving his hand in the air. "About damn time!" he exclaimed, a huge smile on his face. His relief was easy to read. "While you two were snoozing, I got some pretty interesting information from our old friend Kaijimbo."

Yusuke's red knuckles affirmed exactly how he had acquired the information.

Hiei glanced cautiously at Kurama out of the corner of his eyes. "Can you handle this right now?" he asked, concern in his message.

Kurama simply nodded his head.

Hiei stood swiftly. "Take us to him, Detective."

2nd A/N: Well, I have to admit, I didn't think ordeal would take up the entire chapter, but I can't say I regret that it did, because it was so much fun to write! :D Hiei's and Kurama's characters both took turns we're not used to seeing, but hopefully everyone is fine with this. To me, this shows their relationship building, giving everything to the other. They're not hiding anymore behind a stoic mask or sarcasm like people tend to do around others. I think everyone does this on some level, but your lover is someone you never have to hide from. I hope this chapter was as entertaining and character revealing for you as I attempted to make it. Please review and let me know your thoughts. Till next time. ~venusgirl