It was an unaccountably cheery, yet brisk autumn morning that broke merrily over the horizon. The sun shone through the Goshinboku's slightly yellowed leaves, the faded light filtered through the treetop and fell gently over the shrine's ground, dappling the weathered stones in interrupted shadow. The city beyond the shrouded shrine was bustling busily around them and to the casual observer it looked like business as usual in Tokyo. Anyone who really knew, though, could tell you that the city seemed pretty reluctant to wake up this fine autumn morning.

To be sure, there was a strange sense of languid calm that overhung the city and it permeated nearly every corner.

The blinking lights in Shinjuku blinked a little slower. The trains that twisted through the city crawled like caterpillars in the midsummer heat, making the bustling masses trundling towards the city a few minutes late. Some of the more frequent commuters would argue that the trains were always late but most right thinking people rarely pay attention to frequent commuters because honestly...what would they know?

Even so, things still seemed more relaxed than usual. Less hurried, which in modern Japan was a rarity. Even the birds flying over Tokyo bay seemed to soar just a bit more languidly, stretching their wings before diving into the sea for their next meal.

In a small house located just inside the Higurashi Shrine, one Higurashi Kagome was moving just as slow as the rest of the city. Snuggled into her bed, she curled her toes and pressed her face into the pillow with a delighted sigh. There was really nothing like sleeping in a real bed. With real sheets and a real comforter. With real pillows. That were really clean and smelt fantastic.

With another contented sigh, Kagome smiled sleepily and reveled in the amazing comfort and ease only found in her era. She was on the cusp of true wakefulness, her mind aware enough to know she really should be waking up and getting ready to start her day. could she do that when it was sooooooooo comfortable and warm and nice in her bed and she was soooooooooo tired.

She made a funny little sound in the back of her throat and rubbed her face more thoroughly into her pillow. It felt so good just to sleep. Just to be here in her soft, warm bed and not have anything to do. If only that were the case.

It was truly ironic that she'd come home to take a break from the stress in the feudal era, only to be treated to an array of stress and tension in her own. She'd actually been looking forward to hunkering down and studying hard. Her mind was eager to learn and ready to fill with nice, tasty facts. Imagine her surprise when she arrived at school bright and early one morning to find that all classes had been cancelled for a two week cultural festival.

It broke the heart, really.

The worst part was, she'd been gone so long that she'd gotten completely shafted into doing the worst kind of last minute jobs and tasks that no one else wanted to do. To make matters worse, the jobs and tasks she was given weren't exactly her forte. She got shoved into a spot on the choir and she couldn't sing worth beans. She was guilted into helping out with the food for the event and the only real dish she could cook came out of packages. She was pushed onto the stage and forced to act in a rather ridiculous play and...well...she didn't think she was so bad at that. In fact, she thought she'd done kinda well.

That was beside the point.

She wasn't really comfortable with any of it but she'd humiliated herself for her friends and for the honor of her school. It had all just been a little too much for her to handle at that particular moment. Yet she'd some how managed not to bust a vein and just when she thought everything was going so well and nothing could go wrong...

Yes, as if things weren't bad enough, Inuyasha had taken it upon himself to tag along with his family and managed to make things worse. Not that she was coming down on him. He meant well...he always meant well was just Inuyasha being Inuyasha, which is to say overprotective, a bit jealous and sometimes needlessly violent. But she couldn't really fault him this time. After all, he did save the entire school from a bunch of rampaging mushroom demons which was something she couldn't say with a straight face, but it was the truth. He did save them from demon mushrooms and that was a good thing, but for the gigantic hole he'd put in the auditorium.

Ah, but so is life. With rampaging demon mushrooms and holes in school auditoriums. Besides, what had the possibility of being a terribly embarrassing situation turned out all right in the end. The festival had been a big success, in part because of Inuyasha's rather dramatic, property damaging interference. Everyone was happy despite the destruction and anyway, the roof could be fixed.

So, no harm, no foul.

Even so, she had left the festival feeling weary and overstressed, falling onto her pillow that night with an audible flump. Unbeknownst to her, she'd been allowed to sleep longer than usual. On a normal Saturday morning she'd have to be up at the crack of dawn in order to be at school for her weekend classes. Luckily, the school had cancelled classes and Mrs. Higurashi had neglected to tell her daughter and she'd done it pretty much on purpose. She knew her daughter well. If Kagome had known she didn't have school, she'd have scheduled something else or found a way to make herself busy. That was her way. She was the kind of person who always had to have something to do, which was admirable but it tended to tire a body out.

Completely oblivious to her mother's insidious plot to give her the rest she needed, Kagome slept on and she would have stayed asleep had it not been for the interference from the family cat. Buyo didn't much understand the elder Higurashi's reasoning for letting his mistress sleep so long. In fact, had he understood, he probably would have been rather disgruntled.

A sleeping human was a human that wasn't paying him any mind which was an outrageous and an especially irksome thing when you're a feline in search of attention. There were plenty of other people to bother in the house. Souta was playing video games, and to be truthful, there was nothing better than interrupting the young boy when playing his video games. One good swat to his controller was enough to sate the most discriminating feline's taste for mischief making but he wasn't in a playing mood, so the young human wouldn't do. Mrs. Higurashi was the human he went to for food and he wasn't hungry.

Grandpa Higurashi was the human he'd go to for finding interesting things he shouldn't be playing with, but played with anyway because he enjoyed the sound that came out of the elderly man's throat when he caught him at it. Anyway, he'd already annoyed the elderly man this morning and there was hardly any fun in annoying someone twice. At least not at the moment. There was also the matter of the other occasional occupant of the house that sort of smelt like human and dog mixed. At all costs, this particular human's attentions had to be avoided, for he clearly had no conception of how to treat a feline properly.

This dog-human pulled at his legs and tail, which any self-respecting cat shouldn't have to put up with. Alas, he was so burdened. A truly lamentable situation which he had admirably tolerated for extended lengths of time. If Buyo was able to grasp the basic tenets of religion, he would have been happy to know that his place in the afterlife was quite secure.

After he'd annoyed Grandpa, he just barely missed catching the foul smelling dog-human's eye. He'd scooted away at just the right time, which was hard, being as plump and well fed as he was but one moved a little faster when trying to avoid foul smelling dog-humans and their unwelcome attention. Yes, this morning an hour or so of painful tail pulling was right out.

At the moment, Buyo was in the mood for the kind of attention only one Higurashi could give. Higurashi Kagome, his mistress, had one of the best laps to lie in--bar none--and she knew just the right places to scratch that felt the best. Plus, Buyo was quite convinced that of the four Higurashi, she was the warmest and most comfortable for sleeping. She hardly ever moved once sat on and was soft and rather nice smelling, and after having cleverly avoided the dog-human, Buyo was in need of some self-congratulation. So, it was with this in mind that the family cat decided it was his honor to wake the recalcitrant human up in order to facilitate his own mid-morning nap.

He patted her cheek lightly with a paw and was rewarded with a slight grunt and a bit of movement and not much else.

Most dissatisfactory.

For Kagome's part, she had almost entirely ignored the increasingly annoying pawing at her face. It was sort of a game between cat and human, to see who gave up first. As of this particular morning, Buyo had won almost every round as he was a very persistent cat who didn't easily give up on most things, especially if it was something he was intent on getting. He continued to softly pat her face and nose until she swatted him away with a strangled cry. This worked for about two point five seconds. The cat came back for more. She swatted and he back off. This went on for around ten to twenty minutes, until Buyo had tired of merely patting her on her cheek. It was time to up the ante. He waited for Kagome to turn over and once she had, he settled himself on her chest and began to lick at her cheek. He licked and licked and licked and licked, too absorbed in the task of licking to notice her squelched up face and the annoyed sounds coming from her throat.

Kagome couldn't take it anymore. She held out her hand and tried to deflect the cat's licking. It worked; in so much as he began to lick her hand instead of her face. Not a huge improvement but at least the skin on her cheeks wasn't being sanded off. Opening an eye, her entire view was obscured by the cat's face as it fastidiously licked the palm of her hand, his almond shaped eyes tightly closed. She moved and his attention was stolen from her hand and back to her cheek. His bright golden eyes and long pink tongue were all she could see as he almost lunged at her face and licked her.

She made a gurgling sound of disgust as she quickly sat up, sputtering as he jumped off her chest, "Aggggh, Cat! Your breath smells like butt."

The cat looked up at her from the floor with a clearly affronted glare, his tail twitching. He sniffed and sauntered out of the room, completely ignoring the still groggy human behind him. Kagome watched the cat go, her mind about a second behind the rest of her. Then she looked over at her clock and almost had a heart-attack.


Shrieking, she leaped out of bed and began furiously digging through her closet for her uniform. Her thunderous steps could be heard throughout the house and it wasn't long before someone came up to investigate. Unfortunately for him, Inuyasha had been sent and had caught Kagome in a rather embarrassing state of undress.

The sitting he got was terrible.

About five seconds after that, her mother came up and explained things which didn't save Inuyasha a bruised face to go along with his bruised ego. He made this fact well known which only earned him another accidental sitting, which was followed by another preemptive sitting as an insult to her character was clearly forthcoming.

And so it was another morning broke over the Higurashi household and though it started a bit slower than most mornings, if you asked anyone in the family their opinion, they'd all was quite normal.

After the late start, Inuyasha and Kagome had set out for the feudal era together, with a large bundle of supplies from the modern world in tow. Kagome had been not only busy with the festival, she'd also been busy with other plans that she wasn't at liberty to share with her Shippou.

Her promise to a certain arrogant yet intimidating taiyoukai wasn't forgotten. It had, in fact, been ever-present in her mind since the day she'd come home. She had essentially promised to teach his ward and at the time it had seemed like the right thing to do, but now she had her doubts. First of all, how in the world was she going to do it? There were so many logistical problems that she couldn't really wrap her head around it. Seeing the child as infrequently as she did, it'd be hard to teach her much of anything because learning required repetition. If they traveled in the same group, well, that'd be another thing all together. She'd taught Shippou a lot of stuff while on the road but for Rin that just wasn't a possibility.

So, she could see the girl more often but that also presented certain problems. One of those problems being a tall, white haired taiyoukai, who happened to be the hated half-brother of her friend and companion...Seeing the girl more often equaled the fear of being found out and being found out might mean a fight and fights were bad. Very, very bad. Also, he had seemed rather temperamental about the choice of subject matter, which made what she ought to teach the girl really hard to figure out. Off the subject, Kagome wondered if he'd check. On one hand, he might be just paranoid enough to do that. On the other, he might not give a tinker's cuss about what she taught, just so long as it didn't involve certain kinds of daydreams. Namely, the very embarrassing daydreams Kagome had found drawn in the girl's sketch pad.

There was another mind bending, brain breaking thing she had to think about. How exactly to bring up to the little girl that drawing stuff like that was just plain wrong on so many levels? How could she crush a little girl's dreams completely without crushing her spirit as well?

It was a miserable fate she was born into.

Her mother had been some help. Anyway, she'd figured out what to do about what to teach. They'd gone shopping together one day and found several nice, simple workbooks that taught hiragana as well as several small books for children just learning to read. It wasn't much, but it was something. She'd also picked up a couple of coloring books, more crayons and a pair of pencils for both Rin and Shippou. It would all work out somehow, she was sure.

Once that part was taken care of, she came the most odious part of her promise. The change in wardrobe. Initially, Kagome hadn't told her mother much about this part of the promise because it was far too embarrassing. She'd just indicated she wanted to blend in a bit better and had suggested her mother's old archery uniform because, number one, she liked it and well...there really wasn't a number two. She just liked it and it wasn't a kimono, which was good and it wasn't a priestess's ceremonial robes which was downright excellent. Then her mother got the bright idea that they ought to try and be authentic. Her mother had started doing...insert startled gasp here...research.

Yes, her mother researched the feudal era and she found out exactly what type of clothing was appropriate to wear. To Kagome's horror, a traditional tutor from the feudal era wore an outfit very similar to the one that Jaken wore. When she'd been shown a picture of it, she'd almost passed out from the horribleness of it all. She'd stated emphatically that there was no way in this world or the next that she'd ever wear anything like that. Of course, her mother had asked for an explanation. Kagome had tried to explain why, really she had, but how do you tell your mom you don't want to look like the imp that follows the very person you're trying, albeit unwillingly, to please? Well, okay, she could have said all that...but sometimes the route from her brain to mouth had issues.

She'd managed to stutter out an uncertain sounding, "Because...that's all."

Her mother just shook her head, and said, "All right. Whatever you say, dear but I think you'll find you'd be better off going with something more authentic...and traditional."

The emphasis her mother had put on the last part of the sentence hadn't been lost on her. Her mother was a stickler for things like that. It was honestly a horrible experience taking her to period movies, because she'd always point out the inaccuracies. Kagome, on the other hand, believed that there was a certain amount of artistic license that should be allowed. She also believed in not breaking the suspension of disbelief. As long as the artist makes you believe, who honestly cares if it's authentic or not. Leave authenticity to the historians...that's what Kagome believed.

She also believed in not dressing like a slimy, smelly little imp from the feudal era and when that was finally explained, her victory was short, sweet and very final.

So, the archery uniform had been modified and all parties, for the most part, were satisfied. Even Inuyasha was pleased though a bit puzzled at first as to why she decided at this point to try and blend in. Of course, she couldn't tell him the real reason, so she'd made up a perfectly reasonable alternative which wasn't a lie so much as the truth by omission. It would be nice to blend in a bit more. Sure, it was kind of funny at first being taken for a demon but after awhile, it really got tired. Plus, with all the fighting they did...well...her legs looked like hell and the weather was getting colder anyway.

All things considered, dressing a bit more conservatively and attempting to blend in was a really great idea. She'd explained it that way to Inuyasha and surprisingly, he understood and he'd even complimented her on having a good idea. Then he made a rude comment--which she wouldn't repeat much less take the time to remember-- about her old clothes as pertaining to other demons, specifically Kouga, and she had to sit him again. There really was no choice.

Once over on the other side, she'd gotten more attention from her other friends. They all complimented her on her good sense, though there was an odd kind of melancholic wistfulness in Miroku's tone that earned him a glare from both Kagome and Sango. The only one who wasn't entirely happy about this change was Shippou, who'd always liked the foreign looking clothes she'd worn before. He'd put up quite the fuss and Kagome had promised to talk to him later about private.

Even with the full explanation, Shippou wasn't happy. He didn't like the idea of anyone telling his big sis what to do. Harumphing most mightily, he begrudgingly accepted that she'd done what she had to, making a not-so-quiet complaint about arrogant dogs and their bullying ways.

After all the hubbub died down, they left for the open road. They'd traveled for several days without finding any shards. There were a couple of clues here and there, but they turned out to be false leads and in general, a waste of their time. Oddly enough, it didn't produce the normal amount of discontent in the group it had before. Inuyasha chalked it up to them only just being on the road and too near their home base. Of course they wouldn't find shards here, it was way too obvious.

"If I was a lower class demon with a jewel shard, I sure as hell wouldn't stick around, waiting for someone like me to take it! If I was them, I'd haul ass up the nearest mountain and pray that I don't get found," then he paused for a moment, adding with a cocky smile, "And they better pray too. For makin' me look so hard, I ain't gonna be in the mood to be merciful."

Because, of course, everyone in the world knew that Inuyasha was looking for the shards and everyone in the world also knew how much he kicked ass. Sometimes, his outlook on life was positively the most darling thing ever. Not to say there wasn't some truth in his boast. Besides, his confidence was sort of catching and when you got right down to it, he was a force to be reckoned with. She couldn't count the number of demons and humans both that underestimated him because he was a half-breed. Most of them were either dead or forced to eat their words.

With the exception of one or two nameless parties who were just too stubborn and arrogant to admit defeat. That one or two nameless party had been absent as of late. Truthfully, she was sort of relieved because she really wasn't looking forward to an Encounter with Sesshoumaru Part TWO--Electric Boogaloo--because it wouldn't be nearly as funny as it was in her head. She was just trying to find humor in it because just thinking about it was giving her ulcers.

Again, she was presented with the fact that things would be much easier if Sesshoumaru wasn't involved. That she had to deal with him to see Rin was just...annoying. No worse than was obnoxious. Maybe it was both, abnoying. Yes, that sort of fit. It was this very train of thought that had gotten her into trouble, as she'd just lost the most recent round of the word game she'd been playing with Shippou.

He was currently doing his victory dance, which was just too cute.

"All right, all right. You won! Stop dancing already!"

He paused and laughed, striking a dramatic victory pose, "And don't you forget it!"

Yes, the two weeks had passed and there was no sign of the irritable demon lord or his ward. Still, the hour and a half or so allotted for their time together went on unabated and unsupervised, as it had always had been. Another week passed and then another after that and both Kagome and Shippou had come to the sad conclusion that the third party in their merry band would most likely never again make an appearance.

On this rather gray and quiet day, they found themselves in a small pasture underneath the bowers of a great oak tree. They'd long ago discarded the hope that Rin would ever visit them again and so they'd settled back into their old routines before they'd met her which was to say they spent most of their time frogging around.

Today was unusual because Kagome wasn't really in the mood to run around like crazy. She'd twisted her knee a bit in a fight with a demon three days ago and it was still sore. The cold didn't really help matters.

So, instead of horsing around, they sat quietly under the giant oak tree and played Shiritori, a word game Kagome's Grandfather had taught her when she was very young. The first player said a word and the next player had to say a different word made out of the last syllables of the word before it. Each word could only be used once and you could only use nouns, adjectives and verbs were right out. It was really a test of one's knowledge of words and the ability to call those words up quickly. It was also a mildly interesting way to pass the time on a crisp autumn day.





"HA! D'ya give up, then!"




"No fair using modern words, Kagome!"

"Ah! Sorry!"

And so it went on and on without end until one person was a bit slower on the draw than the other or they hit a word with a 'N' at the end. Then the game was either forfeited or won, depending upon how hard they argued about it or didn't argue about it...or whether or not they'd just stop arguing all together and burst into wild gales of laughter, because that's just the way things were with Shippou and Kagome.

They were in the middle of a particularly heated round when Shippou stopped mid-word. At first, Kagome had thought that he'd simply lost his train of thought, thereby winning her this round. But something was off. He'd gone pale and his eyes widened and then he pointed behind her. Then she felt it. A demonic aura. She cursed herself for not feeling it sooner. Sure, she could console herself with the fact that it really wasn't something she was all that good at, but she'd tried to become better.

Not better enough, apparently.

Wincing and licking her lips, she whispered, "It's right behind me, isn't it?"

The kit nodded.


Her mind raced, and when it crossed the finish line, she'd come up with only one, freakishly lame idea. Looking Shippou in the eye, she wiggled her fingers like pair of legs and mouthed the word, "Run." He shook his head and her gaze grew incredulous. There was no time. She pushed the kit back and yelled at him to run this time, turning around to face the demon. If she was lucky, she'd be able to hold the demon off until Inuyasha came back...and somehow in the world in her head that might work.

Taking a battle stance, she shouted, "ALL RIGHT, DEMON! YOU DECIDED TO PICK ON THE WRONG HU--" and then the air was taken right out of her.

It was Sesshoumaru. He stood around ten feet from her, looking out into the distance with an expertly bored expression. Glancing at her from the corner of his eye the look he was giving her seemed to say, 'Are you done, yet?' without actually saying it. He turned at his leisure and gazed long and hard at her. So long and hard that it became uncomfortable for her to keep eye contact. She had the strong desire to just break it and look at her feet, but she resisted the urge. Even if she was completely embarrassed by her outburst, and in fact, there were no words for the level of embarrassment she was feeling at that moment. Her cheeks were bright, cherry red and they felt like they were on fire but her gaze remained resolute. She wasn't really sure what he thought of any of it, because he was stone cold silent. Nothing in his face or his manner revealed anything about his interior workings. He just stood there, staring at her with a cold expression and not saying a word.

A more cowardly person would have crapped their pants by now.

Kagome stood her ground as her embarrassment turned into annoyance which turned into out and out outrage that meandered around a bit before becoming anger. That stupid dog had given her ulcers and made her wait for weeks, only to show up now acting all high and mighty. If her mother hadn't raised her so well, she'd be tempted to be very rude right now. In point of fact, she was more than just a little tempted. She really, really wanted to be rude to him and only held it back by a thin thread. He was just lucky he wasn't Inuyasha, because then she'd really unload on him. The jerk.

With a long breath, she bit the inside of her lip and tried to sound as normal as possible, speaking in the most civilized tone she could come up with, "Oh...I apologize," and she bowed deeply, "I didn't know it was you."

"Hmph," was his unconcerned reply.

It was interesting the vast array of emotion one could read into that one simple 'Hmph'.

"Hmph, pathetic humans and their equally pathetic senses."

"Hmph, who did you think it was, Toyotomi Hideyoshi?"

"Hmph, I don't care about anything you just said because you're boring and human, and I'm ignoring you."

"Hmph, that's a really neat looking cloud...oh...what, were you talking to me?"

"Hmph, I'm an emotionally constipated bigot who has nothing better to do than look down on everyone else because of my own low self-esteem that probably has a lot to do with abandonment issues and the fact that I'll never be as cool as my dad, who disliked me so much that he gave me a sword that was supposed to make me less heartless and it did work for a little while but then I regressed to being a bastard all over again. Now, if we could get back to the matter at hand, I'll go on intimidating you, as per our agreement, so if you wouldn't mind obliging, please cower in terror...ah...ah...ummmm...oh...ah, yes, you stupid human. Thankyousoverymuch. "

Kagome was snapped out of her reverie by the politest cough she'd ever heard. Registering it that it came from Sesshoumaru, she found herself a bit puzzled.

She pinched herself.

"Yep, I'm awake," she thought to herself as she stood up straight, looking at the demon lord who wasn't really paying any attention to her.

He was staring out at the horizon again. She wasn't sure what he might be looking at or looking for. He was just staring. Maybe at nothing. Possibly at something. Whatever it was he was doing, he didn't think it was important enough to share it with her or maybe she wasn't important enough to share that information with. Either way, she was out of the loop. Ten minutes passed, then twenty and he hadn't said anything. Didn't move, just stared. Ten minutes later, Shippou tired of pretending to play while simultaneously ignoring Sesshoumaru. He jumped up onto Kagome's shoulder and joined her in staring at the eerily silent taiyoukai, who was staring out at nothing...or again, possibly something.

Tugging her collar to get her attention, Shippou whispered in her ear, "What's he doing?'

Carefully turning her head, Kagome whispered back, "I have no idea."

"I'm bored."

"So am I," she agreed, adding, "and I think my legs have fallen asleep."

"You think he can hear us?"

The "He" in question turned and glared at them.

Kagome's eyebrows lifted and she tilted her head to whisper, "I think that's a big 'Yes'."

Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed a fraction before turning back to the sky. And another five to ten minutes was wasted on that before he decided to speak, slowly, "An archer's uniform?"

Kagome hadn't really been paying attention, again, and almost missed what he'd said. If it hadn't been for Shippou's timely intervention in the form of repeating what he'd said, she'd have missed it entirely. And once the question and the disdainful tone sunk in, she looked down at herself to see what was so objectionable about what she was wearing.

She looked up at him and the confused look on her face served as her reply. What was wrong with it? It was decent, wasn't it? And then she vaguely remembered what he'd said the last time they'd met. You will dress more decently, and in a manner that befits a tutor's a manner that befits a tutor's station. And a dressing for a tutor's station would include the traditional garb that all tutors were required to wear. She mentally faced palmed as her mother's words rose from the grave and began to circle her head, haunting her like no other words could possibly do.

Interiorly, she berated herself, "Crap. Crap, crap and more crap!"

Outwardly, she remained innocently surprised as if to say, 'What? This was the best I could do at such short notice.'

"Is there something wrong with it?"

He turned back to the sky for more staring. She almost let out a groan right then and there. Ten minutes later she was near the point of tears when he turned his back, apparently tired of staring at nothing and/or something. Looking over his shoulder, he appraised her again, grunting in what one might call approval or maybe it was disapproval because the soft exhalation "Hn" was a bit harder to read than "Hmph", comparatively speaking. However, she did read into the 'Hn' that he very much doubted she deserved to wear an archer's uniform and there was a very indignant part of her that wanted to prove that 'Hn' wrong. She watched him stride away with the utmost confidence as if he was the ruler of the universe, and she was just lucky to breathe the same air he did.

And she found herself grumbling inwardly, "...All high and mighty...grumble...think you're so special...grumble...almost shot your other stupid arm off once...grumble, grumble...weren't so big then...jerk..."

Then it occurred to her that he was leaving without so much as an explanation, much less a word, good or bad, about his decision to let her teach Rin. Was she acceptable or was the fact that she wasn't in traditional tutor's robes unacceptable? And what the hell did 'Hn' mean anyway! It could mean anything!

And now the stupid, jerk of a youkai was just leaving without even explaining what the hell he meant by 'Hn' and there wasn't a damn thing in the world she could do about it. She felt like she was either going to cry or spit bullets, or maybe she was going to do both at the same time.

"He was just...and...such an infuriating...with the things...and..." then her mind trailed off helplessly, before adding as an after thought, "Grumble, grumble, indeed."

He was one of the few people in her life that had left her so sputtering mad that her eyes crossed just thinking about it. Shaking, she clenched and unclenched her fists, just waiting for the moment he disappeared from view. Because the moment he did, she was going to have to punch something or scream.

She was so mad that she didn't see the dragon flying straight at her, nor did she see the figure atop the dragon that was waving enthusiastically at them. Shippou saw her and waved back. He looked at Kagome, his expression brighter and cheerier than it had been in weeks.

Then he froze.

She was giving The Look.

THE Look she'd give just before sitting Inuyasha into oblivion and suddenly, he thought that Sesshoumaru should count himself lucky that he didn't wear a subduing necklace because if he did, right now there'd be a hundred foot crater in the ground with him at the bottom of it. He poked her face until she paid attention to him. Shippou almost jumped a foot in the air when she turned her gaze on him, her eyes full of pure, unadulterated fury. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. Kagome angry was one of the scariest things on earth. No demon, not even the terrifying Thunder Brothers, could compare. She was really that scary.

To her credit, her eyes softened a bit when she recognized the fear in his face. Luckily, he had never managed to make Kagome angry enough to give him The Look. In fact, he usually was the one who would help her wipe The Look off her face and really, he was proud to do it, though sometimes it was hard. Sometimes, he'd rather face Naraku by himself than The Look. Shaking his head, he smiled feebly and turned her head with a tiny, clawed hand to show her what he'd taken care to point at. Soon, the pointing was moot as she could hear what he wanted to bring to her attention.

It was Rin. She was riding Ah-Uh and she was calling their names.

All her rage dissipated. Her fists stopped clenching. Her eyes stopped blazing and she smiled. It was open, free and genuine. Shippou was relieved. There were very few things in this world that could dissipate The Look, thank the gods Rin was one of them. She stepped forward, anticipating the dragon's landing. And when he finally did land, she bent down on one knee and held her arms out. Rin impacted with her seconds later, hugging her so hard that she almost knocked her clear over.

"I MISSED YOU!" the little girl shouted in her ear.

Ignoring how much it hurt, she just laughed lightly and replied in kind.

The next few minutes were chaotic as best. There was a lot of talking done all at once and though some might find it hard to follow, they all seemed to understand. After they'd caught up, Kagome realized that they'd have little real time for any kind of lessons. So, instead, they played a few more rounds of Shiritori which could almost be a lesson in and of itself.

The autumn sun set quietly on this scene, splaying rays of golden light through equally golden leaves. It as a spectacular display set off by the stark, grey sky. As the three companions bid their farewells and promises for their next meeting, none quite paid attention to the taiyoukai who hadn't left during their entire time together. He'd stood by quietly staring at the sky and thinking, as he was wont to do. Whether or not he'd listened in on their conversation was anyone's guess but the fact that he stayed spoke volumes.

He disliked mystery and unlike his brother, he was keen to gather facts before attacking a problem. Whether or not the young priestess was a problem was also a mystery, as Sesshoumaru kept his own council on his own affairs and no one else had the right to know whether or not he was interested in them. Boredom was his weapon and he used it liberally.

His golden eyes took in the sun and the leaves, never straying to the humans just behind him. Not until Rin had jumped atop Ah-Uh. The beast rose from the ground and began to fly into the sky, taking the girl with it.

It wasn't until Rin was long gone that Kagome and Shippou noticed that Sesshoumaru had not left with her and that he was, in fact, still standing not ten feet away from them with his back turned. Instead of noticing him, she noticed the wind picking up a bit and for once, it was Kagome who examined the sky. Typhoon season wasn't over yet. Holding back a stray tendril of hair that had slipped out of the loose bun she'd tied it into, she squinted as if that'd somehow help her divine what Mother Nature had in store.

"I think a storm is coming," she mumbled absently.

The kit on her shoulder furrowed his eyebrows and sniffed, replying solemnly, "I think you're right."

"We should go."

But before she could turn and leave, something stopped her. She glanced around, hoping to figure out what it was. Naturally, her eyes were drawn to the white of his clothes that stood out so brightly against the muted autumn tones. He was still here?

At that moment, he turned and looked her straight in the eyes; the sheer force of his gaze was enough to make her breathless with fear. She felt like she was climbing a mountain, where the air was too thin and too cold to breathe. Exhaling shakily, she forced herself to swallow, trying not to notice how dry her mouth had become. A thousand seconds passed or so it seemed, where he just stared at her and she at him, and there was nothing but the faint sounds of the wind through the trees to break the silence.

His hair and clothes moved restlessly in the wind, the almost too bright rays of the sun highlighting his dangerous otherworldliness. The crumpled leaves at his feet stirred, as he slowly levitated off the ground. Bright, white light cocooned around him. A rapport sounded. Kagome and Shippou both flinched at the sound, which was loud even to human ears and when they opened their eyes, the light and Sesshoumaru was gone.

Kagome placed a hand over her heart, as to stop it from beating so fast. First he gave her ulcers, now a heart condition. Once her breathing and her heart slowed, she turned as calmly as she could back to the things they'd left beneath the tree. Sesshoumaru was quickly forgotten as the first drops of rain fell from the sky. The wind blew just a bit more harshly and the rain began to sting. The two friends ran laughing back towards the traveler's hut they'd set up came at, fear left behind them as they looked forward to the next day.

Note: If you'd like the translation of the words they used in their game of Shiritori, please visit my Live Journal community Yume Jijnu. A link to which can be found in my profile!