Kagome brushed her bangs back behind her ears, thankful she had possessed the forethought to put the heavy black mass up in a pony-tail before coming here. Pulling the opened sleeping bag about her shoulders, she wrapped her arms around her up-drawn knees, her fingers tangling in the slippery maroon shell of her blanket. Squinting her eyes against the gust of wind that blew over her, she inhaled deeply, drawing the tangy odor or the sea into her lungs.
She had decided to come out to the beach tonight well after all her traveling companions had fallen asleep. Slumber had evaded her despite the tossing and turning she had done for the past two hours prior to her trek outside. Fearing that she would awaken Sango and Shippo, who were both in the same room as her, she had finally risen from the futon to dress. Every once in a while, the miko had glanced to the others, making sure that the subtle rustle of fabric sliding into place did not disturb them. Thankfully, they slept on as she pulled a light blue polar fleece sweater and pair of jeans onto her slight frame. She'd twisted her hair up after pulling it free from her shirt, grabbing the rolled sleeping-bag on her way past her pack. Since they had been invited to stay inside a villager's house after Miroku has disposed of an evil spirit, bedding had been provided thus leaving her customary implement for rest free.
Her shoes, she had clutched in the hand attached to the arm wrapped about the roll of fluff filled material, padding cautiously on socked feet by the closed door where the hanyou was. The last thing she had wanted was for Inu Yasha to come storming out demanding to know why their shard detector was wandering off in the middle of the night. When she had checked her watch, thankful that her mom had bought her a new one that had a small light encased in its face, she had seen that it was near three in the morning. Plenty late to where everyone in the small settlement by the ocean would have laid down and closed their eyes till morning. It pleased her to think she would be alone for a few precious moments.
Very rarely when she was in Feudal Japan was Kagome given a single minute without someone else with her. Usually, it didn't bother the good-natured woman. After all, friends were the driving force behind her will to fight Naraku and undergo the continuous arduous task of hunting shikon shards for days on end. Yet, lately......lately she had noticed that her fuse was short when dealing with the others. Primarily a certain white-haired half-demon with a brash demeanor and the maturity of a twelve year-old. Normally, it didn't phase her when Inu Yasha went off in a rant, or resorted to petty name calling at herself and everyone else.
However, yesterday, his normal behavior had made her grit her teeth, bite her tongue to keep the scathing retort from passing her lips. She had been so close...so very close to telling him to go to Hell and what he could do with himself when he had gotten there, using a few choice words she had learned from him of course, that she had been a tad surprised. Her reaction had been out of character for her. Or at least, she acknowledged to herself as another stray breeze ruffled the messy strands at her brow, her tolerance level had been glaringly absent.
Luck had held with her when her trek past his doorway yielded no slamming open of doors to have glaring golden eyes piercing into her from an angered hanyou. When Kagome had finally made it to the edge of the village, their current residence being on a sloping cliff above a flat stretch of beach near the path to get down to it, she had deemed it safe enough to don her foot attire. A full moon was out, making it easy for her to navigate the trail, a happy content grin gracing her features when she reached the flat plain of sand connecting to water. The sound of liquid rolling and tumbling upon itself to crash into fragmented earth was soothing to her ears as the miko had set up a spot to watch the waves far enough away to where she barely saw the corner of the building atop the embankment, but close enough that if trouble showed up, she could call for help. She hadn't brought any weapons with her, having decided there was no need for it since all she wanted to do was sit by herself and think for a while.
Though not a solitary creature by nature, as of late, she found that was the one thing she desired most in the world. She needed time to ponder her thoughts, collect herself and find the center that once lived inside her heart that told her everything she did had a purpose behind it. A few years had gone by since joining Inu Yasha, and as the slow months had passed, the raging inferno of her love for the hanyou had begun to mellow into cinders. One could only have their love and affection thrown back at them for so long before the one-sided infatuation began to fade.
He was never going to leave Kikyo. The woman, or the memory, and Kagome could do many things, even fire arrows of her very essence at youkai, but she could not fight an apparition. Which is what the half-demon's love for the priestess was. A ghost. A living specter that haunted his every waking moment, consuming him from the inside out with forgone events the two had spent together. To be honest, she was growing weary with herself and the endless patience she had in forgiving his transgressions against her.
There was only so much even she could take, and the miko had begun to fear that her limit was near being reached. If that happened, she was almost afraid of the empty place that would leave behind once it had left.
If she didn't convince herself that Inu Yasha was the love of her life, that he was the only male she would ever become attached enough to that ideas of forever spun in her head, what would be there for her?
Biting her lower lip, she frowned as she continued to muse over the quagmire of her thoughts, becoming lost in the pathways of her brain, totally unaware of her surroundings as time wore on.
Kagome had no idea how long she had sat there, wrapped in her blanket with her toes growing numb from the cold even with the protection of her footwear on, when the sense that she wasn't alone any more made her tense and come back to the present.
Nape prickling, she slowly turned her head towards where the sensation of being watched was coming from, eyes fearful and anxious as she searched the beach. Her mouth fell open in shock when she saw none other than Sesshoumaru standing not too far from her, his amber gaze dispassionate as it bored into her.
Her breath stalled in her chest, heart faltering, at the image the Taiyoukai created. The moonlight caressed his features like a lover, bathing his skin in ethereal hues that made him glow as though he was one of the gods in the legends her grandfather used to regale them with. The heavy swath of his hair fluttered and swayed with each kiss of the wind upon its ivory surface, the bangs about his forehead framing the crescent moon upon his brow. His clawed hand raised to place a few misbehaving locks behind one ear as they playfully flew across his mouth, tracing the stripes of his heritage along the cheekbone. The inu youkai was in his customary attire, armor and swords firmly in place, glinting in the soft illumination of the night in soft flashes that caused her eyes to trace over his body again, pausing briefly on the mesmerizing sight of the fur on his tail writhing and dancing.
When he made a move towards her, Kagome quickly gained her feet, standing while placing the sleeping-bag lower so it sat like a sarong about her body, her arms pressing tightly into her sides to keep it in place. Nervousness coupled with the cooler temperature on her neck and shoulders had her shivering, teeth threatening to chatter as goose-bumps rose on her flesh. For Sesshoumaru's part, she noticed with vague envy, the cold didn't seem to matter one iota, his skin smooth and flawless from what she could see of it.
Youkai......it wasn't fair how even the climate wouldn't dare oppose their good looks...
She felt glad that her good fortune seemed to be holding since Inu Yasha hadn't made an appearance yet. Sesshoumaru's scent mingled with the salty air must have been enough of a deterrent when such a distance separated them.
'Thank Kami for small favors,' she thought fervently.
A sparse space was between them when he came to a stop, amber eyes glowing and iridescent in the moonlight as he kept staring into her own. When the silence looked as though it would keep growing, she finally cleared her throat to say something.
"Hello, Sesshoumaru. What are you doing here?"
One of those slim aristocratic brows arched, his voice calm and flat, soothing her nerves surprisingly as he spoke. "Traveling. I could ask you the same question, miko."
Shrugging, she fidgeted a bit with the slick material of her blanket, shifting from one frozen foot to the other. "Just came to be by myself for a while. I couldn't sleep."
"I am surprised my foolish half-brother let you out of his sight." His remark hadn't held an insult or degrading connotation, just the cool nuance of fact.
It was rare for the hanyou to let her go by herself anywhere when she was here. She wasn't sure if that was over-protectiveness, or just him being impatient to finish the tama.
"Inu Yasha doesn't know I am down here." A heavy sigh left her throat, the dark circles under her eyes from lack of rest stark against her pale skin. "I never get a minute to myself when I'm with him, so I came down to the beach to relax." She turned her head to watch the moving water for a few seconds. "The ocean has always been calming to me."
The Taiyoukai turned his own face towards the sea, eyes frigid as they took in the view the woman claimed had a serene effect on her. Without looking at her, he remarked absently, "It isn't wise to go wandering after dark without any form of protection, girl."
An irritated scoff passed the lips frowning at the dog demon's profile, brows forking down in a V of displeasure. "I can take care of myself, Sesshoumaru."
Those amazing amber orbs rested on her bristling frame, unimpressed with the show of feminine temper directed at him. "I did not say you couldn't."
Confusion replaced her ire, puzzlement painting her visage at his reply. Reading the unanswered question in her look, he added, "My brother wouldn't be pleased if he knew you were out by yourself where any danger could befall you. There are things in these lands even a miko such as you could not take down."
"Like a certain Taiyoukai, perhaps?" she quipped back, the second upon hearing her own voice saying such a thing to the youkai causing her to cringe and bite her lower lip. Sesshoumaru, from her experience, wasn't one to suffer insolence or rudeness lightly. Maybe she should have at least told someone where she was going.......that way they would know precisely where to look first for her remains.
She nearly had a heart attack when, instead of the painful feel of claws ripping into her, he just smirked with the slightest lifting at one corner of his mouth, a canine barely visible. "Precisely."
Was he being....amiable? Kagome wouldn't go so far as to consider his current mood as anything more than that. In her mind, it was folly to think you could determine what he was thinking, or where his emotions would manifest next.
Deciding pleasant was her best course of action since it didn't appear that she would be sent to the afterlife any time soon, she let her body relax, the fingers which had previously been tense and curled smoothing out along the mauled fabric.
"I'm surprised that you are traveling this late at night, Sesshoumaru. Where is Rin, Jaken and Ah Un?"
Again, a breath of salty air washed over them, goose-bumps reappearing irritatingly on her skin, the miko gritting her teeth in annoyance. Damn it! She had just gotten rid of the last ones!
"I left them back at the palace since there was no need for them to accompany me to where I am headed."
Not having really expected an answer from the normally stoic demon, she was taken aback with how talkative he was being tonight. In fact, it was downright odd how he had even come by to say anything to her at all when he usually would have just gone on his way without a single thing said.
Nodding, she said softly, "I'm sure they can't wait for you to get back. Especially Rin. She adores you."
A mellow tinge turned his irises to the molten color of Italian gold, golden with reddish tones blending seamlessly into their depths. Her heart chose to do a jerky pit-pat inside her breast in response to how talking about his charge altered his expression. It shouldn't be legal for anyone to possess that eye color!
"That child does well enough when I am gone," he said, the coldness of his words gentled by the shade of his eyes. Though he might have wanted to sound indifferent, as though the welfare of his ward didn't matter that much, his gaze gave him away.
Chuckling, Kagome shifted her stance trying to get blood to circulate back into the ice-blocks that used to be called toes. Even curling the appendages didn't register to her brain, a fact that caused her to frown, drawing his notice.
"If you are cold, girl, you should head back." He peered up at the sky, eyes narrow as they perused the face of the full moon. "The hour grows late. You should be sleeping before the hanyou knows you are away."
She was forestalled from retorting by what sounded like a small geyser erupting, a loud exhale making her eyes fly to see a whale making its way slowly through the black water. Enchanted, for Kagome had always loved animals and had even bought a few books on whales the past year to read up on them, she whispered in awe, "Wow." Without thinking, she grabbed Sesshoumaru's hand from where it lay at his side and clasped it between her own, nearly hopping in place with excitement, the sleeping-bag sliding away unnoticed to lay in a heap about her lower legs. "Sesshoumaru, look! A whale!"
The dog demon currently being accosted by the miko, his arm moving up and down with the force of the little happy dance she was performing while gazing with amazement to the large mammal, stared at her blankly. Never had he seen a ningen become so ecstatic at viewing a large fish go roaming past. It didn't make any sense to him. But then.....neither did the fact that he was letting her handle him, or when he dutifully turned his head to watch the giant go by.
A dreamy exhale later, and she raised her face to his, a huge smile gracing her rosy lips, the hands about him clenching unconsciously. "Can you believe it?! I've always wanted to see one. Isn't it beautiful?!"
His arched brow and deadpan, "It's a large fish swimming." made her pout in a mock hurt attitude.
"It isn't a fish, it's a mammal. And it looked like a Sperm Whale too! A Physeter!" Swept away in the magic of the experience, Kagome began rattling off information to the Taiyoukai, retaining her hold on his hand, leaning from side to side with the force of her exuberance. "Did you know they are the largest species of toothed whale in the world? Or that the males don't reach their full length of 50-60ft until they are of mature age, which is about fifty years of age? I read, as well, that their eyes are stationary, that they can't move inside their ocular orbits so they depend heavily on echolocation to find their way anywhere in the ocean."
Sesshoumaru listened with half a brain as she continued to happily recite a list of facts in rapid succession, barely filtering in about mating habits, how the males were mostly solitary while the females stayed in pods, and that they could go down to the floors of the very oceans nearing 7,200 ft. The inu youkai couldn't fathom what the girl found so fascinating about a large fish moseying along in some salt water, or why it would cause her to latch onto him for Kami knew how long now. He was beginning to wonder if his arm was going to be dislocated at the shoulder, and he couldn't afford to lose another one. Life with one arm was hard enough.
Yet, with the tenacious grip she had, he also didn't want to attempt pulling away. He had a burgeoning suspicion she wouldn't let go and he would end up with who knew what kind of situation in his lap that was even more bizarre than this one. If that was possible.....
He cut in when she took that rare inhale of air needed to go on, "How can you be so excited over watching a fish go by?"
One of those raven brows of hers began to twitch, a light growl like that of a pup aimed his way. "It's a mammal! MAM-MAL! And how can you be so blase about watching a masterpiece of nature in its own habitat?!"
Amber eyes regarded her with mild interest, fingers lax between her palms as he just let her keep his hand for now to be on the safe side. When it seemed she was waiting for his awed reply, that little smirk tilted one corner of his lips, a bit more fang than the last time flashing. "Because, girl, this Sesshoumaru does not see the appeal in wasting one's time watching a fish, no matter where it lives or what it is doing."
Giving a cry of frustration at his refusal to say the word 'mammal', Kagome released his hand at last to throw her own up in defeat, pouting up at him. "I give up!" Moving her hands to her hips in a pose she had seen her mother give her children plenty of times, she said with irritation, "Why do you have to be so damn contrary? Can't you just admit it's awesome to see the whale and let me have my moment?!"
He resisted the urge to rubs his fingers together to work some of the warmth back into them that had left when she'd let go of it. It was most odd to feel any sort of temperature change to his skin since his heritage made it so he was naturally impervious to its whims. He did, however, let himself do something he hadn't partaken in for a long while.
Sesshoumaru grinned and chuckled lowly, noting with veiled amusement how the ningen's face turned slack with shock, how her eyes couldn't tear themselves away from his expression.
As his low laughter passed, he smirked full-blown at the miko. "You are a most peculiar human, miko."
Kagome would have found the energy to shoot something back at his observation that bordered on a slight to her character if she hadn't been so enraptured at the sight of witnessing the Taiyoukai doing something as mundane as laugh and smile. Had she said his eyes shouldn't be legal? Forget that! A happy Sesshoumaru should be down-right outlawed! If the dog demon ever deigned to grace others with this side of him then she imagined that he would have no problem defeating any foe he ran in to. Even the male ones!
It had made her turn all warm, a blush that had nothing to do with cold wind blowing across her skin blossoming on her cheeks. At least her feet weren't cold anymore!
Swallowing audibly, she said in a croaking whisper, "Thanks. I think." Her eyes shy, she grinned a bit up at the tall male. "You are a most peculiar Taiyoukai, Sesshoumaru."
The amused spark flashed in his irises at what she said, the relaxed slope of his shoulders relaying plainly how at ease he felt. "It is good to know we have reached an accord on something, miko."
Smiling fully, Kagome chuckled herself. "It's Kagome, Sesshoumaru, and I agree. Who would have thought the day would ever come?"
Indulgence lined his lips as the inu youkai turned his head to regard the now vacant undulating water beneath the slowly sinking moon. "Indeed," glancing out the corner of one eye, he added, "Kagome."
Happy, the young woman turned her to watch the view, sadly noticing that it was getting far later than she had intended to be away from the others. Now that she wasn't as wound up, she was ready to go catch a few hours of sleep before Inu Yasha's gruff voice woke her up for them to move on. As strange as it sounded, she was also happy that she had met up with Sesshoumaru tonight, the Taiyoukai turning out to be surprisingly good company on the beach. Even if he wouldn't admit a whale was a mammal!
Exhaling loudly, she bent to gather her forgotten blanket, draping it over one arm so she would be able to carry it back, forgoing rolling it since she figured she would simply use it as an extra cover when she got back to her room. Brushing her bangs behind her ear, she offered the quiet youkai watching her a grin. "Thanks for talking with me, Sesshoumaru. I really enjoyed it!"
He studied her a moment in silence before offering in a tone that only the dog demon could master, "Make sure you do not make a habit of coming out late at night alone, Kagome." Inclining his head to her, his long hair swaying with the motion, moonlight dancing upon it beautifully, he walked passed her to continue on his way.
Smirking, she jogged in faltering steps to catch up with his tall frame, the sand causing her to slip unevenly now and again before she victoriously came up beside him, panting from exertion.
He looked down at her in inquiry as he continued along the short path up the incline towards where the thatch of houses were located.
"I have to go the same way in order to get back to where I am staying."
Nodding in understanding, he looked ahead and walked on, silent with but the sound of their feet traipsing through sand, finally giving way to more solid earth that made their footsteps more pronounced. When they reached the fork that would lead back to the main road of the village and another that disappeared in the woods, they paused to face one another.
Not exactly sure what to say, she chewed at her bottom lip for the umpteenth time this evening before finally smiling and holding her hand out. He hesitated for a long moment, staring at the proffered appendage as though not sure exactly what she wanted him to do. Finally, in slow movements, he extended his own, the girl capturing it with haste to press his fingers in a firm grasp. Automatically, he returned the gesture, not even sure he knew why, again, the tingling warmth from her touch traveling up his arm.
"Thanks again for keeping me company, Sesshoumaru." She squeezed his fingers and winked. "I promise not to go wandering off at night anymore to randomly watch fish go by."
Sesshoumaru smirked fleetingly at the girl, giving her hand his own tightening of his fingers before letting her go. "A peculiar miko indeed, Kagome." Nodding, he turned and silently made his way towards the line of trees, disappearing from her view after a few minutes, never looking back once.
Tilting her head to the side in contemplation, she stared at the empty space the Taiyoukai had been in a few moments more before chuckling and heading back to join her group. Inu Yasha would be waking up soon, and she wanted at least some rest before heading out.
Contentment had replaced the turbulence that had been swirling inside her all day and night, a calm serenity settling deep into her bones. She held the memory of this night close to her heart, the thought of the dog demon causing a smile to tilt her lips helplessly as she replayed their conversation over and over in her head.
Kagome hoped she ran into him again sometime soon. Maybe she would be able to convince him that whales were not fish, but actually mammals.....