Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha and I make no profit from this.

Sesshoumaru leaned his back against the tree, one leg lying flat on the ground before him, the other bent at the knee. He rested one arm on his knee as his other hand rested against the grass. He was watching Shippo and Rin run around playing a game that the miko had taught them, Tag. The sun was low in the sky, signaling the ending of the day. A rare day of relaxation and rest for the Inu-tachi group as the miko, Kagome, had gone home to take exams two days before.

Sesshoumaru had joined their group five months ago through an uneasy alliance with his half-brother's group. Surprisingly, it had been Kagome who had initiated it, insisting that they needed each other to fight Naraku and the smartest move would be to join forces against him. And while both brothers had initially refused, she had won them over with the idea eventually and here they all were. It hadn't been that difficult of a transition, actually. The group, minus Inuyasha of course, was respectful and kind to him, welcoming any help in the fight against Naraku. Also, he got the entertainment of watching the monk and the demon slayer interact.

Suddenly, he smelled Kagome's scent approaching and looked in that direction in surprise. She was not supposed to return until the next day. He automatically wondered why he hadn't smelled her scent sooner but quickly remembered they had had to kill an attacking oni earlier that day and the dead stinking body lay between where the group currently was and the Bone Eater's Well. He couldn't help but feel a little pleased at her return. Conversation with her, an event that happened more and more as time went on, become something to look forward to. She was very well educated as well as passionate about many subjects and he could not remember ever enjoying himself talking to a female as much as he did her. Her scent was not dirty like most humans of this era. Hers was sweet, like flowers and warm honey. He would contribute it to her propensity to bathe often but, even when they had been traveling for some time in the heat and she was sweating, her scent did not become unpleasant but became deeper with a hint of musk. Her bright blue eyes were also unusual for a human but he figured it was suitable as Kagome herself was quite unusual.

She was closer now and Sesshoumaru frowned. Her aura was usually content or happy, unless she was fighting demons or arguing with Inuyasha. But now it was nervous and he could sense her fear. Immediately, his body tensed as he prepared to rush to her to find out the source of her distress but she appeared through the trees with a grin on her face. He leaned back against the tree again, confused by the contradiction, and stared at her.

"Hi, everyone!" she chirped, hands wrapped around the straps of her large yellow backpack.

"Mama!" Shippo yelled, leaping into the air. With a laugh, she caught him, holding him close.

"Kagome, you're back early!" Sango exclaimed, happy to see her friend sooner than she thought she would.

"Welcome back, Kagome-sama," Miroku greeted her with a smile and nod of his head. His hand twitched but he just gripped his staff harder in response. The last time he had greeted Kagome with a hug and friendly rub of her behind, he had found himself thrown across the clearing by a growling demon lord before Kagome herself had even had a chance to react. Sesshoumaru had just gone back to what he was doing after that, refusing to acknowledge the outburst. But Miroku had definitely understood the message.

Sesshoumaru did not return the greeting, still staring at her as he examined her scent. He could feel the fear retreating and relief taking its place. Kagome, used to his periodic silence, gave him a smile before she realized who was missing.

"Where's Inuyasha?" she asked, looking around.

Nobody answered.

"Well, you see-" Miroku started.

"He left several hours ago-" Sango continued.

Kagome looked concerned and they both stared at her, unsure of how the news would affect her.

"He saw the soul collectors," Shippo blurted out.

Sango and Miroku tensed in preparation to her reaction. But to their surprise, she just exhaled in relief. "Well, then everything should be ok."

They blinked comically. "It is?" Sango asked.

Kagome nodded absentmindedly as she set her backpack on the ground and opened it. "Yeah, he's with Kikyo. So he should probably be alright then. If he was by himself and had been gone for so many hours I would be afraid that he had been attacked by a demon or Naraku."

The group was slowly coming to terms that the crush she and Inuyasha had shared since she had come through the well was over and done with. Sesshoumaru had seen it quickly since joining the group. While they were still friends and allies in fighting, they had both moved on. He couldn't lie that he wasn't satisfied that she wasn't fawning over his younger half-brother any longer. Plus, when Inuyasha left to visit the dead miko, he got to talk to Kagome without the hanyou's interruptions of complaints or rude remarks.

"I brought everyone some treats," she announced, digging out the prizes from her bag. "Sango, a magazine and some of those candies you like. Miroku, some soda and chips. Shippo and Rin, I got you new crayons and a bag of different candies for you to try." They all thanked her as she handed out the goodies. Grabbing a box from the bag, she hid it behind her back before walking over to Sesshoumaru. Kneeling next to him on the ground, she smiled at him as he looked at her curiously, wondering what she had gotten from him. Ever since he had joined the group, she had brought something different for him every time she brought gifts back from her era for everyone. Sesshoumaru told himself that he accepted simply because it was rude not to. But honestly, it was for this moment. When all of her attention was focused on him and she was presenting him with something that she had picked out special with him in mind.

He could smell an array of scents coming from the box. Kagome brought it from behind her back and held it in both hands, holding the box out to him. Though some of the characters were foreign to him, he could read that the box contained assorted tea flavors. Immediately, he was pleased. It had become common for her to make tea in the evening after dinner and she had started to ask him which flavor he would prefer. They had tried all of the ones that she had carried but none of the ones listed on the box she held out. Kagome's smile grew wider as she saw the pleased look in his eyes as he carefully reached out and took the box from her.

"Thank you," he said reverently, giving her a slight bow of the head. This action was not missed by the others who, as usual, gawked before quickly going back to what they had been doing lest they be noticed and thus ruin what was transpiring.

"Wanna go play in the creek?" Shippo asked RIn, who quickly agreed and began to skip there. Miroku, Sango and Kirara followed, both to watch the children play and allow for privacy.

Alone now, Sesshoumaru opened the box and began to remove packets, memorizing each new delicious scent. Kagome stood and collected firewood nearby and started a small fire, knowing that he would want to try some of the new tea. Sitting, she filled the pot with water from her water bottles before hanging it over the fire to boil. When she looked back, she saw him with a packet in each hand, staring intently from one to the other. Kagome giggled at his concentrated decision-making.

"Have you decided?" she asked. "The mixed fruit flavor or the apple cinnamon?"

Sesshoumaru, with one last sniff, put the mixed fruit flavor back in the box for another tea time and held out the apple cinnamon. Kagome reached out to take it from him, glancing at the pot as she did so to check the water's progress, and was startled to feel his hand circle her wrist firmly and hold her arm where it was. She gasped, unbidden memories rising up, and snapped her head back around to look at him. He could smell the sharp tang of fear in her scent but he did not feel that it was for him. For one, she had not shown fear of him since they had begun to travel together (or for some time before that, he had to admit). Even when they were alone as they now were. Secondly, there was a large bruise that had been revealed on her arm as her three quarters length sleeve had ridden up when she had reached out for the tea. And he was certainly not responsible for that.

When she saw what he was focused on, she froze. She hadn't figured out how to explain to any of them what had happened. She knew they would be concerned and that Inuyasha would yell and promise retribution but she did not know Sesshoumaru's response. Since joining the group, he seemed to take a protective role of those he considered "his pack", especially her. She could still remember her surprise the first time he had grabbed her in battle and flew her to safety as a demon's attack was about to hit her. Her mind was still racing with questions of what she should say when he spoke.

"Miko, what happened to your arm?" he asked in a scarily calm voice.

She felt a tinge of irritation. "It's Kagome," she reminded him.

He simply looked up and repeated. "Kagome, what happened to your arm?"

Her gaze fell to the ground. "I got in a bit of a fight in my time," she said quietly. Sesshoumaru reached up with his other hand and pushed her sleeve further up, revealing more bruises. His golden eyes darkened. When he turned his stare to her other arm, she knew what he was going to do and gulped. Sure enough, he lifted that one as well, revealing a black and blue bruise and a red angry scrape from her upper arm to mid-forearm.

He released her wrist and she stared down at both hands in her lap, nervously awaiting his reaction. She didn't have to wait long. "You said your time was safe," he said in an almost accusing tone, as though she had lied.

"It's been safe for me," she replied, picking at a loose thread at the edge of her sweater. "At least safer than here for the most part. There are no demons attacking me in my era. And Tokyo has a high crime rate with murders, muggings, thefts and rapes, but I have never been attacked before-" she stopped herself, her fingers twisting the thread stilling. " Before last night."

Sesshoumaru's mind locked on the word "rape" and his eyes began to flicker between red and gold. "What happened last night?"

"I was mugged," Kagome admitted. She tugged on the thread, still feeling miffed that someone had actually done such a thing to her.

He didn't know that term. "Mugged?"

"Yes. It's where you are threatened to give up possessions such as money or other items or they are forcefully taken," she described. She tugged on the thread again before Sesshoumaru finally reached over and cut it swiftly with his claw to end her nervous fidgeting.

"And this happened to you? Someone threatened you for your money?"

"I was walking home from the market. I had just gotten everyone's gifts so I was carrying two bags in addition to my purse. Someone came out of an alleyway and told me to hand over what I had. I told him no and another man came out behind him. I tried to run but they caught up quickly. So I fought them. I got pushed down but I got right back up. I only wish spiritual powers worked against humans as well as demons. As it is, they at least will not be reproducing anytime soon. They kept grabbing my arms whenever I tried to run and jerking me back. I dropped one of the bags and the second guy grabbed it and tossed it towards the alley. I managed to punch one of them in the face before a police car- the police are people who serve the people and help uphold laws- turned the corner and they both took off. The policeman took me home." Her eyes, which had been glazed over from the memory, came back into focus and she realized that at some point she had looked up and was staring at Sesshoumaru.

Muscles in his jaw were tensed and his eyes were narrowed in anger. "They attacked you for a bag of food?" he growled.

"Well, I think they were after my purse," she admitted. "Either way, I wasn't giving them anything."

"Why wasn't anyone with you?" he demanded.

Kagome felt slightly confused at this. "No one else needed to go shopping."

"No one went with you for protection?" He was incredulous.

"My time isn't like that. No one takes protection unless they are famous and need bodyguards from crazy fans or stuff like that. I'm usually traveling by myself around the city."

He raised one eyebrow high but didn't say anything, though Kagome could guess what he thought of that. Sometimes she wished she thought before she spoke.

"It's ok," she tried to reassure him. "It happens to people all the time. And I wasn't injured." When his eyebrow rose slightly higher, she amended in a quieter voice," That badly."

"You were afraid." It was a statement. He could smell the fear as well as anger that had come over her when she told the events.

"Well," she stared into his eyes," yeah. Of course. It was scary. And after being here for so long, I came to see my era as less violent. To me, at least. So…I never expected someone to attack me like that…even if it was late at night and-"

The sound of the fire sizzling as the boiling water spilled over the top of the pot suddenly reminded her of what she had been doing. "Oh!" she exclaimed, quickly spinning around and grabbing the pot off of its holder with a towel and setting it on the ground. The amount of bubbles quickly reduced. She held out her hand once more and after a moment he handed her the tea bag which was severely misshapen from being clenched in his fist. She lowered it into the hot water which quickly smoothed it back out. There was silence as she bobbed the bag in the water and they both were left to their thoughts.

"If that ever were to happen again," he finally said, "you are to give them your bags."

Kagome stared at him, shocked. It went against her very nature to give in to thugs. "Excuse me?"

His gaze leveled her. "YOU are much more important than a couple of bags," he said firmly.

With an embarrassed blush, she nodded her assent before getting the cups to pour them their tea.

It was several weeks later before it was necessary for Kagome to return to her own time once more, both to take exams and to refill her medical supply kit. Packing her bag up at camp, she swung it onto her back before saying her goodbyes to everyone.

"I will see you all in four days," she promised with a smile. She turned and began walking and soon Sesshoumaru fell into step next to her.

"Oi! Where are you going?" Inuyasha yelled out brashly from the camp site at the two who had stopped at the question and were now standing about ten feet away from the rest of them.

Sesshoumaru turned his head slightly to give a cold look to Inuyasha. Inuyasha usually threw a temper tantrum whenever the miko had to return to her own time, though they had reduced significantly once Sesshoumaru had informed him that the miko's education was paramount. Informed him by way of throwing him against a tree. Not only were his temper tantrums unbefitting of a self-claimed alpha, but his refusal to see her to the well was directly against an Inu pack leader's role of protecting those in his pack. Of course, since Sesshoumaru had joined the pack he had automatically assigned himself as alpha male and Inuyasha as beta but that did not make Inuyasha's behavior any less inappropriate. His own protective duties included accompanying the miko to the well and back. The only reason he had not last time was because she had returned early.

Since it was a common occurrence for him to walk with her, Kagome gave Inuyasha a confused look. It appeared he still had not gotten used to how close his half-brother and former crush had become.

"Where do you think, little brother?" Sesshoumaru asked coolly.

"Don't say 'little brother' like that!" Inuyasha shot to his feet, pointing a finger at him. "You only call me that to piss me off!"

Kagome rolled her eyes and started walking again, hoping Sesshoumaru would follow and they could avoid a stupid fight. He must have because they next thing she heard was Inuyasha yelling, "Hey, don't walk away from me! You have to-"

"Sit, boy."


They continued walking.

"It's getting warmer," Kagome remarked and then automatically wanted to kick herself. The weather? Really? She couldn't find any more stimulating conversation fodder than the weather?

Sesshoumaru didn't seem to notice her internal putdowns. He nodded, giving the air a slight sniff. "Indeed." Of course, he was not bothered by cold or heat, but a change in weather meant a change in clothing for the miko who had been wrapped up in thick sweaters all winter. And while he was not a pervert like the monk, that did not mean he didn't enjoy seeing her long legs.

The rest of the walk was filled with Kagome describing a children's book that she was going to bring back to read to Rin and Shippo and then trying to describe the mythical creatures in the story. Before she could finish, they were at the well. Kagome felt disappointed that the walk was over so quickly. "I guess I will have to finish explaining when I come back."

"No, you can do so in your time," he answered, leaning over to look down the well.

She was confused. "How can I explain to you in my time? Oh. You mean you don't want me to finish explaining it to you? I'm sorry. I thought you were interested in it but I was boring you and-"

"Miko," he interrupted, confused as to how she had arrived at that decision after their long conversation.

Her eyes narrowed.

"Kagome," he amended. "It was interesting and I would like to discuss it more-"

"Well, then how-"

"-and we shall do so in your time." While she gaped at him, he looked back at the well and then at her. "So, is direct contact required to pass through?"

"You said you didn't want to go to the future!" she exclaimed, pointing a finger at him. "YOU said that the workings of time must be respected and that the future may be affected if something was tampered with and that you didn't need to 'cheat' and find out the future to suit your own needs and that-"

Sesshoumaru did the only thing he could think of to quiet her. Wrapping an arm around her waist and her other hand around her neck, he leaned down and pressed his lips against hers. Kagome's eyes widened and then slowly shut, her hands coming up to grip his haori as his soft lips moved against hers and she returned the kiss with equal fervor. She couldn't tell how much time passed before he pulled back from her. Her eyes slowly opened, her lids heavy, her lips slightly swollen and she stared up into his eyes which were warm honey and staring down at her in a way that she had only caught glimpses of before.

"I may have said that," he said, his voice lower than usual, "but someone needs to protect you in your time as well as here."

With that, he tightened his grip around her waist before jumping into the well with her in his arms and the blue light enveloped them both.