Summary

Kagome reawakens to find that not everything is as fine and dandy as she hopes. A visit to a couple of reckless nobles sets everyone straight though...

A/N: And... Yayz! More plot moving! And the romance stuff. Can't leave that behind! Anyways, here we go!

:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:

It was strange. One moment she was floating in the darkness of her own mind, and the next she was slowly blinking the sunlight from her sleep-crusted eyes. She knew she'd been asleep for a while simply by how lethargic her body felt. There was a significant difference in the last time she'd been awake though.

She felt light, airy, and whole.

'Free... So this is what being unchained feels like,' Kagome Higurashi thought, slowly manuvering herself into a sitting position. Her arms shook from the effort and she was inwardly disgusted with herself. She needed to get back into proper shape as soon as possible. The priestess looked up when she heard a crash.

Sango stared at the girl in the bed, hands to her mouth and tears brimming in her eyes. The vase of flowers she had been holding was in pieces at her feet, but she paid it no mind as she scrambled over to Kagome and pulled her into a hug. "You're finally awake! Oh, I can't believe it!"

"Have. To. Breathe!" the former time traveler gasped, desperately trying to shove her best girl friend away. A moment later, her hands were occupied as Sango continued to weep happily.

"We've missed you so much, Kagome! We were so worried that you would never wake up!"

"What? And leave you behind? No way!" Kagome gasped dramatically, putting a hand to her heart and fluttering her lashes. "That simply would not do, Sango!" She giggled at the lost expression on the other girl's face.

"Everyone will be so happy you're finally awake! You missed all the action, though," Sango sighed, shaking her head and sitting down next to Kagome.

"What action?" At the former slayer's silence, the priestess narrowed her eyes and pinned the other girl with a look. One she'd unconsciously been picking up from Byakuya.

"Well..." Sango quickly outlined the entire Aizen fiasco as Kagome stared at her open-mouthed in shock. She couldn't believe she'd actually missed so much.

"W-Wow. I had no idea so much happened!" A moment later, the priestess became completely serious, "Were there casualties?"

"Not that I know of," the former slayer replied, shaking her head, "But there were extensive injuries. Everyone got beat up at least a little."

"Everyone? You mean... Did Captain Kuchiki sustain injuries? What about Lieutenant Abarai? Rukia?"

"They were part of the intial front line attack against Aizen and his Espada. All of them were hurt in some way," Sango explained, jumping up when Kagome scrambled out of bed and gasping in shock when the former time traveler hit the ground painfully. "Kagome! You shouldn't get out of bed! You need to take things slowly and-! HEY!"

Kagome ignored the anger in her friend's voice as she tried to get to her feet again. She couldn't stand the fact that she was so damn weak right now!

"Sango, can I have a piggyback ride?"

"What? Why?!"

"I need to go see everyone. I have to make sure they're okay."

"Kagome, they're fine! What you need to do is rest!" the other girl argued, an annoyed vein pulsing on her head. The blue-eyed girl stared at Sango with such imploring eyes that the brunette had a hard time keeping her foot down.

"No!"

"Oh please!"

"N-No! You... You have to rest... and... and..."

"Sango..." Kagome murmured, clasping her hands just under her chin, her eyes becoming huge with pleading.

"... Oh! Fine! But just for a few minutes! Then, you rest up!" Sango finally gave in, crouching down to let Kagome scramble on. With a sour look on her face, the brunette stood up and blew her bangs out of her face. "Where to first."

"Hmm... Let's go see the Lieutenant," the priestess giggled, wrapping an arm around the other girl's shoulder and throwing her fist in the air. "Onward, valient steed!"

"You keep that up and I'm going to put you back to bed!"

"Aww! No fair!"

:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:

Kagome sighed to herself as she looked over the bandage attached to Renji's head. It was well done, so she had no complaints; then again, it had been a Squad 4 member that had patched the Lieutenant up.

"Well, it's good to see you awake, Higurashi," the redhead grumbled, rubbing his aching shoulder. He was itching to get out of bed, but the Medical Squad of the Court Guard was being incredibly capricious about injuries.

"Trust me, I'm glad to finally be awake. I can't believe I was out for so long," the former school girl replied, rolling her neck as she adjusted her position in her chair. "So, you said that Captain Kuchiki and Rukia are recovering at home?"

"Yep. You should stop by and see them. They'll both be happy you're up and going," Renji answered, a smirk on his face as he imagined the siblings' reactions. He was sure Rukia would tackle the girl, and he could honestly say he wouldn't be surprised if his Captain did the same.

"Yeah. I think I will." Turning to Sango, she opened her mouth to ask about getting to the Kuchiki Manor, but squeaked as she noticed Kenpachi Zaraki in the ward. Oddly enough, he was looking rather uncomfortable and disgruntled while Sango berated him for getting unnecessarily hurt. Whipping back around, Kagome gave a bemused Renji a sheepish smile.

"You know, it's weird seeing Captain Zaraki get the talk down from a woman almost twice as small as him," the Lieutenant murmured, shaking his head when the enormous Captain shrugged his shoulders and glared off in the distance. The dismissal only seemed to incite the former slayer's ire more as she stood on the tips of her toes to snarl in his face.

"Tell me about it. I don't see how she does it," the priestess countered, sighing quietly before shaking her head. "You want to head with me over to the Kuchiki Manor? I have a feeling they're going to be at it for a while."

Renji gave her a blank look. "Can you even walk? You were comatose for almost two months, after all."

"It's as good a time as any to start getting my strength back," Kagome shrugged, pulling herself to her feet and letting out a disgusted growl as her knees shook from the effort. "But I will say that it's going to be annoying if I'm shaking like this the whole time."

Renji held out an arm for her to grab and started helping her out the door in the midst of Sango and Kenpachi's arguing. "Let's just get the hell out of here."

:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:

Thankfully, Renji managed to persuade the guards around the manor that, yes, they were allowed in for visitation, and did they even know who he was, damn it?! It was a load off of Kagome's shoulders because she honestly hadn't planned on how to deal with those guys.

Now, following one of the servants to the main sitting room, Kagome slid her arm from around Renji's shoulder and focused carefully on balancing on her own. She absolutely did not want Rukia and Byakuya to see her being carried in there by her injured Lieutenant.

She watched the servant kneel and bow to the closed door, sucking in a breath and pressing down her sudden jitters. She could do this!

"My lord, my lady. You have a visitor that wishes very much to see you."

"This late? That's unusual. Nii-sama is getting ready to retire for the day. Can they come back?" Rukia's voice floated through the closed shoji and the woman glanced at them. Kagome immediately shook her head and hobbled to the door.

"Now, that's not very nice, Rukia. I came all the way from the Coma Ward to see you guys and you want to shove me out?" the priestess joked, sliding open the door and leaning against the frame with a happy smile.

It was absolutely worth the pain of being carted around to see the flummoxed expressions on the two nobles faces. The smile dropped immediately when she noted the cast on the noble girl's arm and the bandages wrapping up Byakuya's wrist. "Shit, you guys really were injured."

"Ka-Kagome?!" Rukia squeaked, dropping the tea cup she'd been holding. The expensive ceramic shattered, making the servant jump before she rushed over to start cleaning up the mess. In a moment, she was gone to dispose of the remains.

"A lot of people are breaking things when they see me for some reason," the former time traveler mumbled before she was bowled over by an extremely enthusiastic Kuchiki girl.

"You're okay! And awake! This is wonderful news!" the tiny violet-eyed shinigami crowed, grinning like a maniac as she almost bounced around the priestess. "There is so much you need to be caught up on and-! Hey! Renji! What the hell?!"

"Stop that, Rukia! She barely made it here in the first place! She can't support her own weight, let alone another persons'!" Renji snapped, lifting the smaller shinigami by her obi and reaching out to hook Kagome around the waist like a sack.

"If I didn't just get out of bed I would beat you, Lieutenant!" the priestess hissed angrily, remaining limp simply because it would be easier and she was tired. She was deposited on the couch in a heap next to a mute Byakuya. The noble had yet to say a word; he seemed to have gone into shock at seeing her conscious.

"I'm taking this one with me. You two play nice," the redhead smirked, flipping Rukia over his shoulder and walking out of the room despite the noble girl's vehement protests. Byakuya's steely gaze narrowed on the duo as he opened his mouth to say something. He seemed to think better of it though and simply shook his head before training that intense gaze back on a fidgety Kagome. The door slid closed and left them in silence.

"Umm, this was not how I wanted to say hello again, if that makes you feel any better, Captain."

Lifting his uninjured hand, Byakuya traced her cheek carefully, almost afraid she would disappear again. "You are really here?"

Kagome smiled warmly and leaned closer to the dazed Captain. Shifting slightly, the priestess pressed a kiss to his cheek, pulling away a few seconds later with a flush across her cheeks.

"Was that real enough for you?" she joked, not expecting him to haul her into his lap hold her close.

"Perhaps," the noble replied a little smugly, smoothing the girl's bangs down when she grumbled under her breath. Within the next heartbeat, however, he felt her angle his face down as she kissed him full on. Fingers wove into her hair, disrupting the braid she was wearing and Kagome gasped when he deepened the kiss.

A moment later they parted and he rested his forehead against hers. Languidly, the noble's grey eyes darkened at the flush on Kagome's cheeks.

"How 'bout now?" she gasped, swallowing slowly when his lips brushed her cheek for an instant before they started trailing lower.

"Much better," the Captain replied, blinking when she suddenly squeaked and shoved him back.

"W-Wait! Wait a second." He scowled for a second before he got his emotions back under control and pinned her with an intense stare.

"You are hesitating."

"Well, yeah. I don't... What exactly does all of this," Kagome started, gesturing to them in a vague manner, "mean to you? I don't want to get involved in something like this if you're not serious."

Byakuya inhaled slowly, willing himself to recall his patience, then quietly explained, "Kagome, you are the first woman, since Hisana, that I have willingly shown an avid interest in. I certainly do not believe that what is transpiring between us is fleeting in any sense."

"So... then... are you asking me out? You want to date me or something?"

"Or something," the noble muttered under his breath, shaking his head at her confused expression, "It goes much deeper than that. I wish to court you."

"C-Court?" the former school girl squeaked, stumbling over the archaic term as her face flushed, "But... But we barely know eachother!"

"That is the purpose behind it. We would get to know eachother properly, instead of behind the ley-lines of Captain and Subordinate."

"Still... You make it sound like an engagement," she mumured, swallowing when he gave her a wicked smirk.

"Now who is the one making assumptions? I did not realize you wished to progress this so quickly."

"I didn't say that!" Kagome gasped, refusing to meet his gaze as it became light with amusement.

"I know. I am teasing you," the noble replied, cradling her close and simply hugging her to him.

"I'm not used to that..."

"Perhaps you should prepare yourself for it. I find the way your face changes color to be quite endearing." She huffed, which he found to be adorable.

For a while, they simply basked in eachother's prescences. Kagome absently smoothed a wrinkle out of his yukata while he played with the ribbon keeping her braid together. In all honesty, the Captain could definitely get used to this peace.

"So... Courting."

"If you will have me," Byakuya answered quietly, hoping and praying she would say yes. He wasn't sure how much more his heart could take.

The priestess thought truthfully about everything, actually seeking in her heart the answer. She smiled up at the Kuchiki head. "One condition?"

"Name it," he spoke.

"Stop stealing my ribbons. They're hard enough to replace as it is," the black-haired woman grumbled, shooting him a look.

"I suppose if I must," the Captain sighed, slightly crestfallen at the idea of not being able to partake in a passtime he'd come to enjoy.

"Instead," Kagome continued, pulling out the pale blue ribbon in her hair and loosening her braid. She then took his uninjured hand and tied it to his wrist carefully, "You just hold on to my favorite one and think of it as a good luck charm if you have to go into battle again." Patting his hand, Byakuya lost his breath when she smiled sweetly up at him. For that smile, he would give her the heavens if she asked.

"... I can agree to that," he murmured softly, combing his fingers through her loose hair and relishing the silky feeling.

"Then, I accept," the former guardian answered, bowing slightly. "I hope you will take care of me."

"Always," the noble nodded, placing a kiss on the crown of her head as she curled back into him. There were still a lot of things they needed to work out, and more to discuss, but for now, he could set his worries aside.

To him, this moment was perfect.

:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:

A/N: Ugh! You guys... It has been a crazy worn-out start of the year. Mom was in the hospital the entire month of January due to various reasons. After her surgery her platelets kept dropping out on her, then she had a seizure, and the doctors were doing all of these tests on her. After that, her blood pressure dropped out and she had a heart attack. They put a stent in her artery to clear up the blockage, and I've been so caught up with everything that this is so unbelievably late. I've ridden the emotional roller coaster too long already. Thankfully, she is finally in a rehab center to help get her strength back. Yay... I'm so exhausted. I just want her to get better and come home where she belongs.

And then, I found a new series to get into. I blame Netflix and WHY did I never find Kuroshitsuji before now! It's sooo awesome! Ciel is adorable and desperately needs cuddles, and Sebastian. Enough said there. And the manga! GAH! They need to hurry up and get it moving some more! Just epic. And dark. Really dark, but I'm totally in love. I'm seriously going to be looking into a Inu-Kuro story. Soon. Very soon. There is so much potential!

Finally, a shameless plug here, but for those of you that read Dinner For Two and enjoyed it, I have started a new Kakashi/Kagome titled Illusive Affections. Check it out if you want to.

Okay. I'm done with my rants. Anyways, expect more soon. I'll keep you all as updated as possible on the mom situation, but hopefully I won't be gone so long from now on. Please review!