Continuing Tales

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 27 of 42

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Tales from the House of the Moon

"I have no trouble with my enemies - I can take care of my enemies all right. But my damn friends... They're the ones that keep me walking the floors at night!"
- Warren G. Harding

. . .

Calmly, Kagome thought that if she were just a little more exhausted or a little more crazy - and at this point the two seemed interchangeable - she might just very well turn around and shoot him. She wasn't sure where she would shoot him, since after all she did not really want him dead - quite the opposite, in fact - but she thought perhaps the knee would be a good place, or maybe the foot for added, if slightly inaccurate, symbolism.

On the other hand she also thought she might have to thank him, as his presence had just improved every aspect of her life dramatically; he would probably not let his guards kill her, and if she fell asleep on her feet he would probably not leave her there in the dirt. Or at the very least he would put a blanket over her. Or order a servant to do so.

Of course, that wasn't going to be a problem. She had been two heartbeats away from collapsing in exhaustion only moments before - she had even been seeing double and sometimes triple, which made her guard predicament just that much harder to solve - but now she could feel a comfortable exasperation pounding through her temples. Honestly, didn't he ever think about what he was saying?

Kagome gratefully lowered her bow, removing the arrow and letting it fall to the ground. Then she stamped her foot in an appropriately childish manner before whirling around, blistering chastisement already on her lips.

"Dammit!" she exclaimed petulantly as she turned. "You said the exact same thing the last time we ran into each other!" Kagome let her tired eyes fall on his form.

For a moment, her weary brain could not put its metaphorical finger on what was different about him. His pretty, flawless face was the same, he had the same swords strapped to his hip, the same golden eyes, and the same stupid, stupid pretty hair, but there was still something slightly off. Hmm... what was it...?

"By the way," she remarked as nonchalantly as possible, "you appear to be half-naked."

And how! her brain said helpfully. Shiny, too.

Half-naked and slightly sweaty. And very well built.

Kagome whirled back around to face his guards - she thought she could hear some of them snicker at her mortification - her face flaming scarlet at both the situation and her intensely inappropriate thoughts, the latter brought on no doubt by fatigue. Obviously she wasn't thinking straight, and she stared at the ground while attempting to contemplate soothing things, like... bed... no, wait, sleep, not bed. Yes. Sleep.

She wavered a little on watery, tired legs.

Sesshoumaru stared at her back once again, torn between several different emotions. He was experiencing no small amount of male pride at her appreciative, though rather embarrassed, reaction, though he also felt a little wave of disappointment as she seemed less than enthusiastic about further stroking his ego. On the other hand, he was also feeling mildly upset at all the damage control he was going to have to do in order to minimize the disarray her presence was no doubt going to cause, and there was a small cocktail of other feelings as well - relief, amusement, gratitude - though they were too muddled to understand.

Unfortunately, overshadowing all of those alternately annoying and pleasing sensations was the surge of pained concern he felt as it forced its way from his throat to his chest. For one, he was concerned about her current state of health. When she had turned to confront him his eyes had been immediately drawn to her breast, where there was a line of dark, rusty brown spots staining her otherwise relatively clean haori. Dried blood. Had she been injured? There was no scent of fresh blood in the air, so if she did suffer some wound it was scabbed over by now, and regardless of the bloodstains she did not act pained, only tired. Still, there were too many other smells on her for him to catch an accurate whiff.

He decided that it was most likely not urgent, but he still found it worrying. However, it was definitely not something he should exhibit any concern over, at least not while in front of their small audience, though he made a note to make several pointed inquiries about it once they had obtained reasonable privacy.

Still, underneath all those other feelings, though, was a sense of foreboding, of bad tidings that he could not put his finger on. It made him shudder darkly in the privacy of his head.

It only took a moment before he knew exactly why the future cast shadows over him.

It was just over her shoulder. Sesshoumaru looked past her to the guards clustered in front of the gate, and he could see them studying her with a strange hunger, and, worse, looking at him with tiny traces of treacherous speculation. He could feel them thinking, remembering.

They were remembering the past; they were thinking of ways to avoid the past repeated.

It was so odd, this feeling, as though he had seamlessly transitioned from dream to nightmare...

Strangely, surreally, it dawned on Sesshoumaru that she was in danger here - there were only self-serving youkai in his house, and she was only human - and in the back of his mind, the memory of what had happened to the last human who had been connected to him stirred its dusty wings.

Sesshoumaru gritted his teeth and shoved the thought away.

No, it would not do to dwell on that, he decided quickly. He had to focus on this situation now. He looked back to the miko, who was radiating embarrassment.

He almost smiled again at that, despite his misgivings. As for her maidenly qualms concerning his state of undress, he hadn't meant to distress her - he'd merely neglected to shrug back into the kimono currently off his shoulders and tucked down and under his obi. Still. One would think she'd never seen a shirtless man before.

Her back was still to him, face that he couldn't see no doubt red as an apple. Sesshoumaru sighed internally. "I am aware of my current state of dress," he informed her. "There is no need to be bashful."

Kagome, unaware of his inner turmoil, had been waiting for him to say something; mentally she had been taking bets on what irritating banter he would throw into the ring, and she found that she hadn't even guessed he would tell her not to be discomfitted.

Weird, she thought. I can actually feel my blood pressure increasing.

"Ha!" she barked out, crossing her arms and sticking her nose in the air as high as possible to indicate the extent of her offended sensibilities. "It's indecent!"

She heard him snort. Strangely, the sound was so familiar and welcome that she almost smiled with relief, but the knowledge that he was laughing at her swiftly negated any pleasure she might have felt. "Indecent?" he repeated, a vague incredulity edging his voice.

"Yes!" Kagome snapped. "Put some clothes on!" She didn't dare look at the guards in front of her; the snickers rising from them were enough to tell her they found this little display quite entertaining, no doubt at her expense. Men, she thought peevishly.

Caught up in his conflicting emotions concerning the situation, Sesshoumaru couldn't decide whether to grin or frown. He settled for smirking insufferably. "Whyever should I?" he asked, not unreasonably, unable to resist baiting her. "This is no more indecent than that terrible green and white garment in which you used to mince about."

He heard her gasp in wounded outrage as she jerked her head to glare at him over her shoulder, and he noticed she kept her eyes resolutely trained on his face though her cheeks were still that lovely shade of pink. "That was my uniform!" she told him, as if that meant anything. "I couldn't help it." Then, almost as an afterthought, "And it was not indecent!"

He felt the smug little smirk on his face deepen ever so slightly. "I beg to differ," he told her haughtily. "The skirt alone was prone to displaying your feminine attributes at inappropriate times."

He watched as her eyes grew even wider, intensifying her impressive glare. She looked almost apoplectic. "If that were true, Inuyasha would have told me!" she said, with as much hauteur as she could muster.

"Why would he, when he had a vested interest in your ignorance of the fact?" he retorted.

As she struggled to contain her feminine outrage, Sesshoumaru noted - with no small amount of optimistic attention - the stirring of the guards behind her at the mention of the hanyou's name. After all, Inuyasha had died almost fifty years ago, and Kagome was most certainly nowhere close to fifty years old...

If only she weren't so inconveniently human. He returned his attention to her face, which had become, if it were possible, an even brighter shade of pink, though the expression creeping across her features was beginning to worry him.

"How would you know if my skirt showed off my 'feminine attributes' or not?" she demanded suddenly. "Were you checking me out when I wasn't looking?"

The courtyard fell silent.

Very quietly, Sesshoumaru observed that his clever provocation had backfired in record time. In his head, he did the mental equivalent of sitting down and meditating in order to repress any vague, homicidal feelings he might be experiencing at such an accusation, especially when leveled against him in company. Then, very calmly and methodically, he scrambled for something with which to salvage the situation. "It appears you are unaware of the frequency with which your garment failed to protect your modesty," he hazarded. "One did not have to be looking for it to see it."

She did not appear to be buying it. "Oh, please!" Kagome cried, "The only time you ever paid any attention to me was when you were trying to kill me. I hardly think you would have had time between fighting with Inuyasha and then attempting to check 'kill miko' off your list to notice anything that didn't involve bloodshed, so tell me - how would you know?"

With great effort Sesshoumaru refrained from twisting his mouth in intense annoyance at the corner she had backed him into. He hadn't been looking, of course, but it had been quite a short garment, and it displayed things whether the observer wanted to see them or not. He was feeling the tiniest bit of regret that she was not wearing it now so they could settle this dispute once and for all when he noticed her eyes straying southwards.

He suppressed a snicker.

Well, then... he thought, enjoying the sudden feeling of regaining the upper hand.

She was still staring.

Sesshoumaru flexed.

Kagome emitted the tiniest of squeaks and whirled away again. Really, she was so amusing to tease, and he had probably thoroughly silenced her.

Sesshoumaru cleared his throat.

"Do you honestly believe that my intentions had anything to do with your garments tendency to reveal more than you wished? Whether trying to kill you or not, your uniform did not seem to care." Not the best of rejoinders, but good enough. Pleased with his diversionary tactics, Sesshoumaru allowed himself to indulge in smug satisfaction over this new evidence of his genius.

For her part, Kagome was engaging in the time-honored tradition of kicking herself.

That was slick, she thought miserably. How old am I again?

To be fair, he was rather distracting, but it was almost cruel she should look like something the cat found beneath the porch while he was allowed to prance around looking like that. Didn't he ever have a bad hair day? Didn't he ever not look beautiful?

And why would she want to hang around a man who was prettier than she was, anyway? Kagome decided that she couldn't have been thinking clearly when they were separated, as all the soppy reasons she had for missing him were rapidly evaporating beneath the blowtorch of her humiliation and vexation. Not to mention they had been talking about clothes for the past few minutes, which was certainly not the reunion she had envisioned.

She wasn't quite certain what she had expected, but she had allowed herself to hope for a smile, at least. Her other visions of his greeting for her when they reunited were also rapidly dissipating; a kind word was seeming less and less likely, another embrace was apparently right out, to her intense disappointment, and... well, he really was very pretty, but she'd always known any of the other options that had briefly - not to mention guiltily - flashed across her no doubt lonely and overly-hormonal mind were only available to her in the universe two doors over. So no use thinking about those...

Kagome shook her head, trying to focus on the fact that, rather than engaging in any of those rather guilty girlish fantasies, they were instead discussing which of them dressed more like a tramp. The whole situation was just too surreal to be happening. She ground her teeth.

"I cannot believe that you are presuming to give me pointers on my wardrobe when, between the two of us, I'm the only one fully dressed," Kagome told him.

She could almost see him shrugging nonchalantly. "Sparring is hot work," replied. "I would be very interested to see you attempt such an activity without becoming desirous of shedding at least one article of clothing."

Kagome was silent, and Sesshoumaru was almost so preoccupied with the business of wondering what weapon she would choose - the wakazashi at her hip intrigued him - and not at all about what she would take off first that he nearly missed the slumping of her shoulders.

A little, rarely utilized alarm bell went off in his brain, warning him that he was dangerously close to pushing her too far, but instead of yelling she might very well keel over in the dirt.

Again he felt that strange surge of distress, sharper than before. This reaction was beginning to worry him, just a bit, but he quickly decided he could think about it later. After she had been taken care of.

"You still have not told me why you are here," he said, and he was surprised - not to mention embarrassed and vaguely horrified - at the gentler tone of his own voice. She truly was a piteous sight to behold, though - shoulders sloping down, back bent, bow trailing from limp fingers.

She strained to concentrate as Sesshoumaru's voice drifted across her mind. "Um..." Kagome said.

It was so difficult to think. Her vision was going blurry again.

Sesshoumaru saw the slight wavering of her legs. Scowling - she should not have pushed herself so hard - he slipped back into his haori so that he was once again decently concealed from her virginal eyes. He ignored the faintly scandalized looks on the faces of his underlings at his acquiescence to her wishes; he was the lord of the house, and he could do what he liked, regardless of what guards thought.

He almost believed that, too.

Sesshoumaru was not accustomed to raising his voice when he was not angry, but the situation seemed to require it. With a deep, inward sigh, he glared at his audience.

"This miko," he began, and the sudden, wary attention of his guards was his reward, "is not to be touched." Then he paused, thinking before adding, "And she is a valuable ally, and a strong warrior. She is not to be trifled with." It was a lie, but at this point who was counting? He turned and pinned his nervous secretary with a glare. "Fetch a female on the staff and send her to my office, and have one of the guest rooms prepared."

Wavering where she stood, Kagome noted that things seemed to be progressing at a slightly faster pace than expected. She was having difficulty processing all this, but she also wasn't about to argue over her status as 'ally' - no doubt he had a good reason for saying it. In any case, Kagome wasn't sure she had the energy to contradict him, though she thought she should raise at least a token objection. She didn't want to impose, after all.

Her feet felt like lead, which was good because she was dizzy, and lead feet kept her rooted to the ground as she turned where she stood. "No, that's okay, you don't have to - " she began.

"Silence," he ordered. Kagome barely had the energy to lift her eyes to his to register her protest at his tone, but the look on his face suggested to her that questioning him at this point was not the wisest of decisions. She bit back her words and watched as, behind the demon lord, a little youkai was already scurrying off into the house, presumably to carry out his orders. Sesshoumaru also appeared to be fully clothed again. Kagome felt ever so slightly sorry about that. After all the things she'd been through to get here, it really was nice to see him...

She watched as he pointed at the guards behind her and barked an order at them, sending them back to their posts before he looked her in the eye and gestured for her to follow him.


He wasn't going to kick her out, even though she hadn't answered his question, and relief nearly bowled her over. Kagome guessed that he could tell she was seconds away from snorting sod in the middle of his courtyard, and she figured that a half-dead miko, face down in the well-groomed grass like a drunken garden gnome, would most likely offend his aesthetic sensibilities. It was probably in everybody's best interest that she stay, at least for a little while.

With heavy, stinging feet, she half-trudged, half-stumbled after him, surprised that he waited for her to ascend the steps before he turned and strode - slower than she remembered - into the house.

Kagome didn't have the mental acuity to appreciate his home as they passed through it, but she did note that it was beautiful and sparse. Simple, but rich. It smelled fresh and clean as well, which came as no surprise; she suspected that dog demons might want their living spaces to smell as pleasant as possible. Fervently, she hoped she wasn't stinking things up too much.

The most fascinating sight of all was the floor. There was nothing special about it, but Kagome found herself mesmerized by the patterns in the well polished lumber as it trailed beneath Sesshoumaru's steps. Out and out it rippled in his wake, behind him, spreading through the wood...

This floor was really nice...

Her nose smacked into his arm, and, for the briefest of moments, she wished he was not quite so well-toned. That hurt.

Occupied with the slight bruising pain spreading across her face, Kagome didn't even notice herself stumbling into what would no doubt have been a nasty spill when she felt a grip of iron clamp down on her shoulders, keeping her upright. Wearily she lifted her head to see him glaring at her, eyes narrowed and mouth twisted very slightly.

"Sorry," she muttered.

Sesshoumaru didn't answer, merely released her after reassuring himself as to her vertical status, and turned to the door next to them, which looked like every other door they had passed in the house. Silently he slid it open and walked inside, and she forced herself to trip in after him.

Sesshoumaru stopped a few feet inside the entrance of his study when he found both his secretary and a nondescript servant he was almost certain he had never seen before bowing low in his direction. He felt Kagome come to a stumbling halt behind him, and briefly he felt guilty for prolonging her exhaustion. If he could, he would have picked her up and thrown her in a guest room with orders to sleep for a week, but that would be unwise. Escorting her to a room himself might give the wrong impression to others, and the situation was already difficult enough.

The servant in front of him shifted her slightly quaking form, bringing Sesshoumaru back to himself. He realized he had been staring down at her as he had been contemplating, and she was getting more and more anxious. He watched as she twitched her terror-fluffed tails. "You requested my presence, my lord?" she quavered, voice slightly muffled by her ingratiating position.

Sesshoumaru scowled, his good humor at Kagome's presence all but evaporated. "The miko is to be installed in one of the guest rooms; see to it that her garments are cleaned and returned to her before she awakens tomorrow," he ordered. "And make sure she gets a bath as well," he added, almost as an afterthought. Behind him, Kagome made an indeterminate sound.

The woman didn't move. He saw her clawed hands tremble against the wood of the floor.


Giving a squeak as she popped up, she bowed to Kagome before scurrying to the door and sliding it open. "This way, miko-san," she said shrilly. Sesshoumaru saw Kagome waver uncertainly before casting a small glance at him. He kept his face carefully bored.

Finding neither reassurance nor disproval in his features, Kagome bit her lip and walked out the door. The servant closed it behind her, and he could hear them both making their way down the halls and to the guest wing. With each fading step, he could feel the muscles across his back tense and curl further over themselves with stress.

Foul mood escalating, Sesshoumaru turned to his secretary. "Gather Keiichi's things and put them by the gate," he commanded, then pursed his lips and frowned ferociously. "And dismiss him. Immediately. He is not to enter the house."

There really was nothing to be done about her scent, but if he was lucky his guest's sense of smell would not be sufficiently acute to detect her in the courtyard, and if the bear did not come inside he was less likely to uncover the human woman. He had to get rid of him as soon as possible.

Suddenly preoccupied, Sesshoumaru didn't even find any pleasure in his secretary's deferential shivering. Instead, he sat down behind his desk and turned away, staring at the floor that Kagome seemed to find so fascinating, and took a deep, calming breath as he tried to order his thoughts. He listened as his secretary scuttled out to carry out his orders.

The whole situation was happily pooling behind his eyes as a headache. Reluctantly, Sesshoumaru closed his eyes went over the facts of the matter again.

Point one: Kagome was back in this era. That was good.

Point two: she looked two-thirds dead. That was bad.

Point three: she hadn't seemed to hesitate to seek him out. That was good.

Point four: she did seek him out.

That was bad. Sesshoumaru silently cursed whichever god thought it would be unbelievably hysterical to decree that he should be connected to a human being in this manner.


Well, all right, that wasn't the entire situation, as his connection to Kagome was completely different from his connection to his Rin. Rin had been a spot of light, flashing in and out, brightening his days, someone to be protected, someone to shield and care for as he saw fit. Kagome was... was...

She was a human priestess who had showed up at his doorstep, that's what she was. His doorstep. If word got out that Sesshoumaru, brought low once by a human girl, was again idling among mortal things he'd have no end of trouble keeping his lands peaceful. How vexing.

Scowling, he tried to decide what to do with her, or how to, at the very least, explain her presence to anyone who might feel nosy enough to inquire. For once he was glad that she had associated with the half-breed, as the unprompted mention of Inuyasha's name definitely cast her humanity into doubt. It was even better that she had said his name in front of a whole gaggle of guards, as guards tended to be rather gossipy. Sesshoumaru had no doubt that they would spend quite a bit of time furrowing their sloping brows and scratching their thick heads over the apparent discrepancy between her age and her species, and would most likely include this little bit of information in any story they wished to tell. A stroke of luck, that. Good thing he didn't go with his first impulse and kill them.

And how to explain her to anyone that might confront him? He probably could not simply dispatch all overly curious inquirers to the afterlife - some, maybe, but then it would look as though he had something to hide - and the whole truth was right out. He opened his eyes again and frowned with consternation at the floor, wishing, irrationally, that it had personally offended him so that he could destroy it in good conscience. It would relieve some of his stress, anyway.

Well, at least Keiichi would be gone soon; in a way, Sesshoumaru was glad for this opportunity to rid himself of his guest. The bear had been entertaining for maybe half an hour, but beyond that he had worn out his usefulness, and it would be nice to have his household back to himself. With luck, the man would never know of Kagome's presence.

Except there was something on the edge of his hearing, jumping up and down and demanding that he pay attention. Sesshoumaru cocked his head, and, to his horror, heard heavy footsteps striding along the floor, accompanied by the scurrying patter of less confident legs. Even could he not hear the squabbling voices, he would have known by their very steps that Keiichi and his secretary were making a beeline for him.

Sesshoumaru permitted himself a groan just as the door flung open and the bear limped inside, severely hampered by the secretary attached to his leg like a particularly tenacious and sycophantic barnacle.

"Off!" Keiichi cried just as he made it over the threshold, and with a mighty kick, he dislodged the smaller demon from his leg, sending the secretary to tumble, over and over, down the hallway, no doubt crashing into delicate screens as he went.

As if I didn't have enough damage to undo, Sesshoumaru growled to himself inside his head. He stared at his guest, who was becoming rapidly more unwelcome by the second, and strove to remain calm.

The bear looked up at his host. "You're letting me go?" he said, almost incredulously.

"I am. I no longer require your skills," Sesshoumaru dismissed him, keeping his voice absent and bland. "Your things are being placed by the front gate. I suggest you depart as soon as possible."

If the situation were less dire, Sesshoumaru would have been lightly amused by the look of relief that shone briefly on his features as Keiichi bowed low. "Thank you, Sesshoumaru-sama," the bear said, sounding almost grateful.

Sesshoumaru merely nodded, pretending to be gracious, before he turned and began to sift through the papers and scrolls in front of him in a display that would no doubt get his secretary's hopes up only to crush them again. Finding that he liked this prospect, the youkai lord turned his full attention on the task of appearing industrious.

He was almost having fun until he heard a distinct sniffing sound over the shuffling of paper, and Sesshoumaru felt a shot of foreboding plunge straight through his core.

"Do I..." the young youkai began, then stopped.

Exasperation and unease crowded at the front of his brain as Sesshoumaru paused and turned to his guest.

The bear was sniffing the air.

"Do I smell... human?" his guest finished, and the look in his eyes was bright and opportunistic, as though the young man had just turned a corner on a road to find a startling, promising vista before him.

So much for delaying the inevitable.

Cursing to himself, Sesshoumaru mentally scrambled for something to throw the young upstart off the trail. "Not... exactly," he said, desperately trying to think of what she could be instead, but still smell like a human being.

Unfortunately, her scent was bright and very mortal, and could be nothing else. Damn.

The bear was looking at him with narrowed eyes, and Sesshoumaru could practically see the traitorous gears turning in the boy's head.

"Then what is that stench, if not the stench of a human?" Keiichi said faintly, menacingly, and in his voice Sesshoumaru could hear the soft future turning hard as crystal.

Sesshoumaru arched an eyebrow, his face cool and bored. Perhaps, he thought with something almost akin to despair, the truth would suffice, with the correct omissions, of course.

"She is... an old ally of the family," he answered as flippantly as possible. "She was once the keeper of the Shikon no Tama."

There. The jewel had been gone for almost half a century now, and Sesshoumaru was well acquainted with the fact that Kagome smelled young and vital, rather than old and doddering as she would have been were she to be a 'normal' human. No one needed to know of her time-traveling except himself and Myouga.

"I heard the keeper died," the bear said, clearly not buying this story. Sesshoumaru did not blame him. "That she wedded your half-brother."

Sesshoumaru shrugged laconically, belatedly realizing that he still held papers in his hands, almost forgotten. He turned back to them, away from the young bear who was looking more and more like an enemy with each passing moment. "No," he corrected his guest, studying a scroll with feigned interest, "that was her predecessor. This one was the last of the line."

"I don't believe you. She would be an old woman by now."

The abrupt declaration would have cost the man an appendage at any other time, but Sesshoumaru was all too aware that how he handled this situation would dictate the aftermath. It was disheartening. He was a dog; he was no good at intrigue or diplomacy.

Aware that he was not heading his guest off at the pass as well as he had hoped, Sesshoumaru let his brows draw down into a thunderous scowl. He turned very slightly, very slowly in place to better glare up at Keiichi. "As I said, she is not exactly human; she merely holds the scent of one. You may ask the guards as you leave as to her identity if you are not satisfied."

The bear narrowed his eyes, but Sesshoumaru turned and waved a hand, dismissing the young man a second time. He was suddenly far more uneasy than he had been only half an hour previous; he knew he would not relax until he felt the bear leave his household, and even then he would be slightly on edge. It was only a matter of time before word spread.

Sesshoumaru listened with trepidation as the bear bowed one last time before exiting his study, though his steps were more deliberate and thoughtful this time as he walked away.

Maybe, the youkai lord thought, aware that he was reaching, it's better that he knows. It's good to know when enemies discover your secret. And now he could just assume everyone knew instead of speculating about it.


He made a mental note to punish his secretary severely, possibly with things that involved the words 'white-hot' and 'pointy' and 'rather unpleasant'.

There was no doubt about it: she was definitely going to cause complications, even with his little stretching of the truth. On the other hand, as the protector of the Shikon no Tama, she was the miko who had been at the last battle against the hanyou Naraku, and by rights she carried an impressive and fearsome reputation. Indeed, that might even be sufficient to mitigate the problem, at least partially, as a powerful miko allied with a powerful youkai would be a formidable opponent to take on voluntarily. The threat of purification on top of a bloody, violent end should be enough to wilt even the stiffest resolve.

Sesshoumaru sighed inwardly as he let the papers fall from his hands and sat back, wondering why he was bothering with this line of thought at all when he was not weak, and complications were merely a nuisance.

He scowled. He was not weak, he repeated to himself. Kagome was not Rin; she really could conceivably be called an ally, and she did not even belong in this time and therefore was not in as great a danger, as when she completed whatever job she had undertaken this time she would pack up and leave him. So there was no weakness there.

Except that even the appearance of weakness could cause trouble, though such trouble was usually short-lived and swiftly ended when one underestimated one's opponent.

The practical upshot of the situation was this: she smelled human, and there were at least ten witnesses who had heard her mention Inuyasha as a companion, and those two attributes did not make any sense. Hopefully the rumors and the conflicting reports concerning her, her nature, and her relationship with him would be enough to keep her out of the line of fire until she went home again.

Still. It might not be enough.

He could feel history turning over.

Damn. Damn, damn, damn!

He was going to have to make a choice, and he didn't like the options presented to him one bit.

There was the soft sound of footsteps reentering his study, and he looked up to see his secretary enter in a posture so deferential it was a wonder the man was not crawling through the dirt beneath the floorboards.

The little demon bowed in front of him and trembled. The youkai lord lifted a hand to his temples and began to massage them.

Sesshoumaru was so preoccupied with his burgeoning headache that he almost missed the smallest of dubious expressions skittering across the man's terrified face, like a lizard scuttling across a sunlit rock, from shadow to shadow, but he managed to catch the tail end of it despite the man's attempts to hide it.

In his chest, he felt a slow, chilled burn.

"You have something you wish to say, perhaps," he inquired, dropping his hand and letting the cold sound of his voice creep across the floor.

His secretary shivered at the sound. "My lord..." He fell silent.

Sesshoumaru waited, patience waning rapidly.

Hotomichi was feeling frazzled, having run up and down the length of the house twice in less than a quarter of an hour, and his brain was going even faster. He stared at his shaking fingers and tried to find the words to say. "My lord," he tried again, "the miko - she is... I mean, my lord, I would never question - how - she may be - ah - " He heard the rustle of silk and the soft noiselessness of his lord's footsteps.

A pair of black shoes appeared in his line of sight, right before his life began to flash before his eyes.

Hotomichi was just reliving that embarrassing incident when he was seven involving the garden shed and an older male cousin when Sesshoumaru spoke. "You wish to advise against acquainting my house with another human, do you not?" he asked smoothly.

Snapping out of his near-death experience and too shocked that he was not yet dead, the secretary felt his vocal cords seize up. He hovered between silence and inarticulate squeaks of terror.

Sesshoumaru looked down at the shivering man, and, strangely, missed Jaken. However...

"Your concern is not misplaced," he said, turning away, suddenly almost as weary as Kagome had been, "but she is a powerful ally, her association with my half-breed brother notwithstanding."

To Hotomichi's horror, the secretary felt his lips move. "Um - " he said, voice shrill. "How exactly is that association... possible, milord?"

Sesshoumaru stared at the papers on his desk, not really seeing them. "As I said, she is powerful," he half-lied, "and is not to be underestimated."

It was true - she was powerful, but also horribly inexperienced and very, very fragile. Very, very human. It really was a miracle she wasn't dead yet, he thought dazedly. In the end though, it didn't matter; like all human things, no doubt she would pass out of their lives soon enough.

Sesshoumaru briefly gave in to his strange weariness and let his eyes fall closed before snapping them open again. "Anything further you do not need to know," he said abruptly, recklessly. "Our alliance is a beneficial one. I know you will let the rest of the household learn of her status quickly." Then, suddenly sick of everything, he left without a word, walking back into the hallways and toward the guest wing on the western side of the house.

He found the room she was in easily - her scent shone brightly through the shoji screen - but he did not enter. He could tell she was fast asleep.

Sesshoumaru stood outside her door, listening to her slow, steady breathing, and found himself severely discomfited by his reactions to the situation. He'd missed her - that much he would freely admit to himself - but he thought he had missed her mostly for the entertainment value. Unfortunately it was becoming apparent that he seemed to have harbored other reasons for his melancholia over her absence, though he was a little vague on what those other reasons might, theoretically, be. However, now that she was here, and he was faced with the problems she brought...

Shaking his head, Sesshoumaru frowned. She was supposed to be amusing, not upsetting, and his discomfort at her clear distress - far more acute this time around than any time before - was extremely odd.

Probably best not to think of it.

Sesshoumaru scowled.

Complications, he thought sourly.

He turned away from her door. Restlessly, aimlessly, he stalked down the polished floors of the hallways to the refuge of the gardens, seeking peace before the storm.

. . .

For the first time in her life, Kagome woke up nearly naked in a strange bed, and, to make matters worse, she had no idea how she had managed to arrive there.

She frowned in confusion at the shadows on the ceiling, as if they were responsible for her predicament.

Worst first time, ever, she thought, brain foggy. Not even memorable. What am I supposed to tell my children now?

Well, maybe someone took pictures.

On second thought, that was probably not the best thing to hope for. Sluggishly, Kagome rubbed her crusty eyes with the back of her hand and tried to discern the sequence of events that might have led her to this point.

She had heard of this sort of thing happening to other people, but it was almost always preceded by copious quantities of alcohol. Frowning, Kagome probed her brain, trying to remember if she had been invited to any parties recently, but she could find no memory of such a thing, and as she searched her memory it slowly dawned on her that she did not have a team of elephants tap-dancing on her skull and her eyes did not feel like marbles made of brimstone. She had never really had one before, but she'd heard of them - at great length over many pots of coffee and a bottle of aspirin - from her friends, so it was the absence of a hangover that convinced her she had happened into this situation independent of any mind altering substances.

So where was she? The last thing she remembered, she was aiming a bow at a lizard... no wait, she had arrived at the House of the Moon, hadn't she? And Sesshoumaru had insulted her for five minutes before noticing that she was only seconds from collapse, and then he had apparently taken pity on her and put her in this room. And he had been, quite prettily, half-naked.

Oh, god.

Kagome felt the conquering hordes of embarrassment thunder across her face coupled with a slight, spreading warmth low in her belly that was probably best to ignore.

Stupid maidenly sensibilities, she thought grouchily. I should have rid myself of you at the first opportunity. The fact that she really could not remember when the first or last opportunity had been, or with who - except perhaps, and this was a depressing thought, for Kouga - just cast a gloomy grey cloud over her already less-than-chipper mood.

On the other hand, though her muscles were throbbing and she was having trouble feeling her feet, she was in Sesshoumaru's house.

That meant she was safe.

At the realization, intense relief crested and crashed into her. Holy shit, she thought, stunned. I actually made it!

Of course, there was still the whole 'train as warrior miko and defeat the bad guys' thing to handle, but Kagome decided to ignore that for the time being in favor of a small mental celebration over at least one hurdle cleared.

I'm number one! I'm number one! her brain chanted, obviously drunk with victory, causing her to briefly reconsider her state of coherence. Perhaps she hadn't had enough sleep, after all.

Studying the shadows cast upon the ceiling and against the wall, Kagome decided that it didn't matter. She was awake now, and through the window she could see the sun sinking low in its lazy, late-afternoon languor, casting flat yellow light into her temporary room.

Kagome stretched and sat up, forgetting that she happened to be naked, save for a pair of panties.

"Urk!" she squeaked, pulling the sheet against her in maidenly instinct, even though there was no one around to see.

Still. It felt weird being so exposed in an unfamiliar place. Nervously, Kagome cast about for her clothes, only to find them neatly folded at the foot of her bed. Still clutching the sheet against her, she scooted towards the neat little pile.

Someone had washed them, because even without picking them up she caught a whiff of the fresh, clean scent. Curiously, Kagome wondered who had been so solicitous as to do such a thing - she hastily banished the brief, slightly hysterical vision of Sesshoumaru, hair tucked beneath a handkerchief, sleeves tied back, and up to his elbows in laundry, that flashed across her mind - before she remembered that he was apparently fabulously well-to-do, and therefore had servants. She reached for her haori.

The sudden swell of youki was her only warning; she barely had time to sit back with the sheet clutched around her before the door slammed open, and a sour-faced female youkai glared inside, angrily swishing her two fluffy tails behind her. For a moment, Kagome thought she looked familiar before she placed her as the servant who had put her in this room to begin with.

Kagome stared at her, bewildered.

Her visitor did not seem to be in the mood for chit-chat. "The master ordered you to have a bath," the youkai said sullenly before tossing something white at Kagome, who barely had the presence of mind to put a hand out and catch it awkwardly. It was cloth, and she felt it brush over her bare arm before she was able to shake it out to find herself staring at a thin yukata.

"Um," she ventured, just as the youkai slammed the door shut.

Even more uneasy than before, Kagome shrugged into the garment and tied it securely around her, the brush of cotton over her bare skin still making her feel exposed. After a moment of brief deliberation she grabbed her clothes before rising and, almost as an afterthought, she picked up the wakazashi from where it rested against her backpack. With rather more caution than necessary, she began inching uncertainly toward the door, behind which she could still feel the youkai waiting for her.

As soon as she touched the door it flew back, and the youkai was already walking away with long strides. Kagome felt a curl of panic in her stomach, realizing that Sesshoumaru was nowhere to be seen; she was alone in this house, surrounded by youkai.

On raw, sore feet, she limped after her escort.

By the time they stopped Kagome was sure her feet were leaking pus again, and she was counting her steps in an attempt to take her mind off the pain. She'd reached thirty-six before the youkai halted abruptly and threw another door open, revealing a small, dimly lit room.

In the center sat a basin. Next to it sat a rag, a piece of cloth, and a lump of soap.

The youkai was glaring at her, clearly impatient for Kagome to get inside, so, hesitantly, she stepped forward, beginning to feel ever so slightly put-out. It was like Sesshoumaru rubbed off on everyone around them, as if he had some kind of jerk virus, though at the sound of the door once again sliding to a sharp stop in its frame she reconsidered her uncharitable thoughts. She couldn't really remember a time when Sesshoumaru had been so rude - except for those couple of times he tried to kill her - and he had been almost amiable by the end of their journey the last time she had been here.

Stepping out of the yukata and shuffling off her panties, Kagome let her brow crease slightly in a frown; when had she last been here? She wasn't even certain how much time had passed between then and now, though it couldn't have been that long - they were still right up against the end of the Sengoku-Jidai, nearly in the Edo period, the way it had been last time.

Kagome determined to ask Sesshoumaru just as she slipped into the bath only to find it merely tepid.

"Eep!" she squeaked at the sudden chill against her skin, mind forcibly brought back to more important things, like bathing and getting out as quickly as possible.

Maybe she was offending sensitive youkai noses, and that was why the air in the house was so heavy and ominous. Quickly, Kagome scrubbed herself down vigorously, trying to remove all the dirt and grime from her journey while at the same time attempting stay as warm as possible. Eventually she gave up trying to maintain a minimum body temperature and let her teeth chatter intermittently as she miserably soaped and rinsed her hair before climbing out and drying herself as best she could.

Running unhappy fingers through her tangled locks, Kagome wondered how the hell Sesshoumaru kept his stupid hair in such good shape with such poor soap.

It probably had something to do with being a youkai, though what that might be she couldn't guess. Intellectually, she knew Sesshoumaru's true form was completely different from the one he usually wore. Therefore he obviously had some control over what he looked like, but how much he actually commanded was impossible to know.

Nevertheless, maybe it had something to do with that. Good hair care through telekinesis.

Kagome sighed as she tied herself into her clothes, her still-wet hair soaking through the fabric of her haori and dampening her shoulders. At least the bath was something, though she had a sneaking suspicion that Sesshoumaru had not specified lukewarm water; that was probably all the doing of his servants, who, what little she had seen of them, had not reacted favorably to her.

Well, she didn't blame the guards. She'd almost been killed by them when she had arrived, and she would have been cold by now if she had not staggered at the precise moment to remove her from the path of the arrow they had shot. It turned out that being shot at was a terrific way to wake up, and it had galvanized her into a tired jog, her bow and arrow seeming to ready themselves on their own, her fear igniting them with incandescent purity.

That had certainly grabbed their attention; they'd scattered like bits of pointy, demonic dust before her advance. That had probably not made the best of impressions.

It didn't explain the dirty looks from the youkai appointed to tend her, but maybe it was some kind of youkai brotherhood thing of which she had previously been unaware; injure one, injure them all, and all that jazz.

Bending, Kagome gingerly worked her sore feet into her tabi - thankfully also cleaned - and sighed with resignation at the simultaneously stinging and soothing feel of cloth against her raw skin. They didn't hurt as much as they had when she had gone to sleep, but she still hissed at the pressure she was forced to put on them in order to walk.

Holding her head up high and trying not to think deep thoughts in case that made her weigh more, Kagome walked as lightly as possible to the door, slid it open, and stepped into the polished hallway.

There were youkai around, but she couldn't see them, which made her extremely uneasy, and worriedly she peered left, then right, unsure of what to do. She felt as though she were being watched.

Nothing happened. After a moment of wavering, Kagome began to get irritated at her unseen spectator. She was clearly clueless, but he or she - or they - did not seem terribly inclined to point her in the right direction.

How rude.

Mouth twisting with annoyance, Kagome frowned and turned to her left, the direction she had come from when she had left her room.

Within no time she was lost. Mentally she cursed Sesshoumaru's decorator for making every room and every hallway look exactly the same, and she was certain she had seen the tops of heads darting back behind corners when she turned around too quickly. Rapidly becoming fed up, Kagome stopped in the middle of a remarkably nondescript hallway, took a deep breath, and closed her eyes.

She couldn't find her room, but there was only one daiyoukai in the house, and if she could find him, she would probably be all right.

Trying to shut out distractions, she concentrated on the feeling of youki; she'd never been good at detecting it, but Sesshoumaru was powerful and distinctive, unlike the youkai she was positive were following her. Within a minute she was fairly certain of his location, and, still focused on him, she set off down the hallway again.

After only a minute or two, Kagome found herself in a completely unexpected garden.

It was quite lovely as gardens went, but still a complete surprise. Somehow, she hadn't really thought Sesshoumaru to be one to moon about in flower beds, but, she supposed, everyone had their little quirks.

She cast her glance about the garden, looking for his form, and her eyes actually slid over him a few times before she finally realized she was seeing his knee poking out from behind a wide trunk, beneath a tree full of fuzzy pink and purple blossoms. He appeared to be watching the sun, now setting. Kagome wondered if he knew she was there, and hesitated a moment before walking across the well tended grasses to his chosen seat.

She swung wide around the tree so she wouldn't startle him if he had not detected her presence, and when he finally came into view, she stopped, uncertain as to how she should proceed.

He looked a little naked, and she puzzled over the impression before she realized he still wasn't wearing any armor, and she found it a little funny that he should appear less naked when he was stripped to the waist than when he was fully clothed.

Kagome narrowed her eyes as she studied him. Before, she thought he might have been sleeping for all the attention he cast her way, but he was awake. He simply did not seem inclined to acknowledge her, and Kagome stood there, feeling increasingly disjointed and out of place; it seemed, almost fancifully, that he was the only thing she had keeping her in touch with the world around her, and she did not want to think about what would happen if he were to reject her. Biting her lip, Kagome looked down at where her fingers were fiddling with her sleeves, and frowned.

"Whose blood was that?"

The sound of his voice caused her to start almost violently, tearing her eyes away from her hands to find him staring at her. "What?" she asked, confused. Timidly she took a few steps toward him.

The youkai lord raised a brow and looked at her sternly before she saw his eyes wander to her breasts.

Kagome squirmed.

"Whose blood stained your haori?" he asked again, and, looking down, Kagome remembered the dark brown blotches that had marred the normally white fabric.

"Er, no one's," she answered, suddenly embarrassed. Sesshoumaru made an impatient noise in the back of his throat, and she looked up to find him glaring at her. His eyes could have sliced golden wounds across her skin.

"I will not ask you again," he said.

Kagome frowned, wondering why he had to be so irritating. "It was just some soldier's blood," she snapped. "So no one's, like I said."

"And what was a soldier doing bleeding all over you?" he asked.

Kagome thought he sounded like her father might have, demanding to know why she had broken curfew, or talked back to her mother, or streaked at her graduation. "Hey," she said sharply, "what are you insinuating? For your information, he was bleeding because I broke his nose."

To her satisfaction, that appeared to draw him up short. A tiny crease appeared between his eyebrows. "How?" Sesshoumaru wondered aloud.

Kagome felt another swell of sluggish annoyance. "With this," she said, and drew the wakazashi, scabbard and all, from its place at her hip as she stalked over to where he sat beneath the tree. Stiffly, she thrust it out in front of her in a graceless offering. Sliding his hands from his sleeves, he took it from her and inspected it with a sharp glance.

Studying the scabbard, Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes, inhaling deeply. Beneath his fingers, the intricate wood felt smooth and polished, and there was, indeed, a tiny drop of dried blood on it, caught in one of the grooves.

Truly, she was full of surprises, and not all of them pleasant. It did not take a wealth of imagination for one to know why she would be forced to break a man's nose, and Sesshoumaru was beginning to feel that strange and impotent restlessness that only afflicted him when he was finding out important bits of intelligence only after the point when they could have been useful. Distantly, he felt himself clench his jaw in a curious, low-burning rage when it dawned on him that he was entering dangerously emotional territory.

Sesshoumaru forcibly calmed himself before handing the sword back to her. He watched as she took it from his hands and slid it into place, the motion slightly awkward.

When it was secured to her satisfaction, she turned back to him, looking down, strange thoughts that he could not identify flitting across her face. "I think your servants are spying on me," she said bluntly.

His brows drew down dangerously, but he did not respond to her declaration.

"Sit," he told her instead, a small nod indicating that her place was next to him at the foot of the tree.

She looked down at him, confused, but after a moment's hesitation she closed the distance between them. When she was next to him beneath the tree, Kagome nervously lowered herself to the ground, tucking her feet beneath her to mimic his posture. After a moment she shifted, trying to find a comfortable position for her blistered soles, finally settling for less-than-perfect form and looking up at him, waiting for his reaction to her announcement.

There was a short silence, but in the end she was not disappointed. She saw Sesshoumaru narrow his eyes as he stared at the sun, sinking lower in the sky. "They are trying to figure out what you are," he said.

Confusion. "Um," Kagome said. "Okay? Please clarify."

She thought she saw the barest of twitches at the corner of his mouth, but it might have been a trick of the light. "You smell human, but you mentioned my half-breed brother," he said.

"Hey," she protested feebly at the use of the word half-breed, but he cut her off.

"It is well known that he died over half a century ago, but you are not old enough to have known him."

Then he pitched his voice so low she almost didn't hear it. "I advise that you not indicate in any way why that is so," he murmured.

Kagome frowned worriedly and nodded. "All right," she said. "But... why?"

Sesshoumaru slid his eyes to her.

She looked so breakable to him, her damp hair shining black and bronze, the bones beneath her pale golden skin as fragile as glass in the right hands. If her humanity were established without a doubt it would take nothing to injure her; his faithless allies and his out-right enemies would want to do so without a thought, in an attempt to weaken him, and his true allies, his friends, his servants... they would kill her in order to keep him strong. They would think it would be the loyal thing to do.

She had no refuge.

To his surprise, Sesshoumaru had to fight the sudden, vaguely hungry urge to push her back against the tree and curve himself around her, to shield her with his body, had to fight the urge to sink his teeth into her and not let go. It would be so easy to fail...

"Sesshoumaru?" The sudden movement of her lips startled him, and he realized he had been staring. He frowned, trying to shake off his doubts, and looked away.

"They are worried about our association," he said, eyes finding the gilded clouds. "Already one of my vassals is aware of your presence, and your humanity will seem to those under my reign as history repeating itself. They will wish to... exploit that."

For a moment, Kagome did not understand what he was saying, but when it hit her, she felt a sinuous cold snake along her spine. History repeating...

Her heart seized in her chest. "Oh, god," she blurted, looking away from him to stare at nothing. "I am so sorry. I didn't think - I'd forgotten - " she swallowed, angry with herself. "I didn't mean to cause you trouble. I should leave."

Surprised, Sesshoumaru shot her a sharp glance. "That is not permitted," he informed her.

She looked up at him. "Who are you to tell me what to do?" she demanded hotly, and he realized that she was not thinking of herself at all. If only she would, once in a while, she probably would not end up half-dead and vulnerable so often.

A thunderous scowl crossed his face at the memory of her hunched figure. "For one," he said, "you are still exhausted. You slept for a full day - " obviously ignorant of this fact, he heard her gasp " - and you are injured from your journey. And for another, the threat of purification will only hold so much sway against those who seek to overthrow me." He turned away so he would not have to see her face. "To leave without protection is to go looking for your own death," he finished quietly.

To his shock, she did not seem to care about this. "That's my fault, then, isn't it?" she snapped, and he angled a perplexed gaze in her direction. "I should have thought of that, so it's my problem now. God, I just don't think sometimes."

Sesshoumaru blinked. "That is certainly true," he agreed, bewildered. It seemed impossible that she was more upset about inconveniencing him than about her suddenly far more perilous life, but that appeared to be the case.

Kagome was too busy kicking herself for being so foolish to care about Sesshoumaru's befuddlement; she couldn't believe she had done this to him, and all because she was too scared to take care of her own problems. Stupid, stupid, she thought.

Of all the people in the world, she should have been the first one to realize the implications of her humanity on his life, and now, without even realizing it, she'd brought bad fortune on him again.

She had never, ever wanted to do that. Feeling miserably foolish, Kagome stared at her hands and tried to think of some way to mitigate the damage.

Sesshoumaru watched with trepidation as she stared at the ground, frowning with frustration at herself, until she sat up straight and looked him in the eye.

"This isn't your problem," she announced. "You have no obligation to me."

For some reason, that announcement stung. "Do not be foolish," he said, turning away. "The damage is done."

"But - "

"This conversation is over. It has already been decided: it matters not why you are here, or what you have to do. When you leave, you will not go alone."

The declaration hung heavy in the air between them.

Sesshoumaru turned inward.

All day, and most of the night before, he had wrestled with the problem of her. When they had been together and alone, away from his territory, the danger was minimal, but now - now she was deep within his domain, and she had landed more conspicuously in the middle of his life than he had ever feared. She was an enormous problem, one that drew all other problems to her, one that focused all things upon herself, and that meant it was all but inevitable that his authority and dominance would be once again challenged.

Sooner or later - hopefully later - he would have to fight again, and when he did, he needed her to be safely out of the way. She was a distraction.

The decision had been a hard one, and, though he would never admit it, he was still torn. To leave would be to assure himself of her safety, but would expose his house to the possibility of attack; to stay would be to secure his lands, but place her in danger. He wanted to do neither of those things.

In the end, though, he had decided that he would go with her. It was a calculated risk, but it was the best option available. He was strong, and his lands would always be there, but Kagome was human, and brief, and her death at the hands of an enemy would be a victory - both real and symbolic - over him. He could not allow that to happen.

Kagome saw him blink slowly, far away, and she could feel the blood draining from her cheeks. For a long moment she was silent; the implication of what he was saying sinking ever further in, and she turned to stare at the ground, heart twisting around on itself.

"But if you leave," she said quietly, finally, "your house will be vulnerable."

"I am aware of that," he said, almost dreamily. "However, its defenses are significantly better now than in the past."

He did not have to tell her that this was no guarantee, and she wasn't about to let him pretend.

"But you don't have to leave."

Even as she said it, her fear squeezed down on her lungs, leaving her limp and dizzy, but it was true. He was not responsible for her. "I'm not all weak; I've managed well enough up until now. You know they will only try to hurt me because they think it would get to you, so if you let me go by myself then they'll see that our, er, alliance is not... personal. There would be no profit in killing me."

Sesshoumaru stared into the distance, not seeing anything.

It was true, of course. What she said was true. The thought had crossed his mind, but he had not seriously entertained this line of argument, as it seemed terribly risky. Now, however, he considered it.

To stay would be a calculated risk as well; to go would indicate her worth, while leaving her unguarded would imply there was nothing to be gained by her death. She might be safer were she to leave his home alone.

And yet...


There were still some who might kill her for the sport of it as well, though the possibility was small.

But they might, and with a feeling of hollow dread, Sesshoumaru realized that he was unwilling to leave her to chance. Injury to her would affect him. His household might be able to fend for itself, but she could not. In the end, it came down to one simple question, and at the thought of it a cold dismay oozed down his spine.

Would he rather throw his lands into disarray than leave her unprotected?

Would he rather be forced to war again than risk her death?

Slowly, sluggishly, Sesshoumaru withdrew his hands from his sleeves and stared down at his claws, feeling chilled to the bone, fighting the growing sense of doom, of inevitability, of fate, and, dimly, he wondered what his father would have decided, what his father would have advised him to do.

Really, though, he didn't have to wonder. He already knew.

The heaviness of eyes rested upon him, and Sesshoumaru felt bent beneath the knowledge that his servants were spying on them, were looking for a sign of weakness from him.

He didn't blame them. In some way, they were all trying to read the future, and if he were to falter then they would perish. They were waiting for him to touch her, or to smile, or to do anything at all that would seem as though they were more than merely allies.

Which, in the end, was the crux of the problem: they were more than allies.

He had missed her.

Sesshoumaru had not fully understood the gravity of that feeling when he had first admitted it, but now - now, he knew.

His enemies would kill her to get to him, but his allies would murder her in order to eliminate her, as if she were a weakness and, to his horror, he knew they would not be mistaken. He had made her into a frailty, as if he had peeled off his skin, as if he had broken his bones and thrown them aside to expose his heart.

It would be so easy for someone - anyone - to strike.

For some strange, terrifying reason that he did not fully understand, he wanted to turn to her and gather her to him; he wanted to keep her from the eyes he knew were watching them. He wanted to... to -

Sesshoumaru felt as though he were hovering, looking down on himself from a great height.

Did he truly value her more than he valued his peace?

A movement caught his eye, and, he turned to see Kagome absently, fretfully running her hand through her damp hair. To his mounting despair, his eyes unwillingly followed her ministrations, and she winced as she combed out a tangle, her mild discomfort only intensifying the dangerous, bittersweet urge to touch her.

Then she tossed her hair over her shoulder, revealing her slender, lovely throat.

Sesshoumaru closed his eyes.

Then again, what did it matter? He valued his pleasure, for it was so hard to come by, and she was nothing, nothing to him except, perhaps, that it pleased him to be with her. And Sesshoumaru always did what he pleased.

He opened his eyes again and turned a dark glance upon her. "You will not leave unless I am with you," he said, and his voice was hard and implacable.

He watched as Kagome turned, startled, and gazed up at him with a strange, half-comprehending awe.

Then he saw her lips twitch, slightly, and in the golden light of the rising darkness she smiled at him.

And Sesshoumaru found he could not look away.

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 27 of 42

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