Shippo, really wanting the comfort of his mother while such a powerful demon mentally stripped him into nothing, bent down and curled up next to her. "I will do anything I need to. I will protect her, you'll see."

Sesshomaru watched as the fox demon snuggled deeper into her hold. It was a sight he was unaccustomed to, family openly showing affection. "She will become cross when she awakes, you should leave."

Shippo had the courage, probably because he was in Kagome's arms, to snort. "Momma loves being held, or holding others, or getting hugs, or giving kisses!"

Sesshomaru watched as Shippo became more excited with each passing moment. Briefly he entertained the idea that while he was ill, she did not prefer being held. In fact, she seemed rather averse to Sesshomaru doing what the kit had suggested.

"One time when she was gone for a really long time she came home and gave me a big old hug! She was kissing me and holding me all day too. Inuyasha was so mad because she ran right by him and picked me up because I'm her special little boy. That's what she calls me when she is really happy and really misses me. Inuyasha always says mean things after that, cause he gets really jealous when she love me more than him, and tries to hit me on the head with his sword. Momma always gets really mad and then he gets in trouble. I don't think he cares, since at least Momma is paying attention to him, because he does it all the time. I don't know, maybe he just likes hitting me on the head. Or getting yelled at too. Like I said, he is an idiot. He thinks telling her what to do will make her listen," rambled on Shippo.

Sesshomaru, who was oddly enough listening to the young demon, found himself rather befuddled by the entire thing. First, his younger brother really did had the mindset of a two year old. Secondly, the priestess had amazing tolerance to put up with what he could only describe as her self imposed pack. Third, Sesshomaru could feel that slight discomfort in his stomach growing. It was different than the guilt. It was less dreary but just as worrisome. He knew this feeling, though it was rare. He had become jealous, jealous over a few measly stories told by a demon not even past his first century. It might have been a ridiculous concept but it was a true one.

Turning his head back towards the snuggling demon Sesshomaru came to a decision. Looking at the woman whose arm had curled around the kit, and the kit who was burrowing into her chest, the decision only solidified itself in his mind. "She is by no means normal."

Shippo shook his head, "Momma? No, I don't think she is either. No one can be normal and put up with Inuyasha as long as she has."

Sesshomaru felt a tug at the corner of his lips, a smirk forming whether he wanted it to or not. Perhaps the fox demon was not a complete loss, he obviously had a sound mind despite his time with Inuyasha.

Kagome knew something was off when she woke to a smiling Shippo. Shippo never smiled in the morning, not once. He was one to sleep in as long as physically possible whenever he could get away with it. The only thing that ever stunted that little endeavor was when she was particularly sweet in the morning while promising nothing but hugs and kisses the rest of the day.

"What did you do Shippo?" she asked while staring at him as menacingly as she could manage so early in the morning.

Shippo, who was by now rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet just smiled, as if holding in a giggle. "Me? I didn't do anything."

Carefully, because she was still sore from her attacks, Kagome sat up. The moment she pushed herself forward Shippo's giggle broke loose. Mid push Kagome glanced around the room as a sense of being watched filled her. It wasn't just Shippo's strange behavior that had her on edge, something else was afoot. Her mother senses were on high alert, "Shippo…"

The giggle subsided, "Promise Momma, I didn't do anything."

With one last glance around, because the hair on the back of her neck was still tingling, thus giving her the sense that something was wrong, she faced her son. "Nothing is broken?"

Shippo did not say anything concrete but he did shake his head indicating a very clear 'no'.

"You didn't play a prank on Inuyasha?"

Shippo blushed slightly, indicating that a prank of some sort had been played but it had nothing to do with his current mood. Her mind immediately reeled back towards her younger brother and his sometimes irrational desire to keep some things between himself and lord knew who else. Perhaps this was Shippo's moment to be like every other boy. Kagome, understanding that sometimes little boys just needed their secrets, let the issue drop.

If it was something horrible she was sure to hear about it from Sesshomaru at some point in time. He did have the strangest habit of pointing out to her everything her or her party did to upset the-oh-so delicate equilibrium of his palace. Besides, she trusted her son, he wouldn't do anything to make an enemy of someone that would truly hurt him. Whatever it was could wait until it became too big for him to handle. With a sigh, and the strong desire to lay back down on the bed Kagome glanced at her son. "Did you stay here all night? I don't have a Shippo spot near me."

Shippo, very casually glanced to the balcony, as if waiting for a cue, and then back at his mother. "I stayed up for a while."

Kagome felt her ire rise. "You are a growing boy who needs his sleep, you cannot be staying up all hours of the night and you know it."

Shippo rolled his eyes in a very practiced manner, "But Momma! I was having fun!"

Kagome flung the covers off of her legs as she attempted to appear motherly in her disheveled state, "Fun? Doing what?"

"Talking about how stupid Inuyasha is of course!" said Shippo proudly.

The beaming smile was almost enough to make Kagome end the conversation right there. He looked much too adorable to properly reprimand. What with that beaming smile and his chest puffed out like a cat that caught the slippery little mouse hiding in the cupboard. Of course, one aspect of his statement drew her attention. "Talked? As in with another person?"

Shippo's face immediately lost all color and she could practically feel his shame rolling off of him in waves. His eyes dropped to the floor like magnets incapable of connecting to anything else and his feet started the tell all shuffling motion. "Umm, no."

Her hands went to her hips on an automatic response as she channeled every aspect of her own mother that use to drive her crazy as a kid, "So you spoke about how stupid Inuyasha is all night…to yourself?"

The shuffling temporarily stopped as he briefly looked up to regain eye contact, "Umm, yeah, that's right." It was obvious how excited he was to be given an excuse rather than having to make one up. She briefly recalled the story of the cat and the dog, namely her and Inuyasha, that he drew for the town in hopes of gaining some clarity about why his mother always felt the need to disappear down the magical well. No, subtlety and lying was not Shippo's strongest skill in the world; pranking and bragging about it yes, not taking the credit for something no.

Her eyes narrowed on the one other figure in the room, the red haired little boy with an inability to lie to his mother, "So you stayed up all night, reciting all the idiotic things that Inuyasha has done in our times together to yourself. All the while laughing at your own statements hard enough that it kept you up the majority of the night instead of participating in one of your favorite activities ever?"

It was obvious Shippo was unable to get the lie past his tongue so instead nodded his head vigorously.

Kagome, knowing her son better than the back of her hand immediately glanced towards the balcony. After a few seconds her eyes moved back towards Shippo, "Alright, I'll let this one go. How about you go get ready for a walk. I think I am feeling up to it today."

Shippo's eyes widened excitedly as the implications of what Kagome said registered. "You had a good night?" His thoughts about the lie were immediately gone at the prospect of his mother feeling better.

Kagome, feeling motherly and affectionate, quickly reached out and pulled Shippo into an overwhelming hug followed by a variety of kisses on his nose. With a giggle he pulled away and looked at her expectantly, "What do you think?"

Shippo quickly bound from the bed as he sprinted towards the kitchens intent on getting some food for their walk around the castle. In a flash he was through the door like Sesshomaru's whips themselves were on his heels. Feeling a wave of hopefulness, which was a blessing during such a bleak time, Kagome smiled to herself. She knew exactly where she and Shippo would be walking today. It was the one place where she could relax and let it all go. The one place where nothing could harm her. Pure determination was the only thing helping her think clearly right now but she knew, out of everything else, the gardens would help her.

Before that there was one more thing to do.

Kagome, knowing an opening when she saw one, slowly slipped out of bed. Being as quiet as possible Kagome tip toed, her feet near freezing from the floor but she bared it, towards the balcony. Once she was close enough Kagome flung the curtains open in what she could only hope was in a surprising manner. By the time they stopped fluttering Kagome felt her disappointment rise.

No one was there.

She glanced around the area, searching from the palace grounds to the side balcony's for anyone that looked familiar. Funny, she would have sworn someone was out here earlier. Her senses may be a little haywire but her skills as a mother were perfectly fine.

With a huff, and more annoyance than she thought, Kagome turned back towards her bed while preparing for the rest of the day. What she failed to notice, since her human nature left her naturally inclined to look down and not up, was the tip of a black boot hanging just slightly over the roof of the balcony.

It wasn't until the silver haired figure sitting there heard the rustling of clothes that the foot dared move. He had lingered to long on the balcony and almost been caught. He would not make that mistake again.

Kagome watched her step as she tried to keep up with her ever eager son. Despite what she had told him earlier her body was not in top condition. Everything was not only sore but sluggish. Some part of her was swearing that she knew how to walk but it was as if her muscles didn't believe her. How could someone actually forget how to walk in a few short days? It seemed impossible but apparently she was the world's personal conundrum. It just loved screwing with her.

Briefly Kagome's mind flickered to other things that enjoyed screwing with her, because it was more than just the world if she was being completely honest. Time apparently had a bone to pick with her because she was positive most people did not get thrown five hundred years into the past without someone wanting a bit of amusement. And then there was this whole Touga situation. It appeared that the underworld wanted to put their two cents in too.

A large bout of anxiousness hit her full on as she tried to think of something other than the thoughts currently racing through her mind. It was hopeless and she knew it. Everything was falling apart and she was moments from cracking. Inuyasha was mad at her, Touga was trying to kill her, Sesshomaru was an ass and she had no one.

Kagome stopped where she stood as she tried to regain her breathing. She would not cry. She didn't care how long she had to scream at herself, she would not cry. Not in this garden and not in Sesshomaru's castle. She would never cry out if desperation again. Sorrow, yes, but never out of complete and utter hopelessness. She felt the tears welling up inside her despite her protests and it took all of her strength not to give up right there.

"Momma? Is something wrong?"

She knew Shippo needed to be hugged, or maybe just reassured but something in her just couldn't do it. She couldn't find it in herself to lie, not even to herself let alone a little boy. She wasn't okay, and it wasn't just the Touga thing. She hadn't felt this hopeless in ages and it was eating her from the inside out. And it wasn't just what was going on now that hurt either. She knew in her heart that the pain of today was combining with the same pain she felt as a child. The same pain that could only be tempered by one person.

Kagome, knowing that tears would scar her son, took in a very deep breath in hopes of sucking the pain back in. "I just need a minute."

Shippo, never one for listening, slowly trudged through the dirt pathway towards his lifeline. "Can I do anything?"

Kagome's memories automatically took her to a still house picture of the one person in the world she knew would make it all better. She knew in her soul that if she could talk to them everything would be fine, that they would fix everything even if nothing changed. Short black hair, green eyes and a firm line for a mouth that was set in an ever present scowl. He would be standing arms crossed like he was waiting for a death sentence but really just waiting for her to say what was wrong. That was it, that was what she needed. She needed him right now. With a new sense of self, and the feelings of denial back in place, Kagome opened her eyes and locked gazes with her son. "I'm sorry Shippo, I think what's going on is just bringing up some old memories. I needed a moment to make them go away."

"A large hit on the head should do wonders for that," spoke the last voice Kagome wanted to hear at the moment.

She tensed as the situation dawned on her. The son of a bitch was following her, no one else knew she was out here. The gardens were her special place and the bastard was ruining that. "Is there something I can help you with Malik?"

A tall figure with an imposing stance shifted next to her, his aura all but suffocating her. "You are intruding."

Kagome was in no mood for his antics, "Actually, I was here first."

Malik appeared to be just as riled because his arms crossed defiantly, "I was here centuries before your parents ever had the thought to conceive you little girl. Leave."

Kagome almost growled at the demon in front of her. What was his problem? This was her time and her space! She always dealt with things by going on a walk through some type of garden or forest. It was just her way of processing the crap of life and now he was ruining that too? Was he honestly just out to get her? This was hers, not his! "Make me!"

"You spend too much time with the half breed if that childish statement appears to you like a valid argument," Malik's gaze became even more intimidating with each passing second.

Some part of her knew this was a bad idea, she knew that she couldn't win. It didn't have anything to do with her attacks from Touga, it didn't even have anything to do with her mortality. In fact, it didn't have anything to do with anything. Something in her recognized this moment and the fact that she didn't stand a chance. If anything, that pissed her off more. "I don't take orders from second rate generals with nothing better to do than to harass humans."

Shippo's aura shrunk the moment the words left Kagome's mouth. Even at this age Kagome knew he recognized a challenge when he heard one. Kagome had insulted Malik beyond mere words and everyone in the vicinity knew it. If by some chance they hadn't gotten the message Kagome's rage should have done the trick.

Malik, for his part, remained perfectly still while processing her statement. After a few seconds of contemplation he leveled their gazes, "You are nothing to me priestess, just like the rest of your kind. If by some chance our paths happen to cross again pray that one of your protectors is near you."

He didn't need to say anything else, every necessary word had been said. The battle lines had been drawn.

Lord Shiho watched in amazement from his balcony as one of his oldest comrades turned away from a challenge. For some unfathomable reason the priestess was still alive, much to his disbelief. He had been moments away from leaping from his very perch to relentlessly defend Kagome from someone he was sure would have killed her.

How had she survived such an incident?

"Shiho, what catches your attention?" asked his ever faithful friend Uza. The demon was more than restless as he tried to prepare for his outing. Nothing can aggravate a demon more than being stuck in the same place with no means of an exit and that is exactly what this castle had become lately. So, in order to appease his demon the two would be going for a long run, one with no walls or confinements. After the illness had spread through the castle both of them wanted fresh air and a small taste of freedom; freedom from their duties, their constraints and their turmoil.

"I am watching Malik argue with himself," he said with a small smirk.

Uza, who was more than interested in Malik losing all sense of reason was immediately by the window sill, "Where would this delightful activity be happening?"

"The gardens," said Shiho while returning to the interior portion of the room.

Uza scoffed in pure annoyance, "He still walks those every morning doesn't he?"

Shiho, ever the peace keeper, tried to steady an argument before it began, "You know it gives him tranquility. It is the one place he can calm his mind. Despite your thoughts about him he carries many burdens. Everyone should have a place where their mind can settle."

With a little more of a pout than recognition for Shiho's statement Uza turned back towards the gardens, "I don't see him, the scoundrel must have already left."

Shiho debated telling his friend about the standoff but quickly decided against it. Nothing good could come by putting more animosity between the two demon Lords. Recent events with Kagome had brought up more than enough old wounds for the lot of them and salt would do nothing but burn. Still, some things shouldn't just sit there gathering animosity. Perhaps a slight push was in order. "Tell me Uza, in some ways does Kagome remind you of Malik?"

Apparently that was the wrong thing to say because Uza was immediately in front of him. It wasn't often that the Lord became serious, let alone warlike, but everyone had their triggers. "She is nothing like him, and don't you ever suggest that again."

Shiho had been threatened enough times to not take the statement seriously enough to stop. Seriously enough to consider, but not to stop. There were times in life when certain things need to be said and this was one of them, "She fights like him. It is probably one of the reason's they are always at each other's necks. They use the same tactics to get what they want, small seemingly meaningless manipulations and psychological warfare. I can only imagine how they must frustrate each other."

Uza's face became red with anger, "Even if that were true, they are nothing alike. She is kind and entertaining, he is a monster with no morals."

Shiho frowned in disappointment, "Stop being so blind. Malik may have his faults, even he knows this, but he is a good man and a good leader. Stubborn and quick with his temper, but still good. Your hatred will hurt you more than it will him."

"Do not compare them, I won't stand it!" yelled Uza in complete rage.

Shiho knew the conversation was bordering on something to be weary of but this feud had gone on far enough. For a demon a few years filled with anger was nothing, but over a hundred years was pushing it, even for their kind. Especially if said demons needed to cooperate in order to properly protect all of those under their care. "It happened over a hundred and fifty years ago Uza, you both have suffered greatly because of it."

Uza stopped where he stood while processing his friends presented information. "I believe I shall run alone today Shiho, I am in need of some distance."

Shiho, knowing that he had perhaps pushed his friend to far tried not to take it personal. He knew that Malik and Nori's union was more than off limits but something needed to be said. Maybe it was Kagome's defiance towards the battle savvy Lord that brought this on but enough was enough. "I understand, I shall find something to do here."

Uza stiffly stepped out of the room, an unknown destination in mind that would hopefully leave all of these thoughts behind him.

Shiho watched as his long time friend left the room. It was more than obvious that today was going to be far from peaceful. With a sigh he contemplated yet another decision. Was he fine with confronting one of the two or was Malik in need of a good talking as well?

Malik, for his part, was desperately trying not to tear the room apart. He had quickly come to the conclusion that pacing was idiotic and whomever thought of the blasted method of stress relief did not have the slightest inkling about how fun it was to kill things. In fact, since they obviously knew nothing about proper stress relief, they probably off'ed themselves like he was dangerously close to doing if just to get away from that infernal woman.

He couldn't kill her, he knew that. She was not only valuable to them as an ally but as much as he hated to admit it Malik respected the hell out of her. How was it that her defiance was the one thing that pissed him off but made him admire her at the same time?

Malik furiously dove his claws into the sides of his legs in an attempt to reign in his anger. The pin pricks from his sharpened claws gave him some point to focus on, thus grounding him in reality. Still, the garden fiasco had him on edge. She was in his space, she had interrupted on his time.

"It appears you have finally learned how infuriating you are to the rest of us Malik," whispered a voice with a slight snigger.

Completely caught off guard Malik spun on his heels, despite the familiarity of the voice, and growled threateningly. "Do not push right now, I am in no mood for your lectures."

Shiho, having already decided that today was a lost cause casually threw his hands into the air, "I am not here to lecture, just make an observation."

"And what would that be? That I am unreasonable? That I have a temper? That I want nothing more than to rip someone's throat out? Thank you for those words of insight," said a scathing Malik with as much sarcasm as he could muster. Almost immediately he turned back towards the window to resume his pacing. While it was idiotic it was better than nothing.

Shiho chuckled, slightly surprised at the war general's insight about himself. "No, nothing quiet so obvious as that. I was actually going to make an observation about Kagome. Not everything is about you Malik."

Said demon scoffed as if offended by that statement, "Oh, so you were going to say that she is unreasonable? That she has a temper? Perhaps she too feels the need to rip someone's throat out."

Shiho straight up laughed at his choice of words. It was slightly ironic how well Malik's statements fit his own observations, "Actually I was going to say that you and Uza are both right, she is very much like Nori. She is similar not in her mannerisms or interactions but through her desire to help. She has the same ability to get into every mundane situation imaginable and have it somehow turn into a life threatening scenario, something she shouldn't have been involved in in the first place."

Malik stopped his pacing while examining this particular statement. It was true, Nori could get herself into the worst of situations without even trying. She somehow became involved, usually through her own desire to help people not even slightly related to her, which he or Uza would have spent the next how over many days trying to protect her from it. Before he could confirm or deny Shiho's observation the man continued.

"Of course, that is not all I see. She has a spark that Nori didn't. She has fire in her not just the calm waters my shores are known for. She is unafraid to stand up for what she believes in and will fight tooth and nail to see it through. She could quiet possibly be one of the most stubborn individuals I have ever met as well, not to mention unwilling to ask for help. Honestly, while it is unclear what ails her she remains as stiff as a board just plowing through it," said Shiho while smiling.

Malik, unclear about where this was going, did not indicate his own confusion but instead put his arms across his chest defiantly. His mouth twisted into a straight and firm scowl, "Are you complementing her Shiho? Or are you trying to get me to?"

"Actually, I was just noting that if you were to ever have a daughter I have no doubt in my mind that Kagome would be her. In all my years I have never met someone so similar to you and it, on my part, is rather amusing watching you argue with a younger female version of yourself day in and day out. I will admit that you have had particularly bad moments with her. I honestly think they are out of your pure frustration of having to go toe to toe with yourself since you are beyond aggravating at times, but overall the similarities are astounding."

Malik, despite his try's, could not hide his shock. His mind was spinning a thousand miles a minute at the implications, "You…what?"

Shiho, beyond amused that Malik was at a loss for words and showing it, took a few steps back. "If you weren't so busy being a bastard to her you might see said similarities."

He wanted to strike, he really did but Shiho had already slipped out the door. He was more than a little miffed when the ever sly, and supposedly wise demon, was gone before any real retribution could be cast upon him. Slimy bastard knew when he needed to run and he was good at it.

And where did he get off claiming that the girl and him were even slightly similar. She had a temper like he had never seen, which was more easily set off that a pregnant demoness. Was Shiho implying that he was as bad as her, impossible! And her stupid desire to do everything on her own despite the problems it was undoubtedly causing her? Malik could never be considered that blind as to avoid obvious situations because of his pride. Malik was the ruling factor over his pride and he would be damned before it controlled any of his actions like it did hers. He was not prideful like her! That woman was impossibly stubborn too, probably even more so than he even realized! Did no one see the way she bullied her way in the gardens? Who stands their ground like that? To him?

Stupid woman and him had nothing in common. The world was insane. With all his anger determining his strides Malik once again found himself circling the room. Everything about this day was a mess and he needed something, anything as a distraction. It was the least the universe could give him for denying him the safe haven in the gardens. Though, perhaps the woman had already left and he would be free to roam as he pleased.

Malik immediately banished the thought from his head. He would not cater to her. He would not wait for her to be done like a little brat waiting for his turn playing a game. He was much too far above that. She could keep the bloody area.

"Stop pacing, it's annoying" demanded a voice to his left.

He turned to face his god-son. Malik was in no mood to put up with the overconfident Lord of the West right now, despite their long history as student and mentor. He was much to riled by the previous situation to sit and listen to Sesshomaru discretely complain about a problem Malik was sure related to something he was supposed to care about, "Go speak to the woman, she is in need of your belittling aura, not me."

Sesshomaru's left eye brow rose slowly as he watched his godfather's ire rise even further. Slightly miffed that Malik had shot him down before getting even one word out, a rarity since Sesshomaru did not normally feel the inclination to speak in the first place, said demon pressed forward, "This is more important that your feud with the woman."

Malik turned on the pup with his demonic aura flaring. Due to its intensity flames briefly surrounded him, his manifestation getting the best of him. "And what, pray tell, is more important than my hatred?"

Sesshomaru flashed a canine as he heard the growl in his godfather's voice. He would not be dominated anywhere, let alone in his own home. His demonic aura being smothered just a few short days ago was enough to last him a life time. If there was one thing he was not about to let happen again, even if it was to prove a point, it was going to be that. He watched as Malik took in his response, the direct threat present on both of their minds. Neither was in the mood to be trifled with and it was only a question of who would back down first.

Instead of backing down as Sesshomaru had hoped, Malik's demonic aura grew stronger. The previous wisps of flame that had surrounded his long time friend grew even stronger. Sesshomaru, to be honest, was never a particular fan of fire. It was incredibly unpredictable and lacked the precision he so enjoyed. Malik though, appeared to relish in its fierce erratic nature, "You have yet to answer me pup."

Despite his desire to prove his dominance Sesshomaru knew a dire situation when he sensed it, they did not have time for this foolishness. Instead of directly attacking like he commonly did with overt displays of perfectly executed power, Sesshomaru took a different approach, "They are here."

Malik's aura, much to his ire, calmed as he sensed the slightly defeated nature surrounding Sesshomaru. No, defeated was improper for one such as the mighty Lord in front of him. Sesshomaru could never be defeated so easily, let alone acknowledge it, this was more of a resigned look. As if awaiting inevitable torture that no amount of bravery could ever dissuade.

"Who is here?" pressed Malik once his demonic rage was under justifiable control, though still admit ably wild.

Sesshomaru glanced towards the front gates as the sound of a royal horn finally reach both of their animalistic ears, "The one thing I find more despicable than my idiotic half brother."

Again a trumpet sounded as Sesshomaru's normally passive face slumped. If Malik would not have known any better, or thought Sesshomaru more capable of expressing regular emotions, he would have expected for Sesshomaru to be visibly ill. Malik suddenly caught the more than distinct smell that so often accompanied those despicable horns and couldn't help but be glad that he was considered to bastardly to be a real possibility. "Perfume and blood, what a pleasant combination."

Sesshomaru grimaced, "The fierceness of demons combined with the finesse of the ruling females of our kind. This is not an evening I will enjoy."

Malik's eyes turned towards his young student who was by all accounts, not so young anymore. "You seem to blame me for the night's events, ones that have yet to happen. May I ask why?"

Sesshomaru, who was already considering the near deaths that were more than likely to happen this night could not believe the anger he was feeling rising within him. Had he truly been depending on the wench this much? With cold and calculated eyes Sesshomaru spoke exactly what was on his mind, "You just angered the one ally I had procured for the upcoming week."

Malik's eyes widened slightly in disbelief. Had he truly just heard what he thought he heard? "The priestess? You allied yourself with the priestess?"

Sesshomaru did not rise to the knowing barb at his incapability, "A true leader knows when they are in need of assistance. Of course, one does not expect one of their most trusted advisors and mentors to personally sabotage them in this endeavor."

Malik scoffed, "I assure you that her level of difficultness is entirely her own and needs no fire from me. I am wounded that you did not see me fit as an adequate source of protection from such cretins."

Sesshomaru would hear none of it and part of him, a larger part than he cared to admit, was more than angered by Malik's statement. In a mere second his eyes flashed a tinge of pink, his iris's forming to the oncoming transformation that was being suppressed, "I have, with all three of you incompetent buffoons at some point."

Malik's wicked grin surfaced, "We have all had to bear it young one, it is somewhat of a right of passage. One your father and Uza took particular joy in."

Sesshomaru's claws extended as he remembered the many instances that one of the three men, at some points even his own father, had worsened the situation in an incomprehensible way. He for the most part could handle himself, he could defend his own territory. What he could not stomach was the other Lord's blatant attempts at making the situation all the more enjoyable for them. "It is not amusing."

Malik, suddenly out of whatever mood the priestess had put him in couldn't help the smirk, "Yes it is."

Sesshomaru turned as quickly as his demon speed would allow, not wanting to spend another second in Malik's demeaning presence. To think he had attempted to speak to the man to find some semblance of comfort. "The lot of you are despicable."

Malik did not even jump at the chance to, even verbally, distance himself from the other two Lords. The situation was much too enjoyable. Setting Sesshomaru up to spend time with some superficial demoness, it would be a more than acceptable distraction from today's events.

It never occurred to him that this is exactly the type of thing that Kagome would to do Inuyasha on a boring day with absolutely nothing interesting to do.

Kagome furiously stomped up to her room. Part of her desperately wanted to kick everything that came into contact with her. That horrible and annoying basin of water that one of the servants had left while in the middle of cleaning was precariously close to being thrown across the room. Kagome, to her frustration kept her temper in check and stopped right by it. She knew in her heart how childish kicking it would have been, and hence decided not to partake in the act, but another part of her was vindictively taunting her for being an adult.

Screw maturity. She should be allowed to be a kid with normal kid tantrums every once in a while but no, she was raised on freakishly strict principles.

It was times like this that she desperately wished to have Inuyasha's level of self control. Oh how freeing it would be to just not give a damn and spout anything that came to mind no matter who it pissed off. Self-control was completely overrated dammit!

Why? What gods had decided to give her the life she was living? Her crapfest life, and that is exactly what it was right now. She was being held captive five hundred years away from her family, in a time where women were nothing other than child bearers, being held hostage by a ghost that only she could see with demons whose only intent was to kill her. Kagome wasn't an idiot, Touga was legitimately trying to kill her because he had some twisted belief that it would draw his moronic sons together. Well hello you senile old dog, they would have to get over themselves and care about her enough to pay attention in order for that to happen. Both of them were too absorbed in their own world to ever notice anything other than the targets they had painted on each other's backs.

Kagome, completely defeated at this point all but collapsed on the floor she had been standing on. Her body just couldn't take this, the stress, the arguments, the attacks. She was drained beyond normal human measures, probably demonic too, and knew she was too far over the edge to do anything about it now.

Her breathing didn't quicken, her heart didn't race, the air didn't taste disgusting; no, instead she felt as if the world was suddenly compressing itself around her body. Like she was being squeezed through a tube three sizes two small only to find out that after all that pain there isn't an opening at the top.

The pain just continued to intensify.

What was happening to her?

The squeezing became tighter and she felt like each one of her bones was slowly cracking from the pressure. First there was just a small fracture, one from the bone being unable to give way, but then she felt it. It was like the break splintered off in a million directions. They each traveled up and through different parts of her body as if breaking everything into small unusable pieces. Logically Kagome knew that this was impossible, that she would not be sitting, even with her back up against a wall, if her bones were shattered, but she couldn't help but feel like it was happening. Like her bones, as strange as it sounded, were completely confused by the concept of gravity and force in general.

A tear, which keeping up with the ones before it burned with each millisecond, indicating her agonizing pain slipped down her cheek as she tried to keep herself quiet. Kagome, knowing that a scream was in order quickly bit her lip, almost immediately drawing blood. Her mouth was soon full of the metallic and muddy taste. Since when blood started tasting like mud she wasn't sure and at this point she didn't care. It was just another thing to add to the list of symptoms plaguing her life.

Kagome knew this couldn't go on much longer, not for her body's sake but for her sanity. Her mind would cave if this continued. So instead of focusing on the pain Kagome focused on the walk to the gardens she had been privy too just moments before.

Flowers, trees, pools of water. She needed to calm down, she needed to remember to breath no matter how disgusting the air tasted or how much it hurt to inhale. She needed to remember all that Uncle Ken had taught her. Kagome closed her eyes as she tried to remember her lessons. It hurt to remember, it hurt to think but she knew she had to try. Over the years his lessons were the only things that had ever kept her grounded, that had ever made her feel safe. She prayed to god that he would not fail her now.

Center yourself, know that the universe cannot touch what it does not have power over so do not feed it with your own strength. She focused continuously as the world around her seemed to heat up to an unknown level. While she still felt the unimaginable pain it was slowly lessoning as if being turned down a notch by an outward dial. Though it felt like the world around her was getting hotter as the pain became less with each second, as if the pain and the heat could not exist in the same world. The heat rose as the pain diminished. She felt as if she was sitting in the middle of a furnace but couldn't feel any flames burning her so she kept going, she kept herself centered.

Trust, that was everything Ken had taught her. Trust in him and trust in yourself. No one can defeat you if you truly believe that they cannot. Kagome couldn't let her symptoms beat her, she wouldn't be weak like that.

"Kagome!" screamed a voice that was vaguely familiar. Some part of her registered the screaming, the sound of disbelief, but to be completely honest she ignored it. It didn't matter that everything felt like she was picnicking on the sun, the pain was gone. The compressing feeling was gone. Right now that was all that mattered.

"Wench!" yelled the same voice right before Kagome felt someone with impossibly strong hands grab her arm and pull her towards them.

The heat almost immediately dissipated, leaving Kagome fearful but the pain didn't return. Breathing heavily, and for the first time that day without a cringe with each inhale, Kagome looked up to whomever had pulled her from the floor.

Much to her immediate surprise it was Malik. His eyes did not hold their usual bought of anger, or the expected fury that he had promised her earlier that morning. Instead his gaze was filled with shock and a little bit of disbelief.

"Kagome!" yelled the now very familiar voice. Almost immediately she watched as Inuyasha leaped next to her in what could only be described as pure panic. He was instantaneously checking over her whole body as if looking for what should have been obvious injuries. After giving her what could only be described as a thorough pat down the overwhelmed half demon turned to her. "What the hell woman? Are you okay?"

Kagome, who was still being held by Malik nodded her head, "I'm fine Inu-" she stopped mid sentence when she saw his hands, the very same hands that had just checked her for injuries. While one of them was fine, maybe a little red the other had black burn marks surrounding it. His charcoaled skin was the worse at his fingertips but spread throughout his hand like flames. The dead patches traveled up his arm until it gradually faded at his elbow. It looked as if he had placed his hand right in the middle of a fire and purposefully held it there. "What did you do to your hands?"

Inuyasha looked down at the more than burnt one, then quickly placed it behind his back. She could see his fury ignite, something that she was more than apt at deciphering, and knew he was being bogged down by his own emotions. From his instant angry response and the look in his eyes she could only guess it was shame. Though for what she wasn't sure. "I'm fine, you were the one engulfed in flames like a stupid person!"

Kagome's eyes widened in disbelief. While still in Malik's grip she turned to face the wall that she had been leaning against. Instead of the beautiful tapestry, stunning flooring and perfectly placed accents Kagome saw what appeared to be the remnants of a giant bonfire. Everything was completely destroyed. The wall was caving in from the fire damage and the floor was heavily scorched with marks she was positive would never come out. The beautiful artwork was completely destroyed, nothing but a now torn black piece of cloth and hanging rod to let anyone know that something beautiful had once been there.

Kagome couldn't believe the destruction. This was something that she normally only saw on the news with her mother, something that multiple firemen needed to take down. "What?" she tried.

On impulse Kagome looked down at her own hands, knowing that she had been at the center of it all. She remembered the heat, the comfort, but no burning sensation. But instead of burns she saw nothing but smooth skin: smooth, perfect, unblemished naked skin.

Kagome immediately screamed as if hells hound dogs were on her heels.

Malik, who was still holding her, which seemed to be his role in her life if past instances were anything to go by, quickly held her tighter as he wrapped his cloak over what was left of her visible body.

Instinctively she wrapped it around her.

"Why don't I have any clothes on?" she screamed at Inuyasha like he was the cause of her nakedness.

Inuyasha, who had long ago noticed that his friend was indeed naked but hadn't registered it until she was safe and he had finished with his pat down, couldn't help the pink blush on his cheeks that he was sure wasn't leaving anytime soon. ""I-umm…I don't know! They probably burned off leaving you…"

Handling embarrassment was never his strongest point.

Kagome glared at him, "You felt me up!"

Inuyasha's face could have been the same color as his own clothes, something Kagome was still missing much to her mortification, with the amount he was blushing at that statement. Somehow he managed to get out a stammer and a yell at her obvious insinuation, "Y-y-you were on fire! Crazy woman! Who'd want to look at you anyways?"

Kagome's face became even more contorted with rage with each word that came out of his mouth. For a split second she forgot that Malik's usually menacing cloak was the only thing from people mistaking her for a feudal era streakier and she lunged for Inuyasha's throat.

Inuyasha fell backwards on impulse in an attempt to get away from her, his sore backside being completely ignored as he attempted to scoot away from her as fast as he could while on his hands. "Gah! You're still naked!"

Malik who was attempting to sort out the situation in his own head had somehow managed to keep a firm grip on the woman despite her misleading strength. She was human, she should not have been able to nearly break his hold, but he had managed to keep her steady. "Inuyasha, go see to your brother and make sure he is prepared for our guests. I will take care of her for now."

Inuyasha, who was still stuttering like a little boy realizing that his sister has different body parts than him, quickly scurried away as fast as his body could take him. His claws left more than enough indents from the force of his leaps but he did manage to get away.

Malik, who was now paying an extreme amount of attention to the naked girl in his arms slowly placed her down so her feet were once again on the floor and not hovering six inches above it. Her head was down and her hair covered her face, indicating her shame over the situation. Without any hesitation at all Malik unclasped his cloak and wrapped it around her body, clasping it around her neck. It completely drowned her, the fabric being too long and wide for her frame, but he guessed that was the point of the situation right now.

"We should get you adequate clothes," he said while grabbing her upper arm. Making sure not to hurt her, or pull the fabric in a way that would expose her flesh, Malik slowly walked with her down the hallway. They hadn't even gone four feet before she tried to speak.

"Aren't you going to kill me or something?"

She sounded completely broken.

Malik drew a breath and shook his head, "Later."

Then he heard what could only be described as a sniffle. Some part of him honestly died a little when he heard it. He bloody hated it when women cried. Despite his attitude it was the one thing that despite years of practice he had never been able to overcome.

"I hurt him didn't I? The burn on his hands, that was from me," her voice was quiet, even his demon hearing took a second to register it.

Malik's grip on her tightened, "The fire didn't come from you, it held a demonic aura."

Her voice was a little stronger this time when she answered, though it was once again accompanied by a sniffle and the scent of tears. "But he got hurt trying to save me. I hurt him. He tried to save me and he got hurt while I stayed fine. What about that is okay? What about that is right?"

He knew she was crying, he knew she was destroying herself over the fact that she may have hurt someone she considered family. But as important as that was, Inuyasha would heal. It would take a few days and he would be in a lot of pain, but it would heal. She on the other hand was a mystery wrapped in confusion. Instead of taking her to the room she had been occupying Malik took her to a much closer one, his. It happened to be around the corner and with one push she was standing in the middle of his self appointed chambers.

Deciding to concentrate on something other than her tears, because he was unsure what would happen if he did, Malik pulled out a clean set of clothes. They were his, ones he used when sparing, so they wouldn't be missed. Pressing them up against her chest since he was unsure where her hands were, Malik turned his head in the other direction. "Change."

Kagome, who was still swimming in her self mortification of being naked and hurting Inuyasha, tried to clear the water from her eyes. After blinking a few times to disperse the tears Kagome looked down at what was being pressed to her chest.


A new wave of crying came over her, her eyes appeared to have an unlimited water source, as the gesture hit her full force. Malik was giving her clothes. Malik was trying to make her less uncomfortable. Malik was being sweet.

Dropping the cloak, and not even bothering to ask Malik to stay facing the other direction Kagome changed as quickly as possible. She ignored the fact that she didn't have underwear or a bra, right now she was taking her blessings where she could get them. When she finished Kagome quickly looked around to see where she could put the cloak but did not find anywhere suitable. Slowly she turned back towards Malik who was still facing the other direction. "I-I guess I'm done now."

Thankfully, she had managed to say that without completely bawling her eyes out.

Malik, almost as slowly as her, turned around to face her. Despite her own problems with him she was a little surprised to see that he wasn't looking her directly in the eyes but instead was focusing on an imaginary spot in the middle of her forehead. "Umm, what should I do with the cloak?"

Malik immediately looked down at the fabric in her hands, "…Keep it for now. It is fire resistant so if anything else were to happen, you would be protected."

The meaning behind the words was not lost on her and she immediately felt her eyes start up again. The moment she did Kagome felt more than saw him cringe and she immediately felt guilty. She was after all being a blubbering mess. Wiping away her tears Kagome tried to correct herself, "I'm sorry, I don't mean to cry. I just can't seem to stop."

The demon Lord in front of her sighed, his whole body seemingly tired with the one move. Instead of telling her to leave or jump off a cliff like Kagome was positive he wanted her to Malik pointed to the bed. "Go sit down, I think it is time we talked."

Kagome, still more than a little ruffed up by today's events slowly moved over towards the bed. It was larger than hers, as well as higher. Part of her felt like a little child while walking over to it but another part of her just wanted to run. She knew that Malik wasn't going to let that happen though. And even if he did, Kagome wanted to stay. So Kagome walked over to the perfectly set sleeping arrangements, legs folded, and turned to face the Lord of the North.

Malik, for his part, was glad that her tears had appeared to once again stop for now. Though it was more than likely that they would start up again. Right now he needed to concentrate on bigger things though so her tears would have to wait. "Are you or are you not going to tell me what is happening to you. I know you know."

Kagome suddenly felt the familiar reminder from Touga to keep quiet. Her throat suddenly closed and the painful zap was moments away. "I-I am sorry but I cannot."

Malik had the most important answer he could have asked for with that one phrase. She didn't say she didn't know, she didn't get defensive and she did not answer with a plain 'no'. Her words were deliberate, she physically could not answer him. Someone else was pulling the strings. "Are you in danger?"

Kagome closed her eyes as she tried not to think of all that had happened, "Yes."

"Is anyone else in the castle at risk for harm?" he asked slyly.

Kagome, knowing this was boarding on something Touga wouldn't approve shook her head 'no' and hoped she wouldn't get reprimanded. While she did not feel that he would hurt someone else in the castle she could vividly remember the burns across Inuyasha's hands, "Nothing intentional."

"Is it Naraku?" From her previous answer he surmised that it was a no but he needed to be sure. If Naraku was using her she was a risk to them all. Malik was slightly relieved when she indicated once again a no. "Can you tell me anything at all about what is happening?"

Kagome looked as if she was debating with herself, which in truth was what she was doing. Kagome knew Malik was smart, but she was unsure how smart. Somehow, she needed to give him as much information as possible with as little information as possible with the hopes that he would figure something out. "I am working on fixing it."

Malik had to stop his eyebrows from moving upwards in fascination. Fixing, she had used the word fixing. The statement was very similar to what he had heard earlier when she was talking to the kit so it most likely was true. She was trying to solve the problem, but it wasn't just a problem, it was something that was broken that needed to be repaired. What was it, a weapon? No, she was the least battle savvy person he had ever met. Whomever was doing this to her had to know that too, she knew nothing about forging or weaponry. So what needed to be fixed? "Do you know what to do?"

Kagome sighed as she brought her legs as close to her body as possible. While it was more than uncomfortable it brought her immeasurable amounts of comfort, "I have an idea but situations make it more than a little difficult. I don't have much to work with."

Malik remained standing as he processed what she said. Mentally he was reviewing all the acts that had transpired here at the castle and the decisions that she had made while here. He couldn't for the life of him find any connection other than she was here in the Western Castle. He doubted that she would be able to answer more than she already had though, her face was already showing worry on it. Instead of focusing on that particular conundrum Malik turned towards today's fiasco. "The fire, was it started by the same source?"

Kagome drew her eyebrows together in confusion, "I think so, I can't imagine what else it would have come from."

Malik knew better. That was no regular fire that was demonic fire laced with demonic aura. Everything else that had happened had been manifested by her own body. The shocks, the tear stained burns, the lack of sleep, the uncontrollable pain. Something else that she was unaware about was brewing, something that maybe she could talk about.

"That necklace, who gave it to you?" he said while narrowing in on the space in-between her breasts.

Kagome immediately went to grasp the shikon shards that hung in a bottle around her neck. By some miracle they were the one thing that hadn't burnt away. She could only guess that it was the power of the four souls that kept everything intact. "The jewel was found in my body. It was ripped out of my side by a centipede demon about two years ago."

Malik shook his head at her answer, "Not the jewel, the rope it is strung on."

Kagome, unsure what Malik was talking about pulled the necklace off of her neck in confusion. Once she did so she couldn't help the brilliant smile that spread across her face. "Oh momma," she said nostalgically. Holding the string up to her heart Kagome closed her eyes and smiled. "She must have switched the strings last time I was home."

Malik continued to look at her like she was stupid while she continued to talk to herself. Somehow catching on that Malik had no idea what she was talking about Kagome cleared her throat and tried to explain. "My Uncle Ken gave this to my about a year ago. I'd recognize the pattern anywhere. He said that it was a present and that it would protect me when he couldn't. Momma must have switched the strings on me when she saw how frail the other one was."

Malik slowly moved over to a nearby chair as he processed the information. "You have an Uncle? I believe that goes beyond Sesshomaru's and my previous analysis of you."

Kagome blushed as she remembered the reprimand Sesshomaru had given to her earlier when deciphering things about her life by her actions alone. Apparently she had given Sesshomaru too much credit, the analysis had been a group effort. Though, that didn't make her feel better at all. Apparently Sesshomaru and Malik took the time out of their day to talk about her. Very few things could scare her more than that. Clearing her throat Kagome tried to explain, "Well, he's not really my Uncle. After my father died, well, I don't know he kind of just took me in. He travels a lot, like a whole lot, but whenever he is in town or close by I see him."

Malik shut his eyes in contemplation. While keeping them closed he asked his next question, "He does not have a family of his own?"

Kagome giggled, something she never thought she would ever do in front of Malik of all people, "Oh he does. He has a daughter born out of wedlock. I've only met her a few times, and always when I was a kid, but from what I remember she is incredibly sweet."

Malik's eyes shot open, "Why do you not see her now?"

Kagome, starting to wonder why Malik was so interested in her personal life outside of shard hunting began drawing circles on the mat, "She's married now and lives pretty far away. I think that was why Uncle Ken became so attached to me, I think I reminded him of her when she was little."

Malik scoffed, "Did you just call yourself sweet?"

Kagome immediately felt the glare building inside of her surface. She turned her previously occupied eyes towards him and hoped that he burned a thousand deaths in the pits of the underworld, "No, I'm way more like him actually. I'm beyond stubborn, believe help is a form of saying I can't do something on my own and will do something just because someone tells me not to."

"So he is to blame for your impossible attitude?" he huffed out.

Kagome stuck out her tongue in annoyance, one in hopes of pissing him off and two in hopes of making herself feel better. She wasn't a brat…always. But instead of the familiar feeling of justice playing across her mind Kagome felt something sharp pinch her tongue. Opening her eyes in horror Kagome saw that Malik had grabbed it with the tip of his claws.

Freaking demon speed sucked turnips.

She tried to say let go, really she did, but it just came across as a mumbled mess of sounds. Malik narrowed his eyes at her further defiance. Kagome, knowing that she was defeated because Malik's eyes conveyed it all, rolled her own eyes in one last act of defiance and relaxed her body giving the universal sign of acceptance.

Malik slowly let go of her tongue. "The string, you said it was a present?"

Kagome, who was attempting to feel for any holes on her tongue because his claws were just as deadly as Sesshomaru's, slowly turned her attention back towards Malik. With the same glare from before she wrapped her hands around the fiber, "Yes, it was hand made by him too. It's why I never wore it, I didn't want anything to happen to something so special. Ken doesn't hand make anything."

She had expected Malik to scoff at the statement, after all what grown man makes a necklace for a woman? She was ready to defend her Uncle with her last breath at a mere hint of disapproval because although she would never admit it, Ken was one of the most important people in her life. After her father had died she had felt so alone. She had felt like the world was trying to drown her. She was furious at her mother for not understanding her pain, and Souta, she couldn't even look at him. It was as if her entire body was repulsed at the very thought of the small infant.

Ken had found her one day, crying under the god tree as he went to the shrine to make a prayer request for his only child. Despite him being a silent and gruff man with the aura of a lone wolf instead of going to the shrine he sat with her in the freezing rain and held her as she cried her eyes out. Ken had let Kagome beat against his chest in rage, soak his shirt with tears and pour all her six year old troubles onto him. Three hours he had sat there with her while she used and abused him and he sat in complete silence. He never once told her she was being childish, that she needed to grow up or that it would all be okay. He just continued holding her with the familiar straight face she knew and loved. It was only when she had finally stopped, only from pure exhaustion mind you, and fallen asleep did he stand and take her to her mother.

Looking back on it Kagome was incredibly lucky that he hadn't turned out to be some creeper with a fetish for small children. Honestly, they had a few wacko's who came to the shrine every now and then. But he hadn't been, instead he had been a businessman who had a meeting in Tokyo and happened to pass by an old shrine. Instead he had decided to put up with a broken little girl for three hours and then when she was done wailing on him returned her to her mother. But it hadn't ended there, he had left his card in the hands of the slumbering child so she could call and apologize for the mud on his shirt the next morning. A relationship formed after that, something that she really couldn't explain to normal onlookers. Eventually it went beyond phone calls and moved to face to face meetings. He had allowed the little girl free access to his office and building where she would spend the majority of her days watching him and terrorizing his employees.

So yes, she was ready to attack Malik like hell with an agenda.

Instead of doing what she predicted Malik concentrated on the cord in her hands and nodded his head. "Go talk to the half breed, and try not to kill him. He all but dove into the fire for you, he was legitimately concerned. If I hadn't of rounded the corner I have no doubt in my mind that he would have continued his pursuit."

Kagome, semi speechless, hugged the nearby cloak and she slowly walked away from the bed. She knew when she was being dismissed and despite the shock took the opportunity to leave. Her legs were slightly sore but she knew it could be worse. She had been on fire after all. But before she reached the door Kagome turned towards Malik, "Why didn't you burn? When you grabbed me?"

Malik didn't turn around but he did answer her. His voice though strong felt semi-distant but she let it go. Perhaps she was hearing things now too. Either way she was too tired to give it much notice. "Fire is my bloodlines specialty, much like Sesshomaru's poison. It cannot hurt me, no matter the intensity."

Kagome accepted the answer as true almost immediately, having seen Sesshomaru's poison first hand. After processing the information she all but ran out of the room determined to find her best friend and check on him. While she doubted he would let her see his hand she still needed to talk to him about recent events, well as much as Touga would let her talk to him. And who knew, maybe Inuyasha would finally give in and let her heal him. Miracles happened every day right? She wasn't sure what she would be able to heal with her powers on the fritz but she could at least give it a try.

Malik, for his part slumped into his chair even further, his mind ablaze with thought. Nothing was adding up, everything was a mess. Her story about her Uncle, while he couldn't sense any deceit and she appeared genuine enough in her delight, couldn't be true. It was impossible.

That cord was made from demon hair. Cat demon hair to be exact. It was a tradition passed on from his family used to protect the children, often the daughters, of the cat clan until they paired with mates suitable enough to protect them. The father would infuse his own demon aura into the hair and fasten it around his daughter's neck. It would react to extreme danger or desperation and set everything perceived as a threat on fire.

There was no way that necklace was hers, no physical way.

Because it had been his own demonic aura that had protected her.

Firevixen73- Hello friends, sorry it has been so long but hopefully I made up for it with some suspense. Your reviews really helped me work on this chapter. I never want to make a chapter for the sake of just making one and I wanted to give you something that you would enjoy. I know that there was no Sesshomaru/Kagome interaction but give it time. I felt like a lot of what happened in this chapter needed to be said before they could progress further in the way that I want them too. So what does everybody think of Malik now? And everyone thought he was just a horrible person. Let me know what you think, I love hearing your comments.