Disclaimer: Inuyasha is not mine.

Previously, in Chapter 7:

Inuyasha went over to a window at the right side of the desk and peered out. It had begun to snow. "This shrine has always been in your family," he said quietly. He paused then turned to look at his human companion. "My friend Miroku is not just your namesake, he is your ancestor. That also explains why you are the recipient of the curse of the wind tunnel, as it is passed down solely on the male side of the family. But since you seem to be your own descendent, I can't think of anyone who is more prepared to carry this curse."

Chapter 8

"You're kidding right?" Miroku looked incredulously down at his bandaged hand. "Prepared? I wasn't prepared! How can you be prepared to wake up one morning and suddenly be able to use your hand as a vacuum cleaner? Do you know that I woke up to find my comforter disappearing into the palm of my hand? I was just lucky that I had the presence of mind to grab some of the fudas on my bedside table before I got sucked in too."

Concealing a smile, Inuyasha cocked an eyebrow. It was just like Miroku to keep his little enchanted pieces of paper close at hand. After all these centuries, the monk had not changed a bit. "Are you sure it was presence of mind? Perhaps your actions were pure reflex."

Miroku's mouth opened as if to say something, but he stopped and closed his lips. "I couldn't say," he admitted with some confusion. "All I know was that I just… I just did it." His gaze switched from his wrapped right hand to the hand which held the rosary. "So. How do I use this?"

"Wrap it around the cursed hand," Inuyasha said with a shrug. "I don't know. It's been so long since I've seen how you used to do it."

"Then how can I seal this… this… thing in my hand?" Miroku tried not to sound as though he was about to panic, although he could feel it creep up his throat. Cautiously he lifted his hand, palm up, so he could look at it. "How did my ancestor live with this every day? Did he feel like it would drive him mad?"

"If he ever felt like that, he never showed it," said Inuyasha. He gave Miroku a sad smile and clasped him on the shoulder. "He was a very strong person, but I think that by the time Kagome and I met him, he had already come to terms that the wind tunnel might take his life in the end. If he didn't kill Naraku first, that is."

"The wind tunnel," Miroku murmured, his voice distant. "Kazaana."

As he watched, Inuyasha saw the tension leave Miroku's face. "You know how to use that rosary, Miroku. Don't think about how to do it; just do it."

With a face set in grim lines, Miroku nodded and gestured toward the study door. "Let's go outside," he said calmly, "I would hate to lose anything of Dad's to my hand."

Inuyasha followed the young monk out of the house and onto the center of the shrine where Goshinboku stood. The day was bitterly cold; no one was about.

When they came to a stop, Inuyasha noticed that Miroku had picked a spot that was pretty clear of easily movable objects. The monk then held out his right hand, which was still wrapped in the fuda.

"I'm terrified," Miroku whispered candidly.

"I know. I can smell it." Inuyasha moved behind Miroku and gripped his shoulder. "Don't worry. You'll do fine. In your past life, you did it so often that I just know it will come back to you."

With an uncertain smile, Miroku shook his head. "I'm glad at least one of us is optimistic," he said. "Well, no sense in delaying."

After securing the rosary onto his left hand, he removed the fuda from his right hand, which he held away from him, palm outwards. There was a whooshing sound and the fuda was whipped away from his fingers. Miroku gasped as he saw the paper sucked into his hand.

Panic filled him, sick and heavy. "I can't do this!" he yelled over his shoulder. The air around them was circulating around them wildly. Branches of Goshinboku and other smaller nearby trees were being whipped about into frenzy. Leaves and twigs, loosened by the violent motion, flew straight at Miroku's hand and vanished into his palm.

Inuyasha tightened his grip on Miroku. "Yes you can! You did it so often, this should be second nature to you!" he called back.

But Miroku began to shake his head and his body trembled all over. Inuyasha noticed this and leaned forward to speak in to Miroku's ear. "Think of Sango," he said gently. "You remember Sango, don't you?"

The monk's body tensed. "Sango," he whispered, too softly for a human to hear over the wind tunnel, but Inuyasha caught it. The hanyou grinned when he saw Miroku remove the rosary from his unaffected hand and deftly wrap it around his cursed one. Kazaana was silenced.

"Oh god," Miroku groaned and slumped weakly to the ground. Concerned, Inuyasha knelt beside him on the ground.

"You okay?" Inuyasha asked, putting his hand on the monk's head.

Miroku nodded slowly. "Yeah, I'm okay. I've never had to seal a hole in my hand before. It kind of tired me out," he muttered wearily.

"I think you did very well," replied Inuyasha, hiding his relief. It seemed that the strength of the wind tunnel was quite mild, which was lucky for Miroku. Anything stronger and he probably would not have had the strength to seal his hand.

But one good thing came out of this incident. Inuyasha's suspicions were confirmed. The reappearance of the cursed wind tunnel meant only one thing: Naraku had returned.

ooooooooooooooooooooooo

ooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Kagome sighed and stretched. A moment later she yawned. Man, she was tired. Ever since the beginning of the New Year, she had experienced weird dreams at least three times a week. Sometimes they would border on the nightmarish and it was not long before the dreams had begun to take their toll on her. She was always exhausted when she woke up the next morning, no matter how early she went to bed. Perhaps the only good thing about the dreams was that she could not seem to recall them when she woke. The only clues as to what she had dreamt about came from Sango, who always woke to the sound of her roommate's cries for help.

'Poor Sango,' thought Kagome sadly and shot her best friend a surreptitious glance, 'she gets as much sleep as I do.' Thankfully, Sango did not appear to mind all the rude awakenings and took everything in stride. Even now she looked as wide-awake as Kagome felt sleepy. Damn, when was this class over? It was the last one of the day and as soon as it was over, she and Sango would go back to their room and she would take a nap. Sango usually headed to the gym or the library to let her sleep in peace… on her nice comfy bed…

The thought of sleep caused Kagome to squeeze her eyes shut and yawn again. When she opened her eyes, she glanced heavenward. It was yet another glorious day on Oahu.

She frowned up at that expansive and clear blue sky. All these glorious days were irritating more than usual and honestly, they were not so glorious to her. She sorely wished she could be someplace else where the weather wasn't always the same all year round; a place where people actually experienced real seasons. Ooh, a cold and rainy day. That sounded so lovely. It was the direct opposite of the day she was experiencing today, which was warm and sunny. All this warmth and sun was great, but she was tired of it. She wanted to be where it was cold outside, but be bundled up all warm and snug inside, and dressed up in something soft and fleecy while sipping hot chocolate.

But noooo. She was in place which never saw the kind of weather that required a person to be warm and snug. If you wanted to be warm here, all you had to do would be to go outside and sit for a bit. If you wanted snug, you put on a tiny bikini and a pair of short shorts.

With a snort of disgust, Kagome flipped the page of her history book with a little more force than necessary, for she very nearly ripped it out. Seated on the grass beside her, Sango glanced curiously over at her friend.

"What's wrong?" Sango whispered with a quick glance across the grassy courtyard. Since the weather was extra lovely that day, their history teacher decided to have class outside at an old, mossy amphitheater on Pualani's grounds. To add to the insane frivolity, a history class from Okalani came to join them… apparently so they could all learn history together. But Sango knew—as did most of the students from both academies— that the teachers from these two classes had the hots for the other. As Okalani was within walking distance of Pualani, it was not unusual for one class to join another just for a change of pace or to encourage camaraderie among the students. Right at that moment, she met the eyes of one of the Okalani boys and cringed. The blond young man smiled and winked at her. Sango returned the look with a curl of her upper lip and an unfriendly glare of her own. He flushed and quickly averted his gaze.

But Kagome was not thinking along the same lines as Sango. When Sango nudged her in the arm, she shook her head and exhaled irritably, puffing her cheeks out as she did so. "I can't wait to get off this damned island, that's all," she muttered. "Remind me how much longer do we have to suffer in this place?"

"A little more than a year," Sango said and patted her friend consolingly on the arm. "This school year is over mostly half over anyway. We just need to be patient a little while more, Kagome. I want to get out of here too."

Kagome gave a little sob of annoyance and turned another page of her history book. Normally she enjoyed her classes, but she preferred to have them indoors if they were not some kind of sport. Right now her teacher was talking again but Kagome paid the woman no mind. She did not care about her or the male teacher from Okalani who liked her back, so Kagome decided to let her gaze wander. All the students were seated in a semicircle—boys on the right side and girls on the left. Kagome and Sango were seated on the farthest left, on their usual spot on the top tier, so they directly faced some of the boys; one of whom just so happened to be the lovely Jacob Cyrano. His thick, dark hair gleamed under the Hawaiian sun. Almost as if he knew she was watching he tossed his head, a sexy movement which sent the silky strands flying away from his face. He then turned to his friend Richard and chuckled at something the blond boy had whispered to him. The next minute, he yawned mightily and rubbed his lovely dark eyes.

Unable to help herself she stared longingly at him, all the while feeling waves of regret wash over her. He was as handsome as always, she thought forlornly. Damn her nosy guardian! Why did he have to check up on her that day? She'd be Jacob's girlfriend now and have an untarnished memory of her first kiss.

Saddened, she shook her head and briefly looked down at the book open on her lap. The male teacher was talking now and Kagome noticed that his voice seemed to drone on and on. She yawned discreetly behind her hand this time and when she glanced up again, her gaze was drawn instantly to the tall figure sitting behind Jacob. Seeing Draco, Kagome unconsciously sat up a little, her body flushing with heat. But before she smiled at him, Kagome frowned. When had he moved behind Jacob? He hadn't been there a moment ago.

Her gaze slid up to Draco's face just as her lips curved up into a smile…

The smile vanished in the space of a breath as she took in Draco's facial expression. Kagome had never seen a look like that on anyone's face and it frightened her. He was glaring at the back of Jacob's head with awful, burning eyes the color of blood; his lips were pulled back in a fearsome snarl that exposed long, sharp fangs. She gasped in horror and those terrible scarlet eyes shifted from Jacob to her.

"Sango!" Kagome whispered hoarsely at her friend and grabbed at her arm. At that movement, Draco's face seemed to grow angrier, if that were possible.

"Hmm?" Sango's voice was a little drowsy from the warmth of the day and from sheer boredom at the visiting teacher's lecture. The sensation of being grabbed by Kagome woke her up fully. "What's up?" But Kagome did not seem to be able to answer, so Sango turned her head in the direction Kagome was staring at with wide-eyed horror.

Almost instantly, Sango snatched her arm away from her friend's panicked grip. "What happened?"

"I… I don't know," whispered Kagome. "One minute I was looking at Jacob, the next I see Draco sitting right behind him and giving him a really nasty look. But for some reason he turned that nasty look on me as though I did something wrong."

"Son of a bitch." Sango inhaled sharply. "Don't move… and don't break eye contact with him! Jesus Christ, woman, why the hell did you have to rile him up like that?"

"What do you mean, why? I didn't do anything!" moaned Kagome. Confused, she very nearly turned to look at her friend when Sango grabbed her by the chin and forced her to face forward.

"Don't break eye contact, I said!" Sango was sweating now and she turned her head slightly to glance at the very large, very angry youkai across from them.

"But… but I don't understand," Kagome whimpered. Her chin trembled as she fought the urge to burst into tears. "What did I do?"

Sango stared hard at Draco, whose gaze finally dropped down a little. She frowned. What was he looking at now?

On the front row, unaware of a pair the blazing blood-red eyes that glared furiously at the back of his head, sat Jacob Cyrano. He appeared to be fighting off sleep, for his head kept dropping down only to jerk upwards.

"Oh, wonderful," she murmured just loud enough for Kagome to hear.

"Wonderful? What's wonderful?" Kagome could hear the sarcasm in Sango's voice and it worried her.

"It seems that Draco really does not like Jacob." Sango continued to eye the red-eyed youkai warily and she nearly jumped when Kagome began to squirm uncomfortably. At the movement, Draco's head snapped up, his eyes wide and his upper lip curled back in a movement which exposed more of his fangs than she felt comfortable with. "Congratulations, Kagome. You now have a youkai of your very own. Or rather, he has you. I do believe that Draco's youkai considers you its future mate."

"M-mate?" Kagome's voice was a hoarse whisper. "What do you mean— mate? What are you talking about?"

"I'll explain later, but right now, just concentrate on Draco and do nothing to piss him off even more than he already is."

Kagome chuckled mirthlessly. "How the hell am I supposed to do that? You're not going to leave me, are you?"

Both girls stared intently at Draco, who stared intently back at them. By now Kagome had quit squirming— thanks to a pinch from Sango on her arm— and they sat motionless on their increasingly uncomfortable stone seat while the warm Hawaiian sun beat softly down on them.

"No, I'm not going to leave you. I wouldn't dare," muttered Sango softly. "Right now, I'm in as much danger as you… but not nearly as much as Jacob, I hate to say. One false move and that guy is toast. That's why you can't break eye contact with Draco. If you so much as even glance at another man, that will set him off and since he has decided that you belong to him— according to youkai mating customs— he has every right to defend what is his. Unfortunately for Jacob, that includes killing his rival."

"But there isn't anyone else in my life, not even Jacob. Draco knows that."

"Doesn't matter," replied Sango with a tiny shake of her head. "This is not Draco who we are dealing with right now. Look, Jacob is a male that has been linked to you. That makes his position quite precarious, both literally and figuratively." She glanced quickly at Jacob, who was still oblivious to Draco's threatening presence behind him. "Smile."

"Say what?"

Sango's face had screwed up into a thoughtful frown. "Smile at Draco."

"And that will accomplish what, exactly?"

"It will put him at ease," Sango said quietly. "The best way to appease a youkai's jealousy is to let them know that you do not fear them, because fear to a youkai only arouses their suspicion. They can tell if you're faking it, so make sure you're being genuine. Go on, smile."

"That's easier said than done, Sango," Kagome hissed. "At the moment, I'm too terrified to move."

"Then just remember how he is when he's his normal self. Remember at Christmas when he brought us to his brothers' house? He had fun setting that up for you, you know."

"Did he?" Kagome felt her tension drain from her body when she recalled all the fun she'd had that day, playing in the snow and seeing the colorful lights on the beautifully decorated Christmas tree. She remembered when he took her back to school and they had sat together on the top of the garden wall for a long time as he held her close with his nose pressed against her neck…

Her lips curved into a smile at the memory of his warm, gentle touch. He was surprisingly gentle for someone with such large, powerful hands; hands, moreover, that also had claws. Her smile grew even wider as she felt her face flush with warmth when she recalled how he made her feel.

Seeing Kagome smiling at him, the change in Draco was immediate. Once his youkai self withdrew, the look on Draco's face was one of shock, then of embarrassment at his behavior. His fangs instantly retreated as did the red in his eyes, although his face did turn a bright red which contrasted sharply with the silvery white of his hair. Now utterly self-conscious, he quickly glanced down at the book in his lap and appeared to be engrossed in reading.

The moment of crisis was over. Kagome and Sango sagged against each other in relief. The next thing they knew all of their classmates were getting to their feet. Class was over at last.

As the two girls gathered their things, Kagome noticed that Draco had already gone and for some reason, she felt a little hurt at his abrupt departure. He hadn't even come over to say hi. In a way she was glad that he left, since she did not know how to feel about what Sango said about his youkai wanting her. What she did know was that she liked him. Sure, he spoke his mind with an abruptness that at times made her uncomfortable and he could be overpowering without meaning to. All that seemed to do was make her want to get to know him better. At that moment, Sango glanced up and saw Kagome's thoughtful expression.

"I wish I knew what to say to make you feel better," Sango said quietly and patted Kagome on the arm.

Kagome chuckled. "Oh, I'm not upset or anything. I was only thinking that I'd like to get to know Draco better. After all, if his youkai has a thing for me, then I'd be more comfortable if I were more acquainted with him… with them, rather."

Sango nodded and they got to their feet. "I think you should know… well, just because his youkai desires you, it doesn't necessarily mean that he does. Youkai are odd creatures, Kagome. I mean, if someone with a split personality and a possessive streak a mile wide is what floats your boat… then I'd say a youkai is perfect for you. But here's the problem. As powerful as Draco is, he is at the mercy of his inner self. That goes for any youkai like him, but especially for a youkai as young as he is. The younger a youkai is, the more hot-blooded they are." She paused for a moment to glance about them. Their fellow students were dispersing slowly. Since occasions where their classes were co-ed did not happen often, the girls lingered as long as they could while they chatted and flirted with the boys.

"He's not here, good. I was hoping that he was gone." Sango looked about them again.

Clutching her history book and notebook to her chest, Kagome turned her gaze to Sango. "What's up?"

After another perfunctory glance about them Sango turned and faced her friend squarely. "Do you like him? And by him, I mean Draco."

A moment of silence passed before Kagome shrugged her shoulders. "I… I don't know. I guess so. He's a nice guy and all."

Sango frowned. "That's not what I meant and you know that. Do you have a thing for him is what I was asking."

She did not have to wait long before Sango got her confirmation. As soon as the words came out of her mouth, Kagome's face began to flush hotly. "I'm guessing you do," Sango muttered.

But Kagome shook her head. "I don't really know. I mean, he's really hot and he's been really nice to me but he kind of scares me. Besides, if Yuki-sama found out, he'd just find a way to get rid of Draco just like he did with Jacob."

They began to walk back to school. "Perhaps that would be for the best," muttered Sango in a low voice. She shook her head. "Youkai." Her tone was bitter.

Her words were not missed by Kagome. "Why do you say that?" she asked, genuinely curious. "What's wrong with youkai?"

Sango did not reply until they reached their room and they had set down their books. She seemed to fight for the right words to say for a long moment before she spoke. "Youkai and humans… they are not a good combination, Kagome. It's not that I'm prejudiced against youkai, but I do believe that they are dangerous. Especially for humans. We shouldn't get sexually or romantically involved with them, but that's just my opinion." She dropped wearily onto her bed; Kagome did likewise.

"Have they… uh… mated with humans before?" Kagome asked quietly.

Staring down at the floor between them, Sango nodded. "Yes, it happens all the time. You wouldn't believe how many half-demons there are out there." She glanced up at Kagome, who was staring wide-eyed back at her and she nearly began to cry. Kagome was so innocent, so unworldly… and she blamed Yuki-sama's over-protectiveness for that entirely. "I know you like Draco. I wouldn't blame him if he liked you back. But promise me you won't jump into a relationship with him if he asks you to. Their world, their ways, the set of rules they live by… it's all completely different from ours. Many humans who have allowed youkai to mate with them have ended up dead because they did not follow the rules. I've heard of women who were slaughtered by their youkai mates simply for hugging a male friend. The scent of another man on them drove their youkai mate insane with jealousy."

Kagome gasped in horror. "Oh my god. While I was staring at Jacob during class today, I thought about how good-looking he was. Could that be why Draco looked like that?"

Again, Sango nodded. "Yes. In Draco's youkai mind, you are his and you were looking at another male with adoration. That was unacceptable. To him, that is."

"But why didn't he glare at me instead? Why take it out on Jacob?"

"Well, he has not marked you and therefore you are not his mate. As I said, they have rules. If he had marked and mated you, he would have the right to punish you as well as Jacob. But since you are not truly his, he would only be allowed to remove the obstacle that keeps him from you."

"That obstacle being Jacob."

"Yes."

"I see." Kagome seemed a little shocked at this but she regained her composure. "What did you mean by marked? Mated is a little self-explanatory, but marked? I don't understand that term."

"It's just what it means. When a youkai has chosen a mate, the youkai will bite whomever they have chosen. It tells other youkai that that person belongs to someone and to stay away." Sango made a face of disgust. "Sort of like when a cat sprays on a tree. It's a way to let other cats know that the tree is in their territory."

Kagome stared off into the distance. "What are you thinking about?" Sango asked.

"So… the youkai bites their chosen mate," she murmured absently. Her hand came up to rub the area where her throat and shoulder met, the memory of the night in the garden when she felt the tips of Draco's fangs on her skin flooding her brain.

Seeing Kagome— who knew next to nothing of youkai mating customs— touch the very spot favored by such creatures, sent a chill throughout Sango's body. Striding over to her friend, Sango grabbed Kagome's wrist and pulled her hand away from her shoulder. "What did he do to you?" Sango demanded angrily.

"N-nothing!" Kagome gasped. She stared up at Sango, wide-eyed and anxious. Then she broke down and told Sango the story of how she had let him smell her, in gratitude for bringing her to Japan to experience her first real winter in a very long time. "But he didn't bite me," she admitted finally. "I think he may have wanted to but I pushed him away before he could make up his mind."

"Good," Sango sighed and sat down beside Kagome. "That was a smart thing to do."

"I'm… I'm sorry, Sango."

Again Sango sighed and she shook her head. "There's no need to apologize. I'm just scared for you, that's all. He should know better than to put his fangs on you."

"Why is that?"

"I told you they live by rules. Until they reach a certain age, or unless their parents need to make an alliance with another clan, youkai are not allowed to take a mate. It's been that way for a long time now, and it serves to keep their young ones from taking a mate that is unsuitable. Just like with humans, young youkai can act unwisely when riled up."

"Okay." Kagome tilted her head and regarded her friend with some curiosity. "How do you know all these things? You seem to know a lot about youkai ways."

Sango reached out and affectionately ruffled Kagome's hair. "Yeah, I do. But right now you seem pretty beat. Why don't you lie down for awhile? I need to go workout at the gym. We can talk about youkai another time."

With a nod and a smile, Kagome obediently laid down on her bed. Even before Sango had finished changing into her gym clothes, Kagome was already asleep.

ooooo

That night— at Sango's insistence— Kagome went to bed early. Kagome protested at first, saying that she had had a good nap earlier and was not sleepy. But moments after Sango pulled the covers up to Kagome's chin, she drifted off to sleep.

Now it was nearly midnight and Sango stood at the window of the room they shared. It was open and she was enjoying the night breeze and the waxing crescent moon above. She sighed and ran her left hand down the left side of her abdomen where there was a small, cleverly hidden pocket. The letter was still there, good. Ever since her father had sent it to her that afternoon, Sango had felt a thrill of excitement run through her whenever she touched it. She knew—she just knew—that this would mean a break in the monotony of her life. Hopefully, this letter would mean that she could live out her life as she should— as she was born to do.

An anticipated flash of movement in the darkness far below caught her attention and she quickly but quietly shut the window to which she stuck a strip of paper. The next moment Sango found herself staring into the pale face of Draco, whose eyes reflected the light of the moon behind him. Sango marveled at his agility but quickly dismissed her feeling of awe. For him to climb up to their window—which was several stories off the ground—would not tax his physical strength in the least. She just hoped that his claws did not too badly mar the side of the building. She'd hate to have to explain that to the headmistress.

"Let me in," he said just loud enough for Sango to hear. "I need to speak to Kagome."

At this Sango shook her head and jerked her thumb upwards. "Meet me on the roof," she whispered, knowing full well he could hear her clearly through the window pane.

This did not seem to sit well with the wall-climbing youkai, for his face slid into a scowl. "Let me in, goddamn it or I'll tear the fucking wall down." He spoke calmly but his fangs made an appearance. "I'm not playing."

But Sango shook her head again and repeated her request. This angered Draco further and he cocked his fist back. She did not flinch when the power of the fuda she had placed on the window repelled the force of his blow. Indeed, he was nearly knocked off the side of the building and ended up clinging onto the stone face as he regained his footing.

"The roof, you idiot," she hissed.

He snarled at her but nodded and leapt upwards. Sango sighed and after making sure Kagome was still asleep, she left the room. Just before she left, Sango placed fudas on all the walls and on their bedroom door. Satisfied that her best friend was fully protected and after patting her left side, Sango hurried off to meet Draco.

As she suspected, Draco was fuming. He paced about the rooftop, fully agitated.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" he demanded the moment she stepped out into the night air. "What are you, her mother? All I want to do is talk to her, for fuck's sake." He ceased pacing when he caught sight of her and a derisive chuckle escaped his lips. "What the hell are you wearing? Do you think you're some kind of ninja?" His eyes took in her dark, form-fitting outfit. "Halloween was months ago."

This assessment of her appearance almost made Sango want to punch him on the nose. "I am not a ninja," she assured him stiffly. "But that is not why I wanted to speak to you."

"So why did you? Why won't you let me see her?" he asked suspiciously. "I thought you trusted me."

"Not anymore," Sango replied cautiously. "Especially not after what happened this afternoon."

He went immediately on the defensive. "That wasn't my fault! Look, I tried to rein my youkai in but he didn't like the way she was looking at that idiot."

"By 'that idiot', I'm guessing you mean Jacob." As soon as she uttered Jacob's name, Sango gauged Draco's reaction. The youkai's body stiffened and she could just hear a faint growl.

"Yes, I mean him. I caught a scent of arousal from her and… and the next thing I know I'm being shoved to the side and my youkai has taken over. As I said, it wasn't my fault." His voice was almost petulant.

"Do you have feelings for Kagome?" Sango asked abruptly and crossed her arms over her chest to await his response. If his reaction to Jacob's name was any indication, then he most certainly did have feelings for her.

But Draco's answer was a long time in coming. Sango supposed he had not admitted his feelings to himself yet. Eventually he shrugged. The movement looked nonchalant, but Sango was not convinced. "Yeah, I guess so. I enjoy her company. She's sweet and pretty and…" He closed his eyes and inhaled through his nostrils. "Her scent is amazing. If she hadn't pushed me away—"

"You would have sunk your fangs into her," Sango finished sourly but smiled inwardly when she saw the look of surprise on his face. "What? Did you think she wouldn't have told me what happened that night in the garden? Remember that she and I are best friends. She tells me everything," she finished triumphantly.

The youkai glared hatefully at the human in front of him. She was getting a little too overbearing for his liking. And what was up with her outfit? It looked vaguely familiar to him but he could not place where he had seen it before.

"No, I wouldn't have." His voice was far more certain than he felt. "Bitten her, that is."

"Oh really?" Her words came out harshly, letting him know that she did was not buying it.

His eyebrows snapped downwards. "Yes, really," he retorted, his voice equally as hard as hers. "My dad would kill me if I were to take a mate."

Sango nodded approvingly. "That's because you are considered far too young to make a good choice of mate. You are still a mere pup to your father."

Draco snorted. He hated being called a pup… especially by a human. "What does a mere human know about the ways of my kind?" He gave her a withering up and down look. "Wait, don't tell me. Humans have put together a handbook instructing them on our ways… and you have copy which you study religiously so you won't appear to be as clueless and weak as the rest of your race. Youkai for Dummies." With that, he leaned over, stuck his face in hers and laughed.

He fully expected to get slapped. But that was not the course of action she took. The next moment he found himself lying on his back with a cold steel blade digging into his neck. Draco stared up at Sango, stunned to see her staring frostily back down at him, her body pinning his to the roof.

"Laugh again. I dare you."

To his surprise, Draco found that he could not move. He strained against her, knowing full well that he could easily throw her off, but his body would not obey him. Closing his eyes he did a quick assessment to make sure his body parts were in working order. He could feel them… but he could also feel a powerful energy which pulsed rapidly against his neck. It seemed to emanate from her blade.

"What… what have you done to me?" he asked, his voice trembling with the force of his rage. He could feel his eyes begin to bleed. All he wanted to do was beat this bitch to a pulp for getting the better of him.

Sango shrugged. "What have I done to you? Why, I overpowered your pompous ass, that's all."

"Fuck you, bitch."

She grinned. "Would you like to get up?"

His fangs flashed dangerously in the moonlight. "Do you really need to ask that?" he snarled, his voice deep and menacing.

With a throaty chuckle, Sango straightened and moved away from him. Draco immediately sat up and rubbed his throat. She had not even broken the skin which had been quite skillful on her part, for that blade had been sharp. He wondered just how this slightly built female had been able to take him down, but the fuda wrapped around her hand answered his question. It hadn't been the blade from which the power flowed. It was from the fuda she'd had on her hand which held the blade that had been the source of the power.

"I came here unarmed. You come bearing a knife and a fuda. I'd call that a bit unfair, wouldn't you agree?"

She shook her head. "No. You came bearing fangs, claws and super strength. I call that leveling the playing field."

His eyes narrowed. "Whatever," he muttered sourly.

By now he had figured out why her outfit looked familiar. It was something that human demon slayers of centuries past had worn when they were hired to kill youkai. So that was it. She was descended from a clan of demon slayers. That explained why she wielded her weapon with such accuracy. But the fuda? Where had she gotten that? He made a note not to mess with her again. "Tell me something, human."

Sango slid the blade she had just held to his neck back into the hidden sheath in her sleeve. "Sure, demon. What would you like to know?"

Draco stood and walked to the edge of the roof closest to him, where he leaned over the parapet and glanced over the side. Kagome's window was a few stories below him. "I get the feeling you want me to stay away from Kagome. Am I right?"

"Not quite." Sango leaned casually against a large air conditioning unit.

"Then?"

Her eyes regarded him carefully. "You can be friends with her; that's no problem at all."

One pale eyebrow slid skeptically upwards. "Okay, thanks," he muttered.

She nodded magnanimously. "No problem. The only thing I am concerned about— and after, today rightly so— is that the two of you might end up in a romantic relationship."

For a moment, Draco was thankful that Sango was human for he felt his body temperature rise. He had an awful feeling that he was blushing horribly. "I appreciate your concern but really, is that any of your business? I mean, even if there was a chance that she would ever want to be with me, do you think it would be your place to interfere with her love life?"

Sango's body—a very fit one, Draco noted—tensed slightly. "Did you think I was kidding when I told Kagome she was like a sister to me?"

"No."

"Ever since she and I met, I have always felt a little protective of her. It's because she is has been so sheltered for years and has no real knowledge of the world. Her guardian does not allow her the use of the internet and… well, you know about her not having a cell phone."

Draco nodded and Sango went on.

"She's such an innocent," Sango said and turned her head to look at the moon. It hung in the velvety black of the night sky, a smooth and radiant crescent. "I know she must grow up some time, but I would not look kindly on you if you hurt her."

The youkai turned to look at the moon as well and he smiled slightly. The crescent moon was his family crest, he thought with pride. Unthinking, he reached up to touch his forehead. His mark had not appeared yet; but then, it would not do so until he was much older. Dante and Juno had theirs already, but unlike their father's ever-present crescent moon their crests only appeared under certain circumstances. The same went for the cheek markings, for he did not have those either. Draco guessed it was because their mother was an elf and that was the reason for the delay in their markings.

When he returned his gaze on the human slayer, he found her glaring accusingly at him. "What?" he blurted out. He did not like being blamed for something he did not know he did.

"I can't stop her from being with you, if that's what you want to know. All I ask is that you refrain from marking her. The last thing I want for her is to end up a youkai's mate. She deserves to have a man who won't rip her to pieces just because he caught a whiff of a guy she accidentally brushed up against in a grocery store."

He grunted at Sango's words but he soon forget them as he remembered that night in the teacher's garden when he did not want to stop inhaling Kagome's oddly familiar scent. His youkai had taken over and he felt his fangs against her soft skin. Another second longer and he would have bitten down.

"Alright Mother, whatever you wish," he remarked sarcastically. "But what about sex?"

His flippantly asked question brought Sango completely off the air conditioning unit. She moved forward a few steps and Draco could see her wrap a fuda around her hand and clench it. He tensed. Perhaps he should shut up now.

"So you're thinking of that already?" demanded Sango angrily. "She doesn't even know you that well!"

Draco leaned back slightly on his parapet and shrugged. "Take it easy. I don't mean we would have it right away or at all. If Kagome and I do get involved, the question would probably come up. But I promise not to molest her the moment I get her alone. If you must know, I don't particularly enjoy crazy women holding knives to my throat." He rubbed his neck again in remembrance.

Sango's eyes narrowed. She said evenly, "Next time it wouldn't be a knife. The next time I would use my katana blade and it would be buried, hilt-deep, in your chest."

Hearing the sheer menace in Sango's voice, Draco flinched and jumped to his feet. "I don't think I like you very much anymore," he declared irritably. "Once I thought you were a pretty cool chick but now… I think you're a real bitch."

"If that knowledge is enough to keep your raging male hormones at bay, then fine, I'm a real bitch."

He decided to change the subject. "You do realize that humans are no longer allowed to be slayers."

She shrugged. "What's your point?"

"Just saying. If anyone in the Corp ever found out about you, you'd be in deep shit."

Sango feigned a look of terror. "Ooh, the Slayer Corp. Aren't they so big and bad!" She laughed sarcastically. "Oh please, do you really think that scares me? Let me tell you something, Draco. My ancestors were slayers centuries before your father founded the Corp."

Draco started. "H-how did you know my father founded the Corp?"

She snorted. "Like I said, my ancestors were demon slayers long before your father came on the scene. We all know about him… and his brother."

"Half-brother," Draco said automatically.

Sango waved a dismissive hand. "Brother, half-brother, whatever you want to call it. Point is, they're related. Look, I have a favor to ask of you." She reached into the hidden pocket to retrieve the letter.

"A favor?" He snorted derisively. "That's rich… especially after you just threatened to bury your katana blade hilt-deep in my chest."

With a glare at him, Sango held out the letter to Draco. "I need you to deliver this to your father. It's important."

"Yeah. Sure." Draco stared hard at the sealed envelope as though he wanted to burn holes through it.

"It is important," Sango repeated, annunciating each word carefully. "Please take that to him but don't open it. It's for his eyes only."

Draco stared thoughtfully at the letter in his hand. After a moment's reflection he said, "If I do this for you, what do I get in return? I mean, after all, Dad is a busy man."

"If?" Sango stared at him incredulously. "Oh, you will do it, Draco. If you don't, I will inform Kagome of just how vicious youkai can be. I will tell her everything horrible about your kind." She narrowed her eyes. "The next time you see her, it will be all she can do not to run away screaming from you. Is that what you want? Because believe me, I can make that happen."

He stood motionless as her venomous words washed over him. Draco did not doubt for one second that Sango would not go through with her threat; he could smell the sincerity and the suppressed rage emanating from her every pore. 'Funny,' he thought, 'I had no idea she hated me so much.'

Again he glanced down at the letter in his hand. It was addressed to his father in neat, yet masculine handwriting. Sango's father, perhaps?

"Alright," he conceded after a long moment. "I will get this to my father."

"Now, if you don't mind," she said brusquely.

Draco lifted an inquisitive eyebrow. "What's the urgency? Can't it wait until tomorrow?"

Sango shook her head. "Please, Draco. He needs to read that letter. The sooner the better."

Draco's other eyebrow rose and he laughed. "Fine, fine. I'll go now. Give me a minute." He shook his head and touched the bracelet that always encircled his left wrist. There was a flash of light and soon the glowing blue orb of the portal appeared. With a mock salute at Sango, he stepped into the blue light and vanished.

With a sigh, Sango sat down on the surface of the rooftop and got ready for a long wait.

oooo

It took Draco just under an hour to return. The moment he emerged from the portal, Sango got to her feet, an expectant look on her face.

"Well? What did he say?" she asked excitedly.

There was a strange look on Draco's face and to Sango it seemed that he was utterly mystified.

"Why don't you ask him yourself?" he said and turned to glance over his shoulder at the portal.

"What?" Sango asked and peered around Draco's tall form in time to see two men step through the blue light and join them on the roof. Her eyes were immediately drawn to the taller of the two and she instantly recognized him as Lord Sesshoumaru. The shorter man she did not recognize, although she did think that the ears on the top of his head were really cute.

"Good evening, Lord Sesshoumaru," she said, presenting the tall man with a bow.

He and the other man followed suit, but all the while they stared hard at her. She frowned and wondered why they should look at her so, but she brushed it off and got down to business.

She directed her question at Sesshoumaru. "I trust you read my father's letter?"

He nodded his pale head once. "Yes. But I thought I had made my position quite clear. No humans were to engage in demon slaying activities. We youkai will handle this."

"Told you," Draco muttered under his breath, just loud enough for Sango to hear.

But Sango would not take Sesshoumaru's polite brush off so easily. "And my father made it quite clear what our position was. Demon slaying runs in my family. You know of my famous ancestress?"

Sesshoumaru stared hard at Sango but said nothing.

It was the second man who spoke. "Sango," he said in a distant voice.

She puffed her chest up with pride. "Yes. I was named for her."

The Taiyoukai shrugged nonchalantly, an elegant gesture. "That is all well and good but that still does not change my position on having human slayers. Your species is a fragile one and I, for one, will not allow your kind to lay down your lives like that. It is an unfair fight."

Sango's dark eyes flashed. Through stiff lips she said, "This is our world too, Sesshoumaru. It is only right that we be allowed to defend it and ourselves. Didn't you read my father's letter?"

"Well yes, of course, but I—"

"You don't have to agree to allow us to do anything," she snapped. "All he said is that we have your back in this matter."

"Matter?" Draco took a step forward and stared at his father. "What's she talking about?"

Sesshoumaru shot a stern look at his son before resting his golden gaze on the slender human female before him. "Draco," said the Taiyoukai after a moment, "go back to your school."

"But Dad, I want to know what's going on," Draco muttered petulantly.

Again Sesshoumaru shot his son a look. This time Draco whimpered obediently and leapt off the rooftop, leaving the three alone. Sesshoumaru waited a few minutes before returning his attention to Sango. "Okay, he's far enough away. Now will you tell me what you know?"

Sango shrugged. "Not much, except for what my father and the other slayers in my clan have heard."

"And that is?"

She stared grimly up at Sesshoumaru. "Rumor has it that Naraku has returned and that he is behind it all."

Beside his brother, Inuyasha stiffened. "Even the humans know," he hissed.

"Silence," Sesshoumaru commanded Inuyasha. To Sango he said, "Behind all of what? I do not understand."

Sango chuckled softly. "The great Sesshoumaru, pretending to be clueless; it doesn't suit you at all." She sighed when it became clear that he would not give up the pretence. "The disappearing youkai, of course! Did you think that only the Corp is in South America, fighting the good fight? We have plenty of our clan over there, fighting alongside you, although you do not know it."

"How is it that your clan has never been detected by my youkai?" Sesshoumaru asked. He lifted his eyebrows, the look on his face declared that he was genuinely interested.

She smiled. "I thought you might ask that," she replied. From inside her snug-fitting jacket, she pulled out a handful of fudas and held them out for the two youkai to see. "My ancestress bore the children of a powerful monk. His power still runs in our veins. We can wield his magic." She replaced the fudas inside her jacket. "That is how we have escaped detection for so long. As all-powerful as a youkai might seem, they are no match against some powerful magic."

Sesshoumaru was grudgingly impressed. "Why do you only now come forward with this? If you have been fighting alongside us, as you say, why bother telling me about it? Now that I know of your existence, I may force you to cease and desist."

She shrugged. "Go ahead and try, but I guarantee you that we won't cease and desist, as you say." Sango crossed her arms over her chest in an impatient gesture. "You act as though we are completely helpless and have no idea what we're getting into. But you couldn't be more wrong. Everything we know about the art of demon slaying was passed down from our revered ancestress. It is ingrained in us from the moment we learn to walk. Just because we are human does not mean we don't know what the hell we're doing."

Again, Sesshoumaru's eyebrows went up. "So I see." He was silent for a long moment. Then he asked: "Does rumor also say where Naraku is hiding?"

Sango's smile appeared. Her words scored a hit, apparently. She shrugged. "Who can say? He is not here, obviously," she said with a wave of her hands, indicating the space around them. "Although, those who have seen the youkai vanishing, say that they depart through one of those." She pointed at the portal behind her two youkai companions.

Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru look sharply at one another. "Oh no," Inuyasha whispered. "That means he's in the Elven world."

Sesshoumaru nodded grimly. "So it would appear," he replied cautiously.

Inuyasha nodded and there was a moment of silence on the rooftop. Suddenly, both youkai heads jerked around, as if they heard something.

"What's wrong?" asked Sango, feeling a little uneasy at the sight of them listening to something she could not hear.

The Taiyoukai frowned. "Someone is screaming. It sounds female."

His words made Sango jump, as though she had just been electrocuted. "Damn! I'll be right back! Stay!" she called out and bolted through the door that led inside the building.

"Did… Did she just tell us to stay?" Sesshoumaru asked, one eyebrow arching with interest.

But Inuyasha did not appear to be hearing his brother's words. He was still listening to the screams that only one with supernatural hearing could detect. His heart wrenched in his chest. "I know that scream," he breathed. A moment later, he took off, following Sango's scent into the building.

ooo

The dream had been really bad this time. By the time Kagome's eyes flew open her heart was racing so hard she felt sure that it would beat itself right out of her chest.

Thankfully, Sango was right there, her strong hands gripping her trembling friend's shoulders. "Sweetie! Are you okay?" She leaned over and turned on Kagome's bedside lamp.

With a sob, Kagome flew to a sitting position and clung to Sango. For a moment, it did not register in her befuddled brain that Sango was not wearing her usual nighttime apparel. She pulled back a little and stared with confusion at the all black costume but she said nothing. Perhaps Sango had snuck in the gym again. She had done that many times before when she could not sleep.

"Kagome?"

Kagome nodded. "I'm okay," she told Sango with a reassuring smile. At least, she supposed it was reassuring. It did not feel reassuring at all. But she knew better than to lie to Sango because Sango seemed to always know when she wasn't being truthful. Kagome shook her head. "I'm okay, but it was really bad this time," she said quietly.

Her face wracked with concern for her friend, Sango pulled Kagome into a protective embrace. "What did he do now?" she asked gently. The back of her neck began to tingle and without turning around, Sango could sense the presence of a demonic aura lurking just outside their room and outside the window. Two eavesdroppers, eh?

"He hurt me," Kagome whispered. Her mouth was against Sango's shoulder so her words came out muffled. "He hurt me and I could do nothing to stop him."

Although Kagome did not seem to know who he was, Sango was quite familiar with him by now. He was recurring player in Kagome's nightmares and for many nights now, Sango had been woken by Kagome's cries for help. At least, they sounded like cries for help; Sango had no idea what Kagome screamed in the dark. It sounded like gibberish to her ears.

"What did he do to you this time?" Sango asked as she rocked Kagome gently.

Kagome let out a shuddering sigh. "He… He stabbed me," was her reply.

"He stabbed you?" Sango was disturbed. Why was she having such terrible nightmares?

Kagome nodded. "Yes. Many times. I think… that he enjoyed hurting me."

Again, the back of Sango's neck tingled and the feeling of nearby skulking demon was suddenly gone. She tenderly pushed Kagome back onto her mattress. "Well, he's gone now and you're safe," she said with a small smile. "Go back to sleep, okay?" She smoothed back Kagome's hair from her pale face.

"Okay," murmured Kagome sleepily and obediently shut her eyes. After a moment, she had dropped off to sleep.

When Sango returned the roof, Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha were standing by the portal. Both seemed anxious to return to wherever they came from. Just as it had when she was downstairs with Kagome, the back of Sango's neck prickled and a flash of movement in her peripheral vision alerted her to the presence of another demon. Draco had returned.

"We are leaving now," Sesshoumaru said to his son. "See you soon, son."

"Sure thing," Draco replied and nodded solemnly. "Bye, Dad." But Draco was not looking at his father, Sango noticed. The young youkai was thoughtfully watching the hanyou Inuyasha. "Uncle," he said and nodded at the hanyou.

"Draco," Inuyasha said with a vague nod of his own. He was not giving his nephew nearly as much attention as Draco was giving him. Instead, he nodded at Sango and strode through the portal with Sesshoumaru at his heels.

As the light from the portal vanished, Sango turned to her youkai companion. "What's the matter with you?" she asked.

Draco shook his head, but then seemed to change his mind and looked at her. "What did he want?"

"Your dad?" Sango was confused. "I don't think I can tell you. If he wanted you to know, he would have allowed you to stay."

Again Draco shook his head. "No, no. Not my dad. Inuyasha. What did he want with Kagome?"

Sango frowned. "He didn't want anything as far as I know."

"Bullshit." Draco was scowling and Sango tensed. She could feel the energy from his inner youkai pulsate madly. "He followed you," he said accusingly. "I saw him watching you through the doorway to your room."

She snorted. "That's a funny thing for you to say… while you were watching us through the window." When Draco began to growl, Sango strode over to him and slapped him across the face. "Cool it!" she snapped angrily up at his astonished face. "Nothing happened, and you would have known that, being the shameless peeping pervert that you are. He didn't want anything and he certainly never said a word to her. Now if you don't mind, it's really late and I need to get some sleep. Good night, Draco."

With that, Draco was left alone with a stinging face and a few lingering, suspicious, jealous thoughts.

ooooooooooooooooo

oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooo

Once they returned to the elves' world and to the home Sesshoumaru and Miranda shared, Inuyasha turned to face his brother.

"Can we go to Hiro now? We can't sit on this any longer."

"I agree." Sesshoumaru said with a nod. "And you are certain that Miroku has this… wind tunnel curse?"

Inuyasha nodded earnestly. "Yes, I saw it myself. It is the same as before. It is the same curse."

"Alright."

The two males were in Sesshoumaru's study. It served as a library too, for Sesshoumaru was an avid reader. In the large room, a plush leather sofa and two straight back chairs were positioned on the side of the room which held his bookshelves. On the other half of the room was filled a plain executive desk in burnished walnut and more bookshelves behind it. To the left of the desk was a large bay window complete with comfortably padded window seat. A little bundle of yarn and knitting sticks lay on the seat. Miranda enjoyed sitting beside her mate while he worked.

It was to this window that Sesshoumaru strode and stared out. It was not night here, at least not yet. A complete day was over twenty-four hours, as it was in the mortal realm; and day was just as long as the night.

"I do have a question, though."

"What is it?"

Sesshoumaru turned to face his brother. "I'm guessing that it was Kagome who kept Thanos… or Naraku… in check. But she died, no doubt releasing him somehow from the jewel. What I want to know is why didn't the curse immediately manifest itself the moment he was released? Miroku had been born by then."

Inuyasha shook her head. "That, I don't know. All I know for sure is that it did not affect him until January. So somehow, between Kagome's death and up until a few months ago, Naraku was out of commission." He joined his brother at the bay window where he stared out of the glass thoughtfully. "It's almost like he was waiting for something. You recall that surge of… whatever it was back around Christmas?"

"The feeling of negative energy? Yes, I do."

The hanyou shrugged. "Maybe that was Naraku waking up, or coming to or whatever."

"That is a possibility." Sesshoumaru leaned down to pick up his mate's knitting. It was a soft ball of blue and pink fluff. He could not help but smile. Normally, Miranda did not leave her knitting lying about in his office. She always took it with her. It seemed that this was a signal that his lovely mate was longing for another baby. Setting the soft yarn down on the seat, he returned his attention to the conversation. "So why did he choose to wake up now? Why couldn't he have come back years ago? What is so special about now?"

Inuyasha shrugged again. "I don't know. But you're right about one thing. Why didn't he return years ago? Seeing as how he and Kagome share a deep connection, I would have expected that he made his presence known the moment she was reborn into this world. But she's a teenager now. Why wait so long?"

Sesshoumaru turned to face his brother. "Are you absolutely positive that the girl we heard screaming was Kagome? Your Kagome?"

"She isn't mine anymore," muttered the hanyou. He tried hard to keep the sadness from his voice. "Her life is starting over and I do not exist to her."

The Taiyoukai touched Inuyasha lightly on the shoulder. "Sorry," he said consolingly. "I didn't mean to upset you."

Inuyasha shook his head and looked down at his feet. "It's alright, Sess. I don't know why I am still so sensitive about this. My Kagome has been dead for years… but yes, I am absolutely positive that the girl we heard was Kagome. I did not get close enough for her to see me, because I hid out in the hallway. But her voice… and her scent… it was the same as before. It felt like her." After a moment he said with finality: "It was her."

This seemed to satisfy Sesshoumaru. He nodded. "Alright then, let's go to see Hiro. We need to update him on the situation."

With a curt nod, Inuyasha straightened his spine and the two males left the room.

oooooooooooooooooooooo

ooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

A/N: Sorry for the horrendous delay! Life likes to get in the way… and so does writer's block!

Enjoy!

rsb