Hey all. Loved the passive aggressive reviews – 'Oh man! This is great! I'm so glad you updated! Because, you know, you never update like FUCKING EVER, so uh, this is really good. Yeah.'

No, I'm just kidding. I really did like them.

I get the feeling that this fic is a little... predictable. Cute, but predictable. This sort of annoys me, but I wrote out the outline so long ago I can't really do much about it now. Still, these next two chapters I'm hoping will throw some curve balls at you jaded readers. I don't own Inuyasha, and enjoy!



By Rio Grande

Chapter Thirteen: Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire.


Kagome and Inuyasha trudged gravely over to the hanyou's shiny black Lexis the next morning, sporting equally affronted expressions as both agents flatly refused to look each other in the eye. They had met up at the office and had received instructions for their mission at nine in total silence, nearly stunning Kaede to death with their utter uncharacteristic show of complicity so early in the day.

They had suited up with none of their usual jovial comments about predictions for that mission's monster of the day ('I say it's gonna be a giant iguana demon.' 'No way. My money's on it being a SPIDER demon!' 'Inuyashaaa! Not funny!') and had said their goodbyes to an uncomfortable Sango and Miroku with false saccharine sweet smiles upon their faces.

"Your seat belt's not on," Inuyasha commented gruffly as he turned on the ignition, staring gloomily into the artificial lighting of the parking garage. Kagome primly snapped her belt into place and leaned further back into the comfortable leather seat.

"There," she replied tonelessly.

"We're supposed to be there in a half hour..."

"Take the expressway. It's the fastest route."


The problem was, both parties were righteously angry at each other, and both felt that the other was clearly in the wrong. However, due to the fact that neither understood what was bothering the them, both agents just came off as being intolerably rude.

'That selfish bitch. What in the hell is wrong with her?' An honestly ticked off Inuyasha wondered peevishly to himself as he glared at Kagome from the corner of one feral gold eye. 'She never came to see me – not once! What the hell is that about?'

He had assumed that when he saw Kagome that morning he had full right to be as callous and indifferent towards her as he saw fit seeing as how she had completely ignored him in his time of need, but apparently he had been wrong. As soon as he had caught sight of Kagome and started giving her the cold shoulder, she had begun to churn out some really angry, negative vibes and had been nothing less than nasty to him.

'I don't understand women,' the hanyou continued to mentally rage. 'SHE'S the one who abandoned ME, yet she still gets to be angry? How does that makes sense?'

'That selfish bastard. Does he have to be such an ass?' Kagome, catching sight of Inuyasha's none too subtle death glare, thought heatedly to herself. 'He's the one who told Kikyo I was a useless replacement and spent all day snuggling with her, mere hours after he told me he wanted to be with me more than anything else in the WORLD, and now he's acting as though I'm some sort of insignificant bug. Does he really think that little of me? I'm SORRY I shot him, okay? I was trying to save his life, and no one told him he HAD to jump in front of me.'

She huffed angrily and folded her arms obstinately across her chest, angering Inuyasha further. 'I can't believe he's just casting me off after everything we've been through because of something that stuck up miko told him. He's totally two faced!'

"Listen," Kagome barked abruptly, meeting Inuyasha's gaze with an equal amount of intensity. "Could you stop glaring at me? I can see you, you know?" Inuyasha looked momentarily taken a back, before he scowled once more and let his gaze shift back to the road.

"Whatever. Who would want to look at you, anyway?" he asked cruelly. Kagome's jaw dropped and she stared at him as though he were some sort of stranger. Was this really her Inuyasha? Was this really the man who had showered her with praises of her beauty just two nights prior?

"Jerk," she muttered under her breath, earning a fanged sneer from her partner.

Inuyasha pulled off of the expressway violently. Only fifteen more minutes until Kouga's mansion. Oddly enough, he couldn't wait. This sensationally awkward atmosphere was really starting to get to him.

"What's wrong with you, anyway?" he silver haired agent finally got out, his voice cracking. "Why the hell are YOU angry with ME?"

"Oh, no reason at all," Kagome replied, infuriatingly. There was no way she was going to let him play her for some fool. She already knew what he really thought of her now, and she wasn't going to roll over for him anymore.

"No reason at all? Then how come you didn't even visit me once in the hospital ward?" Inuyasha snapped, a bit of honest, raw hurt seeping into his tone against his will. He didn't want to admit how much her indifference was bothering him, but it was getting quite hard to deny.

"I don't know, I guess it looked like Kikyo was doing a good enough job for the both of us," Kagome said lowly.

"Kikyo, what does she have to do with anything?" Inuyasha asked archly, little alarm bells ringing in the back of his mind. Even though he strongly felt he had nothing to feel guilty for at that moment, hearing Kagome say Kikyo's name sent shivers down his spine. He didn't like the idea of those two getting to know each other.

"I know what she thinks of me," Kagome told him, turning to look him in the face at last. "I know she thinks I'm incompetent and useless, and that she wants to replace me."

"That's... not true," Inuyasha denied weakly. 'Well, mostly' " Besides, even if that is what she thinks, that's not what I think, so what does it matter?"

"But isn't that what you think? I heard your whole conversation with her Inuyasha. I was trying to visit you yesterday morning when I walked in on your little heart to heart. You never told me that you thought Kaede hired me as a fill in for her absence," Kagome hissed in an accusatory tone.

Relaxing and entertaining as her night in with Miroku and Sango had been, Kagome was still harboring a hell of a lot of pent up rage that had been eagerly seeking an outlet. Inuyasha looked like the perfect candidate, especially after he was the one to start their morning feud by initiating the glare-fest.

"Well, you knew that she did!" Inuyasha argued, stupidly. "After Kikyo left we needed a new miko, but couldn't find one. So then one day Kaede spotted you, and -"

"God! You are such an insensitive prick!" Kagome raged. "How could you say something like that to me after telling me all those things – saying how great a team we were, and how special I was to you?"

"I didn't mean anything bad by it!" Inuyasha yelled back, his grip tightening on the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. He was losing control of the conversation, if he had ever had any control to begin with, and he didn't like how Kagome was interpreting his words. Besides, why the hell had she been listening in on he and Kikyo's chat anyway? That had been private! "I DO think your special. I just meant that you were, officially, hired as a replacement! It doesn't mean that I think she's BETTER than you or anything!"

"But you do, don't you. I mean, she is. She's better than me, that's why you told her you'd be her partner again," Kagome accused softly.

"God, no! I am not going to leave you to be Kikyo's partner. I'm here, aren't I?" Inuyasha asked desperately.

"I don't know, are you? Seems to me like you'd rather be with Kikyo," Kagome murmured as Inuyasha pulled up in front of Kouga's mansion. Before Inuyasha had time to reply she had thrown open the door and was walking briskly towards the entrance of the compound, her hair swinging violently behind her. Inuyasha gaped at her retreating form.

"If you weren't so nosy, none of this would be an issue!" he yelled after her, belatedly realizing that that wasn't the most intelligent thing he could have said. Kagome idly gave him the finger without turning around. He groaned and smacked his head with his palm.

Just yesterday morning before he had spotted his ex-lover asleep by his hospital bed he had thought that everything between him and Kagome was headed on the right track. They worked so well together, and it seemed only natural for them to be a couple. Now, twenty four hours later, everything was falling apart around his ears. Kikyo had complicated things, possibly beyond all repair.

'I really wish she hadn't heard that conversation,' Inuyasha reflected bitterly as he got out of the car and locked it. 'I ... I was in shock, and there were a lot of things going on in that room that she couldn't understand.' He sighed in aggravation when he spotted Kouga greeting Kagome at the door, sweeping his would be girlfriend into a crushing hug. Great.

'I need to make amends, somehow.'

OOO "So Kagome, long time no see. How come you haven't been returning my calls?" Kouga purred lowly, wrapping an arm around Kagome's waist as he led the young agent into the (fully repaired) common room in his chambers. Behind the duo, Inuyasha stomped along angrily, glaring holes into Kouga's back as he watched the wolf daringly put his hands on Kagome. An inch lower and he would have snapped the other demon's hand off, be he potential victim or no.

"Well, I've been really busy Kouga," Kagome replied with a light giggle, pleasing the Wolf Prince by responding to his advances with an encouraging smile and a slight sway of her hips. "I'm sorry, I meant to give you a call one of these nights."

"Hey, don't worry about it. What's important is that you're here now," Kouga assured her, taking both of her hands in his and looking deep into Kagome's eyes. Kagome blushed lightly – shameless flirt or not, Kouga was certainly charming. And cute. "What do you say you come out to dinner with me tomorrow night? That should make up for it."

"Well, I don't THINK I have any other plans..." Kagome said thoughtfully, tapping her lip with one finger.

"Great. I know this really nice little Italian place on -"

"AHEM," Inuyasha coughed violently, both Kouga and Kagome turning around to observe the hanyou all but burst into angry flames as he stood staring at the obnoxious couple.

"Hu? Did you want something, little puppy?" Kouga asked snidely, cocking his head.

"WHAT did you call me?" Inuyasha demanded, taking a threatening step forward. Kagome watched both demons take offensive stances, a competitive glint in their animalistic eyes. Oh, man.

She wasn't going to lie. She knew this was all her fault. But she just couldn't help it! The second she had entered the mansion and Kouga had started being his usual flirtatious self, she simply couldn't resist using it as a chance to get back at Inuyasha for his little moment with Kikyou. Of course she understood that when Inuyasha had been with Kikyou he hadn't been purposefully parading himself around merely to make Kagome jealous, but on the other hand she hadn't agreed to replace Kouga as her new partner, either. So really, she was being quite fair.

Except that now Inuyasha really looked as though he was getting ready to fight Kouga, bearing his fangs and uttering a string of low growls that Kouga returned in kind. It was some sort of canine youkai language she could not understand, but undoubtedly translated loosely to: 'Female, MINE. You – get fuck away! I pick meat of your relatives from my teeth!'

"You guys, calm down..." Kagome urged, waving her hands about peaceably and suddenly regretting teasing Inuyasha quite so much. She hadn't meant to let things escalate to this level when they had a job to do. They were supposed to be checking out the mansion and guarding the area against Naraku, not squabbling. Besides, she hadn't thought that accepting a dinner invitation from Kouga would incite Inuyasha quite so much.

"Now listen here Kouga," Inuyasha began, jutting his chin out and preparing for a rather lengthy rant. "Kagome is not interested in you because she's with ME. You do not get to take her out on dates and you certainly do not -"

"HEY, I have an idea! Why don't you come with me, Inuyasha?" Kagome asked with a large, fake smile, taking Inuyasha by the arm and leading him out of the room before he could say anything else border line embarrassing.

"W-what are you doing?" the hanyou asked gruffly, trying to shake his way out of Kagome's vice like grip to no avail.

"Shutting you up before you humiliate me," she explained.

"How is telling people that we're together humiliating?"

"Hey Kagome, where are you going?" Kouga called after the miko, looking stricken.

"We'll be right back! Don't worry, everything is under control," Kagome replied reassuringly before slamming the door closed behind her.

Once alone in the lustrously decorated hallway Kagome turned on Inuyasha with such a disapproving look on her face that the half demon took a physical step backwards.

"What was that all about -" he began.

"Don't start," she snapped, holding her hand up and closing her eyes. "How dare you say those sort of things when you know they're not true. We are not a couple!" she accused shrilly.

"W-what do you mean we're not?" Inuyasha replied, despite his age advantage looking quite like a lost child compared to Kagome's explosive conviction. Was she suggesting that she didn't care for him anymore? Sure, yes, they were in a fight, but did that mean that the past three weeks meant nothing at all? "I thought that's what you wanted..."

"I DID want that, I STILL want that!" Kagome agreed, tears forming in her chocolate brown eyes as she continued. "I thought it was inevitable after we... we did what we did. But... I don't feel like we're a couple now!"

"Why not? Because of what you heard me say to Kikyo?" Inuyasha replied softly. He hadn't realized just how deeply Kikyo's presence had effected Kagome. Petty anger and jealousy he could deal with - he could fight against. True despair and doubt about their current relationship status he could not.

"I-it's just... you were talking to her like you never talk to me. And the things you said to her – you made it sound like you would agree to anything she wanted, and she wants you back Inuyasha. I know she does."

"I know that, too," the hanyou admitted softly, immediately afterwards realizing that the statement was true. For Kagome this seemed like another confirmation of her fears.

"And I kn-know that you guys have a past together and were a couple for much longer than we've even known each other, and I just don't see how I can compete with someone like her," Kagome admitted brokenly. "So don't talk to Kouga like that, or act all protective or angry about me flirting with some other guy when you don't even take me seriously. Not as a partner or a lover,"

Inuyasha stood completely still for a second, staring at Kagome with surprised, wide eyes that almost refused to believe what he was seeing. Kagome, confident, bright and happy Kagome admitting defeat so easily? Giving up on them just like that? He lowered his head so that his bangs covered his eyes and let out a bitter laugh.

"You wouldn't even fight for me, then?" he asked quietly. Kagome blinked, looking struck. "So my ex-girlfriend comes back and starts talking to me about relationships again and that's it? I was about to tear Kouga's throat out for you in there, Kagome. Where's the equality in this relationship?"

"I can't fight for what's not there. You don't respect me. Just this morning you came into the office acting as though I was the scum of the Earth. What am I supposed to do?" Kagome rejoined quickly, although their was a tremor of doubt in her voice now.

"I DO respect you, and the only reason I was so cold to you this morning was because I CARE about you and was angry that you didn't seem to care about me! You obviously didn't stay to listen to all of my conversation with Kikyo, did you?" Inuyasha accused heatedly, strutting forward and invading Kagome's personal space so that she was forced to backpedal.

"...Maybe not," she admitted softly.

"I didn't think so. Because if you had, you would have known that I turned Kikyo's offer for partnership down, and told her that you were already the best partner I could have. I'm sorry if it sounded like I was letting Kikyo tell me what to do, or if it seemed like I was betraying you and all that you worked for... but that's not how things went, at least not for me. I DO still respect you as my partner, you have to believe that."

Kagome was completely sobbing now for what must have been the tenth time in the past two days. She didn't even know her body could produce this many tears. God, had she been such a fool? The way Inuyasha spun it, it certainly seemed as though she had jumped to conclusions and acted brashly. It WAS cruel of her to not visit Inuyasha, and she HADN'T listened to the whole conversation. Inuyasha had been struck down quite literally taking a bullet for her – she supposed she owed him a little more trust than what she had given him.

"I-I'm sorry. I didn't know..." she confessed, taking his hand and stepping back towards him with her head lowered. "Thank you for saying those things. I just thought... the way you and Kikyo were talking... it wasn't like two fellow agents recounting old times. It was like two lovers being reunited."

Inuyasha sighed and pulled Kagome close against him, resting face in the crook of her neck and taking in the scent of her hair and skin – a scent he had not properly inhaled since that morning in her room. It sent pleasurable sensations through out his senses, and brought a grudging smile to his lips. Suddenly his mind felt ridiculously at ease once more. He had missed her – he had missed her too much.

"Listen, you're right. There's a bit more to the story than I'm saying. Things are not all black and white," he admitted. "Kikyo... I found out that the reason we broke up was because she was cursed by Naraku, and driven insane."

"That's terrible," Kagome gasped, pulling away and looking up into Inuyasha's eyes.

"Yeah ... she had the shikon no tama with her the whole time, and I never knew it. She kept her curse and possession of the jewel a secret from me, and it almost killed her... still, I should have been able to sense that something was wrong, that she was sick. And I didn't, and she's had to suffer for many years because of it. I was the one to let her go, and the realization made me feel guilty. Especially after how badly I treated her and how much I ... hated her.

"So if you thought I was being overly kind and complacent, well, maybe I was. I feel as though I owe her some sort of debt, and even if it doesn't seem fair to you... I feel like I have to make things up to her somehow. If she wants to take down Naraku by my side, for old time's sake, I don't really think I can deny her that."

"That makes sense..." Kagome confessed softly, looking down and wiping away the tears from her face. Suddenly she felt extremely childish – Inuyasha and Kikyo had had such a mature, painful relationship. And she had just all but thrown a tantrum in front of Inuyasha because she was spiteful of their bond. How lame.

'I'm really still just a kid... even at twenty,' she realized scornfully. 'Poor Kikyo... to go through that. No wonder she looks like such an adult.' She glanced back up at Inuyasha who was still staring at her, as though searching for her reaction, trying to gauge how she was handling all of this new information. 'I wonder if he is just as mature as that inside. I've never noticed it, if he is,' she thought dryly. 'Still, he must have had to go through a lot...'

"Kagome?" Inuyasha asked cautiously, watching a variety of strong emotions pass over the girl's features.

"I'm sorry," she finally sighed, shaking her head. "I feel stupid now..." Inuyasha looked momentarily surprised. That was it? He had won?

"Yeah, you should," he agreed quickly, wincing when Kagome's grip tightened threateningly on his arm. "Just kidding... I mean... don't feel stupid. This whole situation DOES suck, no matter how you say it."

"But it's not like you can do anything... and I haven't been helping..."

"You don't have to do anything," Inuyasha assured her, brushing her bangs away from her forehead and grinning. "Just be yourself."

"Okay..." she agreed shyly, unable to repress a small smile of her own as Inuyasha leaned down and kissed her tenderly. It was a kiss unlike any one they had shared before, filled with regret and apologies. It was not the kiss of two young lovers overcome by passion, but of two people trying to search their way through an unsettling situation, blindly feeling through a whole set of problems.

'I still feel so upset...' Kagome realized as she continued to lick and kiss Inuyasha's lips, clinging to him fervently. 'I still feel really sad about things. This kiss is more consolatory than loving...'

"I'm sorry, too," Inuyasha whispered to her after pulling away, confirming Kagome's idea about the nature of their kiss. "I didn't mean to confuse you like this. It's not fair for you to have to deal with all of my baggage,"

"I'm considering it punishment for being insensitive," Kagome informed him in an attempt at joviality. "Ha, imagine that. I was being insensitive to your problems and you were being considerate with Kikyo."

"Yeah, it's a little odd..." Inuyasha agreed with a light laugh, rubbing his head. Suddenly he froze, his eyes wide and unblinking as he began to sniff the air around them. Kagome noticed and straightened her posture.

"What's wrong, do you sense a demon?" she asked quickly. She had practically forgotten they were supposed to be guarding Kouga's mansion. Hell, she had forgotten that they were IN Kouga's mansion! What if some demon had tried to attack while they were busy making out? 'How unprofessional...'

"No, it's not a demon," Inuyasha replied in an oddly weak voice. "I think it's... Kikyo."


The couple stood staring at each other in awkward silence for a beat, Kikyo's perfect timing hitting them both and rendering them momentarily speechless. It was clear to both of them Inuyasha wanted to go see her, just as it was clear that Kagome did not and didn't quite yet feel comfortable around the other miko.

"I should... go see what she wants," Inuyasha admitted with a helpless shrug. "I know this is a lame way to end our conversation, but it could be news from the agency and -"

"It's okay," Kagome assured him, waving off his explanations. She didn't want to hear them and, additionally, was still feeling slightly ashamed about her earlier blathering and didn't want to seem like more of a jealous bitch. "Go. I'll just... start staking out the mansion and checking for mystical disturbances or something."

"All right. And thanks... for... everything," he said lamely, backing away and averting his overly emotional gaze. Kagome nodded in reply, turning around before he saw her do something bad like hold back an angry sob.

She listened to his retreating footsteps carefully, standing perfectly still and willing herself to keep her composure. This was neither the time nor the place for another breakdown, even though what she wanted to do most right then was collapse onto a nice comfy bed and have herself a good cry. She wanted to cry for how stupid she had been, for how much she had hurt Inuyasha, for how incomplete their relationship still seemed, and for her fear that they might never regain the happy innocence they had had such a good hold on just the other night...

"Hello?" she asked abruptly, spinning on her heal and peering down the long hall that led to the East Wing of the mansion, furrowing her brow.

She sensed something approaching her slowly, and it was giving her a bone deep chill. Hesitantly she started forward, building up the courage to investigate the disturbance alone when there was no reply to her query.


Inuyasha found Kikyo standing alone in the mansion's garden, lounging near the fountain he had been at when he had spotted a couch fly out of Kouga's bedroom window. The sky was a dull gray, with heavy clouds that held the threat of snow. She was wearing a long red peacoat with a white blouse and khaki slacks, her head tipped upwards. Upon spotting him she smiled kindly, beckoning for him to come closer. Her hair was held back in a low pony tail.

"What's wrong?" he asked, jogging up to her with a concerted look on his features. It had been a hectic past few hours, to put it lightly, and he didn't know if he could handle more bad news from the agency.

"Nothing yet..." Kikyo replied quietly, putting her hands in her pockets, presumably to stave off the biting cold that Inuyasha did not seem to notice. In the natural light her skin seemed even paler than it had yesterday. "I felt an ominous presence and came over to see if I could help."

"An ominous presence, what sort of presence?" Inuyasha asked guardedly, his eyes flicking all around as though scanning the skies for large monsters. Jeez, Kikyo was good at these rescue mission things.

"I am not positive, as of yet," Kikyo confessed. "But I know something connected to Naraku is coming. Could Kagome not detect it?"

"Well, she didn't say anything," Inuyasha replied vaguely. Kikyo frowned lightly, walking slowly to the side, her eyes never leaving Inuyasha's.

"You still have not reconsidered my offer for partnership?" she asked smoothly, as though the interjection were entirely timely.

"Uh – what? No, I haven't," Inuyasha replied, taken off guard. "Listen... is this really the time or place to talk about this? If you think an evil presence is on its way maybe we should go find Kouga." Mentally he winced as he thought of Kagome's reaction to seeing him and Kikyo rush in to battle together, and then all out cringed at the thought of actually having to save Kouga's pathetic ass.

"Inuyasha, that girl is clearly not fit to fight with you. Believe me when I say I am looking out for your well being as well as hers when I caution you about your partnership," Kikyo replied, pretty much ignoring his last statement. Inuyasha sighed and massaged a growing ache between his eyes. Great. Just what he needed. More confrontations.

"And I appreciate the sentiment Kikyo, but I don't think you have to worry. You haven't worked with Kagome like I have – you don't know what she is capable of."

"You think she is capable of great power?"

"Yes," Inuyasha affirmed, his confidence on the matter perhaps spurred by all of the declarations he had just made to Kagome herself minutes earlier.

"I see... but do you not understand how it would make ME feel more at ease if I was the one by your side?" Kikyo asked, stepping forward and staring Inuyasha boldly in the eye. "I know I have the ability to help you. I cannot be sure she does."

"I know you do, too, but..."

"So then why not trust me and accept my offer?" Kikyo asked bluntly. "What is it about this girl that draws you to her? Do you care for her so much you would scorn me after I came back to this country to see you? Why HER? Does she remind you of me, before I returned a changed woman ... I know I have become colder, more detatched, but I..."

"No, no..." Inuyasha assured her, taking her by the arm as she began to turn away, suddenly feeling shamed. "That's not it. I don't think you've changed so much. I still like you." And it was true, being around Kikyo did bring back fond memories for him. Just seeing her like this, her hair blowing in the chilly winter wind reminded him of a Christmas they had spent together not so long ago. But...

"Then why do you act so differently towards me, even after I explained my situation and why we were separated?"

"Kikyo, I'm sorry, but things just aren't so easy," Inuyasha admitted, tightening his grip subtly. "We can't just go back to the way we were before Naraku showed up. I can't bend my emotions like that. I... I'm at a different point in my life right now." God, why did it hurt so much to say these things?

"It's because of that girl, it's because of Kagome," she said almost to herself, lowering her head. When Inuyasha did not reply Kikyo continued on in an eerily flat tone. "Do you think she is cut out for this life, truly? Do you think it is right to make her live in a world full of such malicious demons? Even for an enlightened human she is living closer to danger than most by taking up this occupation."

"I..." Inuyasha murmured, unable to reply. What could he say? It was true – Kagome WAS in imminent peril more often than she should be.

"She is so young Inuyasha. Decades younger than you. Do you think she is strong enough to help you shoulder your burdens, or to even survive? You know I can help you Inuyasha. You and I, we are cut of the same material. Outcasts. Powerful outsiders... does she know you like I know you?"

"I don't know," Inuyasha confessed freely, straightening his posture. "All I know is, for some reason, I have faith in her. And she makes me happy – she makes me feel good about myself, and more at ease than I have ever been in my entire life." He told Kikyo these things frankly and while looking her in the eye, showing more emotional backbone than the priestess had thought he possessed. She narrowed her eyes.

"All very sweet sentiments, but I'll ask you again: can she survive, Inuyasha?" Suddenly Kikyo whipped her head to the side, piercing her pale lips. "For your sake I certainly hope so ..."

"What do you mean?" Inuyasha asked, sensing a double meaning in Kikyo's darkly spoken words.

"...I hope so, because the presence I felt earlier has come upon her."


The sound of softly clinking glass urged Sesshomaru to complete the laborious task of opening his heavy lidded eyes. His surroundings were fuzzy, and he had to blink the world into focus. Interesting. He must have been truly out to be this disoriented now, and he was never truly out. He didn't think he had actually gone to sleep in a few years now. Such acts were a necessity only for lowly mortals, after all. And it wasn't exactly as though he had the time to rest. He was a busy man.

He was in a hospital room – another first. He had never been to a hospital... ever. Why would he need to? He hadn't been injured enough to need medical assistance since he had been but a pup.

The softly clinking glass came from the mug of steaming tea and teapot positioned somewhere to his right, where a small human girl with wild black hair and freckles was preparing herself what smelled like traditional green tea. Her movements were quick and shaky, as though she were nervous or waiting for something. Her light brown eyes were tinged with exhaustion.

"Oh!" she gasped, her cup sliding from her fingers in shock as she caught and met his intense golden gaze. Without blinking, Sesshomaru shot his right hand out and caught the cup without letting a drop of liquid spill over the side. The girl stared at him with awe until she realized his hand was still stretched out, proffering her the tea. He raised an inquiring eyebrow at her, and she quickly collected her drink.

"I-I'm sorry..." the girl, who seemed oddly familiar for some reason, stuttered quietly.

Hm. Why in God's name was there a young mortal girl by his hospital bed? Where were his attendees? His ever present secretary – Jaken? Just where was he, and why was his mind insisting that he had met this odd human before?

'She smells familiar... and her voice. Bells. Why am I thinking of bells?' a horribly befuddled Sesshomaru thought to himself darkly. Of course, his face was a mask of pure serenity, belying none of his disjointed thoughts.

"Who are you?" Sesshomaru asked point blank, giving himself a mental pat on the back when his voice came out in its usual strong baritone. He was currently in an extremely vulnerable situation with a foreign human; the least he could do was sound confident.

"I'm Rin Hayaka," Rin quickly supplied, a vaguely worried look passing over her bright features. "Don't you remember me?"

'You must be another potential victim, like me ... Don't worry, I'll make sure you're taken care of. We victims have to stick together...'

Sesshomaru's eyes widened slightly as all of his memories from the past twenty four hours assaulted him with a vengeance, from the unprecedented attack on his private offices in the city to the odd incident with this very girl at her penthouse in midtown. He had gone down protecting her from a harpy demon. Of course, how could he have forgotten?

'She smells like wild flowers,' he thought idly as the smell of disinfectant gave way to a much more pleasing aroma when Rin leaned in closer to him, frowning.

"Mr. Sesshomaru?" she inquired politely after he failed to reply to her earlier query.

"I... remember you," Sesshomaru confessed almost grudgingly.

"I'm so glad," Rin said, giving off a sigh of relief. "This could have been really awkward if you hadn't!" Sesshomaru threw her a disparaging look that said: 'And it isn't already?' Just what was she doing there, anyway?

He could hardly move he was so drained and his youki was still healing itself. He was in no mood to be virtually alone in an unfamiliar place with some crazy human girl. He had lived his life on the principle that being unprepared in situations such as these was what got good demons exterminated.

"How long have I been out? Has anyone come for me?" he asked briskly, raising himself up onto his elbows slowly. Rin followed his movements with worried eyes, repressing the urge to push him back down onto his bed. Something told her that wouldn't go over so well.

"You've been in a coma for around one day now, and you've had various... acquaintances come over to see you. One very persistent friend, in particular," she muttered almost bitterly.

"Jaken," Sesshomaru stated without having to think about it. "He is not a friend. He is an employee."

"An employee? Oh, what do you do?" Rin asked brightly, smiling at the thought of getting to learn more about this mysterious demon she had just spent many hours watching over. What sort of a job could he possibly have that would reacquire the assistance of an ugly demon toad that had such a sharp tongue?

"I am an attorney," Sesshomaru explained, flexing his claws experimentally. Rin nodded. Ah, yes, of course.

Practically since the second she had entered Sesshomaru's hospital room the small, faithful amphibian Jaken had been attempting to get Rin thrown out of the building. He raged at her that Mr. Sesshomaru would not want a human girl with a ten mile radius of him when he awoke, and that if she knew what was good for her she would thank her lucky stars he hadn't struck her down when they first met and be on her way. But she had been persistent in her desire to stick with Sesshomaru until he awoke, seeing as how it was her house he and collapsed in and she was partially the reason he had become so injured. She had defied Jaken and various body guards to stay in the room, for the first time in her life throwing around her parent's prestigious title to get what she wanted.

'He doesn't seem to hate me so much now, does he?' she thought triumphantly. 'He's just a bit disoriented.'

Sesshomaru noted the small cot on the other side of the room that looked as though it had been recently used. A quick cursory sniff told him Rin had slept in it.

"You stayed with me the whole while?" he asked, a bit of shock entering his tone unwillingly.

"Of course I did," Rin said firmly. "I owe you my life! You saved me from that demon when you were grievously injured. I couldn't just leave you after that."

"I already told you, that was nothing," Sesshomaru explained honestly.

"No, it wasn't nothing. I'm very thankful to you," Rin insisted, lowering her head and blushing lightly. Sesshomaru regarded her carefully.

"Well, thank... you. For staying," he replied, his tone clearly strained. He was not used to being forced to thank anyone outside of a work setting. Rin's head shot up at these brief words, her smile literally blinding him. He looked away in discomfort when she refused to break eye contact. What was with this child? Why wasn't she afraid of him? She looked to be quite young, perhaps in her late teens, and yet she was not cowering in fear as most sensible mortals did when faced with his awesome presence.

'Although, I suppose I am not exactly a figure to be reckoned with at this moment...'

"Mr. Sesshomaru, I wanted to -" Rin began almost hesitantly, when the door to the room slammed loudly open and Jaken scurried over in his extra large brown suit.

"Mr. Sesshomaru!" he cried in an ear piercing squeak, Sesshomaru wincing as the demon knelt by his bed side. "You're AWAKE!"

"Yes," Sesshomaru agreed absently, nodding his head slightly.

"I am sorry I was not here when you came to, Mr. Sesshomaru, but your clients have been calling non stop and I had to step out to take some messages. Everyone is very worried!" Jaken explained, looking quite stressed.

'Worried... I'm sure. They just don't want to lose any money over me. I've never had a sick day,' Sesshomaru reflected spitefully.

"May I have my messages, then?" Sesshomaru asked, settling back and preparing to listen. For a moment he forgot that Rin was even still in the room.

"Oh, Mr. Sesshomaru you've only been up for ten minutes! Are you positive you need to concern yourself with work right now?" she asked, effectively reestablishing herself in his consciousness.

"Mr. Sesshomaru is the most powerful demon attorney in the city! He knows what he is doing, and you are not to speak to him in such a presumptuous manner!" Jaken hollered righteously at the teenager as she stared worriedly at Sesshomaru's unusually pale countenance.

"I just don't want him to overexert himself! The doctor's said he was very badly drained in his fight and he would need to recuperate for a few days, at least!" Rin explained hotly, glaring at the toad.

"I will be fine, Rin. I am a demon and my recuperating abilities are far superior to a human's. My work is very important, and it is imperative I know what has taken place in my... absence," Sesshomaru cut in smoothly, effectively stunning Jaken into silence as he deigned to explain himself to the tiny high school girl. What was going on?

"Well, okay..." Rin sighed softly, not looking entirely satisfied.

'Wait... drained,' Sesshomaru thought to himself while Jaken collected his bearings. 'Drained... There's something I was supposed to be doing. Something that I had to tell... Inuyasha. Something important.'

Abruptly Sesshomaru sat straight up in bed, startling his two guests. His fists clutched the bed sheets tightly as he realized what he was supposed to be doing. The knowledge that he had just wasted the past ten minutes NOT doing this spurred his sense of urgency.

"Get me Inuyasha, or Kaede. I need to speak to them immediately," he barked.

"Sir – what is wrong?" Jaken asked, hopping nervously from foot to foot.

"Just get them!"

As Jaken dashed away without another word, Rin took Sesshomaru's hand in hers, just as she had done the previous day, a frown line appearing between her brows. Sesshomaru stared at their hands in fascination. The steady beat of her pulse against his skin was lulling him back into a sense of relaxation. What did she think she was doing?

"Are you all right, Mr. Sesshomaru?" she asked softly. "Have you remembered what you were trying to tell your brother before you passed out?"

"Yes," he confirmed, looking her in the eye and momentarily forgetting his objective once more when he found himself inspecting the subtle nuances of color in her irises. This girl was driving him crazy.

"Don't worry, I'm sure everything will be all right," she assured him confidently.

"All right Sesshomaru, what is it? What is so important?" Kaede asked loudly as she was roughly ushered into the room by an over zealous Jaken minutes later. "Good to see you up and about, by the way," she added with a rather obvious bit of 'I told you so' ness to her tone.

"Where is Inuyasha?" Sesshomaru asked, unable to believe he was actually demanding the hated hanyou's attendance. Things really were out of wack.

"He's on a mission, why?"

"A Naraku related mission?"

"Yes... why do you ask? What do you know?" the agent pressed cautiously.

"Dammit," Sesshomaru cursed softly, turning his head to the side. "He won't stand a chance..."

"Is whatever demon who did this to you still out and about?" Kaede asked in partial shock, staring worriedly at Sesshomaru's slightly battered form. She had assumed for Sesshomaru to end up so beaten the other demon would be old news. Apparently not.

"Yes, both of them. At my offices I was assaulted by both Naraku himself and the newest addition to his army... a demon named Kanna," Sesshomaru explained curtly.

"We were informed of her existence by our miko Kikyo. She has the power to deflect attacks with her mirror, correct? Is that what you wanted to warn Inuyasha of?"

"No. That is merely part of her ability. Her real power is much more destructive. When I was fighting Naraku she caught me by surprise..." Sesshomaru told this part of his tale with a strained look on his features, as though it physically pained him to admit that anyone could sneak up on him. "... because her very presence is the absence of a presence, and she is thus impossible to detect. She used that cursed mirror of hers and drained me of my soul."

"Your soul?" Kaede asked in shock, as Rin gasped and clapped a hand to her mouth. "But then how is it you are still alive?"

"She was not able to finish her attack – I wounded Naraku enough to make an escape. As a demon I have the ability to do this. However, any human or half demon who comes up against her will be less fortunate," he finished, letting the implications of his words hang in the air. Kaede blinked into the silence for a minute before collecting herself and nodding once.

"Right. I will inform Inuyasha of this, now," she said. "Thank you for your assistance,"


Rin watched Kaede leave with worried eyes, turning to Sesshomaru once she was gone.

"Oh, do you think Inuyasha and Kagome will be all right?" she asked softly, feeling a certain protectiveness over her two ex-guardians.

After remembering just who Kagome was, Sesshomaru frowned darkly and turned away, the gears working in his head. This Naraku problem had gone on for too long, and now it was effecting his business and private life. It had to end. Naraku's powers were becoming too strong due to that damned cheat jewel.



His heart pounding in his ears, Inuyasha all but flew back into the mansion after hearing Kikyo's words. He wasn't even entirely sure what she was talking about, all he knew was this – Kagome was in some sort of danger, and that meant he had to be at her side, NOW.

Skidding around a corner, he found himself back in the hallway where he had last spoken to his partner. She was no longer there, however the discovery came as no great surprise. She was supposed to be checking out the compound. Picking up her scent, still bitterly laced with salt tears from their last conversation, he followed Kagome's unintentional trail down the long carpeted hallway, keeping his eyes pealed.

She had wandered far away, and he was forced to hurriedly jog down two flights of stairs and tear down three more corridors before the sounds of a fight reached his ears. Not bothering to slow from his breakneck speed Inuyasha barreled through the large doors behind which the sounds of carnage were coming, and Kagome's scent was strongest.

"KAGOME!" he shouted in fear, immediately spotting her form crumpled in a corner of the large study. She was gracefully splayed on the ground, her raven locks positioned dramatically around her face – and she didn't seem to be breathing.

Oh God. It was worse than he had feared.

Distantly feeling something in the back of his mind snap, Inuyasha's focus was transferred swiftly over to the other occupants of the room, his glare nothing less than homicidally accusatory. Luckily for him, he already had an extreme predisposition to hate the two people his crimson tinged gaze fell upon.

Kouga and Kanna were locked in an odd sort of battle, that was no less fierce for its uniqueness. Kouga was pelting the small demon child with an endless succession of kicks and punches, his large fangs bared and a gargled string of screams being ripped from his throat. Kanna was, in return, holding her glowing mirror in front of her while seeming to glide away from every one of Kouga's strikes. And each time Kouga attempted to hit her he jerked back in pain, deflected by her magical talisman. This didn't meant he ever let up his assault however, and the effect would have been slightly humorous were it not so obvious that Kouga was having serious damage done to him.

"OOF!" Kouga gasped as one particularly savage punch was dolled back at him tenfold, causing him to fly into a desk twenty feet away. He was still airborne when Inuyasha stepped into the fray, seething with rage.

Unable to form words, Inuyasha merely slammed down on Kanna's mirror with his transformed tetsusaiga, choosing to either forget or not care about the fact that last time he had tried this trick he had ended up with a slit belly.

However, after Inuyasha's blade connected with the glowing mirror, something odd happened. As though attempting to absorb the power behind the forceful connection the mirror sputtered and glowed brighter... but did not send the attack back. Inuyasha stood in place, hunched over and clutching his weapon, watching as Kanna looked down curiously at her mirror. Wisps of light were escaping out of it and flowing into the air like an overflowing bowl of soup.

Off to the side Kagome twitched and groaned, and Inuyasha quickly turned to look at her. Kanna hugged her mirror closer to herself and lowered her head, and the outward flow of magic stopped. So did Kagome's spasms.

Putting two and two together Inuyasha slowly began to stalk towards Naraku's spawn, lowly growling.

"You... what did you do to her with that damned mirror?" he hissed. Kanna slowly began to glide backwards, staring at him blankly. "Oh no you don't, come back here!" Inuyasha howled, moving forwards faster. However, in a second Kanna had faded into the shadows of the study, her body darkening and dimming until she was entirely gone. Inuyasha slammed into the empty space where she should have been, a look of shock written on his features.

"Where did she... go?" he asked brokenly, as though refusing to believe he had let the girl escape right from under his nose.

"Kagome!" Inuyasha spun around, catching sight of Kouga crawling towards his partner's fallen form and cradling her in his lap. "Open your eyes... say something!" the wolf prince urged desperately. Inuyasha swallowed in fear when Kagome did not respond to Kouga's pleas, quickly starting forward.

"What's wrong with you, dog turd?" Kouga growled, looking up at Inuyasha with murder in his eyes as the hanyou drew nearer. "Where were you when she was attacked? I found her like this nearly ten minutes ago, that creepy albino standing above her with that damned mirror. Why weren't you with her? Aren't you supposed to look out for each other?"

Inuyasha said nothing, merely dropping to his knees and staring down at Kagome's slackened features, unable to come up with a good retort when his heart and mind were in such a panic. Just what had Kanna done to her? There weren't any physical wounds on her body, she was just unconscious.

"I always knew you were no good for her. What sort of a sad excuse for a demon can't protect their woman?" Kouga sneered. At this Inuyasha perked up, narrowing his eyes dangerously.

"Shut up Kouga," he snapped flatly, wrenching the small miko from the wolf prince's tanned arms and swiftly getting to his feet with her. "I've got to take her to the agency, now. I don't know what's wrong with her, but her heart rate is too low. It sounds like she's... she's..." Unable to say it sounded like Kagome was about to kick the bucket aloud, the hanyou settled for growling in frustration and quickly turning away, marching up to the nearest window and throwing it open with one hand.

"Hey, wait for me!" Kouga yelled, following after the hanyou. "I have more right to stay with her than you do!"

"Whatever," Inuyasha muttered curtly as he took to the air, too panicked to be annoyed with Kouga's incessant demands.

'Be okay. You have to be okay. I won't be able to ever forgive myself if you're not okay. I won't be able to do anything if you're not okay...'


Some hours later, Kanna found herself seated on the rooftop tennis court of a fancy apartment building in Tokyo. Huddled near the net with her still malfunctioning mirror, the small demon peered into her weapon's face with what constituted as a worried expression upon her features.

That miko... she had done this. Everything had been going smoothly until she tried to finish that girl off. She had come to the mansion just as Naraku ordered and sought out the college student, finding her wonderfully alone. She had isolated herself in a wing of the house with Kanna all too easily, and had quickly backed herself into a corner by leveling a gun at her.

Of course realizing that it would be terrifically stupid to fire at Kanna after what had happened last time, Kagome had stood still long enough for Kanna's power of persuasion to work over her. The demon planted a suggestion in Kagome's mind that she was weak and that Inuyasha did not need her as a partner. He would much rather have that other, scarier miko, Kikyo, at his side.

At first Kanna couldn't believe how well everything was turning out. The girl, Kagome, was still emotionally distraught from a draining argument she had previously had with the hanyou and was seriously doubting herself in almost all departments. It had been child's play to gain control of her mind and force her into a state of incapacitating depression. She hadn't even blinked as Kanna had begun to suck her dry of her soul.

Soon the girl had collapsed to the floor and her soul was pouring out of her freely. Kanna remembered thinking that she had never seen a soul quite this powerful or large before, but had not thought it would matter – her mirror had collected hundreds of souls and there hadn't been a problem yet. However, it was when she thought she was on the final lap with the girl's essence that something went wrong.

There was a terrific crunching sound and the demon looked down in muted shock to see a fine crack making its way across the face of her mirror. Immediately some of the soul she had been collecting started to spill out, and Kanna backed away in surprise, attempting to regain control of her talisman.

By the time she had stuffed what she had managed to take of Kagome's soul back into her mirror, the wolf prince had barged into the room looking for a fight. In the beginning he had been disappointed to find that Kagura was not around, but when he caught sight of the fallen miko he had seemed all too eager to have a go at Kanna.

Sighing to herself and fingering the crack lightly with one tiny finger, Kanna wondered what she was supposed to do now. Return to Naraku and ask for advice? She certainly couldn't go back to finish off the miko with her mirror in its current condition. Aside from her neat disappearing trick she didn't really have very many other attack moves without her mirror to aid her.

"THERE she is!" a voice bellowed from somewhere above Kanna. Looking up in confusion, the albino started to her feet when she caught sight of a giant, flaming demon cat headed her way. Two mortals sat atop its back, and both seemed as though they were out for blood.

Narrowly dodging what looked to be a huge boomerang, Kanna leapt to the side. The cat landed gracefully on the roof and the two riders dismounted promptly, sliding into attack stances, the boomerang swinging its way back into the female's hands.

"Be careful Sango, we're still not sure exactly what her power is – we don't want what happened to Kagome to happen to us," Miroku cautioned his partner, holding his staff in front of him protectively.

"There's no time to worry about that! Every second we waste could mean Kagome's death!" Sango cried, rushing forward with no hesitance. Letting out a loud war cry she chucked her boomerang at Kanna once more, only at a much closer distance so the child had less time to physically dodge the projectile.

Raising her mirror, Kanna braced herself and depended on her talisman to do what it was supposed to do as Sango's weapon was hurled at her. Luckily for her, it did, and Sango found herself skidding across the green court with a boomerang crushing her ribs.


"Sango!" Miroku cried in anger as Kirara hurried over to her fallen mistress. Turning back to Kanna, Miroku frowned disapprovingly at the small youkai. Whipping what looked to be a spell scroll from his jacket pocket he rushed forward with the thin piece of paper between his index and middle finger. He leapt into the air and slapped the spell onto Kanna's mirror, whispering an ancient incantation as he did so. Jumping backwards, the monk stopped to assess what damage he had been able to inflict.

The mirror was glowing wildly again and Kanna was staring at it worriedly. After a second the crack in the corner grew larger, stretching towards the center of the face. Letting out an aggravated breath Kanna held the mirror higher up in front of her, concentrating. Oh well, she supposed there was nothing else to do.

Slowly, the almost blindingly bright soul she had collected oozed out of the mirror, traveling into the sky and away with a sigh. Miroku stared at it in fascination, hoping that had just been what he thought it was.

Her mirror thus emptied, Kanna began to edge backwards into the shadows, her head bowed.

'Oh man,' she thought idly to herself. 'Naraku's gonna flip a shit.'

"Ung... Miroku? Did you get her?" Sango called weakly from across the court as Miroku helplessly observed Kanna disappear into thin air. Kirara was kneeling over her, licking her face comfortingly.

"Uhh... not quite, but I think we did what we came to do," Miroku confessed, quickly jogging over to Sango and throwing her boomerang off of her. He helped her to sit up and the exterminator winced in pain. "You must have cracked a rib or two. How do you feel?"

"Fine. What do you mean you did what we came here to do? Did you get Kanna or not?" Sango persisted, staring Miroku down.

"Well, she disappeared again, but before that I was able to attack her mirror with a spell scroll – it caused the mirror to malfunction again as Inuyasha described, and eventually she seemed to just... empty it."

"So you think...?"

"That she released Kagome's soul, yes," Miroku confirmed.

"Well, only one way to find out," Sango muttered nervously, reaching into her pocket and taking out her cell phone. Quickly she dialed Kaede's number, gnawing on her lower lip as she waited for the old woman to pick up.

"Yes?" Kaede's voice crackled over the line. She sounded distracted.

"Kaede, this is Sango. Miroku and I just tangled with Kanna, and Miroku thinks he may have damaged Kanna's mirror enough to free Kagome's soul. What is her status?"

"Miroku was right – Kagome is stable again. Good job," Kaede congratulated, true relief in her voice.

"Oh, that's wonderful!" Sango cried, hanging up and throwing her arms around Miroku's shoulders. As tears formed in the bounty hunter's gray eyes Miroku stroked her back soothingly, a winning smile on his own features as well. "We did it Miroku! We were so lucky to find her here... I was so afraid-!"

"Shhh... I know, but everything is okay now," Miroku cooed, hugging Sango closer to him as she continued to let out her nervousness, while being careful of her ribs.

"If she had never woken up, I don't know what I would have done..." Sango murmured into Miroku's neck, causing shivers to run down the monk's spine. Did she realize she was so close to him? Did she care? Was this just a sort of post trauma reaction? He willed his hands to stray no lower than her shoulder blades, realizing this was a crucial moment.

"Well, we better get back to the agency. I want to see her," Sango sighed, pulling away with a small smile on her face. Miroku nodded, still a little too shocked to form coherent thoughts.

Soon they were both atop Kirara again, Miroku insisting he sit behind Sango with his arms wrapped around her waist so he could support her and her injured ribs were she to lose her balance. Shockingly, the pony tailed agent did not refuse his offer, and the rest of the trip back was spent with Miroku reveling in the way Sango's toned stomach and hips felt under his hands.

All things considered, today had been a good day.


When Kagome finally opened her eyes it was not with the natural grogginess and slight disorientation most suffered after awakening from a coma. In fact, compared to Inuyasha and Sesshomaru's muddled reintroduction to the world she was practically god-like in her adaptation to her surroundings. One second she was lying in a bed in the hospital ward of the agency, and the next second she was sitting straight up with her eyes wide open. Her posture was tense and her expression slightly dumbstruck, but she seemed entirely healthy.

'What am I doing here?...' she thought to herself contemplatively, observing the white walls Inuyasha had been forced to gaze at for twelve consecutive hours very recently. It seemed as though she had been spending an unprecedented amount of time in the hospital ward, which was very rarely a good sign. 'I haven't done anything terribly stupid lately, have I?...'

Almost instantaneously images of herself rushing into an isolated room with Kanna, guns blazing, entered her head. She rolled her eyes and nearly smacked herself.

'Oh, right.'


The sound of her name startled Kagome from her introspective stupor, and urged her to turn to the side. Her guarded expression instantly melted into one of adoration and thankfulness as she met her partner's inquisitive golden gaze. Inuyasha was there. He was there to see her wake up.

'This must be love,' Kagome thought dreamily as she graced Inuyasha with an award winning smile that made him avert his stare worriedly.

"You stayed with me..." she murmured, her voice dry.

"Yeah, well, we were all really worried," he replied nonchalantly. Not exactly the sort of reply she had been going for but, hell, she wasn't going to complain. He had done for her what she had been unable to do for him, and she wanted to smother him with kisses for it.

"What happened to me, anyway?" Kagome asked, brushing some curly locks away from her neck with one hand and letting the other one snake out to grab Inuyasha's clawed digits. The hanyou bit his lip and squeezed her hand reassuringly in response, before abruptly pulling away and folding his arms over his broad chest.

"You were attacked by Kanna..." he began hesitantly.

"Yeah, I got that."

"... and she sucked your soul from your body with her mirror," he finished, his tone suddenly flat.

"Oh, my," Kagome muttered, putting a hand to her mouth. "Well – wait. I think I still have a soul now. Did you get it back for me? Was I dead?" The thought that she had been deceased, even for a brief period of time,gave Kagome heart palpitations. A pained look washed over the hanyou's features and he shifted uncomfortably in his chair by her bedside. All of this went unnoticed by Kagome who was waiting with baited breath for him to tell her the story of the attack she could not recall.

"No you were never... dead," he said as though the words left a nasty taste in his mouth. "Not officially. You had a good portion of your soul sucked out before ... well, before it started to overflow the mirror. Kanna was not able to take all of your essence from you before she retreated. We're not sure why this happened, exactly. Later, Sango and Miroku cornered Kanna on a roof, and after Miroku attacked her mirror she was forced to release your soul... at least, that's what Kaede tells me. This all happened about five minutes ago."

"Five minutes..." Kagome breathed in awe. "So I wasn't out for that long?"

"No... and it looks like you woke up almost as soon as your soul was released," Inuyasha admitted. The girl looked relieved, glad she had not lost much time in the hospital. "But, Kagome..."

"What is it?" Kagome asked curiously, as though for the first time noticing the dark pain in the hanyou's eyes, and the unhappy tilt to his lips. Not his usual arrogant sneer, or fiery frown, but a truly despondent grimace. Something was wrong. Kagome reached out to try and touch her half demon lover again, but he pulled away and abruptly got to his feet. Staring at the floor, he seemed to mull over some words for a minute before speaking.

"I've requested to have you taken off of the case," he stated in as unemotional a tone as Kagome had ever heard him use. "I'm sorry, but you've become too much of a liability. I can't have you as my partner anymore."

Kagome stared at him, slack jawed and trembling. What?

"W-wait Inuyasha. How can you say that? We ... we just had a talk about this very subject today. You told me you trusted me and wanted me as your partner. Don't you remember? You..."

"Yes, I remember," Inuyasha assured her, finally looking up and revealing his over bright golden eyes, that were none the less determined to finish what he had come to do. "But that was then and this is now. You almost died Kagome, and I only left you alone for less than an hour. With this case coming to such a head, I can't afford to worry about you anymore. I need to focus now, I need -"

"Kikyo," Kagome replied dully, hanging her head and suddenly feeling quite chilled. "You need Kikyo. She's going to be your new partner, isn't she?"

"I never said that. Nothing's been decided," Inuyasha argued, his voice not very confident. "Maybe I'll be working alone. Anyway, this isn't about her. This is about you. You've done a great job, but this sort of work is just out of your league. There's no shame in that, either, it's just imperative that you understand that you can't be involved in the case anymore."

"How can I not be?" Kagome asked shrilly, shifting onto her knees and leaning towards him, her eyes panicked. "How can I not be involved in the case when it's already been established that I'm a target for Naraku?"

"You'll be at less risk if you stay out of his business and this case. We'll have agents monitoring your apartment, and school, in any case. And you'll have our number as well," he explained, his voice strained. "Just... you just can't fight anymore, understand?"

"No I DON'T understand!" Kagome cried, her voice painfully thick. "Inuyasha, you can't mean this! Don't do this! I want to fight Naraku with you, too!"

"But you just can't. You can't do that Kagome – you're not strong enough!" he insisted, gaining a frustrated edge to his tone. "Just accept it and stay out of it."

"What about you? Will I see you again?" Her tone was desperate, needy. She was like a hungry dog looking for scraps.

"Maybe... when the case is over. But right now it wouldn't be a good idea to associate with me, when I'm so involved with Naraku," Inuyasha explained in what Kagome supposed he considered a consolatory tone of voice. Tears began to stream down her face like hot rivers.

"S-so, my apartment?.." she asked weakly, resigned.

"I'll move out. And Shippou will, too. We want to move all possible connections to Naraku away from you."

"God dammit Inuyasha! This never would have happened if she wasn't here! Before she came you were – we were -" Abruptly Kagome cut herself off and turned away, hugging her shaking shoulders and realizing that she sounded like a petulant child again. This was just what she had told herself she would not do. Throw another fit, meddle where she shouldn't. Inuyasha was being mature, Kikyo had been mature, and she was just messing things up once more...

"Please," she whispered. "Please reconsider. Don't do this. You don't need to. I'm sorry I messed up, I'll try harder..."

"No Kagome," Inuyasha replied softly, his tone soothing but resolved. "Just stop. Just... don't." He put a clawed hand on her shoulder, squeezing. She flinched at the impersonal touch, hating it. After a moment he drew away and she heard his footsteps heading for the door. She spun around, unable to believe he was actually leaving so soon.

"That's it?" she choked out, stunned. "That's all you have to say? No goodbye kiss, no nothing?" Inuyasha stared at her impassively for a beat, before jerkily starting forward and coming to loom over her. He hooked a finger under her chin and brought her up for the saddest, most chaste kiss Kagome had experienced yet. It even beat the downtrodden liplock of earlier that morning.

'This is the sort of kiss you end a relationship on,' Kagome decided, miserably. 'This isn't the sort of kiss you give someone when you think you're going to see them again soon.'

All too quickly the kiss was over, Inuyasha letting his hand stray briefly on her cheek before whirling around and exiting the room without another word. Kagome stared after him, sobbing quietly to herself and wallowing in the sheer horror and disbelief surrounding her.

She sat that way, huddled over her blankets, for another minute, before her expression turned steely and upset and she leapt up from her bed. Quickly she located her clothing in a corner and stripped out of her hospital gown, a purpose to her movements and an uncharacteristically vindictive light in her eyes.

She wasn't going to just let him do this to her. She wasn't going to be walked all over. She would show him.


Inuyasha closed the door to Kagome's room softly behind him, his head hung low. For a moment he stood outside her door with his fists clenched, his wicked nails biting into the palms of his hands. Damn. That had been... difficult.

Shippou was going to be mad. Possibly Miroku and Sango, too. They had gotten quite close to Kagome lately. But he had already made the deal official with Kaede, before the girl had woken up but after he had forcibly kicked Kouga out of the agency, so there was nothing any of them could do about it. Still, it was going to be odd returning to his own apartment after so many weeks and...

A soft coughing off to his left side alerted Inuyasha to the presence of Kikyo, lounging against the wall a few feet away from him. She raised an eyebrow inquisitively and suddenly he was resolved again. Yes, they had already decided upon this. It was for the best. He had a job to do, and nothing was going to come between him and Naraku now.

It was almost odd how quickly things had fallen apart. Two short days and suddenly he was living in the hospital wing and Sesshomaru was gravely injured and his message about Kanna's true power was too late and now he had to let Kagome go because Kikyo had been right and she had been hurt and ...

A part of Inuyasha's mind realized he was in shock. Mere minutes ago he had been sure they were going to lose Kagome. Neither he nor Kikyo nor anyone had gotten any leads on Kanna, and he had been too afraid to leave Kagome's side so Miroku and Sango had gone out to hunt for the demon. He hadn't had much confidence in them, but they had proved him wrong, for which he was thankful.

He ran a hand through his hair, his eyes hardened as he approached the older miko. Now that Kagome was gone, he was going to live for one purpose. He was going to eat, drink and breath Naraku. He would not sleep until he had him right where he wanted him. Kagome never would have approved of such drastic measures, but...

Kikyo lifted a hand and cupped his cheek, her brown eyes searching. Inuyasha stared back at her almost numbly, his brow permanently furrowed.

"Are you all right?" she asked, as though he had been physically hurt. Who knows, maybe he had.

"Yeah," he assured her, shrugging his shoulders casually. "It's done, in any case. And now...

"Now we have work to do."

Kikyo smiled at him, a smile that was only for him. She nodded her dark head and pushed away from the wall, slowly beginning to travel down the hallway. Inuyasha started quickly after her.

"Yes, we do."


Author's Notes:

So, every couple is basically hitting it off great except for ... the central couple. Whatever. I think we can all basically guess why Inuyasha fired Kagome – the real question is, what is Kagome going to do about it? And just how tightly is Inuyasha wrapped around Kikyo's finger? I'm pretty sure we'll find out the answers to most of these questions in the next chapter – the next chapter which was going to be the original ending of this chapter. I just planned to have wayyy to much content crammed into too few installments. So... let's say this fic will be over in three more chapters. Maybe four.

Also, I promise there will be no more 'people waking up from a coma in the hospital' scenes. There was a rash of them, but now I'm done. Peace.

Rio Grande

Next Chapter – The Truth Behind All Truths

- According to Tom Robbins, this is a traditional Karo Batak tribe curse. Cool.