I do not own Inuyasha and all rights are reserved by Rumiko Takahashi.
The ground was damp and smelt of deep moss and water soaked into soil. It had been raining for days and only mere moments ago had the assaulting drops ceased fire. The leaves still dripped sparkling drops onto the forest ground, an orchestra of tinkles and drip-drops that pleased the silver Inu lord greatly. The quiet sounds of the forest calmed his frayed nerves and gave him a moment to contemplate and consider. As of late, his dilemma was his half-brother's wench. She had invaded his mind and clung there with a vengeance. Refusing to leave, he had spent every waking hour thinking of her. It gave the lord a pinching migraine that was even harder to ignore than the infuriating miko. Sighing heavily, he allowed his eyes to slide closed as he attempted to enjoy the moment of peace and silence.
The peace did not last long.
Off in the distance, he could hear the tell-tale twig-snapping and leave rustling sounds of someone approaching his person. He let his eyes remain closed as he lifted his nose to the wind and took a deep breath. Tasting the particles in the air, he internally cursed himself. Thinking of the girl had brought her near him. That undoubtedly meant that the idiot hanyou was somewhere near as well, this irked the lord more than the girl did. He took another sniff and was surprised to find the girl alone. Not even the small kit that she claimed as her own was with her. This surprised the lord of the West. Curiosity got the better of him and he remained seated. He wanted to know what the girl was doing alone and where her usual, annoying company was.
'Once this Sesshoumaru has gotten the answers I want, I'll leave the girl just as she came."
Somewhere deep in his mind, he had a stirring feeling that leaving the girl was easier thought than actually done. Again, a deep sigh.
She was just a few yards away when the lord finally let his eyes slide open. He turned his head slightly to look at the foliage she would emerge through intensely.
As if on cue, the girl pushed through the leaves of a nearby bush with an annoyed noise in the back of her throat. Upon seeing the demon lord seated casually by a tree, with the same cold look in his eyes as always, she let a quiet gasp slip through her slightly chapped lips. The surprise though was quickly followed by curiosity and the slightly hint of irritation. This further fueled Sesshoumaru's curiosity. What had he done that caused this girl to feel annoyance toward him?
'Besides that I have tried to kill her lover many times and even threatened to kill her.' The lord smirked at the memories almost fondly. A time when he could guiltlessly harm her sounded like a heaven now. His demon growled within him angrily and Sesshoumaru resisted his urge to touch the girl forcefully. First, he needed his answer.
"What are you doing travelling alone, miko?"
Kagome was surprised that he was the first to speak, even though his question irritated her. She didn't like to think about the reason she was now alone in the demon era. Huffing quietly, she shrugged off her backpack and let it thud to the ground. Rolling her shoulders in obvious relief, she fell into a criss-cross position a few feet from the icy lord and threw her damp, dripping hair over her shoulder and ringed the water out of it best she could. He was surprised by her closeness to him, but did not dislike it. He would analyze why this was later, now he needed to find out what the woman was doing alone.
"Inuyasha left me."
And awkward silence descended as Sesshoumaru waited for the girl to say more. As if feeling that he was expected more, Kagome took a deep breath and continued.
"I went home for a few days. I needed to get rid of my uniform and books," at this comment, the lord noticed her newer, much more practical, state of dress, "replacing them with a larger first aid kit and a few other provisions that come in handy. When I returned, I was told by Kaede that my former companions had left a few days earlier. She gave no information on where they were heading of why they had left without me. She offered that I go home and stay there, that this was out of my hands now. I refused. This is my fault, this battle is mine, I will continue on. So, I held strong and left the village a week and a half ago." As her story ended, she found that talking made her tired. After so long not speaking to hardly anyone, it tired her. She let her head loll to the side and lay on her bag in exhaustion as she thought.
"I don't even know where I'm going, what I'm looking for, or if I'll ever see them again." She paused.
"I don't know if I care if I ever see them again." There was such venom in her usually sweet, gentle voice. The demon found it oddly disturbing and wanted to change it. He was just at a loss of how to. The silence hung in the air again, a little more comfortable this time. Neither party felt the need to break it as they listened to the water drops hit the ground. It wasn't until the sun was beginning its descent into the horizon that the demon lord was inclined to speak.
"You will stay with this Sesshoumaru for the time being." Maybe if she was with him, he could decode the strange feelings and thoughts he'd been having revolving the girl. Then, he could find a place for her, or maybe even just leave her, and live out his life in peace away from her irritating mannerisms and odd behaviors.
"I'm what?" She was shocked by his words. She had been shocked when she had stumbled upon him on her lonely journey, but hearing this was the single most shocking thing she had ever heard. She never would have dreamed that the demon lord would offer her his company and protection for any amount of time. She contemplated what his ulterior motives could possibly be with this offer. After a few moments, she realized that there were none that made sense.
"He doesn't need my jewel hunting powers; he has no use for the jewel. He is powerful enough to take Naraku down on his own and doesn't need me to track him because he can do that on his own as well. Perhaps a supervisor for Rin? No, that doesn't make sense either; she has Jaken to what after her. Agh! What could he possibly be thinking? Oh god, he's talking. What is he saying? God Kagome, pay attention!"
Forcing herself to pay attention to the words of the demon of the West, she tried to understand what he wanted.
"You will accompany this Sesshoumaru for the time being. This is final," his words were cold and his eyes held no emotion. She was slightly disappointed that they didn't even hold a little warmth. She thought of his offer though and the idea of travelling with someone, no matter how quiet, did comfort her greatly.
"I would be honored to join you in your travels, Sesshoumaru-sama," she bowed her head toward him.
The lord of the West found that he did not like that she addressed him with such formality. He ignored this uneasy feeling and let his eyes fall shut.
"We will remain here for the night and depart tomorrow. In a short while, this Sesshoumaru will go and hunt for dinner for the both of us."
Kagome smiled at his unseeing face. He was being kind, for him. And she appreciated it greatly. After the week she had experienced, a little bit of kindness, however shown, was greatly appreciated. Nodding her approval, even though she knew he needed it not, she opened her pack and pulled out a couple of striking stones and a bottle of water. She also pulled out a slightly heavier coat and shrugged her shoulders into it. It was getting colder by the day and the night could be biting. She needed to gather sticks and woods for a fire. Standing, she debated whether or not to tell the lord where she was going. She always needed to tell Inuyasha where she was going when she wanted to go somewhere, something that irritated her to no end, and she wondered if his half-brother would be the same way. It couldn't hurt to tell him.
"I'll be back soon," she said quietly as she started toward the woods.
Sesshoumaru made a small noise of acknowledgment in the back of throat but stayed otherwise still and soundless. Accepting this as an okay to go ahead, Kagome continued into the forest and away from the silver lord. Being away from him gave her time with her thoughts freely as she absentmindedly picked up sticks and twigs as she went along.
He offered his company and protection when she had none, when her friends had left her. The thought of them made her frown. She had made it seem as if she was angry about them leaving in front of the frigid lord. In truth, she was just upset. She hadn't seen it coming; there had been no warning of her friends abandoning her. At first, she was entirely shell shocked at their leaving her behind. Then, she was angry and hurt. She was still angry and hurt that they had just left her. She tried to shake the thoughts away; they only served to make her angry and emotional. And both those things would only make her vulnerable right now. While the demon lord had offered her company and protection, she didn't know how far that went. She doubted he would go out of his way to protect her tonight. Sighing, she realized she had plenty of wood the terrain was starting to look unfamiliar. Turning, she started back toward the camp when energy sizzled lightly over her skin, leaving goose bumps in its wake. Kagome tensed and strained her very human hearing hard for any sign of something near. A demon was coming toward her and as soon as she realized it, she took off in a full sprint away from where she was standing. It was instantly in pursuit, right behind her in a few moments. Kagome could feel Sesshoumaru's energy in the distance and pushed her aching legs as hard as they would go, desperation and adrenaline giving her an unusual amount of energy. She was nearly there and relief spread through her when she burst into the camp.
Dread soon replaced relief.
Sesshoumaru was gone; he had gone to hunt while she had been looking for wood. Fear and anxiety filled her as the demon was seconds from her and she didn't know what to do and her mind was filling with too much. Turning, she looked around the camp and dove for her bag. Her bow and quiver where attached and as she ripped them from where she had tied them, white hot pain sliced through her upper back across her shoulder blades. She heard the sickening scrape of claw on bone as the tips made contact with the bones of her scapulae. She couldn't hold back the yelp of pain as she ducked low and turned quickly. Knocking an arrow instantly, she forced her reiki into the arrow. It glowed a dull hue of pink for a moment before it disappeared and was ready to be fired.
The demon chuckled at her resilience; she was a funny little human. He was ugly and covered in large, pus filled warts. Some popped and oozed the yellow liquid when he moved to circle her predatorily. Kagome held her breath and never let her eyes leave the hideous beast. Maybe if she could stall, Sesshoumaru would return… NO! She needed to be able to fight on her own. Raising her bow without a word, she waited until the demon was chuckling again and mid-step before she let the arrow fly with deadly accuracy. The horrid demon, caught off guard, only just barely dodged the arrow aimed at his chest. It tore mercilessly through the demons arm. Pus and blood sprayed all over the ground and the demon howled in rage and pain. Eyes bleeding a deathly red, Kagome didn't have enough time to knock another arrow before she was thrown into a nearby tree. Her sliced up back burned angrily as it scraped against the bark on the way down to the ground. With a thud and a groan, Kagome tried to blink the black from her eyes.
'Get up and move!' she ordered herself as she struggled to get to her feet and listened to the demon cackle at her efforts.
"It is over girl," it hissed, a promise in its voice as it crouched and leapt.
Kagome held her breath and closed her eyes, knowing what was coming. Her aura surrounded her in a barrier and held strong as the demon slashed at it the first few times. In the collision with the tree, her bow had fallen out of her reach. She looked around her body and found a stone in a matter of second. Knowing that this was her best option, she grabbed it and forced her reiki into it and after a moment of breath, prepared to drop her barrier. Before she had the chance though, a powerful aura ran through the clearing and the demon paused for a moment of disbelief.
Sesshoumaru could sense the fight moments after it began. At first, he had assumed that the miko could handle the fight on her own without his aid. However, upon smelling her blood, he felt his stomach knot in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable way. Seeking to ease this discomfort, he sped toward the camp. The faint smell of salamander demon hung in the air and the lord sped up. They were notorious playing with their food before they ate it.
Breaking into the clearing, Sesshoumaru assessed the situation in a split second. From the smell of the mike's blood, thick in the air, this demon was a nuisance that needed to be taken care of. Acid whip immediately out, he sliced through the demon's body effortlessly. It disintegrated in minutes and left only the lord and the miko in the quiet night clearing.
He looked at the miko, breathing hard against a tree. The smell of her blood swirled heavily in the air and made his stomach twist. He wondered how long this battle had taken, he had not been gone long and it had taken him less than a minute to return. Shaking his head, he walked over to her and stared at her coldly. Her barrier held strong around her and stopped him from getting any nearer than a few feet from her. It touched it lightly with is fingertip and hissed between his teeth when it burned him. She didn't look at him, just stared into nothing and tried to slow her breathing. He could sense that her powers were still strong and swimming in the air. Irritated by this, he called out her name sharply.
She jumped at the sound of her name and looked at him with wide eyes as she dropped the barrier and released the stone. He hadn't noticed it until it rolled lazily form her fierce grip. Slight scrapes on her hand from clenching it to tightly blossomed with little beads of blood that dripped slowly down her hand. He could still sense her powers singing within the rock and avoided touching it as he looked at her again.
"What happened miko? And what injuries do you sustain?" His voice was cold. She felt unwanted tears welling in her eyes and dripping down her dirty face. Sesshoumaru was unnerved by the tears and scowled.
"Answer me, miko."
Kagome swallowed harshly and slowly wiped the tears away before taking a shaky breath.
"I went farther than I thought I did, When I turned around, I felt a demon energy wash over me, I did the first thing I could and I ran. I ran as fast as I could, I… I thought if I made it here I'd be safe," she paused and lowered her head. 'You're here, so I thought….' She shook the thought away and continued, "But when I got here, you were gone and I did what I could. Before I could get my bow though, he sliced up my back. Once I got my bow, I shot an arrow and took off his arm. He got angry, red eye demon angry, and threw me into a tree. I made a barrier and was about to throw a reiki infused stone when…" she paused and looked at him with wide blue eyes filled with mesmerized look in her eyes, "You saved me." Her voice was small and warm. It soothed some of the tightness in his stomach and he almost smiled. Almost.
"I claimed you as part of my pack when I agreed for you to join me. I am obligated to protect you," his voice was flat and matter-of-fact. Yet that smile. It was bright and warm and it enveloped him. He was drowning in her smile and her eyes. He needed this to stop.
Stepping away from the miko, he glanced at the blood that had seeped through her clothing and into the tree. He frowned and without warning, picked her up and almost as soon as she was up and had gasped at the sudden closeness, she was back down. He had laid her gently on her stomach, wanting to look at the injury on her back.
It was not a pretty sight.
Covered in rough tree back and dark mud, the angry slashes were hued with light yellow. 'Poison.' The three slashes all dripped blood infused poison slowly down the miko's sides, the middle on being the deepest. He could see the claw marks on the white of her bone.
He growled low in his throat and put his fingertips lightly against the wounds. Despite the gesture being soft, the sharp tips of his claws hurt. Kagome bit down hard on her bottom lip, refusing to cry out in pain. She was sure that would only serve to irritate the cold demon. The action did not go unnoticed by said lord and cold eyes appraised the girl quickly before concentrating back on his task. He let his own poison slip into the girl's body and felt her immediately go rigid and a small moan slipped through her lips. He had known that since she was a miko that this would hurt more. Taking no heed in her pain, he waited until the yellow hue disappeared. The poisons had neutralized each other and now her miko powers would have a chance to start working. Anything left in her body now would simply be purified.
Sitting back, the silver demon watched as her powers immediately went to work at the slow, but efficient task of knotting and sewing her skin back together. While it was faster than most humans, it was so slow compared to a demon's healing abilities. He was fascinated though as her muscles where knitted slowly back together and her skin lost its angry red tint.
The taiyoukai watched in strange curiosity as the girl made no effort to move, she just lay quietly on the ground with her head facing the opposite direction of his. He didn't like this, he wanted to see the emotions jump through her eyes and play over her face. He tried desperately to fight back the urge to talk to her.
"Miko," his voice was void of cold and emptiness. He sounded exhausted. Kagome, with some effort, rolled her head to the side and stared at the demon. Tears were streaming down her face freely and her blue eyes reflected the intense pain she was in. There was also something else, something that took him longer to recognize than the other two.
It was need. A deep-seeded need for something shone bright in her eyes and made his insides tighten again. He frowned in displeasure. A part of him didn't want to see the miko in pain, while he knew that he should not care if the miko was in pain. This girl would be his undoing.
"What do you want, miko?"
Kagome tried to think of a way to explain what she needed. Really, she needed a lot of things. Right now though, she needed him to clean and wrap her wounds. Coughing, she looked at her bag and tried to point.
"In my bag, there are a few shirts on top of a white box. Bring me the white box. Also, there is a vessel of water, bring that too." Once she was finished, she coughed at the effort it took to breathe and get words out.
While Sesshoumaru didn't like being told what to do in such a rude way, he did as requested and fished out the water and strange box she had requested. Taking them to her, he waited until she told him what to do next.
Step by step, Kagome explained how the treatments in the first aid box worked. Slowly, but surely, her back was cleansed and the wounds properly bandaged. She also took two pain killers to help and reduce the pain. Once done with the bandaging, she sat up slowly and then stood. Retrieving her weapon and quiver, she threw them on her bag and pulled out some pajamas. Moving behind some bushes, she changed quickly and grabbed a few sticks as well. She had dropped all her wood and kindling running from the demon and the chill had set in.
Returning to her protector, she used her striking stone to start a small fire and sat close to it. Almost close enough to burn her.
Sesshoumaru watched all this silently. He was impressed that she had fought the demon as she had and been able to hold a barrier against his pure demonic strength. It impressed him even more that she had started a fire on her own. She continued to surprise him.
'Maybe that is why she continued to plague my thoughts. I am simply curious of how many more ways she can surprise this Sesshoumaru.' Accepting this answer, he continued to stare at the girl.
As if feeling his eyes on her, she lifted her head slowly and stared back at him. Her eyes were filled with exhaustion and a deep sorrow that he could not find the source of.
Seeing the curiosity in his eyes, she showed him what she wanted. She was cold and needed something warmer than this meager could offer her. As she stood to her feet, the silver taiyoukai watched her moves carefully. He had seen the full extent of her now trained powers and he did not wish to be purified. His eyes following her every move as she stopped a foot away from him and looked at him with the same pleading eyes. The orbs skipped to the area next to him and back to his face. He understood then, she wanted to sit next to him. Why, he did not know. He nodded his head in the slightest move that she barely saw. Another breath taking smile ripped across her soft face. His heart squeezed at the smile and he cursed himself again for this feeling her had towards the girl. This unknown feeling that continued to vex him.
Kagome sat next to him eagerly, immediately feeling the warmth that emanated off of him. Sighing in contentment, she leaned back carefully and sucked in a breath through her teeth when her back protected. Sleeping would be very difficult tonight. Sighing under her breath, she finally let her thoughts shift to her present situation as a whole. She was travelling with the feared lord of the West and her friends were nowhere to be seen. She frowned at a sudden thought, would the demon lord stay with her even now that she was injured?
Said lord could smell her emotions shift through her. It still stunned him at how fast they could go through emotions so quickly without confusing themselves. He half paid attention to her scent as she thought until a smell of panic and anxiety settled over her, with an undertone of concern. Confused about what had brought on this strange cocktail of emotions, he looked sideways at the girl without turning his head. Feeling his eyes on her, she turned her wide blue eyes at him and he almost winced. They were brimmed with panic.
"You… Am I still allowed to travel with you despite my injury?" Her voice was small and scared. She knew that the lord detested weakness and would refuse to let anything slow down his pursuit of Naraku. She doubted that he would accept having to slow his pace to accommodate her. She held her breath as she waited for her answer.
Sesshoumaru was shocked by her question, even though he would not let her see that. Did she really know nothing of Inu pack dynamics? He sighed in his mind and decided that now was as good a time as any to explain them to her.
"As I said before, I have accepted you into my pack. That means I am obligated to protect and offer shelter to you. Your injury does not change your status in my pack. They only way to be… discharged, I suppose you could say, from a pack are to perform an act of treason. You being injured is not an act of treason, thus you are still a part of this Sesshoumaru's pack," he said, his voice bored and flat as he continued to only look at her out of the corner of his eye. He watched as the girl digested this new information. He watched as understanding slowly replaced panic and the sharp smell left her usually calming scent.
'When did this Sesshoumaru deem her scent as calming? Damn this ningen, she is changing this Sesshoumaru in ways I do not even notice.' Suddenly, Sesshoumaru started to second think accepting her into his pack. He sighed and stopped looking at the girl.
"Sleep miko, we will rise early tomorrow and I do not wish to have to wait for you to awake."
The miko nodded through a quiet yawn and sunk further into her seated position until she was nearly lying down. The events of the day had drained all her energy and sleep seemed like a utopia. It took less than five minutes for her breathing to slow and her body to go limp. The demon lord looked at her full on now, his eyes running over her small body as she slept soundly. She had lost all her baby fat that she had carried previously, her body now more toned and lithe. These new clothes suited her far more, in the taiyoukai's opinion. They didn't make her look like a common brothel girl. Had she still been wearing them now, he would have forced her out of them and into more practical clothing. His eyes travelled to her slumbering face. It was more peaceful in sleep, losing the creases and frowns of the real world. He much preferred this to the tight look of pain in her eyes.
'Why does this Sesshoumaru care if the ningen is in pain? I should not, her feelings should not matter. And yet…' He didn't know how to finish that sentence. Despite his distaste for humans, and his hatred for his brother and all his company, he had accepted this human girl into his company and promised her protection. And despite all those other things, he found himself enjoying having the miko near him, a fact that perplexed him to no end. Why would he want the miko near him? Why would he enjoy the miko near him? He shook his head to shake the thoughts away and just looked at the girl.
Suddenly, her face contorted in pain and here breathing increased. First, it was fast, and then it cascaded into wild gasps for air. Tears pricked the corners of her eyes and travelled in slow trails down her face.
'She's having a night terror,' the youkai realized. Rin behaved this same way when she experienced them in the night. It made him uneasy and he found himself wanting to comfort her so that the terror and pain in her scent would ease away. Reaching out a single arm slowly, he carefully moved her so that her head was resting on his knee and she was lying on her side. Perhaps the pain came from pressure on her injury.
Moments later, the pain was wiped from her face and peace returned to her smell as she nudged closer to the demon and took a deep breath. Almost smiling, the lord sighed and let his head rest back on the tree. He should probably get some rest too; caring for this onna was going to be a challenge.