a/n: I'm back! Well, not really...I finally found time to update this chapter. Since it's been so long, I hope it lives up to your standards and is not too different in style. On a plus note, I finally hit the 10-page chapter mark! Hip-hip-hooray!

disclaimer: I wish I did, but I don't. Don't own any of the characters of Inuyasha. Just my story.

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God Amongst Men

.::.Chapter Five: Road Trip.::.

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Patience is a virtue.

Patience is a virtue.

PATIENCE is a VIRTUE!

For what had to be the nth time since this stratagem session, Kagome chanted this mantra to herself in a futile attempt to disperse her mounting irritation for the slab of rock beside her. It was the fifth time he'd suddenly drifted to la-la-land this afternoon. The first time, he blamed it on the distraction of her endless chatter, the second - the lack thereof, third time of hunger, and fourth of heat. Though she had not believed him for even a second, she had let it slide...but not this time, for at this rate Naraku would have finished his reign, died, and been six feet under for, oh, say about one hundred millennia before they got anywhere in their plans. Oh no, this time, she would get to the bottom of this.

"What is it NOW?"

The at once irked and irksome tone invaded his brooding senses. Even before he opened his mouth, she beat him.

"If that's just going to be another one of your lame excuses, then can it. Either tell me the truth now or give me the pleasure of torturing it out of you. Makes little difference to me since I'll find out either way, only option number two sounds like SO much more fun, for me, that is unless you're a closet masochist."

The well-deserved rebuke assaulted him with guilt. And guilt led to shame, one emotion he could never brook to feel. What had he to be shameful of? HE was not the one who came up with the harebrained 'plan' to build a fortress around the village overnight to protect against the impending armies. She had been so proud of her idea, too. Quite sad, really. How could he possibly have admired her prowess? It was nothing but dumb luck that the village remained. So, why had he felt a sliver of unease and discomfort, almost remorse, as he ruthlessly trampled the girl's innocently lethal strategy by stating that the plan was ludicrous? Not only would it take months to build, but a fortress merely walled in the village with no way of escape should the enemy break through, a perfect ground for a massacre. He failed not to point out every flaw in the plan, every thoughtless, idiotic nuance of the half-hatched scheme. After which, he smugly leveled the girl with his superiority. The girl just shrugged and asked what he would do. It infuriated him. She acted as if he was nothing, below her to react to any of his words, as if SHE were superior to HIM. Deciding to ignore her "closet masochist" implication, he refocused his attention on the problem nagging him at hand.

"We are in need of assistance. There are not enough men to carry out our plan."

And here came the question he dreaded.

"Why not call Kouga back for help?"

"His men are still recovering. To top it off, his scanty group of twenty would provide so little protection and help that the result would merely be an unwise depletion of provisions." It was the partial truth. Like Hell he would call that moron back after having just gotten rid of him and his womanizing ways.

"Then what would you suggest, Sesshoumaru-sama?"

He carefully scrutinized her face for any sign of mockery. She looked back in earnest fretfulness. Truthfully, he had already thought it all out. It was only a matter of how to present it to the vixen so that she would agree to the proposition without too much argument. It had quickly dawned upon him that more men were needed for any semblance of an offensive move to take place. This brought to surface Sesshoumaru's next concern. His pathetic, useless excuse of a brother had yet to arrive. Even accounting for his natural tendency toward tardiness and any minor skirmishes that may occur along the way, Inuyasha was beyond overdue to arrive. Though instinctively concerned and uneasy, logic told him that Inuyasha's troops were too strong to fall, and though rash, his brother was the best out there. Unfortunately these thoughts could not eradicate his uneasiness.

Kagome felt irritation building at the Lord's lack of presence of mind at such a crucial time and had been about to jolt him back to earth with a very rude and obnoxiously demanding 'well?' when her natural sympathy for all living emotions helped her pick up on the tenseness of Sesshoumaru's shoulders. Automatically, she felt her intuition squirming and knotting within her stomach, a sure sign that something was amiss.

"What's wrong?"

The soft voice, almost a whisper in its apprehension, intruded upon his thoughts. Once again, he turned back to examine the girl's face. After confirming her lack of ridicule toward him, he prepared to proceed when he caught himself and thought the better of it. Opening his mouth to deny any problems, his mouth, as it tended to do recently, betrayed him. He found himself helpless to stifle the confession that flowed forth and out into the open, warm afternoon air.

"Reinforcements should have arrived by now."

"Reinforcements? By now...You mean you had undertook to help us even before seeing the condition we were in? Oh, thank-you so much."

Confounded, he had not the heart to undeceive her when she was so earnest. Must the girl always assume the best of everyone. She had no common sense. Dumb girl. He was undeniably touched. No one had ever seen such goodness within him without proof that he wasn't a could-hearted bastard. Looking into those open, upturned eyes, his concerns continued to fight their way out of his usually very obedient mouth, except, it seemed, where she was concerned.

"Inuyasha was to have led his troops here days ago."

"Inuyasha?"

"My brother."

"Oh...OH. I see."

It was as if she did see. She understood his reluctance to voice out his growing anxiety that some mishap had left his brother dead somewhere in the dark, untamed forests.

Unbidden, stifling images blazed across her mind...the sweltering heat pounding upon the green earth. The wilting flowers, the glassy stillness of the pond. The yellow disk of sun, a haze in the wavering afternoon sky. The crimson drops burned into her eyes, stains contrasted upon well-worn armor and impossibly white parchment. Dizziness. She felt the blackness creeping in upon her vision as the floodgate of emotions ruptured and overflowed. Kagome struggled to reign in the rampant emotions that always invaded her senses and then left nothing but the aftertaste of sour resentment and bitter anguish throughout her body. Biting the inside of her cheek to keep from retching, she forced the words out, concentrating upon the situation at hand.

"He is in trouble? Then we have to hurry. We must send assistance."

"We will do nothing of the sort." Too busy contemplating the swift play of emotions upon the girl's face and what thoughts may have led to her current pallor, Sesshoumaru had merely responded absentmindedly and automatically in the negative.

"What? Why not? Don't you even care that your BROTHER is in danger?" Only when the peeved expression conquered her countenance and flushed her wan face with righteous outrage did her questions register in the mind of the Western Lord.

"There you go with the presumptions again." He congratulated himself for being quick on his feet and managing to blame the girl, as it was always her fault no matter the situation.

"Huh?" was the eloquent response. Sighing hopelessly, the Lord elaborated.

"I never said Inuyasha was in danger; though it is a possibility, I had merely remarked upon his lack of punctuality."

Kagome stared incredulously at the cold lord. How could he be so careless?

"What would you have us do, then?"

"WE do nothing."

"Pardon?" The girl was indignant. Good.

"You shall remain here and make those grand speeches of yours to the adoring masses that were my troops and the villagers, while I shall depart with a small guard to scout out the situation."

As she opened her mouth, Sesshoumaru prepared himself for the tedious task of persuading such a stubborn bundle of female that this was the best course of action.

"Okay."

He mentally stumbled over his prepared points.

'What?'

"What?"

For once, Sesshoumaru's thoughts were in complete alignment with his actions.

"I said 'okay,' fine, alright, I agree, very wel - "

"I heard you the first time." Must she be so smug about catching him off guard? Having collected himself from the surprising ease with which the girl agreed, the steel of his personality reappeared. By some miracle, the girl seemed to finally have grasped who was in charge. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Sesshoumaru prepared to proceed with finishing the dictation of his plans. He should have known it was too easy. Somehow, it seemed the girl had picked up upon the strain of his thoughts and opened her mouth to set him straight.

"Don't think that my easy concession upon this point means I won't give you Hell about your leadership when you get back. I just happen to believe family is too important a thing to bicker over. Hurry and find your brother. I have a bad...feeling...about all of this." Oh, great. She HAD to add that last part in. She knew she just asked for it; it didn't lessen her ire when he took the opening.

The chit was ordering Him. Again. Deciding he'd had enough, he proceeded to mock her.

"A 'feeling'?"

Oooh! The insensitive jerk! She was trying to be kind and considerate and perfectly serious, but no. The infuriating man just could NOT leave well enough alone.

"Yes. A Feeling, a hunch, an inkling. You know, instinct, those tingly things running up and down one's spine that normal people get when they know something's out of order. Perhaps feelings are beneath you, so I'll use a more sophisticated word for your benefit. A presentiment. Call it what you like. Heck, call it woman's intuition. I just know something's wrong, okay?! Why can't you just take my word for it? I've never been wrong before."

"If you are quite finished with your tirade. First, I was merely asking about your feeling. No need to jump to conclusions, girl. Second, I believe that 'woman's intuition' is more generally used to refer to matters of the heart and concerning the opposite sex."

He was mocking her again! He had clearly been provoking her before, yet he managed to turn things around. How did he always manage to twist her words so that everything ended up being her fault? 'Argh!'

"I knew that!" she snapped back, hissing like an angry wet cat. She didn't miss the glimmer of a twinkle in those cold metallic orbs. It only irked her more. She tossed her farewell over her shoulder as she stomped out of the clearing. "I'll go make preparations for your departure." Suddenly turning and trudging backwards, "Don't worry. I'll take charge of everything until your return." With a decidedly impish grin on her face and a previously missing sprightly bounce to her step, Kagome disappeared into the foliage on the path back to town.

Sesshoumaru shook his head. Such a child. Always having to get the last word.

'How juvenile.'

Fifty meters away, Kagome echoed very similar sentiments in her contemplation over the Lord of the Western Lands.

'How infantile.'

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The village was in an uproar. Such dissension over a country simpleton of a woman.

They were all smitten with her.

So, here everybody stood, ready for departure, yet not leaving, arguing over whether the blasted chit was more needed with the village and troops or with the scouts. If it had been up to Sesshoumaru, the latter would not even be an option and thus there would not even be an issue to cause such migraine inducing pandemonium. Unfortunately, the ever inaccurate grapevine, the gossip source of information, had led the "volunteering" scouts to believe more up close and personal time would be available with the resident idol of a faction leader.

Humph! That was a laugh. She wasn't even pretty.

A flash of sparkling raven silk.

Not THAT pretty, Sesshoumaru's mind quickly amended.

Big doe-eyed sapphire jewels twinkling up at him.

Sesshoumaru growled at his traitorous mind. That was beside the point. His men needed to start thinking with their OTHER heads. After all, the girl had no mind for logic.

Although she did come up with innovative approaches to worn out situations, such as her now legendary uplifting, spirited speech.

Quickly blockading his treacherous devil's advocate of a psyche from thinking any other foolish and pointless thoughts, Sesshoumaru's narrowed eyes followed the troublemaker about. She was clearly flustered by the turn of events. Obviously the rural girl had never set foot outside the province she so simply lived in. It was her whole existence. And she did not want to leave.

Hm...

He had decided.

She would attend to him on his journey. Determined in his purpose, he stepped forward, effectively muting the cacophony of dissension previously swarming the air. As every eye remained riveted upon the Western Lord, he set forth his proclamation. Noting the way she cast her gaze upon him as though he were her only savior, his lower lip twitched. She was so certain he would never want nor allow for her to travel with his men. Locking his gaze upon her, he deliberately issued forth "the law".

"Higurashi-san shall join the scouts on their rounds."

Short and sweet. Straight to the point; just the way he liked it.

Correction.

By the way the girl jerked and stiffened in reaction, his crisp, direct diction had become the way he LOVED it.

Kagome was stunned into silence.

'The JERK!'

How dare he do that to her! Her mouth opened to protest. Nothing came out.

Sesshoumaru gloated over the fish imitation the girl had upon her face. The noiseless flapping of her usually noisy mouth an especially delightful pleasure. A small chuckle escaped.

Kagome almost gasped. As it was, she stood gaping at the lord. He had just LAUGHED! All right, so it was more of a chuckle. But still. The point is that he found her dilemma humorous. The arrogant prick. Regaining her composure, she drew herself up to her full height, the whole whopping 5 feet 4 inches of it, in an attempt to command respect and presence. It was her patented classic, the regal pose. Next to him, hardly reaching his shoulders, she looked the part of a child playing pretend. 'Stupid effeminate man.' Growling lowly, Kagome turned to the townspeople amongst whom her family stood, rooted at the prospect of Kagome leaving the village. She smirked. That's right! Her family wouldn't let her down. They would never let her set foot outside if they were so paranoid about her visits to her clearing.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

She stood waveringly, attempting to stare down the gargantuan giant of a beast. It's large, dull-brown irises bore into her skull as though she were nothing. Its endless mass of dark hair transforming into grasping, skeletal fingers, reaching toward her with every gust of wind. The swaying of its possessed tail ruthlessly dislodging and swatting the life out of the surrounding, poor, hapless gnats and flies.

How had she gotten into this mess?

To any onlooker, the scene would have been absurd.

A girl.

And a horse.

At a standoff.

To Kagome, the experience was terrifying. Before her stood the transportation device waiting to whisk her away from the familiar and into the unknown. She glanced/glared over at her deliriously pleased family standing beside the well-trodden path to bid farewell to their amazingly happy girl.

Kagome sighed dejectedly.

Really. Sometimes, she could not help but wonder if she were not the true guardian within this crazy family she called hers. She felt like the adult of the family; they could be so silly sometimes. The clearing of a throat broke Kagome's thoughts. Glancing to her left, she noticed the boy beside her (who had been trying to catch her attention for the past 30 minutes).

Another sigh. This one of exasperation.

Smiling kindly at the blissfully oblivious disruption, Kagome acknowledged the boy.

"Hojo." The dazzled youth forgot everything but that beautiful smile directed towards her. Kagome kept her impatience in check. "Is there something I can do for you before I leave?"

This question prompted Hojo's mind into action as he recalled the purpose of his presence.

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about, Kagome-chan."

Kagome started to become uneasy.

"This being your first time out of the village, and all..."

Her stomach felt queasy.

"I can understand what you're going through. Leaving everything familiar behind...It's just like my first time leaving on that hunting expedition...Though hopefully it won't turn out to be as disastrous as that was, but that really wasn't my fault, Kagome-chan! How was I to know that you can't just point and shoot an arrow? No one told me you had to take time to AIM first and - "

Registering the sack held in his left hand and the uselessly short and rusted piece of metal vaguely resembling a sword tied to his side, Kagome had a sinking feeling she knew exactly where this long tangent was intended to head. Deciding to speed the process along to what she knew would be inevitable, what with the inherent mule-headed tendencies of the male population, she quickly got to the point.

"Hojo, you're going to come keep me company?"

"Urk?" The disconcerted boy took a moment, then two, before he was able to get his bearings. "Yes. I'll escort and protect you, Kagome-chan! So you don't need to worry about anything, Ojii-sama." This last statement directed with a bow toward Kagome's beaming grandfather.

And the trip just got worse.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Deceptively carefree laughter drifted upward, riding upon the gentle, cool breeze, through the sun dappled treetops, floating above to the clear blue sky. The sun shone merrily upon the peace filled forest, the day bright and welcoming, clinging to the last of summer, savoring one of the season's last days of warmth and beauty before the frost would chill and freeze the world for an eternity of winter.

Sesshoumaru permitted himself a brief glance toward the disturbance only to turn away - grimacing with disgust at the scene that lay before him. That damn bitch didn't know how to keep to herself. Half his troops waited on her every whim - whole-heartedly at her service hand and foot. The other half had enough sense to conceal their admiration, but they still saved her the best of the meat, the wine, the tents, the sleep-gear, and the horses...'stupid dimwits.' But the one that irked him most was the BOY that nipped at her heels like an attention-starved puppy. The same one she seemed to dote over every second of the trip. Continuing on this line of thought, Sesshoumaru failed to notice how tightly his jaw was set and how deeply his fingers dug into the palm of his tightly clenched fist until the chit's gasp broke through his rambling.

"Are you alright?"

The concern that lay within her sapphire orbs nearly made him snarl in rage. He roughly pulled away from her surprisingly soft and gentle touch. For a backwater villager, the girl had the skin and touch of a noblewoman. Picking up his already brisk pace so that the girl had to half-trot, half- walk behind him. Satisfied with her mounting annoyance and exhaustion with the situation and the pace he set, Sesshoumaru smugly reveled in the fact that she hated horses so that it made it necessary for her to walk...That is until he took a cursory second look back and noted that damn puppy of a Hojo sidling up to Kagome and whispering into her ear...the content of which was easily evident by what followed. Kagome mounted her horse with Hojo holding the reins behind her to provide her with a false sense of security. Why had he let the kid come along?

Damn.

Later that night, after setting up camp in a small but scenic meadow, the little rag-tag group was gathered around the warmth of the fireplace. A chill wind from the north caused Sesshoumaru to pull the collar of his shirt tighter around his neck to keep out the autumn draft and shift closer toward the orange glow of welcome warmth. Glancing across the flickering flames, his marigold-fire lit eyes burned and narrowed at the casual arm draped across the wench's shoulders, the closeness of the two bodies, the seemingly lackadaisical touches, and the flirtatious giggles that continued to pound into his already throbbing head. He knew she'd bring more trouble than the pleasure of her pain and discomfort about leaving her familiar surroundings behind would be worth. She wasn't even upset anymore. If only she were still miserable; then, he wouldn't be the only one suffering from his ill-conceived plot.

Damn It!

Distractedly, he thought about how he seemed to be damning himself a lot since he met her.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Finally.

The lights were out.

She thought they'd never go to bed...Jeez. And she was definitely not going another day without bathing. It was just simply disgusting, The Western Lord's men were sadly lacking in personal hygiene. After stumbling through thick sludge, occasional animal extracts, curtains upon curtains of gnats, cobwebs, and mosquitoes, and sweating from exertion and toil under the harsh light of day, one would think anybody exposed to such grueling factors would feel a more than compulsive urge to wash up. Yet, the first thing these men did when given time to rest was pull out their blankets and conk out. How could they even sleep with that smell? After a whole week of such torture, Kagome was determined. She would not be deterred by any ill-bred lords who may be lurking about outside, just waiting to catch her in the midst of her conspiracy for cleanliness. Shaking her head at her ridiculous imagination, she quickly gathered her spare clothes and her slither of soap and marched out her tent. Unfortunately, her imagination had not been far off from the mark. Not two steps out of her temporary haven, HIS voice assaulted her from behind.

Jumping at the unexpected, disembodied voice, Kagome pivoted around and wildly scoured the darkness with frantic, unseeing eyes. When Sesshoumaru's silver head appeared from the shadows, Kagome grimaced.

'Here it comes.'

"Where were you going, wench?"

He hadn't even bothered to hide the suspicion contained within his voice.

That annoyed Kagome to no end.

She chose not to answer.

Two milliseconds later, her involuntary explanation tore from her mouth, escaping into the thickness of the night, while her mind cursed the burning golden rays that penetrated her soul in one glance.

"I feel gross."

If the girl thought that was an answer, he had just confirmed her ineptness. She was clearly daft. Kagome read his thoughts from expressionless eyes and scowled for two reasons. One: she had been in his company for too long if she could read him so easily. Two: he just HAD to embarrass her by making her confess out loud to him, the arrogant prick of a handsome lord.

HANDSOME?

Where had that come from? Sure, she was woman enough to admit that he was more than pleasing to the eye, but did her thoughts HAVE to betray her by inserting the fact when she least wanted to notice it: when she was frustrated with the stubborn, sadistic ass!

Sesshoumaru found himself fascinated by the various shades of crimson the girl-turned-chameleon displayed every other second. So she did realize how utterly inadequate her answer to his question was. No. He had learned his lesson more than once with this spitfire - never misguidedly attempt to predict her actions. Things were NEVER as they appeared in her presence. A minute later, he learned just how right his evaluation of her was when she opened her mouth.

"STOP staring at me like that! I am NOT daft! In fact, you are the one who is sadly lacking if you cannot even appreciate the value of personal hygiene. You would think a Great Lord such as yourself would have better habits than that, but having been in close quarters with all you men is simply disgusting. To go for a WEEK through plagues of all shapes, sizes, and consistencies, yet not once BATHE is unacceptable! It's a wonder you don't all catch something from each other and turn sickly, weak, and deformed with all the organisms and diseases coexisting with you all in your bodies!"

With that diatribe finished, she whirled upon her heel and proceeded upon her path toward the wondrously cool, moonlit lake that awaited her, paying no mind to the half-bewildered, half-angry, and one hundred percent amused lord behind her. Even as she realized she had just offended the savior of her village, she refused to apologize or turn back. She was a woman on a mission, and she would not fail!

The rustling of foliage behind her brought her back from her own little world where only the quest for cleanliness existed. She decided to get rid of the obtuse lord as quickly as possible. After all, there was that cool blue oblivion awaiting her.

Unfortunately, he beat her to the punch.

"You still have not answered my question."

Forgetting her resolve to forego another tirade the moment his collected voice reached her ears, she exploded.

"My God! Do I have to spell it out for you? I am not a traitor out for some sick rendezvous, understood?"

Wow! She was really on a role! Even though this new found voice and courage stemmed from her unusually short fuse from days of grubbiness, she liked standing up to the much-to-high-and-mighty-lord Sesshoumaru.

With that satisfying thought, she once again continued on her way.

The rustling infuriated her. Thus explaining her extremely uncharacteristic boldness that would leave her blushing for days to come in his presence.

She simply half turned to the lord, raised a brow, smiled seductively, and dropped the bomb.

"Well, if you wanted to keep me warm as I wash up, you should have just said so."

Finally, she was home free, if a little red.

Sesshoumaru remained frozen in place.

THAT had most certainly been unexpected.

Even more unexpected was his reaction to her invitation. Sure, he knew she was being insincere. But he was a man, and she was beautiful. Yes, he admitted it now. He had no choice but to admit after his shameful reaction to her husky statement mere moments before.

He needed to get out of the country. All this air was affecting his mind. Surely, back in his palace the little witch would be forgotten; he would be safe, untouchable.

He ignored the faint lurching within his body.

Closing his eyes, he proceeded to relax, taking deep breaths of the cool night air. Glancing up at the sky, he noted how late it had become. He also recalled the last time he had gazed at the sky in such a manner. He thought back to her comments.warmth and compassion? What an impractical, silly girl. There was nothing but cold, unyielding truth in the blackness before him.

Beautiful in its brutality.

"AH!"

The scream rent through the air as though a knife through butter.

He knew he should have followed, in spite of her wrath.

She was nothing but trouble.

Pounding heart, limbs ablaze, throwing caution to the wind as he burst through the last trees before the lake to get to the annoyance of a girl, he froze at the scene before him.

Kagome sat in the water at the edge of the lake, fully clothed but soaked from head to toe, glaring up the end of a glinting blade hovering a hairsbreadth away from her delicate, ivory throat.

Sesshoumaru took in the sight and promptly began to laugh. His deep, full chuckles startling the three out of their standstill.

The two men turned, a collage of red, purple, and silver. The one holding the sword gawked at the sight of an older version of himself nearing convulsions. His companion merely allowed that all-knowing grin to encompass his face.

Kagome scowled.

Five beats later.

"You JERK!"

A lunge.

The blade spun in the air as red and green tumbled to the forest floor.

~*~ end chapter five: road trip ~*~

a/n: I am so sorry that it took so long. I hate school...it's amazing what stress can do to your creativity. It obliterated mine. Anyway, I honestly don't know how long it will be until I can get another chapter out, so please be patient. Worst-case scenario: I can't update until after finals are over in December. No worries though. I will definitely finish this story. Now, having reassured all my wonderful readers of that fact...I'd like to say thank you to all those who reviewed and urged me. It kept me from becoming too lazy. ;op also, please let me know what you thought...having just come out of a writing slump I'm not so sure I'm over, I'd love to hear what you thought about this chapter? Was it up to par? Were there scenes that just didn't flow or fit? Should I rewrite the chapter? I'm still not sure whether I like this chapter or not. Anyway, until next time!