Chapter one


Author's Notes: Inuyasha/Buffy/BatB crossover. Sequel to Promises, Alone in an Alley, a Slayer is Born and Slayer of Nightmares. Go read Slayer of Nightmares before reading this. :-) Alone in an Alley and Promises are optional.


"Well you didn't duck!" Kagome said, inspecting the bruise on Inuyasha's forehead. It was already healing -- she envied his ability to heal in hours or days what would take her weeks -- but it probably still hurt. She'd have been more sympathetic if this wasn't entirely his fault.

"Oh no, woman," he shook his finger at her, grinning. "You're the one who threw the damned boulder at me. Don't blame this one on me."

"I didn't throw the rock at you. I threw it at the vampire behind you. You were supposed to get out of the way when I said, duck!" She stalked into the bathroom to retrieve a bottle of pain killers; she'd hit him hard enough in the head to actually knock him out for a moment, scaring her half to death. Inuyasha was hard to hurt, but she'd thrown a basketball sized boulder with every ounce of her slayer strength and it had conked her hanyou instead of the vampire she was aiming at - the vampire that was inches behind him.

All because he was too stupid to duck when she yelled a warning. Really. All his fault.

"Why didn't you just 'sit' me," he grumbled, "I didn't know there was a vampire behind me. I was too worried about the six of them in front of me. Idiot."

"And the one behind you was about to bite you." Kagome shook her head, and tried to hand him the pill bottle and a glass of water. They honestly weren't sure what would happen if a vampire managed to bite Inuyasha, but everyone who knew anything about the half-youkai blood that ran through his veins shuddered at the thought.

Of course, there was an open question about the ability of your average vampire to actually bite through his skin ... Inuyasha was a hell of a lot tougher than his mostly-human appearance implied.

"Keh. I'm fine." He waved the bottle away. Eyes twinkling, he added, "It's just a scratch."

"Yeah, yeah, and you've got a hard head. It's bone all the way through." She tapped out two pills for herself -- she'd be sore and bruised when she woke up later, otherwise -- and gulped them down.

"I'll show you a bone," Inuyasha said, slowly, eyes still flashing with mischief.

"Hmmm. Maybe I think you're too hurt for show and tell," she turned her back on him. "You've only been whining about your head for the last two hours."

"Keh!" She heard the bed creak when he launched himself across the room at her. Strong arms swept her aloft. He pulled her tight against his chest, spun around, leaped into the middle of the bed standing up, then dropped down so the bed bounced with her still in his arms. He liked doing that -- little displays of macho strength that were so very Inuyasha.

Once, he'd told her he worried she might prefer his human form to his hanyou one. Her reaction had been blushing laughter to that suggestion. Yes, he was a hottie as a human guy, too -- if a bit incongruously pretty -- but the same strength and stamina that literally let him leap tall buildings in a single bound had some interesting implications in the bedroom for her, particularly since she wasn't entirely an ordinary girl these days either.

He was kissing her before the motion had stopped. When they came up for air -- which was mostly so that they could start tugging off their clothes -- he grumbled, "Not whining! I don't whine!"

"Sure, dog-boy ..." she laughed at him, then rolled free of his arms so she could kick her boots off and remove her jeans.

He pounced on her again with a low growl as soon as she was down to her underwear -- he was completely naked, long and lean and masculine, perfect. Gorgeous. And -- as the engagement ring on her finger, and a date set after her graduation next year -- proclaimed -- hers.

Laughing at his eagerness, she let him move to claim her. He yanked her underwear off with haste born of need ...

The doorbell rang.

Both of them froze. His house was remote, guarded by a gate, and warded against demons, youkai, and other supernatural visitors except those with express permission to enter his substantial landholding. 'Express permission' was Spike, Shippou, Lorne and Kirara -- period. They got the occasional lost human hiker up here that couldn't read 'no trespassing' signs, but few other visitors. So this was either some poor mortal, or one of the handful of friends who were allowed to visit.

"Maybe they'll go away if we ignore them," he was still hot and hard against her leg.

The doorbell rang again, insistently.

"Trouble, you think?" She let her miko senses reach out to see if their unwelcome visitor was human or other.

The youki she sensed wasn't entirely mortal -- it felt human, but tinged with demon. A hanyou maybe? She said so, and Inuyasha muttered a very frustrated curse under his breath. He didn't want to stop, and he said, "They might still go away."

"It could be a hanyou or it could be Spike," she said, suddenly. Mortal human soul plus demon might equal a certain vampire they both considered a friend. "It's almost dawn. He could be looking for shelter."

They'd given Spike the passcode to the gate months before -- he came up occasionally for a visit, though not usually in the predawn hours. "Fuck," Inuyasha said, not happy at all with the interruption, "Let's just leave him out there. We can sweep him up later."

"It might be important." Reluctantly -- very reluctantly -- she sat up and reached for her jeans. She yanked them on, and her t-shirt, and with a scowl on her face, headed for the door. Behind her, Inuyasha was muttering very rude comments about vampires as his, err, interest, slowly subsided. She muttered darkly under her breath, "It had better be important."

The sun was barely rising when she opened the door. To her surprise, the person at the door wasn't Spike, but, rather, a diminutive blond woman with one black eye and her arm in a sling. She looked exhausted on top of looking thoroughly beaten up, and she came right to the point, "Kagome, there's trouble."

"Buffy," Kagome said, a one-word greeting that would have been unfriendly even if she wasn't rather annoyed by the disturbance. Human soul plus demon influence also equaled Slayer.

"Can I come in?"

Kagome held the door open, and made a gesture indicating that the Slayer could pass into the house. "Is Inuyasha around?"

"He didn't do anything! He's been with me all night. We took out a nest of vampires earlier ..." Kagome started to protest. Inuyasha appeared on the stairs as she spoke, clad only in a pair of shorts. She shut her mouth, seeing anger in the lines of his thin body and well aware that if she expressed her own opinions about Buffy, Inuyasha would feed off it. He was far less happy about Buffy's intrusion than she was, and had far more personal reasons to heartily dislike -- even hate -- this woman.

Bare chested and bare-legged, hair escaping from his pony-tail, he silently descended the stairs to the fifth one from the bottom, where he dropped into a seated crouch, knees tucked up, hands clutching the edge of the step between his feet. And he fixed Buffy with a steady amber glare. He was stock still, and at the moment, looked far more demon than human.

"Uh," Buffy stared at him for a moment -- her Slayer senses had to be thoroughly wigged by the aura of barely-contained violence he was giving off -- then glanced back at Kagome. She frowned. "You know your shirt's ..." she made an abortive gesture in the air, indicating buttons.

Kagome glanced down. She'd butted her shirt off by one hole, and it was crooked and rumpled. Her hair had to be wild as well.

Buffy glanced at Inuyasha again, and Kagome figured the Slayer was drawing some obvious conclusions, given that the upstairs bedroom light had been on. Had she thought Inuyasha would be alone here?

And given Inuyasha was looking rather feral at the moment, they had to be some fairly ... uncomplimentary ... thoughts. She impatiently wiggled her fingers in the air, displaying an engagement ring. If Buffy wanted to think she was marrying a monster, there wasn't much she could do about it. Particularly since Inuyasha had done plenty of terrible things to convince her of that fact -- Buffy had deep scars across her back from his claws and had lost a number of friends and colleagues to Inuyasha's claws. Not that Inuyasha had been exactly unprovoked.

With some asperity, Kagome said, "Hey. He's my fiancé. Next time, call first before you knock on our door at six AM."

Buffy blinked. "If you think I care what you two do the privacy of your bedroom, you really don't know who I am."

Inuyasha snorted skeptically. Kagome just sighed. "What do you want?"

Buffy ignored the question and insisted, "Spike said you two were an item. So I knew. And I don't care."

Inuyasha snorted again. "What nasty broke your arm, wench?"

She jumped at his voice. Buffy had issues with Inuyasha -- as well as nearly killing her, he'd taken the lives of a number of Slayers who'd been hunting him. Inuyasha had issues right back; Buffy'd killed his wife and had nearly been responsible for Kagome losing her life as well. And the girls he'd killed haunted him; Kagome knew that. Still, that was Inuyasha trying to be polite. Buffy gave him another wary look and then said, "The big bad of the day."

"Big bad."

"Or bads, to be specific."

"Keh." Inuyasha pointed at the couch. "Sit, woman, before you collapse. I can smell your exhaustion. Kagome, you find out what she wants. I'm making something to drink."

Buffy gave him a startled look, perhaps surprised by the rough courtesy, and said, "Uh ... not alcoholic, I don't drink."

"Figures." Inuyasha eyed her narrowly.

"Was that even an offer to get me something to drink?" Buffy asked, matching his frowning look with a skeptical one of her own. She did, however, sit down.

"It was," Kagome said smoothly, "Do you want tea or coffee or soda or water ...?"

There was a long hesitation, perhaps while Buffy decided if it was safe to consume anything offered to her here. Apparently, she decided they weren't likely to poison or drug her, because she finally said, "Coffee." Buffy sighed, and settled down, somewhat stiffly, onto the couch. "Strong. Thank you. I've been going for two days without sleep."

Without a further word, Inuyasha vanished into the kitchen. Buffy gazed after him, expression softening a bit. "He really hates me, doesn't he?"

"He does," Kagome confirmed. "And he can also hear you even in the kitchen." She felt it was only fair to remind the Slayer that anything she said would be overheard -- and, given Inuyasha's intense dislike (hatred might not actually be too strong of a word) of Buffy, and given that this was Inuyasha, anything she said would probably be taken the wrong way.

"Uh. Congratulations on the ... ring."

"He's not the monster you think he is," Kagome said. "But I won't ask him ever to like you. Or forgive you."

"Guess that's fair," the blond Slayer leaned back against the couch. She closed her eyes, and for a moment, Kagome thought she looked tiny and very young. "Word has it that you two have been making a major dent in the bad guy population around here."

Kagome shrugged. "It's something to do on Friday nights, what can I say. Buffy, why are you here?"

"We need a heavy hitter to take out a bad guy, Kagome. Your name came up."

"That bad, huh?" Kagome had no illusions about Slayer Central's collective opinion of her. She was the Slayer who was marrying the (half)demon who'd killed twelve slayers and who was pretty much indestructible and unstoppable by anything short of serious magic. Willow could take Inuyasha out if necessary -- and very nearly had -- but there weren't many others who would even want to try. His track record with dealing with physical attacks was a rather grim legend among the Slayers.

They didn't like losing their own -- or, Kagome suspected, simply losing.

Many saw her love of Inuyasha as a public slap in the face to her "own kind" -- a betrayal. Not that she worried much. While she wasn't entirely comfortable with his actions, he'd been very thoroughly provoked, very much insane with grief, and -- given her knowledge of what Inuyasha could actually do -- rather restrained in his reactions. He'd only killed those who directly confronted him, when he could easily have slain every Slayer in the city, and anyone affiliated with them.

She still wasn't sure if the Slayers fully comprehended what Inuyasha was capable of. If they did, they'd have either been a whole lot nicer to him, or hit him with a significantly larger amount of resources. Instead, they'd hunted him with small packs of Slayers ... and whenever they caught up with him, girls had died. Perhaps it was because he didn't look like much -- average height, humanoid body, his primary weapons claws and teeth and an enchanted sword -- that they'd never taken him as seriously as warranted.

But they knew enough now to have a healthy mistrust of Inuyasha, coupled with a good solid hatred for him from many of their members. In the end, he'd killed twelve girls who'd attacked him at various times, and pushed him very nearly to the edge of insanity. Inuyasha wasn't naturally a killer, particularly of pretty little girls, as he put it. But with his back against the wall, and grieving his first wife's death at their hands ... he'd killed. And he still woke in screaming nightmares now, and sometimes, his eyes were terribly haunted.

She's assumed at first that he'd killed in demon form. But those nightmares -- and the memories that he clearly had -- told her it was worse: he'd been fighting as himself. He'd killed humans without losing himself in the vicious oblivion that was his demon blood.

If they were asking her, Inuyasha's girlfriend, for help, it had to be pretty bad.

"Bad." Buffy said, her words echoing Kagome's thoughts. "Very bad. Apocalyptically end-the-world nasty bad, with a big emphasis on nasty."

"I see. And you want me to help." It wasn't an unexpected request. She was, after all, one of them.

"Kagome ain't goin' anywhere with you, wench," Inuyasha reappeared. He handed Buffy a mug of instant coffee -- he hadn't even bothered to brew it, since she'd never heard the coffeepot percolating. Since Inuyasha did know how to operate the coffee pot, Kagome frowned at him. He returned her frown with a glare that just begged her to say something about his inhospitality.

"I believe Kagome is capable of speaking for herself." Buffy's response was icy.

"Heh. That's the truth." Inuyasha snorted, and hopped up onto the back of the loverseat across from the couch, where he crouched, more feline than dog-like in his pose. Shoulders hunched, knuckles resting on the couch back between his feet, he fixed Buffy with an amber-eyed glare that was almost certainly a deliberate attempt to make her uncomfortable.

Buffy tilted her head, observed him for a moment, then asked, "Is he housebroken?"

Kagome spluttered a laugh. "Most of the time," she said, before Inuyasha could respond with more than a rude noise and an amber-eyed glare of affronted dignity. "He even fetches the paper from the driveway in the morning. Sits on command, too."

The latter statement was a veiled warning -- and Inuyasha picked up on it, because he gave her a dark, unhappy look and hopped off the back of the couch. Assuming a far more human pose, he stood, arms folded, eyes narrowed, and said, "What sort of apocalypse?"

Buffy said quietly, "One Kagome is invited to." Not you, her words said, unspoken.

"Keh!" Inuyasha snorted, impatient and angry, "What makes you think I'd help! And Kagome sure as hell ain't!"

"Inuyasha, don't make me do it. I will. You're worrying Buffy." Kagome folded her arms. She hadn't Osuwari'd him since the last time they'd talked to this woman, six months ago, but he was pushing her buttons in addition to trying to unsettle Buffy.

"Maybe she should be scared. Stupid bitch thinks she can just waltz in here and ask us to help her."

"Inuyasha ..." The rudeness she could tolerate, but he was being beyond just snarky and sarcastic at Buffy -- he was being stupid. Buffy wasn't evil, and she did have a rather large amount of power, and pissing off the leader of the Slayers was just not smart for a half-demon to do. Buffy already had reason to thoroughly mistrust Inuyasha; this was like stoking a fire. Buffy wasn't Kouga, or Sesshomaru -- Inuyasha tended to deal with people he didn't like by provoking them into fights. He couldn't do that with this woman without there being serious repercussions.

"I'm sorry," Buffy said, voice calm and clear and not at all frightened -- though Kagome had seen her flinch in response to Inuyasha's angry words. Despite Kagome's worries, Buffy sounded calm -- though there was a certain amount of steel in her words. "We both have reasons to mistrust one another, Inuyasha. Do you think it's really all that easy for me to come here?"

Inuyasha gave her a wary glance between silvery bangs, then stared at his ground. He muttered, "No."

Buffy sighed. "Y'know, did it ever occur to you that if the circumstances were different, the three of us might have been friends? We're on the same side. We're fighting the same good fight. And we've much in common, the three of us."

"Keh." Inuyasha snorted, but Kagome was impressed. While Inuyasha was a long way from declaring Buffy his next best friend, some of the rigid tension was slipping out of the set of his shoulders. He gave her another brief glance, suspicious and hostile. "So, what broke your arm?"

This woman was a leader -- and apparently reasonably good at it. The best way to handle Inuyasha when he was in a nasty mood was to give him respect and allow for his dignity. He dealt with being treated as both less than human and less than a full youkai on a regular basis -- it didn't take much of being nice to Inuyasha before he started returning the favor. Though in Buffy's case, the time before she earned that first shy smile from Inuyasha that said he was thinking of considering her a friend rather than a not-quite-mortal enemy was probably going to be a bit longer than usual.

"A prince of the Unseelie," Buffy said, finally answering his question. She wiggled her fingers in the cast. "Got me with a sword, actually." She indicated her upper arm with a gesture. "Almost lost it."

"Feh. Fair folk. Not like the demons you usually fight. More like youkai -- my father's people." Inuyasha fixed her with a skeptical look. Although Inuyasha was conventionally referred to as half-demon by English speakers, the youkai didn't consider themselves the same sort of demons as many of the monsters that Buffy (and Kagome) fought on an almost daily basis. Creatures of magic, yes. Evil nasty hell creatures? Definitely not. "Didn't know any of them were alive in this world, in this day. They're dangerous."

Buffy looked truly and completely exhausted. "I led a force of about two hundred Slayers and a few dozen others against them ... two weeks ago. Some of us survived. Most of the Unseelie didn't. We tracked their damned prince -- or at least, his credit cards -- here."

"Gonna try for another round, I take it?" Inuyasha snorted his opinion of that. "Kagome ain't playing. She's not one of you."

"She is. She can't -- you can't -- turn away from this." Buffy turned her attention to Kagome. "Do you usually let him decide things for you?"

"No." Kagome glanced at Inuyasha. He folded his arms and glared.

"Feh." It was fear making him speak so forcefully, as it often had in the past. He was completely terrified he'd lose her in a fight. She knew that -- he had, once, and only his brother's unexpected grace had brought her back. She also knew he was very likely to go into a towering rage if she started seriously discussing things with Buffy -- and Buffy's opinion of Inuyasha was low enough as it was.

"Inuyasha, I need to talk to Buffy," she said, carefully.

"So talk."

"Alone." She stressed. He was going to be pissed at her later, but she judged Inuyasha pissed off at her was probably better than having the Slayer convinced he was an unmanageable idiot. He was likely to push her to the point that she had to use the rosary to 'sit' him. She couldn't talk frankly with Buffy while Inuyasha was there, and in this mood.

Unfortunately, if Buffy saw her 'sit' Inuyasha, she was could come to the wrong conclusion -- and that was that Inuyasha couldn't restrain himself if he chose to. Which meant that the Slayers could decide he was too much of a liability to have around at some point.

"Feh. Why should I trust her alone with you?" The fear was real that prompted Inuyasha's words; she could see it lurking in his amber eyes. The slayers had killed his wife of four hundred and fifty years a few years before she'd been reunited with him in the present day. She knew he blamed himself and Buffy for that in about equal measures, which meant he was doubly unlikely to want to leave.

"Inuyasha, go take a walk," Kagome said, in a gentler tone of voice. "I'll be fine. I promise."

He hesitated for a long, rebellious moment before issuing a disgusted snort at her foolhardiness. He grumbled, "You could kick her butt, anyway."

Inuyasha headed up the stairs -- probably to grab a shirt. After a moment, she heard the master bedroom balcony door open, then a crunch of his feet hitting the gravel driveway. She waited until she couldn't sense his youki anymore, then said mildly to Buffy, "He's gone."

Kirara appeared at the head of the stairs. The youkai cat gave Buffy a long, level stare before padding down the stairs.

Buffy relaxed a little -- Kagome wondered what she'd smelled like to Inuyasha, given that Kagome could see the tension in the woman's shoulders and back while Inuyasha had been around. The Slayer said, in a very serious tone of voice, "Kagome, are you okay? Because if you want away from him, we can help you -- he'd never find you."

Kagome laughed. "Buffy, don't worry about me. Not that way. Not ever, not from Inuyasha."

"He's ..." Buffy clearly seemed to be about to ask something along the lines of, 'What do you see in that monster?' but was probably trying to find a way to phrase it politely. Buffy wasn't the first person to think she might be better off without him based on a bad first impression. Buffy's first meeting with Inuyasha had been particularly disastrous, however, even allowing for Inuyasha's usual inability to charm.

Kirara hopped up on the couch next to Buffy, who gave the "cat" a startled look when she realized that she had three tails and eyes that were a bit large for any mortal cat. Kagome had seen a picture of a ringtail cat once, an American member of the raccoon family, and thought that Kirara looked a bit like that, only with different colors.

"He hates you." Kagome said, quietly. "Buffy, you're right about us -- that in another world, another time, another place, the three of us might have been friends. But I'm not sure Inuyasha will ever forgive you for what you did to his wife -- and to him -- and for the girls he had to kill to survive."

"He's the one who killed them!" Buffy protested, angered by that. Kirara butted up against Buffy, begging for a scratch -- Kagome watched that with a bit of surprise. Kirara was a good judge of character, far better than anyone else among her friends.

"Hai. And sometimes I think that eats at him worst of all." Kagome sighed. The thought of what Inuyasha had done did bother her, when she stopped to think about it. And she was terrified of Inuyasha being pushed to that point again ... "Buffy, all you've ever seen of Inuyasha is the anger in him. I wish you could know him as he really is, but I'm not sure he'll ever forgive you enough to let his guard down around you."

Buffy sighed. Shook her head. And apparently having decided that the neko-youkai in her lap was harmless, she scratched Kirara behind the ears. "If you ever do need help, you're one of us. We help our own."

"Yes. We fight the same fight. Tell me about these Unseelie ..."

"The short explanation is that they were stealing children to sacrifice to open a new Hellmouth under New York City." Buffy gave Kagome a small smile that almost looked approving. "Word is, between you guys and Angel and Spike, they've decided Los Angeles is a lost cause. Though why they'd think New York City was going to be easier ... let's just say we had some pretty big league help taking them out. That city has no shortage of heroes."

"Lovely. Children, you say?" Kagome frowned. She had no reason to doubt Buffy's word, and a lot to believe it. "Unseelie are a lot like youkai, from what I've read. I should be able to purify them the same way ..."

"That's what we were hoping," Buffy said. "Wil wants to work with you to catch Prince Federic -- that's the baddy we want to take out here. He's gone underground somewhere in this area, but we don't know where. She's hoping she might be able to help you intensify your talents. You could really help turn the tables towards our side."

Kagome sighed. If Buffy was asking for her help, things were truly bad -- and truly important. She didn't need to hear a lot more than, sacrificing children, to be willing to fight with them. She'd told Giles that she'd fight on their side months ago, though she'd never consider herself one of them. "Hai. I'll help. However, there's a couple of conditions."

"Like what?" Buffy said, very warily. Kirara hopped up on Buffy's shoulder and sprawled there, purring and making kneading motions with her paws.

"Inuyasha," Kagome said, quietly. "What about him?"

"What do you mean?"

"If I try to leave him behind and go fight something nasty without him he'll only follow me," Kagome glanced in the direction he'd gone. She swallowed hard, "I don't want Willow or somebody else getting the wrong idea and hurting him if he shows up unexpectedly. If I help, it's with Inuyasha openly at my side -- and I want your solemn promise that you'll see to it that your people will not hurt him. I ... will ask him to be low key, because I know having him around will be quite disruptive and likely many of your people have issues with him, but I want it known that he's working with me and he's under your protection."

Buffy frowned. Her hand on Kirara stilled, until Kirara mewed a complaint about the neglect, "He'd follow you."

"Can, would, has. To the ends of the earth and into Hell itself if necessary. I'd do the same for him without hesitation. We're two halves of a whole, Buffy." Kagome met Buffy's expression levelly. "... And we fight together very well as a team. I honestly can't think of anyone I'd rather have watching my back in a fight. Inuyasha's more likely to get myself and himself out of trouble alive than anyone else I know."

"You love him that much." Buffy said, a simple statement of fact. She picked at the cast on her arm for a moment. "Can I ask you a question and get an honest answer?"

"Maybe," Kagome said, a hint of humor touching her eyes.

Buffy responded with a snort of appreciative laughter. "Speaking of honest answers! Anyway, do you seriously think Inuyasha can restrain himself and not hurt anyone in a seriously hostile environment? 'Cause they'll hate him. He might get a warmer reception from the Unseelie than he will from my own people."

"Buffy, Inuyasha's been dealing with hatred his entire life. It won't be anything new for him." Kagome sighed. "You'll have to worry about me a whole lot more than him if anyone gets out of line. Inuyasha will snap and snarl but his bark's far worse than his bite. He never hits first when it's humans involved." She paused. "He's pretty good at provoking people into hitting first, though."

"And if they attack him?" Buffy closed her eyes. "I can tell them not to. But I can't guarantee someone won't get stupid."

"If they attack him ... I think he'll be fine. He'll defend himself, of course, but I would be highly surprised if he'd let anyone push him over the edge -- he really doesn't want to go there again. He was in a pretty bad place, mentally, for a long while there but I think he's doing better. The exception would be if I'm threatened, or one of his other friends, like Shippou -- or Spike, these days -- then all bets are off."

Buffy gave Kagome a quick, covert glance at the mention of Spike, then she snorted. "Anyone among my people dumb enough to attack a Slayer with a half-demon bodyguard of Inuyasha's power deserves what they get." She paused, then added, "The threat won't come from any of my Scoobies -- my inner circle -- I can assure you that. But there's over sixteen hundred girls now, plus some other people we've picked up along the way, and ..." she trailed off before adding in a vicious tone of voice, "I hate politics."

Kagome nodded understanding. She didn't envy Buffy her role as the head of that many Slayers -- since learning what she was, she'd met a few other like her. Besides being generally good guys, they all has a marked tendency towards strong opinions, stubbornness, and independence. Leading the Slayers had to be like herding cats. "So where do you want us to go?"

"Angel's hotel -- do you know where it is?"

Kagome shook her head. She'd not met Spike's employer yet. He was very busy, as was she; they'd just never crossed paths.

"Angel's been putting the girls up in his hotel -- we'll meet there about six tonight." Buffy said, "By the way, Angel's ..."

"A vampire, I know, Spike's mentioned him." Generally, Spike's mentions of Angel were mixed in with obscenities, but Kagome figured it wasn't necessary to allude to that. "With a soul. Don't worry, I won't stake him. Noon, then. I'll be there."

"You're being remarkably easy to convince," Buffy said, skeptically. She'd clearly expected more of an argument.

Kagome shrugged. "You wouldn't be coming to me, or accepting Inuyasha fighting at my side, if it wasn't serious. And I told Mr. Giles that I'd help if you needed me. I expect sooner or later I'll need the favor returned."

"True." Buffy said. "Particularly with you living here in LA -- I swear, this town has more outbreaks of weirdness ..."

Kagome snorted agreement to that. "I'll bring a couple of other people too -- will you have problems with a couple of full youkai coming with me?"

Buffy cast a worried glance in the direction of Inuyasha's exit, up the stairs. "Umm."

Kagome giggled. Clearly, Buffy was wondering if they were like her boyfriend ... "Trust me, Shippou's much better mannered than Inuyasha. He was raised by humans and he's one of my better friends. I trust him implicitly. He works for Lorne -- you know Lorne, right? And Spike knows him. As for Kirara -- you're petting her now."

Buffy glanced down at the cat, lifting her hand away from the creature in her lap. Kirara gave her an innocent look.

"What is she?" Buffy said, very warily. Obviously, she'd assumed "harmless pet" since Kagome hadn't said anything.

"Friend of ours. Neko-youkai." Kagome shrugged. Since they'd established Kirara didn't understand any English, she asked in Japanese, "Kirara, you'll come, right? To a fight? We're going to be taking on a bad youkai."

"Prrip." Maybe a yes, maybe not. Kagome wished that Kirara could talk -- though she wasn't entirely sure how intelligent the cat actually was. Smarter than a housecat, surely, and probably self-aware, but who knew how much the creature actually grasped? Even Inuyasha could only shrug and confess he had no idea when she'd asked him.

Kirara stood up on her hind legs, planted both front feet on Buffy's chest, and rubbed her chin against Buffy's jaw. I like this one, her expression seemed to say.

"Uh." Buffy hesitantly returned to scratching the cat's ears.

"Trust me, she's a lot tougher than she looks." Kagome said, with a laugh at Buffy's confused expression.