Continuing Tales

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 20 of 42

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Tales from the House of the Moon

"Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result."
- Winston Churchill

. . .

Later, when she was more coherent, Kagome would determine that the scream had saved her lungs by consistently expelling air, and the boulders had saved her life by blocking the smoke for that split second Sesshoumaru needed to reach her.

Right now, though, Kagome laid her chin on Sesshoumaru's shoulder and composed a letter.

Dear adrenal glands, she thought.

Thank you ever so much for the lovely gift of adrenaline, because suddenly I am no longer cold! It's wonderful to be able to feel my fingers again, and the blood is just fabulous. I believe I am also thinking faster as well, and I am not quite so pale any longer! You've made my entire day.

Much love,

P.S. If you see my lungs, please tell them to stop lazing about and do a proper day's work.

Satisfied, she mentally folded the letter and sent it off to her internal organs post haste before returning to the pressing task of living, which was, at the moment, much more difficult than it should be.

Again she labored to draw air, sucking in as much as she could through a sharp throat, but once again her diaphragm was not up to the task. Kagome also suspected that she had cracked a rib or two, which was much better than being dead, but not as good as escaping unscathed. Dimly, she was enormously grateful to whichever god had dictated that Sesshoumaru ditch the spiky look.

It had all happened so quickly. She'd watched the smoke rolling down the mountainside, looming larger and larger; she would not have felt so nervous if, up in the sky, the distant figure of Sesshoumaru apparently having a very difficult time hadn't been so immensely worrying.

She watched him, hoping he would succeed, but as the smoke rolled closer and closer she began to suspect that she might be somewhat alone on this one. If she squinted, she could see him darting away, attempting to avoid the cloud as though it hurt him. Which, given how powerful he was, made her stomach roil. She turned back to the approaching avalanche and tried to think of ways to save her skin; unfortunately, she had only one tried and tested method.

I wish I had a gas mask, she thought giddily, drawing an arrow and nocking it in her bow. She felt her powers spark and flare into life, warming her hands, coursing through her fingers and to the arrow she held, and then she'd released it into the cloud, hoping desperately that the smoke was based on shouki and could be purified.

The arrow landed at the edge of the rolling cloud. Kagome squinted, her heart leaping in her chest when she saw the arrow purify the poison, only to stutter again when the arrow faded rapidly before going out, and the hissing venom crashed around the void left by her purification.

"Shit, shit, shit!" she'd muttered, slinging her bow across her back and huddling behind the largest boulder. She crouched in the snow, hoping against hope that the smoke would die down before it reached her, but instead it loomed, closer, closer, gobbling the mountain in its path, swelling up, spreading poisonous fingers ever toward outward, seeking her. Her blood drained from her limbs, leaving her colder than she had ever been. Kagome felt the world disintegrating around her.

Oh, god no -

She couldn't see straight, was dizzy, would never outrun it, couldn't even breathe, closer, almost there, and she was alone, she was going to die, and she could not stop the shriek that clawed up her throat.


God, she would give anything for him to be there, but Kagome couldn't even see him, he was so high up, so far away, out of reach, and the cloud there, thick, large, overshadowing the world, and she sat in the snow, covered her head, and screamed -

- for maybe one second, and then Sesshoumaru slammed into her, his armor knocking her breath from her body, left arm snaking around her waist like a band of iron holding her askew against him, and then he darted forward, the poison wave spilling over, over, above them, above -

- and missing him by inches as he slipped out from underneath its crest. Then they were flying low, down and out, skimming against the snow, and she could see the cloud over his shoulder, crashing down, chasing him down the mountainside.

The icy wind whipped through her hair, and she could feel the cold emanating from the snow beneath them. Kagome struggled for breath, her face pressed against his throat - it was funny how the world came into sharp focus when one was about to die, and he was so warm, smelled like thunderstorms - and squeezed her eyes shut. This is not happening, she thought. We'll be all right. He is the strongest demon in the world. He will not suffer the ignominy of getting killed by an overgrown newt. He will not end his life over a stupid wolf who forgot to wear a rubber. He will not allow himself to suffocate in dragon barf.

He will not let me die.

Finally, she drew a full breath, opened her eyes, and looked over his shoulder.

The cloud was receding, or slowing down, or he was speeding up. Whatever was happening, it didn't matter - they were escaping. Kagome let out a whimper of relief, her arms tightening around his shoulders as she felt him bend at the waist, tucking her into the cradle of his body before his feet sunk into the snow and he sprang away again, further out of the path of the toxic avalanche. After less than a minute she couldn't see the cloud any longer, and he sank and sprang again, redirecting them further across the mountain, and Kagome thought that she could get used to flying low beneath an overcast sky - without the mortal peril, of course - so she concentrated on breathing and looked at the clouds as he sprang further and further away.

Sesshoumaru listened to her regain her breath and tried to figure out how to stop. For the past two jumps he'd been trying to get purchase on the icy slope beneath him - if not to stop then to at least leap further into the air instead of leveling out near ground level - but he was going too quickly to maneuver. He wasn't entirely certain it would have made a difference anyway, as the snow beneath him was too deep and his shoes kept losing traction. It really was most vexing.

He tried to slow his momentum as he sprang again. It didn't work. To add insult to injury he thought the ends of his hair might be singed, and he could still smell the faint stench of his lightly burned clothes. Sesshoumaru wrinkled his nose and attempted to burrow in Kagome's floral-scented hair without being too obvious about it.

Another leap later and he was getting slightly desperate. This time he had tried to sharpen the fold of his body in order to dig his heels into the ground, but the young woman cradled in his arm prevented him from the necessary contortion. He sighed. There was nothing for it.

"Prepare," he ordered her.

He felt the skin of her cheek move against his throat, and he caught a faint, "what?" before it was whipped away on the wind as he flipped them over and curled himself around her, skimming against the snow. There was a long moment of soft silence before he began to sink down further, plowing into the powdery drifts and leaving a deepening trench in his wake.

Kagome gave a squeak of surprise as they began to descend, her hands slicing against the icy blanket that covered the ground. The cold stole her breath. She felt her fingers go instantly numb, and then they were lower and lower and Sesshoumaru hit solid ground, skidding to a stop so sudden that it flung her forward, face first into the white wall that arched over them.

The cold burned. She thought she heard the bones of her skull crack beneath the weight of it. For a few seconds she didn't move, too blinded and winded and freezing to do much of anything, until she felt them slipping sideways, the precursor to a tumble down the steep slope.

"Um!" she pointed out.

Sesshoumaru had been lying beneath her, very quietly, trying not to think about the fact that his face was now firmly wedged between her breasts. After only a moment he had realized that it was impossible to not think about that, and he reverted to attempting to not think about how soft and warm she was. It was a terribly embarrassing position in which to find himself, but on the other hand her breasts were quite nice, and, on the whole, the universe was probably treating him far better than he deserved for failing to defeat the dragon and save the girl in a manner that did not involve breaking her ribs.

It was her nervous utterance - he could feel the vibrations against his nose - that brought him back to the immediate reality of the situation, which was that it was extremely cold, becoming soaked was inevitable, there was a damn great lizard hoping to dissolve them into so much organic goop, and they were about to go rolling down the mountainside.

Sesshoumaru refrained from pursing his lips in thought, and surveyed his options. Problem one: cold. There was no heat anywhere around them, and as Sesshoumaru did not fancy setting fire to himself, there was no way around that. Problem two: getting wet. Unless Tenseiga had powers of which he had been previously unaware, there was nothing he could do about that either. Problem three: damn great lizard. He had attempted to dispatch that particular complication with all due expedience, but the dragon was a rather stubborn one, and until he had a new plan of action, nothing could be done. Problem four: impending terminal tumble down the mountain.

He nearly sighed with relief. This was a problem he could solve. Toukijin still lay in his right hand, all but forgotten in their rapid escape, and he tightened his grip on it. Gritting his teeth, Sesshoumaru rolled very slightly up the mountainside, tipping Kagome further into the snow bank - her warmth left his face, and he felt ever so slightly disappointed about that - then flipped the sword in his hand and drove it into the ground at a steep angle directly beneath them. He pushed himself up and away before he twisted his body enough to wedge a foot between the blade and the ground. It wasn't the best of footholds, but it would have to do.

Half beneath him, Kagome was trying to concentrate on keeping her bow intact, but kept getting distracted by the way he was pressed against her. She squirmed as he rolled away and sat up, taking her with him. They were covered in snow.

For a minute neither of them said anything. Both of them simply stared down the mountainside and tried to regain coherency, and Kagome attempted to rub some life back into her face with her sleeves.

Finally Kagome cleared her throat.

"Shit," she declared.

Sesshoumaru gave a dry laugh. "I am inclined to agree," he said as she shifted against him. He watched with amusement as she tried to gain a solid position without touching him, but eventually she gave up and wedged a hand down the front of his armor and held on, avoiding his gaze.

"Shit," she said again.

"So we have established."

She shook her head. "I'm sorry, I don't usually swear, but damn." Sesshoumaru found it difficult to believe that anyone who had spent a considerable length of time in his half-brother's company would be embarrassed by swearing, but he just nodded.

Her brain felt numb. It wasn't a pleasant feeling, and though all she wanted to do was stare off into the distance and try to recover from nearly dying, she simply didn't have the time to bother with mental health. Kagome blinked a few more times before heaving a sigh. "Well," she said, breaking the stillness, "what do we do now?"

Sesshoumaru pursed his lips very slightly. "We defeat the dragon and continue onwards," he replied, attempting to shake the snow from his trailing sleeve.

She didn't say anything, and after a moment he looked down at her to find an expression of trepidation on her face.

"You have an objection?" he asked archly.

Kagome considered. Because you did so well last time, did not seem like the wisest of remarks. Neither did, sure, I like getting killed, especially as he might take that information to heart. She shivered in her wet clothes and tried to think of an answer that wouldn't anger him.

"Um," she ventured, "do you have a different plan this time?"

The hand around her waist twitched, and Sesshoumaru did not answer for a moment. "Not as of yet," he said finally.

Her mouth twisted. Right now, he reminded her ever so slightly of his brother; Inuyasha had tended to do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results each time. His propensity for waving that damn great sword over and over had nearly destroyed it once or twice, and made their enemies stronger several times. It had become such a predictable routine that she could almost see his train of thought when confronted with an enemy.

Nothing can stand up to Tessaiga! he would think before throwing himself at his opponent and slashing with his sword. If it had little to no effect, he was usually hit and tossed backwards, landing on the ground some feet away where he promptly proceeded to forget everything that had happened in the last five seconds.

Nothing can stand up to Tessaiga! he would think again, and then start the process over.

Kagome suspected that Sesshoumaru would have tried to engage in that same sort of silly behavior right now if he didn't have her hanging around his neck - and off his armor - like an albatross.

"Perhaps we could go around the mountain and slip in the back way?" she postulated.

He shook his head, dislodging a few chunks of ice. "The dragon is, essentially, an enemy sitting in an easily defended fortress on high ground, equipped with superior weaponry. It takes very little effort to defend an area surrounded by mountains, and it would simply move to wherever we decided to seek passage."

Kagome screwed up her face. This did not sound good. "Then what do you do in this sort of situation?" she asked.

The demon shrugged. "Not engage said enemy."

"Yeah, well, that's not an option, is it?" she replied, frustration making the edges of her voice fuzzy.

"No, it is not," he agreed.

"So what are we going to do?"

"We are going to sit here in the snow and think of a plan."

Against him, Kagome shivered again. "How long do you think that will take? Because I think I might die eventually."

Sesshoumaru scowled. "It will take less time if you cease your drivel," he informed her.

"Hey - !"

"Useful propositions only," he snapped, tightening his grip on her.

"Well, I thought it was useful," she muttered, sticking her nose in the air and attempting to be as haughty as a shivering girl covered in snow could be.


Frowning, Kagome huffed in annoyance, trying to think of a way around this problem. She worried her lower lip, frowned, and stared at nothing, as though willing the answer to materialize in the snow.

"I suppose," she said slowly, "that I could shoot all my arrows. That might purify that smoky stuff long enough for you to get in there and kill it."

He looked at her in slight surprise. "Your arrows purify the poison?" he demanded.

"Well," she said, "not for very long. There is quite a lot of smoke, and I can only do so much with one arrow, you know."

Twisting his lips slightly, Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes. "You purified that boar youkai rather spectacularly," he reminded her. "Perhaps you would be so kind as to do that again?"

"Hey, I've only done that a couple of times in my entire life," she said sharply. "It's not like I'm holding out on you or anything."

"You did not immediately mention that you could purify the poison," he pointed out.

"Well, since the purity runs out of the arrows fairly quickly against all that stuff, it didn't seem terribly important," she replied.

Sesshoumaru appeared to be thinking, and Kagome nervously pulled herself a little further up the slope, the emptiness beneath her dizzying in its depth.

"At what times can you purify without the aid of arrows?" he asked suddenly.

Her mouth twisted as she tried to remember. "Only when I don't actually have any arrows, now that I come to think of it," she said after a moment. "And it generally shows up when I'm terrified that I'm about to be killed."

"So," the demon said speculatively, "if I were to carry you into battle with me, you would be able to call up these powers?"

"What? No!" she exclaimed, a jolt of anxiety spearing through her stomach at the thought of diving headlong toward a poisonous dragon.

She wasn't looking at him, but she was positive he had just raised an eyebrow in disdainful disbelief. "Whyever not?" he asked.

"Because I think I believe that you wouldn't let me die," she said, and she found herself blushing slightly for reasons she could not pinpoint, but she brushed her embarrassment aside. "You know, with the 'protecting women and children' deal that you have going, which is still, I might add, really weird. But yeah, that sort of puts a damper on the whole fear of mortal peril.' Besides, I might purify you, too. I can't really control it, you know."

Sesshoumaru tried to pick out the parts of the conversation that were useful to him and ignore the rest, lest he become confused and subsequently sidetracked. "Hmm," he replied. "So you would not be able to call upon your power even if I threw you ahead of me?"

Kagome had a brief vision of her body flying through the air like a shrieking hand grenade before shaking her head violently. "I think I'd be too scared of the landing to concentrate on the poison," she said quickly. He didn't respond.

Taking a deep breath, Sesshoumaru tried to clear his mind. He could feel that the answer to their problem lay in her holy powers, even though said powers made him rather nervous. She would definitely need to fear for her life, or, barring that, she needed to find some other conduit to use against the poison. "What else could you invest your power in?" he asked thoughtfully.

Kagome squeezed her eyes shut and tried to think. "Well," she said, "anything, really. But all I have are arrows. My bag is still by those rocks."

"That is unfortunate," he replied. "I would not be at all surprised if it had melted."

"Melted?" she said, voice becoming shrill as she turned in his grasp to glare at him, as though it were his fault that she had left her effects behind. "What do you mean, melted?"

Sesshoumaru frowned, confused. "I mean melted," he repeated, but she wasn't listening.

"Oooooh," she groaned, letting her head fall against the hand that gripped his armor. "That had all my stuff in it. My sleeping bag, my blanket, my soap, my pa - um, stuff," she tripped over what had no doubt been an embarrassing item, but quickly rallied. "Everything. Dammit, dammit, dammit." She let her head lift and fall against her hand several times, as though trying to give herself amnesia.

He sighed. "This is not productive," he said. "All you have is arrows?"

She nodded, still not lifting her head. "And I don't think I can put much more power into anything and have it keep its charge," she said, voice slightly muffled. "I'd have to keep in contact with it to purify the amount of poison that we need to - "

She stopped. Sesshoumaru frowned, attempting to discern her thoughts, but he was completely in the dark as she lifted her head and formed a small 'o' with her lips. After several seconds of this posture he feared that she had forgotten how to breathe. He shook her slightly.

"Oh," she said when he jolted her, voice small. "I think I know what to do. Oh..."

Annoyance pricked his brain, galvanizing his tongue into action. "Yes?" he said pointedly. "Do you wish to enlighten me as to your brilliant plan?"

Kagome shot him a quick glare before drawing back. "Just let me think about this for a moment," she said crossly. "There are still some logistics to be worked out."

Sesshoumaru sighed and glanced away, down at the grey-white snow that stretched before them. He tried to clear his mind, to achieve that blankness he needed in preparation for the battle ahead, though, if he were to be completely honest with himself, also because he was tired of thinking. If she had a plan, she was entirely welcome to do the thinking for both of them right now. He just wanted a nap. Sesshoumaru closed his eyes, wondering if he could steal a few moments of sleep without her noticing.

"All right," she said suddenly, "I've got it. I - wake up!" Kagome poked him hard in the chest and he opened his eyes irritably.

"I was not asleep," he snapped, rather guiltily.

She frowned. "Do you want to kill this thing or not?"

"I thought it had been well established that I do wish to kill it?" he said, slightly confused.

"Whatever," she replied. "Look, you said you wanted to carry me into battle, right?"

"I did not actually say that in those precise words - "

Kagome stopped herself from rolling her eyes in exasperation. He could be so thick sometimes. "Fine, but you could carry me, right?" she demanded, cutting him off.

He sniffed, a bit insulted by the interruption. "If the situation warranted it, yes," he said coolly.

"Good. I've only done it once before, but I can use my bow to purify; if the poison is based on shouki, and I think it is, all I'd need to do is hold the bow in front of me, and the poison around would be nullified. And you wouldn't get purified because it would be contained. What do you think?"

His mouth twisted. "And what if you are unable to purify the poison?" he asked. "What if it dissolves your skin upon contact? What if it kills you?"

In her stomach she felt something clench and then flip-flop, sending a little flood of bile to her mouth. She swallowed it with distaste. "Then I die, of course," she said crankily. "But I'll probably die on this mountain anyway, even if I don't die of getting my face melted off. It's cold and I'm going to get hypothermia unless we kill that dragon and get somewhere dry where I can sit by a fire and get warm, dammit!" Kagome was vaguely aware that she was beginning to rave just a little bit, but she found she didn't care. Nothing really mattered except killing that dragon and getting warm again. Her teeth were beginning to chatter.

He said nothing for a long moment. Then he slid a little ways down the slope so he was bending his knees, and hauled her unceremoniously into his lap.

"Eek," she gurgled, both at the sudden vertigo and at his audacity. "I don't think we know each other well enough yet to - " she said through clacking teeth.

He frowned, and she noted that he did not look at all pleased. He looked rather displeased, in fact. No, completely annoyed. That was it. She watched as he unslung the bow from her back and pressed it into her hands before awkwardly slipping his hands inside her sleeves.

"Hey - " she protested feebly, but gave up when he began to rub her arms vigorously. His hands were almost hot against her skin, and she found that it felt good. She was so tired, and his skin on hers was just nice, and his hands were strong, even though they burned, just a little, with a bit too much friction. Still, it was much, much better than nothing. Kagome closed her eyes and let him warm her.

After about two minutes he stopped and withdrew his hands, and Kagome felt cold again, and oddly bereft until the mechanics of keeping her balance on his lap required that she lean into him, shoulder against his chest. She opened her eyes to find him staring at her. His face was very close.

"Right," he said, as though commanding a regiment. "Practice."

She frowned, confused. "Practice what?"

He looked at her as though she were stupid. Kagome found this incredibly rich coming from a man whose entire modus operandi seemed to consist of stabbing wildly in the dark until he knifed the answer in the kidneys by chance. "Practice using the bow," he clarified. "Unless you wish to go into battle with an untested weapon, though I realize that this has never deterred you before."

She gritted her teeth. "I'll have you know that it has deterred me," she told him haughtily as she propped herself up, away from his face, and lifted the bow into the air so it could not touch him. And then, because she was a fundamentally honest girl, she added, "Just not very often."

Sesshoumaru snickered as she glowered at the bow in her hands and thought of purifying the poisonous smoke. Purifying. She needed to purify something, and she needed her power to come when she called. Kagome concentrated, frowning intensely at the bow in her hands, and strained -

Nothing happened. After a few minutes, nothing continued to happen.

Sesshoumaru sniffed, shifting a little beneath her. "We are in no hurry," he said, in that horribly sardonic tone. "Take your time."

Lips thinning into a white line, Kagome thought very hard about purifying annoying demons with horribly pretty hair. Pretty hair with snow in it. Pretty hair and really warm skin and probably a lot of muscle and she was extremely disturbed by her own turn of thought, so she thought instead about how often he made her see red. Always teasing her, or prodding her, or vaguely insulting her - he was so horribly, completely, and totally damn frustrating -

In her hand the bow flared to life, and Sesshoumaru made a noise in the back of his throat.

Her heart tripped in her chest. Immediately the light faded and she frantically twisted in his lap to see if she had hurt him, narrowing her eyes when he came into her view. He didn't look injured, but then again she'd seen that he tended to waltz around with that expression on his face all the time, so it was probably not the best indicator. "Are you all right?" she asked anxiously.

He gave her a curt nod. "I am. It is merely..." he trailed off looking thoughtful.

She frowned. "Merely what?" she asked.

Sesshoumaru shook his head. "Your scent changes when you invoke your powers," he told her. "It is merely startling."

"Really?" she asked, perking up. She was suddenly intensely curious. "What do I smell like?" Then she felt a shred of worry drift against her mind. "Wait, I don't smell bad, do I?" she asked.

She thought he almost smiled at that. "No, you do not. At any rate, it smells better than that rank fur you are wearing."

Kagome sniffed. "I can't help it if the wolves aren't the most fastidious animals."

"Indeed. That it is wet does nothing for it, either."

Kagome decided to abandon this line of questioning. She found she did not like the idea that she might repulse him. "So what do I smell like when I do this?" she asked, and this time she found it much easier. She pulled on her power again, letting the bow alight with pale pink fire.

His gaze slid away from hers. "It is... difficult to put into words," he said. "Perhaps later, after we've succeeded, I shall think of a way to describe it."

Brows drawing down, Kagome narrowed her eyes. She suspected that he was just hoping she would forget, or perhaps he thought that she could be bribed into successfully fighting with such a thing. Which wouldn't have been so irritating if it were not true; she really was quite interested.

Fine, be that way, she thought petulantly, I will get through this alive, and then you'll have to tell me.

She let the bow flare again and again, and after a few minutes she was sure she had the hang of it. "Okay, I'm ready," she announced.

"Excellent," Sesshoumaru replied, "because I believe you are turning my legs numb."

He enjoyed the furious blush of red that flared across her cheeks as he transferred her into the cradle of his left arm again. Sending a cursory glance down the mountain, he found a suitable jumping point. Nodding with satisfaction, he prepared to dislodge Toukijin and head toward it as a thought crossed his mind. He turned to Kagome. "Are your hakama secured?" he asked her.

He watched, almost gratified, as she blushed furiously again. "What a question!" she squeaked, outraged.

Sesshoumaru did not feel like elaborating. "Well?" he demanded.

"Not that it's any of your business, but yes," she said, rather snippily.

"Good," he replied. Without asking her permission - because, really, she didn't have a choice - Sesshoumaru looped his fingers around the tie that fit snugly against the side of her waist, and held her securely to him. He heard her give an offended gasp as he bent, gripped Toukijin's hilt, and launched himself off the side of the mountain, sword in one hand, nearly petrified miko in the other.

Well, he mused as he flipped over in the air, bringing his feet in line with the jutting rock he had chosen as his springboard, there are far worse ways to go into battle.

As the frigid wind whistled over her cheeks, Kagome tried to swallow her heart again as he tumbled over into a free fall. "You could have warned me," she said angrily, as her voice returned.

He shrugged, eyes trained downwards. "Lift your feet," he commanded.

"What - " she began, but then thought better of it. "Oh, never mind," she said as she complied, curling around the arm at her waist. Her grip on her bow was so tight she thought it might snap.

When Sesshoumaru hit the ground, the hem of her hakama grazed the snow beneath them as he absorbed the shock, crouching so low he might as well have been sitting, before she felt him unwind and leap and she remembered how incredibly powerful he was. She couldn't decide if it reassured her, or made her more nervous. Clenching her teeth so that she would not shiver so much, Kagome trained her eyes ahead of her.

The wind ripped through her clothing as Sesshoumaru shot forward, skimming down and then leaping again, up and across the mountain, toward their opponent. Ahead of them, the great white dragon stirred again, rising languorously against the grey sky, and even though she was freezing, Kagome felt a thin sheen of sweat break out across her forehead. She fervently hoped she wouldn't choke.

The tension was incredible, strung across her like a guitar string about to snap. Sesshoumaru streaked up the slopes toward the cleft in the skyline, saying nothing, and she couldn't even hear his breathing, though she bet that it was even and regular. The dragon did not appear to be overly anxious either, merely stared at them lazily as they advanced. Kagome thought it very unfair that she was the only one about to hyperventilate.

"Be ready," she suddenly heard his voice by her ear, though it was faint against the rush of air about them. Well if he wasn't going to get killed by an uppity lizard, she wasn't either. Kagome squared her shoulders as best she could against him, and thrust the bow outwards.

Silently, they seemed to float through the air, the world arrested in its path as they drew ever closer. In its nest the dragon's head wove about on its neck, like a cobra preparing to strike. And in the endless second when it opened its gaping maw, Kagome thought she could see the end of the world in its throat.

When the dragon prepared to strike, Sesshoumaru felt her breath suddenly speed up, and he risked a glance at her hands in the split second before the dragon spit its poison into the air. They were white-knuckled and trembling on the wood of the bow, but he could see that her jaw was set in a sharp line, her eyes angry and hard; she had the expression of one who had faced down many opponents before, and found their death when she sought it.

Sesshoumaru almost smiled. She would be fine.

And then ahead of them, the dragon roared, and white, powdery smoke gushed forth from its mouth.

He heard her make a strangled noise, and in her hands the bow flared into life, her bright scent suddenly blocking out all other smells, clean and pure and deadly. He tightened his grip on Toukijin, and as the venomous smoke towered above them, before them, in front of them he heard her cry out, a harsh warrior cry, and they were in the middle of it.

As they hit the wall of smoke, the silence was deafening, and for a moment he thought she was going to die, that her magic wouldn't work before she whimpered and the air streaming around them was clear and pure, unpoisoned and unobscured. His grip on her tightened as he brought her closer, in front of him, and she sliced through the corruption around them like a blade, her hands glowing like a star.

It was beautiful. She lit up the cloud that sped by them with pink light, filling their tunnel with eerie shadows, and behind him Sesshoumaru could feel the smoke collapsing inwards into the vacuum she left in her wake. They would have to go straight through - if he dramatically changed his direction, he didn't know how quickly she would be able to purify the poison. He clamped his teeth together, and around Toukijin, his fingers clenched hard enough to leave friction burns, instantly healed.

There was something else on the breeze, too. He thought he could smell something, whipping past him, the scent of broken flesh, but it was so faint that he was uncertain as to whether or not he had smelled it at all, so he forged on, into the billowing fog, the priestess in his grasp illuminating the way.

After a few endless moments, he narrowed his eyes as he spied their exit. Just ahead there was the strange sight of pale-on-pale, white smoke against grey sky, and there was another roar, loud enough to grate against his ears. Kagome did not even flinch, merely stayed still and sure in front of him. He imagined that she did not blink even at the fearsome noise, and he felt irrationally pleased even as before and above them another cloud billowed, and he gently angled them upwards, toward the source, ever nearer to their triumph or their death, toward their victory or defeat. With the acuity of eyes strengthened by adrenaline, he saw Kagome's hands tighten on the bow. The light in front of them flared incandescent.

In his veins, he heard his blood sing out as the world narrowed, and he was so close, so close he could taste its scales sliding over his tongue, could feel the crunch of cartilage and bone against his teeth, and then they broke through the cloud, the dragon towering over them, its great mouth opened wide to drown them, swallow them whole.

Sesshoumaru saw its eyes narrow, heard its jaws close, fangs clacking together like massive stone dropping on massive stone. It sounded like the closing of gates.

He smiled without humor, and raised his sword.

It was still for a long moment until without warning the ponderous head darted forward, as though to strike them, and he twisted in the air, putting a foot out right before its nose hit, its jaws opening again. There was the smell of rotted meat, rank breath, and beneath it the bitter smell of venom, acrid and sour, causing Sesshoumaru's throat to clench.

He pushed off, somersaulted backwards, out up in, and then they were beneath its chin. In his grasp Kagome tensed and turned, holding the flaring bow out next to his shoulder as behind them another great cloud rose up, ballooning outwards. He felt the air move beneath his feet, and then they, too, were buoyed up through the void, up, up, towards the great scaly throat, and Sesshoumaru pitched to the left, the blade by his side sharp and thirsty for death.

Sesshoumaru lifted Toukijin, straight and true, and shot upwards, arm stiff and aim pure.

The dragon roared again above them a split second before he hit, and then he felt the jolt of impact throughout his entire body. Kagome cried out as his grip tightened around her, but his strength did not fail him. With the ease of a practiced conqueror he drove through the bursting skin, into the meat below, across the pumping veins and through the heavy cartilage of the throat, while above them he heard the roar choke down into a gurgle. Within a second he was through the neck, and he darted away, behind, into the valley beyond, turning to face their defeated opponent. He watched as the head, detached, seemed to float over and down before it slammed into the rock below, and then the neck wavered and collapsed, staining the mountain red beneath it.

They floated backwards. Nestled in the crook of his arm Kagome felt stiff and tense; he could almost discern the trembling left behind by the rush of adrenaline that soared through her veins.

Well, she might be shivering, but Sesshoumaru was extremely pleased. The kill was clean and quick, and they had passed the trial. Now all they needed to do was find the youkai medicine woman who cultivated whatever strange herbs could grow here in the cold, grab them, and go back. Gently he drifted downwards into the valley, finding that the slope tapered to a very gentle incline, leaving a small basin surrounded by peaks in the middle. When they were far enough away from the body of their foe, Sesshoumaru touched down into the snow and released the miko, who stumbled a little as she stepped away from him.

With satisfaction, he whipped Toukijin out and down, sending the blood flying off into the cold dunes before ruefully driving it down into the snow to finish the job. The snow hissed at the heat, and he backed away, lifting the blade up and settling it into its proper place at his hip. He ran a hand through his hair.

He glanced over at Kagome, who had not moved.

Sesshoumaru inclined his head. "If you have recovered?" he said graciously, smiling a little at his mood. Decapitating things always put him in a good frame of mind, and he rocked a little on his heels as he waited for the miko to say something.

Silently, she just stood there.

After a moment he frowned and opened his mouth to ask again, but he never did as before him she shuddered, dropped the bow, and collapsed into the snow, burying her hands beneath it.

Miserably, Kagome squeezed her eyes shut and wondered what horrible spirit had possessed her to volunteer for human shield duty, and why she hadn't thought about the backs of her fingers, which, when wrapped around the bow, were the only parts of her in front of the pure barrier. Her fingers had sizzled and blistered in the few moments before her powers surged to the front to protect her hands, but the damage had already been done: across the base of each finger the skin had bubbled and broken, and only her determination had kept her grip on the wood sure and strong. Determination, and the knowledge that she would die if she did not hold on.

But now the burns lashed across her hand were weeping and stinging, pulling the skin tight over her knuckles, and she was afraid to look at her hands for fear that her fingers had melted together. It felt like someone was scraping burning granite across the back of her hands, digging into the skin, and so she shoved her hands deeper into the snow, tears of pain trickling down her cheek, down to patter into the icy powder beneath her, as she waited for her hands to grow numb.

I wish I were home, she thought. I wish...


She hadn't heard him move, but now he was before her, kneeling in the snow and glaring imperiously. "What is wrong, Kagome?" he demanded. She thought she might have taken issue with his tone, but the sound of her name on his lips, almost concerned, tempered her reaction. Instead of speaking, she mutely lifted her hands from where they rested in their icy little graves.

For once, she was glad that his face never showed any reaction; he merely stared at her hands as though he were simply reading a book. Swallowing her fear, she looked at her fingers to assess the damage.

It didn't look as bad as it felt, but the first joint of each finger was dark red, limned in broken white skin, swollen and shiny. She was intensely relieved to find that they had not been welded together, but the knowledge did little to dull the pain. Kagome sucked air through her teeth, feeling almost humiliated at the tears that spilled over.

I shouldn't be crying at this. This is nothing compared to what Sango and Miroku and Inuyasha used to deal with. Nothing at all.

Angrily she bent her head to her upper arm, rubbing the wet tracks away before moving forward to bury her hands in the snow again.

She heard the strained sound of fabric ripping, and she looked up to see Sesshoumaru methodically tearing a strip from the billowing sleeve of his kimono. There was no expression on his face.

"What - ?" she started.

"Hold still," he ordered, reaching down and lifting her left hand from the snow before he began to wrap the silk strip loosely around each finger, pausing between each to rip and tie the makeshift bandage in place.

She watched, speechless, as he tended her wounds, and it struck her as strange. She was always the one who tended to everybody else, the one who healed other people's hurts; it seemed bizarre to be on the receiving end. Kagome looked down and watched as he worked, movements sharp and efficient, jaw set, and his hands on hers were warm. She shivered as he plucked her other hand out of the snow, and it was not entirely caused by cold.

He finished and let go of her hands. "We will have to change the bandages at least once a day," he said brusquely.

She wanted to ask how he knew that, but held her tongue. What did it matter where he learned these things? She pressed her lips together in a thin line. "I'm sorry," she said, staring down at the snow where it was slowly seeping into her hakama. She was so cold. Carefully she lifted her injured hands to her upper arms and hugged herself. After a moment, when he didn't move, she looked up.

He was staring at her strangely.

"What?" she asked, uncomfortable.

Sesshoumaru shook his head, very slightly. "Why do you feel the need to apologize?" he asked.

Kagome pursed her lips; she wasn't entirely certain herself. "Because... you won't have any sleeves by the time we get back to Edo?" she ventured.

She saw his lips twitch. "Then the world will simply have the great privilege of seeing my arms," he told her.

And suddenly it all seemed so absurd. The well, the fairytale, the journey, the dragon, the youkai lord joking with her in the snow, and Kagome began to laugh, helpless, giddy, loud.

Sesshoumaru watched as she dissolved into laughter, pressing her forearms to her mouth, trying to stifle her desperately amused chuckles, and felt strangely gratified. He let her have her amusement for a moment before standing up and offering a hand to help her to her feet. Still giggling, she lifted a hand and he grasped her forearm, pulling her out of the snow.

On shaky legs she bent and picked up her bow - the damp would probably warp it, but with luck she wouldn't need it again - and slung it over her back with stiff fingers before turning, still smiling, to Sesshoumaru, who watched her in the dimming light.

The light. "Oh - " she said suddenly, looking to the sky. "It's getting dark."

She watched as he lifted his head as well. "Yes," he agreed before returning his eyes to her and stepping closer.

They said nothing, merely held each other's eyes, companionable, the shared knowledge of their triumph filling the air between them.

In the breeze, his silver hair swelled and ebbed. She thought he looked beautifully alien before her in the fading day, in the freezing snow, and for some strange reason, in a way she couldn't describe, Kagome ached.

She opened her mouth. "Um - " she began, uncertain as to what she was about to say.

Sadly, he was destined to never find out, for she got no further because someone chose that moment to begin shouting.

"OH!" a high, feminine voice shrieked, and both of them turned, startled out of whatever odd world they had been inhabiting, to see a fairly young female wolf youkai adorned in thick white fur, with her hands pressed to her face in the perfect caricature of horror. "You killed Aiko!" she exclaimed. "How could you?"

Kagome blinked. A number of things came to her mind, but only one made it out.

"You named the dragon Aiko?" she said incredulously. Next to her, she heard Sesshoumaru laugh.

The youkai didn't seem to be listening. "How could you?" she wailed again. "I raised her from a hatchling! She was the best dragon I've ever had! How could you?"

"I assure you that it was not without difficulty," Sesshoumaru informed her.

The youkai did not take kindly to this. "You!" she shrieked, pointing a shaking finger at him. "You are not a wolf! And you - " her accusing finger swinging toward Kagome, " - are not pregnant."

"Er," Kagome said. "No?"

"What are you doing here? Do you have any idea how hard it is to train a dragon? Now I have to start all over, and I simply hate training dragons! Dammit!" The youkai stomped her foot in the snow like a petulant child and scowled mightily, her lower lip beginning to tremble. "You killed her for nothing!" she declared.

Kagome was vaguely horrified. "No!" she exclaimed holding a hand out in a placating gesture. "We didn't, we're here for the herbs needed for wolf hanyou!"

"But neither of you are wolves!"

"There were complications," Sesshoumaru cut in blandly. "We are here in lieu of the... father."

"And why isn't he here?" she demanded, clearly reluctant to believe them.

Sesshoumaru sniffed. "He - "

"He died," Kagome cut in quickly. Crossing her mind was the worrying notion that the youkai would be so put out that her dragon was now denogginized by two people who clearly had nothing to do with wolf hanyous that she would not cooperate. The most sympathetic situation she could think of would be a dead father, unable to care for his lover and child due to being stiff as a board and six feet under. We're just kind passers-by! she chirped telepathically. Wouldn't it be nice to give us a break?

Shooting her a startled look, Sesshoumaru almost corrected her, but thought better of it. He was mildly impressed; she was sharp and fearless, and he suddenly found that he was curious as to how she would handle this challenge. He wanted to watch her. Closing his mouth he turned back to the youkai, who had crossed her arms and was now sniffling mightily, as if controlling her tears. She was quiet for a long moment.

"Oh, very well," she said finally, looking them up and down again. "If you're here for a legitimate reason - and you had better be - I suppose you should come with me."

Sesshoumaru almost asked why anyone would travel all this way and risk getting their skin melted off for a remedy they could not use, but the wolf had already turned smartly on her heels and began to stalk away, following the trench of tracks she had left when she had ventured out to confront them. Sliding a glance toward Kagome, he saw that she mirrored his dubious look. She held his eyes for a moment before shrugging and slogging off after their reluctant hostess. He followed after her.

. . .

Thirty minutes later, Kagome found herself with two baby wolf cubs bouncing in her lap and staring wide-eyed as the youkai who had greeted them whipped up kimono after kimono for her inspection. Her name had turned out to be Rei.

"And don't call me Rei-san or Rei-sama," she had commanded. "Rei is fine. Honorifics make me gag."

"Okay," Kagome, who almost never called anyone -san or -sama, agreed. Now she sat next to a very hot fire in what appeared to be Rei's little network of well-lit, well-warmed, well-ventilated caves and watched as Rei whipped heavy, dry clothes out of a small cubbyhole in the rock. She had apparently decided that Kagome, aside from needing to avoid hypothermia, also needed to look nice for 'her youkai.'

"He's not my - " Kagome had begun, but Rei had cut her off.

"I know, but let me pretend," she demanded. "It's so rare that I find female company, and I never wear these. Just let me dress you up a little."

It was obvious she was used to having her way, so Kagome had acquiesced for the sake of a quiet life, or, at least, a quieter life than she had recently been living.

"This one?" Rei asked, holding up a particularly pretty blue kimono that looked warm.

Kagome, who had in fact nodded at each kimono presented to her, nodded again, somewhat desperate. Perhaps this is the real trial by fire, she thought, slightly panicky as she gently disengaged a little clawed hand from a stray lock of her hair. If it is, Sesshoumaru got the better end of the deal, that jerk. Upon entering the caves, a youkai who could have only been Rei's husband had stood up and greeted them jovially, clapping Kagome on the back so hard she'd stumbled forward a little, though some instinct of self-preservation had caused him to refrain from doing the same to Sesshoumaru. Instead, he'd invited Sesshoumaru to partake of a jug of what Kagome hoped was sake, but, judging from his high color, was most likely something much stronger. She'd glanced back at Sesshoumaru as Rei led her away to change clothes and dry off, but he'd merely shrugged at her before she saw him settle next to the fire and hold out one striped hand to take the jug from the wolf, who passed it over, clearly joyful to have found a drinking partner.

Rei was looking at the blue kimono speculatively. "You know," she said at last, "I think this will suit you. Here." She tossed it and Kagome barely had time to catch it before it sailed into the fire. She gathered the fabric to her as Rei tossed a pair of black tabi over her shoulder - they bounced off Kagome's knee - and began to fold the rest of the clothes.

"Um," Kagome said, staring down at the sturdy fabric.

"Yes?" Rei asked, briskly folding.

"Does it get lonely up here?" she asked. In her lap one of the cubs clapped its hands and began to pet the kimono, rather stickily.

"Oh yes," Rei replied, "but I have Haru, and anyway, there are several medicine women, so we trade off every couple of years."

Kagome blinked. "Really?"

"Of course. Anyone would go completely mad if they had to stay here their entire life. I suppose I should be glad you showed up, since I have half a year to go, but I do so hate training dragons," she sighed. "They really are quite troublesome."

"I can imagine," Kagome said with as much sympathy as she could muster.

"Well," Rei amended, "it's not all bad. I do enjoy the cultivation, and it's not as hard to find food up here as one might think. It's a fairly good life I suppose, so I should stop complaining. Kira! Ryuji!"

The cubs in Kagome's lap looked up expectantly as their mother clapped her hands with authority. "Here, darlings. Let the nice miko change her clothes."

Kagome concealed her small sigh of relief as the children clambered out of her lap and bounded toward Rei, who bent to pick them up. "Do you remember the way back to the first room?" she asked Kagome.

"Er," Kagome said, "I think so."

"Good," she replied. "Join us when you've finished dressing." With that, she swept out, leaving Kagome alone for the first time in three weeks.

The sudden silence, broken only by the lovely crackling of the fire, was like music.

For a long moment, Kagome stood very still and closed her eyes, enjoying the sensation of quiet before she sat down on a thick fur and began to remove her clothes. She peeled off her soaking tabi with her stiff fingers and stuck her feet next to the fire to warm as she shrugged out of her thick top. She was excruciatingly grateful that her bra and panties had escaped the freezing snow mostly unscathed. With little ceremony she stripped her hakama off and laid her clothes next to the fire to dry out before slipping into the kimono and tying the elaborate knot. She untied her hair and shook it out before deciding that it was dry enough and retying it with some difficulty. Her feet were still cold, but, she reasoned, the thick tabi would definitely warm them, so she pulled them on before gathering her shoes and slipping them over her feet. She lingered by the quiet fire a moment longer before rising and padding to the door by which she had entered, and followed the sound of loud laughter and childish giggles.

When she found the first chamber Kagome found Haru bouncing both children on his knees and informing Sesshoumaru that children were, indeed, the greatest thing since bloodshed, and telling the youkai lord that he should certainly get some of his own.

Sesshoumaru merely nodded politely before taking another pull from the jug. Kagome hoped he wasn't getting drunk. Can daiyoukai get drunk? she wondered absently as she walked toward the fire.

"Ah, Kagome, come sit, come sit!" Rei exclaimed. "We have to get this pesky bargaining out of the way before we can relax and go to bed."

Kagome was mildly dismayed. "The bargaining? Now?"

"Well, when would you rather do it?" Rei asked. "Because I can't hand over the herbs unless you pay a price."

"What kind of price?" she asked.

"That's what we were going to figure out," Rei announced. "Don't worry, it won't be terribly burdensome. In fact, I believe we will be finished almost as soon as we have begun."

The tickle of anxiety in her stomach rose a little in intensity - or maybe she was just hungry - but Kagome set her jaw and walked toward them, taking a seat next to Sesshoumaru. "All right," she said, and she was happy to find her voice confident, "let's begin."

Rei clapped her hands. "Excellent!" she exclaimed. "You'll like this. The price is body-removal."

Kagome blinked rapidly as she tried to figure this out. "Oh," she said finally. "You mean of the dragon, right?"

"Of course! Whose body do you think I was referring to? Yours? Ha ha!"

"Ha ha," Kagome replied. She heard Sesshoumaru snicker, and she shot him a sideways glare before returning her attention to their hostess. "But, er, the body is really big. I'm not sure we can - "

Rei cut her off with a curt slice of the hand. "Big! Pfft!" she exclaimed. "Are you or are you not a miko?"

She frowned before realization dawned. "Oh," she said again. "I'd just have to purify it, right?"

"Exactly. I'm sure it won't take you very long. You can do it tomorrow morning as I prepare the medicine you need."

This did not sound very taxing at all. "Do you give everyone who comes to gather herbs such an easy task?" Kagome asked dubiously.

"No," Rei replied. "I give them the same task. Getting rid of a giant body is so much work, and really, it's their fault it's blocking my valley in the first place. They're usually up to it."


"Ah!" their hostess exclaimed. "I nearly forgot! I need to give you that salve for your fingers."

Kagome glanced down, surprised. "You have a salve for dragon burns?" she asked.

"Of course! Why do you think I hate training dragons so much? Come on darlings! Time for bed!"

Kagome watched as Rei popped up and scooped her children from her husband's lap. "You, too, darling," she said. "Bedtime." Kagome watched as she planted a swift kiss on his upturned face before turning and bustling out. Haru stood slowly and stretched before giving into a yawn.

"Sleep well," he told his guests before sauntering after his wife, and Kagome and Sesshoumaru were alone again.

"Well," Kagome said after a moment, "that was rather anti-climactic."

"Indeed," Sesshoumaru replied, and she was mildly relieved to hear his voice strong and unslurred. "But that is probably for the best."

"I mean, there wasn't even any haggling," she said. "I'm shocked."

"I suspect," Sesshoumaru said, "that getting past the dragon is test enough. Our hostess does not seem to be overly sadistic."

Kagome frowned. "Hey," she said, "why didn't you do the negotiating? I thought this was your task?"

Sesshoumaru shrugged. "I wanted to see how you would handle it," he said cryptically.

For a moment, she thought about being mad at him for throwing her into the water to see if she could swim, but she didn't think she had the energy, and really, it depended on how she looked at it. She turned to him and grinned.

He glanced at her and moved back slightly. "What are you smiling at?" he asked warily.

"Sesshoumaru, does this mean you trust me?" she asked. "Because if so, that's so sweet!"

He frowned at her. "I will have you know that I have never been sweet in my life. I merely do not distrust you."

"That's practically the same thing," she told him.

"It is not," he said. "And it is not sweet," he said again, and she could tell he didn't know whether to be insulted or complimented.

"Oh, whatever," she said airily. "I'm just glad all I have to do is a bit of the laying-on of hands, and then we're out of here."

"For another journey through the cold."

"Oh, thanks for ruining it for me."

"I am simply being realistic; you should not become overly excited."

"But I don't want to be realistic. Aren't we done yet?"

"Not until you submit payment."

"So we're practically done."

"I think," Sesshoumaru said slowly, "that you are not entirely familiar with the meaning of the word 'practically.' Many things can go wrong between now and then."

Kagome bit her lip. "Like what?" she asked him.

He shrugged, and she heard silk on silk. He was dry again. "Were I able to predict such things, I would be capable of avoiding them," he told her.

"Oh," she said before turning back to the fire as Rei bustled in again.

"Here we are!" she sang. "Just put a bit of this salve on your hands and bandage your fingers loosely - and individually - and you should be completely healed by the time you wake up tomorrow." She plunked a small jar down in between them. "There are furs in the corner for sleeping, and I will see you in the morning!"

Without waiting for an answer, she swept out again.

Kagome blinked and gave up trying to keep the same pace as the rest of the world. She looked down at the little jar dubiously before lifting it and unscrewing the top, taking an experimental whiff. "Hmm," she said as a slightly sharp, minty smell hit her nose. "I wonder what's in this."

She heard a ripping sound and she looked up to see Sesshoumaru carefully shredding the cuff of his other sleeve. "It is probably best not to speculate about that," he told her. "It will only distress you."

"Um," she said. "I don't know about that. I have a really good imagination and there aren't any puppies in this, are there?"

He looked puzzled as he took her hands in his and plucked away the bandages that covered them. "Not that I can tell," he said after a moment. "And I doubt that puppies hold any medicinal value. Put it on."

Shrugging, she stuck a fingertip in the salve. It tingled where it met her skin, and she squirmed a little as she smeared it over the base of her fingers, covering the burns. Her skin cooled almost immediately, and her hands suddenly didn't feel as swollen. "Wow," she said. "This stuff feels great."

Sesshoumaru did not reply, merely lifted her right hand to the air as he bandaged it first before moving to the left. She looked at him in the firelight, noting how his color turned from cold to warm with the orange light gilding his hair gold, and turning his gold eyes a burnished copper. He was concentrating on her hands, and she watched as one long lock of hair slipped over his shoulder and into his lap. Kagome had to suppress the urge to tuck it back behind his ear, and resigned herself to watching him.

When he was finished he sat back. "Do not move," he commanded, rising. She gazed after him as he moved to the back corner of the chamber before returning with an armful of furs.

"I never thought I'd get sick of fur," she said ruefully as he let them fall at his feet. He said nothing, simply moved the few feet to the wall of the chamber and sat, leaning against it in his customary sleeping posture, as Kagome rearranged the pile of skins into something resembling a bed. She felt the loss of her sleeping bag keenly.

After she had moved everything to her satisfaction she lifted the top layer and slid under, closing her eyes, grateful to finally be warm before remembering something and opening them again.

"You never told me what I smelled like," she said in the quiet of the chamber. She looked at Sesshoumaru, who sat only a few feet away from her, further into the darkness. He didn't move.

"Did I not?" he asked quietly. She thought he sounded amused.

"You didn't. Though if I smell like wet fur when I purify, I'd rather not know."

"It is different than that," he said. "You do not smell like any scent that you can detect."

She frowned. "What do you mean?"

He shrugged. "Inuyasha smelled like purple on green," he told her after a second's contemplation. "That is the best way to describe it."

"I don't know what purple and green smell like."

"It is the most accurate description, though the combination of purple and green is not a pleasant one."

"Oh," she said. Against her cheek the soft fur tickled her lips as she burrowed a little deeper into her blankets. "Do I want to know what I smell like?" she asked him, suddenly nervous for reasons she did not entirely understand.

For a long moment he said nothing. Then he opened his mouth.

"Waterfalls," he told her. "You smell like sunlight on waterfalls."

He fell silent. For some irrational reason, Kagome thought she might cry.

He was still for another long moment before he stirred again. "You should get some rest," he said quietly. "We depart again tomorrow."

Kagome almost complied, but paused. "Thunderstorms," she said instead. She saw him lift his head, open his golden eyes, and stare at his feet.

Kagome licked her lips. "You smell like thunderstorms to me."

In the flickering orange light, she thought she saw him smile, before he closed his eyes again, letting his head droop a little, obscuring his face from her with his gilded hair. "Sleep, Kagome," he said, voice so quiet she thought it might be light enough to float.

She smiled. "Good night, Sesshoumaru," she replied softly before turning over and closing her eyes. She was asleep almost immediately.

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 20 of 42

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