Super long in the making, and for that I apologize, but I finally present to you, the final chapter of Swallow the Shadows. Hopefully it was worth the wait.


Before I knew it, a month had gone by. A month without that shadowy bastard, a month without Shiro. I spent all my time searching for a way to bring him back; reading every book and magazine and newspaper article I could find, watching every dvd around. I hardly ate enough -it was so hard to focus on anything other than finding Shiro- and I'd slept so little that I was starting to make myself sick.

Finally, a month after everything I'd started to grow comfortable with crashed down around me, my boss decided he'd had enough. He took me back into the office and told me, in not so subtle words, that I needed to go home, that I needed to start taking care of myself or he'd suspend me. He said there were more important things than work and that even though I wouldn't talk about it, he knew something was going on. I wasn't sure I'd really care if he suspended me at that point. In the past I would have, but now? I didn't really care about much, couldn't really even if I tried. I wasn't on any kind of medication anymore, but it was sure starting to feel like it again; numb, dull fireless.

The only thing missing was the shadows.

Whatever, more time to continue my desperate search. I think my boss saw that I wouldn't mind much, that the idea of him suspending me didn't really bother me at that point. There was concern in his eyes, but I couldn't really care about that either. I was just too exhausted to try, mentally and physically, but still I couldn't rest.

I left early that day, barely a couple hours into my shift. As I walked home, taking my time because I just didn't have the energy to make the trip quick, I shoved my hands in my pockets and wracked my brain for new ideas, new places to look or someone to ask. Nothing came to mind. I'd scoured every resource available to me with no luck. I'd even gotten desperate enough that I'd tracked down a few of the regular ghosts I could see and tried to get some answers from them. That's not as easy as it sounds though, and it doesn't really even sound easy. They don't really communicate like normal, living human beings. I had better luck when I recorded our conversations like you always see in those dumb movies, but the voices that talked back through the recording were rarely answering my questions. I don't think half of the things I was talking to even realized they weren't among the living any more.

So that idea was scrapped. Nothing that understood what I was asking knew anything of Shiro. Most of them didn't seem too happy to talk about demons and incubi, let alone know of a name. I guess demonic entities and human ones didn't really get along very often.

I passed by that little antique shop, glancing at and reading the sign that offered free tarot readings as I did. I vaguely considered asking the lady that owned the shop to do one for me, but she'd been right all those weeks ago. I didn't really care to hear about the future or what my past had to tell me. She may have been able to tell me if I ever succeeded in finding Shiro, but part of me was afraid to hear that answer. I don't think I would have stopped, even if she told me I was wasting my time and that he was already out of my reach, but it still would have been hard on the fragility that was spreading across my mindset like cracks in an old porcelain vase. Just one more thing to push me over the edge I was teetering on.

Then I remembered what she'd told me about ouija boards. I'd heard all those horror stories about how some kid decided to pull one out and ended up accidently opening a gateway, letting something in that shouldn't have been released. I think everyone has probably heard those stories. Supposedly, an ouija board has the power to let you communicate with just about anything that wasn't in the world of the living, whether it be good or bad, but you only ever hear about it working for the demons and inhuman things that mean only harm. What I was looking for was in that category, but the woman had told me Shi was too far into neutral territory, whatever that meant. I kept imagining it meant a type of purgatory for demons, but maybe she had meant more of his way thinking. He was demon, but he wasn't necessarily evil.

I still didn't believe in heaven or hell, in demons or angles. At least not in the biblical sense. Clearly they existed, at least demons did, Shiro was proof enough of that, but to me, they were just creatures like you and me, like dogs or other animals. Shiro had taught me that other dimensions, other worlds existed. He'd said before that he had a plane of his own, where he and his kind were from. That's where he went to when he didn't feed enough and got too weak to stay in the human plane, so is that were he was now? I don't know if I would have considered that middle ground though. To my way of thinking, that seemed more like a darker, more malevolent place. A world of demons didn't seem very neutral.

But it got me thinking; if you could create a sort of gateway with an ouija board, why couldn't you use something else? Something that could maybe reach into that middle ground he was supposedly stuck in.

So that became my new goal: to find a way to create a portal and hope that I could find him or maybe it would help him find me. I went back to where I'd started, like the shop owner had said; you can find all kinds of things in books. I went back through most of the books that had began to pile up in my apartment. I went back to the libraries and the stores and picked out things with ideas closer to divination and magic and just about anything that seemed like it could be helpful in opening a gateway.

For a while, I had very little success. But I was getting used to that too, so I pushed on, unable to give up. The lack of sleep was getting to me more and more, however, and I was finally forced to take a day off. Since I'd essentially been put on a mandatory leave from work, it really didn't matter. Part of that tried really hard to piss me off, but I think it was only the lack of sleep and a clear mind that made me think I should feel betrayed by that. Later, when all this was finally over, I would be grateful for what my boss had done.

As I lay there, half asleep where I'd finally let myself curl up on the couch, an opened book resting across my stomach under my hand, my mind wandered back to Shirosaki, of course. It replayed memories, ones that were less haunting than they probably should have been, but the events that had taken place had lead to much happier times, so it didn't matter. My mind replayed the hospital, not the attack that had led to me being there, but what had happened during my stay, when Shiro had told me what he was.

I woke up with the first stiffy I'd had in weeks, but aside from the slight discomfort it caused when I stood and my shorts tented, I ignored it in favor of the voice echoing in my mind; Shirosaki telling the doctor I was more powerful than they knew.

Scrambling from the couch, I let the book I'd been reading before I'd fallen asleep slide to the floor with a dull thud that I didn't really hear and started digging through a pile that I'd already read. I knew exactly which one I was looking for because I'd felt so ridiculous when I'd been scanning through the pages the first time. It was crazy, asinine. I couldn't keep myself from wondering how all that shit actually worked and thought maybe it was just a way of coping or some shit. But now it seemed to make more sense.

When I finally found it, all the way at the bottom of the pile that now lay scattered across the floor, I tugged the book open and flipped through page after page. As I searched for what I was looking for, I pushed a few discarded books out of the way with my foot, clearing a decent sized space in the very middle of my sitting room. Dropping to sit cross-legged in the center of the cleared space, I laid the book out before me, where I could still see it and read it, but didn't have to hold it, and I closed my eyes.

I took a deep breath. In and out. Forced myself to relax, clear everything from my mind but what was right in front of me. For the first ten minutes I thought it was stupid, that I was wasting my time but I tried it anyway and for the first time in my entire life, I meditated.

All the noise around me seemed to fall away; the creak of the old building, the subtle sound of neighbors, of cars going by outside and people talking. The only sound I heard was the slow, even intake of my own breaths and the controlled, calm exhale that followed. The room fell away, the hard floor didn't register upon my body. There were no more piles of books or dvds. There was no whispers in the back of my mind, nothing to tell me I was crazy or that I was driving myself toward that edge all over again. My father didn't exist, the doctor didn't exist, my boss, my work, my past, the pills in the drawer. The shadows were gone from around me and from inside my head and it was only me. Just me.

I don't know how long I sat there. Time didn't seem to matter. It grew dark outside, but I didn't notice the street lamps that lined the street outside my windows as they automatically turned on. Nor did I really register as they flickered a few times before going dark again. Nearly the entire block went dark, but I didn't notice, didn't hear the complaints of confusion from my neighbors. My subconscious picked it up, some part of my awareness did, but I didn't.

Eventually, I opened my eyes again to the darkness of my apartment and at the same time, the street lights flickered back to life again. I didn't really even notice it, to be honest, and I climbed to my feet in the dark shadows of my apartment. For the first time, I was completely unafraid of what may or may not have been lurking in the dark corners around me.

Crossing the space of my sitting room, I found the switch and turned the light on, illuminating the room and for the briefest of seconds, a fraction of time at all, I could have sworn I caught something white and just barely there right before the room was plunged into visibility.

I froze, stared at where I thought I had seen it, blue eyes wide and disbelieving. "Sh-Shi..?" But no matter how hard I looked, I found nothing. Not even flipping the lights back off revealed that subtle, bleached-out affect and nothing called back to me.

Gritting my teeth and frowning, I told myself it'd been my imagination, that I'd wanted him to be here so badly that my mind had actually conjured up the image. Dismissing it and trying not to let it disappoint me, I wondered to the kitchen for something to sate my rumbling, empty stomach.

A few hours went by, nothing but the sounds of an empty apartment as I sat in silence, before I finally gave in and went to bed. I trudged down the hall and into my room, stripped and knocked the stack of old books that had been piled on the mattress to the floor before climbing beneath cool sheets. For the most part, it was a dreamless and dead sleep, exhaustion still creeping up and through my body and mind. But that morning, early, before the sun could begin to rise and stain the skyline with bright yellows and oranges, I dreamed again.

I dreamed of an old forest, where the trees grew tall and thick and were gnarled with age. The branches reached out far and wide, blocking out the majority of the sky above but it still wasn't dark beneath the canopy. Below my feet, the roots were twisted and snake like, creeping across a dirt floor. Loosely packed, the soil was rich, fertile, but bare of grass or other plants all the same. It lent it's earthy smell to the fresh, clean air and in the dream, I leaned into the slight breeze, breathing deep the smell. Having lived in the city all my life, it should have been a foreign thing, but I was comfortable there, like I was returning to someplace I'd been before, like coming home.

Some part of me, the part that was still aware of what was going on and knew that I was only dreaming, wondered how such a troubled, exhausted mind could conjure something so peaceful.

After a few seconds of simply standing and enjoying the quiet, resting forest, I turned a circle to look around. A symbol I'd never seen before was carved into one of the enormous trees, old like a scar that had been weathered by time and season. It was pale against dark bark though, and a very slight frown tugged at my brows as I walked toward it.

Nearing the tree, I found another similar image on a different tree. And another after that. I followed them for miles, or so it seemed, but it really took me very little time as I climbed over twisted roots and navigated around massive trunks that were bigger around than I was.

Then a new sound made itself known, a voice, I think, or an echo of one. It was a deep, rusty sound, rich like the soil and aged like the trees. It was of the forest, came from the leaves above, from the ground below my feet, and yet from the man that stood before me.

He hadn't been there only a moment ago, but like in all dreams, it didn't matter that it shouldn't have made sense. He belonged there, right there where he stood. He belonged to the forest, to the earth and the sky and trees and the world. His skin was a rich hue that matched all the colors around me and yet none at the same time, darkly tanned like he'd lived in the sun for years untold, but healthy and unmarred by weathering, like it was natural. His hair was long, black, and left loose to hang nearly to his waist. His eyes were a bright, vivid green though, and didn't look quite normal.

I frowned, looked at him, and shook my head, "No, I'm not." I said, despite that I had no idea what he'd been saying when he appeared. The voice to come from my throat wasn't mine, but his, and my blue eyes went wide.

Confusion swept through me and he tilted his head slightly and stared at me with clear, but emotionless eyes. He stood motionless, his hands at his side and his features blank but lively in an odd way. The way a tree is motionless but has that aura of natural life to it, of a wisdom that makes no sense for a non sentient thing.

"You're not who I'm looking for..." I told him, my voice my own this time. And I realized he'd already responded. His voice echoed in my head again, but not out loud.

No, I'm not.

I frowned, looked around. Suddenly paranoid, I felt like there were more than just one set of eyes on me, like I was being watched by the gnarled, old trees of the forest. Blue eyes coasted back to the nameless figure to meet green eyes. He hadn't moved, head still tilted slightly as he seemed to analyze me.

"I am a dreamwalker." He said before I asked, the voice echoing from my mouth. It was the oddest sensation. "And you have power, child."

"..are you here to help me?" My voice again, as I asked the question. Blue eyes narrowed. No... He didn't need to answer this time. It was a gut feeling, as I picked up on...something. His energy maybe. Instinct perhaps. Or maybe something else was trying to warn me away.

I backed away, never taking my eyes from him, but I didn't make it far as the trees around me bent, the branches dipping low and the roots rising up. Before I could stop it, before I could get out of the way, they wound around me. Around my arms, legs, abdomen, chest; they held me tight as I stared at the man, breathing beginning to pick up in my growing unease. Something was very wrong and I no longer wanted anything to do with the man standing before me, the dreamwalker.

I pulled against the things that held me, but I already knew I wasn't going anywhere. I began to demand that he release me, but my words came out as his. "I know of whom you search. I know of what it is. I know where it is."

My heart both dropped then rose into my throat as I froze in my struggling. "Wh-what? You..?" I frowned. "But you said you weren't here to help me..."

He was still, unresponsive for a moment, then blinked, before finally moving. He took a single, even and unhurried step toward me. Then another, and a third, before he paused and looked down toward his own bare feet. It took me a moment to realize that it was the slight patch of sun that he looked at, where it shown through the thick canopy to splash across the soil.

And then he stepped into it and stood barely a half dozen feet from where I was trapped. His head slowly rose again, his green eyes finding me as his features twisted yet didn't move or show expression. Green eyes flared with the light. His jaw fell open, snapped shut with the sound of vicious teeth. His ears elongated, pointed, and flatted back against his head. Antlers grew in twisted, barbed tines and from them, green vines sprouted, grew and spread. But under the horrid transformation, like a hologram that could still be seen through, the man's darkly tanned features remained motionless, expressionless.

"What are you?" My voice was quiet, but I knew he'd hear.

And his voice echoed back to me, already spoken. I am a dreamwalker.

"What's a dreamwalker?"

He looked at me for a moment before replying, taking his time like he had as much of it as he wanted. Maybe he did, maybe he was an ageless creature, more like the shadows than like the trees. Then, again from my own mouth, he spoke in that rough, wooden voice. "It depends on the dreamer."

I frowned, blue eyes narrowing again, and before I could tell him that he hadn't answered my question, he spoke again.

"When the world was a little younger and the people I was born of were more prevalent, I walked their memories and aided them in finding long gone ancestors. We spoke to elders, seeking council about all things. But you are not of them and I will not help you with that."

I shook my head slightly, not understanding what he was getting at. "Then what-" But as I started to question, my words froze and I choked as his forced their way past, interrupting what I'd been asking.

"I know whom you search for." He repeated, my lips forming the words. "I know whom you called for. It is too weak to push through and so I am here in it's stead."

I leaned forward, toward the man. The roots and branches creaked with my shift in weight. "Shiro sent you?"

"Shiiiii-" Again, he started to speak but like a glitch in a game, the i in the name dragged out, stuttering and harsh and guttural. Before he could finish the name, a loud, hollow screech ripped through the old forest. It cut through his words like a physical thing, splitting them asunder and throwing them aside like they'd been a creature all of their own. It rent the sky above open and a heavy, deafening rain began to pour and I knew, without doubt, that the scream was Shiro's. He sounded desperate. Despite that it was wordless, despite that the screaming held no indication of intent, I knew what it meant. I knew it was a warning to stay away from the dreamwalker.

Before the echos of his voice died away, I woke up with a startled yell of my own and bolted upright in bed. The dream was over. The sudden wake up left me panting and scrambling to search my room for any hint of white, any hint of light in the darkness, even the tiniest bit of evidence that Shiro had been there. Anything at all.

Then what had truly awakened me, what had been translated into Shiro's voice during the dream, rang again. I jumped as my phone went off, screaming the lyrics of an old metal song I used to listen to. The singer's voice was raw and desperate, like Shiro's had been. I hung my head, ran a hand down my face and sighed as I reached over to the nightstand and answered the phone.

"...Hel..lo..?" My voice was rough, thick like I'd just woken up, but scratchy like I'd been talking nonstop and was about to loose my voice. I cleared my throat and tried again, "Hello?"

"Grimmjow?" To my surprise, it was doctor Kurosaki on the other end. "What are you doing?"

"What?" I closed my eyes, still shaking off the effects of the dream and the sudden wake up call. Scrubbing my hand across my tired features again, I continued. "Right now? Sleeping, having nightmares. Was, anyway. It's three am, doc..."

"Sleeping..." The doctor's voice was quiet, a little confused maybe. Then, with urgency, "Where's Shiro?"

"Where's- He's..." How was I supposed to answer that? I wanted to say he was dead, because I'd watched him die. I'd held him as he took his last breath. But it felt like admitting defeat and I just couldn't give up. "He's still...I don't know...I-I haven't found him yet..."

"Be honest with me, Grimmjow." That fatherly sternness showed in his voice and to be honest, it was both kind of frightening and kind of welcomed. New, at the very least.

"I am. I don't..." I paused, the words hard to say and the truth even harder to admit to. "I don't know how to bring him back..."

The doctor paused, before he seemed to realize I was telling him the truth. He could surely hear it in my voice.

"He was here."

I froze. Everything froze. I swear, in that moment, my heart stopped, my breathing stopped, and I stared at the blanket in the space between my legs where I sat in my bed, hunched forward and phone held up to my ear. "Wh-what..?" I finally choked out.

"He was here. In the same room you stayed in after it had attacked you." And so the doctor told me what had just happened.

While I'd been sleeping, dreaming, he'd been working the skeleton crew at the hospital, paper work mostly, when a loud, terrified and blood curdling scream echoed through the hallway from the patient wing. Startled, Dr. Kurosaki had flown from the room, his office chair spinning behind him, and sprinted down the hallway. Luckily, being that late at night, there weren't many people on staff and the ones that were, were mostly front desk workers.

So he'd been alone when he'd made it to the source of the screaming. The doctor told me he hadn't even realized it'd been the same room I'd stayed in until after everything had happened.

He threw the door open to find a male patient screaming like something was trying to kill him, like a monster had appeared in his room. And then Dr. Kurosaki had seen said creature. There, hovering at the man's bedside -the same bed that I had been confined to while I healed- Shirosaki was a pale, barely there smudge in the room.

The doctor said he looked...primal, animal. Not quite himself. The incubus looked truly demonic as he hovered over the man, a low, hissing growl emitting at uneven and hitched intervals. Isshin told me that it was obvious he wasn't ok, not really. He'd been fading in and out, like he had before he'd fed from me the first time. His body, as hard as it had been to see, was smeared in grime and oily black grease and something blueish and the muscle of his form jerked and twitched unhealthily like he was loosing control of his motor functions.

Dr. Kurosaki had said his name, "Shiro..?" confusion and caution in his voice, and Shiro's head had jerked up like the demon hadn't realized he'd thrown the door open and charged into the room, those unnerving, fevered golden eyes leaving the patient's figure to settle on the doctor. He said there had been hunger there, and an instinctive, desperate need.

Starved, on the verge of yet another death, Shiro had been about to kill the man to get his next meal.

As the entity had stared at the doctor, seeming as if frozen in place, his features had been flickering, twisting, shifting from his almost human looking appearance to the mask-like skull he wore while fighting. Horns appeared and disappeared. Sharp, viscous teeth flashed in saliva covered rows. His jaw had opened, mouth working, before snapping shut as his body jerked and twitched again, a choked, wordless sound leaving his throat. But it hadn't been a growl or a snarl or a scream.

"Shiro..." Isshin had lifted his hands out to the sides in a non-threatening way, trying to keep the dangerous and not quite himself demon from attacking or leaving. "It's me, it's Dr. Kurosaki... I treated Grimmjow, remember?"

Golden eyes had widened as all the involuntary motion Shiro's body had been going through froze. An understanding had dawned, a knowing like he'd just become aware of where he was and what was going on, and those fevered eyes had cleared a bit before Shiro had stuttered in a distorted, harsh voice, "Gr-imm...jow..."

"And then he vanished..." Isshin said over the phone. "I thought... I thought maybe he'd go to you, but..."

But he hadn't. I stared at the bed sheets below me as I listened to what had happened and it made me wonder about my dream. Shiro hadn't sent the dreamwalker, but maybe that really had been him warning me to stay away from it at the end. The doctor had said he hadn't seemed himself, maybe that's because what the doctor had been seeing was only Shiro's body. Maybe Shiro's consciousness had still been trying to reach through the dream, through whatever had connected me to wherever the dreamwalker had come from.

In a way, it made sense that if some part of Shiro had made it back to the human plane, he would have gone someplace he had strong memories of, especially if that part of him didn't have the ability to really think on it's own. And, if he'd been that hungry, on the verge of death again, it made sense that the body's instinct would have remembered where it had last gotten it's meal during such a period of starvation.

Whatever had actually happened, it meant only one thing to me.

I didn't even hang up the phone. I simply dropped it as I scrambled from my bed and sprinted from my room. I streaked down the hall, threw open the bathroom door. Nothing. I left, ran into the sitting room, the kitchen, everywhere. Still nothing. The apartment was empty. Shiro wasn't there.

But he was still alive. He was somewhere.

Going back to sleep wasn't an option so I quickly got dressed and left my apartment. Not so surprisingly, I ended up at the hospital. I walked through the front entrance, the glass doors automatically sliding open as I approached, then straight passed the visitor's desk and into the hall that led towards the patients wing. Glancing at the numbers on the doors as I went, I ended up in the room I'd been given during my stay.

I don't think I'd really been expecting to find him there, and I wasn't really surprised that he wasn't, but part of me was still disappointed when I opened the door and found only a mildly distraught patient and no ghost. They guy's head whipped around to look at me, eyes wide.

"A-am I seeing things again?"

I glanced at him with a frown before disregarding him and going back to my perusal of the room. Hardly a minute later, I turned as the sound of hurried but not running footsteps reached me from out in the hall.

Isshin rounded the door and started to reach out, like he was going to grab hold of me to tug me from the room, before he stopped himself and instead motioned for me to leave. "Grimmjow, you can't be in here..."

Hardly even sparing him a look, I turned to leave the room, looking over my shoulder as I went. I'd known he wouldn't be in that room, the doctor had told me he'd vanished, but I still had to see for myself. He escorted me from the patient wing of his hospital, but the walk was mostly silent. There was nothing to say. He knew why I had come, he knew what and who I was looking for and he knew I still hadn't found him.

He stopped near the front desk in the lobby, but I didn't pause with him or even look back. I left the hospital, unsurprised at my empty-handedness, and made my way back to my apartment. The streets were still dark, illuminated by lights at regular intervals and the few lights from various business signs. This far into the city, it wasn't as dead and quiet as it usually was near where I lived. People still roamed, driving through the not quite abandoned roads or walking in small groups to and from who knew where. No one really traveled alone though. That was odd. It was late out, dangerous to be alone. People crossed to the other side of the street, avoiding me like I was suspicious, like I was dangerous. I snorted a dry sound and stuffed my hands in my pockets as I walked.

The trip back to my apartment wasn't exactly short, but it wasn't long either. I didn't have much to go home to, but I still had a reason to go back; privacy.

When I got home, I locked the door behind me and, with my back pressed to the door, peered around the sitting room and kitchen, looked down the hall. The apartment was empty, lifeless like it should have been, like I was expecting it to be. But no matter how much I expected it to be empty, I still looked, I still hoped and held on to the small sliver of chance that I would find something in the dark. I no longer searched for monsters in the shadows, for darkness that was more than just shadows, but I was still searching every corner of every room I entered. Every time I stepped foot into a new area, every time I left and came back to my home. It didn't matter where I was, I was still searching through the shadows like I always had.

Finding the place empty, as expected, I stepped away from my door and padded a slow, silent path to the very back and into my bedroom. I pushed the door open, started in, shrugged from my shirt and started to climb into bed, before I turned and went back down the hall and back into the sitting room.

It was stupid. I knew it was. It was the middle of the damn night and I hadn't been sleeping properly as it was, hadn't been really taking care of myself the way I knew I should have been. I turned to face the back of the place again, the hall that led to my room, but despite telling myself to go to bed, to get some sleep and hit the search again in the morning after some rest, I couldn't make my feet move. I couldn't get myself to go back to the bedroom.

I sighed, ran a hand back through my ever tousled hair, and turned toward the sitting room yet again. Walking around the couch to the middle of the area, I lowered myself to the floor much like I had the day before. Expelling a slow stream of air, I made myself comfortable and cast my gaze about me. I'd left the lights off when I'd arrived, intending to go to bed, and while I sat there, I vaguely considered turning them on. I didn't know it at the time, or at least didn't put enough conscious thought into my decision, but I refrained from getting up and flipping that switch because some part of me was hoping I'd close my eyes and reopen them to that vague afterimage again, that split second of lightness in the dark that could maybe have been Shiro.

So, like I had earlier, I decided to try my hand at this meditation stuff again. It was dark, the outskirts of the city were quiet, my neighbors were all asleep. Seemed like a good, peaceful time to try again, right? Closing my eyes to the room around me, I worked on steadying my breathing and pushing everything from my mind. I concentrated on silence, on the steady beat of my own heart.

But no matter how hard I tried, Shiro invaded my thoughts. He was out there somewhere, he had to be. Maybe he was lost, maybe he was hurt still or again, or maybe he was going to die all over again. More than likely, I would be just as powerless to save him this time as I had been before. He'd sacrificed himself for me. He'd known he wasn't going to walk away from that fight, but he'd still done everything he could to keep me safe, to let me survive the nightmare that had become my life. All he'd wanted in exchange was for me to live. To lead a normal life. And I couldn't seem to give that to him.

I pushed the thoughts away, a deep frown tugging at my drawn features. I had things to do and a goal to accomplish, I couldn't let myself be distracted, even if it was Shiro distracting me.

Another twenty minutes or so went by and I realized that this really just wasn't going to work, not like it had before. Groaning a small sound in defeat, I hung my head, hid my face in my hands for a few seconds before scrubbing the heels of my palms across my eyes and preparing to get off the floor.

But as I opened my eyes and prepared to stand, burning gold assaulted my vision, mere inches from my face. Shiro. Yelping a startled sound, I jerked back in surprise, falling from my sitting position to lay nearly flat in front of him. Blue brows shooting up and eyes widening, I stared at him, too stunned to speak or think far enough ahead to pull myself from my prone position.

His eyes looked flat. The gold was just as bright, just as fiery where it nestled in the black of what I imagined his world to look like, but there was no life to them. He didn't move, hardly even looked at me, like he didn't realize I was sitting right in front of him. He simply knelt there, in the middle of my sitting room, his shoulders hunched. The rhythm to his breathing was shallow, but even and steady and his hair hung limp and dry around his shoulders, across his forehead. It obscured half of his features and clung to clammy looking, pale skin, long and flowing but not quite alive.

"Shiro..?" I sat up again, body trembling with adrenaline, excitement, confusion, maybe even a bit of unease. His eyes turned upward sharply to look at me, the motion not quite right. Ashen brows may have furrowed just slightly, but I couldn't be sure. It was just like the doctor had said: he wasn't really himself, a shell. This was Shiro's body, but not the demon himself.

While trying not to think about him, I had called him here. I don't know how I knew it, but that's what had happened. I now had half of the being I had been searching for, half of the creature I couldn't let go of. It was a start.

With a hand that I refused to admit was shaking, I reached forward. His gaze didn't travel to it, didn't follow the motion. Those odd eyes of his merely stayed mostly focused on my features, even as my fingers brushed across his cheek. I pushed the hair from his face, combed it back so that it no longer obscured his features. He didn't seem to mind my touch, but maybe he couldn't really mind it.

"Shi..." The only reaction to my voice, my lingering touch, was the vague attention of mostly vacant eyes. "Can you hear me?"

To my surprise, the muscle of his jaw clenched. It was slow, mechanical, but it was a reaction. A moment later, colorless lips peeled back to flash teeth. The expression wasn't really one of aggression, but his teeth weren't the human shape that normally accompanied the mostly human form he was in. They were sharp, fanged, and when he finally pried his jaw open like he would respond, the entirety of his body jerked in a quick twitch of motion and I was suddenly faced with a skull and horns and glowing golden eyes. Whatever he'd been trying to respond with came out a harsh, snarling growl. It fluctuated, like he was trying to speak behind the mask, but still he didn't move.

When the stuttering, guttural sound died away, I could only frown through the way my chest constricted. The sound was so...base not quite lifeless, but not really alive either. An almost frustrated little whine followed, holding a hint of that unmistakable lilt Shiro usually spoke in.

If it were possible, that little, barely there whimper hurt worse, cut deeper than his mindless growl had. It made me think that maybe some part of him was still there, still aware enough to know we were close, that we sat side by side again after all the time that had passed since his death.

After a few long minutes of simply staring at him, taking him in while I recovered from my shock, I climbed to my feet and straightened in front of him. Shiro didn't move.

He stayed exactly where he'd been crouched in front of me. He didn't even tilt his head to look up at me. He just sat there, with his back bowed and his knees bent, arms at his sides and hands helping him to keep his balance against the floor. Not even his gaze moved to follow me.

"C'mon, Shi..." I forced out, voice a deep whisper. Bending slightly, I hesitated before resting a hand against his shoulder. The skin beneath my fingers was mostly solid, but still off, stiff. When no reaction seemed forthcoming and he remained still under my touch, I moved so that I could grab hold of him. At first, he didn't seem willing to stand.

He was smaller than I and I probably could have made him move, probably could have just picked him up had I wanted, but forcing him to do anything seemed odd. He was normally so strong willed and powerful, it was so strange to see him and see what he'd been reduced to.

After that moment of hesitation, he finally stood, head tilting ever so slightly to the side. He still didn't really look at me though. He didn't really look at anything, simply staring off ahead of himself. I guided him over towards the couch with a gentle hand around his arm. His flesh was cool, almost wispy below my hand. He was solid, enough so to touch, and he wasn't flickering in and out like the doctor had described. It made me wonder what he'd done before I'd managed to call him here, but I didn't want to put that much thought into it. Had he killed someone? Tricked someone? I couldn't see him, as run down and mindless as he was at that moment, really being considerate enough to convince someone to allow him to feed without killing them... And he was a demon, after all.

After a few awkward attempts at getting him to turn and sit, he finally seemed to figure it out and he lowered himself to the couch, pulling his legs up to sit cross-legged upon the cushions. He let out a low, airy hiss as he did, before falling still and silent once more, back bowed forward and black-nailed fingers loose where his hands crossed limply in his lap.

I stood there and stared at him for a long time, trying to figure out what to do with the still living body of a demon that was supposed to be dead. I knew the rest of him, the part that really made him Shiro, was still somewhere. I don't know if you could really call it a soul, but whatever it was, I needed to find it.

For a long time, as nearly an hour went by, there was nothing but silence in my apartment. In that entire time, Shiro didn't move, didn't even blink, even after the horns and the mask faded from view and revealed pale, still handsome features. His already dark eyes looked sunken, skeletal in a way. His chest rose with his breaths and there was still the faintest hint of the living, terrifying aura he used to hold, but he looked empty, lifeless.

Finally, it got to the point where I couldn't just stand there and watch him do nothing any longer. Just being in the room with him made my chest tight, made breathing hard and sharp. I thought it'd been bad before, when all this was still an unknown, before I'd had confirmation that he was alive, that he was still somewhere. I thought living through wondering and fearing his fate had been bad, but the longer I stood there, the more dead I felt. Hopeless.

What if I couldn't save the rest of him? What if this really was all that was left?

Swallowing, the muscle of my jaw tightened as I shook my head slightly and pressed the heel of one hand against my throbbing temple. I couldn't stand there any longer. I couldn't be in the same room as Shirosaki's body. It didn't matter that that body was still about as alive as it could get. It was still the body of the being I loved.

I finally turned from him, wandered to the kitchen and grabbed a glass from the cabinet. As I filled it with water from the tap, I was surprised to see movement in my peripheral. I could have sworn he was walking toward me, between the space that separated the couch from where I stood, but when I turned to look, he was still seated where I'd left him, just turned slightly so that he was facing me again. Still, it was about as much motion and reaction from him as I'd seen.

After taking a drink, I went back to the sitting room and placed the half full glass on an end table near the couch, near where Shiro sat. I don't know why, to be honest, it's not like I'd ever seen him drink or eat anything that wasn't -well he didn't get his nourishment the same way we do- but I left the glass there and watched the way he kind of followed my movements with tiny, incremental, jerky motions. He never really focused on me or on what I was doing, but he kept me within view and I presumed it was an instinctive thing, a way to insure his own safety just like feeding had been. He didn't really need higher brain functions to know what he needed for survival. It was a primal, ingrained thing.

And so time went on. For the most part, I never heard anything from him. Occasionally something would seem to snap inside him and Shiro's terrifying, skull like mask would materialize out of no where and completely unprompted. Sometimes when that happened, his jaw would unhinge and he would snarl with that horrible, harsh roar that almost shook the glass windows in their frames. But no one but me could hear it, so even when it startled me and woke me up or made me nearly piss myself as I worked around my apartment, I didn't need to worry about him drawing attention from other people.

I had to wonder about it, of course, about what it meant and why it kept happening. There was nothing dangerous in my apartment, there was nothing threatening anywhere near him, so why did he randomly act so aggressive? Then it occurred to me that maybe his body was reacting to something that was assaulting the other half of him, wherever that was. Maybe, even though his body was in the human world with me, it was still somehow connected to his soul or whatever it was. Maybe the part that made Shi who he was was in more danger than I knew. The theory didn't settle well with me. It made me grow more desperate than I had already been before, but there wasn't much I could do about it other than keep digging.

So that's what I did. Life went on.

For the most part, Shiro stayed exactly where I'd left him. He sat on the couch, motionless and silent, nearly every second I was awake. But sometimes he would move. It was odd, the first time it'd happened. Before, he'd sort of turn so that he could keep an eye on me, but that's all it was, just little movements, nothing major. Until I left my apartment for the first time since he'd showed up.

I was on a forced leave from work until I got my shit together, basically, but I still had to leave on occasion. I still had to find new sources of information and new theories about all this paranormal stuff, about demons and the afterlife and all. And despite how much I hated everything around me, hated everything that was happening and had happened, I still had to eat, still had to live, if only so that I could eventually find Shi.

After about a week of having Shiro sit in my livingroom like an odd, permanent, statuesque guest, I made a trip to the store. It was silly, but as I walked out the front door I told him I wouldn't be gone long and not to torment the neighbors. He didn't respond.

The place I went to was just a small grocery store, nothing fancy, but it was within easy walking distance so I went to grab a few of the necessities that I was running low on. It was a quick trip, no wandering down random isles or anything. I went straight to where I would find what I needed so that I could get it over with as quickly and painlessly as possible. What I hadn't been expecting was to turn a corner down an isle and find Shiro standing there, watching me again. Just standing there, motionless, unblinking. His long hair hung around his features in lanky, somehow unhealthy looking strands. His eyes were just as flat as they had been in my apartment, even under the harsh florescent lighting.

Then a woman walked passed him and her shoulder went right through him. As she passed, she reached up to rub at her bare arm like it was cold but otherwise didn't react and I realized that of course no one else could see him, feel him, because to them, he didn't exist.

At first, I really had no idea what to do. I couldn't just drag him from the store with me. If someone thought I was that crazy, if someone found out I wasn't taking the medication I was legally supposed to be on, who knew what would have happened. All I knew was that I couldn't allow my search to be ended, not yet, so my only option was to leave him there... Besides, he'd made his way to where I had been twice now, so maybe he would follow me back home on his own eventually.

He did. By the time I checked out with the few things I'd grabbed, he was waiting near the cash register. Then he was waiting for me back in my apartment, sitting on the couch like he hadn't moved. It was strange. It was, well, it was crazy. And in an odd sort of way, it was almost a comfort too.

It happened a lot after that. Every time I would leave, whether it be to visit the library or my boss or the store, anywhere, I began to expect to see Shi there. I never actually saw him get up and move from the couch. He never walked with me or towards me or anything, but he was always there.

I didn't know it at the time, but Shiro's body kept instinctively using his not-really-teleporting ability to find me because Shiro himself was searching for me too. Just like I'd called him to me that night, his body had been heeding his call as well. It was taking signals from the both of us.

Like Shiro had told the doctor all those months ago, I had more power than I realized. More than anyone did, even more than Shiro knew. Though he had a better idea than I did. But I was young and I didn't know anything about it. Even without trying, without knowing what I was doing, all the research I was doing, all the mental exercising, the meditating and reading and focusing my energies, was only strengthening all that I had once considered to be wrong with me. In a subconscious way, it was like training and preparing. Like practice, I guess. I was honing skills I didn't even know I had.

Nearly another month would go by before I was finally given a chance to put any of those unknown abilities to the test. Let me tell you, it was not an easy month. Even though it seemed there were no higher functions going on in Shiro's body, a body still needed the basics. Shelter was taken care of: he was safe enough staying in my apartment. But how exactly are you supposed to feed a demon that lives off sex when it hardly even moves, let alone knows what's going on around it? I couldn't just...I couldn't do it. I knew he still needed it, but I couldn't. This was Shiro's body, but it wasn't Shiro. There was nothing in it, just an empty shell that happened to look like him.

Starvation was already a slow and cruel way to go, even under normal circumstances, but Shiro's was a very drawn out and long pain. Without the need to sustain his essence, his soul, what really made him Shiro, Shi's body didn't seem to need to feed nearly as often. It didn't deteriorate as quickly as it had when Shi had still been whole. But it still happened. The longer it took me to keep searching, to find the rest of him, the more drawn and empty his body looked, the less alive and healthy.

By the time that month was nearly over, I was so desperate. He sat there on the couch, yet he was hardly there at all. It wasn't like he'd been all that lively or anything, but the longer he sat there, the more he looked truly dead, a corpse. Pale features were drawn, even more skeletal and his breathing wasn't right. It was too shallow, too quick and it sounded almost wet. The few times he would go through one of his aggressive episodes, he would don his mask only for it to crumble. The pieces would fall to his lap before disintegrating and there would be no aggressive snarling, only a pitiful, barely there sound. I had to wonder if that meant that where ever the rest of him was, was he feeling the effects of malnourishment and starvation as well? Did Shiro know his body was slowly dying? If so, did he blame me for it?

Did he know I was letting him die?

Desperate, like I said. I needed to figure out how to get Shi back and I needed to do it now. I was finally out of time.

That night, as I sat there in the middle of the sitting room floor and stared up at Shiro's barely living form, I wracked my mind for answers, for something useful. I'd read and researched everything I could get my hands on, and some of it was even kind of helpful, yet none of it could give me exactly what I wanted. None of it could tell me exactly what I needed. And, sitting there staring at the only creature that ever truly cared about me, I realized it was because I had been looking for answers about things that were considered made up or simple theories by people that had no way of really knowing these things. I was looking for answers about inhuman, paranormal truths, from humans.

Humans wouldn't know, the people that had done all that research and wrote all those books couldn't have possibly known. They could have all the theories they wanted, all the ideas there imaginations could conjure up, but those weren't truths. Those didn't help me.

I needed something not from the human world that I could speak with. Only two things really came to mind. One of them was already dead, killed by Shiro's hand, the other I'd met not so long ago. That dreamwalker had known something.

It had told me it knew who Shiro was, what he was. It'd known where the incubus was and what I was trying to do. It had also know Shiro had been too weak to push through and it had taken advantage of that. It would try so again, if I gave a chance.

So that's what I did.

I turned one last look on Shiro, guilt and unease and fear and a million other things constricting my chest at the sight of him, at what he'd become. Then I stood and I left the sitting room, walked down the hall and into my bedroom. I stripped down to my boxers and climbed into bed, settling under the blankets and trying to make myself as comfortable as possible as I prepared for a night of sleep and bad dreams. As I closed my eyes, I let my mind wander to Shi and all the strongest memories I had of him before he'd been killed, when he'd been his strongest and I hadn't known things were about to get a lot worse.

It seemed like it took me a while to finally drift off, and I think my dreams were mostly blank for most of the night, but eventually, it happened. I eventually found myself in the same forest, surrounded by thick, gnarled old trees and earthy tones. The sun shone bright and warm up above the canopy, but unlike last time, it was dark and shadowy near the ground, like there should have been vast rain clouds above. A low but thick fog clung to the base of trees, snaking around the trunks like something living and tangible.

I watched it drift in and out. It almost seemed to curl towards me, wrapping behind me to circle round and surround me, but it kept it's distance, like it knew I was foreign, an intruder. Or perhaps something else kept it away. I turned a quick circle -far less enchanted this time around, now that I knew what kind of creature lurked in this place- and began looking for the odd little symbol that had been carved into the trees before.

Trying to peer through the thick mist, it took me a few minutes to find the first one. I quickly made my way toward it, searching the trees beyond for the next one, but found nothing. Frowning and still feeling far more desperation than a simple dream should have allowed for, I turned another circle, wondering if perhaps I'd missed it somehow. When I turned around to face the direction I'd come from, I came face to face with the man I'd been looking for, the dreamwalker.

His dark skin and hair was completely dry, despite that he had to have walked through the low hanging mist. His bare feet seemed almost rooted to the ground and his back was straight, green eyes swirling and glowing and boring into me, but still he held that air of ease and calm. Like a tree that had seen seasons untold and did not fear the coming storm.

After a few moments of nothing but silence, green eyes coasted around for a brief moment, before landing on me again. I felt it coming this time, felt as the muscle in my jaw protested for a moment, my body automatically trying to reject the dreamwalker's words.

"It waits for you, child. It has faith." Arching a single brow, I let the creature's words roll from my tongue. I wasn't surprised he recognized me, and I knew he was speaking about Shiro.

"Where is he?"

Again, that odd feeling as he began speak from my mouth. The voice was deep and wooden, not my own, "Not here. It is wea-"

I growled, clenched my jaw, and managed to cut the words off as I glared at the man. His stoic features finally twisted, showing surprise as his own words were stemmed and shoved back down his throat. This time when I spoke, the voice was my own, "That wasn't what I was asking."

"I cannot." He said immediately after I'd finished my sentence.

Curling my lip, I let my expression show my ill mood. I wasn't there to talk, there was no time for games. I didn't even bother trying to remain calm like the dreamwalker. I didn't try to keep him from feeling my anger, my desperation. I wanted him to feel all of it. Then the demand slipped from my lips and I realized he'd already answered it. "Take me to him."

I cannot.

"You can. You will." I continued, before he could make the effort to interrupt me again.

I cannot.

Again the words echoed in my head, already spoken, and my eyes narrowed, growing even colder than their color already made them seem. I wracked my brain for a course of action, but I'd thrown myself into this without much a plan. Making it up as I went, I studied him for a moment more before something came to mind. He'd told me what a dreamwalker was the last time, and that he used to help his people communicate with the dead. Well, their elders. Guessing they were dead.

"No-" He started to refuse what I was about to ask. The single word no sooner floated past my lips, before I halted it and forced my own words past his. Again his features pinched as he was forced to quit talking. "Yes. You're going to help me talk to him."

The creature seemed to laugh. The sentiment spilled out in the air around us like the fog and the shadows that hadn't been there the last time, but no real sound traveled between us. Then it was gone and the man's dark features pulled into a frown and it was at that moment that I realized I could hear what he had been about to say.

You do not scare me, child.

He knew I could hear it too, and before he had a chance to force the words from my mouth, I interrupted him and spoke. "You said I had power," My deep voice was calm as I grew more confident and the slight tilt to the corner of my lips surely further proved it. "I hear that a lot and I'm starting to believe it. Should we find out how much?"

A snarl rippled through forest, audible yet making not a sound just like the laughter had. It rode the fresh, clean air, but seemed dampened by the fog. Ignoring his angered sound, I looked around us again, took my time and looked at the fog and the way it hung heavy in the clean air. It was thick and choking, blocking out the greens and the browns that normally made up this dreamscape. It chilled the soil, frosted the trees it touched, but as thick as it was, it left no shadows. In fact, it almost seemed to bleach them out. The mist was as foreign to this place as I was, but something about it seemed familiar anyway.

"Shiro's fighting with you, isn't he?" It was less a question and more a statement, as I redirected my gaze back to the dreamwalker's. I'd been wrong. It wasn't a heavy fog or a thick mist. It was a thin, porous vail of white. It was watered down nothing, a weakened void that couldn't quite white out the surroundings. It was from Shiro, or from the incubus's realm, perhaps.

Those sharp, verdant eyes seemed to narrow just slightly, hardly anything at all. For a long moment, he said nothing and it took me a minute to realize he couldn't until I let him use my voice again. The second I realized this, even just a hint of the attempt to figure how to give him permission again must have been enough, because words pushed from my throat and the voice was organic and ancient. "The doorway you created was intended for the demon. It leads to it's world. You call to it without your knowledge but it is weakened."

"That's why you're here instead." I nodded, remembering what he'd told me before. But he wasn't here because Shiro had sent him, which could only mean one thing. "What do you want-"

But before I could finish my question, a lilting, angered howl rang through the forest. It rode the weakened void, made the watery white undulate like ripples in a pond. It was wordless, enraged, but more than that, it sounded just as desperate as I felt. In that moment, I knew that not only was Shiro struggling with the dreamwalker that spoke with me, but he must have been nearer than I'd thought. Maybe the doorway I'd created by chance was still open, but the dreamwalker was blocking the way.

That meant that Shi was probably trapped just out of reach, yet he was warning me away from the creature that stood between us and kept him away from me all the same. This creature must have been more dangerous than he seemed.

The wordless, emotion-fueled screech died down again, quieting to little more than a dull echo that floated about in the wispy strands of nothingness. I frowned, something in that sound squeezing tight around my chest and lungs. Sliding my gaze back to the dreamwalker still staring unblinkingly and stoically at me, I finished my original thought. "What do you want in return? To be set free in the human world?"

It took the man a moment to work words from my mouth and they tasted almost sour, mocking. "I am a dreamwalker, child, I cannot exist among the physical plane."

"Then what?" I asked in a rumbling, suspicious tone. Another low, drawn out and almost strained sound accompanied my words. It was distorted in a familiar way, and less screeching this time, more of a growl. The fog-like nothingness drifting around us pulsed almost forcefully, and for a moment, I could have sworn I felt Shiro trying to push his way into my dreamscape. At the same time, something seemed to tear through the air above us, just under the canopy of trees. A light but steady and frigid rain cut through the forest.

In the very next second, I understood why he seemed to try so hard.

The words were bitter and sharp on my tongue, leaving a bad taste behind. "Grant me access to your dreams, let me feed from them, and I will help you speak with the demon."

I hesitated, wanting nothing more than to agree and finally be able to speak with Shi, to tell him how sorry I was, to tell him how hard I had been trying to fix this and still was, to bring him back. But everything about the dreamwalker's request felt wrong, like a trick, like there was something hidden in his words.

"I don't think you'd like the flavor..."

With my refusal, the dreamwalker seemed to grow angry. Green eyes flashed with a shine that certainly didn't come from the sun that didn't break through the canopy above. Like during my previous visit to this odd, in between world, the trees seemed to come to life. The lower branches bowed slowly but unavoidably toward me. Vines snaked through the roots, creeping across the rich soil. They snaked towards me with obvious intent and I bristled, remembering the way they'd coiled around me and trapped me the last time.

Despite that I still couldn't see him, that he still wasn't really there, Shiro seemed to grow angry as well. The almost stifling surge of his rage matched the dreamwalker's. The white void undulated, rippling and shifting like something clawed through it. It curled in on itself and folded back. It was see through and intangible, but it was solid and real. It reminded me of the first time Shiro had visited me in my dreams, an ability granted to him by his heritage. Everything had been a white nothingness, yet it'd been solid all the same. Just like Shiro himself.

Feeling entirely unsure of myself and of everything that was moving and crawling around me, I took a step away from the angered dreamwalker. It didn't seem to matter, like my steps were carrying me no where and no matter how I backed away, he seemed to be right before me. From behind me I could hear the dry slither of gnarled, knotted roots creeping across the soil towards me. The leaves above shook and rattled, only further adding to the cacophony of noise and menace.

"Shi..." The name slipped out, an automatic response to my growing unease and fear. Shiro had protected me from the shadow-creature so much that it became natural. He was the only one I'd ever had to turn to.

As if reacting to my voice, or perhaps my fear, the creature finally moved. The man took a single, measured stride towards me, his features stoic but his green eyes livid. His second step halved the space that had previously separated us. There was no splash of sunlight to reveal his true appearance, but I could imagine, almost feel, as antlers spiraled out from his skull and long, pointed ears flatted aggressively.

The creature knew it was useless to bargain with me, he knew that words wouldn't change my mind. Shiro's desperation, his attempt at warning me only backed my decision. I would not give in and grant the creature his wish to feed from my dreams. I'd had enough of monsters.

So the dreamwalker resorted to taking what he wanted. He seemed a peaceful enough thing, but everything about him was invasive and simmering. He was old and powerful and like the forest, he slowly creeped and took over what he wanted. But I was more powerful than that, more so then I'd known.

As he stepped up before me and tilted his head ever so slightly, he reached for me. At the same moment, the vines and branches and roots coiled towards me. Leaves brushed my skin with sharp edges, thorns cut through my clothing and dug at flesh. I growled, and the dreamwalker flinched.

"Shiro..!" Following my fearful, desperate rumble, Shiro's lilting snarl pierced through the air again. I'd created a doorway meant for him. The dreamwalker had confirmed as much. I called to the incubus, I drew him toward me and as power rode through my body, multiplied by the rush of adrenaline and emotion that coursed through me in the moment that the creature's hand closed around my jaw, I ripped the fabric of my dreamscape open.

The tear was announced by pounding rain that drowned the low-lying plants and churned the soil. Where the nothingness of Shiro's realm had looked wispy and foggy, it roiled through like massive, devastating ocean waves. It whited out, erased the horizon and the forest that blocked it and with it, Shiro burst forth.

He'd come to my call. In all his angered, demonic fury, he rushed the dreamwalker like he had the shadowy monster that had killed him. It was too much. I couldn't do this again. He'd been at nearly full power before, and yet been killed. Now he was weakened, his physical body wasting away as his soul body had been trapped where the hell ever. I couldn't let this fight happen. I just couldn't.

I was so close to having him back. I was finally seeing him, after searching for months, after making myself sick over him, after nearly giving up. "No!" It was a single word, riding a deep breath, but it was forceful, a demand.

To my surprise, both entities froze. Everything froze, like pushing pause on a movie. The very forest seemed to hold it's breath. The vines quit creeping, the leaves stopped rustling, the branches, the rushing void, the snaking roots. Even the rain. Everything stopped because I'd told it to.

Shiro turned wide, golden eyes on me in a slow, stunned manner. His brows were arched high in surprise and his nostrils were flared with the effort to supply himself with the air he needed. He mirrored the shell that sat on my couch, he looked tired, worn and almost done. It made my heart ache behind my ribs.

All I did was shake my head, rejecting everything that sat before me; what I saw, what was happening, what had happened. I shook my head in denial of what I'd allowed to become of Shi, of how very long it'd taken me to figure all this out and that I still didn't know how I'd done whatever I'd done.

I shook my head, and the void of Shiro's world flooded in with renewed power.

The forest was scrubbed from my dreamscape. The dreamwalker tried desperately to give voice to his anger, his outrage, his pain as it ate away at him, as it bleached his dark skin and chewed through his muscle. I didn't allow him to twist words from my mouth and his screams remained silent as they echoed through nothing.

And then it was over. The white washed over Shiro, cutting through him and erasing him too. I screamed his name and it was the most ragged sound I'd ever heard come from myself. His name echoed in my ears, rattled through my skull, and bounced back to me from the walls of my bedroom.

I gasped a sharp, nearly violent breath as my mind clawed itself back awake and my eyes snapped open to stare at the ceiling of my apartment.

"Shiro?!" Disbelief colored my tone and pain made my voice tremble. I had failed... I had allowed him to be killed, taken from me again, and it hurt. More than anything I'd ever felt. "Sh-Shi..."

Tears welled in my eyes, blurred my vision as a choked breath crawled from my throat.

"Shhhh..." Something shifted at my side, the motion just barely causing the mattress to dip. "I'm right here, Grimm... Yer alright..."

Blue eyes widened as that soft, musical voice seemed to float through the darkness of my room. My head whipped to the side and the tears finally fell free as I set eyes on Shiro, alive, for the first time in months.

I'd gone to bed hours ago, a short time compared to how long the past few months had seemed, and at the that time, he'd still just been a lifeless body on my couch. Yet here was, laying at my side and panting like he'd ran a marathon to get down the hall to my room. He was weak and trembling and tired from his time at death's side, but he was here. He was alive again.

Blue brows furrowing, I stared at him, unable to pull my gaze away even had I wanted. He looked so beautiful in that moment. So frail and almost sickly, nearly impossible to feel at my side, but so angelic. Chaotic, gold on black eyes were tired and worn, but more alive than they'd been since he'd shown up at my apartment.

"Shiro..." I breathed, voice low and maybe holding just the slightest tremor to it.

A tiny smirk tugged at one corner of his pale lips before his tongue poked out and coasted over the seam of his lips. When he spoke, his voice was strengthless and a little on the rough side, but it was lilting and alive and it was Shiro. It was perfect.

"If ya apologize..." He said between strained breaths, "I swear, soon as I build up the strength... I'll hurt ya."

I couldn't help it. I was so goddamn happy. I rolled over to face him fully and wrapped my arms around him so tightly he groaned a strained sound into my chest as the air froze in his lungs. I could feel the muscle of his body try to tighten against the pressure constricting it, and I knew I was probably hurting him a bit, but his pale arms snaked around my middle anyway and he sighed a short but deep breath against my collarbone. His strained sound slowly devolved into a quiet, lilting chuckle and I choked out a laugh of my own as my vision blurred all over again, still trained on the white hair so close to my face. I buried my nose in it, breathed deep his scent and if I hadn't already realized it, I knew in that moment that this was all I'd ever wanted.

"Missed ya..." He whispered against my chest, his black nails curling and anchoring almost desperately tight against my back.

My demon was back, and for once, I was so damn happy.

"I missed you too."

This is another story I really do love. And it's been a treat to write, despite how long it took between updates. I think eventually I may try another first person story. :)

Anyway, I would be honored to hear your thoughts on the story and on the ending!
Thank you for reading~