Chapter 6

Kimberly had just ordered her third drink when all hell broke loose.

The tingle that had tickled at the back of her head all night had eventually been muted by her skill at ignoring things she didn't care to pay attention to and the alcohol she'd indulged in. Nonetheless, it hadn't diminished… and in a heartbeat, it exploded into a full throb of sharp pain. Holy power with more than a tinge of darkness washed over her like a tidal wave. She threw up her arm, relying on instinct developed over three years at the Pink Mighty Morphin' Power Ranger to somehow pull power from the jewel shards that hung at her breastbone, creating a weak barrier around where she and her friends were sitting.

That thin wall of protection was torn to shreds a second later by a burst of demonic power; the dark, pulsing aura of tainted jewel shards sent people untouched by The Power out the doors in a fearful frenzy punctuated by snarls and screams.

The group of slayers and former Rangers rose, pushing against the tide of people to face what Jason could only describe as… not nearly as frightening as he'd expected: three barely-clad men standing in front of the booths on the restaurant area of the place, one with ocean-blue eyes glaring fiercely at Kim, Miroku and Sango. The two others flanked him; one looked a bit nervous to see so many people standing against them and the other wouldn't meet anybody's eye.

For somebody used to golden, armored, winged monkeys and rubbery-looking monsters, to face off against creatures that looked so very human was disconcerting.

Kim, however, paid no attention to the trio. She glowered up at the young woman who stepped from behind the men to stand next to them, a haughty smile on her face. Tommy noted that she had a strange glow about her; her hair was oddly silver – too pale to be a bleached blonde, but actually white, like the half-demon he'd met the day before.

"Tsubaki!" Kim all but snarled, finger pointed at the woman angrily. "What the hell are you doing working with them?"

"Fastest way to the jewel shards," the woman responded lightly, completely at ease in the face of the shorter woman's anger. She threw her arms wide and her eye began to glow… before low-level demons began streaming from it.

"That is completely disgusting," Rocky commented with a grimace.

Aisha nodded. "Forget disgusting – that's just sick and wrong. I don't even want to guess where they're coming from…"

"She has a shard," Kim said under her breath to Miroku and Sango. "We have to get it from her."

As though the two groups had been working together for ages, they'd backed into a circle. Sango and Miroku stood shoulder-to-shoulder; through habit apparently undiminished by ten years of distance, Kimberly found herself sandwiched between Tommy and Jason and rolled her eyes.

'Men.'

"Hand over the shards, Kimmy," the blue-eyed demon shouted cockily over the growing sounds of snarling, hissing, and cawing – low-level demons were filling the building.

"Go chase a car, Kouga," was her snappy retort, punctuated with a grunt as she kicked away the first of Tsubaki's minions.

As the number of demons crammed into the building multiplied, mayhem broke loose. Kimberly shoved her way between the distracted, protective men to face the woman; a white snake coiled around her shoulders before lunging forward, snapping its fangs at Kimberly. She ducked and spun, pulling a short sword from her knee-high boots and grinning in satisfaction as the blade began to glow pink with purity.

"Oh, looks like little Kimmy got a power boost," Tsubaki snarled, waving her arm and watching as a mass of her minions swarmed toward the former Ranger.

Kim began to cleave her way through the attack with the ease of one who'd done it for years, eyes rarely leaving the woman's form. Dust swirled around her, carried by the windy power emanating from her hands and sword; it was all that remained of the demons vaporized by the holy power surrounding the sword. "It's amazing what happens when you have more shards than anybody else. Looks like you took a major turn to the dark side," she commented over the sounds of battle.

Tsubaki shrugged. "A woman does what she needs to in order to stay looking beautiful." A discontented frown stole over her face as an unsightly, scale-like scar glistened over her eye for a moment – a clear signal to Kimberly that the dark priestess' demons were being slain at a faster rate than she could support it; they were drawing on her strength rather than the other way around.

'Okay, having the Rangers here has its advantages,' she noted wryly as she quickly leapt up to the raised area. Perhaps Sesshoumaru would spare her the lecture when he learned humans had interfered in the battle.

"Oh jeez, are you going on about that stupid scar? You know what does wonders? Cover Girl. You don't even have to make a pact with demons; you can just walk to the store!"

Tsubaki rolled her eyes. "Like you'd understand? What if I said they could make your chest better? Are those boobs or bug bites?"

Kim growled inarticulately as she reached out and snagged Tsubaki's hand, bringing her arm up and around as though to use her as a shield against the demons on the dance floor –

-forgetting to take into account the woman's familiar. The snake hissed, coiling itself around Kimberly's arm and sending her into a squealing whirl, sword forgotten, shrieking, "Oh, ewwww, gross! Get it off!"

"InuYasha said to watch out for the snake!"

Kim nearly paused in her rush to remove the snake from her body, managing to spit out a, "Thanks for nothing!" at Miroku.

Said holy man was standing next to Sango, a collapsible staff clutched in his hand. He cursed loudly; the large number of demons in the building made it difficult to do much of anything with his weapon of choice. He didn't want to accidentally smack Sango with it. He finally tossed it, frustrated, at a short wolf demon with a white Mohawk. The demon leapt over it and began half-heartedly trading blows with the man, backing Miroku into Sango.

"How did we manage to miss the fact that they were here?" Sango asked, striking out with her leg at Kouga's other right-hand man, a striped-haired wolf demon named Hakkaku. She booted him in the face and he let out a whine, clutching his bleeding nose with both hands and leaving himself open for a follow-up knee to the stomach.

"Barrier?" Miroku suggested light-heartedly. "Had to be, or Kim would have felt the jewel shard. Maybe it damped the sounds and smells for our hyper-sensitive friends here," he added.

"Ginta! Hakkaku! Get me those colored kids," Kouga commanded from his perch on one of the restaurant tables. He snarled a toothy grin at Miroku and Sango. "I have a bone to pick with you two… and a message for you to bring to your weak-ass master."

"The only thing I'm bringing him is your hide," Sango snarled. It had been several years since Kouga had led the attack that caused her father's death, but the pain echoed in her chest every time the demon smirked at her. She'd wipe that cocky grin off his face if it was the last thing she did!

The image of her father's bloodied body in the back of her mind, Sango jumped up the steps and rushed the wolf demon, eyes ablaze with a need for revenge. He met her bloodthirsty stare with one of his own: she'd taken down too many of his pack over the years to be forgiven her sins.

Sango reveled in the thrill of the hunt; she took a perverse pleasure in Kouga's anger as he realized his demonic speed would be of little use in such a tight space, especially with the center of the room packed with low-level demons.

The wolf demon with the rapidly-healing bloody nose turned his efforts to Miroku, who seemed to be handling Ginta with little effort. As the holy man spun to engage the new enemy, Ginta melted into the mess of demons.

"I hate hand-to-hand combat," Miroku complained as he barely dodged a swipe of his opponent's claws. He snagged a piece of paper from his pocket and, with a short chant, tossed it at Hakakku. The demon yelped and slapped at it, whining loudly as the flames burnt at his hand, too.

From next to him, Jason grunted. "It's not so hard. Wish I had a weapon, though."

"It's a little tight in here for that, don't you think?" Trini pointed out. "You'd put us in as much danger as these things are."

"Holy shit! Look at Kim!" Rocky hollered over the sounds of battle, taking a moment to eye his former teammates. It'd been so long since he'd been in a real fight; adrenaline rushed through him, followed by a surge of testosterone as he slammed his foot into the side of a demon intent on taking Aisha down from behind.

Tommy and Jason had immediately spun to eye their short friend at Rocky's comment – and found themselves staring. The girl was wreathed in pink – Tommy was uncomfortably reminded of how she'd looked when kidnapped by Lord Zedd, his machine slowly siphoning her power and very life-force…

Worse, there was no clear route to her. The fact that she seemed to be holding her own against the white-haired woman with the weird foreign name meant nothing; he doubled his efforts to mow down the stupid bug-like creatures separating him from her.

Kimberly had finally gotten herself under control, realizing that her stupid "get it off me" dance was not only really interfering with the whole "get the jewel shard" plan, but also leaving her open for attack by Tsubaki, whose priestess powers rivaled her own.

Not a good combination, really.

Kim had snatched her sword back up, managing to shrug off the snake and slice at it before backpedaling away; it hissed ominously and stretched, growing and snapping at her.

"Having problems, Kimmy?" Tsubaki was incredibly amused at seeing the usually deadly slayer on the run.

"I hate that nickname," Kimberly shot back, not taking her eyes off the creature. InuYasha had warned her of previous run-ins with the priestess; should the snake get a bit of her blood, she'd be done for.

Or at least turned evil, turned against her friends and probably forced to kill people she loved.

So probably worse than death, no matter how many times she and her friends had faced similar – if slightly less deadly – situations as Rangers.

As the familiar sprang forward again, Kimberly scooted backward… and her back slammed against the wall. 'Shit! Cornered!'

Next to her, Sango was taking advantage of the space freed by Tsubaki closing in on Kim. She'd snagged a table leg from the ground – the weight was rather similar to her bone boomerang, so it felt comfortable in her hands. She only wished she'd brought a couple of her scent bombs; on the other hand, Kim's friends didn't have masks, and theirs were on the other side of the room, anyway.

Sango cried out as one of Kouga's swipes made contact, drawing a long bloody gash across her shoulder when she spun; she followed it up by clocking him upside the temple with the makeshift weapon. Demon or not, the blow was enough to stun him for a moment. Pushing the pain to the back of her mind, she repeated the motion.

Sure, it was fighting dirty. Sure, it was probably dishonorable.

As far as Sango was concerned, "honor" at that moment could take a long walk of a short pier. "Revenge" was far more satisfying – as was the thunk of the wood slamming into Kouga's head.

On the rapidly-thinning dance floor, Miroku ducked away from Hakakku's kick and twisted back up, copying a kick Jason had used, using the wolf's momentum to send him flying. Miroku winced, certain he had pulled a muscle attempting that maneuver. Taking a breather for a moment, Miroku checked in with Kimberly's friends. He was most impressed to see Zack dancing as he struck out at various creatures. The grin on the man's face was… almost amusing, really. He seemed to be having a blast, despite the strange situation.

He found he had to remind himself that Kimberly's friends had grown up in weird circumstances.

"Can't you guys turn into ninjas or something?"

Rocky nailed a weirdly-shaped demon in the head, smiling with satisfaction as it dissolved into dust. These was more like it – the lackeys disappeared, like his early Ranger days! "Actually, I think the proper plural for that is 'ninja.'"

"Boy, I love you, but this is no time for a vocabulary lesson!" Aisha shouted, hitting the ground as another demon slammed into her back.

"Less banter, more butt-kicking!" Tommy snapped.

"Actually," Miroku grunted as he barely avoided Hakakku's outstretched claws as the wolf leapt back into the fray, "I think Rocky's right." He groaned again as his muscle protested the movement. "All the same… don't you guys have powers or something?"

"Not all of us," Trini corrected. She straightened a moment, taking a breather as the demons were picked up one by one. Jason demolished the last demon within arm's reach and happily turned to face Hakakku. He was exhilarated; this was the best fight he'd had in years.

Trini turned a concerned look on Miroku, who seemed rather uncomfortable. He waved her aside when she knelt to check his leg. "Aren't you worried about your husband?"

"He can handle himself. Are you worried about Sango?"

Miroku grinned wryly. "Are you kidding? I'm worried about anybody stupid enough to get in between her and Kouga."

Both were distracted from their conversation by a shriek; they turned to see Kim on the floor, hands around the snake near the head. She writhed, finally pinning it to the wall with her foot above her head in a move only a gymnast could pull off comfortably.

"Bite her head off!" Tsubaki urged the demon puppet, who tried to wriggle free of Kim's hold.

Kim reached out with her arm, flailing in an attempt to grasp her sword. She distantly heard her friends shouting – heard Tommy shouting – and ignored it. She had a choice: her sword or the snake.

Taking a gamble, she rolled and snagged her weapon. She faced the snake, no time to get off the floor, as it leapt toward her; willing holy power up her arm, Kim swiped the sword under it and flung it in the air, like a chef with a spatula would a pancake.

The demon puppet flew… and struck Tsubaki right in the eye.

Even Kouga and Sango stopped their fight as Tsubaki let out a shrill cry. Kouga and Hakakku whimpered and covered their ears; Rocky suddenly wondered where the third wolf demon had disappeared to. Had they killed him? The demons seemed to turn to dust…

"Sango! Now!"

"Let's get him!" Miroku suggested, waving the former Rangers at Kouga. Hakakku looked to be down for the count, laid out by one of Jason's many karate moves. The Rangers had proven themselves good enough in a fight – Miroku knew Kim would deal with Sesshoumaru's wrath later.

At Kim's call, Sango abandoned her fight with Kouga, throwing herself at the screeching dark priestess and tackling her to the ground. Tsubaki writhed – half in pain, half in an effort to free herself – but Sango had not been on her high school football team for nothing.

Barely noticing as her friends tackled Kouga, Kimberly followed Sango in going after Tsubaki. Once Sango had the woman pinned, face-to-floor, Kim took up a steak knife that had somehow been jammed into the floor; somewhere in the back of her mind, she was thankful that somehow, it appeared they'd missed the worst of the scattered utensils on the floor. Her shorts were probably ruined, though, from rolling around in discarded food.

'Ugh, so gross!'

"Girl, this is gonna hurt you a lot more than it's gonna hurt me," Kimberly informed Tsubaki as she lowered the blade to the woman's shoulder. Tsubaki put her all into attempting to escape; Sango was nearly thrown from her before the slayer slammed her fist into the side of the woman's face, pushing it back into the wooden floor.

"I've been wanting to do that a long time," Sango admitted.

"I'm jealous," Kimberly responded dryly. "Got her this time? I'd like to not cut my fingers off."

"Go for it."

Rocky and Aisha watched in shock as Kimberly bit her lip and stabbed the knife just above the white-haired woman's shoulder blade. Tsubaki screamed as Kim levered the knife; with a sickening pop, what looked like a bit of purple sparkly rock flew from the wound.

Kim caught it; she and Sango jumped clear of their victim as she rolled over and aged in seconds, right before their eyes. Tsubaki found herself too weak to get up and was left cursing Kimberly and her friends before she faded into dust.

Kim closed her eyes as Miroku said a prayer. She turned to see Kouga had fled – and red and blue lights were beginning to flash on the walls.

'Shit. Lord Stick-up-his-ass is going to have a hernia if this ends up on TV.'

Her friends stared at her silently as Kimberly directed Miroku out front; they had enough "friends" in the various police forces that she was sure he'd get them to discreetly back off the scene.

She and Sango herded the Rangers out the back doors, ducking in the tiny alley as a news truck pulled up nearby. They waited until a little blonde reporter had gotten out of the truck, cameraman behind her, and took off.

"My bike's in the parking garage," Kim told Sango. "Call Shippou and take them back to the condo; I'm going to have to do some damage control."

"I'm coming with you," Tommy insisted, pushing through his friends to tower over Kim in an attempt to – to what, he wasn't certain. She'd never had a problem taking his orders before, but that was a different Kimberly, it seemed.

"Yeah, right," Kim scoffed, confirming Tommy's suspicions and bringing a dark look to his face. "Sesshoumaru will slice you, dice you, and have his little asshole toad serve you for lunch. You're expendable; I'm not." She went to shove past him and couldn't help but whimper a bit as he grabbed her arm, pushing down on what would probably be a spectacular bruise in a couple hours. He released her just as quickly as he'd snagged her, going a bit white.

Hurting her – no matter what the circumstances – had always filled him with guilt.

Jason put his hand on his best friend's shoulder, tugging him back. Kim flashed him a thankful look, acknowledging with it that she knew it wasn't over and knew she'd catch hell for it later, and took off down the street, shouting, "I'll see you guys tomorrow if I can," over her shoulder.

As Sango called them a ride, Jason all but dragged a seething Tommy over to the rest of their group.

"I don't like it either, bro, but Kim's gotta do what she's gotta do."

"I just wish she'd trust us," Aisha murmured. Sango watched the rest of the ex-Rangers nod. She wasn't one to interfere, normally, but she felt bad for the young woman who had been forced to alienate her friends.

"It's not about trust," Sango said, placing her hand on Aisha's shoulder. She winced as her wound made itself known, but forged on. "It's about protecting you… wouldn't you do the same in her shoes?"

OoO**OoO**OoO

Kohaku sighed quietly, rubbing the back of his neck. He hated flying. Well, not so much flying, but the enclosed space of an airplane. The recycled air, the stale smell of too many people in too small of a space –

Worse, he'd been flight-hopping, which was hell on his inner ear. Stupid lack of direct flights from Tokyo to Cairo. Then again, he figured, it probably wasn't all that common of a trip.

Trying to distract himself from his discomfort, Kohaku pulled out his notebook and maps. He'd land in South Africa and crash there to catch up on sleep – he could never sleep on planes, frustratingly enough – and then meet up with his Lord's African contact.

That man… Kohaku flipped through his pictures, trying to remember who he was supposed to meet. A leopard half-demon, if he remembered correctly.

Kohaku was anxious for this particular leg of the journey. The leopard would take him south, through Sudan, and into Ethiopia. There, he'd meet with his hosts – a large family of elephant demons that went back several centuries, known to have great information on the jewel.

The young man really wasn't looking forward to the journey.

'For never having left the country, I'm certainly getting in my travel experience now,' Kohaku thought sardonically. Then again, he was the best choice to do this research; nobody else with knowledge of the jewel's history could be spared from the ongoing battles.

Kohaku skimmed through the list of things he'd need to pick up once he reached Egypt. He scowled as he reached the last part; where was he supposed to get such a large amount of sugar cane? Was this supposed to be an offering of some sort? It'd been added with sloppy handwriting – not Sesshoumaru's elegant cursive or Sesshoumaru's retainer's chicken-scratch. 'So probably not something Sesshoumaru ordered.'

Kohaku rapidly reviewed the possibilities. He was supposed to call to check in once he made contact with the family at the Elephant Reserve. It'd make him look unsure of himself if he called to confirm directions, but what other options did he have? Sesshoumaru would be more displeased if he went in and disgraced the "House of the West" with horrible manners and lacking a gift if one was expected. Was he supposed to use his own money – his college fund was all he had left – to pick up this particular expense?

Who would have suggested such a thing, anyway?

Kohaku sighed and knocked his head against the padded seat. He had some friends at the Miami Zoo who might have some answers; apparently he'd have to make some phone calls before crawling into bed.

OoO**OoO**OoO

"-no surveillance video to speak of… strange, as the club recently released video showing a suspected killer leaving their property. When asked about the discrepancy, both the club owner and the Police Chief refused to comment. With only eyewitness accounts to go by, we're left to wonder what leads – if any – the police are looking into. We'll continue to follow this story. Reporting live from South Beach, I'm-"

The television flicked off with a hiss that would have made lesser demons cringe.

Not him, of course. He was above such irritants.

Kim leveled a glare across the room, lifting her chin defiantly at the man – no, demon – who held her life in the grasp of his thin and deadly fingers.

"I trust this won't happen again." A command, not a request; a threat, really.

She tapped her foot, refusing to respond. In a battle of wills, she always lost – just barely – but that didn't stop her from trying. She was faced with a decision: levity or sarcasm. Both tended to piss him off… then again, anything less than absolute deference tended to provoke the same response.

She was a former Ranger, damn it. She had traveled to different planets, different dimensions, and held the Great Power – the power of the Ninjetti. She now protected the pure shards of the Sacred Jewel of Four Souls. She was having an awesome hair day. She bowed to nobody.

When Kim didn't respond, Sesshoumaru allowed the corners of his mouth to twitch up slightly. Kim narrowed her eyes at him.

Whenever Sesshoumaru came close to almost smiling, it never boded well for her.

The pompous demon pulled out a second remote from his desk. With the touch of a button, black and white video began to play on the television of the wall.

It was pure pandemonium, and it took Kim a few moments to realize what she was seeing.

'Oh, God. That's us at from last night!' She watched in horror as Kouga and his lackeys appeared out of nowhere – confirming her suspicions that they'd been behind a barrier. She winced as they exchanged words before breaking into a battle.

Okay, she grinned a bit when she saw Sango going to town on Kouga with a table leg.

Kimberly watched with the detachment (or the illusion of) one could only gain after assessing themselves time after time on a viewing globe. The guys had often gone over battles with her, showing what she could have done better or worse, or how she could have used her surroundings to her advantage.

In the back of her mind, she wondered what Sesshoumaru gained by showing her this. She also wondered how he'd gotten his hands on the-

The dog demon paused the tape.

Kimberly had been snatching the jewel shard out of the air, Tsubaki at her feet.

'Shit.'

"I gained this footage from the monk," Sesshoumaru informed her, his face a mask. Kim cursed Miroku and began plotting revenge for not warning her. "He was able to get it from the county sheriff."

Kim remained silent.

"I'm certain you're aware of what catches my attention?"

"We gained another jewel shard? Tsubaki is gone? Kouga might actually have a concussion today? Yay for us!"

Sesshoumaru stared holes in her. "It is apparent that you are exuding far more power than one more shard would account for."

Kim winced. She'd forgotten, somehow, about the wards on this study. Ancient artifacts at each entry dissolved barriers magically. Ones with evil intent backfired on the beholders. "Yeah, well… about that…"

"Remove the jewel and display your progress."

She tugged at the chunk of magical jewelry around her neck, pulling it very carefully over her immaculate hairstyle. Rather reluctantly, she held out her hand, palm up, and opened her fingers.

There sat about 75-percent of the Jewel of Four Souls.

Sesshoumaru's eyes flashed red and a wind picked up around him, scattering papers and causing Kim to throw her hands up in an attempt to shield her face.

After a moment, he mastered himself. "Why do you have the entirety of our work?"

She chose to avoid the question, as dangerous as it was. "'Our work'? You haven't done shit to get this; it's all-" Kim closed her mouth quickly as a sub-sonic growl caused the hair on the back of her neck to rise.

"Okay, Kagome gave me her half of what we've got," she let out in a hurry. "She's pregnant and you know that and it's dangerous for her to have the shards when any demon could just go in and attack her for it and it could be dangerous for their kid because of the power she uses to keep them pure. We don't know but we don't want to find out the hard way."

"You will never be alone again while that much power is in your possession."

Kimberly twitched as though slapped. "I wasn't alone last night and look what happened! I just endangered more people!"

"You will not be alone, and you will not be caught off-guard again."

"Who are you to tell me-"

Sesshoumaru actually took a moment to raise his voice above hers, "I am your employer. I am the reason you are alive today. I hold your life and power in my own until I choose to relinquish it. That will not happen until the jewel is gone and Kagura is safe in my home again."

Kimberly warred with herself on making further comment… and chose to change the topic.

"Good, then that means I can spend time with my friends? As you can imagine," she added dryly, "they have plenty of questions."

"Do as you wish, so long as it does not jeopardize your mission."

"Sir, just being alive jeopardizes it."

"Too much attitude and too little focus will have deadly consequences, and not just for yourself."

Kimberly stared, uncertain if he was suggesting what he might be.

"The former Rangers are powerful," he hinted, staring at her unblinkingly. The possibilities were implicit; they were also another reminder of the shackles that had kept her under his heel for far too long for her liking.

She called his bluff with a snort. "You wouldn't give them to Kouga, and he wouldn't know what to do with them once he got them."

Sesshoumaru raised an eyebrow. "I do not hand out power I can use for myself, as your attendance here attests."

Angry at the threat and the reminders he seemed to revel in, Kim allowed a bit of pure power to cloak her hands. She'd never hit him – the fight wouldn't even last as long as her taking a swing, no matter what she wished – and he knew that as well as her. But it was a nice, nonverbal way of expressing her displeasure while causing him the most minor of discomforts in the prickle of holy power against his demonic aura.

The demon lord allowed a small chuckle to escape him; there was no humor in his eyes, and she knew he was pushing her buttons, but that didn't make her any less frustrated. "Your reactions show a lack of control; I was under the impression that your past associations frowned on such a course of action."

She snapped at the slight against her history as a Ranger. "Will you just stop it!" It was phrased neither as a question nor a request; it was an order, and by the way Sesshoumaru's eyes widened minutely, Kimberly knew she had finally crossed the line. That fact was underscored by the stench of burnt skin and the raking pain that hissed up her arm…

It was only a moment after he retracted it that Kim realized he'd used his energy whip on her.

She gaped, clutching her arm tightly and letting the power swirling on top of her skin coat the widest part of the wound. It sizzled against the little poison he'd let escape, like cold water on a hot grill, before it began neutralizing the burn.

Kim was speechless. She hadn't goaded him so far in years, and since then she'd been more impudent than that. Something had happened to push him over the edge; she wasn't sure what, but she wasn't sticking around to find out… not in her current frame of mind.

If she acted on the thoughts racing through her brain, she'd be dead in less than ten minutes.

Turning her back on her Lord – knowing the move, no matter how stupid, suggested she didn't find him a true threat – Kim began to stride from the room.

"Kimberly." The no-nonsense tone (not that he ever resorted to nonsense) stopped Kim in her tracks; the use of her name rather than a derogatory comment about her heritage stunned her.

She tilted her head over her shoulder, refusing to let the tears from the still-stinging burn on her arm show, though she knew he could smell them. "Yes, m'lord?" she questioned sarcastically.

"Finish it."

OoO**OoO**OoO

"Relax, man," Rocky said with a jab to Tommy's ribs. "Ship-dip said she'd be here later. It's not later yet!"

Tommy laid flat on his back on a towel, eyes closed. It didn't hide the dark look on his face – the one that hadn't left since Kim had left them the night before. "Rocko, knock it off."

Rocky frowned. "Hey, don't take your being angry out on us."

Sitting up, Tommy sighed at the wounded tone in Rocky's voice. "You're right… sorry, man, but I'm really not in the mood, you know?"

Rocky nodded. "Makes sense. Wanna talk about what's got you so upset?"

"It isn't obvious?"

"Well, it is, but 'Sha says sometimes talking about it helps anyway. And you can talk to me. Trini and Jase and most of the others are too excited that she's here to really let you vent without trying to talk you out of it," he pointed out.

Tommy shrugged. "Not now. Thanks, though," he added, trying to soothe his harsh attitude.

He didn't want to be mad at Rocky. He was mad at Kim. He was… okay, if he had to be honest, he was mad at himself. There was no reason to be angry with Kim; she'd explained everything and things were beyond her control. It was… it was like becoming a Ranger. Except that they'd been able to share that.

Caught in that thought, he wondered if Kim knew about his latest stint in spandex.

Spandex. Tight clothing – his mind flashed quickly to the outfit he'd first seen Kim in. It was just as tight as her Ranger uniform, but less pink, and no skirt. Instead, silver highlighted each of her very feminine curves; Kimberly had always bemoaned her figure (or, as she put it, her lack of one) but Tommy had been more than pleased.

He was still more than pleased, if the reaction he just could not control was to be trusted.

'Damn it!'

Shippou plopped down next to him, startling Tommy from his thoughts.

"Still mad?"

Tommy blinked, not sure how this demon, who'd only known him a couple days at most, could read him so easily.

"It's in your aura," Shippou told him. When Tommy gave him another blank stare, Shippou grinned. "Your moods. They come out in your aura. That's how I knew why you were confused, too."

"For a few moments, I thought you were reading my mind," Tommy admitted lowly.

Shippou grinned. "Nope. Just been around the block a century or two. After a while, you learn to read humans pretty easily."

The two fell silent for a moment. Shippou waited; Tommy obviously had questions he wanted to ask. He'd heard him deny Rocky conversation, but sometimes it was easier to talk to somebody not so close to you.

"Why… did she really think we couldn't handle things? Back when this all started?"

"Tommy, Sesshoumaru once leveled human armies and cities without batting an eye."

"So did a lot of the monsters we fought."

"That's different and you know it. Zordon was a good man… well, a good floating-head-in-a-tube alien guy. Remember, he knew about Kim's situation and didn't say anything. Can't you think of why? This wasn't Ranger-related."

It made sense, but was hell for Tommy to process. She stung his pride with that letter. She bruised his pride again by saying he couldn't have helped her. She did it a third time the night before, when she'd refused him staying with her, choosing to go into a potentially dangerous situation alone.

It had been almost ten years; why was she still getting to him so badly?

Tommy was about to ask Shippou about his experiences in his years on Earth – anything to distract him from the dark thoughts still bouncing around in his head regarding Kimberly – when a whistle drew their attention.

Shippou waved at Miroku and Sango, who were dressed to hit the water. Miroku carried a cooler, nodding at Jason, Zack, Trini and Aisha as they played a game of volleyball.

"Kim here yet?" Sango asked, laying out her beach blanket next to the one Tommy was reclined on. She looked back and waved at a few of Kim's friends she recognized from pictures who were relaxing in the pool rather than face the waves.

Tommy shook his head. He opened his mouth to ask Miroku how the night before had gone with the cops when a shrill voice cut through the air-

"I ought to kill you!" A blur of pink and tan tackled Miroku to the stand. Kim straddled him angrily, one hand on his chest, one hand pulled back in a fist.

A fist that Sango caught quickly. "Kimberly, please don't mutilate my fiancé. I like his face that way."

"He deserves it," Kim seethed, but lowered her arm with a quiet hiss. "Do you know he gave his royal asshole-ness the tape from the club last night?"

Sango gaped, first at Kim and then at her fiancé, who wriggled on the ground in the face of two very angry, very dangerous women.

"I didn't mean to!" he defended himself. "But it was the only way to get the cops to back off! I had to hit up the demon cops and explain that it was related to Sesshoumaru and that he'd have their heads if anything was exposed and they said fine but that I'd have to bring the tape to him and they'd call to follow up," he babbled.

Kim glowered. "Miroku, you are a modern day con-man. You know exactly what to say in every situation. You couldn't lie?"

"He knows when I'm lying!"

Kim sighed, acknowledging the truth in that statement. Slowly she levered himself off of him, crawling over to Sango's blanket and flopping, belly-first, onto it to bury her face with a groan.

"This sucks!"

"What happened to your arm?" Zack asked, having come over from his attempts at wooing some of the beautiful sunbathing ladies at the sight of Kim nearly pummeling her friend. He reached out to touch it and gaped when it glowed green. "Whoa, you should get that looked at."

"It's fine," Kim muttered. "I'll fix it in a minute."

Tommy stared. Unabashedly. Kim wore the skimpiest pink bikini he had ever seen; he wondered if it would be legal anywhere but the beach.

He was finally pulled from his thoughts (all involving removing those particular garments… he didn't make casual sex a habit, but hey, angry sex was good, too) by a swat to the back of the head.

"Knock it off," Jason hissed, dropping to the ground after assuring himself that Kim would take care of her injury. "You're not dating her, so you don't need to be thinking those thoughts."

"I'm not-" Tommy attempted half-heartedly to argue. Jason glared, not buying it. They'd known each other far too long to be able to hide things like openly drooling over a woman.

Great, just what Tommy needed. Jason in over-protective brother mode.

Some things never changed.

"What happened?" Aisha asked, helping Kim sit up without jostling her arm too badly. "That don't look natural."

"It's not," Kim sighed. "It was caused by me pushing a few too many buttons today, and aggravated by rather illegal moments on my bike on the way here." She grasped an invisible ball around her neck, tugging the jewel up and over again and removing its barrier.

The way she held it reminded her friends of the reverence of her power coin back in the day.

Shippou stared in wonder as Kim somehow began to pull pink energy from the broken sphere. It wound its way up her arm, settling into the wound. It healed over quickly, without a trace, in the same time it'd take for him to heal.

"How did you do that?" he breathed. "I've seen several priestesses with the jewel but I don't think any of them did that."

Kim shrugged, looking at her friends. "It's really similar to a power coin, or the Ninjetti power. I dunno, it's instinct, I guess. I saw it heal that turtle demon I fought years ago and figured if it could do that for them, it could do it for me."

Miroku and Sango nodded slowly. Sango had seen it before, occasionally, but hadn't registered the significance; she figured if Kim could do it, any priestess could.

"Anyway, what else did your master-dude have to say?" Rocky asked, plopping down near the group as the rest of their friends wandered over.

Kim rolled her eyes. "I'm mouthy; I shouldn't have all the jewel. He's mad at Kagome. Blah, blah, blah."

She fell silent and Miroku grinned. "You're leaving something out."

"Am not."

"Are, too!"

"Am not!"

"Are, too!"

"Am-"

"What did his lord and master say?" Rocky prodded again. "C'mon, don't keep us in suspense."

Kim avoided Tommy's eyes, looking over his shoulder as she admitted the one thing she didn't want him to know.

"I'm not supposed to be alone. At all. Ever, until this is over."


Disclaimers:

Anything from Power Rangers (and their affiliates) belongs to Saban. I don't have permission to use and abuse them as I plan on doing.

I don't own InuYasha and Company either. The "real" InuYasha belongs to the genius of Rumiko Takahashi (and Viz and all those other companies involved).