Summary: "Yeah," Yuusuke said. "I think he's in trouble."
The Other Side of Reality
Part Four: In which Yuusuke has a "stupid, stupid, bad!" plan and Kurama is introduced to the enemy
"It gets better," Kuwabara said, then he reached past Yuusuke and flattened his hand against the wood. He felt the nausea coil through his stomach and this time, since he was expecting it, he could actually feel the skin on his palm splitting apart. It didn't hurt, although it did make the skin on the back of his neck crawl, and there was a lingering ache when he pulled his hand away to display the strange symbols to his teammates.
Hiei's eyes narrowed. "That's a gateway spell."
Yuusuke stared at Kuwabara's hand for a minute. "Huh. That's something new."
"Huh," Kuwabara echoed sourly. The skin was already healing, the oddly intricate symbols that had appeared as if carved into the palm of his hand fading into thin white lines. In a few minutes more the skin would be pink and clean, and marked only by the crisscrossing lines of his palm. The blood remained as the wounds healed, and Kuwabara wiped his hand on his jeans before it could dry.
Yuusuke poked tentatively at the door with one finger. "I don't sense any youki," he said doubtfully, splaying his hand to rest flat against the door. He pulled his hand away unmarked and wiggled his fingers. "I guess I'm not special enough."
There were dozens of things Kuwabara could have said to answer that. Sadly, Hiei beat him to it, and wasn't even a bastard about it. For once.
"The reaction is probably connected to your psychic abilities." The fire demon studied the door with a typically inscrutable expression. "It's possible that you had an empathic experience."
Yuusuke nodded. "I don't know what that means."
"He thinks I'm tapping into Kurama on the other side."
Hiei didn't exactly nod in agreement, but he didn't get the 'you're too stupid to be allowed to live' look, either.
"Okay, so somewhere in your bathroom – which isn't there anymore – someone is slicing Kurama's hands up into pretty decorative patterns?"
"It was a gateway spell," Hiei repeated.
"So your bathroom is in the Makai?" Yuusuke said skeptically.
Kuwabara gave Urameshi and the door equally baleful looks.
"No." Hiei had the pained expression he always adopted when forced to explain things. It clearly said he was wondering why he hadn't killed them all and returned to the makai years ago. Then he paused. "Probably not."
"It's gonna take weeks to get the smell out," Kuwabara sighed. "Forget bleach. I'll have to find out what Genkai uses to get all the demon blood out of the temple floors."
"Probably not? We're sitting here scratching our asses while Kurama is who-knows-where-"
"Possibly the Makai," Hiei interjected, "or another dimension."
"What is this?" Kuwabara asked rhetorically, "Star Trek?"
"Or another planet entirely," Hiei added. "It's not inconceivable, if the spellcaster were sufficiently powerful."
Kuwabara gaped at him for a minute. "You're just being a jerk now, aren't you? You're totally making this crap up just to freak me – what are you doing?"
Urameshi casually pointed an index finger at the bathroom door. "We want the door open, right?"
"Door open, yes! House and neighborhood demolished, no. Put that thing away!"
"You're trying to blow up my house!"
"Just the door!"
Kuwabara threw his hands up in disgust. "That's bad enough! This is your plan? Blowing up bits and pieces of my house is your plan?"
"Hey, do you want Kurama back or not?"
"Yes! And that's why I don't want you shooting spirit balls the size of your huge yet hollow head into the room he's trapped in!"
Urameshi smirked. "I can make the spirit gun non-fatal, remember?"
"Can you guarantee it won't piss off what's done this and provoke it into destroying the room and everything in it?"
"Oh." Urameshi paused. "That's probably a bad idea."
Kuwabara glared. "You don't say."
"Opening the door is probably ill-advised," Hiei spoke up.
Kuwabara glanced over his shoulder, irritated to find himself in agreement. "Why?"
"Yeah," Urameshi echoed. "Why?"
Kuwabara decided he really didn't want to be in agreement with either one of them.
"The door may be keeping us out," Hiei said, "but it also means that whatever is inside that room expects us to come in that way."
"That room doesn't exist anymore," Urameshi said.
Hiei shrugged, casting Kuwabara a blatantly doubtful look. "That's not the most accurate statement."
Kuwabara flipped him off.
Urameshi crossed his arms and began to look testy. "So what the fuck is the most accurate statement?"
"I don't know. But attempting to interfere with the situation before we understand it is-"
"What we always do?"
Kuwabara grinned at Urameshi. "Yeah. What we always do."
The thing in Kuwabara's room roared again, an angry, challenging bellow, followed by the sound of it throwing itself against the door. Kurama glanced upwards, crinkling the note in his hand as he curled his fingers into fists.
He was working under the assumption that he had been pulled into a pocket dimension, a bubble in space and time created by an outside force. He supposed it had to be intentional, though he didn't know anyone they'd pissed off lately who could be so powerful.
Summoning spells, on the other hand, were cheap and easy. Humans without an ounce of spiritual or magical talent cast them all the time, trying to enlist demonic aid in their plans for glory and vengeance. Summoning spells also went wrong very easily.
Gone to Genkai's. Meet me there.
It had been Saturday morning when he stepped into the bathroom, but a glance outside the window had shown him students in uniform on their way to class, and the typical mid-afternoon rush hour of cars and bicycles. It had to be at least Monday morning, then.
For the amount of damage he was witnessing to be done, however, a far greater amount of time had to have passed. The house looked as if it had been in a state of massive disrepair for years.
He slid Kuwabara's cell phone into his pocket and folded the wrinkled note in half, tucking it into the front pocket of his jeans.
There was insufficient evidence to support either theory. For now all he could do was remain alert and wary, and try not to take any part of his situation at face value.
Gone to Genkai's.
No matter how much he wanted to.
The floor sank slightly beneath his feet, rotting floorboards barely supporting him as he walked to the front door. The front hallway was dim, and moldy, the air damp. The long, narrow windows set on either side of the front door were cracked, one nothing more than a collection of spiderwebs that made it impossible to see through. Kurama saw the way the glass was bulging slightly outwards, and figured the glass must have been struck from the inside.
Several pairs of shoes were kicked into a corner; Kurama recognized Kuwabara's boots and sneakers, and a pair of what Kurama graciously supposed could be called tennis shoes if one were willing to be lenient. A pair of Kurama's boots was set neatly alongside the wall, underneath the coat rack.
He turned the doorknob and was unsurprised when it turned, but would not open.
The ceiling shook as whatever was upstairs threw itself against the door again and Kurama tipped his head back thoughtfully. No regular door would withstand that much violence. Much like the bathroom door.
Well then. Perhaps there was something he was overlooking.
He retraced his steps upstairs, keeping one eye on the ceiling grill. He rubbed the toe of one boot thoughtfully over the grill beneath his feet as well, focusing his sight down into the darkness below him. He could make out metal going down a long, long way and not a glimpse of the kitchen.
Well, that made as much sense as the non-existent attic, he supposed.
He stopped outside Kuwabara's room, listening to the sound of something large breathing just a few inches away. He sensed no youki, and no reiki either for that matter. This close he should have been able to smell whatever was on the other side of the door, but the only thing his senses picked up was a heavy rasping.
He was missing something.
The thing behind the door whined piteously and threw itself at the door again. Kurama slid his fingers over the doorknob, turning it slowly, but there was no click of a latch disengaging, and when he pushed, the door did not give.
He glanced across the hall at the barricaded bathroom, and down toward his own room.
Bright blue paint was splashed across his door, in short, sloppy hiragana.
'Pick up the phone.'
In his pocket, Kuwabara's cell phone began to vibrate.
"You know," Yuusuke said thoughtfully, "I don't think this is a good idea."
Kuwabara beside him, head tipped back to survey the blood currently pouring out of his ceiling. "It was your idea."
Yuusuke rubbed the back of his head. "Yeah, but I didn't think you'd actually go along with it. I mean, look how you reacted when I tried to knock down the door."
Hiei grunted irritably in a way that meant they should stop talking. Perched upside down on the ceiling, just inches away from the source of the gravity-defying blood, he didn't spare them the attention it would require to glare them into submission.
Yuusuke leaned over and lowered his voice. "Also, did you know he could do that?"
"Sure," Kuwabara said. "Can't all bugs?" He caught Yuusuke's eye and they both snickered.
A spatter of half-congealed blood smacked across Kuwabara's chest and Yuusuke's shoulder, provoking a disgusted shout. Yuusuke tugged at his shirt wondering if supernatural blood stained worse than the regular kind, while Kuwabara snarled incoherently at Hiei and shuddered theatrically before grabbing a hand towel and scrubbing himself off.
Yuusuke made a face. "That's gross, Hiei. I mean, what if this stuff was acidic or something. Or poisonous?" They'd fought an ice wyrm once whose blood had frozen whatever it touched. That had sucked. "We could be poisoned now."
"A pity." The fire demon didn't sound particularly upset about it. "I need a lever."
A lever? Yuusuke raised an eyebrow at Hiei, who was reaching into the source of the blood with one hand, feeling around. "That's blood, Hiei!"
"I hadn't noticed." Hiei pulled his hand free and caught the knife Kuwabara tossed him, eyeing it suspiciously. It must have passed his test because a second later Hiei jammed it into the ceiling and pried a board loose.
"So knocking the door down would piss off the supernatural badness, but ripping up the ceiling won't?" Yuusuke asked no one in particular.
"Yes," Kuwabara said. "Because no one is shooting huge balls of spiritual energy at it this time."
A second board joined the first one on the floor, and Kuwabara squatted next to them to poke around. "Wood's rotted through," he said. "We probably could've broken in with our bare hands."
"Some of us can break through normal wood with our bare hands," Yuusuke preened slightly, and flexed a bicep while his friend scowled. Kuwabara really was easy to aggravate sometimes. He watched as Hiei pried a third board loose and casually enough that it was probably intentional, dropped it on Kuwabara's head. "How's it look, Hiei?"
The demon grunted. "We're not getting in this way." He swept at the trickle of blood, smearing it across the rusted metal that had been revealed beneath the boards.
"That's not supposed to be there, right?" Yuusuke didn't know much about construction, but he'd been thrown through enough walls to know that most houses didn't have metal sheeting. "If it's rusted, maybe we could break through?"
Hiei dropped from the ceiling, executing a perfect spin in midair and landing on his feet. "I doubt the condition matters. We should have been able to break through the door easily, yet it resisted our best efforts."
"This probably won't be any different," Kuwabara finished. "Great."
"Told you it was a bad plan," Yuusuke said. He smirked as both his teammates glared at him with identical expressions of annoyance. They did that a lot, actually. One day he'd tell them and watch their heads explode. "So, I'm all out of ideas."
"Pity," Hiei said. "Your last one was so brilliant."
"Hey," he objected mildly, but the ringing of the phone cut him off.
"Get it," Kuwabara said. "It's Kurama." He snapped his mouth shut with an audible crack of teeth and blinked at his own words.
"Kurama? Is that you?" Yuusuke's voice sounded tinny and distant, like a long distance call made on a cell phone, which it almost certainly was.
"Yuusuke," Kurama said with deep relief. "I've been worried. Is Kuwabara-kun with you?"
"Yeesssss," Yuusuke said slowly, the word becoming a long, drawn-out hiss. "He's been here all along."
Kurama paused. "Yuusuke?"
The voice on the other end of the line deepened, became slick and dark and suggestive. "I'm going to eat your bones, Kurama."
It didn't sound like Yuusuke at all. Even when he was trying to, Yuusuke couldn't manage anything much worse than 'vaguely threatening'. "Who are you?"
"I am a harbinger."
Definitely not Yuusuke. He wouldn't even know what that word meant. "Did you bring me here?"
"I had some help." A low, deep chuckle rolled against Kurama's ear. "However unwilling."
His fingers curled around the mouthpiece of the phone. "If you've hurt anyone-"
"There's nothing you can do to me. I'll see you soon, Kurama."
Something moved in the corner of Kurama's vision and he turned.
A thick, pink rope dangled from the ceiling, writhing slightly, curling in at the tip. Kurama drew back slightly, watching as thin strands of clear fluid dripped down its length and fell through the grill of the floor.
Yuusuke snagged the phone off the wall, nearly pulling the cord loose in his hurry. "Kurama?" He said. "Is that you?"
Kurama sounded stressed – in that Kurama way, which didn't sound stressed at all, but Yuusuke had learned how to recognize the vague clues. "Yuusuke. I've been worried. Is Kuwabara-kun with you?"
Yuusuke peered at Kuwabara, who was watching the conversation with a narrow gaze. "Yeah," and he didn't add 'being kinda creepy' but he sure thought it – "he's right here. Listen, where are you?"
The response sounded uncertain. "Yuusuke?"
"Who are you?"
"I'm... me?" Yuusuke frowned. "Kurama, where are you?"
"Did you bring me here?"
Yuusuke gripped the mouthpiece of the phone and exchanged a look with his two teammates. "I don't think he's talking to me anymore."
Hiei frowened. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"If you've hurt anyone-"
Okay, now Kurama sounded pissed. Yuusuke wished he could hear the other end of the conversation. Kurama didn't piss off easily, though threatening other people was definitely the fastest way to do it. "Kurama?" he tried again. "Kurama, can you hear me?"
Silence. It was thick and heavy through the phone, weighing on his shoulders as he strained for any little sound, as Kuwabara and Hiei watched him. "Answer me, Kurama."
Something like a t-rex roared, and the line went dead.
"Yeah," Yuusuke said. "I think he's in trouble."