A/N: Kagome is a captive of Naraku, a cruel slave owner. Inu-Yasha is the hardened leader of a gang of hanyou outcasts. What happens when they meet in a dark alley one night, Inu-Yasha having saved her from a vicious attack?
- CHAPTER ONE – DEFIANCE -
He heard them.
Light footsteps – soft, scared, hurried.
He had her.
Naraku grinned as he stepped into the alley's mouth, delighted to have caught up so quickly. Cool night ruffled his fine robes, late summer's waning strength evident in its chill, and he shivered – as much from thrill as temperature.
She would pay for this latest lapse.
The city was eerie after dark, clear of its usual commotion, and striped in moonlight that leaked from roofs of tightly-packed buildings. He was alone, save Kagome. The girl's black hair batted about her shoulders as a breeze swept by; she slipped behind a corner, and he sped to a jog.
Let her run. He didn't care. He'd bring her back and make her his—again.
"I've found you my dear," he called, a hint of his always-capped anger edging in, the endearment ugly on his lips.
Never had one woman vexed him so. This was her fourth escape, and it seemed devising getaways was to be her only pastime. After her first attempt, where she had eluded his men for six days, he'd made it a point to personally retrieve her thereafter.
He, the most powerful man in Kanaka, stalking through the streets like a common thief – it was absurd. Most girls would have been honored by her station in his household.
Though Kagome didn't fully grasp why she was a favorite, oblivious to the will and spirit holding a nearly-hypnotic power over him, she had used the status to her advantage at every turn. He'd lost many a guard and servant to her viper-like whispers and feigned kindnesses.
Now the defiance that had first drawn him grew old.
It had to stop.
Naraku broke into a full-on run, knowing such pace was undignified, but necessary. He reached the end of the alley and veered where she'd turned, closing the distance between them. Rounding another bend, triumph burned his insides. Kagome was only a handful of steps ahead; he could almost stretch an arm out and touch the tips of her flying hair.
She looked back, caught his leer, and gave a strangled sob. "Get away from me!" She shrieked.
Naraku took a final stride and clamped a hand down on her shoulder.
He jerked to a stop and pulled the girl roughly to his chest, slamming her into his hard frame and grabbing a fistful of hair.
"You're mine," more anger leaked out, making his words shake. "I'll show you for the last time, I own you—all of you!" Still holding her hair, he undid the sash at her waist.
"Naraku…," building tears shone in her eyes.
He felt a deep satisfaction as her chin quivered.
His grip loosened as he reached for the freed front of her dress. "You should have thought of that before—."
An elbow struck his jaw, cutting off the gloat. It wasn't powerful, but sheer surprise made him reel back and let go.
"I said don't!" Kagome yelled, terror vanishing. She whipped her leg around, kicking him in the knees. "I even said please!"
Her strike was true. Heel cracked into bone, and he lost balance with a wincing grunt, falling backward and crashing into the street. Landing hard, he cursed his own foolishness. When would he learn? Kagome's helplessness was always a ruse. He had more bruises than he'd ever admit to as proof. There was nothing timid or cowering about this woman who remained unbreakable.
She took the moment and turned to run, and Naraku lurched forward, grabbing the hem of her skirt. With a flare of rage and pride, he yanked viciously, pulling her to the ground. She fell on her side, and he was on top of her in seconds, pinning down her arms and clamping her legs with his own.
His fury nearly blinded him – only desire outstripped it, keeping him from moving hands to her throat. "And I said this would be the last time," he snarled. His knees stung from her kick, and he cuffed her across the face, connecting with a satisfying smack. Something stirred below his waist as she cried out. "It's time to get rid of your damned fire," he held Kagome's arms above her head, and let his free hand return to the front of her dress. "I'm no longer amused…."
Inu-Yasha walked briskly through the aging night, wanting nothing to do with the stink of the city – too many humans in one place. Their hate skulked at his side, almost in solid form.
Kanaka was the only outpost for miles; towering mountains left it isolated, hard to reach by road or river, and a marauding clan of half-demons lived deep among its range.
If Kanaka's populace knew that the clan's leader now snuck through their streets, they would have banded together and stoned him from the city – for the hundredth time.
Inu-Yasha stopped at a promisingly-large residence. Reaching into an open window, he extracted a family protection scroll plated in gold, smirking at the irony.
He dropped it into a bulging sack at his side and turned for more, searching for the glint of value. Peering into the window's deep recesses, a sound he knew well drew him up.
Bodies shuffled and struggled against one another in the not too far distance.
He spun around, crouching low and extending his claws.
A nearly-full moon illuminated the street and surrounding buildings, and he roamed over the corners of shadow it missed with inhuman, amber eyes. There was no one. He waited to see if the conflict was nearby, but undisturbed homes and closed vendors assured it wasn't.
He returned to the window, just as a whimper – soft, pained, and female – drifted through the cold air.
Inu-Yasha tensed, trying to ignore the call of his conscience, which had no problem stealing from a city of bigoted fools, but reared at the thought of an unfair fight. It came up at the worst times, and he swallowed it down, pushing it deep into his stomach where it would quiet. He knew better. The gender of the sound was too hard to truly pick out at this range – he had probably imagined it – and it wasn't any of his business anyway. He didn't need to concern himself with mortal affairs; someone was losing, and it wasn't him.
His arm ventured back to the sill.
The whimper returned, louder this time, carrying thick fear to the sensitive dog-like ears atop his head. They swiveled towards it of their own accord, and Inu-Yasha resolutely ignored them, reaching further into the window.
Silence fell over the night.
"See?" He spoke as if his ears would answer. "It's nothing but—."
The whimper erupted into a high-pitched scream of rage, giving its owner away and freezing his mouth as he thought for a moment he'd been caught. Stoning wasn't high on his priority list. Looking over his shoulder, the hanyou saw only the same baked clay and roughly-planked houses staring vacantly back. He was alone; no one witnessed his thievery.
The scream shattered through the streets a second time, from an alley down his right, and Inu-Yasha frowned as his ears perked. "No," he grumbled.
"I don't care."
Another scream started, but broke in the middle, silenced by a palm.
"See?" He repeated. "She's fine."
His ears wilted, flattening against his head.
Inu-Yasha rolled his eyes up at them as the conscience in his stomach jumped back to his throat. "I hate you," he hefted the sack to his shoulder, and they stirred. "You owe me," he boxed one with a growl and took off down the passage, padding on bare feet.
Ridiculous. He knew plenty of women who could handle themselves in a fight; just because this one couldn't didn't mean he had to intervene. The matters of humans weren't his own. Despite his irritation, he rounded a tight corner noiselessly. The struggle grew loud – no ignoring it now – and he broke another turn, stumbling onto a sight that twisted his stomach.
A man with broad, angry shoulders was straddling a resisting woman. Her dress lay ripped open, exposing a chest heaving in fear, and her arms were pinned as he hit her again to be still. The man started undoing his pants, too occupied to notice Inu-Yasha's presence.
The hanyou hated humans, but no female deserved the fate this one was headed for. He didn't hesitate. Rushing forward, he swung the bag down on the assailant's head, not holding back as he would for ordinary city inhabitants. This cretin had earned himself a coma. Heavy trinkets connected with soft spine, and the man dropped instantly, collapsing atop his victim.
Inu-Yasha cursed and bent down, wrenching him off and chucking him aside with a force he reserved for fellow demons. Following his flight with an oath of disgust, he lowered his gaze to inspect what was sure to be a terrified creature, soon to be his next widely-publicized misdeed, born only from putting himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A bruise darkened one side of the girl's face, but did nothing to diminish the curl of long lashes, or the fine lines of high cheekbones and a strong jaw. She was striking. Inu-Yasha inhaled sharply as blue-gray eyes blinked up at him in gratitude.
He expected her to erupt in tears and blubbering hysteria now that the danger had passed, perhaps even pointing a shaking finger at him in accusation. Instead, she rose quickly and pulled her torn dress closed, tying the remains of her tattered sash as if dressing for the day. He admired the composure.
"Thank you youkai," she looked up from her waist, noticing his eyes. Misreading the approval she saw, she clutched her dress tighter and stepped back. "What are you staring at?"
"Nothing," Inu-Yasha frowned.
Kagome had been anticipating a leer or a clumsy attempt at seduction and was surprised when none came. "Well then…," she faltered. "Thank you again," glaring at Naraku, crumpled and still, she groped for manners, dusty from a year of neglect. "Sorry to have troubled you. Good night," she turned to leave.
He hiked his eyebrows high. "That's it?"
She snapped to his face, the cordial politeness evaporating. "What more do you want?" She asked coldly. "Banners? A parade?"
"I wasn't looking for praise," Inu-Yasha's frown grew into a scowl. "Don't you need a… healer or something?"
"You're bleeding," he motioned to a thin line of red threading from her mouth.
Kagome touched fingers to her chin and shrugged as they came back colored. "Barely."
His eyes widened. "Your jaw will swell."
"Are you an expert?" Her own flashed, and a hint of steel entered her voice. "Hit women often?"
Inu-Yasha raised both palms, backing up a step. "Don't take your frustration out on me. I just saved you."
"I didn't need saving," she replied curtly.
"Yeah, you were doing great before I came along."
"I would've gotten free on my own."
Inu-Yasha scoffed. "Right—after he'd finished."
Her cool dignity melted, and a tremble stole her mouth. "Shut up."
The hanyou cursed inwardly. Acting fine and being fine were entirely different. He wasn't known for containing great wells of sensitivity, but even he knew he was being an ass.
Kagome started to shoulder past, anger rippling off in waves, and Inu-Yasha reached for her arm.
"Where are you going?"
She backed up, dancing out of range. "Why do you want to know?" The question was wary.
"Because…," he found himself searching for something to keep her. "What if you go into shock?"
She shook her head. "This isn't a new event for me youkai," she gauged him, wondering if he could be trusted. "I've been Naraku's property for over a year."
"Naraku?" Inu-Yasha glanced to the fallen man, expensive robes disheveled and dirt-smudged. "I've heard of him," he had a vague sense. Some higher up in Kanaka's affairs.
An unreadable expression curtained Kagome's face as she tried not to react to his ignorance. It was hard hearing that the man who had stolen the last months of your life, consumed your thoughts with hatred and fear, was inconsequential to some. Unknowingly, her hands betrayed her, fisting at her sides. "Of course you have," she spoke with more than a bit of bite. "He owns everything of importance here.
Inu-Yasha's ears quivered at her tone. "Not everything."
"You hardly count," she countered.
Though he wasn't well-versed in the ways of women – certainly not the human variety – he could tell her ire had shifted to the man she spoke of.
He appraised her again. Finger marks at her throat were already beginning to darken. Looking lower, he noticed old bruises, white scars, and lash welts peeking out from under her tattered dress. The garment was threadbare and old over her thin frame – in stark contrast to the rich orange tones and detailed embroidery of her master's outfit. Something thick rose in his throat. He couldn't name it, but it made his words hoarse. "Where will you go?"
Kagome noticed the change, and surprise flashed in her eyes. She almost couldn't recognize the sound of concern anymore, least of all from a stranger. "Away from the city," she allowed a shallow smile to touch her lips. "They all know I'm one of his harem favorites. They'll sell my trail for his favor in a heartbeat."
His concern increased. "And after that?" Inu-Yasha stared hard, knowing he was showing too much, but unable to stop.
Disconcerted, she dropped her gaze for the first time. "What does it matter to you?"
He stiffened. Why did it? Why wasn't he just letting her leave? The thickness in his throat choked up, filling his mouth in answer, and he wrestled it down, grasping for his senses.
So she was beautiful and strong willed – so what? So she would have had a very different fate if he hadn't shown up, and still might if he left. She was human. That should be reason enough not to care; her race certainly didn't give his any regard.
Disarmed by her, Inu-Yasha had forgotten himself. He was a leader of outlaws and ought to be acting like one – he had a reputation to maintain.
"Well… I saved you…," he forced his voice smug. "That means, technically, your life is forfeit to me."
Confusion doused her discomfort. "What?"
"Remember the man on top of you?"
"Vividly," Kagome's eyes narrowed. "And while he fumbled with his sash, you hit him on the head. You call that saving?"
Inu-Yasha nodded. "Now you belong to me."
The fragile trust she'd kindled died. "I don't!" Steel replaced it – a cool, familiar armor. "And I don't have to listen to this!" She shoved past, glancing disdainfully at the bag at his side. "Don't you have more important things to do? Things to steal?"
Inu-Yasha couldn't just let her go. The city wasn't safe. And he'd never see her again – this girl who swallowed tears and glared strength. He had to do something.
"I do indeed," he moved on automatic, whipping around and snatching her arm. Drawing her back, he grabbed her waist and swung her over his shoulder. "You're mine."
"WHAT?!" Kagome yelled at his backside. "Let go!"
"You can't do this!"
"I'm a thief," he said simply. "I'm stealing, remember?"
She choked on near-rage. "I never should have trusted you," she muttered, an admonishment to herself more than retort. "I should've run the moment I could stand."
Inu-Yasha felt a stab of guilt and managed a lackluster smirk, relieved she couldn't see. "This lovely conversation was you trusting me?"
Kagome sputtered, trying to speak. "You have no honor and you're stupid."
He heard her rally.
"You say my life is forfeit to you because of your… intervention. So how can you steal what's already yours?"
Inu-Yasha shrugged, lifting her whole body as he fell into the familiar act of uncaring demon. He and his men had been accused of it so long, they knew when to pull it on and parade it as truth. It was his armor. "Semantics."
Kagome cursed and pounded on his back.
"Oi!" A flash of irritation leapt up, and he tightened his hold. "Quit it!"
"I will when you PUT ME DOWN!"
"Ka… gome…," Naraku took the opportunity to join their conversation, moaning from his place in the alley.
The girl ceased shouting immediately.
"Is that your name?" Inu-Yasha asked. "Kagome?"
He tried it silently, liking its sound. "If not, I can come up with one of my own."
She exhaled loudly, and he cracked a smile. "How about wench?"
Kagome ground her teeth and growled, "Yes it's my name."
Naraku moaned again, and Inu-Yasha felt her stiffen against him. "Coming with me is better than waiting to be found," he offered.
Once more he was glad she didn't face him. "Yes," he managed thickly.
"Coming and being taken are different," she hissed, oblivious to his turmoil
Inu-Yasha shrugged again, calling up indifference. "Its payment for time wasted."
"I thought you didn't need praise."
His smile turned to a smirk. She was sharp. "Praise and payment are different," he swatted her rear. "Let's get out of here before your previous owner wakes up."
Kagome scoffed. "Attacking from behind? Running at the first sign of confrontation?" Her words were harsh and dry. "Your valor knows no bounds."
Inu-Yasha nodded against her leg, readjusting her for the journey back to the mountains. "That's me, Mr. Valiant," he knew how to play his part; it had been scripted for him decades before. "And my men are of equal mettle. They'll be anxious to meet you. A woman of your talents, even a human one, won't want for things to do," he heaved the sack to his other shoulder and rattled it for effect. "You're an excellent Kanaka find."
Kagome cursed and fell quiet, screaming in her head. She had been so close to freedom. To see it snatched away before she'd even cradled it to her chest was maddening.
Fate had a lot of explaining to do to her one day.