Author notes: I somehow got sucked into the Inuyasha fandom, and artists like YoukaiYume, Janey-jane, and Technoelfie (as well as some fantastic writers) have converted me to the Sess/Kag camp. I've got a bunch more SessKag stuff in various stages of completion, but this just needed a little editing.

Disclaimer: I am not the owner or creator of the characters used in this story. This is a fun, not for profit endeavor.


Grooming Rites

Rin was chattering happily at him as she combed out his long hair. It had been a compromise on his part, allowing her to occasionally take up the comb and assist him with this part of his grooming regimen, but he found the feeling pleasant, and he enjoyed the quiet moments with the girl.

'Quiet' was, with Rin, a relative term.

Sesshoumaru had long ago resigned himself to the fact that the reason he tolerated Jaken's presence and the reason that he had allowed Rin to trail along after him was simple instinct. Dogs were pack animals after all, and every proper alpha needed a pack to lead. It was only natural.

It was instinct.

Sesshoumaru had a high regard for instinct. Perhaps for creatures with lesser senses instinct was not as important, but his hearing and smell and sight were so acute he was fully aware he didn't consciously process half of what his senses experienced. 'Instinct' was just another way of saying 'that which is subconsciously processed and then emerges as a gut inclination'. It wasn't mystical or spiritual.

Instinct had a logical basis.

Which was why he was currently beset by an entirely perplexing dilemma.

Logically he knew that humans were inferior to youkai. They lived short, squalid lives and were so weak and defenseless that they were easy prey to anything – be it man, beast, or illness, that decided to visit its wrath upon them. The only thing they seemed to be good at was breeding, and that they did in abundance.

So why was it that his instincts were constantly prodding him to help his brother's rag-tag group of shard hunters?

Particularly, why were his instincts pushing him to help the strange little miko who trailed faithfully at the heels of his worthless half-brother?

Granted, she had more to recommend her than most humans.

The most immediately obvious difference was that she didn't smell, and in fact he'd discovered that she had a bathing regimen that even he could not fault. He had even watched in secret wonder one day as she pulled from her bag a tiny little brush for her teeth. She also had remarkable spiritual powers, not that she could use them. Sesshoumaru couldn't help but feel that reflected more poorly on his brother than on the girl herself.

If Sesshoumaru had someone with her powers at his disposal he would have gone out of his way to ensure that she was well-trained. His idiot brother was content to leave her abilities raw, and most of her power untapped. He viciously tamped down the part of himself that purred in approval at the thought of having the miko under his care.

It didn't make sense to leave a potential asset so woefully unutilized. Besides, it was downright dangerous, even for a hanyou, to travel with someone who had no control over her purifying abilities.

It was irrational.

But why should he care if Inuyasha was injured because of his own stupidity?

He had also discovered that she was remarkably educated. Most miko were at least moderately literate, but she read frequently, and in fact carried books with her for pleasure as well as education (he had surreptitiously peered over her shoulder at what was clearly a medical text one day after he had recruited her aid in caring for Rin). The miko didn't share the same inane superstitions that so many of her kind did, and because she did not she was far more welcoming to those of all walks than most humans. Her wariness of him when the two packs had merged existed because he had been a dangerous enemy, and not because he was youkai. Once it became clear to her that he posed her and those she cared for no threat she relaxed around him and even began trying to include him in the group. She also cared for the little fox child like he was her own; something most humans and youkai alike would have found hard to believe and understand. But he recognized the similarity in her situation and his with Rin.

Just the other day he had watched her cuddle the little kit near the fire after he had been startled out of his sleep by a nightmare. It had taken Sesshoumaru a moment to realize that the churning, discontented feeling clawing its way up his throat was envy. His mother was cool and distant and had never shown him such open affection, and his father had been more the type for brusque, abstract compliments, and brief pats on the back. An irrational urge to shove the kit out of her lap and replace the boy with his own person had filled him. He had no doubt that, shocked as the girl might be, she would certainly be willing to cuddle him if he should ask or exhibit any sort of inclination. She was extremely demonstrative with her feelings. Hugging the female demon slayer and the little fox, petting the slayer's cat youkai, ruffling his brother's hair and tweaking his ears, even her slaps at the monk were affectionate. This morning Rin had been unaccountably somber and the miko - Kagome, he mentally amended - had approached and tickled her sides until Rin had collapsed shrieking with laughter.

Rin giggled in the middle of her story, and the change in the pace of her recitation pulled him out of his previous musings. The girl was utterly enamored with Kagome, he found. She'd been regaling him with stories of the miko for the past several days.

He allowed his eyes to slip closed and he relaxed into a light doze. The soft, repetitive pull of the comb through his hair, and Rin's babble lulling him.

He almost started when Rin stopped and exclaimed, "Kagome-neesan! Shippo-kun!"

His eyes opened slowly and his head turned just enough to regard the girl where she stood at the tree line to the clearing, clutching a fluffy white piece of cloth and a bag full of strange bottles.

She was staring in apparent shock at the scene she had interrupted.

He blinked slowly and then raised an eyebrow at her silence.

"Oh, uh, excuse us," she bowed, "We were just coming to bathe in the hot spring"

Rin dropped the comb onto his lap and bounded up to the fox kit, "Come on Shippo! Lets go swim together!!!"

The idea of swimming for fun had been a revelation to the girl, and she took every opportunity she could to indulge herself when there were willing swimmers nearby, especially since Sesshoumaru was not willing.

There was an explosion of excited chattering between the two children and then the clearing was empty as the two ran down to the bank and launched themselves into the water. A bald silence followed as the miko stared wide eyed and uncomfortable at him.

Unimpressed by her hesitance, and coming to a personal resolution regarding the miko, Sesshoumaru made an inscrutable sound and turned away.


There had been an odd light in his eyes when she and Shippo had entered the clearing.

Almost…contemplative?

"Tsk." As Sesshoumaru's eyes slid closed once more and his body turned away from her, Kagome thought for a moment that he had dismissed her as easily as he usually did. Instead, with a smooth, graceful movement he picked up the comb Rin had discarded and held it out to her without looking at her.

"Uh…"

"You have deprived me of my ward, you shall suffice in her place."

Kagome wondered if he could smell her embarrassment, "Oh, um…" she stuttered in her shock. Surely Sesshoumaru wasn't asking her to…comb his hair?! Surely she must be misunderstanding something.

Still…

She stared at the thick fall of gleaming silvery white hair. She had wished, more than once, to be able to touch his hair. Inuyasha's was a nice color, but it was rough and coarse, and didn't move in the silky, weightless way that his brother's did.

Women would murder to have his hair. And here was her chance to walk forward and get her hands in it.

"Uh…okay." Tentatively she walked forward and set her things down. When she took the comb from his hand, careful not to touch him, he placed his hand back in his lap.

His armor had been removed and the fur that was usually draped over his shoulder lay to one side of him, allowing her an unobstructed view of his broad back and well-formed shoulders. She had expected his hair to be silky and soft but it was even better than she had imagined. For some reason, perhaps because the color and quality of it reminded her of cold moonlight, she had expected it to be cool to the touch – but instead it was warm in her hands. It was strange stuff, and she was fascinated as she stroked the comb through it for the first time. The individual strands were actually thicker than she would have thought they'd be, but sleek and smooth and together they spilled through her hands like water. Rather than the bluish silver his hair looked at a distance this close it looked almost iridescent and Kagome found herself distracted and fascinated by the play of light in the strands.

"Is something wrong?" she could feel the reverberation of his voice through his body.

Feeling herself flush in embarrassment at being caught she quickly stuttered out, "No, no. You hair is just beautiful."

He turned to look over his shoulder and quirked an eyebrow at her.

She chuckled nervously, "Or, you know, something less emasculating but equally as flattering?"

On anyone else Kagome would have called the flicker of emotion that skittered across his face a smirk.

Without warning a sharp claw sliced through her hair band and in the second it took her thick hair to tumble down around her shoulders that same clawed hand had caught her arm and pulled her around and into his lap.

She blinked owlishly at him as he combed his fingers through her hair - catching a lock and coiling it around his fingers and raising it briefly to his nose.

"Uh, Sesshoumaru-sama –"she couldn't quite keep all the waver out of her voice.

"This Sesshoumaru accepts and returns your compliments."

"Oh. Um, thank you?" Was it just her, or did the way he say that sound meaningful, almost ceremonial? She shook herself, far be it for her to try to decipher the intents and purposes of a daiyoukai.

"You may assist in future grooming."

Was that a favor or an order? "Umm, I can?"

"Hn. It is usual for courting couples to exchange acts of physical affection, is it not?"

Kagome was really starting to wish she wasn't on his lap, "Wha - I – you can't – I mean I don't - … " she took a deep breath to calm herself, "Courting?!?"

"We exchanged flattery did we not?"

She gaped at him until he released her hair and rose, setting her neatly on her feet.

"Rin."

"Coming Sesshoumaru-sama!"

His voice was little more than a rumble as he ran a hand down the length of her back. The whole length of her back, "Enjoy your bath, Kagome."

She watched in stunned silence as he disappeared into the trees, his ward close on his heels.

"Are you okay Kagome?" Shippo had approached her in her silence and grasped her hand to be sure he had her attention.

"Uh, I think I just got engaged to Sesshoumaru."

"Oh." Shippo pondered this for a moment, "Are you going to take a bath?"

Kagome glanced down to look into the kitsune's eyes and wondered if his lack of reaction was lack of understanding, or if instead, as another youkai, that he understood better than she did.

Funny how her time here in the past had made her oddly accepting and fatalistic about certain things.

"Of course Shippo, let's take a bath."

-END-


*nurrrr.... I have a serious fetish for Sess's hair. nom nom nom*

*peace y'all*