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Don't Close Your Eyes

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Miroku Tsujitani didn’t believe in ghosts.

He didn’t believe in a lot of things. He was very much of the conviction that unless it was visible, or evidenced, or tested, it didn’t exist. As deputy in the small town of Horaijima, it was his job to look at the facts and only the facts.

The fact was that the badges in front of his face looked very real, and very legitimate.

“You’re…from the FBI.” He tried desperately hard not to make it sound like a question, and for a brief moment thought he had succeeded. Of course, that was when the woman in front of him narrowed her magenta eyes to slits, hellfire practically spitting from them.

“Special Crimes Unit,” the woman confirmed, tone icy. “I’m Special Agent Sango Houko, and this is my partner, Special Agent Kagome Higurashi.”

The thing was that Miroku could believe without a doubt that Sango Houko was FBI. There was a ferocity in her stance and shrewdness in her gaze that practically screamed it. The woman was a sight to behold, even in jeans and a dark brown leather jacket. Regardless of the dress code, she practically oozed federal agent. Her partner, on the other hand, did not. She was petite in virtually every way, with long black hair and bangs that nearly hid her eyes. She wasn’t even looking at him, choosing instead to stare blankly at the ramshackle cabin everyone was circled around.

Yeah, there was no way. The forest green camisole sweater wasn’t exactly helping the woman’s look either.

“How is this a federal crime?” he asked, even though it was only half of what he wanted to say. There’s such a thing as a Special Crimes Unit?

“It’s all approved,” was all Agent Houko stated. “Feel free to call your superior.” She sounded so sure, bored of the conversation rather than aggressive. It made Miroku both extremely hot under the collar and irritated. He had always loved a woman in charge but this… Was maybe more than he could handle.

“If you don’t mind waiting here,” he suggested, not waiting for a response before turning away from the police tape to get some privacy. He signaled to his best officer, Hachi, and stepped as far away as he dared. Behind him, he heard the two women murmuring amongst themselves. Tapping into his contacts to get to the sheriff’s line, he frowned when the screen froze before vibrating. He was getting a call. Miroku shouldn’t have been so surprised it was his boss.

“Sherriff,” he greeted. Even his tone was resigned.

“Two spooks will be coming to the crime scene,” Sherriff Mushin Fujimoto grumbled. “Let them in.”

“Spooks? Really?” Miroku snorted. “That’s CIA. These are feds. You should know better.”

The old man paused on the other end of the line and the next words out of his mouth were careful, like for the first time in his long life he was choosing them with care. “I do know better, but I still think I’m right.” Another pause filtered through the line as Miroku frowned, trying to process what the hell that meant. “Let them in.”

The line went dead.

“If he’s drinking again, I swear to god,” Miroku sighed, sliding the phone back into his pocket. Great, just another thing to deal with. Whatever. If federal agents wanted to crawl around their crime scene and take it over, Miroku wasn’t going to be an ass about it. Cooperation was key and while he still had serious doubts about the woman in the green, oversized sweater, it was clear this wasn’t his place to judge.

He approached the crime scene tape, Hachi raising a skeptical eyebrow at him as he studied the two women. They were standing incredibly close to one another, whispering. When the magenta-eyed one noticed his approach, she abruptly stopped, hand tugging at the other’s sweater.

“All clear?” she asked, as if she didn’t know better. Miroku was no idiot.

“All clear. Sorry for the wait, Agent Houko.”

“No harm done, and please, call me Sango.” She gestured towards her friend. “And this is Kagome. We’re pretty informal in our unit.”

“Your FBI unit,” Miroku couldn’t help but add, compelled.

The narrowed gaze was back, but within a second it disappeared and Sango shook her head, almost ruefully. “Yeah. Mind taking us to the warehouse?”

“Sure, it’s a bit of a climb. Not a lot of useable land in these woods. Too much rolling forest. The warehouse used to be part of a logging operation until a few decades ago.”

“What happened?” To Miroku’s surprise, the voice wasn’t soft. It was also unfamiliar. The deputy looked over at Kagome, who was walking beside her partner and climbing the steep hill with ease. Despite her fragile appearance – and the way she was clearly focused on the ground rather than the world around her – there was a sort of assertiveness there he wouldn’t have guessed at.  

“The money ran out,” he answered slowly. “I wasn’t even born yet but back then, the town’s only real funding came from this forest that surrounds us. Everything would be logged here and then prepared for transport. There used to be a railway connection not too far away, but a bridge crumbled somewhere and when they reworked the tracks, Horaijima was no longer a part of the route. Transport cost too much, and the money disappeared.”

“We only just passed through the town on the way over, but it seems to be thriving.” There was a smirk curling around the words; Miroku didn’t understand why. Like there was a hidden joke Sango had buried in there, if only he could read the twinkle in her eye.

Which, speaking of, damn. And that mouth?

“It’s an old, old town.” Miroku forced himself to look away, to look towards where they were going. “We mostly get a lot of that small-town tourism thing. The forest has tons and tons of hiking trails, and camp sites galore. That’s ignoring the whole haunted tours thing our commerce board has been pushing since that stuff became popular.”

“Not surprised.”

Miroku couldn’t help but stare at the magenta-eyed woman, at the cool assertiveness of her expression on top of the blasé remark. “Why? Are ghost tours popular where you come from?”

Sango snorted but to his surprise – yet again – it was Kagome who answered.

“No.” Finally, the woman tore her gaze from the ground to meet his. Her eyes were dark: almost unfathomably so, like there was no differentiation between iris and pupil. “Your town is just seriously full of spirits.”


Kagome thought she was going insane.

Not for the first time, oh no. That ship had long since sailed, years and years ago. Insanity was, in many ways, like an old friend. The cloak and familiarity of it was warm, but the anxiety that presented itself along with it less so.

Five weeks. Five weeks since their last assignment, when Kagome was attacked from behind and slammed into a concrete post. The resulting blackout was expected, as well as the concussion.

The lack of ghosts, however, was disconcerting. That was why, in many ways, Kagome thought she was going insane. Because it had taken over ten years to grow accustomed to this life, of being able to see the spirits of the dead intermingling with those of the living. Not every second of every day, but often. The hairs on the back of her neck would stand up and gooseflesh would spread across her arms like wildfire.

And then there would be the cold. She was always so goddamn cold.

It was almost like putting on a new pair of glasses, where suddenly the vision she had before now included a new filter, something that allowed her to see ghosts. Sometimes there were ghosts that sought her out: to talk, to scream, to cry. Sometimes there were ghosts who simply drifted, unable to leave but never to come back to the land of the living.

And then there were the cryptic messages.

But all of this had been gone from her for five whole weeks. At first, Kagome had thought of it like a mini-vacation. Now, it felt like a part of her was missing. Incomplete. Fired from a job that she hadn’t even wanted, only to realize that maybe she needed it after all.

All Kagome seemed to receive now were whispers and smoke. Tendrils that never formed, a sigh that uttered no words. It was maddening. She could feel them, all around her. Yet she couldn’t make contact, no matter how hard she tried.

Sango knew all about it. Kagome would feel badly about broadcasting her frustration so openly, but the empath was going to know no matter how hard she shielded. Sango was one of the strongest empathy psychics ever recorded by the Special Crimes Unit. There were few shields that kept her out, and if she really tried to break through more often than not the woman could. That level of power made most of the SCU agents wary of her, even though all of them had powers in their own right.

It never bothered Kagome. She saw the dead. There were no such things as secrets with them.

Still, she had to keep an open mind. Kagome took a deep breath and closed her eyes. The warehouse that they were standing in disappeared into spotted blackness behind her lids. Focus. She had to focus.

A few feet away from her, Sango was talking with that deputy – Miroku, she believed. A nice enough guy, apparently. Sango didn’t call out any of his bullshit, so that meant any negative feelings he had towards them had been minor at worst. Then again, Kagome’s own comment about the whole spirits are everywhere definitely made him wary of her, in particular. More wary.

People tended to know she was different. A side effect of being a medium, apparently.

Christ, she needed to focus, not dwell on her insecurities.

She took another long, deep breath. Blocked the sounds of the real world out. She had practiced this hundreds – if not thousands – of times. This was what her training was for. But as she stood within the warehouse, the smell of damp sawdust tickling her nose, she knew it wasn’t happening. There was no gooseflesh crawling along her skin, no hairs standing on end.

All there was in the cavernous room were whispers. Snatches of conversation, of hushed cries and swallowed rage.

You must—

Tick.

How come there’s no—

—for as long as you—

Tick. Tick. Tick.

—sation to be—

Tick.

“Kagome?”

It didn’t take a genius to recognize the worry in Sango’s voice. The empath probably felt her growing desperation. “I’m fine.”

Sango raised a brow at her. “Did you see anyone?”

“No.”

“Then you’re not fine,” the woman stated, not unkindly.

Miroku frowned heavily. “See anyone?”

Sango waved a dismissive hand at him. “Ghosts.”

“Ghosts,” he repeated.

“This place is screaming at me,” Sango said, shaking her head. “Even with my shields.”

Kagome was far more worried about the deputy standing just behind her, looking rather horrified. After working together for so long, she knew without a doubt that Sango would have only said it if she thought the man could handle it. The expression on his face wasn’t really selling that she’d been right this time. “He doesn’t look so happy.”

“He’s more open-minded than he thinks,” Sango murmured, almost distractedly as she took in the warehouse. “Just give him a minute.”

“I’ll need more than a minute to digest that a branch of the FB-fucking-I has — what? — a ghost hunting specialty?”

“Psychic abilities,” Kagome tried, forcing a smile. It didn’t usually work, but she always pulled it out regardless.

“Holy shit,” he whispered. “You are spooks.”

Sango grimaced and turned on him. “Really?”

The derisiveness in her tone made the deputy flinch and then promptly look embarrassed. He cleared his throat and seemed to pull himself together, one inch at a time. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” he said finally, almost ruefully. “Sorry.”

“Give it another day,” Sango answered shortly, magenta eyes narrowed. “And stop talking. I need to focus.”

“On what?” he pressed, but all Sango did was send him a glare and he fell silent. Kagome always admired that about her.

A shiver travelled up her spine suddenly and Kagome hugged herself, still and waiting. Her being cold wasn’t always a warning that the spirits were opening up to her. That had been the hardest shock of all, those past few weeks. It seemed like in the old warehouse the shiver should have meant something. Kagome could feel ghostly impressions everywhere. The whispers were still in her ears, begging to be properly heard.

Tick.

—is how it all en—

No, no!

Tick.

—these reports weren’t filed—

Kagome closed her eyes and then opened them, once more. Nothing.

“A demon was engulfed here,” Sango murmured, voice taking on a sort of faded quality that only ever happened when she was going under, her shields mostly lifted and mind focused on what was around her. Sango could never open her shields fully; like a grenade, her empathy would look into every crevice and pore, tearing up human minds. Kagome had never seen it before, but she had heard about it. Sango’s early days at the SCU were nearly stuff of legends. “Blood splatters on the far wall, but the death happened right here. Centre of the room.”

Kagome joined her, noticing that Miroku was standing far back with wide and wary eyes. “And?” she asked.

“There’s so much evil here,” Sango murmured. “Corruption. It’s new and shiny, like oil all over the walls.” She bent down slowly to touch the floor and grimaced. “The demon didn’t know it was coming.”

“Abandoned warehouse in the middle of a forest… How did she not see it coming?” Kagome asked.

But that was an answer even Sango couldn’t truly answer. “I need to go deeper,” she declared, voice almost hushed. “There’s too much haze.” Haze meaning a myriad of emotions that were all so powerful they conflicted, messing the auras up until they all blended. Kagome didn’t understand it herself, but Sango had a way of narrowing down on those emotions. It simply meant Kagome had to protect her, watch her. Call her out, if needed.

“You need to leave the room,” Kagome told Miroku then, kneeling onto the ground of the warehouse. “I’ll let you know when—”

“I’m not leaving,” Miroku shot back. “This is my crime scene until you can prove federal jurisdiction. I’m not leaving you alone in here.”

“The evidence has been gathered, Deputy,” Kagome argued. “We can’t do any damage to the scene and you’ll only tamper with ours.”

Your evidence?” he demanded.

Sango gave a weak sort of laugh. “It’s fine. He can stay. His signal is a pretty weak broadcast compared to all of this.”

“What are you—?”

But Kagome paid no mind to him. “Still, it’s one more thing for you to worry about, and he’ll feel it. We don’t know how he’ll react. That signal could get stronger.”

Her partner’s lips tightened. “We’ll have to take that chance.”

Kagome glared at Miroku. “Go stand at the far wall, at least. And don’t talk. No matter what happens, don’t open your mouth. Don’t open the doors. Don’t do anything.”

As the deputy processed that, Sango chuckled. “You’re starting to scare him.”

“Good,” Kagome muttered. “I can barely babysit the dead. The living are infinitely worse.” Eyeing Miroku one last time, she realized the situation was as good as it was going to get. “Alright, whenever you’re ready.”

Tick.

Kagome froze, feeling like lightning had just zapped down her spine. That whisper had been stronger, like someone was right at her ear. Beside her, Sango let out a shaky exhale and Kagome had to shake herself, had to focus on her partner instead. No matter what the spirits were trying to talk to her about, it couldn’t matter now.

Sango swore quietly, her hands near clawing into the ground. “So much fear,” she whispered, squeezing her eyes tight. “He took his time.”

“Doing what?” The questions helped, or at least Sango said they did. They kept her grounded, or some sort of semblance of it. It made whatever she was focusing on blur just a little, just enough to not get lost in a sea of emotions that could take her over. Crime scenes and battlegrounds were always the worst, always the most dangerous.

“Engulfing her.” Sango hissed a little, tilted her head and then shook it. “He took his time because—”

She hesitated, so Kagome leaned closer, careful not to touch. In her own mind, a grotesque discomfort slithered inside. She knew from experience that this was excess from Sango’s powers, her empathy needing to leak or risk explosion. Kagome imagined her mental shields, coating them. “Because why?”

“Power,” Sango whispered, the word dragging out. “More of it. Discard and regain. Discard and— Here.”

“What’s here?”

Sango let out a shaky breath. “Shit, he is. A part of him.”

And that discomfort in her mind grew to fear. Big, heavy and black. It buzzed like insects, battering at her shields. Kagome took a breath, remembering her training. Yet, something else was happening. The whispers of the spirits grew stronger, whirling around Kagome’s head like they, too, were desperate to get in. She kept her shields firmly shut, locked and forgotten. She could tell just by looking at Sango that her partner was diving in too deep. Kagome would have to force her to pull back soon.

“Holy shit, what—” But that was Miroku and Kagome glared at him and lifted a finger to her lips, praying that he would stay silent. She mouthed shut up, but Sango groaned then and a fresh wave of horror enveloped her.

“Sango, pull back,” Kagome commanded.

“No, I need to find out. He’s never—” Sango hissed. “He’s never left a piece of himself. Forgotten.”

“Don’t go deeper,” she begged. “You’re already too strong.” The insects of fear were battering, relentless and terrifying on her shields. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched as Miroku slid down the wall to sit. He didn’t utter a word.

Sango grinned, but it would have looked more appropriate if it was bloody. It had that sort of viciousness in it; a predator about to pounce. “I’ll be fine.”

“Then talk to me,” Kagome urged.

“It’s…” Shakily, Sango lifted a hand to point towards a corner of the room. “There. Darkness. So dark, Kagome, get it.”

“I’m not leaving you,” she argued. “Pull back and we’ll get it to—”

“No.” Sango shook her head, almost violently. “It’s hiding. It’s organic. It knows we’re here. I can’t stun it for that much longer.”

Organic? A piece of living demon, how was that even possible? Kagome swallowed hard. “Don’t go deeper.”

Sango nodded in acquiescence and Kagome frowned but headed the way she pointed. Every muscle in her body complained at the movement, the entirety of her so exhausted. The fear was still trying to leech itself in and the whispers were worse. So much worse.

Tick.

Tick.

Tick.

She looked and looked and looked, and Sango groaned a little in what sounded like pain. Kagome knelt to the floor, looking underneath the steel tabletop that lined the wall. There was nothing. Nothing but some empty crates, a box, a—

“Kagome,” Sango pleaded.

“I don’t know where.” And that was the sound of desperation. How much longer could Sango hold out? “Just pull back, I’ll find it. Pull back!”

“No,” Sango gritted out and then she chuckled, harsh little jabs of laughter. “I’ll force it out.”

“Don’t you dare!” Kagome yelled but it was too late. Much too late.

Sango cried out, fierce and spiteful, and Kagome felt it like a tidal wave, crashing. But unlike the fear and the buzzing and the whispers, this was Sango’s determination and will. Her own empathic drive leaking throughout the room, pulsing on every surface. Come out, come out, it demanded and there. There.

Tucked in a corner, Kagome saw something move. She lifted her cardigan just enough to find her belt and the clipped pouch that held her taser. She got it ready and made a lunge for the dark mass, pushing aside a crate to see—

Tick.

Kagome pushed back, up, staggering—

Tick-tick-tick.

No time, there was no time, she was shoved, lifted—

Boom.

Everything shook, heat surrounded her and she screamed, flying.

Pain, and then—


Sango rubbed at her eyes and groaned, trying to breathe through the horrific stabbing pain in her skull. The misery within the hospital was palpable. Sango always tried to avoid them, whenever possible. Not an option today, but Sango had known from the first moment of striking fear that came out of Kagome – so sharp and metallic it bulleted through the miasma of emotions she’d already been deep in – that it would end this way.

A bomb. A goddamn bomb.

He knew they were on his trail. They were getting closer.

It hadn’t been a large one, at least. More of a taunt and threat than any kind of action. He still thought he was invincible, still ahead of them by leaps and bounds.

Sango was going to kill that bastard, come hell or high water.

“Here.” The words were soft and unbelievably kind. Sango was surprised, but also not. Deputy Miroku Tsujitani had been an open book from the first moment they spoke. What had happened at the warehouse though, before the bomb had gone off— Well, she was surprised he wanted to even look at her face, never mind talk to her.

A few ibuprofen tablets and a small bottle of water were given to her. Sango nodded her thanks and greedily chugged them down. They would do nothing for her psychic pain, but she had cracked her head pretty hard on the ground from the blast. At least it could help with that. Wincing, she licked her dry lips and attempted conversation. Miroku felt torn between hysteria and denial. “Where’s Hachi?”

“Making sure everything is wrapped up at the scene. I’ll meet him later at the station.”

Made sense. Sango tried to imagine any sort of timeline for them, getting out of this hospital and then getting back to the case, depending on how Kagome felt. She’d been able to see her briefly but the deeper into the hospital she went, the worse it was. At least her partner understood it.

“Any news?” Miroku asked, finally deciding to sit down beside her. Denial it was.

Sango nodded. “She’s okay, thank god. The steel slab she was on took most of the blast. She’s hit her head badly, will be bruised and has some cuts, but otherwise that’s it.” Laughing a little, Sango nearly choked on her words. “A concussion at worst. It’s a fucking miracle.”

Miroku hesitated and Sango could see it in his big blue eyes the hesitation there. “Was it? Or…was it something else?”

Snorting, Sango shook her head. “An actual one. We’re psychics, not comic book superheroes.”

“Ah.” Miroku looked uneasy, but he was broadcasting a fear of offending, rather than disdain for her and Kagome. With her shields shot to hell and back, Sango couldn’t block the emotions from leaking in even if she tried. “What exactly—” He cut himself off with a shake of his head.

As much as she didn’t want to have this conversation, Sango knew it was a necessary one. She also knew that Miroku was as fragile as he was ever going to be, and the open-mindedness that came with it was vital for their needs. Steeling herself as best as she could, Sango nudged him with her shoulder. “Just ask. Try simple and we’ll work our way up.”

Miroku blew out a long, heavy breath. “What powers do you have, exactly?”

“I’m an empath,” Sango replied. No matter how many times she’d given the speech before – either hurried and harsh, or slow and coaxing – it never got easier to explain. “Which basically means I’m fine-tuned to emotions. There are different kinds of empaths but I specifically can feel the emotions of others and of objects.”

“So you could tell if I’m angry, even if I’m not showing it?”

“Angry,” Sango agreed, “and I could probably tell where that anger was directed towards. Every empath has a different level of ability: some of us can only get surface thoughts, others can feel the emotions of people they’re close to, even if they’re not in the same country.”

Miroku sighed but his blue eyes were far from unkind. “Where do you fall in that range?”

“On the stronger side,” Sango stated, letting the lie roll off her tongue like it always did. There was never any point of letting him know the true extent of her powers, of the fact that Sango had been writing and re-writing the rules on empathy ever since she had joined the Special Crimes Unit and was tested.

Whether he believed her or not, Miroku simply nodded. “And your partner?”

“Kagome… Kagome’s a medium. She can see the dead and usually she can communicate with them, too.”

Miroku shivered. “Like have conversations with them?”

“Depends on the spirit.” Sango shrugged. “Honestly, mediumistic abilities are the hardest to parse through. The experience is different for almost every medium out there. Some have actual spirit guides. Others can see spirits like actual ghosts, wandering the streets.”

“So the more powerful you are, the better you can see them?”

“The easier you can communicate with them,” she countered. “It’s different than my ability. Most psychic abilities have their own kind of scale.”

“That’s—” Miroku laughed, self-deprecating. “How does that even work?”

Smiling wryly, Sango gave her usual answer. “Energy. Or at least, that’s what some of the most prominent scientists in the field are theorizing. Specifically, electromagnetic energy. Since both humans and demons have the potential for psychic capabilities, and our genetic coding is so vastly different, they’ve suggested that it has to be an external influence on our systems that’s causing such an evolutionary change.”

Miroku hummed. “Science wasn’t exactly my strong point in school.”

“Mine either,” Sango admitted, wry. “The past several years have been a crash course. But think of your brain like a radio. Radios pick up electromagnetic waves that cause the electrons in its antennae to vibrate. The radio then extracts the audio signals from those waves and plays them. The brain picks up information and processes it; that’s simple, right? Now think about it like energy: every living thing on this planet has an electromagnetic field, even if we’re forced to go down to a subatomic level. Some objects are even able to absorb that energy. So when we think about psychics, what if their brains are just able to tap into those fields? The earth sends out electromagnetic energy like radio waves, waiting to be picked up. Psychics just happen to have stronger antennae than the average person, and are able to process this information in whichever manner their brain allows for it.”

There was a long moment of silence, followed by a heavy sigh from the deputy beside her. “I know what you said makes sense but it’s a lot to process.”

“Well, buck up,” Sango replied, seeing her friend come down the hall with a nurse at her side. “Regardless of what you think, Kagome and I are here and we can catch this killer. We need you on our side.”

“I can still be on your side.” The deputy clearly hadn’t seen Kagome, his blue eyes boring holes into her. It looked like he was trying to prove himself, like his disbelief wasn’t a downfall. Sango knew this bothered him more than he let on; before today, fact and fiction were clear and divisive lines. But she also knew that people consciously or unconsciously determined what an acceptable risk was and more often than not, the psychics were seen as unfortunate tragedies if things went bad. Guess they couldn’t read minds after all, if they got shot.

Letting out a long breath, Sango turned away and headed towards her partner. Kagome felt…perplexed. A weird sort of emotion, a swirl that wasn’t all that familiar to Sango. They’d been partnered for years and this emotion that rolled off of her friend was strange, alien. “Are you okay?” she asked, unable to keep the worry from her tone. Professionalism had never been a problem until she had met Kagome.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Kagome answered, giving a small smile. Her eyes slid in a rush to some point over her shoulder and Sango frowned, following it only to see Miroku slowly getting up from the waiting room chair.

“How’s your head?” she pressed, edging closer.

“It’s been worse,” Kagome admitted with a laugh. “But it’s been better, too. I’m honestly okay,” she reassured, holding Sango’s hand for a brief moment. It was a gesture and Sango gratefully took it, letting her powers shift and flow between them. Whatever emotion Kagome had felt walking down the hallway was gone, replaced by fondness and amusement and a low-level of contentedness. Her shields were surprisingly strong and Sango nearly sighed with the relief of it wrapping around her. Her headache became nothing more than a dull throb, the screaming of emotions more like muted shouting in another room.

A side effect of their bond, built over years together. While Kagome would never be an empath, and Sango would never be a medium, the two of them could connect, sharing energy between them like a circuit. It was, in part, why their partnership was so perfect, why they could never lie to each other.

“Did you want to go back to the motel?” Sango asked, but Kagome was already shaking her head, determination flowing through her.

“No, we need to see what survived the blast, if that organic matter is still there.”

“We can rush it through the lab,” Sango agreed. “See if it’s our guy.”

Kagome grimaced, and for a flash of a second, irritation swept through her like a tidal wave, crashing hard before swelling away. Sango frowned but her partner shook her head firmly, dark brown eyes pleading.

Fine. Sango could wait.

“I’m going to head back to the station,” Miroku announced, breaking their little bubble. When Sango’s shields had been nothing more than tatters, she hadn’t been able to help noticing Miroku in every single moment. Now, with Kagome’s shields helpfully wrapped around her like a blanket, she’d forgotten to pay attention at all. “Hachi says the crime scene techs have something for us. I’m going to check it out; I can send you details if you want to give me your number.”

Sango squeezed Kagome’s hand, raising a brow at her and getting a responding quirk of lips. “No,” she said finally, “we’re going to come with you. We want to check out whatever it is.”

To his credit, Miroku only opened his mouth before shutting it with a click. His blue eyes practically scanned Kagome from head-to-toe, and even though he vehemently disagreed, the deputy said nothing. “Fine. Need the address?”

“No, we’re good,” Kagome replied, as kind as ever. “Thank you though.”

Miroku eyed their linked hands for a second and for the briefest moment, Sango felt a sharp pang of jealousy. It was dulled, more of a nudge against Kagome’s temporary shields than anything else, but it was there. “You drive,” was all he said, pointing at Sango before turning around.

Kagome watched him go with a smile. “He’s a little dramatic.”

“And stubborn,” Sango sighed. She could at least appreciate the view of him walking away. The uniform was oddly tight in all the right areas. “He won’t commit.”

“You know as well as I do that one psychic experience doesn’t necessarily break down the tunnel vision,” her friend chided. “He seems nice, though.”

Sango sighed again. She had a feeling she’d be doing it a lot. “Yeah.”

Together, they walked out of the hospital and into the nearby parking lot. It wasn’t until Sango got to the driver’s side that they let go of each other and Kagome waited, watching, making sure she was okay.

“I’m good,” Sango conceded, wincing only a little as her powers got that tiny bit stronger. “We’ll pick up coffee on the way, that’ll help.”

“You’re the only person I know that says caffeine in any way helps the psychic healing process,” Kagome laughed, buckling into the passenger side. “Are you okay, though? I should have asked.”

“Just a little empty on batteries, but I’ll be fine. You and I both know we don’t have a lot of time.” The admission was a grim one, but a fact nonetheless.

“Yeah, we—” Kagome paused, shut her eyes for a second and then laughed. “Sorry. I’m okay.”

She felt…strange. Different. That odd and horrible feeling from before was back. Sango tried not to dwell on it and started the car, leading them out of the parking lot and towards the police station. They had passed in on the way to the hospital, when Sango was chasing the ambulance with Kagome inside of it. Between the two of them, they had ground rules. A partnership like theirs – with psychic powers that were naturally invasive no matter how well one shielded – meant that they needed them. The best intentions were useless. Which was why they promised to never lie to each other, but they would back off if someone wasn’t ready to say something. Clearly, Kagome had something to say, but Sango was torn as to whether to mention it or not.

Kagome tilted her head to glance at the rear-view mirror. It was enough to catch Sango’s attention, but before she could say anything her partner groaned. “I look horrible.”

“What?” Sango asked, confused. Kagome seemed to search the rear-view a bit longer, but she slumped back over to her side, defeated. “What are you talking about? You were just in the hospital because you survived an explosion.”

“A miracle,” she commented lightly, and Sango narrowed her eyes, remembering when those same words came out of her own mouth. The problem was, when Kagome said it, it didn’t sound as realistic.

“What happened at the scene? What am I missing?” Maybe this was what Kagome was edgy about. Maybe something had happened, something that she didn’t know how to explain. That could account for the feelings radiating off of her, nervous and confused but not afraid. Perplexed.

Kagome rubbed at her face. “Not much. I went to get the organic matter and I saw it, briefly. But… Well, when we were in the warehouse, the spirits were trying to talk to me. I couldn’t—I couldn’t hear them properly, not with how my head’s been. They were just whispers or cut-off sentences. I didn’t see anything.”

“They warned you,” Sango guessed and her partner grimaced, tilting to look back into the mirror before nodding.

“Tried to, anyways. But you know how it is. It doesn’t always make sense. All I could hear was this whisper of a tick. Erratic. Clearly a voice and not something mechanical. It didn’t sound like a bomb. I didn’t realize until I actually saw it.”

For a moment, they were quiet, Sango trying to process it all. Kagome’s powers always seemed far more muddled than her own. It made Sango, at times, jealous. Mediumistic abilities were often shrouded in riddles or games, the dead unable to think in the same way as the living. Kagome had once said that it was because of the veil, because of the other plane of existence, where things that happened there didn’t necessarily happen in the world of the living. Even science couldn’t touch it.

“I don’t know how I managed to not die,” Kagome said finally, words heavy. It was only now that the slow slinking of fear oozed out of her, wrapping itself around them in the car. “I guess I jumped but I don’t—”

Sango took her eyes off the road, realizing that Kagome was once again looking in that rear-view mirror. It made her want to tear it out. “You’re fine,” she reminded her friend gently, reaching over to squeeze her hand. “We’re still here.”

Kagome nodded and closed her eyes, looking for all the world like she wanted to have a nap.

“I can still take you to the motel.”

“No,” Kagome answered. “I’m okay, really. My head doesn’t even really hurt. Or, it hurts just as much as the rest of my body.”

Sango held back a sigh but really, she didn’t want to complain. With everything that had happened today, a fight with her partner wasn’t exactly on the list. When Kagome looked at the rear-view mirror for the fifth time, however, Sango was more than a little suspicious. There was no one following them; the road was empty. But she knew Kagome, better than virtually anyone else in her life. Kagome’s emotions were like a favourite playlist, something easily accessible. Their frequencies just aligned, and while Sango was extremely strong in her ability, it was Kagome that made them work so well. She was strong and steady, despite her fragile look. 

But right now, there was something tremulous in her emotions, in the way she held herself.

“Kagome,” Sango said, as gentle as she had ever been. The interruption startled the black-haired woman, made her blink almost owlishly at her. “What’s wrong?”

At first, Sango knew she was going to lie. Her mouth opened, caught, and then she shut it again, clearly thinking ahead. There was no point in lying to an empath. “My abilities are back.”

“Shit, really?” Sango asked. “The hit to the head?”

“Probably,” Kagome allowed. Her dark brown eyes skittered back to the rear-view mirror before looking away.

“You should be happy.” It was a question, just as much as it was a statement. The past few weeks had been hell for the medium, lost without the one thing she never wanted in the first place. 

“I am. I– I am,” she reaffirmed, but her tone was off. The way she said it sounded almost defensive, when Sango wasn’t even remotely aggressive. “It’s good that they’re back. Not that I was useless before but–” She cut herself off and Sango was torn between watching the road and staring at her friend. This was weird. This was beyond psychic ability weird. Kagome was clearly not in a trance – which was the only way to describe what it seemed like when she was communicating with spirits – but these stutters in her sentences were almost like the medium was having a conversation with someone else.

Someone Sango couldn’t see.

“Kagome,” she tried again. “What’s happening?”

The woman’s swallow was audible. “I think… I think my abilities have shifted a little.”

“Shifted how?”

Kagome winced. “There’s less of a veil, now. Less of a distinction between our world and theirs. At least to me. The spirits are more…solid. Like they’re really here. I thought— Yes, I thought one of them was actually alive until a nurse walked right through— Oh, shut up, will you? My name is Kagome. Ka-go-me!”

Her partner groaned and buried her head in her hands.

Sango spared a glance in the rear-view mirror but saw absolutely nothing. “There’s a spirit in the car with us.”

Kagome nodded. “He was there, at the warehouse. I heard— He was the one that was trying to warn me but that was before— I told you I couldn’t hear you properly!”

“He sounds like a dick,” Sango stated. She glared into the mirror for good measure, just in case.

“It gets worse,” Kagome sighed, and the sound of it was weak. Sango had seen the woman at her worst, at her most exhausted. This… This was something else entirely. “He was murdered a long time ago. Like…centuries ago. And the thing that killed him? There’s a good chance it’s the same monster that killed the woman in the warehouse.”

Sango blinked and then immediately pulled over onto the side of the road. She made the distinct effort to put the car in park and to turn on the emergency lights. Done, she turned to her friend and looked at her. Really looked at her. “Kagome, that’s not—”

“Possible?” The medium laughed but it was far from happy. “He’s not lying, Sango. Spirits can’t lie. They can evade, they can riddle, or they can be vague, annoying inconveniences. But they can’t lie.”

“Who is he?” It seemed like the only question that made any sense.

“Inuyasha,” Kagome breathed. “His name is Inuyasha.”