1. Taken



His blood.

He opened his eyes wearily and was greeted by darkness. He took in a deep breath, eager for air, but a strangled gasp was the only thing he managed. It felt as if his lungs had been gouged out. His bangs were plastered to his forehead, damp with sweat. The cold, stagnant air filled his senses and he shivered, rattling the chains that kept him suspended from the ground.

He heard the sounds of a lock clicking open and a door creaking as it allowed his captor entrance. Soft, steady steps became more pronounced, then stopped directly in front of him. Though he found he could not lift his head, he welcomed the warmth emitted by the torch held in his captor's hand.

"I see you're awake, Inuyasha," the demon said, his low voice deceptively gentle. He lifted his hand, and grasped Inuyasha's chin, tilting his head until their eyes met. Dull amber eyes stared into gleeful ruby ones.

Inuyasha parted his lips, ready to retort, but a series of dry coughs racked his body. He would do anything for a drop of water right about now.

"Careful now, I need you alive." Red eyes narrowed dangerously as Inuyasha's eyes drifted close. The demon held the torch higher, and the smell of burning flesh reached Inuyasha's nose as he felt fire consume the fingers of his right hand. If he were not already numb with pain from his prevailing injuries, he imagined he would have let out a steady stream of expletives. As it was, he chose to remain unresponsive and the demon quickly lost interest in continuing the act.

"Very well. If you will not entertain me, perhaps your brother will."

Inuyasha's eyes shot open at that and his jaw clenched. "What do you want with me, Toguro?" he barely managed to force the words out through bared teeth.

"Oh, it's not you I want. It's him," he chuckled.

"Yeah? And how's that gonna happen?"

Toguro's laugh was piercing, and Inuyasha flattened his ears as the sound echoed around him.

"I wonder," Toguro replied vaguely after regaining composure.

Inuyasha had seen the deadly glint in Toguro's eyes. His heart thumped loudly in his chest and he heard blood rushing to his ears as he watched the demon's retreating figure.

Sesshoumaru. Don't come.

Trees and villages blurred beneath him as he flew with quiet urgency. He was going to take pleasure in tearing Toguro limb from limb with his bare hands. He snarled, demon energy emanating from him in static waves as he pushed himself to move faster.

Sesshoumaru had left Rin with Jaken and Ah-Un in a cave he deemed safe immediately after he received news of Inuyasha's capture. Toguro had made sure the Lord of the Western Lands would learn of the hanyou's predicament, having left a single guard alive to recount the fleeting battle that had transpired. In his rage, Sesshoumaru had swiftly ended the guard's life with his lethal whip as soon as the message had been relayed.

One hundred years earlier, after Inuyasha's journey to complete the Shikon Jewel was over, the hanyou had wandered in the Western Lands for a period of time before he encountered Sesshoumaru. It had surprised them both when Sesshoumaru offered him a place in his castle as the second prince. The monk and the demon slayer had established a life of their own, one the hanyou was reluctant to intrude upon, and the fox kit had sought out the remaining members of his clan to alleviate the misery of losing his adoptive mother. The Bone Eater's Well had sealed its portal shut as Kagome jumped in for the last time, returning to the era she had been born in. With nowhere to belong, Inuyasha had readily accepted Sesshoumaru's proposition and together they rebuilt their kingdom, forming new allies and expanding territories.

Toguro was a recent threat. The ambitious ruler of an obscure dragon clan, he had suggested an alliance between his clan and the dog demon clan. When Sesshoumaru refused on the basis of his treacherous acts against preceding allies, Toguro was furious and swore that he would usurp his throne one day. He was cunning, and waited for just enough winters to pass so that the brothers had nearly forgotten his existence before he ambushed Inuyasha and his small group of guards when they were on patrol one moonless night.

Sesshoumaru could smell the blood of his brother now. The scent aggravated him, for Inuyasha had been under his protection for five decades and the two had grown accustomed to one another over the years. He no longer wished for harm to befall him.

A stone tower thick with miasma came into view and Sesshoumaru lightly landed at its threshold. "I have come for your head, Toguro!" he bellowed.

Inuyasha's ears perked up. Sesshoumaru had come for him. Conflicting emotions manifested seemingly all at once—worry for his brother's welfare, excitement at his arrival, and anger at his stupidity. He came alone. That idiot.

Without warning, the chains holding him in place glowed eerily, and he could not contain the scream that escaped his throat. He only hoped Sesshoumaru would forgive him for his display of weakness.