Chapter 48: Six


Peeking down the stairs, Sota eyed the hallway that led to the living room with caution, fingers locked into the banister as if he were afraid he would fall. He could hear Koga in there - Koga, who had just turned most of the their belongings out for clothing before racing away. He didn't sound worried or scared from what the boy could tell, but he couldn't help the dryness in the back of his throat. The creature in the living room looked like something he could have sworn he had seen in a nightmare before.

x

When Koga strode out of the living room quickly, Sota recoiled on reflex, but the older boy shot him a smile and hurried to him, asking, "You okay? You're looking kind of sick, kiddo." Before he could answer, Koga plopped down onto the stair next to him and patted his shoulder, asking, "You scared?" The genuine concern startled him. Something about the way Koga spoke to him made him feel rather comfortable, in a way, like how Kagome spoke to him when she wasn't giving him sass.

x

Before he could even help himself, Sota confessed, "I've never seen anything like that before; it's like he just walked straight out of a horror movie." Koga smiled sympathetically.

"You know, I agree," he said, "But he can't help it, can he?"

"Guess not," Sota said a bit quietly; he felt his cheeks burn a little, "It's just... all this demon stuff is so new to me! Even you! No offence."

"None taken," he replied, "It's kind of new to me, too."

Sota stared at him blankly, clearly taken aback.

"What? But you are one."

"Yeah, but I was raised by humans and wild dogs," he explained, "Inu-Yasha's the first demon I really made a lot of contact with."

"That's... huh."

Sota didn't know what to say for a moment.

"Me too."

Koga gave him a smile and he felt a bit better. He leaned back a little a looked at the older boy a bit curiously and said, "So, you're sticking around, huh?"

"Hope that's okay with you," Koga replied.

Sota nodded.

"What's the story?"

"Real one or-?"

"No, the one you and Kagome have been telling people," Sota said, "I forgot it."

"Oh! Right, I'm her twin. I was at boarding school abroad," Koga said, shrugging a bit bashfully.

"Twin?" Sota laughed, "But you two barely look alike!"

"Black hair?" Koga suggested a bit sheepishly.

"Eh, yours is more brown, and your skin is a bit darker," Sota laughed, but then pointed to his own hair with a grin, "Luckily, mine is a bit closer."

Koga seemed taken aback for a moment, but after just a second he grinned widely and said, "Thanks!" Sota smiled and gave him the thumbs-up, and the demon got to his feet and offered a hand.

"Want to meet Kemtau? He's actually pretty nice."

Sota grimaced a bit and then rubbed the back of his head, gulping back a bit of worry. Koga tilted his head.

"You're scared, huh? That's okay," he said, "I was, too. Like, a lot."

The boy winced but, after a moment, accepted the hand and was pulled to his feet.

x

Though Sota walked with hesitation, Koga went back into the living room quickly and announced them to the room's occupants. The boy followed him in hesitantly, bracing himself.

x

The large demon was sitting on the sofa, as before, but he was cozied into a blanket. He had a t-shirt on, though it was clearly too tight on his huge frame, with the sleeves torn a bit already. When he looked at him, ears perking up, Sota noticed something different about his eyes that he couldn't place.

"Hello!" he said brightly; the deepness of his voice jarred the boy, "Kagome's brother, yes?"

"Y-Yeah," he said, "H-Hi."

He gulped to wet his throat and Koga pointed him out, saying, "Sota. And, Sota, his name is Kemtau, not sure if you knew or not."

Sota nodded but couldn't bring himself to go much further into the room. Koga looked at him inquisitively and Sota had to say a quick, "Excuse me," before he darted away. The wolf was a little disappointed, but Kemtau laughed a little and said, "Oh! He's shy. That's okay, I'm like that, too."

"Oh yeah? Wouldn't have guessed," Koga said.

He plopped down in the chair beside the sofa and crossed his legs under him.

"Can't judge based on how you look, I guess," he laughed, "But I gotta admit, for someone so imposing, it's a little hard to imagine."

"Im... Imposing?"

Kemtau tilted his head with confusion, but before he could ask more, they heard the front door open.

"Ooh, they're back," the jackal said, pleased.

x

It was just seconds before Kagome came back into the room and seemed about to say something to them, but instead took a look at Kemtau and blurted out a surprised, "Oh! You got some clothes!"

"Yeah, but nothing really fits him," Koga said, "'Cause, you know, he's huge."

"Right. Right," Kagome said.

She rubbed her forehead and then jerked her thumb to the door.

"Mind if we make a game plan?" she asked.

Koga was on his feet in an instant and he nodded.

"You okay alone?" he asked the other demon.

Kemtau nodded and then, his ears twitching, he asked, "Is your other friend okay?"

"Yeah, he's fine," Kagome assured him quickly, "Need anything?"

When he shook his head, the girl smiled and assured him, "We'll just be in the other room."

x

Kagome rushed Koga into the kitchen. Inu-Yasha was already there. He looked pale; somewhat bereft. The room was a bit bare, but it did have a table and chairs; the hanyou plopped down on one and rubbed a hand through his hair, exhausted. Kagome bit her lip and darted out of the room as Koga cautiously took a seat across from Inu-Yasha.

"You okay?" he asked, "You look like shit."

"I... "

Inu-Yasha grimaced and the wolf really knew something was wrong when he didn't make some smartass retort. He frowned and checked over his shoulder as Kagome hurried back into the room, bringing Sota with her. She darted around the table to sit beside Inu-Yasha as her brother took the empty chair next to Koga.

x

"So, wait, what's going on?" the boy asked.

"Just laying everything out," Kagome said, "We... Well, Inu-Yasha just figured out something kind of big. You okay?"

She looked at him, worry on her face. Inu-Yasha gritted his teeth and he said a tired, "Yeah."

"Okay, so... let's start?" Kagome suggested.

Inu-Yasha rubbed his chin and the girl gently held his hand. He took a quiet, deep breath.

"I'll try to make this as quick as I can," he said, "To set this up, I was caught by Youki-"

He cast a glance at Sota and quickly, Kagome put in, "I told him." Inu-Yasha nodded and his eyes locked on the table. He felt Kagome's thumb run over the top of his hand.

"Right. So I was caught a couple years ago, and while I was there, they figured out a way to somehow exploit my aura. They can use it to warp someone else's aura to mess them up and take control of them. That's what happened to Kemtau. And it's happened to other people too. And... that's it."

He grimaced and looked up to a sort of gasping sound, and was surprised to see Koga with a hand to his mouth, his eyes wide. Sota didn't look as if he knew quite how to respond. Inu-Yasha felt a lump of guilt in his stomach and his ears drooped a bit.

"That's so... shit," Koga said, finally, "Do you... I mean, can we fix them?"

That wasn't quite the response Inu-Yasha had expected- he stalled for a moment and stole a glance at Kagome. She looked back at him with the utmost sympathy and he took a deep breath.

"I'm not sure. I think so," he said, "When I..."

He frowned and tried to find the words, especially as he noticed that Sota was beginning to look even more confused.

"So, demons all have auras they can manipulate to basically do magic stuff," he said, directing his words to the boy before returning to address the whole group, "I found out that I can do... something. In the sort of simplest way I can describe it, what these people did was sort of tangle my aura into someone else's and I'm not sure why, but that really messes them up. I found out I can kind of pull some of it out. Maybe I can do more, I don't know."

His fur bristled a little as Sota let out a sort of confused, feeble, "Oh," and Koga began to rub his brow, saying a quiet, "Oh shit."

"I'm sure we can do something," Kagome said, smiling a little, though she looked rather tired, "C'mon, guys, we can definitely help these people. Right?"

"Hope so," Inu-Yasha said quietly.

"Y-Yeah. Definitely," Koga added quickly, trying to straighten up in his seat, though the worry was still clear on his face, "Hey, man, I'm sorry, I didn't know."

"I just figured it out," he admitted.

"You should tell your brother," Kagome said.

Inu-Yasha felt a shock of dread, but he nodded and got to his feet.

"Soon," he said.

He left quietly and Kagome bit her lip, and then rubbed her forehead.

"Kagome? You okay?" Sota asked, "What does this mean? Is this stuff dangerous?"

"Yeah, it is," she said quietly, "But... But don't worry. We'll keep you out of it, Sota. It's going to be fine."

"Sounds messed up," the boy said.

"Don't worry," Koga echoed, patting him on the shoulder, "Counting Kemtau, half of the people in this house are demons, and we're pretty good at surviving stuff. You're gonna be totally safe."

Sota frowned and counted on his fingers, only amounting to five until Kagome put in, "Buyo." Sota laughed a little and he said, "You sure?"

"Totally."

Koga puffed out his chest; Kagome cut her eyes at him. Sota seemed satisfied and he got to his feet.

"I'm going to... um... I dunno, unpack or something," he said.

x

As soon as he left, Koga deflated and he ran a hand through his bangs in exasperation.

"Ooh, shit, Kagome, this just got nuts."

"I know, but... damn, it's also huge progress, right?" she said.

Koga nodded and looked at the girl worriedly.

"Shit, Inu-Yasha must be fuckin' torn up about this."

"Yeah..."

Koga grimaced.

"Anything I can do?"

"I'm just so relieved we have you sticking it out with us, too," she said, smiling, "I think if it were just Yasha and me, we'd be a lot more panicked. Having someone as reliable as you around is just super reassuring."

Koga's cheeks pinked and his eyes widened. He nodded and she got up, paced the kitchen for a few seconds, and then said, "Oh!" loudly.

"What?" Koga asked.

"We need clothes for Kemtau," she said, "And... and supplies. I need more medical stuff. I should go to the store."

"And we need food," Koga said, "How about I go to the store. I'll bring Sota, too, I'm sure he'd like to get out of the house."

"Oh yeah? Why?"

"He's... you know, still a bit nervous about the big guy," Koga said, lowering his voice.

"Oh! Jeez, poor Sota. Okay. Sounds good, just gimme... gimme a sec."

She was out of the kitchen in a blink; Koga drooped.

"Such a mess," he muttered.

x

Kagome peeked from room to room, trying to find where Inu-Yasha had gone. In the living room, she saw Kemtau relaxing sleepily on the couch with Buyo on his chest again.

"You guys okay in here?" she asked.

"I'm a little cold," Kemtau admitted.

"We're getting you new clothes," she assured him, "Just, ah... Just stay in those blankets for now."

"Thank you," the demon said with a grin.

Kagome nodded and gave him a smile before she retreated and continued peeking through doorways.

x

She found Inu-Yasha upstairs, sitting on the bed in their room, but any relief she felt was dampened. His back was to her, his shoulders slumped, and his head was in his hands. Her chest tightened and she gulped quietly.

"You okay?" she asked gently.

She watched him straighten up, but he didn't turn.

"No," he said, "But whatever."

"We'll get through this," she assured him.

She crept up behind him over the bed and grabbed his hand. His attention caught, he turned to give her an apologetic smile.

"I really don't mean to be such a fuckin' whiner, seriously," he said, "I just... I'm having a hard time dealing."

"Of course you are, you're a goddamn kid," Kagome laughed.

She hugged his arm as his ears drooped. It took him a moment, but, with a sigh, he pulled her close to him, squeezing her tightly. He knew she could feel him shaking, but for some reason, he realized he didn't care how weak he seemed. He wasn't having a very good day. He was tired; closed his eyes for just a bit and wished that today had just been an uncomfortable dream. He felt Kagome's hands on his face and he made himself look at her. He was taken aback to see that she was smiling.

"Listen up," she said, "Believe it or not, this is a good thing."

She drew him close and kissed his forehead as he asked, "How?"

"You're the one who can fix this," she said, "You're literally the least helpless person in this whole situation. That's a nice change, right?"

"...I guess I didn't think about it like that."

His ears perked just a little and Kagome smiled at him. His spirits raised with hers and she gave him a quick, affectionate hug around his shoulders.

"Anyway," she said, "Koga and Sota are going to get groceries and clothes for Kemtau. Any requests?"

"I'll eat almost literally anything," Inu-Yasha said.

"Fair enough," Kagome said, snickering, "I'll let them know they're good to go. Take it easy, okay?"

She kissed his forehead again and scooted on her knees to the edge of the bed, flopping off the side and sliding out the door in her socks.

x

He listened to her skid down the stairs and start discussing the new plans with Sota. The boy didn't seem entirely convinced that any of this was a good idea. Inu-Yasha couldn't blame him. He took a deep breath and tried to steady himself. His legs felt like lead. His ears trained on the kerfuffle that was Koga and Sota preparing to leave; forced himself to his feet and slipped quietly back downstairs.

x

The only phone he saw was in the kitchen and he took it and slipped back upstairs, dialling his brother's number on the way.

"Progress, I hope?" was his brother's answer after only one ring.

"How much do you know?" Inu-Yasha asked.

He slumped against the wall and sat down.

"Your quarry found your human before your found him, and it was of great relief to all of us that he was not an insane monster at the time," the youkai said; Inu-Yasha winced, "Anything passed that?"

"Y-Yeah," Inu-Yasha said quietly, "Um..."

"Spit it out."

The hanyou curled in on himself and bit his lip.

"Yeah... I figured out what's wrong with him. And what's wrong with that guy in the medical center, the one that looks like a dinosaur."

"And, that is...?"

Sessho-Maru sounded impatient.

"Um, look, I'd... I'd really rather discuss this in person," he said, "It has to do with his aura, though. Can we talk about it with, um... what was her name, the girl working in that room with him...?"

"Ono Mastuko."

"Right. Her. Can we do that? Is that okay?"

"You sound ridiculously nervous, little brother."

His tone was suspicious; Inu-Yasha sighed.

"I'll explain everything tomorrow. It's just... Sorry, it's been really bugging me, and I don't want to do this over the phone."

"Surprisingly candid," his brother commented, "Fine. Someone will be there for you in the morning."

"Thanks."

Sessho-Maru vanished from the end of the line abruptly, as he always did.

Got some problems saying goodbye or something?

Inu-Yasha sighed; realized his heart was beating too fast and sucked in air to try to steady himself. He clung to the phone and closed his eyes; a swishing sound caught him and a body squishing against him startled him alert. Kagome clung to him, looking like she had seen something precious shattered on the floor.

"What?" he asked.

"You know what," she said quietly.

She stubbornly held his arm, her face a grimace, and she said, "It's not your fault." It was something she said a lot, but it still wouldn't stick. He couldn't stop the cold gnaw of guilt.

x

His lack of an answer made Kagome frown. She looked like she wanted to say something, but somehow his silence had interrupted her. She sighed and kissed his cheek before getting to her feet. She passed him a cup of tea that she had placed at the top of the stairs.

"Thanks."

He breathed in the scented, hot steam and tried to relax. Kagome's sideways half-smile was one of the most forced he had ever seen on her face; he couldn't help but laugh.

"I'll be fine."

"You'd better be."

She cut her eyes at him as she headed back downstairs. He sighed and rested his head back against the wall.

"I'd better be."

oOoOoOoO

Shuffling her food across her plate, Sango couldn't bring herself to eat, even as her brother shovelled down a meal and her father, arms crossed, watched her with worry from across the table. Nerves knotted her stomach, but it wasn't due to her father's gaze, nor the fact that the whole, posh, restaurant-like cafeteria around her was filled to the brim with demons. As she rolled a nibbled takoyaki around on her plate again, her father rubbed his forehead and sighed deeply. The lines on his brow seemed deeper than usual.

"What is it?" he asked her.

Her brother, Kohaku, stopped mid-mouthful of noodles and looked between the two and he said, "What?"

"Not you," Sango laughed tiredly.

He shrugged and continued to eat. She looked up from her plate and said, "I guess I'm just a bit nervous."

"Nervous?" her father repeated; he sounded confused, "My daughter, who fought her way out of a shootout on her own?"

"Still got shot," she said quietly.

"You were very brave."

"I..."

Sango grimaced and placed her chopsticks down on her plate with a gentle clink. She didn't say another word and her father looked at her, stroking the scruffy beard on his broad chin thoughtfully.

"I don't get it," he admitted.

"Dad, don't be dumb," Kohaku injected, "Sango's scared because she got attacked in our house and stuff. It's scary. People want to be safe in their own house."

Sango and her father stared at the bright-eyed, freckle-faced boy blankly. Kohaku shrugged and Sango bumped his shoulder with her fist. Their father's dark eyes widened and he looked thoughtful again.

"We'll take extra precautions," he said.

"And..."

She began, paused and looked incredibly awkward for a moment, and then her father rolled his eyes.

"Yes, that boy can come with us if his grandfather isn't back."

Sango smiled before she could help it and Kohaku snickered. She elbowed him and he stuck his tongue out at her and, across the table, their father rubbed his creased brow and then gave the a fond, tired smile.

"Sango? Look at me for a second?"

The girl, a bit confused, lifted her head and her father locked eyes with her and assured her, "I am very proud of you." Sango nodded and he grinned and reached across the table to ruffle her hair. She jokingly batted his hand away and, though she tried not to smile, she did anyway.

"Hey dad, where are we moving to?" Kohaku asked, "Like... I've gotta drop out of school for a bit now, huh? Are we even staying in Tokyo?"

"Have to. Got to work," he replied.

"Got to change your job," Sango said, frowning, "They knew where you worked, remember?"

"Those creepy bastards," he grunted, "I'll put in a transfer notice."

"No, you should do something totally different if you want to be safe," the girl said dryly.

Her father threw his hands up and said, "Sango, I can't just change careers at my age, it was hard enough changing demon-slaying into office bullshit."

"Fishing," Kohaku said.

"What?"

"Do fishing. You love fishing. Just get a job on a boat."

Their father frowned and opened his mouth to protest but Sango cut in, staring at him seriously.

"Dad, I know we're all a little out of time here, but I still basically grew up here. I get this place a little better than you do. You have to understand that if you put in a transfer at your old company, it'll go through a computer. A computer that was already used once to get your information. They can just go through the internet and take it again."

"And... they can't just turn it off?"

"No. Not really how it works."

The man sighed and rubbed his face tiredly.

"But if my company turned off the internet-"

"It's still out there, the information is already on the internet. The internet is everywhere."

"And turning off the computer doesn't work either," Kohaku volunteered.

"Right. Right... Gods, you kids. I'm glad you two get it, at least."

"At least you're not still scared of cars like Miroku's grandpa," Sango said, smiling a bit, "You're doing a good job."

He laughed and rubbed a hand through his hair tiredly.

"So... fishing, huh?" he asked.

"I think it would be a good idea," Kohaku said.

The man looked thoughtful, his brow creasing a bit and his eyes turned blankly to the table. Sango knew the look well- her father was sorting through the possibilities and how to go about it in his head. He wore the same expression when he was planning just about anything.

x

"Hey, Sango," her brother asked; he nudged her arm and she gave him a confused look, "So have you heard anything about your boyfriend?"

"I heard they needed to do some more tests or something," she said, sighing, "They told me he would be fine. I was thinking about checking on him after this."

"Okay. Cool," Kohaku said, "Good. Because I actually kind of like this one. A little."

"Compared to?"

"Your last one."

"That was in middle school," Sango laughed.

The boy shrugged and Sango ruffled his hair roughly. He batted her hand away and she snickered. Feeling just a little more assured, she finished her meal off quickly and then slid out of her seat.

"I'm going to check on Miroku, okay?"

"Hmm? Oh. Okay. See you back at the rooms later," her father said; he still sounded far away.

The girl nodded and walked off, a rush in her steps.

x

Miroku's room was across from hers, but she hadn't been able to see him for days. She smoothed her hair with her fingers as she approached the door and then gave it a tentative knock. She waited for an answer but received none. Wondering if he was asleep, she moved to quietly open the door, but she jumped back, startled, when the door opened on it's own. A middle-aged woman in clean white nurse's clothing stood before her, saying a polite, "Yes? Can I help you?"

"Oh, uh... I'm... I'm here to see Miroku," she said, "I'm his girlfriend."

She peeked around the woman and felt a knot in her throat as she noticed that the bed was vacant.

"I'm sorry, dear, he's been moved," she said.

"Moved? Why?" the girl asked.

"In his condition, we thought it would be better for him to be in a room close to some of the medical equipment."

Sango's heart dropped; her blood felt like ice water. She gulped.

"Wh-What condition?"

"Oh, my. I'm not sure if I'm the right one to tell you," she admitted.

"Please."

"There were complications-"

"Wait, wait, what?" she asked shrilly, "What do you mean? I thought it was just a routine thing for his broken bones!"

The nurse bit her lip and looked at her sympathetically.

"I'm sorry," she said, "It was a little worse than that. But, don't worry, he'll be fine from here on out."

"But where is he?" she asked.

"Just down the hall, across from the nurses' office."

x

Sango was gone in an instant, anxiety in her steps, peering frantically around. She found the office all the way at the opposite end of the hall, and she burst into Miroku's room without warning. He was awake, she was relieved to see, messing around with his phone and frowning until he looked up. Seeing her made his eyes widen.

"Holy shit, Sango?!" he squawked.

She was on him in an instant, hugging him tightly around his shoulders.

"Thank god you're okay."

He was rigid for just a moment, but he slumped in her arms and hugged her in return, saying a quiet, "When did you get here?"

"What do you mean?" she asked.

She pulled back with a frown and he stared back at her rather blankly.

"Uh... exactly what I said?" he replied, "Have you been here long, or...?"

"Feels like forever," she confessed, "But it's been a week or so since I got here, at least."

"A week?" he repeated; his eyes were wide now- concerned, "What happened?"

"Didn't we just have this conversation a few days ago?" she asked.

"N... No? Maybe?"

He rubbed his head and Sango sat back on the bed, folding her arms.

"I don't remember," he said.

"What? What do you mean you don't remember?" Sango asked sharply.

"They said I might be missing a couple days," he admitted.

"And you... you don't remember the train crash or-?"

"Train crash? No, not at all," he replied; he was starting to look a bit concerned.

"Or Kagome healing you or-?"

"Who's Kagome?" he asked.

Sango was taken aback for a moment and she rubbed her head.

"She's Inu-Yasha's girlfriend. She helped you. They're the ones that pulled you out of wreck."

Miroku's eyes widened and he took a moment to think before he shook his head.

"No, I don't remember any of that," he confessed, "They did mention that my friend's magic had managed to hold me together until the aneurism. I didn't know who they were talking about, though."

Sango nodded and bit her lip, frowning.

"It was an aneurism?" she asked quietly.

Miroku nodded.

"They explained it like... I guess I was pretty close to kicking it when I got hurt," he said, "But that magic. Kagome's, you said? That sort of bound up most of what was wrong with me and repaired a bit. But the aneurism was too much. The magic weakened at some point and it got through and knocked me out on my ass."

"Oh, god, I'm sorry," Sango said, "Can I, uh..."

She wanted to hug him so badly, but she hung back. She gulped and started cracking her knuckles absently.

"You don't need to be so nervous," Miroku laughed.

He took her hand in both of his; she felt her cheeks warm and she gave him an apologetic smile, grasping him in return, her thumb running absently over the glove sealing his right hand.

"What's the last thing you remember?" she asked.

"I think... our phone conversation, but I guess that was over a week ago."

"Wow..." she muttered, "You okay?"

"I think so," he replied.

Sango bit her lip and nodded, and after a moment, she grasped him in a tight hug. He smiled a little and put his arms around her, cozying her close to his chest and leaning his cheek into her hair. He had almost forgotten how strong her arms were. She let up just a little after a few seconds and said an embarrassed, "Sorry." He chuckled and assured her, "It's okay. Your hugs are very... reassuring." He pulled back and, gently tilting her head up, gave her a quick kiss. She blushed despite herself and smiled at him.

"I'm glad you're back," she said.

"Sorry I worried you."

She laughed and grabbed the back of his head, pulling him in to touch his forehead to hers. He was startled still for a moment, but relaxed quickly and pulled her into his arms again, holding her close; trying very hard not to let his hand stray. Now that he held her, though, it did really feel like they had been apart for much longer. He felt heat pricking in his eyes, but he didn't know why. He brushed them absently on the back of his hand.

"So..." she said quietly, "Really, you don't remember anything?"

"No. Sorry."

She sighed and muttered a curse under her breath.

"You were in a huge train accident. You didn't really want to talk about it, but you mentioned that you were trying to get out of town and some shit went down. You were gone for a few days, even before coming here. Really, none of this rings a bell?"

She sat back and rubbed her forehead as the boy frowned ahead with puzzlement and then said, "I don't remember any of that."

"Damn."

She blew out a sigh and then kissed him quickly. He reciprocated in kind, leaning back under her.

"Ooh, nurse, isn't this inappropriate?" he cooed.

"Shut up," Sango laughed, smacking his shoulder.

He chuckled and cupped the back of her head, but very suddenly, his back became rigid and he sat back up, saying, "Someone's coming."

x

Red-faced, Sango backed up in time to hear a knock on the door before it swung open to reveal a second nurse, a demon who looked rather human other than her green-tinted skin and her long ears.

"Taishio-sama would like to speak with both of you. Would you come with me?"

The teens looked at each other, and though Sango had next to a million questions, she nodded and slid off the bed. She helped Miroku, plaid pyjama pants and all, to his feet. He looked weak and a bit thin now that she saw him upright and he wobbled. She grabbed his arm and heaved it around her shoulders to support him, insisting, "C'mon, lean on me, I got you." He did so gratefully.

x

Just beyond the door was a wheelchair, which Miroku plopped down into. He and Sango followed the nurse down a few halls, all identical and a bit disorienting. She lead them to an innocuous room in the middle of a duplicate hallway and opened the door for them. A bit cautiously, Sango pushed Miroku's wheelchair inside. The room itself was vacant in the ways of furniture other than a long, simple table and a few chairs. She was surprised to see her father and brother seated in two of them at the table. A very elegant, stoic dog demon stood there as wellI, leaning against the wall, his golden eyes locked on them unnervingly. She had never seen him in person before, but she knew he had to be Inu-Yasha's brother. She gulped; she had never seen someone so pretty and yet so terribly imposing as he. Sango jumped as the door was closed behind them and she asked, "Are we late or something?"

"No."

The youkai took a step off the wall and Miroku winced visibly. He turned his cool gaze on him and seemed almost amused.

"Ah. You're a sensitive," he said, "Don't fear, boy, I'm not going to harm you."

"I'm sorry," he said; his voice sounded strained, "We've never met before, have we, Taishio-san? I didn't expect you to be this powerful."

"You'll get accustomed to it," he said, "Now. My main reason for calling you all here is to inform you that we have your first relocation spot. You are still in Tokyo, as you requested, Okoze."

"Thank you," Sango's father said with a nod, "But the kids will still have to change schools?"

"Ah, that's okay dad, the old school sucked anyway," Kohaku said absently.

"My people will deal with that," the demon said rather nonchalantly, "Mostly, I would like to inform you that I'm positioning you in the house next to the one my brother and his friends are staying in. I would like for you to keep an eye on them. I feel like an adult around would be very beneficial."

Okoze seemed surprised, as did everyone else.

"Wait, we get to live next to Inu-Yasha?" Sango said, "Oh, damn, we can finally hang out with him!"

"That would actually be pretty cool," Miroku agreed.

He smiled a bit and Sango practically lit up, but her father frowned.

"I'm not sure what you'd want me to do," he admitted.

"Dad," Sango began, but Sessho-Maru cut her off, "He and his friends have been dealing with a lot on their own. You know battle. You know war. And you are a father."

The man was quiet for a moment, rubbing his beard thoughtfully, frowning at the table again. He didn't take long to lock eyes with the youkai.

"I see your point," he admitted; he nodded, "Inu-Yasha's a good kid. I liked him even when he was pretending pretty poorly that he wasn't a demon. I'll keep an eye on them."

Sango felt a grin coming on before she could help it; Sessho-Maru nodded. Miroku rubbed his chin, muttering, "Safety in numbers, huh? Who else is there?"

"A human girl, Kagome. I believe she has a younger brother, also human. There is a wolf demon, Koga, as well: adopted. And apparently, some large monstrous demon who just turned up looking for help."

"Just turned up?" Sango repeated, "Are they all okay?"

"Apparently," Sessho-Maru replied.

He seemed unconcerned to her, but then again, now that she thought about it, Sango couldn't recall hearing the man change the inflection in his voice at all. She tilted her head.

"You're really different than him," she said.

"Than who?" Miroku asked, confused.

The demon didn't seem to need to ask. He simply replied, "As I should be. My age alone sets me apart from him by almost a thousand years."

"Wow," Sango said, eyes wide.

"Demons don't age like us, Sango," he father said.

"Yeah, I can see that," she said.

Kohaku laughed and grabbed his father's sleeve, saying, "Hey, do you need me here? Can I got back to the room?"

"Should we start packing?" Okoze asked first, and when Sessho-Maru nodded, he turned to his son and said, "Go on."

"Miroku, you're coming with us, by the way," Sango said as her brother left behind them.

"Oh. Good, glad you're not just leaving me here," he laughed, and then quickly said, "No offence meant, this place is very nice, but-"

"I understand your frustration," the demon assured him, "Unfortunately, you will have to stay for observation for just a few more days."

"Can I stay with him?" Sango asked.

The youkai nodded, but added, "You will be painfully bored."

"I'll keep a book with me," she assured him.

"Are we done here?" Okoze asked; he got to his feet and said, "And, one more thing, we can expect your protection, right?"

"Your home will be safe," Sessho-Maru said.

The man frowned a little but he nodded and, after hesitating a moment, dipped his head and said a curt, "Thank you." Sessho-Maru nodded and Okoze moved to exit the room, saying, "Come on, Sango," as he took Miroku's wheelchair and said, "I'll take you back to your room." Sango moved to follow but was intercepted by a huge, furry form blocking the doorway. It took her a moment to recognize Kirara, but when she did, she grabbed her a hug, saying a joking, "You missed the meeting."

x

The demon let out an apologetic sound and her huge, red eyes locked on Sessho-Maru. She seemed taken aback and then approached him slowly. His eyes narrowed just a bit and he said, "You look familiar. And you are...?" Sango was surprised to hear her make some sort of answer, albeit one she couldn't understand. The man waited for her to finish.

"Interesting. Strange finding someone from so far back."

The cat snorted and Sango hesitantly asked, "Um... Sorry, what's going on?"

"I have met Kirara before, once, a long time ago," Sessho-Maru said a bit absently, "A few hundred years before either of us were sent forward, I suppose."

"R... Really? From that far back?" the girl asked, "I... I can't understand Kirara, not in words anyway. Is she really old?"

"Much older than I," Sessho-Maru said, "She has been the guardian of your family for centuries. She was traveling with demon hunters at the time we met. I am surprised to be reminded that I did not kill them at the time."

"K-Kill them?" Sango asked, her voice squeaking; Kirara circled back to wrap her body around her affectionately, "You would have done that?"

"How old were you when you moved forward?" he asked her.

"Ten."

"Then you may not remember the world back then as much as I do," he said simply, "Humans and youkai were at war with one another. It was just the way it was. Your family was a very prominent feature on the side of humanity. If I recall correctly, at the time, those humans chose not to engage me in combat at the warning of your demon friend here. Very wise."

Kirara stuck her tongue out at him and he seemed faintly amused.

"Oh, I am much more dangerous now," he assured the cat, "But my anger is more appropriately directed."

She seemed pleased and bowed her head. Sessho-Maru gave her a polite nod and she nudged Sango towards the door.

"Oh! Hang on just a second," she said, "Taishio-san?"

He directed his gaze on her and she gulped despite herself.

"Thank you again for everything," she said, and she bowed quickly.

Though his face didn't change, she felt some sort of approval from him; wasn't sure how, but she smiled a bit and let Kirara take her back into the hallway.

x

The huge feline ducked under her and lifted her up onto her back; Sango laughed and rubbed her head as she carried her down the hall.

"We need a translator," she said with a laugh, "That's really cool that you met Inu-Yasha's brother before. Was it kind of surreal? It's like someone from a different life, almost."

Kirara nodded and her two, huge tails swished casually behind her. Sango grinned and leaned forward to hug her. She loved Kirara's true form. She felt a deep purr rumble through her chest and she sighed, content. She felt so cozy she could almost let herself drift into a nap, but before she knew it, the giant cat had stopped in her tracks. When Sango looked up, she saw a door in front of them, but it wasn't hers. Before she could ask, Kirara put her down and nudged her towards it.

"Uhh, Kirara, this isn't my room," she said.

The demon gave her a look that said, I know, and then nudged her forward. Sango opened the door and saw Miroku, wearing a mirrored expression of surprise.

"Oh, I-"

She turned just in time to see Kirara close the door on her and she blushed before whirling on her boyfriend.

"Sorry, she just... I didn't know this was your room, they all look almost the same," she said.

He laughed and shrugged, but then asked, "Who was that?"

"Oh! You haven't- That was Kirara."

"Kirara?" the boy repeated a bit shrilly, "But she was like... That was a horse sized cat."

"Yeah, that's her true form, apparently," she said with a laugh.

"Want to sit down?"

"Yeah."

She dropped down on the foot of the bed and flopped backwards.

"I just learned that Kirara saved my entire family line from being wiped out by Inu-Yasha's brother hundreds of years ago," she said.

"...Well that's... um... I don't think I even have a word for that," Miroku said with a blank stare.

"Same," Sango laughed.

"He's... pretty intimidating," the boy admitted; he looked a bit troubled.

Sango sat upright and preened her hair quickly with her fingertip and she nodded her agreement.

"Yeah," she said, "You freaked out a little, huh?"

"Well, you know I can read auras," he said; she nodded again, "His hit me like a train."

"That's not funny," Sango said, frowning.

"What? Oh."

Miroku laughed loudly and rubbed his head, bashfully admitting, "Sorry, I forgot."

"God damn it, 'Roku," she grumbled.

He kissed her. She forgave him.

oOoOoOoO

Night was closing in, cool and calm, with the rain whittling down to a sprinkling by the time Koga and Sota returned from the store with food and clothes. Trying to distract himself, Inu-Yasha took up the cooking of noodles and fish while Kemtau was brought upstairs, his wounds reexamined, and changed into a set of very large sweatpants and sleeveless t-shirt: the only clothing Koga had been able to find to fit the demon's near-8-foot frame.

x

Setting up the living room like a makeshift bedroom, Kagome did her best to make Kemtau comfortable. She was a bit concerned, however, with the wounds in his arms and back. Little specs of blood were starting to stain through the bandages. He didn't seem to notice at all. The amount of time the demon was spending petting and cuddling Buyo seemed to be distracting him; the cat was enjoying himself immensely.

x

Kagome sat, contemplative, on the chair across from the sofa, only jerked from her thoughts when Inu-Yasha entered the room, presenting her with a bowl of fish curry.

"Thanks," she said, unable to hide her surprise; he nodded and then gave a bigger bowl- more like a mixing bowl than anything normally used for dinners, to the demon on the sofa.

"Thank you so much!" Kemtau said brightly; though he stared at the chopsticks provided to him blankly.

Kagome noticed and got up, positioning his large fingers on the sticks, but when he put just a bit of pressure on them, they snapped. The demon blinked, startled, and his ears flopped.

"Oh no, I'm sorry," he said.

"No worries," Kagome laughed.

"I'll find something else," Inu-Yasha said.

He left; Kemtau looked increasingly embarrassed.

"I'm sorry," he said again.

"Don't worry about it," Kagome assured him.

She pocketed the broken chopsticks and sat beside him. Inu-Yasha soon returned with a large, plastic rice spoon to give to the befuddled demon. He took his own dinner across the room and curled up in the armchair, watching with interest as Kemtau fumbled a little until he managed to shovel some rice and fish into his mouth.

"Is it okay?" he asked.

The youkai's pointy ears lifted high and he nodded vigourously. Kagome quickly agreed after she had tried it, "This is really good! I didn't know you were such a good cook!"

"I was just worried it was too spicy," he admitted a bit bashfully.

Kagome bit her lip, trying not to laugh, though the hanyou asked a cautious, "What?"

"Just kind of nice to hear you worried about something that won't kill you," she admitted.

He looked surprised; smiled tiredly.

"I'm meeting my brother tomorrow to talk about all this," he said.

"Oh! Good. Good."

Kagome nodded; Kemtau looked at her curiously.

"We might be able to figure out how to help you out a bit more," she said, "With your aura problem."

"Oh! That's good," he agreed; his ears drooped bashfully and he said, "Thank you both so much. I'm very glad that I found you."

He shovelled rice into his mouth and Kagome snickered. She gave Inu-Yasha thumbs-up and he seemed a bit pleased as he tiredly shuffled the food in his bowl around.

x

Koga joined them soon after; the tone of the night had finally relaxed a little. He carried over a coffee table and his jacket, and then dumped out his pockets, scattering the stuff he had collected all over.

"Ooh, what's this?" Kagome said.

"This is stuff I stole from Youki," he said, "Mostly their car."

"Haha, it's like Halloween," Kagome said; she slipped off the couch and sat on her knees near the table.

Koga and Kemtau both looked at her blankly and she rolled her eyes.

"What do you-?"

"Oh right, sorry Koga. That's fine. We'll do Halloween this year, you'll see," she said.

"We aren't too old for Halloween?" Inu-Yasha asked.

"We're only fifteen over here," the girl said, "And you two... I'm sure it'll be fine. Kemtau won't even need a costume."

"Oh good!" he said as Inu-Yasha grumbled about only being two years older, "...Why would I need a costume?"

"I'll explain later," Kagome said, "Know what any of this stuff is?"

She waved Koga over and he knelt down with her.

"Not sure, but I got this junk out of the car. And these are their bullets."

"What's this?"

Kagome pulled a crinkled piece of paper from the mess and noticed a phone number on it.

"Ooh, whose is this?" she asked, cutting her eyes at Koga with a smile.

"Just some college girl," the youkai said absently.

"Ooooooh," Kagome teased; Koga looked at her with a vacant stare, but his cheeks pinked.

"She helped us find where that video of Kemtau was made," Inu-Yasha explained, "She does... computer stuff, what was it?"

"Um... Computer stuff," Koga echoed, and hesitantly added, "Programming? Maybe..."

"Sorry, I don't know what any of those words mean," Kemtau said.

"Don't worry, I'll explain that later too," she assured him, "So she knew where the video was?"

"Her friend did," Koga said.

"She was a demon, and she came with us. Ended up in the fight with Youki."

"Oh. Oh jeez," Kagome said, eyes widening, "Was she okay?"

"Mostly," Inu-Yasha said with a shrug, "I mean, she didn't get shot, if that's what you mean."

"That's a relief."

"She did turn into a giant dog though," Koga added.

"Oh. Shit. Hey, Yasha?"

"Yeah?"

"Can all demons do that kind of thing?"

She looked confused.

"Most can," he said, "Some of them it's just... a thing. Like, an extra power, I guess. But some of them, it's like their original form. Sessho-Maru is like that."

"...What?"

Kagome and Koga both stared at him blankly as Kemtau resumed eating.

"Are you telling me," Kagome said, "That your brother was born as a cute little demon puppy?"

"Well, I..."

Inu-Yasha paused to consider it; he laughed.

"I guess so."

"Doesn't he feel weird looking like... humanoid, then?" Koga asked.

"I don't think so. I mean, when he's a dog, like when he's really in that form's most natural state, he's like a goddamn Godzilla dog. He can change the size, but otherwise..."

"Holy shit," Kagome said, and her face brightened as she grinned widely, "Do you think he can show me?"

The hanyou considered it for a second, opened his mouth to speak, but then thought better of it for just a moment.

"Well," he said slowly, "I said he probably wouldn't help you with a ton of other stuff that you ended up getting him to do. So... maybe?"

"Yes! Maybe!" Kagome cheered, "That's awesome."

"How big is he?" Koga wondered.

"Oh, shit, too big," Inu-Yasha said, "I mean, he can alter his size, but-"

He counted on his fingers.

"Shit, like... Maybe twenty feet?"

"Wow," Kagome said, "That's super cool."

"Don't get a crush," Inu-Yasha joked.

Kagome laughed and waved her hands at him as if to shoo his words away but then paused, her face blanking as she stared off in thought.

"What?" Koga asked, leaning around her.

"Oh, it's just..." she said slowly, as if trying to find the words, "Yasha? Do dog demons look similar in their dog forms, or-?"

"There's a bunch of different types," he said.

"So, like, your family, you're big white dogs, then?" she said, "Up ears?"

"No. Down. I'm the weird one," he said, pointing to his head.

"Big, white, with floppy ears..."

She cupped her chin and frowned, contemplative.

"But... what else?"

"I dunno, face markings? Like whatever they have on their people face is on the dog face, also," he said, "Oh, and sometimes kinda fluffy mane things. And tails. My dad had a split tail, apparently, so that's a thing."

x

Kagome bit her lip. That sounded a little too familiar. Inu-Yasha looked at her with confusion and asked, "What?"

"Hmm? Oh, nothing."

She waved her hand dismissively.

"I'll explain later."

"You've got a three-count on that now," Koga laughed.

Kagome snickered and she asked, "Were you born a wolf, Koga?"

"Um... Not sure. I don't think so. I looked human-ish when my mom found me," he said, "Had the tail though."

"What about you, Kemtau, do you have anything you can-?"

When Kagome turned to look at the large demon, she was surprised to see that he had fallen asleep.

"Oh... Whoops..."

She stifled a laugh and said, "I want to talk about this more later, but for now I'm just gonna goooo..." She stood and tiptoed out of the room; Koga stood too.

"Me too."

Inu-Yasha gave them the thumbs up, but Kagome shot him a confused look. Lowering his voice to a whisper, he said, "I'm just gonna stay for a bit. Just in case." The girl nodded and grabbed Koga's shoulder to hurry him out.

oOoOoOoO

Inu-Yasha stayed watchful over Kemtau long after the others had gotten tired and gone to bed. Even Kagome, who had been steadfast about keeping an eye on Kemtau, had succumbed to the comforters upstairs. The large demon was starting to look a little healthier, but the scent of blood on him was concerning. His wounds didn't seem to be healing properly. He supposed Kagome or Koga wouldn't know how to do stitches. He certainly didn't.

x

Quietly, he got to his feet and slipped out of the room; he found the boxes in the hallway that still needed to be unpacked. Trying to be quiet, he searched around through and was relieved to find his computer in the third box he checked. He carried it to the kitchen and dumped it on the table, but quickly realized that he couldn't find enough outlets for it and the router, which he also realized that he couldn't find either.

And Kagome's probably not going to have any medical books about doing stitches...

He sighed and rubbed his head and then reluctantly returned the computer to its box amongst some manga from Kagome's old room, a plush cat he had never seen before, and a plastic tub of pens. His ears perked to the sound of shuffling in the living room.

x

He quietly returned there to find Kemtau up on his paws, stretching a little; grimacing. It gave Inu-Yasha pause to see him upright- he was so tall- but he asked, "You doing okay?" nonetheless.

"I'm just a bit sore," the youkai admitted.

He kneaded one eye with his knuckle as he took his place on the sofa once more, pulling the blankets up around him. His claws dug into the edges and tore through without effort, and Kemtau's ears drooped.

"Sorry," he said, "I didn't mean to-"

"It's fine," Inu-Yasha assured him, "No big deal, it's just a blanket."

"I don't mean to keep breaking things," he said; he sounded disheartened.

"Are you having problems controlling your strength?" Inu-Yasha asked, frowning.

Kemtau nodded. Inu-Yasha muttered, "Shit," under his breath and then sat down across from the sofa.

"I was meaning to talk to you," he said, "I'd like to know... Hmm... I'd like to know your history, I guess."

"My history?" Kemtau repeated.

"You okay to talk about it?"

The youkai nodded and Inu-Yasha folded his arms to his chest.

"So, tell me again what you remember," Inu-Yasha said, "All of it."

The youkai frowned, looking contemplative for a few moments before he began to speak.

"I was at the market, near my home," Kemtau said, "Then, suddenly I am in a machine. It feels very tight, but it only lasts for a tiny bit. Then I see Kagome. I'm very startled right then, and then something smacks me. I wake up under some rocks. It's a bit scary, but I get up. It's a strange hallway and the smells are scary too, but I remember Kagome. She felt... I'm not sure, but she felt safe and kind. She reminds me of my family. I still smell her, so I get up and follow. I'm a bit sore, though, so I just go slow."

"I'm sorry about that," Inu-Yasha said.

"Why?"

Kemtau smiled. The hanyou grimaced.

"N-Nothing. Then what?"

"Oh! Well, then I go around in the forest for a bit. I follow Kagome's smell all over. I drink some water from a pond, and I keep going passed a bunch of strange buildings. Near one of them, I see some people, but something scares them and they scare me and we all run away. I think I walked for a couple of days. Then, I follow Kagome towards a somewhere, but I realize that she's not there and I go somewhere else. I go into the city, but it's scary and big and confusing. I wait until night and I run around to find her. But then, it starts raining and I get really cold, but I finally find the house. I ask Kagome if I can come in and she said yes and now we're here."

Inu-Yasha's ears drooped, but Kemtau seemed satisfied. The large demon's tail wagged and he peered at the hanyou curiously.

"I was just wondering," he said, "You did something to me before. What was it?"

"Oh, that... That's complicated," Inu-Yasha said, "But I guess the easiest way to explain it is that your aura is messed up. Somehow, the guys who got you at that building you woke up in, they did something to you with my aura, which they stole from me somehow. I was able to fix a bit of it."

"Ooh."

Kemtaus's expression was a combination of surprise and relief. He nodded.

"That's good. I'd be very happy if you could fix the rest of it."

"I'm going to figure it out."

Kemtau grinned his bright fangs, but he quickly gave in to a yawn.

"Can I sleep again, is that okay?"

"Oh. Yeah. Of course. See you later," Inu-Yasha said.

Kemtau nodded and cozied down against the sofa, his large tail waving a little, making the blankets rise and fall. Inu-Yasha slipped out of the room quietly.

x

He waited for a while against the wall just beyond the living room, listening to the other demon carefully. After a few minutes of silence, the hanyou felt comfortable enough leaving him alone and went upstairs. Kagome was in bed already, passed out diagonally across the mattress with an arm hanging over the side. He changed into old, lazy clothes and rolled her over slightly to take a spot on the edge of the mattress. He closed his eyes, but his mind was troubled, tumbling thoughts around; too distracting to fall asleep. Kagome latched onto him like a baby opossum after what felt like hours, but he knew couldn't have been. He was happy that at least one of them would be able to rest through the night.

oOoOoOoO

It was passed midnight, and she was still here. Still waiting, still shying away under the probing gaze of a man of unflinching, unwavering loyalty to the higher ups. Still feeling strange in the plain white blouse and grey skirt her supervisor had insisted she wear. Akagawa Michi rubbed her hands through her short, uncombed hair, tired, trying to hide her frustration. The metal chair she sat in made her back ache and the cold, metal gleam of everything in the room continued to make her feel cold and unwelcome. Her psych evaluation felt much more like a simple interrogation to her. The longer the man across from her made notes, the more she felt like her future was whittling away. She wanted out.

x

"So... you say you're conflicted," the man said, his curt tone cutting the silence.

It stung a little. Michi grimaced. She had danced in circles around that answer for hours. The man wouldn't give it up. She sighed.

"Yes," she said quietly.

"Why?"

Michi held her tongue. She didn't know what to say, but the moment she opened her mouth, the man spoke.

"I am aware your significant other- Yamada Ronin, was it?- was murdered in front of you. I understand. That could shake anyone's nerves."

He tried to sound soothing, but Michi just found the man grating.

"But," he continued, "I am unsure as to why this has shaken your resolve as well. Maybe this is unhealthy, but perhaps a does of revenge could help you get back into the swing of things."

"That's... No, that's not what I want," Michi said.

The man tilted his head; he looked like a cat eyeing a bug.

"I don't follow," he said.

"I just... I just don't know what I believe anymore," she said quietly.

Somewhat of a lie, but she didn't dare tell him the truth of what she really thought- of the youkai, of the operation, of everything. But, somehow, it was like he know; like they all knew. Her performance had been slipping, clearly. Making excuses to not go out on raids was getting to be second nature, but people were starting to notice. She knew she wouldn't even be here if some of her nosier squadmates hadn't turned her in for "discontent".

x

The analyst looked at her up and down and, tutting as he wrote a few more notes, said, "I hear the same story often enough, Akagawa-san. The youkai look human. They seem to have families. But none of it is legitimate. Their humanity is only a disguise. They exist to kill and eat us, just like any predator, but much more cruel."

"Right..." she said quietly.

"You signed up because demons killed your... sister, is that right?" he asked.

Michi felt a twinge of illness and rage. She felt cold. Through gritted teeth, she said, "Yes."

"Never forget that, Akagawa-san."

oOoOoOoO

It was almost 2:00am by the time Michi was rushing in heels, umbrellaless, through the rain down the street towards her small, cheap apartment. Resentful of the psychologist, Youki, the rain; everything, she didn't notice a the sound of a crack when she stepped down in a gap in the sidewalk and her shoe's bottom splintered. She yelped despite herself, but her face didn't meet the wet pavement as she had expected. She found herself, rather suddenly to her surprise, caught in the arms of an man wearing a trench-coat and a wide-brimmed hat that seemed rather impervious the the damp. Taken aback, Michi could only let out an, "Oh!"

"Relax, miss," the man said.

His voice was low and gravelly. He propped her back up to regain her footing and he said, "Careful now."

"Thank you," she said; she rubbed her forehead, looking at her broken shoe and then, without much care, she took both of them off, laughing out of sheer exhaustion, "Figures."

"Rough day?" the man asked.

He seemed to be an older man: in the shadows, his face seemed grizzled and battered. He offered her a silver flask from his jacket and she laughed and shook her head.

"I'm fine," she said, "Thanks again, sir."

He nodded, shrugged, and took a swig himself. Michi rolled her eyes and waved to him as she headed for home.

x

Ignoring the gross, cold sensation on her toes, Michi scampered up the metal stairs up to her apartment on the third floor of her building; a place that was inconspicuous enough and was rented almost entirely by Youki personnel. Ducking through the doorway in a hurry to get out of the rain, she ditched her jacket in the hallway as she closed and bolted the door tightly behind her. Her heart was beating too quickly and she felt like hitting something.

x

Throwing down her shoes, she fumbled in the dark of her apartment to find a switch on the wall. She pressed it a couple times before remembering the bulb had burnt out. She didn't care enough to replace it, especially not right now. Instead, she opening a curtain, letting in the light of a streetlamp to let her see around. She was hungry, but really, all she wanted to do was sleep. The trash was still filled with cards of condolences and there were too many unfinished bottles of beer on the kitchen table. Heading to bed, Michi grabbed one and downed what was left in it. She felt sick, and it certainly wasn't the lukewarm booze.

x

Tiredly, she grabbed the rest of the bottles and shoved them into the sink along with some dishes and vowed, as always, to do them in the morning. She rarely had enough energy, though. Using her only source of light just to grab a change of clothes, Michi closed the drapes and then stripped down, grumbling about how much she hated pants. Boxers and a loose t-shirt felt like a nice change of pace from trying so hard to look presentable.

x

Her mattress wasn't very good, but she closed her eyes with relief as soon as she hit it. It always felt bittersweet, though. The first thing she saw on the backs of her eyelids was always that hanyou boy, slipping on bloodstained grass to reach the girl that Ronin had shot in the back. His eyes had surprised her the most. Despite their strange, almost fox-like gleam, she empathized immediately. It used to be that she saw her twin sister in her mind before bed; saw the bug-like creature that had burst from a disguise of their mother and taken her in an instant. It had been so easy to hate; to hate all of them. Things were so simple then. That boy had changed everything. She didn't know what to do with herself. Unfortunately for her, quitting wasn't really an option.

x

Her mind was too busy. Sleeping wasn't working, so when she heard a metallic clink and spelled a whiff of whisky by her bedside, she transitioned very easily into "soldier" mode. Feigning sleep, she rolled over, arm reaching to fish the gun from under her , taking a steadying breath, sat up in an instant, pointing the barrel of the gun directly at the head of a man with a wide-brimmed hat sitting in a chair he had pulled from the kitchen.

"Okay, pervert-"

"Not quite. Not in this situation, in any case."

He raised his head and she saw his eyes flash red in the dark. Michi felt her heart thump to her stomach. Her mind told her it wasn't possible, and yet there he was.

"...You're... You're a youkai," she said sharply.

He nodded; she lowered her gun slowly, still cautious.

"Got a proposition for you," he said.

"...Wh... What?" she said, her voice shrill.

She looked around quickly and hissed, "How did you even get in here? This place is-!"

"Sealed to the brim?" he asked, and then laughed, "Yep, your spiritual friends sure have this place on lockdown. But I got ways around it."

His form shimmered for an instant to emphasize his point and Michi gawked.

"A... You're a...? A projection?" she asked.

"Not quite, but close enough," he said, "Now listen, Akagawa Michi, I think we can help each other."

Michi didn't know what to say. She eyed him suspiciously, wondering how much he knew, and how he knew it. She gulped.

"...How?"

"Willing to turn traitor so fast?" he asked, smirking.

The woman grimaced and rubbed a hand through her hair roughly.

"...I think I turned traitor a long time ago," she said quietly, "What do you want from me?"

"I need a box."

"A box?"

"Yes. Just a simple box. It's red, about the size of a shoebox, with a bear's face on the top. I think it's in your archives."

"Archives?" she repeated, and the scoffed, "How the hell am I supposed to get to the archives? I'm just a soldier. I don't have authorization to go to the archives."

"You'll use this."

He presented her with a small card- an entry permit, by the looks of it. Hesitantly, Michi reached out to take it. She was surprised that it was solid and real, much more so than the youkai in her room.

"Where did you get this?" she asked.

"Stole it," he said simply,

Michi stared at it with a frown on her face.

"So... you want me to get you this box, and you'll-"

"Fake your death."

"You'll fake my... Wait, what?!" she asked loudly.

"I've been following you for a while," he said, "Followed you on your last two missions. Followed you on that train. Until it derailed, anyway. Followed you to your evaluation tonight. Followed you home."

"That's incredibly creepy," she said, folding her arms tightly, "Who the hell do you think you are?"

"Tetsuya."

"Wha...? I wasn't asking for your name!"

The youkai guffawed and took a swig from his flask, and as Michi was wondering why a projection would need to drink, he said, "I know you want out. So, work with me. Get me my box, and I'll fake your death. You're free to get out of here for good."

x

Michi felt cold. She stared through the dim light at the youkai before her. He seemed a bit absent; took another drink. She saw his eyes flash again, a gleaming red in the dark. She sighed and laughed tiredly, asking, "Who the hell are you, anyway? You're dressed up like a damn cowboy."

"Cowboy?" he repeated, "I don't follow."

The woman shook her head. Her throat felt suddenly dry.

"Is that really the only way out?" she wondered.

"I approached a young man with a similar offer six months ago," Tetsuya said cooly, "He refused. Going on the run didn't help him. He was dead in a week."

Michi's eyes widened; she bit her lip.

"Can... Can I think about it?"

Tetsuya frowned just a little and then shrugged.

"Three days enough?"

"I take it I don't really have much of a choice."

"I'll be in touch."

He was gone in an instant, as if he had melted into shadow. Michi gulped. Maybe it was hypocritical of her, but she still found youkai terrifying. She tightened her fingers around her gun, trying to quell her shaking before she leaned down to stash it back under the bed. Shivering, she pulled up her thin blankets and grabbed a pillow, smushing it over her forehead and letting out a deep, quivering sigh.

"Fuck."

oOoOoOoO

Engines and banging heralded the new day, and Kagome lay awake in bed, staring with tired eyes up at the blank and boring ceiling. She didn't feel like facing the day, but as the clanging metal got louder, she reluctantly rolled off the mattress. She trudged out of the room, rubbing her eyes; groaning to herself. She stumbled to a stop when an anomaly in the hall caught her eye: Inu-Yasha was sitting, back to a wall, with a string of cables around him as he worked at a bulky computer, keyboard in his lap; a small black box of a modem blinking blue lights steadily at his side.

"Wha...? What are you doooing?" Kagome asked, fighting a yawn.

She plopped down beside him, dropping her head onto his shoulder and closing her eyes.

"I'm trying to learn how to do stitches," he said.

"Mmwhy?"

"The holes in Kemtau's arms and stuff aren't healing right yet."

Kagome was suddenly paying attention. She frowned and watched what Inu-Yasha was watching: a video of how to stitch wounds. She cringed and had to look away.

"Oh, god..." she muttered.

"Yeah, it's a bit gross," he agreed, "You're up kind of early, huh?"

"Lot of noise outside. Not fun," she said.

"I figured."

"What is it?"

"Not sure. Trucks, I guess, but I didn't check, I was looking at this junk."

"Mmkay."

She sat quietly for a while longer, closing her eyes again. It wasn't too hard to ignore the videos; they were in English, and also in an accent she couldn't quite hear through.

"So... you understand that?" she asked.

"Yeah."

"Where's that guy from?"

"Australia."

"Ooh. I understand a bit of English. I can read it a bit, too. Can't really speak it though, but I guess the accent threw me off. Did you learn what you wanted?"

"Yeah, I think so," he said, "I'll try to patch him up a bit later. I'm supposed to be meeting Sessho-Maru this morning."

"Right. Yeah, okay," Kagome said; she stifled a yawn behind her hand.

She rested a while, warm against Inu-Yasha's body. When she got up, she stretched her arms high above her head before making her way towards the stairs.

Below, she found, to her surprise, Koga haphazardly stitching a tear up the side of Kemtau's new shirt as the large demon sat, hugging his knees nearby, a look of embarrassment on his face.

"What's up?" she asked.

"Oh, nothing, his claws just-" Koga said, gesturing at the tear, "You wouldn't happen to know how to sew, would you?"

"Funny thing, Yasha was just watching a video on how to do stitches, but like, for skin," she said, "He'd probably know best by now, but I might kiiindd of know."

"Good, 'cause I have no clue."

He passed her the shirt as Kemtau said a quiet, "Sorry."

"Don't worry about it," Koga assured him, "Is your side okay?"

Kemtau nodded, but Kagome looked at the wolf with wide eyes.

"What happened?"

"He didn't just get the shirt."

"Oh... Oh shit," Kagome squeaked.

"I bandaged him up," he said.

"Oh, god, Kemtau, you gotta be careful," Kagome insisted, "You're not healing right."

"R-Right. Sorry," he said again.

"Don't apologize," the girl said, laughing tiredly, "It's okay. We'll fix you up."

Kagome was no expert, but she recalled sewing some lopsided dog and cat plush toys as a child. The stitching was a little rough, but her fingers seemed to recall what to do with the needle. However, it brought her mind back to the video she had caught a glimpse of upstairs and she gulped back a feeling of nausea.

When she handed the shirt back to Kemtau, he thanked her timidly as he put it back on, only to jump and tear part of the stitching again at the sound of a crash from down the road. In an instant, Koga was at the window, peeking out and down the street, eyes narrowing suspiciously. Kagome, for a reason she couldn't place, felt like her heart was in her throat and she locked her gaze with the wolf's, even though she couldn't see out from where she sat. Footsteps made her jerk; it was only Inu-Yasha, joining them as he looked between the three of them with confusion.

"What are you weirdos doing down here?" he asked.

Koga frowned, mostly to himself.

"Hey, um... Anyone else notice the moving van next door?"

He looked worried, and Kagome's expression quickly mimicked his. She rushed to the window and peeked out and, sure enough, a truck was shoved into the neighbour's driveway, with men unloading furniture.

"That's... weird," she said quietly, "Yasha, come look at this."

"So someone's moving in. Is that really important?" he asked.

"It's weird!" Kagome insisted, "We just moved in, now someone right beside us?"

She waved him over to come look, pulling Koga out of the way as the hanyou somewhat reluctantly joined them. He looked outside, rather unimpressed, for few seconds before a look of shock dawned on him. Kagome was about to reiterate how weird she thought it was when, instead, Inu-Yasha cleared his throat.

"W... Wait, is that Kohaku?" he said, squinting through the window.

"Who? Kagome asked.

Inu-Yasha seemed baffled, but his ears lifted high and he said, "Sango's brother. That's definitely him. I haven't seen him in like, two years. Kid got tall. But-"

"Wait, wait, your friend Sango's brother is next door? So, like... her family's moving in?" Kagome asked.

Inu-Yasha froze; it was like all the pieces in his mind were clicking into place.

"Holy shit," he said.

"So, wait, what-?" Kagome began to ask, but in an instant, Inu-Yasha was heading upstairs again, saying, "I'm going over there."

"Huh?" Kagome barked.

x

She scampered after him, but arrived upstairs to find the bedroom door closed. Hesitantly, she knocked on it and asked, "You okay?" She heard him laugh.

"I'm just getting changed."

"Oh."

Kagome couldn't help but snicker as well; she leaned against the wall and rubbed a hand through her hair.

"That makes sense."

She could hear him shuffling and after just a few seconds, he was opening the door with his foot as he finished pulling a clean black t-shirt over his head.

"You want to come with me?"

"Oh, no, I need a shower," she said, waving his suggestion off.

He shrugged and jerked his thumb at the stairs.

"Sweatshirt still down there?"

He headed off when she nodded and she followed him.

"You seem excited," she said.

"I guess I am," he admitted, "I like Sango and her family. But I'm also curious about why they're there."

"Something to do with your brother, I bet," she said.

She ducked around him as they reached the front closet and handed him a grey, zipped hoodie to put on.

"So how did you meet her?"

"We were in the same class in high school," he said as he put the sweatshirt on, "She was my only friend for the longest time, even though I was an asshole and was distant as fuck. Because of our family names, we were paired up in projects a lot, so I actually got to meet her family. I guess I used to think she only hung out with me because of that."

He laughed, mostly at himself it seemed, and he confessed, "I'm like 98% sure her dad knew I was a demon. Their family were demon hunters originally. I'm just glad he was pretty cool about it." Kagome smiled at him and admitted, "It's good to hear that you had at least a few people that weren't horrible when you were younger."

"I was just so paranoid," he said, "She introduced me to Miroku and I knew that he knew, but I still didn't tell them. I didn't even know how to. Remember when we called them? It was such a huge relief to know that they actually missed me."

Kagome grinned at him and she assured him, "Well, I mean, even when you're stand-offish, you're such a loyal friend. Of course they liked you."

"Stand-offish? When am I stand-offish?" he demanded.

Kagome raised an eyebrow and he wilted, admitting, "Guess there might be a bit of truth to that..."

"Definitely," Koga agreed loudly from the other room.

Inu-Yasha grimaced and rubbed his head bashfully before he pulled his hood up.

"I'll be right back," he assured them.

x

He was out the door before Kagome could even say goodbye. Bristling, trying to keep his ears down, he skulked around their stone wall and out onto the sidewalk, eyeing the moving van next door cautiously. He felt a little worry pricking in him; a touch of nerves, but he headed in up their driveway nonetheless. Kohaku noticed him first as he made his way out of the house to unload another box from the truck; he was startled still.

"Inu-Yasha?" he asked; he sounded baffled, and his voice had dropped a bit since the hanyou had seen him last.

"Yeah. Hi. Good to see you again," Inu-Yasha said, though the words came out stiff and his surprise was still clear.

The boy smiled a bit and jogged up, asking, "What are you doing here?"

"Looks like we're neighbours," he replied.

He jerked his thumb at their new house and Kohaku laughed.

"Yeah, I knew that, but I guess I'm just surprised to see you over here. It's cool, though. Sorry Sango isn't here."

"She's...?"

The hanyou had a sudden sinking feeling.

"Is she okay?" he asked.

"Fine. She's just staying at that weird demon hospital with her boyfriend a bit longer," he explained, "They said he needs more tests or something? I dunno."

"Oh. Shit."

Inu-Yasha was at a loss. Kohaku laughed.

"They said it's all good," he assured him, "Like, a 'just in case'. But, man, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure...?" the hanyou said uncertainly.

"My sister said you had ears like a dog, is that true? Is that why you always wore a hat? Is that why you're wearing a hood right now?"

"...Uh... Yeah."

"Damn it! I made a bet with her that it was spikes."

"She thought it was horns before I showed her."

"Ah! Cheater!" Kohaku said, "Bet is void. She knew the answer."

"I'm a dog, why would I have spikes?"

"I don't know!"

The boy threw up his hands in defeat and then laughed, rubbing his head. He moved forward to take a box from the truck; almost dropped it. Inu-Yasha grabbed it with ease and handed it back to him before an obligation to help struck him and he grabbed the fridge out of the back of the truck. Kohaku stared at him, wide-eyed.

"You could at least pretend that it's heavy," Kohaku joked, "Thanks for the help."

He nodded his head at the house and the hanyou followed him in and put the fridge in their disassembled kitchen.

"Sheesh, that was just nothing, huh?" the boy asked him.

"You're not used to stuff like that?"

Inu-Yasha was surprised. Kohaku shook his head.

"No, actually. Don't know many youkai."

Though Inu-Yasha was surprised, especially considering their upbringing, he was left unable to voice it when Kohaku's father entered the room. He was unshaven and tired looking, but didn't seem concerned in the least to see the hanyou in his kitchen.

"Thanks for bringing that in, that would have been a chore without Sango around," he said; he smiled, "Good to see you, son."

He clapped Inu-Yasha appreciatively on the shoulder; the boy was shocked still for a moment before he quickly replied, "You too."

The man nodded.

"I was talking to your brother yesterday," he said, "He mentioned a strange demon coming to your place. Everything alright?"

"Oh! Oh, yeah, that's all fine," he said, "I mean... relatively. Thanks."

Inu-Yasha wasn't sure what else to say, didn't know how much he should tell, but the man seemed to understand.

x

Inu-Yasha spent the next little while helping Sango's family unload what was left in the truck; probably saving them hours worth of work. He didn't mind much at all; was only limited by what he could physically grab. Though he declined Okoze's offer of food and a drink, he was grateful when the man promised to let him know as soon as Sango arrived before the hanyou headed home as he noticed that a car had pulled into their own driveway.

x

Once there, he noticed the woman he recognized heading up to the front door. Nomi, he recalled: the woman who had blasted the metal off him after their escape from Youki.

"Hey," he called.

She turned, eyes widening for just a moment; she relaxed quickly when she realized who she was looking at.

"Oh, there you are. I'm here to pick you up," she said, "How are you holding up?"

"Been better," he said, "You?"

"About the same," she laughed, "Ready to leave?"

"Just a sec," he said.

He jogged up to the front door and opened it, calling, "Kagome? Koga?"

"Yeah?" he heard Koga call, "Kagome's in the shower."

"Oh. Okay. I'm going to a meeting with my brother now. I'll be back later."

Koga poked his head out of the kitchen and waved him off as he closed the door. When he turned back to Nomi, he noticed that she looked a bit uneasy.

"Something wrong?" he asked.

She seemed distracted; sniffed and pushed her glasses up. She shook her head.

"Sorry," she said, "That aura..."

"That'll be Kemtau. I'll explain on the way."

oOoOoOoO

"Kagome!"

Koga sat, curled in on himself against the wall, staring with puzzlement at the screen of the computer Inu-Yasha had left in the hallway. Frowning, again he called for Kagome.

"What?"

Her voice sounded echoing and hollow from the bathroom; he could hear her shuffling around in there. Sounded like she was drying her hair.

"Are you done in there yet? I gotta ask you something!"

He heard the door open and it was just a few seconds before Kagome joined him, still in pyjamas, rubbing her hair with a towel a bit absently.

"What?" she asked.

"Inu-Yasha went to meet his brother, by the way. What's a 'google'?"

Kagome looked at him blankly, frowned a little, and then scooted up next to the wall. She took one look at the screen and then snorted out a laugh.

"Oh! It's just a search engine," she said, "You know, like... you can use it to look things up on the internet."

Koga looked at her blankly and said, "Oh." He still didn't seem to get it.

"How much do you know about computers?" she asked.

"Almost nothing," he confessed.

Kagome laughed, but then quickly said, "Sorry, it's not funny," as she sat down beside him, "I just find it a bit surreal."

"Me too," Koga agreed, "So this does-?"

"Well, look, let's say you want to learn about, I dunno, lizards. Just type it in and-"

Kagome did so as she explained, and then hit enter. Koga's eyes widened and Kagome pointed out, "Look, see, all these results are about lizards. Just general stuff, about pets, you know, whatever. And here-"

She clicked on an image tab and the demon's eyes lit up as dozens of different pictures of lizards popped up.

"Oh, damn! And it can do that for anything?" he asked.

"Just about," she said with a smile, "You can also use it to do just... games, research, drawings, whatever."

"That's really cool," Koga said, "I'm going to have to learn about this stuff. I had a- Famikom, I think?- at home when I was little, but I think that's the closest thing I ever knew like this as a kid."

"Don't worry about it too much, I'm sure you'll catch on," Kagome assured him, "You picked up video games like a pro, I'm sure a computer won't be much more difficult at all."

"That's cool, I hope so," he said with a grin.

x

Kagome slapped his shoulder affectionately and then stared at the screen a little vacantly, passed the many brown and green lizards, and muttered, "Actually..." to herself. Koga looked at her with a quizzical frown and the girl shouted, "Kemtau?"

"Yes, Kagome?" they heard from below them.

"Where did you say you were from, again?"

"Hardai!"

"Thanks!"

x

She frowned to herself and muttered, "Hardai... Hardai..." She stared at the keyboard for a moment, trying to figure out the best way to spell it. She didn't know if Japanese characters would cut it if it was an ancient Egyptian name, but she gave it a try anyway. What popped up first was a city called Cynopolis. She read it over quickly as Koga leaned around her to look.

"City of the Dog," she said quietly, "Home of the cult of Anubis."

She couldn't help a laugh.

"Gee, I wonder why," she said, rolling her eyes.

"Do you think all demons there looked like that?" Koga wondered.

"Maybe," Kagome said with a nod, "Maybe that's where their gods came from."

"Their gods?" Koga repeated, "Do you think they're real?"

"No idea, but maybe demons like Kemtau are what sort of inspired them, you know? A lot the pictures of the gods they believed in back then have animal heads."

"Good point. Do you know a lot about that?"

"I know... um... a little about a lot of mythologies," Kagome explained, "From my grandpa. He tried to train me to be a miko before I really believed in any of that stuff."

"Oh. Did it work?" he asked.

"No," Kagome laughed, "All the progress I've made was either by accident or through Sessho-Maru."

"Huh... I wonder why," Koga said.

"Inu-Yasha thought it might have been because you actually need close exposure to demons to have it start to work. I think that makes sense."

"I honestly don't know too much about it," Koga said, "I wish I did."

"Wish I knew more, too," Kagome said; she laughed tiredly, "I just started abruptly being able to shoot stuff out of my hands or whatever. It was weird.""

"Sounds like that's kind of scary," Koga agreed, "Kind of reminds me of when I was a kid."

"Tell me about it," she said.

Koga looked surprised and rubbed his head.

"You want to hear about it?" he asked bashfully.

When she nodded, Koga smiled and embarrassedly admitted, "All the stuff I can do I figured out by accident or in a moment of panic. Kind of like you, I guess."

"How did you figure out you could turn full-on into a wolf?" she asked.

"I just kind of did it one time when I got lost in a park at night. My mom sure was surprised when I found her."

Kagome snickered, picturing him as she knew him as a wolf, but small with the typical giant paws of a puppy, but she noticed Koga had abruptly taken on a melancholy expression. She instantly felt sympathy pains and grabbed him in a hug. She felt him flop in her arms and he hugged her in return. She was about to apologize, but he said, "Sorry," before she could.

"What?"

"Thinking about my mom always gets to me like that."

"No, no, don't apologize."

She pulled back and ruffled his hair affectionately. He laughed despite himself and batted her hand away. She stuck her tongue out at him and struggled to her feet. She rubbed her head with her towel and pointed to the bedroom, saying, "Gimme a minute."

x

She returned soon after in a zip-up green sweatshirt and jeans. Koga was starting at the computer again with what looked like intense determination.

"Did you know you can watch funny videos of cats on here?"

Kagome laughed and rolled her eyes.

"I'm going to go check on Kemtau."

He nodded and she made her way back downstairs. She saw Buyo in the kitchen and pet him all over before moving on. Kemtau was still in the living room, but he had moved many of the blankets he had been given to the floor and smooshed them up into a huge nest. He sat in the middle of it, scratching absently at one of his hears with one of his large, back paws. He looked just like a giant dog wearing clothes.

x

"Hey, how are you feeling?" she asked.

He craned his neck to look over his shoulder at her, his tongue sticking out a bit; he grinned bashfully and said, "Itchy." Kagome smiled sympathetically and approached the large demon. She carefully ran her fingers through the fur on his head; she felt something sticky and warm on her fingers and, when she pulled back her hand, she wasn't entirely surprise to see the red on her. Sighing, she said, "Let me check you," and went in closer, gently pushing and pulling sections of dark fur aside to reveal a few, jagged lacerations in his grey skin, with just a little sign of healing around the edges. She even found the bullet hole he had mentioned- that one wasn't bleeding and, though raw, was mostly sealed.

"So... these earlier ones healed a bit," she muttered, "But the later ones aren't. I don't get it..."

"Sorry," Kemtau said.

"No, that's fine, don't worry," she said, "I'll be right back."

She left him to get a rag from the kitchen. She soaked it in warm water and brought a bowl with her when she returned. Carefully, she dabbed at the youkai's head, trying to clean some of the blood away, and then squeezed out the rag in the bowl. The amount of red that came out made her gulp.

"What the hell am I gonna do with you," she asked, grimacing.

Her mind went to stitches; she instantly regretted not being able to stomach the video Inu-Yasha had been watching about them. She absently patted Kemtau on the shoulder and then walked off to look through their medical supplies.

x

In a plastic grocery bag in the bathroom, they had disinfectant, a couple of different ointments for cuts and burns, bandages of varying types. gauze, headache and pain medication, and cough drops. She bit her lip. Nothing particularly helpful that she hadn't already used, but nothing for stitches either. She couldn't do them, but she figured Inu-Yasha probably could. At least they had needles, which was a step above nothing. She scratched her chin and hmmed to herself.

"Could go to the store..." she mumbled.

She paced, thought about it a bit, and then scampered upstairs. She found Koga and Buyo were now sitting together in front of the computer, staring at something that sounded like a song as done by many cats. She found a bit of money in her room under some other junk they had haphazardly put in there.

"Hey, you guys," she said when she returned to the hall, "I'm going to go to the pharmacy or something to see if I can get a few more things to help Kemtau out. Can you watch him?"

"I can go sit on his feet," Buyo suggested.

"I'll keep him company, sure," Koga said.

"Thanks," she said.

She scampered down the stairs; Koga winced when he heard her slip down the last two.

"I'm okay!" she shouted up, "Going guys, kay, love you, bye!"

There was a little more scrambling and then the door opened and slammed shut in a hurry. Koga rubbed his forehead and laughed, taking a look at Buyo. Before he could say a word, the door was flung back open and Kagome shouted, "Hey, which way is the store?"

"A couple blocks up, towards the school," he said.

"Kay, thanks, see ya!"

The door slammed again.

x

"She's always in such a hurry," Buyo said.

"Tell me about it," Koga said.

He rubbed the cat's head absently and he leaned into his hand with a purr.

"Come on, then."

He picked the cat up under his front legs and cradled him as he got up and went down the stairs. Kemtau was poking around in the kitchen, seeming confused.

"Hungry?" Koga asked.

"Oh. No, not really. I just was confused," Kemtau said, "Why is this box so cold?"

He poked the fridge. Koga was taken aback, but then quickly grinned. For once, he was the one who knew what was going on.

"Look, it's called a fridge. It keeps food fresh. See?"

Koga opened it and, with wide eyes, Kemtau reached a hand in to feel the air.

"Wow. Magic?"

"No, not quite. Cold air."

"That's amazing."

He bashfully rubbed his hand through the spiky mane of fur on he back of his neck.

"Everything's so different."

"You know, I kind of understand," Koga said, "Not... I mean, not completely, but I was completely out of society for years. I just came back a few months ago. So, let me show you around."

Kemtau's bright blue eyes widened and Buyo said, "That really is a good idea," as he hopped towards the huge demon. He looked touched and took the cat gingerly into his arms. He nodded

oOoOoOoO

Despite her calm and cool demeanour, Nomi drove a little bit like a maniac. Inu-Yasha was more worried for her than for himself, because he knew he could take a crash. But then, she didn't seem to even flinch. She took them into a bustling area of Saitama, a large and busy city just beyond some suburbs of central Tokyo- over an hour and a half away from home. Inu-Yasha hadn't been there before, and way a little surprised they were headed here: from what he heard, usually people commuted from here to Tokyo, not the other way around. Nomi drove them to an area where the streets were lined with towering, almost identical, office buildings. Pulling up in front of one, she ushered Inu-Yasha- as he unclenched his fist from the seat- from the car as a valet rushed over to take her car from her. She tipped him before nudging the hanyou towards the building.

x

Inside was a spacious, bright entryway, rimmed with exotic potted plants. A crescent-shaped counter where a young man worked the phones seemed to be the centrepiece of the room, framed by the seemingly normal, business bustle of people walking to and fro. One set of doors behind that seemed to lead off to somewhere; beside that was a set of stairs. Inu-Yasha wasn't really sure of what to make of the place, but Nomi seemed to know exactly where she was going, walking briskly, with purpose, towards the stairs. Inu-Yasha stayed in close, following her as they went up the first flight of stairs.

"What is this place?" he asked.

"It's the boring part of our operation," she said, "Research mostly. Some meeting rooms. You need to go up to the third floor. You okay on your own?"

"You're not coming?" he asked, confused.

"No," she said, "My expertise is in general spiritual practices. The complicated aura problems aren't really my area. I was just coming into the office and I told your brother I could get you on the way."

"Oh. Thanks," he said.

She nodded and smiled, saying a sincere, "Good luck," before she began down the hallway on her own.

x

He hurried up the stairs, trying to memorize everything he saw. The third floor opened up into a rather generic hallway. He was a little unsure of where to go. He was only left standing awkwardly on his own for a few seconds, however, before a door opened on the right side of the hall and he saw his brother emerge. Inu-Yasha couldn't hide his surprise.

"I didn't sense you at all," he blurted, "Not even smell-!"

"This place is sealed pretty effectively," he explained, and he nodded at the room, "In here."

The hanyou nodded and followed Sessho-Maru inside.

x

There wasn't much inside the room; it was rather small. Mostly it was dark, but there was a large whiteboard at the end closest to the door with a shoulder-bag and a backpack beside it. There was a single, long table rimmed with chairs at the other end. Matsuko was there, dressed rather casually, sorting through a pile of papers. She smiled when she saw him and said, "Welcome to the meeting room. Impressive, huh?" She laughed at her own joke and then beckoned for him to take a seat. Though a bit hesitant, Inu-Yasha did so, taking the chair at the opposite side of the table as his brother positioned himself casually against the wall.

"So your brother tells me you have news about our friend with the messed-up aura," Matsuko said.

She took the seat across from him and bunched her notes into a pile as he brushed his hood back and rubbed his hair tiredly.

"Also, that you've got a new friend with a similar problem?"

"Y... Yeah," he said, "But, uh... This new guy, he's not crazy. I mean, at least not anymore."

"Can you elaborate?" Sessho-Maru asked, "Matsuko needs to know as much as possible about this."

"Right. Um... Well," Inu-Yasha said, trying to simplify it as best he could, "When me and my friends were at that Youki base, we ran into a demon that attacked us. He was... completely fucked up. His aura made Kagome and I feel sick."

"She's a sensitive with minor training," his brother added; Matsuko started making notes.

"She was able to blast him with an energy ball or something," Inu-Yasha continued, "We didn't know it at the time, but we think that's what snapped him back into his own brain."

"So he's not feral or out of his mind?" Matsuko said, eyes widening; she grinned, "That's great! Only problem is that we tried shocking our guy with spiritual energy but it didn't seem to do much to him other than knock him out."

Inu-Yasha gulped. He nodded and said a quiet, "Yeeah... I think... I think that's where I come in." Sessho-Maru raised an eyebrow and the woman tilted her head in confusion. Inu-Yasha gulped; his stomach plummeted. He took a deep breath.

"They used my aura to do this."

Sessho-Maru stared stared at him cooly and Matsuko frowned and quickly leafed through her papers.

"That doesn't make any sense," she said, "Our readings indicate that you just pulled something out of the aura of our patient, but-"

"No, you don't understand. They somehow injected my aura into his to twist it. Like, reprogramming. I don't know how it works, but I sort of began to pull it out just by accident," Inu-Yasha tried to explain, "It's like my aura kind of attracts the missing bits of itself and sucks it back in on its own. It must have been that combined with Kagome's powers that jump-started getting him back to normal. Then after that, just... my aura."

"How long have you known this?" Sessho-Maru asked; his tone was flat and even, but the hanyou could feel the pinpricks of anger in his energy.

Inu-Yasha gulped but immediately chose the truth, even if he was worried it would make him seem slow in his brother's eyes.

"I... I started to suspect it on that day I was at the medical place," he replied, "When Kemtau turned up at our new house and I tested his aura... That's when I knew for sure."

Sessho-Maru stared him down for a moment as if testing him for anything even remotely dishonest. The hanyou found his heartbeat fluttering a little but his brother seemed satisfied quickly and sat down, his expression a frozen neutral.

"Right," he said quietly.

Matsuko looked at him with wide eyes and then whirled on Inu-Yasha.

"You're sure?" she insisted.

"Pretty sure, yeah," he said.

She frowned to herself and rushed through her papers again, muttering and shaking her head. Sessho-Maru ignored her and his brow furrowed just a little.

"I understand," he said.

The woman looked at him curiously and Inu-Yasha's ears perked just a bit, but when the youkai didn't continue, Matsuko asked, "Sorry, Taishio-sama, can you elaborate? I'm just... I'm a bit lost."

Sessho-Maru was quiet for a little while, seeming to stare into something that wasn't before him. He drummed his claws on the table lightly.

"Inu-Yasha," he said, "You remember you told me that when you were first captured, a few years ago, that they wanted you for something? You said they asked you to join them willingly."

The hanyou stared at Sessho-Maru blankly for a moment; flinched as he recalled, and nodded.

"I saw armour like what was used on your friend when I brought you home," he said, "And on the floor of your cell after your recent escape. It was also on the body of the demon you met at the medical facility. You know the one?"

Inu-Yasha nodded and his brother straightened in his seat, rubbing his hand through his hair tiredly. He went for the whiteboard and retrieved the shoulder-bag before returning. He reached down into itand pulled out a manilla folder. He flipped through a few pages of documents inside before he pulled out a few sheets. On it was notes and depictions- schematics, almost- of the body armour that was becoming uncomfortably familiar to Inu-Yasha.

"The barbs on the interior are related to keeping a demon in a heightened state of awareness that makes the aura much more active and malleable. And, from your information, it is your aura that is warping these other demons," his brother explained, "You recall how I mentioned that the majority of their living captives were hanyous? The Operator I interrogated told me they were doing aura experiments with them. It stands to reason that, after losing you, Youki was trying to replicate their results using other hanyous. Seemingly unsuccessfully."

"But why hanyous?" Matsuko asked, voicing Inu-Yasha's concerns even as he opened his mouth to do so himself.

Sessho-Maru frowned a bit more deeply.

"I'm still not certain," he admitted, "But Inu-Yasha, it seems from their records of your most recent escapade, you were their next target for manipulation. Purely by their own incompetence, however. There's no way they could warp your aura with your aura."

"Wh... What do you mean?" he asked, unable to keep the shrillness of surprise from his voice.

x

Sessho-Maru flipped through a few more pages until he produced a time log and laid it out so Matsuko and Inu-Yasha could both see it, but he calmly summarized, "Someone had been following you and your friends for a few weeks. However, this person was killed in the initial assault on your home, so when they took you and Kagome, they weren't aware who was who- they believed you were a normal youkai and it was the hanyou that had been killed."

"But nobody was-! What?!" Inu-Yasha all but barked.

His eyes rushed over the words which outlined the same information.

"Wait... They shot Koga in the head. They thought he was dead?"

"They thought he was a dead hanyou. Tests on you initially showed that you were a youkai," Sessho-Maru explained, "You must have changed whilst you were unconscious. It probably saved your life."

"More than once, I bet," the hanyou confessed, "But..."

His finger went to a potion on the sheet where a bit he was sure was about Kagome was listed.

"Sorry, but what's this about a mixed-blood human?"

"Again, their utter incompetence," Sessho-Maru said, smirking just a little, "They believed Kagome to be mixed-blood due to the dragon's aura imbedded in hers. Their equipment isn't sophisticated enough to determine such subtle variations yet."

"Thankfully," Matsuko added, "To be fair, ours isn't there yet either, but we've got demons as aura readers and they don't, so..."

She pushed up her glasses and squinted at the page.

"They actually have very strict rules about murdering humans, strangely," she explained.

She pulled back a bit as Inu-Yasha looked at her inquisitively.

"They have to prove they're either mixed-blood or do aura tests to see if they're from the past."

"Humans from the past have a much more active, specific spiritual energy in their aura, just in general," Sessho-Maru added.

Inu-Yasha grimaced and leaned forward, elbows on the table as he rubbed his forehead.

"Oh, man, this is such bullshit," he grumbled, "I hate this. Did I mention I hate this?"

"I understand," his brother assured him, somewhat sympathetically, "However, your latest mishap has actually set us forward a great deal. The pieces are almost all aligned."

The notion was a bit reassuring but Inu-Yasha's ears drooped nonetheless. Sessho-Maru got out of his seat, returning to the whiteboard, while Matsuko leaned in closer to him and patted his shoulder.

"You need to let me analyze you sometime, okay?" she said, "Maybe we can find out what's so special about your aura in particular."

"That doesn't sound fun," the hanyou said quietly.

"Don't you worry, our methods aren't nearly as crude as theirs are," the woman said proudly, and she grinned when Inu-Yasha's skeptical, frowning gaze met hers, "It's not invasive at all. I'll just need to find an expert on hanyou auras, which may take a bit of time."

"Is it really so different?" he asked, sitting up a bit, "Isn't it just a half-half thing?"

"No," Sessho-Maru put in.

x

Inu-Yasha's attention was drawn to him, where he was scrawling complicated notes about their discussion all over the whiteboard.

"No?"

When the youkai didn't answer, Matsuko smiled bashfully and said, "Let me explain." Inu-Yasha was happy to let her.

"Though every hanyou is unique," she said; she rustled through her notes quickly, looking for a blank sheet of paper, "What they are at the core of them is not."

Failing to find something without text, she flipped an important-looking document over and whipped out a big, blue marker and a red pen. She dew two circles, labelling one "human", and the other, "demon".

"Humans and demons are totally separate species, as you know," she explained, "But... uh... Taishio-sama, is there a purple over there?"

As she turned to the whiteboard, a pen in bright purple flew through the air towards her and she fumbled to catch it before she whirled on her notes and drew a circle in-between in violet, scrawling the word "hanyou" overtop.

"But demons originated supernaturally, somehow and... well, it prevents that whole mule or liger conundrum when humans and demons interbreed. When a demon and a human produce an offspring, their genes don't do this-"

She sketched one more circle quickly, half in red and half in blue, and then crossed it out quickly.

"No. Not that. They do this."

She tapped the purple circle.

"They create something new where the original parts aren't distinguishable from one another. So, in this way, a hanyou's genetic code and aura are different from a human's and a demon's."

"So... wait, we're like a whole new creature?" Inu-Yasha asked.

His ears folded back and he frowned.

"Yes and no. It's a bit complicated, and we don't understand it completely," she said, "I'm sure it has something to do with the supernatural aspect of demons. But that's kind of the gist of it."

"That's... weird. Okay. I think I get it," he said, "So there's something weird about hanyou auras that make them able to do this...?"

"Something," Sessho-Maru agreed, "But specifically, something about yours."

"Shit."

"Indeed."

All three were quiet in thought for a moment. Inu-Yasha gulped.

"I think I can fix it, though. I think I may have already started on Kemtau. I just need a bit more time..."

"Do you plan on doing this alone?" Sessho-Maru asked.

"I... I think so. I think I might have to," he confessed.

"Definitely keep us posted," Matsuko said quickly, "That would be a huge breakthrough. Somehow I doubt it's only these two."

Inu-Yasha's heart sunk, but he nodded. He rubbed his forehead, exhausted; heartsick, but was quickly surprised by Matsuko as she stood and leaned over the table to pat him reassuringly on the shoulder.

"You're doing really well," she said, "I'm sure you can let Taishio-sama know if you need any help with this, right?"

The hanyou didn't know how to answer, but Sessho-Maru simply said, "Of course." Matsuko seemed pleased, and the youkai said, "Keep your notes ready and get the rest of the researchers in your unit here as soon as possible."

"Oh! Yeah, of course," she said, fishing her phone out of her pocket, "Excuse me."

She started dialling as she walked out of the room, leaving the two youkai in silence after the heavy closing of the door.

x

Hesitantly, Inu-Yasha got to his feet. He felt a little nauseous. He edged up behind his brother, looking at the notes he had made about their conversation; he sighed.

"What?" Sessho-Maru asked.

"Nothing," he replied instantly; reconsidered, "I... I guess I'm just sorry I caused such a huge mess..."

His brother turned to look at him with a faint smudge of confusion on his face.

"I don't follow," he said, "What part of this, exactly, are you responsible for?"

"Well, it's my aura, and-"

"Little brother, don't be an idiot," Sessho-Maru said simply, "You aren't responsible for what these psychopaths have done with something they stole from you, and even so, you are doing well to repair their damage."

Inu-Yasha almost couldn't process what he had just heard. His mouth hung open for a few seconds; his brother didn't say anything. He turned back to the whiteboard and finished up scrawling something in about the barbed armour tying into the aura manipulation.

"So, I think we're about done with you here for now," he said, "I am able to give you a ride home if you would like, but it won't be for another hour or two."

"Well..."

"I need to discuss something with your friend's father, anyway. Okoze."

"Oh... Okay, sure. Thanks."

The man nodded and paused, staring Inu-Yasha down for a moment. However, he had no idea what his brother wanted. Before he could ask, he was taken aback when Sessho-Maru smiled, just slightly.

"You're doing very well," he said, "I am proud of you."

Inu-Yasha felt like he had been smacked. He stared, wide-eyed at his brother, unable to even make a noise, his heart suddenly thumping. His brain refused to believe what he had just heard. His confusion was made even worse when his brother roughly tussled his ears: despite everything, he almost lost it. The uncomfortable feeling of his throat tightening caught him off guard and he coughed- muttered a low, quiet, "Thank you." He turned for the door quickly and left, not daring to wipe his eyes until he had shut it firmly behind him.

"Oh shit," he whispered to himself.

He had to take a moment to catch his breath.

He... doesn't blame me? Nobody blames me? He's proud?!

He had to sit, taking the wall and rubbing both hands through his hair. Then, he began to laugh. Quietly, mostly, but uncontrollably.

"Fuck. Shit. Oh, fucking... fuck."

He gulped and rested his head back against the wall, his ears drooping low. He giggled and dug at his eye with his knuckle. He needed a nap.

oOoOoOoO

Whistling to herself, enjoying the breeze in her hair and the sun peeking on and off through fluffy grey clouds, Kagome made her way back home, a plastic bag of medical supplies and chocolate bars in one hand, another of used DVDs she had found on sale in the other. Didn't look like rain today, finally.

x

The moving van in the driveway next-door was gone already. She wondered how they had got unloaded so fast; shrugged to herself. She took a moment to look up at her own new house. She knew it was temporary, but she liked it so far. From the street, it was really a relief to see that she couldn't see in the front windows even in the daylight. She smirked at herself- probably should have checked that sooner.

x

Inside, she found Kemtau sitting right up close to a television set, eyes wide as he sat through the news. Koga sat on the sofa behind him, stretched out lazily.

"Having fun?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

"This is really neat," Kemtau breathed.

"I thought I'd explain some modern things to him," he said, "He likes the t.v."

"So... So interesting," the large demon muttered.

"How did you explain that one," she asked.

"Had to explain photos first," Koga said, "Then after that is was pretty easy. Moving photos that tell a story. Or... news. Like right now."

"Right," Kagome laughed, "Nice. Any news from Yasha?"

"He hasn't called," Koga said.

"But... it's been hours," she said, and then frowned, "Think he's okay?"

"Probably," Koga suggested, "So where did you go?"

"Walked around, got lost, found the drug store," she said, and then proudly presented him with her spoils, "And then walked around some more, found one of those movie rental stores going out of business, and then I took a break, got lost again, and then came straight home."

She laughed and Koga snickered She offered him a chocolate bar, which he readily accepted. As she moved to offer one to Kemtau, however, she noticed blood had seeped straight through on of the bandages on his arm.

x

"Kemtau, does that hurt?" she asked.

He didn't answer at first, instead tapping the television lightly with his claws.

"How does this lady know it's going to be sunny or rainy?" he asked, "Is she an oracle?"

"No, silly, she just reports the weather," Kagome said with a smile, "They have scientists who watch clouds and a bunch of other stuff to predict the weather."

"What?" Kemtau asked; he turned and blinked his big blue eyes at her in a way that said he was totally clueless. Kagome waved it off and then grabbed one of his hands to guide him to his feet.

"C'mon, I should rebandage you if you're bleeding through stuff," she said, "Is that okay?"

"Sure, sounds good."

x

She took him into the bigger of the bathrooms and plopped him down on the closed toilet seat as she unraveled the wrappings on his closest arm. She grimaced at the sight of the holes, still open and oozing. He didn't complain at all, however, and she carefully cleaned and rewrapped them. Also prodding him to take off his shirt, she did the best she could with his side and back, cleaning and applying ointment, but due simply to his size, she was already at the end of a full roll of bandages- wrappings which now easily replaced a shirt on him.

"Damn," she said quietly, "We're going to need to figure out what'll get you healing. I don't know if you're even healing at a human rate."

"I'm sorry," he said.

She shook her head and patted his shoulder reassuringly.

"Inu-Yasha can do something about this, I'm sure of it," she said.

"He did help before," Kemtau volunteered.

"But... before he did, you said... that hole in your head healed up pretty fast, right?" she asked, and when he nodded, she cupped her chin and wondered, "Damn, maybe you'll only heal right once he's fixed you totally. Guess we're going to have to hurry."

She tried to keep a calm face, checked the demon over once more, and then said, "Okay, good to go, I think, you wanna just stand up really quick so I can see if I missed a spot."

Obediently, he did so, but when she moved in the check him once more, to her surprise, Kemtau let out a shriek and ducked behind her, grasping her shoulders nervously.

"What, what?" she asked, whirling on him and he squeaked out, "What is that?!"

Kagome didn't know what to say, or even what he was talking about, until he pointed to the mirror. "What, the mirror? Have you never seen one before?"

"No, no, what's in there?" he asked quickly, "Is that really a mirror? Are you sure that isn't a... a television?"

Kagome was confused and scratched her head, and the huge youkai tentatively peeked around her and then let out a high whine, covering his face with his hands. Kagome raised her eyebrows and then looked at the mirror and then back to Kemtau. It took her a moment, but with a sudden sense of pity, she knelt down to the demon and held his large hands in hers, asking, "Are you scared of that?" He bit his lip and nodded, and Kagome sighed quietly and then gently pulled him upright.

x

He recoiled a bit before the mirror, pulled in a sharp breath, and then looked at Kagome worriedly for just a moment. He darted to the mirror and pressed a hand against it, gulping, and he asked, "That's... That's my face?" His blue eyes, wide and starting to tear up a little, darted to Kagome.

"That's really what I look like?"

"I... take it that's not what you remember looking like?" the girl asked worriedly.

Kemtau ran his hands along his forehead and snout, his ears drooping back, and he whispered, "I look so old and... and scary..."

"Oh, well... not that scary," Kagome said, trying to sound reassuring as she put a hand on his shoulder, "But, what do you mean old? ...How old are you?"

Kemtau stuck out his tongue a little and frowned a bit before he turned to Kagome and held up six fingers. The girl tilted her head and felt her heart sink, her eyes widening as the youkai said, "This many years. Um... six. Right?"

Kagome's face paled and she felt her hands start to shake. She grabbed Kemtau by the shoulders and demanded, "You're six years old?" The youkai nodded and grinned a bit bashfully and Kagome gawked for a moment before turning away and starting to pace, throwing her arms in the air.

"Six?!"

"Are...? Kagome, I'm sorry, are you upset?" Kemtau asked.

"What?! No, no, just... Well, not at you, but...!"

She whirled on him and grabbed his shoulders again and said, "No wonder you speak like a child!" Kemtau's ears perked a little and he smiled; Kagome grasped him tightly in a hug and Kemtau let out a surprised, "Oh!" and hugged her gently in return.

"Thank you!"

Kagome gritted her teeth and squished him close, trying not to cry.

"I'm sorry," she said again, "If... If I had realized, I would probably have been giving you hugs this whole time."

"You're brave," he said; when Kagome looked at him with confusion, his ears were drooped back, and he admitted, "I wouldn't hug me. I look really scary, I don't even know what I am right now!"

"No, no, no, don't say that," she said, "You're still you, you're just bigger. It's okay. It's fine. I can fix this."

"Fix this?" he repeated.

Kagome nodded vigorously, mostly trying to convince herself.

"It's going to be okay," she assured him, "It's going to be fine."

She paced the small bathroom again as Kemtau scooted out of her way, only snapping out of it when she heard Koga calling, "Hey Kags?" She quickly stuck her head out of the door, calling, "What is it?"

"Can I talk to you for a sec?"

She bit her lip and looked back at Kemtau, realizing that Koga had probably heard everything. She took a deep breath and she told him, "Just... wait for me, okay?" The demon nodded and Kagome darted out of the room and down stairs.

x

Koga was waiting at the front door with his jacket and shoes on. Before she could say a word, he said, "I was just taking a look around outside and Sota said he wanted to check out some of the stores nearby because he's kind of bored. Is that okay?"

"You don't need to ask me," she said, trying to conceal her relief.

"I know, but, you know, just in case you had any sudden safety worries that I didn't think of," he said, "Or if you wanted any of us to stay, you know, since..."

"Since at least one of us is stuck here with Kemtau?" she asked with a laugh, "Nah, that's fine, I went out earlier. I can't think of anything else in terms of safety."

She shook her head; Koga frowned slightly and tilted his head.

"You okay?" he asked.

"Fine! Fine."

He raised an eyebrow, but she clammed up and he shrugged. He patter her on the shoulder just as the front door opened a crack and Sota peeked in, asking, "What'd she say?"

"We're good," Koga assured him.

"Cool."

"We'll be out for a few hours, I think," he said.

"That's fine. Have a good time."

Koga nodded, but hesitated before opening the door. He asked, "You sure you're okay?"

"We can talk about it later," she said, "You and Sota go have fun. I'm just glad you two are getting along."

Koga nodded again and then headed out.

x

Kagome felt like her legs were jelly. She sighed deeply and rubbed a hand through her hair.

"Shit," she muttered.

When she turned, she saw Kemtau peeking from around the corner to the kitchen, looking a little nervous.

"Is everything okay?" he asked.

She nodded and tried not to grimace, wracking her brain for anything that could help him along. Sessho-Maru was meeting with Inu-Yasha now, so calling him would be useless. The only other person who really seemed to know much about anything spiritual was her grandfather. She gulped. She didn't even know if she could reach them, but she went passed Kemtau into the kitchen and picked up the phone anyway. She dialled her mom's number, unsure if it was even still in use, but when she heard her mother's familiar, "Hello?" She wanted to melt.

"M-Mom," she said, "It's me."

"I know, Kagome, it's very good to hear from you."

She sounded happy. Kagome smiled.

"Y-Yeah, um... I need to tell you, we moved."

"...What? What happened, why did you-?"

"It got dangerous," Kagome said tiredly, "It's complicated. I'll explain when you get back. But... Inu-Yasha's brother's looking after all of us for now."

"Oh, that's great," her mother said, sighing with relief, "I'm glad. So, we will meet up back at the Shrine then, right?"

"R-Right."

"So don't unpack all your boxes," she laughed, "We'll be home within the month."

"What?" Kagome barked, "Really?"

"Yes, Kagome. Finally," she said, "I'll be so happy to see you and Sota again. And to meet all your friends! I can hire someone to dust it off and help you all to get settled back in maybe a week before we get there, how does that sound?"

Kagome smiled.

"That sounds great. I didn't expect that when I called. I also have some news... About... You know, dad."

"What?"

The woman's voice was suddenly grim.

"What happened, Kagome?"

"He was... Well, I guess cheating on you isn't the right word, since you're separated, but-"

"Oh, Kagome, that's fine! That's perfectly fine. I was going to go forward with the divorce as soon as I got back," she assured her, "Don't worry about that at all, honey."

"It's not just that," Kagome said, "He attacked me. I had him arrested for assault."

"Wh... What? WHAT?! Oh my god, Kagome, are you okay!?"

"Mom, mom, mom, it's fine. I'm fine."

"Oh, my god, Kagome, if... If I knew...! Has he hurt you before, Kagome? Has... He has, hasn't he?"

"...Not anymore."

She heard her mother sniff on the other end of the phone, and the girl's heart broke. She felt her throat clog.

"M-Mom. It's okay. It's done. He's done."

She heard her mother take a long, deep breath. She muttered bastard under her breath and Kagome couldn't help a smile.

"We'll talk more when I get home," she suggested, "Honey, was that what you needed to tell me?"

"Yeah. But, also, I need to talk to Ji-chan."

"Oh really? I was under the impression that you two weren't on the greatest of terms."

"That's because I thought he was nuts," Kagome laughed as she wiped her eyes, "Not so much anymore."

Her mother was quiet for a moment, so much so that Kagome was worried they had been disconnected.

"Mom?"

"Yes, of course, he's right here. I love you, honey, you know that, right?"

"Yeah, of course," Kagome said.

"Tell Sota I said 'I love you', too, okay?"

"Yeah."

x

She heard the phone change hands, and the raspy old voice of her grandfather, speaking a bit too loud, crackled in with a big, puzzled, "Hello?!"

"Hi, Ji-chan, it's me," she said, "You know. Kagome. Your granddaughter."

"Why you little-! Of course I know who you are," he grumbled, "What did you need?"

"Right. Uh... You know how before you guys left, you were trying to teach me some of that miko stuff?" she asked.

"This better not be leading up to some practical joke, young lady!"

"No, no, Ji-chan, listen," she said, laughing, "I actually need some advice."

"Oh?"

He suddenly sounded intrigued.

"Taking some of my lessons to heart, finally, eh?" he asked smugly.

"Sort of. Listen," she said, "What do I do if I feel like... maybe... someone's sick. In their aura."

"Sick in their aura," her grandfather repeated, "That's ridiculous, Kagome. We call that being possessed, not sick in their aura. Pah!"

"Possessed," she repeated, frowning, "You know that doesn't sound any less ridiculous. But whatever. What do I do for someone like that?"

"You know someone like that?"

"Maybe. I don't know," Kagome said, "What can I do?"

"Meditate on it," he said, and though she rolled her eyes, he said, "Meditation will clear your mind and help you focus on the aura more clearly. Perhaps you can use your powers then. That is, if you can ever awaken them. That is an entirely different process all together, which takes years of intense study, prayer, meditation, and-"

"Okay, okay, skipping all that, you say mediate on the problem aura and... use powers. Which powers?"

"Spiritual powers!" he said, frustrated, "Aren't you listening?"

"But which ones?" Kagome pushed.

"How should I know, I have never met someone who was possessed, Kagome!" he barked.

The girl sighed and rubbed her forehead.

"Okay, okay, Ji-chan. Thanks."

She hung up on him as she heard him shout something about the ungrateful youths. She rubbed her forehead and muttered, "Thanks for nothing."

x

Beside her, Kemtau tilted his head and commented, "He sure sounds grumpy."

"Yup," Kagome laughed, "That's just my grandpa for you. Oh well."

"And that was your mother on there, also?" he asked, "Koga said something about phones, but... I am still a little confused. That is your mother and grandfather but they are far away, speaking into a similar thing to you?"

"Yeah, basically."

"But it's not magic."

"No, not magic."

"That's confusing."

Kagome laughed and patted his shoulder, assuring him, "Look, once this is all settled, I'm sure we can give you a proper lesson on this stuff. For now we just need to concentrate on getting you better."

"Right," he said.

He seemed a little perturbed and sighed, looking at his huge hands. Kagome paused for a moment and then rested one of hers on his- it made her hand look like that of a child. Kemtau was surprised and then said, "That is very weird."

"Tell me about it," she said, and she looked at him and shook her head, "Six years old... Sheesh. Those creeps really have no conscience at all, do they?"

She rubbed her head, and then nodded at the door.

"Wanna sit on the sofa with me? Maybe meditation will actually help if I can find out what the heck to do."

"And that'll help me?"

"I sure hope so."

oOoOoOoO

As Kagome was settling down to try mediation with Kemtau, Inu-Yasha was on his way hom in the back of Sessho-Maru's car, his mind still frazzled, and yet relieved, both for the new information and for the fact that he did not have to endure Nomi's insane driving for another hour and a half. Matsuko was in the front passenger's seat, texting furiously. She looked a little tired. He didn't blame her.

x

He was finally starting to relax and drift off, at least so he felt, when he was jerked awake again by his brother saying his name.

"Yeah?" he asked groggily.

"Isn't that your wolf friend?"

Inu-Yasha peeked out the window. He was a little disoriented, but he realized they were stopped at a corner. In fact, he could see Koga, walking with Sota, down the road.

"We're just about three blocks away from your house," he said before the hanyou could even ask.

"Maybe I'll walk with them," he said, "Thanks for-"

"It's fine. I'll let you know when we're leaving Okoze's."

Inu-Yasha nodded and pulled his hood up; Matsuko waved him off.

x

Koga noticed him as soon as he set foot on the sidewalk.

"Hey!" he called, waving as the car sped away passed them, "How'd it go?"

Inu-Yasha quickly caught up and assured him, "Fine. Better. It's... Better," as they continued on their way home.

"That's good to hear," he said, grinning.

"Was it a big deal?" Sota asked, "Seemed like it. Did you have to do anything weird?"

"Nah. Just told them what I learned," he explained with a shrug, "I... I guess I'm feeling a little better about all of this."

"That's good," Koga said.

"So what are you guys doing out here?" he asked.

"Exploring, mostly," Sota said, "It's a cool neighbourhood. Have you looked around? I recognize a little of it. Our old house is not too far from here."

"Same," Inu-Yasha said, "Err... Well, more so, my old school."

"All the way over here?" Sota asked, surprised, and then cut his eyes at him, "Ah, I get it, this is the one you got accepted to, right?"

Inu-Yasha scoffed and rolled his eyes; Koga asked, "What?"

"Don't tell me you don't know," Sota asked a bit shrilly, "High school entrance exams! You get to go to certain schools based on how well you do. And either this school sucks and you had nowhere else to go, or is super good, or else why would anyone travel that far from home just to go there?"

"It was in the middle," Inu-Yasha said.

"Yeah right," Sota laughed.

"I didn't go to school for school," the hanyou said, rolling his eyes, "I went to learn how to be a teenager. I picked one just... in the middle."

"That doesn't make any sense. What sort of scores did you get?"

"Do we really have to go into that?"

"What? Don't get defensive, I'm just curious."

Inu-Yasha rolled his eyes again.

"Top."

"Top? No way. Come on."

The hanyou shrugged and Koga couldn't help but laugh.

"You don't strike me as the studying type," he commented.

"I'm not. I just retain information well after I read it," he explained, "I bet you're the same."

"I... hmm... now that you mention it," Koga said, "I was reading way above my age group. My mom said I was even talking a bit when I was just a few days old."

"See?" Inu-Yasha said, folding his arms, "It's just a demon thing. It's not like I'm saying I'm super smart or anything."

"You lucky jerk," Sota said, frowning.

"What?" Inu-Yasha said, cutting his eyes at the boy, "You worried about school all of a sudden?"

"N-No!" Sota said indignantly.

Koga had to hold in a laugh; Inu-Yasha didn't bother. The boy frowned and pouted.

"I'm telling Kagome you made fun of me!" he said, taking off at a run down the road.

Inu-Yasha rolled his eyes and sarcastically said, "Oh no!"

x

They reached the house soon after, where Sota had left the door slightly ajar. Inu-Yasha could hear him whining from the driveway. He also heard Kagome laugh- assure the boy that Inu-Yasha had just been teasing. When they got inside, Sota was already in the kitchen, eating a chocolate bar and rubbing Buyo on the face, seeming to have completely forgotten about his insecurities.

x

Eager to reunite with Kagome, Inu-Yasha ditched his shoes at the door and pulled his hood down before he entered the living room, Koga closely behind. He was startled, then, to see Kagome on the sofa, sitting and reading quite comfortably as, cozied in a blanket, Kemtau clung to her tightly.

"Um..." he said.

"Hey, hi," she said, shooting him a smile; she looked tired, but also rather pleased, "Everything okay?"

"Yeah, but-"

"I was just doing a meditation exercise to try to get into Kemtau's aura. I barely got beyond that outer energy shell thing, though. It was really tiring, so sorry that I don't sound more excited to see you guys," she said apologetically, "But I'm glad you're back."

"Um, Kagome, you do realize that there is a huge demon sleeping on you, right?"

"Yeah, obviously," the girl replied with a laugh, but she sounded exhausted,"I have news. And I don't think you guys are gonna like it."

"What?" Inu-Yasha asked.

Kagome clenched her jaw for just a moment and said, "Dunno if you want to hear it now. You look like you're in a good mood."

"But now I really want to know," Koga said, pouting.

Inu-Yasha was confused, but he nodded. Kagome gulped and her expression was already one of regret. She pointed at Kemtau.

"He's six years old."

x

The boys were quiet after she said that. Koga's jaw dropped and she saw Inu-Yasha's face pale. After a while, he asked, "He told you that?"

"We were talking and I ended up asking him how old he was," she explained quietly, "He... He held up his fingers, Yasha. Six years old."

Koga stuttered out something utterly baffled. Inu-Yasha felt like the floor had been yanked out from below him. He dropped down, not even noticing the chair that caught him and stared blankly at Kemtau.

"He's just a little kid."

His tone was rather matter of fact, but soft; a little disbelieving.

"Oh... Oh shit," Koga said, gulping, "But Kagome, shit, I kicked all that concrete on top of him, I gotta apologize!"

"No, no, no, I don't want to remind him of the fight, Koga," Kagome insisted quickly, "Nope. Don't bring it up."

"But-"

"Please don't," the girl said.

Koga grimaced, but he nodded. Kagome let out a sigh of relief and then cast a glance at the hanyou on the chair. Her heart thumped as she locked onto his blank eyes. He looked almost like he was fake; his skin was so pale.

"Yasha?" she asked hesitantly.

He got up, almost mechanical, and said, "I'll be back," with a dry voice. He started walking for the front door before either of them could say a word, and within a second it had opened and clicked closed behind him.

"...Should I have gone easier on him?" Kagome asked worriedly.

"I think that was about as easy as you could have-" Koga began, but he was cut short as he let out a yelp to the sound of a huge, rumbling crash.

"What the hell was that?!" he squawked.

Kagome winced as Kemtau squeezed her arm, his blue eyes shooting open; ears drooping.

"It's fine," she assured him, but her voice was a bit shrill.

Koga quickly assured her, "I'll check it out," and raced outside in an instant.

x

At first, he saw nothing but he could hear a low crackling sound behind the house. He hurried there but was frozen in his tracks as he saw a hole punched through the concrete wall from their yard into the new neighbour's. Inu-Yasha was leaning over it, his hands crushing into the low ledge he had made, grinding concrete into dust.

"Oh, shit!" Koga barked.

He rushed to the hanyou and grabbed his arm, yanking him back as he shouted, "Get a grip!" He was surprised that Inu-Yasha didn't fight him, but one look at his face told him that he was probably in shock.

"Hey," he said.

Inu-Yasha didn't say a thing; didn't even acknowledge anything had been said.

"Hey!" he said again.

When the boy still didn't move to reply, Koga bit his lip, frowned, and then took a step back, apologizing before throwing a punch at his face. He was shocked when his fist actually connected and Inu-Yasha collapsed onto the ground, and he let out another, "Oh, shit!". Finally, his friend moved a bit, raising a hand to the darkening spot on his face.

"I... I'm sorry, was that too hard?!" he asked frantically, "I just thought-!"

"It's fine," Inu-Yasha said- his words sounded a bit weird.

"Oh shit!"

He knelt to help him up, but Inu-Yasha was sitting up on his own rather quickly; his jaw looked a bit lopsided. He turned his head and spat out some blood and, to Koga's horror, three molars before sticking a finger in his mouth and saying, "Ow."

"Oh, shit! Shit! I didn't mean to do-!"

"It's fine."

He grabbed his own lower jaw and shoved it sideways- there was a click as it popped back into place and he winced, saying, "Ow," again, "It's a bit broken."

"Oh, god, I'm sorry, I didn't-!"

"It's fine," Inu-Yasha said again.

He looked around and saw the wall; he frowned.

"I did that, huh?"

"Bit out of your mind?"

"Yeah."

"Those teeth are gonna grow back, right?"

"Oh, yeah, don't worry."

Inu-Yasha laughed. He sounded exhausted. He rubbed his head and then got to his feet. Koga hopped up quickly to join him, but before the wolf could ask him more, he jerked his thumb towards the neighbour's house and said, "My brother's still over there. I need to tell him."

"What, that you lost your shit?" Koga asked.

"No, about Kemtau."

"Oh."

Inu-Yasha patted him on the shoulder heavily and moved off. Koga hung back for only a second but then followed with a sort of urgency in his steps.

x

They found Sessho-Maru just in the next yard, Matsuko nearby chatting with Sango's father. He looked like he was waiting for them.

"So?" he asked Inu-Yasha flatly.

"Problem," he said, "Kemtau's six years old."

Sessho-Maru's eyebrows raised just a fraction.

"That was not what I was expecting," he admitted.

"Yeah, me neither," the hanyou agreed.

"Why are you bleeding?"

"I punched him," Koga said, "Sorry..."

"Don't be, he probably needed it."

"Hey! That's...! ...True..."

Sessho-Maru's brow furrowed and he seemed to look off into nothing.

"What do you need from me?"

"I'm not sure," Inu-Yasha admitted, "I... I need somewhere I can try to work on him."

"Excuse me."

Matsuko pushed her way into the discussion.

"Couldn't he do it back at the medical centre?" she asked, "I'm sure we can prepare a room."

Inu-Yasha would have been grateful for the space and was about to say it, but Sessho-Maru chimed in with a prompt and sturdy, "No." All eyes turned on him curiously, though he didn't say another word until Inu-Yasha prompted, "Why?"

"You do not want to inflict a medical laboratory on a child in that much distress," he said.

"He's right," Koga said quietly, elbowing Inu-Yasha, "A doctor's office always used to make me panic as a kid, just from the smells. A place like that medical centre..."

"That makes sense," Inu-Yasha said, "But then where...?"

"Somewhere safe," Matsuko said, "And comfortable. With space."

He was at a loss.

"Bring him home," Sessho-Maru said.

Inu-Yasha shot his brother a confused look; Sessho-Maru rolled his eyes.

"The living room should suffice. Just try not to break anything."

"Oh! Shi-! Okay," Inu-Yasha said quickly, "Thanks. That's... That'll probably be really helpful."

His brother nodded and Inu-Yasha, for some reason, found that reassuring. Matsuko gave him a skeptical look nonetheless before she nodded and said, "That'll definitely be more comfortable. And very safe. Good luck, Inu-Yasha-kun."

"Day after tomorrow," Sessho-Maru said, "For now, relax. Regain yourself. You will do fine."

Koga gave Inu-Yasha a worried look, but the hanyou nodded and took a deep breath.

"Right. Right... Okay. I'm... Yeah. Shit. Okay."

He turned to return to the house, still muttering to himself. Koga hurried to follow.

x

Kagome met them in the front yard, her eyes wide and frantic. She rushed Inu-Yasha and hugged him tightly around the shoulders, saying, "Yasha, I'm sorry, I should have waited! Are you okay? I just thought you needed to know, and-! Agh, I'm so sorry!"

She kissed him before he could say a word, but she pulled back with a grimace on her face.

"You taste like blood," she said.

"Sorry."

"My fault" Koga said sheepishly.

Kagome looked at him with wide, confused eyes, and Inu-Yasha waved him off tiredly and drooped into Kagome's hug, resting his forehead against hers for a moment. She took in a heavy breath and she said, quietly, "So... what now?"

"I need a drink," the hanyou joked.

He ruffled Kagome's hair and kissed her forehead before heading into the house passed her. He caught a glimpse of the sleepy, blanket wrapped Kemtau peeking out from the living room and he wilted, saying a quick, "Sorry," before heading into the kitchen to grab a large glass of water.

x

He took a seat in the kitchen, struggling to process everything. Before he even noticed, Kagome was beside him, tentatively holding his hand.

"Inu-Yasha," she said, "I know, dumb question, but... are you okay?"

"Mostly," he said, "That... That was really a shock, though."

"Yeah, of course," she said; she laughed tiredly.

He took a deep breath and looked up; noticed Koga lurking just beyond the door. He beckoned him in and said, "You're just an involved as us. How are you holding up?"

"Oh, I was just..." Koga said, nervous; he tented his fingers, "I just feel like shit. He's so young. And what I did..."

"Koga, there's no way you could have known," Kagome assured him, "Relax."

"Yeah, I mean, shit, I did way worse," Inu-Yasha laughed, "I think it's safe to assume we're all not feeling great about that. But..."

"But?" Kagome echoed.

"My brother said to... to basically use the rest of today and tomorrow to rest; bring Kemtau to his house after that and try to reverse it all completely."

"You think you can do that?" she asked, her eyes widening.

"...Yeah. Yeah, I think so," he said, "I'll do everything I can. But... I mean... I might... I might-"

"We'll be there to help, of course," Kagome said, reassuringly.

He nodded and Koga slapped his shoulder.

"We're still a team, man," he assured him, "Even though I just... uh... sorry about that."

"Wait, what happened exactly?" Kagome asked.

Koga's face instantly flushed and he shut up, but Inu-Yasha laughed and said, "I went into shock and he punched me in the face."

"What?! Is that what this bruise is?!"

"Sorry!" Koga exclaimed.

"No, seriously, I needed it," Inu-Yasha laughed.

"You... You actually bruised him?" Kagome asked the youkai, eyes wide.

She seemed a little impressed.

"He actually broke my jaw."

"WHAT?!"

oOoOoOoO

Inu-Yasha spent most of the rest of the evening stitching up Kemtau's open wounds; a very slow and painstaking process. Though just seeing the huge youkai filled him with guilt, and though pushing passed it was not working, his brother's words, and Kagome's as well, gave him a sense of hope. Kemtau, despite his obvious discomfort, was very agreeable through the whole process, and yet still rather timid. It made Inu-Yasha really wonder what his original appearance had been.

x

Despite his anxiety, Inu-Yasha actually managed to get himself unconscious for at least half the night. He was a little jealous of Kagome, who had absolutely no problems at all, due to overexerting herself through meditation, as ridiculous as he thought that sounded. She explained that she had gotten the idea from her grandfather, who was otherwise useless as a mentor for her powers. She also let them know about returning to the Shrine. Koga seemed very excited about the prospect. It worried Inu-Yasha just a little, though. Would a shrine like that really accept demons living in it? He couldn't imagine any spirits of Kagome's ancestors would be too pleased with it. However, he decided they'd deal with that when the time came, and not before. He had more than enough on his mind, and he knew his friends did as well.

x

The next day, despite his growing anxiety, Inu-Yasha did his best to take his brother's advice and relax. The fracture in his jaw was already gone, much to the relief of the others- especially Koga. Though they had to talk Kagome down from trying another meditation session, the rest of the day was rather calm and, though not entirely relaxing, Inu-Yasha was finally starting to accept that, no matter what, he was going to have to give it his all to rescue Kemtau tomorrow.

x

Kagome spent most of her day bouncing between the boys in the house, as if it were somehow her responsibility to make sure everyone was doing well. Inu-Yasha was both amused and very appreciative. Somehow that girl was able to make it seem like everything was going to be okay, even though Inu-Yasha could feel her own anxiety. Kemtau seemed to be picking up on it, too, but every time he seemed to get too close to it, Koga popped right in with some well-timed game or other distraction. Inu-Yasha was impressed.

oOoOoOoO

Night closed in a little faster than the hanyou would have liked, accompanied, to his frustration, by the rumble of a thunder storm in the distance. Though it still made his heart beat a bit faster, it was such a relief to not have his body freeze in panic anymore. He wasn't certain exactly what in him had changed that night other than regaining his vision, but since then, his terror had reduced to a deep uneasiness.

x

He went to bed a little early, as if trying to get the day over with. Nerves still made his body feel tense as he sat alone on the bed, taking deep breaths, trying to tune out the world. He couldn't, however, switch out the sound of Kagome's bare feet gently slapping the hardwood floor as she entered the room.

"Hang on, I'm changing," she said.

"Gotcha."

His ears twitched, but he didn't turn around, not even when she said, "Okay, done," and hopped onto the bed behind him.

"You still not doing great?" she asked, leaning over his shoulder, "Need a cuddle?"

"I'm... I'm okay," he said.

Kagome pouted a little and dropped back onto her knees. She struggled in the blanket for a moment and rolled off the bed before darting around him, pushing him back onto the bed a bit so she had room to sit in front of him.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she asked.

"Talk about what?" he asked.

"Anything. Everything. Whatever. You ready for tomorrow?"

"I guess," he said, "I'm... I guess I'm still a bit worried."

"Are you ever not worried?" she wondered.

When he did little more than grimace, Kagome sighed and wrapped her arms around his chest, leaning her head onto his shoulder and cozying close.

"Listen," she said quietly, "You know none of this is your fault, right?"

For the first time in a while, the hanyou wilted. Her words before echoed in his mind, and the thought of his brother, even, admitting he was proud. His taught muscles gave, just a little, and he let Kagome pull him closer to her body.

"I... I think I'm starting to get that," he admitted quietly.

"Well, you better- wait, what?"

She held him back at arm's length and stared into his eyes, stunned, and he smiled bashfully and shrugged. Kagome gulped and she skimmed his face, as if trying to read any deception. Her expression brightened to a grin and she grabbed his face in her hands, leaning in to kiss him affectionately on the forehead before wrapping him in a tight hug.

"Hey, it's not such a big deal," he protested, but she quickly insisted, "Yeah! Yeah it is!"

She moved back to look him in the eyes and cooed, "I'm really, super proud of you." He didn't quite catch her meaning, but she felt so genuine and glowing that he grinned despite himself. He accepted a kiss readily and cozied the girl in his arms. The bright, upbeat feeling reflected from her lifted his spirits a bit, and he surprised himself as he was able to relax. He lingered tiredly on a blink and he felt Kagome's fingers starting to smooth his brow.

"It's nice to see you not frowning." she said when he met her gaze.

"Do... Do I really do it so much?"

"I guess you just always look like you're thinking about something serious," she said, and then laughed, "You look mature. But you look like a kid again when you aren't so frowny."

His cheeks pinked and he seemed suddenly interested in the banal patterns on the blanket. Kagome's giggle made his face heat up and he gulped. He lifted himself, cupping her chin gently and moved in to kiss her. She eagerly met him halfway.

"I didn't think I would like kissing so much," she said when they parted, "But I really do. It's so nice."

Inu-Yasha didn't know what to say, but he knew his face was burning red. Kagome grinned at him and pulled him back towards her contentedly, resting her forehead against his as she ran her fingers through the hair on the back of his head.

"Still so shy," she laughed.

She was happy to rub his head gently and he relaxed against her, seeming unable to keep his eyes open. Grinning, she shifted him against her body, elated to finally see his shoulder's slump. She cooed and squished him close.

x

They cozied together, but when Kagome quietly said his name, she was a bit surprised when he didn't reply. Leaning back just a bit, she bit her lip to stifle a coo as she realized he had fallen asleep.

"Guess you really needed it, huh?" she whispered.

She kissed his forehead and lay him down in the squishy blankets. He didn't budge; Kagome watched him in silence. She was surprised: he actually looked relaxed. She smiled to herself and slid quietly from the bed, flipping the edge of the blanket up to cover her boyfriend in a cozy cocoon.

x

Pleased, Kagome stretched her arms above her head and turned the lights off and left the room. The sound of large paws caught her attention from a room down and she skittered down the hallway- she was surprised to see Koga, as a wolf, heading towards the bed.

"Hey, having trouble sleeping?" she asked.

"Yeah, a bit," he said as he hopped onto bed, "How about you?"

"Nah. Just checking on everyone. I started rubbing Yasha's hair and he just passed the heck out," she said.

Koga laughed quietly; he stretched his paws forward and then turned towards the pillows, trying to dig the blankets out. Kagome moved in and did it for him, and he happily jumped into the space.

"Should have thought of that before I changed," he laughed.

He reared up onto his haunches and gently booped his wet nose against Kagome's. She grinned and grabbed his fluffy cheeks in her hands and kissed his forehead; he giggled despite himself and reared a little higher to put his paws around her shoulder's in a quick hug.

"I know it's been a rough little while. You're doing really well," he assured her, "Let me know if there's anything I can do, okay?"

"Yeah, of course," she said, "Thanks, wolfie. Goodnight."

She lifted his huge paws and he dropped back onto the mattress, spinning in place before settling cozily into a mess of sheets and blankets. Kagome stared at him for a little before catching herself and letting out a loud, "ugh!"

"What?"

"It's just that you're so fluffy and I really want to pet you, but it's just too weird so I can't and it's really frustrating," she said, and then laughed to herself as he lifted his head, his eyes wide and his ears drooping bashfully.

"O-Oh."

"Sorry," she said, "That was weird. But it's just not fair: I see dogs, I want to pet them."

He snickered and nodded.

"It's okay, I get it. Goodnight."

"Goodnight."

x

She closed the door behind her when she left. She checked in on Sota as well, but he was already asleep. Finally, she went back downstairs and took a peek into the living room. She was a bit surprised to see Kemtau was still awake. He was sitting, crouched on a chair he had moved, in the dark close to the window. For a moment, Kagome felt the unpleasant jerk of panic, but she quickly recalled the walls around the property. His dark pelt was also a help.

"Still up?" she asked; he turned to look at her, his ears perking up, "I'm surprised. It's been a little while."

"Oh, it's just that... sometimes I worry at night," he admitted.

"Oh yeah, why?"

She moved in to stand beside him and he said, "I just sometimes worry that the sun won't rise."

"Why would you worry about that?" she asked.

"You never do?"

He looked surprised. Kagome shrugged and shook her head.

"I guess your faith must be stronger than mine," he said quietly.

"Faith?" Kagome repeated; her brows knitted in confusion, "No, not faith. I mean, it's just what happens, right? Earth goes around the sun and so it comes back up every morning."

Kemtau stared at her blankly and Kagome laughed and rubbed her head.

"Right, right, you're from over a thousand years ago, right? Things have changed. Want me to explain it to you? I mean... Don't get me wrong, I'm not super smart or anything, but I think I can explain the sun thing. You know, so you don't worry so much."

The demon's bright blue eyes locked onto hers and he stared at her as if she had suddenly begun to speak a foreign language.

"Or we could do it a different day," she said with a bashful grin.

Kemtau frowned a little and then looked worried.

"A different day," he agreed quietly, "But... You really think it's not worth worrying about?"

"Yeah."

"And... the sun will rise tomorrow?"

"I promise it will," she said.

She patted his shoulder and one of his huge hands closed around hers. He was shaking. Kagome's heart sunk and she bit her lip. She knelt down a bit and took his hand in hers, asking, "What's wrong?"

The youkai's ears folded back and his eyes were focused downwards.

"I just... I miss my family," he said, "My mother used to always say that as long as the sun rises, she would always find me. But I guess that's kind of silly now, isn't it?"

Kagome was shocked still; felt as if her heart was breaking, certainly not helped when she noticed the faint glimmer of tears in his eyes.

"No, no, that's not silly," she said quickly, "Why would you say that?"

"I'm too far ahead. I know that. But, I still miss everyone."

He dropped his head and after a second, the shaking of his shoulders made Kagome feel a jolt of panic. He sucked in a deep, rasping breath, and she gritted her teeth and moved to pull him into a tight hug. His breathing sped and he gulped air desperately; grasped onto her, shivering. He pushed his face against her shoulder, gritting his teeth. He choked out some strange, distorted sounds and the girl gulped and, after a moment of hesitation, cupped the back of his head and stroked his fur.

"You're gonna be okay," she said quietly, "Promise. Just breathe."

She couldn't even imagine his pain- to be separated from everyone he knew by thousands of years. She almost didn't want to think about who he might have left behind. For someone like him, someone who remembered what they left, it must have been awful. She squeezed him tightly as he leaned into her shoulder.

x

She let him weep until he was done. When he pulled back from her, kneading his eyes with his fists, he looked exhausted. Sniffling, he said a quiet, "Thank you," as he leaned back in his chair, curling up with his knees to his chest. Kagome nodded and smiled tiredly. She patted his shoulder and assured him, "Any time." He nodded and, wincing, yawned widely, large fangs glinting. His eyelids were drooping so the blue glimmer in his eyes was just a sliver. Kagome stood and straightened, fetching one of the blankets from the couch. Kemtau was asleep by the time she returned to him. Trying to keep as quiet as possible, she draped it over him, tucking him in.

x

The girl left and went to the kitchen for a glass of water. Her throat was suddenly dry and scratchy, and she realized her eyes were, too. She rubbed them and let out a deep sigh. Her emotions felt so strained- going to being terrified of what he had been to holding him as he wept was such a dramatic shift that it made her mind reel a little. Helping him suddenly felt much more urgent to her, and she felt so relieved that it would, hopefully, be done tomorrow. She gulped, sipped her water, and then tiredly went upstairs.

x

In the bedroom, Inu-Yasha hadn't moved. She turned the hallway lights off and snuck onto the bed. She lay on her back, staring blankly at the ceiling she couldn't see, blowing out a sigh. She heard Inu-Yasha shift and she winced, suspecting that she had probably been too loud. She felt his arm slip under her neck and his brow touched hers, his light, warm breath puffing against her skin as his claws brushed lazily through the hair on the other side of her head. She felt herself blush and she closed her eyes, but worry still gnawed at her. She didn't know how much she could do, but she wanted more than anything to help. She felt her eyes begin to water and she tentatively lifted a hand to wipe them, but instead found a careful claw testing her eyelid and, gently brushing the tears away.

"You crying?"

His voice, though low and crackly with sleep, was worried and Kagome instantly said, "No."

"You know I can see you, right?"

"Oh... Shit."

"You need anything?"

"N-No, it's fine," she said hurriedly.

She felt him sigh and he kissed her forehead softly and said a quiet, "Sorry."

"Wh...? What are you sorry for?"

He didn't say a word, but scooped her up against his chest and laid with her in a loose, warm embrace. She sighed, her heart still aching, and she clung to him with shaking, tired fingers.

"Can I ask you something?"

"Sure," he said.

"Do... Do you...? Do you ever miss your family?"

"Not really, we just saw Sessho-Maru yesterday."

"No, no, I mean..."

She bit her lip.

"I mean your mom and dad," she said.

"Oh."

He sounded surprised, and finally a bit awake.

"No."

"Not at all?"

She frowned skeptically.

"I guess it kind of sounds like I'm full of shit, but honestly," he said, "I never knew them. I was two when I got here, and my memories don't even go that far."

"Oh..."

She clenched her jaw, feeling little more than heartache.

"That doesn't make you sad?"

"I had Sessho-Maru," he said, "He's... not as bad as he seems."

"...Now that I've gotten to know him, he doesn't seem that bad. You know. Deep down."

The hanyou snickered and she felt him kiss her forehead. She slumped in his arms, lazily smooshing herself into the mattress. still feeling rather miserable, she held him tight and listened to his heart. He sounded relaxed, and she was a little jealous of that. She felt his fingertips begin to run through her hair, and after a little while, it began to make her drowsy. She closed her eyes, vowing to just rest herself for a moment.

x

When she blinked her eyes open, the first thing she noticed was the daylight staining the room a pale gold. She was surprised, brain a big foggy, and she looked around. She realized rather quickly that she was exactly where she had been, up against Inu-Yasha, whom, to her relief, was still asleep. She stayed still, content to ignore the world for a little longer as her hanyou snoozed beside her. She couldn't help but think how nice it was to see him sleeping through the night until morning. They had a big day ahead.


A/N: Massive apologies, incoming! Sorry sorry sorry. Also, BRACE YOURSELF FOR TERRIBLE GRAMMAR AND WORD TYPOS because I always still have some even though I do a three-time proofread, ugh bleh spleh. Sorry. Hope it didn't suck. See you later!