Inuyasha picked up a seemingly-discarded piece of clothing. It was some type of shirt, obviously Kagome's, and more than likely left by accident as she hurried back to her world. Bringing it to his sensitive nose he inhaled deeply, drinking in her fragrance. Her scent. As unique as any fingerprint, sweetly hers, with him even when she wasn't.

He had once referred to it as a stench, but that wasn't true. It had never been true. Truth be told, he had begun to find her scent oddly comforting, and often slept more soundly with her nearby. He didn't even need to be all that close to her, even lounging on a branch high above her was enough.

But he told himself it meant he was getting soft, or that it would hinder his fighting ability if he was concerned with such trivial details. Once he had even managed to convince himself her scent wasn't important to him.

Then he fought the spider-demons.

Not only had he ended up trapped in a room, he had also been trapped within a pitiful human body that had little hope of withstanding the demonic poisons coursing through his blood. But it wasn't the shadow of death creeping up on him that disturbed him as much as the fact that this was the moment he needed the comfort of Kagome's scent the most, and he had lost it. She was right there, but without being able to smell her it was if she had left him to suffer through this alone.

So great was his need that he was able to swallow his stubborn pride long enough to ask her to lay his head on her lap. And when he was finally able to catch her scent with his dulled human senses, he had even surprised himself by complimenting her on it before slipping into sweet unconsciousness.

Did she know how much her scent told him? How it had the power to betray her words, her actions, her very feelings?

No, there was no way she could. She was, after all, only human.

And so she couldn't know how her body whispered its most personal secrets to him. Things no human male was meant to know, but with his keen nose born of demon blood, he knew.

Like when he could detect the scent of blood, her blood, and she didn't appear to be injured. But then it wasn't the fresh scent of a cut or scrape. It was older blood, mingled with other scents, and remained on her person for days.

But there was another secret to her body, one he wasn't sure she even knew about, for she took no precautions to prevent others from finding out.

It was the scent that preceded the blood, an intoxicating perfume he had no name for. If she had truly been the bitch he always called her, he would have said she was in heat. But while females of the canine variety advertise themselves with a full-blown shout of insistence and demand, Kagome's body would coyly whisper and tease his heightened senses. He didn't know which was worse.

Ironically, he would never refer to her as a bitch during this time. It would only serve to reinforce the fact that she was a female, a potential mate, and the dog-boy's train of thought would be instantly derailed.

Miroku was proof enough that mortal males could not sense this change in her, while their demon companions undoubtedly could. Shippo was probably too young to fully understand, and the ancient Myoga had enough self- preservation to know when was a good time to keep his mouth shut.

So she couldn't know how much her scent at this time affected him.

He was, after all, an adolescent male with a body hard-wired to respond to just this sort of stimulus. Another inheritance from his father, he supposed.

Once he thought he could control his body, that he could simply ignore the effect she had on him long enough to get where they were going. Believing that the wind resulting from a fast pace would allow him to literally leave his problems behind, he took off. That was a big mistake.

The silky texture of her wrist against his throat. Her thighs lightly gripping his waist. The warm puffs of her breath against his neck. The soft slide of her chest against his back as it rose and fell with her breathing. The warmth of her body pressing against him. The combination was almost more than he could bear.

In fact it was all he could do to refrain from taking her then and there, claiming her as his own. He had not reached their destination when he was forced to land, needing personal space. When she had questioned why they were walking he was unable to respond, far too busy trying to tame the heated blood pounding through his veins.

He never tried that again.

He usually kept himself at a forced distance from her, close enough to lay claim yet far enough away to be able to keep his impulses under control. That usually worked pretty well. But there were still times when he would slink off alone to do something... anything... to relieve the tangle of pent-up emotions surging through his body.

But if it was torture being near her, being separated from her was sheer Hell.

He remembered once when she had been in her world during this time, this time he dare not tell her about. When she returned she had been in such a good mood, smiling, laughing, and even tickled Shippo until he was breathless with laughter.

She had been, in his opinion, entirely too happy.

He had been convinced it was because she had been in the company of another male, a male that had taken the opportunity her body offered. Surely the reason she gave for her cheer, this 'birthday party' thing, must have been a lie.

Even now he could remember how his heart had constricted as images, unbidden, flowed into his mind. How the bottom fell out of his stomach as he imagined another male's hands on her body, and how the bile had risen in his throat as he saw her with his mind's eye giving that other male the pleasures she had refused Miroku so many times before. Yet he wouldn't admit it was the voice of jealousy he was hearing as it whispered, unrelenting, in his all-too-sensitive ears.

And how furious she would be if she ever found out what he had done. How he had gone to her that night, creeping up quietly so as not to wake her or the young fox-demon who slept at her side.

With taught muscles ready to spring away at any instant, he had brought his nose within an inch of her sleeping form and tasted the aroma of her body. It was not the scent of another male he found clinging to her, but that of her family. And nothing strong enough amongst the other scents to suggest close physical contact. The relief that washed through him was so tangible he had nearly collapsed on the spot.

No, she could not know.

But he did not care for her. No, he had tried that emotion before and found it not to his liking. His mother... Kikyo... both had proven that caring only meant you would be hurt. That meant there was some other reason Kagome's scent affected him the way it did, while the scent of other females, such as Sango, did not. He just hadn't figured out what it was. Yet.

Until then he would deal with it, the heaven and the hell, the comfort he would not allow himself and the desire he fought to control. He would keep it all a secret and no-one, not the lecherous Miroku nor the child-like Shippo, and especially not Kagome, would ever be the wiser.

Inuyasha put the shirt down, sighing gently.

No, he could never tell her how much her scent meant to him.

For if he did, he could never go near her again.