Inuyasha does not belong to me, sadly…but I'll happily take credit for this story! ^_^
Chapter One: Discovery of the Miko
She ran, clutching the bundle to her chest, her breaths coming in short bursts as it tried to escape her constricted throat. It was tight with fear and anxiety, dry and burning with each gasp. She heard the sound of water and sped towards it, hope sparking a little in her heart.
Howls screeched into the quietness of night, and her stomach twisted sickly. The sounds made her pale throat constrict with fear. She heard no sound from the shaking kit in her arms.
Bursting through the last of the trees, she came upon the river and its lazy form. It drifted on, unaware of the chaos unfolding around it. She stopped, her lungs greedily sucking in the dew-damp air. Another call rang through the air and she spun around, her eyes searching frantically. Turning back towards the river, she steeled herself and jumped, landing on a slippery but flat boulder. They were scattered throughout the river as if a great landslide had run through it, leaving remains in it's wake. She prayed she could get across the river in time, before they reached her. Just as she was making ready to leap to the next, a figure landed in front of her, blocking her escape. Panicking, she turned to her left and ran across stones and boulders heading downriver. She could hear them behind her, following her at a teasing pace. They could have had her by now; they were toying with her. She reached the edge, the water lapping at her feet, threatening to pull her in. She looked over her shoulder and saw them there, waiting. They thought she would give up, that she would surrender to them and go with them rather than die. They were wrong. She turned to them, stepping backwards, farther towards the edge. With a last lingering smile, she leapt over it.
He sighed, staring at the fullness of the moon. It had been such a dull evening, he had encountered nothing on his patrols and tomorrow would likely be the same. Stretching his legs out on the branch he leaned his head back against the smooth bark, the smell of the tree invading his senses momentarily. Crickets chirped their nightly song, and a far-off owl could be heard catching his prey. The poor mouse didn't stand a chance against such a predator.
Howls rent through his peaceful rest and he turned to the south, where he could sense them coming at an alarming speed. The wolves were on the hunt. He shook his head, once again disinterested. Poor mouse. But it was none of his concern.
Or so he would have liked to think. It took him a moment to realize that the prey was human, and while he would have liked to think that they were giving chase for good reason, he knew better. Had it not been wolves that had massacred his ward?
He focused on where he could sense the human and narrowed his eyes. He could see a figure emerging from the woods, and could sense their panic. It looked as if they carried a bundle in their arms, or were simply nursing a wound. She (for what male could have such a slender frame?) turned in his direction and began running along the stones pocking the river bed as her enemies neared her. He could see how they toyed with their prey, keeping their distance and yet near enough to keep her from escaping. The woman stopped; they had her cornered at the edge of the waterfall.
He watched as she turned, seeming about to give in. But just as he thought this, she jumped backwards off of the edge. Time seemed to slow and he watched as her hair and clothing billowed about her, her raven hair spreading like wings. It was such a lovely, bittersweet moment with the light of the full moon glinting off of her falling figure. If he had been an artist, he would have toiled for years to catch such a moment on canvas.
The hunters soon gave up on the falling creature, turning away from the falls. No good sport could be had with what would be left of her, if they found her at all.
He sighed for the second time that night, intent on resting till' the sunrise. The sounds of animals began to stir again. They had disappeared as soon as they heard the wolves' cries, but now they came out of hiding, going back about their business.
He began to drift off, his mind lulling into a dreamless state when he heard a high keening. At first he thought that he'd imagined it, but then it returned, albeit muffled and quieter. Despite as much as he would have liked to, he could not simply ignore the sound and continue sleeping. As Lord of these lands it was his duty.
He jumped from the tree, landing agilely on his feet and began to head down the slope towards the stream. The sound became louder, and more desperate; perhaps he would put the creature out of it's misery.
He came to where the falls became a quiet, placid stream and found the source of the noise. Near the edge of the water, among the smooth rocks and boulders, lay the body. Her head lay on a stone, her neck at an odd angle with her body which laid limply in the shallows. She was on her side, and while one arm was waving uselessly in the waters, her other was still wrapped around a bundle. Probably stolen goods from the wolves. A kitsune kit was huddled next to her in the water, sobbing. He kept patting her, as if hoping she would simply wake up from her slumber. He nuzzled into her, burrowing himself under her free arm, trying to get closer to her.
He ignored the kit, looking at her face instead. She looked somewhat familiar to him. Her blue eyes were open; half-lidded and dull. Not a single spark of life shone in them. Blood was trickling out of her parted lips, out the corner and lazily making its way to the pebbles below. The beautiful raven hair which before had seemed like wings to him now looked like a dark curtain, spreading into the water around her, mingling with the blood which must have now been pouring from a crack in her skull. Foolish mouse.
He sniffed, smelling the stench of death and the sweet metallic scent of blood mingling with the freshness of the water. She was surely dead. He turned, choosing to simply ignore the kit, when he smelled something else. His eyes narrowed suspiciously. They couldn't possibly be back. No. It wasn't them.
He took a few steps nearer, curious now as to what the bundle in her arms actually was. The kit didn't seem to notice him at first, and simply cried into the dead woman's arms. He stepped nearer, silent. The kit rounded on him, blood red eyes glaring at him as he turned towards the intruder. Had some predator come now to further desecrate her body? Recognition shone in the kit's eyes and while he was still frightened, he let the other come near. In fact, he simply cuddled back into the corpse's arms, mumbling all the while.
"…gome…," he heard him sob. "Kagome, come back…Don't leave me…"
Ah, so it was the miko wench. He stood shocked for a moment, contemplating. She did not seem like the sort of human woman to steal, especially from a wolf tribe. He knew she could not be that foolish. And so in all good reason, as lord of the lands, it was his duty to right the wrongs. Even if it meant meddling in his brother's affairs. Indeed, he would probably enjoy messing with the half-breed.
He knelt next to the body in the water, pulling a piece of fabric from the top of the bundle away. Shock hit him like a ton of bricks; Big golden eyes stared up at him. A demon child? He sat back on a flat stone, staring at the creature that now began to cry as well once it realized that something was wrong with it's human. He sat and thought for a moment, coming to a decision. It would also be wrong to leave two demon children unattended, without anyone to care for them, would it not? Sure that he was going to regret it later, he sighed in annoyance. Humans and their stupidity.
He stood, pulling the kitsune from the arms of the woman by the scruff of his neck and setting him on the grass nearby. He also plucked the babe from her arms, placing it in the kit's hold.
"What are you doing?!" cried the kit.
"Silence." He drew his sword and held it above the body, waiting as he watched the soul snatchers trying to chain her soul. He swung the blade down on her body smoothly, dispelling the creatures and sheathed his sword once again, ignoring the kit's cries of despair.
"What have you done?!" he cried, hopping back and forth on his hind feet. He looked ready to attack him, his eyes turning once more to a blood red, the babe on the grass beside him. But then he stopped, sniffing the air.
"Kagome!" He launched his tiny body at the woman, but was caught in midair.
"Enough. She is broken and while I have returned her soul to her body, she is still in great pain." The kit stared forlornly at the miko who had yet to show any sign of life.
"Tend to the pup. I will tend to your miko." Kneeling down, he scooped her up out of the cold water and walked into the forest, knowing the kit would follow as best as he could.
After making a fire, he shed her of her clothing caring little for modesty, hanging them to dry near the fire and dressed her wounds, setting the bones in her legs. They would take time to heal. She also had numerous broken ribs to add to the mix. This miko was in for a world of pain once she woke; he wasn't sure if she would thank him or curse him for bringing her back.
He stripped off his outer haori and wrapped it around her fragile form, laying her near the warmth of the fire. All the while the kitsune watched, sometimes flinching away when he heard the cracking of bones or heard her moan in pain in her sleep. The pup had long since fallen asleep and was simply snuggling into the kitsune as he watched, oblivious to all that happened around it.
"You may rest now, kit. Hand me the pup." He eyed him warily before handing the babe over and settling on the ground beside him, curling into a tight ball.
Holding the pup in his arm, he stood guard through the night underneath a tall oak.
The first thing she felt was an overwhelming sense of pain, like a fire raging just beneath her skin. She couldn't think beyond how much pain she was in. It steadily grew worse and she couldn't help but cry out. She vaguely felt a hand behind her neck, lifting up her head and pouring a cool liquid down her throat. The fires were quenched, though she knew is was only momentarily.
She forced her eyes open, ignoring the beams of light that shone through the canopy of leaves. Her entire body ached and it took every fiber of her will to turn her head. Where was the child? And Shippo? Panic rose in her and she fought to sit up, the shooting pain returning ten fold. A hand pushed her back down to the ground and she cried out in agony.
"Stay down, miko. Do not be foolish." Sesshomaru looked down on her, his expression as stoic as ever.
"Sessh- What are you doing here?" She gasped with the effort it put on her chest to speak.
"Doing as I wish," was his simple reply.
"How did I-"
"Ask your questions later. There will be time."
"Where is she?"
"Who is it that you speak of?"
"The child," she forced out through her teeth. "Where is she?" Tears streamed down her face in her pain and panic, her breaths coming in gasps as if she was being chased yet again. "Shippo!"
"Kagome!" She heard his voice coming nearer and once he was close enough her arm shot out, pulling him to her as she sobbed in relief. "Thank the kamis!" Shippo buried himself in her arms, burrowing into her warmth.
"Miko, you will harm yourself further if you continue like this. This Sesshomaru does not wish to reset your bones a second time."
She turned towards him, glaring slightly as she winced at the pain.
"This Miko doesn't care," she tried her best to smirk. "I will not let him go again."
She watched as his eyebrows raised minutely, in surprise.
"It was very foolish of you to jump, when you were carrying such tender cargo." He reached into his haori and pulled the sleeping child from within it's folds where it had been kept warm. She had not even noticed it before then.
Her eyes were wide in amazement at first and then she reached for the pup, her lips quivering. Once he was sure that she had a good hold of it, he released it to her and watched as she gently cradled the pup close to her, all the while whispering apologies to it.
"I'm so sorry my pup, I swear I won't let anything harm you. I'm so sorry." Eventually, whether from exhaustion or from pain, she fell asleep cuddling her little ones close to her.
"Sesshomaru-sama! Rin is so glad to see you!" He froze in place, waiting for the child to catch up to him. Just as he expected she wrapped her arms around his leg, hugging him as best as she could.
"Did my lord catch us fish for dinner? Rin is starving!"
"These fish are for another, Rin. I will catch more after I am finished with these."
She skipped as she followed him and he shortened his stride so that she may follow easier.
"For another? Who?"
"The Miko who travels with my half-brother was injured."
"Kagome-chan?! Is she all right?"
"She died," was his blunt reply. He did not think of how Rin would take such a statement, and honestly did not expect her to burst into tears as she now was doing.
He turned, and stared at her blankly as she huddled around her knees, her hair covering her face as she sobbed. How could the child be so attached to a human that she barely knew? She'd scarcely seen her above ten times, surely if even that many.
"Rin." She did not move. "Rin, stand." Eventually, she pulled herself up from her crouch, though she still covered her face. He walked to her and placed a hand on her head.
"The miko will be fine." A sniffle was his reply. "I've revived her, and she has been recovering for several days now." Hopeful brown eyes stared up at him.
"She's alive?" He nodded. "May Rin go pick flowers for Kagome-chan?"
"Take Jaken with you." She turned and ran towards Ah-un and Jaken, giggling the entire way.
"Jaken, Sesshomaru-sama says you get to pick flowers with me!" He could hear Jaken's moaning and complaints but ignored it as he returned to the camp.
The miko was sitting up, leaning against a tree stump near the still crackling fire. It was fall now, nearly winter, and so even in the day its warmth was welcome. She held the pup in her arms and was cooing to it, rubbing her petite nose on its cheeks. He vaguely wondered if she knew how much like a youkai she was behaving. He, of course, would not mention it.
She looked up as he neared, a large smile still on her face. She bounced the babe in her arms, careful to avoid her legs or chest. After all, she was still healing.
"Was that Rin-chan I heard?"
Shippo's head popped up from his place beside her.
"Rin-chan! Is she here, Sesshomaru-sama?"
"Hai. She has gone to pick flowers with Jaken."
"Haha-ue, can I go with Rin-chan?" He looked up at her hopefully, begging to go.
"Yes, but stay near Jaken and Ah-Un, okay?"
He was already bounding away towards the field.
"Yes Haha-ue!" She shook her head fondly as she buried her face in the pup's mass of black curls.
"Why do you smell so good, Haru-chan?" she mumbled.
"Haru-chan?" He asked quietly as he cleaned the fish.
She laid her cheek on the pup's head gently, rocking back and forth.
"Hai. Haruhi." He nodded, approving of the name. It suited the babe.
He listened to her talk to Haru as he prepared the food, unconsciously tuning in to everything she said. He almost found himself chuckling at the way that she sounded, but he didn't of course.
"Kagome-chan!" Rin cried as she ran to them, one hand holding Shippo's, the other holding a large bouquet of wild flowers.
"Look at what we brought you, Haha-ue!" The children sat at her side, showing her their offerings of affection.
"Rin has brought you a lot of flowers!"
"Thank you Rin-chan!" She bent her head to smell them. "They're lovely."
"I made you a crown, Haha-ue!" The kit held up his chain of daisies and had to hop to place it on her head. She swooped down and nuzzled his cheek.
"Thank you Shippo, I love it," She giggled.
"And I brought a flower for Haru-chan too!" He brushed the flower by Haru's nose, watching as she giggled and sneezed. She grabbed at the flower but Shippo pulled it away so that she wouldn't crush it.
"No, no, Haru-chan!" he scolded.
Kagome took it from him and put it behind Haru's ear, tickling her afterwards. They all laughed at Haru's gurgles and giggles.
Sesshomaru felt slightly out of place with them all, watching as they behaved as a happy family while he sat in the distance and watched; the observer. As irony would have it, that always seemed to be his place.
Kagome hissed in pain and Sesshomaru immediately turned to them, wondering what could have caused it.
"Sesshomaru-sama, would you please come take Haru?" He stood from his place minding the fish and knelt next to her, holding his arm out for the babe. The children had backed away from her, giving her space when they realized she was in pain.
Looking to her side, he noticed her untouched cup of tea.
"You have not taken your tonic yet this morning." She snorted at him, rolling her eyes.
"The stuff is foul."
"It would help you. You wouldn't be in pain now if you'd taken it."
She grimaced as she laid herself down onto her makeshift bed.
"Either way I'm going to be in pain. My legs are broken, in case you've forgotten."
He watched her as she closed her eyes, tuning out anything else that he may have said. Mindful of Haru, he stood and returned to the fire, using his outer haori as a sling to carry her. Shippo was turning the fish, asking frequently if he was doing an okay job. It surprised Sesshomaru how quickly the kit seemed to get over any fear of him. The miko as well. It seemed to him that she was now treating him almost as she treated his brother. He expected to be angry once he realized this, but he took it in stride, convincing himself that it was because she was injured that he ignored her complete lack of manners for his station. She would not treat him so for long, he would not allow it. But for now he could forgive her temporary insanity.
The setting sun was nearly gone in the evening sky, the shades of red and orange nearly extinguished. The children had been frolicking in the nearby fields with Ah-Un and an unhappy Jaken, while he and Kagome stayed near the fire. Neither spoke. They simply sat in silence, one staring at the sky, the other staring at the ground and the fire upon it.
He found himself wondering how this all had come to be. Why did he help a human when he felt nothing but disdain for them? Perhaps it was because he knew her. Or rather, he knew of her. She was his brother's wench, his shard-detector and the reason that he could wield the Tetsaiga. But then, where was he now? Why hadn't he been with her, protecting her as he swore to do? And whose child was it that she cared for? Surely she was not her own. He would be able to tell by their scents. How had she come across her?
He was intent on discovering the answers to his questions, but when he looked at her from his position beneath the tree he did not think it was appropriate to ask her. There was something in her countenance that told him the subject was closed, that even should he ask, she would not answer. And so he continued thinking, searching for the answers in his own mind.
It occurred to him that she had never finished asking him about why he had saved her life. Each day he expected her to ask him and each day he was left wondering why she didn't. This miko was a mystery to him, surely.
This had been occurring for the past few nights, neither asking or answering each other's queries. And yet they had a comfortable silence. He would almost venture to call it companionable. In truth, he was relieved to be near a female that didn't parade herself in front of him like some prize for him to take. Yes, this miko was rude and yes she was sadly lacking in the knowledge of how one acts near royalty, but she at least did not leech onto him as many others had done before her. She simply accepted him as he was and in turn he felt that he was becoming cursed to accept her as well. He would of course correct her in some areas that needed to be corrected, but that could wait. He in fact did not even know if she would be near him much longer.
Other than her legs, her wounds were healing quickly and efficiently and he wouldn't be surprised if she were to be on her way soon. Perhaps her friends would come and retrieve her. But then that raised yet another question. He wouldn't put it past Inuyasha to abandon someone, but her friends seemed if anything, loyal. Where were they? After having defeated the putrid hanyou Naraku they seemed closer than ever, so why was she alone?
He glimpsed over at her momentarily, realizing that perhaps she was wondering that as well. Perhaps she didn't know why she was alone, why she had been abandoned to her death.
He sighed. This was getting ridiculous. Why should he care? Why should he ponder questions such as these about a miko that he most likely would not see again, let alone as a companion. Perhaps it was guilt. It had happened on his lands, after all, and for reasons unknown to him. He had searched his mind for reasons of the chase as well and had come up short. It didn't matter. It was over with, and no guilt would sway his feelings towards a filthy ningen miko. It was hardly his fault.
"Sesshomaru-sama, can Kagome-chan come stay with Rin?"
He paused, his hands poised above a fish in the stream. He pulled it out deftly, tossing it onto the small pile of trout he'd already collected.
"Why do you ask such a question, Rin?"
"Well," she began, rocking back and forth on her heels, her hands clasped behind her as she stared at the clouds, "she doesn't have anywhere else to go…"
"And why should this concern me?"
"She needs help, Sesshomaru-sama!" Rin gasped at him. "She can't walk by herself and Shippo-chan can't help her…" She sniffed, sitting down now on the bank of the stream, wiping at her eyes. "Rin would feel a lot better if Kagome-chan was home with her."
He sighed, afraid this would happen if Rin was near her too much. She would want to take her home like a stray. And she would use her strange will over him to get it.
"I will propose the invitation to the miko," he consented. Besides, he told himself, the child needs someone to look after her, so that she wouldn't distract him when he was busy. With any other female in charge over her she disappeared, at least with the miko she would want to be near her.
"Rin is so happy!" She stood and grabbed a couple of the fish, squealing at how they flapped about. "Stop it, you! Rin is hungry!" she scolded the trout.
He shook his head as he grasped the last of them and headed towards the camp. He was going to have a rough time ahead of him. Why did he ever agree to this ludicrous arrangement?
"And so Rin thinks you should come live with her!"
Kagome looked down at the girl kneeling beside her, confused.
"But Rin, surely Sesshomaru-sama would not agree to this. I've been enough of a bother already."
"But Sesshomaru-sama has already said yes," she moped.
Kagome stared, her mind flying at a million miles per hour, wondering how that could be possible. He detested humans. And youkai naturally hated mikos, so why would he ever agree to that?
Now the question remained. Would she go with them? All things considered, and considering what had happened, she really did not have anywhere else to go. And she honestly doubted that her legs would magically heal over night. In fact, they were still quite painful. She could barely adjust her position without causing herself more pain. But still, she could not be sure of Sesshomaru's reasoning. He'd never shown her anything but disdain, and had on more than one occasion tried to kill her. Could she trust him?
She watched as Rin ran to Sesshomaru, most likely telling him how her hunt for Kagome was progressing. He looked at her, but only for a second, before replying to whatever Rin had said. She visibly pouted, leaning her head on his shoulder as he was sitting. It surprised Kagome that he didn't push her away. He merely indulged her. Obviously he couldn't hate humans that much if he tolerated and cared for a human child, and a rather talkative one at that.
A cooing sound pulled her attention away, drawing it to the bundle in her arms. She leaned in close to the pup, looking her in the eye.
"What do you think, Haru-chan? Should we go with them?" Of course, she didn't reply. She hadn't expected her to. Sighing, she rubbed her cheek against Haru's. "Do we have any other choice?" She peeked over and saw that Sesshomaru was watching her. Barely perceptible, she nodded, knowing that he would notice.
He bowed his head down to Rin, speaking quietly, and suddenly she was bounding towards them crying happily about her excitement.
"Rin is so happy! Rin will get to play with Kagome-chan every day!" She nearly ran into Kagome, but Sesshomaru was there, holding her by the collar of her kimono.
"Calm yourself Rin. We will leave as soon as you have eaten." She immediately slackened in his hold, an adorable smile on her face as she waited for him to release her.
"Where are we going?" Kagome asked, looking up at Sesshomaru.
"Rin, you will sit with Jaken and the fox kit on Ah-Un." As he said this he sat on the ground next to Kagome.
"Okay!" she replied. "Shippo-chan! Come sit with me! Up here!" Kagome watched as Shippo hopped up in front of the little girl, holding on to the Dragon youkai's mane with a death grip.
"Miko." She turned to look at Sesshomaru, wondering why he was sitting, as she unconsciously ran her hand over Haru's hair.
She was a little surprised when he picked her up in his arms but was completely stunned when he deposited her in his lap. A cloud began to form beneath them, and she began to understand what he was doing, though she still couldn't believe that he was.
"We will travel like this." With that last statement, they rose into the sky, climbing higher and higher. Kagome gasped, closing her eyes and leaning into the fur over his shoulder. She had never particularly cared for heights, and even though she was accustomed to riding Kirara she still could not stop herself from being a little afraid. After all, who was she to say that Sesshomaru wouldn't drop her?
"Fear not. This is the safest and quickest way to travel. I shall not drop you and the pup." In fact, with this statement he looked down at the bundle in her arms and after biting off his nail he smoothed a lock of hair out of her eyes, allowing her to grab a hold of his finger in the process. She pulled it into her mouth, gargling up at him as she gummed it.
Kagome was shocked to say the least. Since when had Sesshomaru been the fatherly type?
She watched his face as he watched Haru. While there were no obvious signs of his affection, she thought she saw a glint of it in his eyes. She looked down at the babe as well and could not help the smile that lit up her face. She looked so content, and was in fact falling asleep with his finger in her mouth. He looked up again at the horizon and Kagome soon felt herself drifting off as well, feeling oddly content with his fur beneath her head and his warm arms around her like a strong brace that she knew would not break.
"Kagome-chan, wake up! Wake up!" She could hear the child's voice in her head, all around her, and knew that she was excited about something. Forcing her eyes open, she glanced at her surroundings. She was still being held by Sesshomaru and they were still in the air. What had Rin been going on about?
"We are nearly at our destination." She perked up, looking forward and down. Coming closer with every second was a large fortress, larger than any she'd ever seen before and she knew without question who it belonged to.
"Whoa," she whistled. The high pitched sound, however, disturbed Haru and she awoke with a vengeance, crying with all of her might. Kagome hadn't been expecting it and tried to rock the little girl back to sleep. Still she cried. She leaned down, rubbing her cheek against hers, all the while making quiet and calming noises to her. Soon she slipped back into her sleep-filled state and Kagome sighed as she leaned back to rest her head.
"How do you know to behave as you do?" came a deep voice from behind her. She could hear it rumbling through his chest from behind her.
"What do you mean?" She tilted her head back to see him.
"You behave as that child's natural mother would have."
"How so?" She was thoroughly confused.
"You nuzzle her."
"Nuzzle?" He sighed, almost inaudibly, and leaned down. She felt the heat rising to her face as he rubbed his cheek against hers, in gentle circles.
He could feel her heart stop momentarily and chuckled to himself as he took a deep breath of her scent. After all, he would need to be able to recognize her scent among so many others in the fortress. Also, by nuzzling her he would be scent-marking her, ensuring her safety as well. Nobody would dare harm someone scent marked by the Lord of the lands.
"What did you-?" He pulled away, his face as emotionless as ever as he looked forward once again.
"I was simply demonstrating for your simple mind."
"Hey, I am not simple!" she whispered angrily, afraid to once again awaken the child.
She huffed in annoyance, nearly missing the smirk that minutely lifted one end of his mouth.