Inuyasha belongs to Rumiko Takahashi.

7,530 words, originally posted 2-27-12. Edits posted 5-2-14.

Chapter Two: Threat Level Midnight

It was gone.

Imprisoned. Held captive. Ransomed.


Inuyasha and Kagome stared mute and slack-jawed at the dock attendant, their cuffed hands hanging useless and unheeded between them. Inuyasha recovered first, a terrific scowl overtaking his features.

"What do you mean, it ain't here?" he snarled loudly, gaze switching incredulously back and forth between Kagome and the attendant. Kagome continued to stare ahead, eyes unfocused.

"I mean that your little… friend… parked her cruiser without a permit. You can't just park your ships anywhere, you know. Not only was there a shipping delay because of her hasty and quite illegal actions"—he sniffed accusingly in Kagome's direction—"she single-handedly backed up incoming traffic for miles."

Inuyasha sneered at Kagome, who wasn't paying a bit of attention to anything to dock attendant had just said. "Alright," Inuyasha said through clenched teeth, taking control of the situation since she was obviously incompetent, if for no other reason than to get the damned cuffs off that much sooner, "where is it so we can go get her blasted ship and get off this piece of shit rock?"

"Impound lot 476," the attendant declared smugly, nose in the air. Inuyasha did a fast mental calculation and blanched.

"But that's… that's off moon," he seethed.

"Yes, well," the dock attendant preened, "perhaps that will teach you a lesson not to park your vehicles in restricted areas."

Inuyasha's control snapped.

"I'll teach you about restricted areas!" he yelled, his dominant hand automatically reaching for his gun. The handcuff stopped him short, and he realized with a grimace that shooting this moron would help no one, and would in fact probably only get them into deeper trouble. His body visibly shook with the effort of reining in his temper, but he pulled back, trying to take deep, calming breaths like Rin had taught him.

"How are we supposed to get to the impound lot when our way of getting there is what's been impounded?" he asked tightly, eyes screwed shut to ward off a headache that was fast approaching..

"That's your problem, isn't it?" the dock attendant said snootily, turning away without another word. This was probably a good thing, Inuyasha reflected later, because if he hadn't left Inuyasha was likely to have strangled him.

Meanwhile, Kagome was stuck inside her own head.

Taisho is going to KILL ME! she inwardly shrieked over and over, her mind replaying in a loop a scenario in which she called Taisho to inform him, "Gee, sorry, I kind of got your ship impounded on another station because I was too rushed to radio in for a parking permit, and by the way, I also lost my skip, captured a rouge space pirate, and was subsequently kidnapped by him until I remove his handcuffs, or he's going to shoot off my head. Could you please come get me?" And then he appeared beside her in a rush of blinding white light, whipped out his dokkasou, and melted her into a little puddle on the pavement. And her grave would say, "Here Lies Kagome Higurashi, Parking Violator."

As Kagome mentally panicked and wondered how on earth she was going to get out of this situation alive, Inuyasha was resigning himself to calling Shippo to pick them up. He didn't relish the idea of his shipmates being privy to the conundrum in which he was currently ensnared, but he could see no other options.

He could always drag the girl into an alleyway, off her, and then call his crew, but she was actually starting to grow on him, damn it. Besides, she was a tasty little piece, and despite his harsh words earlier, he was contemplating whether he might be able to talk her into having a bit of fun before he sent her on her merry way.

He shook his head to clear his suddenly licentious thoughts. He really needed to get laid if he was thinking about doing it with… that.

Inuyasha sighed deeply, rolled his eyes, and pressed the button on his communicator that would connect him directly to his ship.

"Yeah, dog breath, what is it?" the dulcet tones of his pilot drifted over the airwaves.

Inuyasha growled. "You better start showing me some respect, you little runt, or I'm gonna pummel you so hard you won't be able to see straight for a week."

"Ooooh," Shippo retorted sarcastically, "I'm shivering in my boots. Listen up, dog boy. I'm not coming to get you until you get our money and our shards. Do you have either of those things in your possession?"

Inuyasha seethed with anger, a muscle in his jaw jumping as he answered reluctantly, "No."

"Then no dice, dog breath. You can stay there 'til you rot, for all I care," Shippo spat.

"You little shit!" Inuyasha shrieked, startling Kagome out of her reverie. She thought he was talking to her, unable to see the tiny communicator in his ear, and she narrowed her eyes peevishly. This whole situation might be her fault, but he was a criminal, and he was still her captive. She certainly felt she deserved better than a moody demon cursing her out, especially when she had bigger things to worry about, like getting Sesshoumaru's cruiser back before he found out and ground her into a pulp.

"I beg your pardon!" Kagome cried. "I refuse to be manhandled or spoken to like this any longer. I have a gun, too, and it's about time you took me seriously and cooperated or I'm going to shoot your balls off and let you bleed out in some dank, dark corner of the universe no one ever looks in. Got it?"

Inuyasha shot her an exasperated and very sarcastic look; clearly he didn't think she was capable of carrying through with her threat. She reached for her belt to pull out her .38 and show him just how serious she was, but he knocked her hand away and pinned it to his chest before she even got halfway to her holster. She struggled and spit and cursed, trying vainly to free her hand, but he wasn't even looking at her. Instead, his gaze focused at a point on the wall just above her head, as if he was listening very hard or concentrating on something.

Suddenly, he growled and swore violently, accidentally giving Kagome a hard shake in the process that knocked her teeth together and turned her brain to mush. She felt dizzy and abruptly she wished she would wake up from this nightmare, that she hadn't been able to fix her fission reactor after all, and that all this would just go away.

Shippo heard the voice of a woman that wasn't Sango yelling at Inuyasha over the communicator. He couldn't hear everything she said, but he did catch something about shooting and bleeding out.

"Inuyasha," Shippo snapped, suddenly worried. "What's going on? Is someone hurt?"

"No," he muttered, very low, so low that a human wouldn't hear, "now shut up."

"Dog breath," Shippo growled menacingly, "I don't know what the hell is going on or what you got yourself into, but if you're in some kind of trouble, you have to let me know so I can help you. God knows what a mess we'll all be in if you're caught by some do-gooding bounty hunter with no brains and a trigger-happy finger!"

Shippo listened to Inuyasha's growl rumble through the speakers. "Fuck," he snarled, sounding more frustrated than Shippo had heard in a long time. Then, "Stand up straight. It's bad enough I'm cuffed to you. Don't make me haul your ass all over this slice of hell, too."

"Cuffed?" Shippo wondered. "Cuffed to who? Inuyasha, what's going on?"

Inuyasha growled again. "Look, runt, just pick us up. We'll be over by the seventh docking bay. And find out where the hell Miroku and Sango are while you're at it. And hurry!"

"But, the shar—"

"Forget about the shards for now, moron! If Miroku and Sango caught that bastard Denubian, then we'll have what we need soon enough, and if they didn't, that means he got away, which means we need to get our asses in gear, now!" Inuyasha shouted into his communicator, then shut it off, effectively silencing Shippo and forcing him to follow instructions.

What was it with everyone treating him like the village idiot instead of their captain? He ought to wring all their fucking necks, the mutineers.

Nobody had any damn respect for anybody, these days.

"Stupid mutt," Shippo muttered, wishing for something to throw across the room. Inuyasha was always getting them into some sort of trouble, and apparently this job was no exception. It seemed like nothing was going well for them, recently. The Tetsusaiga was in major need of some new parts, but without the money from the shards, they were basically up a creek without a paddle.

With a grimace, Shippo realized the metaphor was more than appropriate, and highly likely to become literal, because one of the parts that needed replaced was the engine. He sighed loudly, thinking it was a good thing they had Rin.

"What's wrong, Shippo?" said girl asked, wandering into the cockpit. Shippo punched in a series of buttons on his control panel and fired up the ship's engine to meet Inuyasha at the docking bay.

"It's our idiot captain again. He's got into some kind of trouble and he didn't get the money yet," Shippo explained in exasperation, running a hand through his rough red bangs. "He's got some girl with him, someone's been cuffed or something, and we have to pick him up."

Rin frowned, sitting in the co-pilot's seat and strapping in. "I thought he said he would definitely, absolutely get the money back from Menomaru. He promised me a new engine, Shippo."

"Yeah, well, when has Inuyasha ever followed through on anything he's promised?" Shippo questioned sardonically, buckling his own seatbelt and grasping the controls for take off.

"Well, there was that one time he didn't… oh wait, no, that was Miroku…" Rin trailed off, brow wrinkling.

"Don't strain yourself," Shippo said dryly. "That bastard doesn't deserve it."


"What? Sorry, but he doesn't," Shippo shrugged, not looking sorry in the least.

They pulled away from the alcove they had been hidden in, and Shippo remembered Inuyasha had asked him to contact Sango and Miroku.

Asked… he thought cynically, ordered is more like. He pressed the button to his communicator and tapped in to Miroku's frequency.

"Miroku, you there?" he asked once he had a connection.

"What is it?" came Miroku's voice, sounding exasperated.

"Inuyasha told me to contact you. Did you get Menomaru?"

Miroku cursed softly. "We just lost him. He had a shuttle stowed in one of those little hangars and managed to lose us long enough to get away."

"What happened?" Shippo wondered. "Did he run when he saw you? Why isn't Inuyasha with you guys?"

Miroku sighed heavily. "I have no idea what's going on. He went way ahead of us, said he smelled Menomaru. When we finally caught up with him, he had Menomaru against a wall with his gun drawn. Then out of the blue this girl jumped Inuyasha, his gun misfired, and Menomaru ran. Sango and I chased after him without waiting for Inuyasha, figuring he'd catch up and help, but he never showed."

"Yeah, well, he said he doesn't have the money or the shards, and he's cuffed some girl or something?"

"Cuffed a girl?" Miroku asked, confused, and then Shippo heard Sango asking what was going on. There was a scuffle, and suddenly her voice came on.

"Shippo. What is this about Inuyasha and a girl?"

"Uh…" Shippo said intelligently. Sango could be scary when she was mad. "I'm not sure; he wouldn't tell me. It sounded like she was mad at him, though, and all he would say is that I had to come get them now. They're at Docking Bay 7. You anywhere close?"

There was more shuffling, Sango muttering something about Inuyasha's balls on a chopping block, and then Miroku came back on. "We're near the docking bay. Meet you there?"

"You got it." Shippo shut off the device in his ear and punched the engine. "They're all meeting us at the docking bay," he told Rin. "We better hurry."

She gave him a bemused smile. "I'm not stopping you."

Shippo pulled into an alcove off Docking Bay 7, spotting Inuyasha with a firm hand clamped around the arm of a small woman near the entrance to the hangar. It was probably illegal to park here, but they wouldn't there long, and he had no plans of leaving the ship. Inuyasha's face was set into a grim line and as he walked quickly toward the ship, the woman stumbling along behind him, Shippo noticed that their hands were cuffed together.

"Why do you suppose he cuffed her to him?" Rin wondered aloud. Shippo just shook his head and pressed the button to open to doors. Just as Inuyasha disappeared to the back of the ship, Miroku and Sango came jogging into the hangar. Twin looks of recognition crossed their faces when they spotted the Tetsusaiga and they followed Inuyasha inside. Shippo heard the door shut and decided it would be better to wait for instructions from Inuyasha than further risk his wrath.

"I'm going to see what's going on," Rin said, hopping out of her seat. Before she could make it to the door, Inuyasha burst into the cockpit and glared at Shippo.

"Go. Now."

Shippo and Rin stared with wide eyes for a moment at the woman fuming and spluttering behind him before Shippo shrugged a shoulder and punched the accelerator. They flew out of the hangar and Inuyasha, Kagome, and Rin were all flung into the far wall of the control room. Shippo heard Rin and the woman yelp and Inuyasha growl, but he figured maybe it would make Inuyasha think twice before issuing such haphazard instructions. He smirked and set a course for space.

Kagome rubbed the knot forming on her head and examined the cockpit of her captor's ship. The control panel was much larger than her ship's, which she found supremely unfair, as she was in a legitimate business and this ragtag bunch were performing corrupt jobs for back-alley traders. She grimaced at the man still handcuffed to her and then glanced curiously at the room's other two occupants.

There was a small girl staring at her without reservation, though the gun strapped to her hip led Kagome to believe she was anything but innocent. Piloting was a short kitsune, young from the looks of him, comparable to a human in his teenage years. When they breached the moon's atmosphere, his fingers flew over the ship's control panel and the ship's burners shut off so they floated, out of range of Saria's gravity. He spun in his chair and eyed the handcuffed pair suspiciously.

"You mind telling me what this is all about?" the kitsune demanded, lips set into a thin line. Her kidnapper a scowled and opened his mouth, probably to retort with something nasty, when the man and woman who had fired the warning shot into the crowd around Menomaru's stall hurried into the room.

"What the hell was that little stunt? I almost broke my leg!" the woman shouted angrily, rounding on the pilot. He shot her an apologetic glance, but didn't say anything.

"Now, Sango, I'm sure it was an accident," the man said. Sango shot him a bland look that said she knew it was nothing of the sort, but the man fired off a rapid series of questions before she could start a fight.

"Inuyasha, who is this woman? What happened back there with Menomaru? Should we keep looking for him? What are we going to do with her?"

"Shut up!" he spat, eyes narrowed. "It's too crowded in here. Anybody who wants to know what the hell is going on, follow me." He whirled to leave the room, a reluctant Kagome in tow. He tugged roughly on the handcuffs to make her move faster and she stuck her tongue out at the back of his head.

She could hear his crew following behind, but she could care less about staying for their show and tell session. All she wanted was to get out of the handcuffs and get back to her ship. She didn't even care about the bounty anymore, this Inuyasha's or Menomaru's. She just wanted to collect Tenseiga and get the hell out before Sesshoumaru discovered what had happened and maimed her.

He would not be happy she let his ship get impounded. Even if he had technically given it to her for her last birthday.

"Look," she reasoned to his back, "Inuyasha, right? I just want to get out of here. So if you have some kind of universal key or metal cutters or something, we'll just take these off and I'll get out of your hair."

Inuyasha stopped suddenly and whirled to face her. She didn't react quickly enough and bumped into his broad chest, hitting her nose. She rubbed it with her free hand and looked up at his much taller frame. He glowered down at her and she felt herself backing up involuntarily, stopping short when the chain to the cuffs wouldn't let her move any further. He leaned down so he was staring straight into her eyes and she blinked at the unusual color.

Gold. That was weird. The only other person she had ever met with gold eyes was—

Her train of thought was cut off when Inuyasha snarled in a low, gruff voice, "I could always shoot it off. How would you like that, Princess?"

She stared at him with wide eyes and slowly shook her head "no." She was vaguely aware that the rest of his crew had stopped and were curiously watching the exchange. Inuyasha didn't seem to mind and smirked, his smile coming off as rakish and sarcastic all at the same time.

"Then I suggest you keep your pretty little mouth shut. I'm still not above killing you if I have to, though with a body like yours, that sure would be a waste." He cocked his head and leered at her, eyes raking hungrily up and down her form. Kagome felt an angry flush creep up her neck and she opened her mouth to retort angrily, but he whirled and continued walking before she could respond.

The crew followed them to the main part of the ship, which housed a comfortable-looking sitting area and a small kitchen. The central part of the room housed a communal table on which the crew could eat or play cards. All in all, it had rather a homey feel that Kagome never would have expected from a band of space pirates. She felt a bit jealous, which in turn made her even crankier than she already was. She didn't want to be jealous of pirates.

Inuyasha shoved Kagome roughly into a chair and loomed over her. "Stay," he commanded, as if she were the dog. Her brow furrowed and her nose wrinkled, but before she could insult him accordingly, he turned to his crew, back to her, effectively shutting her out of the conversation.

Of all the nerve, she fumed, tuning in to what Inuyasha was saying about her skip.

"Menomaru didn't have the money or the shards. Fucker was too damn stupid to get paid before he agreed to take on the job,"—kind of like us, someone muttered, but Inuyasha ignored him—"and his client, some guy named Naraku, took the shards from the space station before Menomaru even did. Shit for brains Denubian is so far in debt he don't got nothin' left. I was gonna kill him for stiffin' us, but this brainiac"—he jerked his head at Kagome—"jumped on my gods be damned back before I could shoot and my fucking gun misfired. Menomaru got away."

"Your gun didn't misfire, you dumbass!" Kagome shouted from behind him. "I startled you and you pulled the fucking trigger, you stupid shit!"

Inuyasha turned to give her his most vicious glare as the rest of his crew's eyebrows shot into their hair.

"Colorful little thing, isn't she?" Miroku muttered to Shippo. He nodded his head, eyes never leaving the slight girl as Inuyasha rounded on her.

"Look here, Galaxy Princess," he growled at her.

"My name is Kagome," she growled back. Inuyasha continued as if she'd never spoken.

"I've been awfully nice to you up until now. You're the first person in a long time who's made it on this ship that has an equally decent chance of getting off of it, if you get my drift. Every time you open your mouth, those chances dwindle, so I suggest you shut it, before I shut it for you. Permanently."

Kagome was highly affronted at his tone of voice. And his choice of words. And his face.

She didn't hesitate to tell him so, as loudly and nastily as she possibly could. Inuyasha, who up until this point had been relatively calm and collected, turned a mottled shade of red and his fists shook with the effort of restraining himself.

"And another thing," Kagome continued, turning her nose in the air and sniffing haughtily. "What's the deal with those little ears of yours? Are you a puppy? I mean, really, it's hard to be intimidated with those cute little doggy ears peeping out of that rat's nest you call hair."

Inuyasha saw red, and he really and truly thought for a moment that his crew was about to be witness to a murder. He bent over her still-seated form, hands twitching near her neck, barely holding back from choking her until she turned blue.

"You. Are. Impossible," he gritted out through clenched teeth.

She smirked triumphantly and seemed about to shoot him with another barb from her poisonous tongue, but Miroku intervened, stepping between them as best he could with the handcuffs tying them together. Miroku was shocked Inuyasha had managed to hold back as well as he had, but if she continued, he really would kill her. Or knock her out, at the very least. It would be in everyone's best interests to get her off the ship as soon as possible.

"Inuyasha," he began, tone respectful, "if Menomaru didn't have the money or the shards, then maybe we shouldn't concentrate on him right now. Perhaps it would be better to focus on this Naraku. If nothing else, perhaps we can steal the shards back from him and blackmail him for the money."

"No," Inuyasha dismissed curtly, standing straight again. "We're getting Menomaru. I ain't havin' it get around that I let him go after he stiffed me my pay. Not only will we not be able to get any jobs, but there's gonna be some cocky bastards running around if I don't take care of this."

Miroku seemed about to argue, but Inuyasha cut him off, continuing, "Besides, I'm pretty sure he knew more about Naraku than he let on. Maybe he'll be more persuaded to give up some valuable information this time around. And if not," Inuyasha shrugged, "it'll feel good to kill 'im anyway."

"Well, then," Sango said authoritatively, "let's not waste anymore time talking about it. My bet is he went somewhere close. You know the trade ring he belongs to owns several outposts in this area. He probably chose the closest one to camp out on. If he's as dumb as you say he is, chances are he didn't think that far ahead. He obviously wasn't expecting us to catch up with him at all."

Inuyasha nodded his agreement. "Shippo," he snapped.

"I'm on it," the kitsune, muttered, already halfway across the room.

Rin gazed after the young pilot before announcing dejectedly, "I suppose I should go check on the engine."

Inuyasha looked a bit guilty as she trudged out of the room, but his expression cleared quickly and he commanded, "Sango, help me get these blasted things off." She raised her eyebrows and Inuyasha began to pull Kagome over toward the table. Kagome balked, digging her feet in as best she could with her boots on the slick metal floor of the ship. Inuyasha turned to give her an exasperated glare.

"What? I thought you wanted them off? Am I growin' on ya?" he asked, a smug grin tilting his lips.

Kagome scoffed, "As if. But you can't just go after this guy. You have to drop me at that impound lot first. It's the least you can do."

Inuyasha cocked his eyebrow at her. "The least I could do? You attacked me without provocation, handcuffed me, tried to arrest me, and have delayed me more than I would ever care to admit with your stupid stunts. The least you can do is shut up while I take care of my problem and hope that I'm feeling generous enough to take you back to your ship when this is over."

"Why you..." Kagome seethed, gearing up for another major argument. Inuyasha dismissed her with a wave of his hand.

"We haven't got time for this. Sango, come on," he said, glaring impatiently at the girl, "shoot this damn thing off so I can get back to work."

At his words, Kagome started and began pulling as hard as she could on her end of the cuffs, willing him to stop.

"What now?" he sighed.

"You said you weren't going to shoot them off!" Kagome yelped, desperately trying to back away and failing. Damn her lack of forethought.

"I said nothing of the sort," Inuyasha smirked, tugging her to him and framing her body against his much larger one, bracing them against the table. "This time, it's just implied that we'll take care not to shoot your hand off in the process."

As he spoke, he yanked her wrist forward and laid it on the table, pulling the chain to the handcuffs taut between them. He held her hand still with his free one and pressed her body into the table so she couldn't wiggle. Kagome stiffened at the unfamiliar feel of a muscled male at her back. Clearly, Inuyasha worked out.

Oh, God. She could not be having thoughts like this now. It was severely debilitating, and she needed to focus on the fact that a member of his crew—albeit the most responsible-looking one—was going to willingly shoot in the general direction of her hand, a body part she very much liked and wouldn't mind keeping for another fifty years or so.

Who cared about a few stupid muscles anyway? No six-pack was about to get the best of her, damn it!

Kagome wriggled with all her might, which only succeeded in forcing Inuyasha to pin her more securely against the table. Great, she thought, now I can't move or breathe.

Inuyasha leaned down so that his breath tickled her ear. She valiantly fought against the shiver this invited and failed. She felt him smirk against her hair. "Whoa, there, Princess," he breathed, voice low and dripping with sarcasm. "Keep doing that and I'm inclined to keep the handcuffs and move this party to a more private location."

"You're such a dog!" she spat, face contorted in fury as she attempted to twist and face him. He chuckled and kept her facing firmly forward.

"Now, Sango," he instructed, and Kagome barely had time to blink before a shot rang out. She shut her eyes tight, waiting for the inevitable pain of a bullet ripping through skin. It never came.

The weight on her shoulders lessened and Inuyasha whispered, "Ah, sweet freedom."

Kagome wrenched herself away from him as fast as her feet could carry her. Instinctively, her hand moved to her .38, but before she could even draw, Sango grabbed her wrist, her grip surprisingly firm.

"I don't think so," she muttered darkly. "Not after I was kind enough to spare those fingers."

Kagome grimaced, but refrained from drawing her weapon. This was turning out to be a long day.

Sesshoumaru Taisho tried to resist the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose and failed. Pressing his thumb and forefinger to his sinuses, he grated out, in a much calmer tone than he felt, "You're positive that it's been taken to an off-moon impound?"

"Y-yes sir," the dock attendant stuttered. Inuyasha and Kagome would be thrilled to know that it was the same dock attendant who had so tortured them only a few hours prior. The man, who had been so smug in his personal brand of justice earlier, was now fervently wishing that he had paid more close attention to whom the vehicle actually belonged.

Taisho was a well-known, highly-paid, no-holds-barred, and—it was rumored—rather violent bounty hunter. He always caught his man, and heaven help those who tried to run. Idle gossip had suggested that in recent years, the revered demon had taken an apprentice—a female, human apprentice—and was teaching her everything he knew.

Well, clearly not everything, the attendant thought, picturing the moonstruck girl who had stood by as her friend (demon lover?) reamed him out about her ship. Idiot girl didn't even attempt to get a permit.

The demon before him sighed, running a clawed hand through long silver hair. The stripes on his cheeks stood out in stark contrast to his pale complexion. All in all, he made a beautiful, if dangerous, picture.

"How much?" he asked, shocking gold eyes trained on the attendant's own boring brown ones.

"I-I beg your pardon?" he stammered.

"How much is it going to cost me to have the ship brought back here?" Sesshoumaru asked blandly, clearly annoyed with the plebian who didn't understand the concepts of trade or bribery.

"Sir... sir, I..." the attendant trailed off, unsure how to break the news to this stoic and fearsome figure. He took a deep breath and tried again. "Sir, it can't be brought back here. Your friend... er, acquaintance... er, assistant..." he cut off at Sesshoumaru's glare and gulped. "The girl who parked the ship didn't have a permit. It can't be brought back, it must be picked up and paid for at the impound lot."

To emphasize his point, the attendant showed Sesshoumaru with shaking hands the piece of paper documenting the seizure of the Tenseiga and its lack of permit. Taisho, it seemed, was running out of patience. He leaned over the man, claws poised menacingly. Soon, the sickly sweet smell of poison filled the air and the attendant looked down to see a noxious green substance dripping from Taisho's claws, melting the paper and burning a hole through his desk.

"Gah!" he yelped, backing away quickly. Taisho didn't look impressed.

"Everyone has a price," he explained in a low voice, reaching into his tailored leather coat to pull out a wallet. "And unfortunately, it seems you don't have adequate documentation to support your claim that my associate didn't have a permit. It is the least you can do to have my ship brought back here for the inconvenience of this unfortunate exchange."

As he spoke, Taisho reached into his wallet and pulled out a crisp 100 credit note, slipping it neatly into the front pocket on the dock attendant's vest. He pulled out ten more and set them on the desk, clear of the hole that was still sizzling with his doukkaso. "I, of course, am happy to pay the transport fee, and any employees for their trouble. However, I will have to insist on you offering this service free of charge if you continue to make this difficult."

The dock attendant gulped again and glanced down at the pile of notes on his desk. He blinked once, swept them up, and stuffed them into a pocket.

"Of course, sir. We're happy to be of service, and apologize for any trouble this oversight may have caused."

Sesshoumaru smirked. "How long until my ship arrives?"

The attendant glanced nervously at the clock. "Three hours, sir."

"Make it one," Sesshoumaru demanded crisply, turning to walk back to the Bakusaiga.

"Ye-yes, sir," the attendant stammered at his retreating back.

Sesshoumaru strode into the cockpit of his ship, where his mechanic and sidekick of sorts was typing something into the mainframe. His diminutive form was practically engulfed by the large pilot's chair that normally housed Sesshoumaru.

"Has she responded yet?" Sesshoumaru asked coolly, walking confidently to the back of the chair and peering at the work Jaken had already done.

"Not yet, Master Taisho," he responded in a screechy, annoyed tone. "Foolish girl, thinking she can ignore the summons from someone as great, as noble, as revered as—"

"Enough, Jaken," Sesshoumaru rumbled, effectively cutting the little alien's tirade to a swift and immediate halt. If there was one thing Sesshoumaru appreciated about his alien castoff, it was his ability to be obedient, something Higurashi failed in miserably. He supposed, though, that the fact Higurashi was a gorgeous, spirited, courageous human girl somewhat made up for that fact, whereas submissiveness was Jaken's only real appeal.

The tiny alien was an unfortunate acquisition from an equally unfortunate planet. He had chased a skip to the far reaches of the universe, where few stars shone and aliens bred like rabbits. This particular race, a breed of water dwellers that looked like a horrifying cross between frogs and extremely ugly birds, had been enslaved by a tiny but apparently fearsome king. Sesshoumaru had unwittingly freed them from his tyrant rule when the king was caught in the cross-fire between Sesshoumaru and his skip. Jaken had been witness to the whole debacle and pledged his undying loyalty to Sesshoumaru from that day thence. In need of a mechanic at the time, he had accepted the alien's offer, though often he found himself wishing he had declined.

Jaken was lavish in his praise of his demon master, to the point where he openly berated all other beings for their clear inferiority. Needless to say, Jaken and Higurashi did not get along, which had been only one of the many reasons Sesshoumaru had gifted her with the Tenseiga for her 22nd birthday. The fact that he was in need of a new ship that better suited his purposes had absolutely nothing to do with it.

In all, Sesshoumaru could only tolerate Jaken or Higurashi one at a time, and Higurashi was the more self-sufficient of the two, so off she went. He routinely regretted this decision, because if he were honest with himself, he greatly preferred Higurashi to Jaken. He offset this annoyance with frequent calls to make sure she was okay (and irritate the hell out of her) and frequent kicks to Jaken's head.

Sesshoumaru moved to sit down and immediately the little alien scrambled from the chair, bowing and scraping at his feet as he backed away, the very picture of subservience. Sesshoumaru ignored him.

He flipped on his communicator and tapped in the code for Higurashi's. He let it attempt to connect for several minutes before finally shutting it off. The demon captain crossed his arms and let out an almost indiscernible huff of air.

Higurashi always answers, he thought, thoroughly disgruntled. Why would she not respond? The most obvious answer, and one that rubbed his fur completely the wrong way, was that she was out of range.

But that should be impossible, given the technology and the cost behind the communicators he had bought. The second option was that she had lost the communicator, which would not be completely surprising given her somewhat forgetful nature. Frankly, of all the possibilities, that was the most appealing, since all it meant was he had to buy her a new one. Annoying as that would be.

The third option was that she had shut it off. That was the most likely, and there would be hell to pay when he found her if she had indeed shut off her communication device. Of all the rules he laid out for her, that one was unbending. She would have to be in a real pickle to have actually done it, too, which made it all the more disconcerting.

Sesshoumaru sat back in his chair to wait, resisting the urge to try and contact Higurashi one last time. Once his ship (her ship) came back from the impound, he would figure out what to do. As it was, his only options were to sit and stew and think up a suitable punishment for Higurashi when he finally found her.

And he would find her.

If there was a fourth option, one in which Higurashi was dead or incapacitated or otherwise incapable of answering his summons, it did not cross the demon's mind.

Sesshoumaru Taisho did not make a habit of entertaining notions which he believed to be impossible.

A stream of curses so vile that not even Kagome would have dared to repeat them issued from Inuyasha's mouth upon the discovery of one Menomaru the Denubian.

That is so disgusting, Kagome thought, watching with a grim sort of fascination the slow seep of blood that pooled from the trader's throat. She had insisted on coming with Inuyasha's crew on the grounds that Menomaru was still rightfully considered her prey and if Inuyasha wasn't going to have the decency of letting her turn him in, he could at least gift her the original reason for this trip and their troubles.

Inuyasha stubbornly maintained that he would be the one to kill Menomaru, but that she was welcome to his corpse, and whatever she did with it after that was her own business.

Presently, Kagome was sequestered several feet from the half-demon and his companions (Miroku had gleefully informed her on the trip down that Inuyasha's "cute little doggy ears" were simply a sign of his half-human descent), wondering whether it would be worth it to try and cart the body back to her ship and see whether she could get some credits for it.

Some credits was always better than no credits, but the real questions was whether the amount was worth the headache and general grossness of transporting a dead body on her pristine craft.

Meanwhile, an irate Inuyasha huddled with Miroku and Sango to decide what to do next.

"Those shards were too difficult to find to just give them up. Not to mention, they're worth probably three times what Menomaru was going to pay us. I think we should try to find Naraku and get them back," Sango reasoned, tapping her lip in thought.

"I agree," Miroku said seriously. "Maybe if we go back to find Ruri and Hari…"

"Nah, they'll be long gone by now," Inuyasha said. "We gotta head back to Menomaru's planet. We can probably find something there that will at least give us a clue where this bastard hides out."

"Then we need to go now. The longer we wait, the more likely this guy will cover something up. He must be relatively good to pull such a disappearing act."

Inuyasha snorted. "Yeah, that or Menomaru was such a dumb shit that he really didn't get any information before taking the job."

"Either way," Miroku whispered, lowering his voice and shifting his eyes toward Kagome, who was staring in disgusted fascination at Menomaru's corpse, "we shouldn't waste time. And if we take Kagome with us, she's only going to want us to drop her off back on Saria. I don't think you want to take her with us permanently, do you, mon capitan?"

"Only about as much as I want a bullet to the brain," Inuyasha scoffed.

"Well, how do you think we should ditch her?" Sango asked conspiratorially. "We can't just leave."

A malicious grin spread across Inuyasha's face.

Kagome was still lost in her own thoughts when she heard the engine to the Tetsusaiga fire up. She looked over to where her reluctant companions were grouped and was only marginally surprised that they were no longer there. Not even bothering to race for the ship, confident that there was no physical way she could reach it in time. (And even if she did, what would she do, latch on to the roof?) She watched with a resigned sort of melancholy as the spaceship took for the skies, leaving her stranded with a dead Denubian and her wit for company.

"Moon maggots," she swore, scuffing the toe of her boot against the dirt. She wasn't really surprised. It was just like Inuyasha to do something like this (at least, according to her opinion of him based on several hours' observation). And, well, it wasn't like this hadn't happened to her before. Another demon with startlingly similar gold eyes had also left her stranded on a planet in the middle of nowhere roughly four years ago.

And I've come full circle, Kagome thought morosely. Some bounty hunter I'm turning out to be.

Positioning herself away from the unfortunate Menomaru, Kagome sat on a rock to ponder her options. This wasn't really so much going over the possibilities as working herself up to turn her communicator back on and call Taisho. She knew she didn't have any other options, but damned if she wasn't nervous to contact her boss.

Taisho was a good teacher; he was fair and honest and pushed her as hard as she could go. Usually this meant that she wanted to kill him, but on the off occasion that he wasn't training her or mocking her, Kagome could reflect on her past experiences and realize that without his constant encouragement, she never would have gotten as far as she had.

Sighing deeply, she resigned herself to her fate and flicked on the communication piece in her ear. It beeped to let her know that she'd missed somewhere in the vicinity of fourteen calls from said demon boss.

Ohhh, I am so dead, Kagome thought, before squeezing her eyes shut and pressing his call button.

He picked up almost immediately.

"Where in the hell have you been?" the words were out of his mouth before she could even say hello.

"Eh heh. Taisho! Long time no talk," she grinned sheepishly, hoping he could sense her silent apology through the vast of space.

"Don't give me that," he snapped. "I have one rule, Higurashi. One. Would you care to repeat it to me?"

"Not really," she muttered. He was silent, which she took to mean that he wasn't speaking to her until she recited his bloody rule. Normally, she might take this as a positive sign and just hang up on him until he was in a better mood, but unfortunately, that was not an option given her current predicament.

"Don't shut off your communicator," she chanted dutifully. She heard him sigh, which meant he was probably about thirty seconds from tearing his hair out. Taisho was not an outwardly expressive person.

"Then why was your communicator not on for approximately the last four hours?" he asked, speaking slowly, as if she was a child.

"Oh hell, Taisho," she whined. "I'll explain later. Can you please just come get me?"

"Not until you tell me where you've been," he repeated dryly.

Kagome grit her teeth and swallowed, suddenly feeling very ill. Taisho was also not a very forgiving person.

Sighing dramatically, Kagome recounted her day, starting with the triumphant repair of her compact fission reactor. The story, of course, only went downhill from there, and by the time she was finished, Kagome could feel the waves of righteous indignity pouring off Taisho through the connection. He was livid.

Kagome had felt it pertinent to leave out some of the more detailed aspects of her adventure, so she was rather dismayed when he asked in a tight, controlled voice, "What is the name of the pirate who kidnapped you?"

"Uh, I'd really rather not say," she responded nervously.


"Really, really rather not say," Kagome said again after some sixty seconds of dead air.

"Higurashi," he said, his tone measured and very, very dangerous. It was all he needed.

"Inuyasha, ok, his name was Inuyasha!"

Silence again, and then, "Shit."

Kagome pulled the communicator out of her ear and stared at it incredulously. Taisho did not swear. Ever. She put it back in her ear and said, in a very small voice, "Sir?"

Kagome never called Taisho sir.

He was quiet for a long time. Finally, in a tired and resigned sort of way, like a man who has been sentenced to his death and knows there is not a thing he can about it, Taisho explained, "Inuyasha is my brother."

Kagome blinked. "I'm sorry, I don't think I heard you right. I could have sworn you just said Inuyasha, the pirate, the no good, dirty, rotten space pirate, was your brother," she babbled. "But I must have been mistaken, because things like that don't happen to people in real life. Things like that are the stuff nightmares are made of."

More silence.

"Son of a BITCH!"