Disclaimer: Inuyasha and the rest of his posse all belong to someone else.  If I had the money, I'd buy them but since I have a total of five cents in my piggy bank, I don't think that's happening just yet…

A/N: Well, now that I've finished my first stand alone, I figured I might as well take a shot at a chaptered story….this idea's been brewing for a while, but I only hope I managed to get it to work as well on paper as it does in my crazy, wacko mind…

And BIG THANKS go out to Jadegoddess, Sh1 n0 m1k0, Celeste, Moonlight-Miko, Azura Dea, for reviewing my first story! Your reviews meant so much! You guys rock!!! Hopefully this story lives up to your expectations ^___^


Helping Hands


Chapter 1: Twas the Night Before Christmas…


"Next please!"

A small boy floundered forward, clutching a small rabbit in his arms.  Doctor Higurashi could only smile as she watched him struggle to balance the animal as he rose on tiptoes to deposit it on the stainless steel table.

"Now what seems to be the matter here?" She asked, sneaking a look at her patient's transcript, and taking note of the weight and history.

"He's not eating his feed again," Mrs. Kitari, the boy's mother and the rabbit's true caretaker, explained, "And he's seemed rather lifeless lately, sleeping most of the time."

"He won't even hop around in his ball anymore!" The boy cried forlornly, his eyes wide and almost brimming with tears. 

Kagome Higurashi, sole veterinarian at the Sakura Animal Hospital, tried to muster a smile to reassure her clients as she placed her stethoscope on the small furry body listening to the faint heartbeat. The rabbit's eyes remained half-hidden under droopy lids, and her heart grew heavy when it didn't even respond to the intrusion of the needle as she took some blood.

A quick peek at the clipboard confirmed what she feared.

Her eyes rose to meet two sets of worried eyes both trained on the small form under her quiet hand.

"Is he gonna be okay, Miss?"  The boy was clinging fearfully to the edge of the table, his eyes almost level with the edge.

Kagome placed the rabbit back into the boy's arms, and faced the motley family.

"I'll send the sample of blood I took in for testing, and the results will be back in a few days, but I'm afraid that they'll only confirm what I'm going to tell you now.  He's an old rabbit, and it seems as though he's wearing down." She quickly scribbled down a few recommendations on a piece of paper and handed them over.  "I can give you a prescription for vitamin supplements that might help, but you'll find he won't respond as well as a younger animal would."

Mrs. Kitari's eyes widened as she clutched boy and bunny in a one-armed embrace.  "You're…you're not suggesting putting him to sleep are you?"

"No, no, not at all.  He's perfectly healthy, just getting on in his years. I never put an animal down that isn't in any kind of pain."  She quickly scribbled down a few more notes to add to her list, trying to condense veterinarian techno babble for the poor woman.

"Now here's the recommendations for his diet, and the prescriptions for his vitamins. Remember, plenty of rest and a little TLC can do wonders." 

Mrs. Kitari was now balancing a wad of papers along with the group, and seemed a little off balance. Kagome ushered her out cheerfully, trying to make light of the situation and to avoid a small disaster. Images of a fluffy puddle with rabbit ears on the floor after all that arose in her mind and she brushed them off, trying hard to concentrate on the notes she had.

"How much do we owe you, Doctor?"

Kagome gestured to her elderly receptionist.  "It will all be printed out for you. She'll guide you through the rest."

As she was heading back to her office, she felt a small tug on her jacket and looked down.

"Thanks, Miss.  And Mr. Carrots wants to say thank you too."

A fuzzy white face was thrust up in her direction and she gave the rabbit an absent pat on the head, digging around in her coat pocket with the other.

"And here's something for you, for being such a good owner."

The boy grabbed the candy cane out of her hand with a wide grin, said another quick thanks and dashed back to his mother to show off his treat.

Shaking her head ruefully, Kagome snuck back into the confines of her office, sinking against the door in relief as she left behind her last patient of the day. 

Having your own practice was hard, especially when it was just you working such a large portion of a town.  Her clinic was the only one in this suburb, the next one highly expensive and buried beneath traffic and thousands of people in the downtown core. She also took it upon herself to be on call throughout nights and weekends, the lack of financing for an emergency vet hindering any hopes she had of getting a good night's sleep.

Rubbing weary eyes she ambled over to the struggling coffee machine, and dumped the dregs of the pot into a mug with the words "Love Your Cat" printed all the way across in bright red lettering.

One sip was all she needed, and she grimaced as the rancid stuff slid down her throat.

"God, why do I insist on drinking this stuff?" She huffed, "I don't even have the makings of a good coffee maker.  No wonder I couldn't make it in the human world."

She dropped down onto her chair, ignoring the Christmas cards lined up across the desk, or the small, figurine of Santa waving at her, with a tiny reindeer peering around his knees. Yet another tacky ornament her grandfather insisted would bring her luck during the winter holidays.

At least she had an excuse for keeping it their. No sentimentality for the holiday season. Nope, none at all.

'And lying to myself just makes everything better.  What a jolly holiday this will be,' She thought with a sigh.  The snow hadn't started falling yet, but she worried about making the trip to her family's shrine.  Christmas eve was notorious for Santa's arrival, snowdrifts, and drunk drivers playing chicken with trees.  And all three always seemed to appear around midnight too.

If she managed to occupy her time for another two hours, then she'd probably be able to catch them too.

'I can see Santa fly by while I try to dig out of a snowdrift before the cars manage to see the big target. My memories of the season will be so fulfilled.'

A soft jingle of a bell signalled a main lobby that was free of barking dogs, crying cats, screeching birds and scowling owners.  Oh, what a wonderful time of the year!

"You look like a herd of wild elephants just ran over you," Her receptionist—the only thing she could afford—greeted. "May I suggest a night of herbal tea and rest?"

"Yes you may, Kaede-sama, but I can't say I'll follow it. I've still got a long day ahead of me yet."

Kaede shook her head as she went about putting away the last of the files and cleaning up the day's mess. "You work too hard, Kagome. One day I'll have to shut you away in one of those kennels to make you get some sleep."

"I'll only howl pitifully for the first few hours then chew through the bars." Kagome smiled. "And then you'll be stuck with an overworked vet who has no teeth. Won't that make for an interesting book?"

"In today's world, there's probably already a few books and their sequesl that have been done."  She shuffled over to the main power controls and began shutting down the office.

"So what are your plans for the holidays?" Kagome asked as she pulled out the plug, and the lights on their tiny, plastic Christmas tree blinked off. "Going off to an exotic location? Or maybe doing some wild partying with some Chippendale dancers?"

Kaede may have been an old woman, but she could still detect sarcasm.  "Or perhaps a quiet evening with my cats, reading a book by the fire and sipping on some of my teas? Could that also be a possibility, Kagome?"

The veterinarian smirked as she began rolling down the blinds to cover the lobby from the light of the streetlamps and to dissuade any vandals who might be thinking about stealing office supplies.

Suddenly, a figure emerged from the windswept night and the light slanted across his face as he reached the window. Kagome froze, the last set of blinds halfway down as she recognized the stranger.

"Oh yes, I mustn't forget to add that I will be eating all of those delightful chocolates I received," Kaede continued, eyeing the bright packages that adorned her desk. Kagome's present was the only one she was sure wasn't a box of chocolates. "I'm sure my cats will enjoy that too."

But her conversation fell on deaf ears as the stranger in the window gave a half-frozen wave.

"This isn't possible…" Kagome muttered as she went to the door and flung it open.

"What are you doing here?"

"I miss you too. It's so wonderful to be reunited again. Wow, you've grown!"  The stranger grinned, tossing back his hood. "So many ways of saying hello, but no one ever says them to me."

Kagome rolled her eyes but threw her arms around him in a big hug anyway.

"Now this is more like it," He commented, carefully keeping his hands around her waist.  There was too much of a history to take advantage of the situation. Besides, he respected Kagome's veterinary skills and knew that there would be some very pointy objects lobbed in his direction if he made any moves.

She gave him a shove.  "You always had a dirty mind, Miroku."

"At least I admit to it," He sniffed, then caught sight of another woman behind the desk. "And who might this lovely woman be? I don't believe I've had the pleasure of meeting you."

Kaede raised a brow and took his outstretched hand. Normally, this would have been Miroku's chance to pull the unwilling woman towards him but his assessing eye took in the grandmother figure, and he backed off from all perverted thoughts immediately.  Grandmothers had strong and heavy handbags and they could be pretty damn scary when they wanted to be.

"You're charm won't work on me, boy."

"That's Kaede, my receptionist and an angel that the gods saw fit to bestow me with," Kagome explained, smiling at the rejection.  "She saved me from the evils of a one-person practice."

"Nonsense, I just take care of the filing and the phone. Anyone could do it."  But Kagome could tell the old woman was rather touched, and that had to make her smile even more.

"As much as I love seeing you, Miroku, and gods knows it's been awhile, but what are you doing here? We didn't exactly keep in touch after graduation."

"And I regret that every moment of my life." Miroku gave a dramatic, heartfelt sigh, and noticed with satisfaction the grin on his friend's face.  She looked like she hadn't laughed in decades. "But if we must be serious, then I admit that I hunted you down because I need your services."

"You have a pet?"

"Not exactly.  But I do have a…friend who needs your kind of help."

Kagome crossed her arms over her chest, and stared hard at him, trying to figure out what he was getting at.  "So you're calling your animal a friend? Congratulations on embracing the world of fuzzy and furry creatures as equals.  I'm sure Greenpeace will be in contact with you very soon."

"Wow, Kagome, I never thought I'd see you as a cynic," Miroku said in mock awe.

She rubbed her temples and sent him a tired but amused look. "It's been a long day, and it doesn't seem to be ending."

"I can understand that, but as wonderful it would be to catch up, my friend is kind of in an emergency."

Kagome momentarily wondered whether she should tell him her vacation started in an hour, and she had no plans of doing any more work.  But she was never one to let an animal suffer, and this was her old friend, pervert or not.

"Are you going to explain this, or will I have to wait to get a full explanation?"

The look on his face was enough of an answer, and she sighed.  "Give me a second to get my things, okay?"

She quickly stuffed all that she needed into her satchel, trying to sort through which papers were needed in the next few days so she could get a head start on the mound of paperwork that had built up. That was if she had any time to get some work done.  She was only taking off the next few days, and it was rare that she ever got so much time to herself and with her family…

Kagome hung up her traditional white lab coat and grimaced at her wrinkled clothes. Oh well, Miroku's 'friend' probably wouldn't mind.  She had yet to meet a dog, cat, bird or lizard that had cared about what she looked like. All that mattered to them was getting out of her office and back to their homes, where needles were nowhere to be found.

There was a soft rap on the door, and Kaede poked her head in. "I'm off now.  Have a merry Christmas, Kagome!"

"Merry Christmas, Kaede. Tell those cats to stay out of the chocolates!"

The old woman's laughter echoed across the nearly empty lobby as she left, and Miroku decided to peek in.  "I forgot to mention, it might be a good idea to bring along some of that vet stuff to stitch wounds up.  You'll probably need it."

"What exactly happened to your 'friend', Miroku?" Kagome asked suspiciously, digging under a pile of bandages that needed to be rolled to pull out her vet kit that went with her everywhere.  'Shoot, I forgot about those. Oh well,' She thought, 'I can always do them when I get back.'

"He got into a fight with a couple others, and well, their claws were sharper than his in the end."

"Now I know you don't have a snake or a fish as a pet.  So what is it? A cat maybe? Although I never took you to be a cat person. Or could it be a dog?"

Miroku hesitated. "Why do you need to know?"

"Because cats and dogs take different kind of dosages for pain killers, something your 'friend' will need if he's cut up that badly."  She jangled a small jar of pills in her hand for effect, wondering why he was being so darn stubborn and mysterious.  Although this was Miroku and he had a tendency to enjoy mystery.

"Just bring enough for a big dog then, if I must choose."  He smirked to himself, wondering what his friend would think of the analogy.  'He'd probably bite my head off.'

"Sounds good enough for me," Kagome replied, noting his avoidance of a true answer but too tired to deal with it.

"Okay, I'm ready to go. You can carry that bag over there, but be careful, it has the syringes."

He hefted the bag onto his shoulder, trying to hide his surprise at how heavy it was.

"By the way, Kagome," He said as they were leaving, trying to wait until he had some space to dodge what would most likely be one angry vet. "I took a taxi here because my car broke down. Do you think we can take your car instead?"

Even over the howling angry winds and the noises of a city as big as Tokyo, for miles, people could swear they heard someone screaming and the unmistaken sound of something heavy connecting with an unyielding object.


Chapter 2 Coming Soon!