Disclaimer: Did not own, do not own, never will own.

Author's Note: Again, I feel absolutely horrid for not getting these revised chapters up faster. This story hasn't had a real update in what… two years? I feel ashamed. /buries head in pillow/ Really though, I'm not going to let this story die; I still have many ideas for it and I love writing it. Reality has just been a bitch lately.

Dark Fairy: You simply like procrastinating, my lass. /pats author's head/

Lady Of Paranoia: Quite true… /sighs/

-- Chapter 4: Turn of the Tides --

"Kagome!" Shippou whimpered as his surrogate mother crumpled to the ground with a sickeningly thud. He quickly scampered to her side and pressed a little, trembling paw to her neck, searching for a heartbeat. With a sigh of relief, he felt a weak thumping against his paw.

"She's alive…" Shippou sighed and gave Rin, who had been watching everything through wide eyes, a comforting smile.

Rin returned the smile hesitantly, still worried about the pretty lady that helped her. "But why is Kagome-san still sleeping…?"

Shippou frowned and looked back at the young miko. "I don't know…" The kitsune reached for her hand and with a shock found that it was quite hot. With the other paw, he felt her forehead, which was burning up. Her face was flushed a dark crimson, small beads of perspiration dripping down her cheeks and forehead. Shippou bore a helpless expression as he glanced back at Rin.

"She feels really hot… I think she has a fever!" The poor kitsune was at a loss at what to do. Kagome was the one who helped the sick, not the one who got sick!

"The foolish woman exerted all her energy." A sleek, baritone voice cut through the tense atmosphere.

Sesshoumaru slowly but gracefully stood up from his position on the ground, all signs of previous injury vanished. Heeding no more attention to the worried kitsune and the unconscious Kagome, the Taiyoukai silently examined his newly healed body. He lifted an elegant hand and leisurely flexed his fingers like a feline would bare its claws then, after a few more minutes, shifted his gaze to scene in front of him.

Shippou trembled slightly when he felt the cold stare, but remembering Kagome's pale, sweating face, the kitsune frowned determinedly and said, "Can't you help her? After all, this did happen because she was helping you!"

"Kitsune, I suggest you keep your tongue in check. Insolence can get you killed," Sesshoumaru warned, no ounce of empathy in his gaze. He did, however, kneel down bedside the feverish young woman and lay a clawed hand against Kagome's forehead, seeming to check her temperature.

Rin watched this exchange thoughtfully until the realization that her Sesshoumaru-sama was healed bombarded her mind, and the little girl momentarily forgot about the "pretty lady's" grave dilemma. Her child-like face light up with joy and she exclaimed, "Sesshoumaru-sama, you're all better! Kagome-san's plan… worked…" Rin trailed off, her light-hearted expression vanishing as swiftly as it had come.

Sesshoumaru gazed at his young ward impassively then glanced back down at the ill woman before him and suppressed an undignified sigh. The youkai lord had no previous intention of aiding the wretched human after having already seen what helping one of these creatures could lead to… If only he had foreseen what trouble Rin would be… and yet…

The young human below him gave a weak shudder, her breaths rasping out in short, painful gasps; it was obvious that her condition was growing steadily worse and she would certainly not last much longer. This unwillingly perplexed Sesshoumaru for there were no physical injuries on the woman-child that might indict she was ailing. It seemed as though, while the girl's physical condition was fine, her mental and emotional condition was dangerously unstable. And if that were the case, then it would be reasonable to assume that she was losing her spirit energy and thus… her life energy. It was a commonplace ailment in young, untrained mikos if they attempt to perform a task outside their skill level.

"I am swiftly becoming weary of this entire situation… wretched human," A disgruntled Sesshoumaru fixed a cold stare on the dying miko, seemingly simply waiting for her rapidly approaching death.

Shippou could take no more. "Argh! Damnit, why aren't you helping her instead of just sitting there like an idiot?" The kitsune shot an incensed look at the one whom, in his opinion, was a heartless creature that appeared to take delight in his surrogate mother's imminent death. But what can you expect from someone like the Lord of the Western Lands? However, Shippou could discern when he had no other options left and thus knew that he—and Kagome's life—was at the mercy of a fearsome Taiyoukai, which was why he had to hold onto the meager hope that Sesshoumaru could be persuaded to help Kagome.

"Shippou-chan, Rin knows Sesshoumaru-sama will help the pretty lady," Rin reassured the harried looking kitsune who turned a doubtful gaze on her.

"Well… he'd better," The young kit sniffed and quickly glanced away.

Meanwhile, the Taiyoukai in question stood up from his kneeling position and with one swift, agile movement a gleaming sword was revealed from its protective sheath. He leveled the Tenseiga above Kagome then demanded quietly, "Rin, take the kitsune and go back to Ah&Un. Jaken should be awaiting you there."

Rin nodded happily, having utter faith in her master while Shippou shot wary glances at the sword hovering above his beloved miko. Nevertheless, he reluctantly allowed the little girl to tug him in the direction of the two-headed dragon dubbed Ah&Un. Oh, how the kitsune longed to simply curl up in Kagome's arms and take a nap, but instead he'd have to settle for praying that she would still be there when he returned.

It was so…cold. Not a threatening coldness, but rather a calm cold that lulls one into a state of detachment. She felt free, unburdened from all her worries and responsibilities.

It was a peaceful sensation.

Yet, she felt something wasn't right.

There was a depth of… something she could not discern beyond the reassurances of the peaceful coldness. A depth that she was not ready to face—could not face. It wasn't time.

Something felt wrong.

Suddenly, she felt absolute fear and vulnerability. The soothing cocoon surrounding her diminished in a harsh second. Drowning… she felt as if she were drowning in water, unable to reach the surface.

Terror griped her heart.

Then, she broke through the surface with desperate fierceness.

Noises were muffled.

Colors smeared and blurred together.

Her body felt limp and awkward.

"Ugh…I feel as if I were crushed by a boulder then brought back to life…" Kagome moaned mentally. She could barely open her eyes, much less think coherently. And yet, she also felt new, like an old doll someone had diligently repaired.

"Okay, one step at a time… let's start at opening your eyes," Kagome urged herself, slowing lifting her laden eyelids.

She peeked through the dark shadows of her lashes and was bombarded with vivid colors and shape. Gradually, she deciphered details and forms… like silver-white hair and golden eyes wavering above her. Naturally, her mind put two and two together and came up with entirely the wrong conclusion. Two plus two does not equal fish or in this case, hanyou.

Her heart rate increased.

Her stomach teemed.

Her nerves trembled.

"Oh gods…"

"Inu Yasha…?" The distraught girl murmured, her eyes fluttering back closed due to both the awkwardness of her body and the shock she had just received.

Kagome struggled desperately to open her eyes completely. Finally, she achieved the feat. And was met with two cold, intense, and vaguely offended gold orbs complemented by a rigid set of red lips.

"I think not, woman." A certain Taiyoukai scoffed, his chilly tone like stinging needles piercing her skin.

Kagome froze; her mouth parted slightly then she slumped back to the ground with a soft sigh. "Oh, it's you again…" Her comment was spoken in a vaguely disgruntled manner, she momentarily forgetting just whom she was talking to. The disappointment, anger and confusion she was experiencing lead her to pass Sesshoumaru off as merely an annoyance and not a threat that currently had a sword to her throat…

"Meep!" The young woman then squeaked, shifting her nervous gaze between Sesshoumaru's painfully icy gaze and his sharp sword tip that rested lightly upon her neck. She hastily skimmed her memory for all the events that had landed her in this particular predicament. Let's see… walking in dark, scary forest, meeting Rin, helping injured Sesshoumaru, fainting, waking up seeing hallucinations of Inu Yasha (why, oh why!), and finally having a sword to her throat.

"You saved me?" Kagome blurted out into the tense silence. She may have gotten two plus two wrong, but she received full marks for her one plus one answer. The young miko instinctively knew that she had been on the brink of death and also recognized the sword that lay precariously against her skin, a sword that did not kill but healed instead…

"With your sword thingy?" she continued curiously.

Sesshoumaru raised an eyebrow at these questions, deftly sheathed his Tenseiga. His impulsive inquisitiveness with this female appeared unfounded for she seemed to be nothing more than the regular bumbling fool of a human. Thus, with soft disdain he said, "Yes."

Kagome noticed this disdain and mournfully realized how her comments may have left a bad impression. Nevertheless, she prepared her next question (which was quite good, she might add), "Well… why?"

"I did not ask for your help," The regal demon gazed directly at her, "but by aiding me you forced me into a honor-bound pact. I repaid the debt by preserving your pathetic life."

Kagome frowned, "I didn't know you even held "honor-bound pacts" with anyone much less a human."

"Do not speak of matters which you have no knowledge of."

"Yeah, and I could say the same thing to you! You have no knowledge of humans if you simply pass us all off as pathetic idiots!"

"I have seen no evidence that defies my perception. Humans are clearly inferior."

"How dare…" Kagome's heated comment was halted by a shrill cry of happiness slicing through the air.

"Kagome-chan!" Shippou came bounding out of a nearby thicket trailed by an equally jubilant Rin.

Kagome smiled, her anger momentarily forgotten, and opened her arms wide to receive the happy kitsune. Thankfully, she had regained most of her strength during her argument with Sesshoumaru (when she had moved from a laying position to a more stable sitting one) so she could deal with an excited Shippou. Said kitsune leapt into her arms and immediately began to snuggle up against his surrogate mother.

"I guess I must have gave poor Shippou quite a scare…" Kagome gazed down fondly at the bundle of fur in her arms then shifted her attention to the next approaching child.

"Pretty lady!" Rin beamed as she wandered up to the two, preparing to embrace Kagome with her own delighted hug; however, her actions were halted by one elegant, clawed hand upon her shoulder. The young child glanced up to see her master with a faint expression of disapproval gracing his face.

"We must leave, Rin." Sesshoumaru said softly, tone leaving no room for argument.

Rin frowned and shared an unhappy glance with Kagome.

"Hold it. I'm not through with you yet," the young miko spoke up staunchly.

Sesshoumaru did not respond to her comment, but a shadow of cold fury glinted gold in his slit-like orbs.

Feeling slightly more daring, Kagome continued, "I want to travel with you and Rin. I want to know the entire reason for your helping me. And Rin could use some female companionship."

"I would have to decline, wench," the Taiyoukai sneered mockingly, sparing her a disbelieving glance.

Rin pouted, "Please, Sesshoumaru-sama! Can she come with us?"

Kagome stared at him stubbornly.

Sesshoumaru fixed both female humans with a calculating glare. Finally, he simply turned and began to walk in the opposite direction with long, deliberate strides.

"Well?" Kagome asked, perplexed.

Rin beamed, "Sesshoumaru-sama agreed," then beckoned the young woman to follow her.

The miko shared an amused glance with Shippou.

Shrugging, Kagome said, "Let's go then," and they hastened to catch up with their two new travel companions.

TBC…

Side note(s): Finally! This chapter seemed to drag along a bit. Sigh… and Sesshoumaru is such a difficult character to write. I'm afraid I might have made him slightly too expressive in this chapter… And Kagome is also giving me trouble. But that may be because I haven't watched Inu-Yasha in a while nor have I read much fanfiction.

Anyhoo, review and tell me where I can improve! And, if you want, you can also bitch at me for procrastinating too much. grins