~~A Lesson Learned~~
Kagome sat on the riverbank, brown eyes filled with a suspicious brightness; a sheen of unshed tears.
‘It wasn’t supposed to be this way! It wasn’t . . .’
Everything had led to this, hadn’t it? From the moment she’d been pulled into the well and woke up InuYasha until now, she’d tried so desperately to make him understand that he really didn’t have to be alone. He was an abomination, or so he thought—an anomaly that shouldn’t have existed. She’d never thought he was any of those things. Half-youkai, half-human, he’d struggled alone for so very long, and now . . .
“Go home, wench,” he’d told her, his golden eyes flashing in the waning light of the early evening skies. Standing next to the Bone Eater’s Well with his arms crossed under the copious sleeves of his fire rat haori, he’d looked as stubborn as ever, and yet . . . Sango, Miroku, and Shippou . . . they’d been unable to meet her gaze. Exchanging glances, they’d all turned and walked away. Shippou had been crying . . . “You’re in danger here. We know where all the jewel shards are. I don’t . . . I don’t need you anymore . . . Just go home, and this time, don’t come back.” And he’d bounded away for the sanctuary of Goshinboku.
She hadn’t missed the tell-tale brightness behind his gaze, had she? His words had stung, and yet she’d known that he was worried. How many nights had she seen him, sitting alone in the highest branches of the trees, staring out over the landscape with a sad sort of look in his eyes. As the search to find and defeat Naraku grew more and more desperate, he’d suffered in silence. Perhaps it was the latest concern over Miroku that had goaded InuYasha’s thoughts. They’d all known that the kazaana in the monk’s hand would kill him eventually if they didn’t defeat Naraku. No one had realized, though, just how bad it had gotten over the months of their search; at least, they hadn’t until the latest trouble. Kikyou had been able to purify the jyaki, but . . .
Maybe that was the real reason, then, that InuYasha had spoken. Too worried that he’d lose a friend despite his outward show of bravado, InuYasha had then started to wonder if Kagome really could be safe with him. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that she was. InuYasha would protect her, as he’d done from the very start. Maybe, though, there was more to it than that. Maybe the actual reason that he was so worried was because he couldn’t stand the idea that he wouldn’t be able to protect her, just as he was powerless to do a thing to stop the kazaana from slowly consuming Miroku . . . just as he hadn’t been able to save Kikyou . . .
“I won’t leave him,” she murmured, balling her hands into tight fists. “I won’t leave them . . .”
She moaned, letting her forehead drop to her raised knees as another wave of absolute hopelessness crashed over her. She’d waited for a long time. Sitting with her back against the old well, she’d sat there well into the night. InuYasha and the others were gone. She couldn’t sense him anywhere nearby. Off to hunt for Naraku, she supposed. Kagome sighed. Over time, InuYasha had said more than once that she wasn’t safe with him. No, she’d expected to hear it again at some point, no matter how badly it hurt. What she hadn’t expected was for Sango and Miroku and even her dear, sweet Shippou to side with the hanyou. Even Kouga, who had been traveling with them of late, had agreed . . .
They all wanted her to go home, didn’t they? They all thought she’d be better off in her time, on her side of the Bone Eater’s Well.
She felt the presence of a youkai. She’d felt it for awhile. She knew the aura—she’d encountered it often enough over the course of time. Too lost in her own troubles, though, she hadn’t bothered to acknowledge the intruder.
“Where is InuYasha?”
Kagome didn’t look up at the sound of that voice. Brusque—almost bored—Sesshoumaru’s question sent a sharp pain straight through her. “They’re gone . . . looking for Naraku.”
“Why are you not with them?” he asked.
“They . . .” She swallowed hard, forcing down the thick lump that rose to choke her. “They don’t want me to come here anymore.”
He didn’t answer her right away. The tingle of his youki drew nearer, closer. “So they abandoned you, after all.”
“No!” she spat, head snapping up to glower at the inu-youkai. “They didn’t—it wasn’t—” Cutting herself off with a harsh sigh, she felt her indignation slip away only to be replaced by a sense of emptiness; of loneliness . . . “They were worried; that’s all.”
His amber eyes brightened though his expression did not change. Something she’d said had amused him—at least as much as Sesshoumaru could be amused. Kagome forced her gaze away. “You defend them.”
“They’re my friends,” she told him. “I won’t leave them.”
“Friends,” Sesshoumaru repeated, more to himself than to her. “A monk, a taijiya, a kit, a lowly wolf, and a miserable half-breed? Liabilities at best, miko. Why burden yourself with the likes of them?”
“I won’t leave them,” she mumbled again, letting her forehead drop to her knees once more, her voice muffled by her legs. “They’re in danger, and it’s because of me . . . because I broke the jewel . . . because I came here in the first place . . .”
“So you will remain,” he concluded. “Without protection you will die . . . then InuYasha will blame himself for this, too. Is that what you wish?”
She tried not to flinch at the harsh assessment. “I’m not as helpless as you think,” she gritted out. “I can take care of myself.”
His answer was a slight narrowing of his eyes, and he stared at her for another moment before turning on his heel and striding away.
Kagome stood up slowly, brushing dirt off her skirt and sniffling before reaching for her bow and quiver of arrows. Her backpack was heavy—InuYasha often carried it—and she winced as she shouldered the burden. Unable to help herself as she unconsciously sought out the majestic sight of Goshinboku—the God tree. She’d found InuYasha sleeping there, pinned to the thick old trunk by Kikyou’s sacred arrow that held him suspended in time. Biting her lip, she stumbled forward, heading for the dry well.
She’d need supplies and her bike. Her mother had bought her yet another after InuYasha had mangled the last one. Grim determination settled over her features, and she quickened her pace. She could take care of herself, and she would help her friends, whether they wanted her help or not . . .
Stepping into the clearing, she blinked as the sun hit her full in the eyes. The gentle late spring breeze shifted suddenly as a fierce wind kicked up. Lifting her arm to shield her face, she could sense the rapid approach of a strange youkai—a malignance in the ugly youki.
Kagome peered under her arm as the wind died away as abruptly as it had started. Hovering above the ground fifty feet away from her was a translucent form, more of an apparition than a being. Lacking a true shape or any real discernible features, it emitted a strange sort of wail that sank into Kagome’s very pores, effectually paralyzing her. ‘What . . . is . . . it . . .? I . . . can’t . . . move . . .’
Thin strands of wispy fibers shot out from the entity’s sides, shooting through the air and wrapping around Kagome. She grimaced. The strings seemed to invade her, probing her mind, her thoughts, her heart. Unable to stop the intrusion, she could hear a whisper, no more than a breath of air in her mind. ‘The hanyou,’ it demanded. ‘Where is the hanyou that killed me?’
‘Who . . . are . . . you?’ she managed though she wasn’t sure if the words had been spoken out loud.
The strands tightened around her, choked her as she fought for control of her body. ‘The hanyou!’ it hissed again. ‘The hanyou, the hanyou, the hanyou!’
‘Inu . . . Yasha . . .’
‘Yes, InuYasha! Where is the hanyou who is called InuYasha?’
She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think . . . couldn’t see. Three words tumbled around her head . . . three words . . . ‘InuYasha . . . help . . . me . . .’
Blackness ringed her vision as the cloying fibers thickened. Powerless to stop the invasion as the probes dug deeper into her subconscious, she searched for even the smallest hope. Always before, he’d come to save her. Whenever she was in trouble, he had been there . . . the Noh mask . . . the Thunder Brothers . . . the old sage and the tree of the human-faced fruit, Ninmenka . . . these things flashed through her head, the images tumbling one upon another. The times when Kagome had needed him most, he’d always come for her, but now . . .
‘He . . . thought I went . . . home . . .’ she realized with a sickened little flop in her belly. ‘He doesn’t know . . .’
‘His miko! You’ll do for now,’ the voice growled.
Kagome felt her knees buckle though she didn’t fall. Unable to see more than two pinpoints of light, she could feel her body shutting down. ‘This is what it’s like . . . to die . . .’
The voice in her head laughed cruelly. ‘He’ll join you soon . . . You won’t be alone for long.’
‘Alone . . .?’ Kagome felt her eyes drift closed. ‘Alone . . . without . . . InuYasha . . .’
“Is she dead, Sesshoumaru-sama?”
Standing with his back to the toad-like imp and human child who normally accompanied him, Sesshoumaru didn’t answer Rin as he scanned the horizon.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Rin,” Jaken said, his tone heavy with disdain. “Of course she isn’t dead! Sesshoumaru-sama would never cart around a dead human, in any case.” Sesshoumaru could feel the imp’s probing gaze though he didn’t bother looking to confirm it. “Why did you bring her back with you? Surely InuYasha will—Oh! That must be it! You’re trying to lure that worthless half-brother of yours here so that you can finally kill him, right my lord?”
He ignored that, too. Truthfully, he wasn’t certain why he brought her back with him. He’d always found her grating and oftentimes annoying—so much so that he hated to be bothered with the likes of her. Her outrageous clothes were nothing in comparison to the strange sort of dialect she spoke. The few times he’d been forced to lower himself to speak with her, he’d been sorely pressed not to turn on his heel and walk away. That she’d managed to befriend his ignorant half-brother was bad enough, but she’d found a way to enter their father’s tomb in the other world, and that had been completely unacceptable. Back then, Tetsusaiga had chosen to protect her from Sesshoumaru’s poison claw attack, but when she’d chosen to interfere in a fight between the brothers later, it had infuriated him.
He certainly hadn’t meant to follow her. In the time since her intrusion in his father’s tomb, Sesshoumaru had sought to ignore the existence of the miko completely. He’d left her by the river wallowing in an upset that he didn’t even try to comprehend. Humans were by nature a capricious lot, given to foolish emotion that led them to behave in a manner that was completely irrational. Rin was more of a curiosity than anything. Maybe it was his attempt to understand what it was that had drawn his great and powerful father to InuYasha’s mother that had compelled him to save her and to allow her to journey with him. Amber eyes narrowed as silvery hair whipped into his face; as his top lip curled ever so slightly in a cynical sneer. Why had he bothered to save the miko?
“When he comes for her, you’ll kill him, right?” Jaken went on, used to his master’s silence.
Sesshoumaru turned and blinked slowly as he eyed the toad-youkai. “Meidou-Zangetsuha has grown more powerful,” he mused quietly.
Jaken nodded furiously. Turning to face Rin with a smug sort of expression on his face, he waved at the unconscious miko. “Of course! That’s it! You were simply testing your new power! I told you, Rin! Sesshoumaru-sama harbors no good will toward that woman.”
A soft groan drew his attention. Sesshoumaru’s eyes shifted to the side though he didn’t turn his head as he glanced at the miko. Tentatively lifting her hand to rub her neck where the spirit had seized her, she squeezed her eyes closed tightly and sucked in a sharp breath.
“Kagome-sama!” Rin exclaimed, leaning over the miko in an anxious sort of way. “You’re alive! You’re alive! Did Sesshoumaru-sama save you, too?”
“Wh . . . what?” the miko mumbled, forcing her eyes open. It took a moment for her to focus on the child. When she did, she frowned and blinked. “Where . . .? Rin . . .? What are you doing here?”
Rin shook her head and shrugged. “Sesshoumaru-sama brought you here. He said you were being attacked. You can stay with us, can’t you? ”
The miko’s frown deepened at the reminder, and she pushed herself up on her elbows, opting to ignore Rin’s question for the moment. Jaken snorted and turned away when she noticed him. Sesshoumaru shifted his gaze away. “What . . . was that thing?” she finally asked, her voice soft, unsure.
Sesshoumaru shot her a sidelong glance. “It was an undead spirit,” he stated simply before heading off toward the trees.
‘It is a strange thing,’ Kagome mused. Traveling with Sesshoumaru was so different from journeying with InuYasha and the others. He didn’t like idle chatter, and he didn’t like being questioned. That was fine, really. Kagome wasn’t sure what to make of the abrupt change in companions. Jaken often refused to speak to her, and when he did deign to, it was always with a misplaced sense of superiority. Rin kept her on her toes, though, and she kept Kagome’s mind off her friends. From time to time she wondered what they were doing, and sometimes she’d hear rumors of their presence in the different areas through which they traveled.
Summer was quickly drawing to a close. It had been nearly four months since she had last seen InuYasha and the others. Worse, she hadn’t been able to go home, either. The one time she tried to ask Sesshoumaru to take her to the well, he’d stared at her as if she had grown a few extra heads, and she’d ultimately been unable to tell him just why the well was so important to her.
That was foolish, anyway. Even if he did take her there, the odds that he’d wait for her to return were slim to none. He never gave her the impression that he wanted her to travel with them. It was enough for her that he allowed her to stay.
She wasn’t sure why he had asked her to accompany him this time. Rin and Jaken had stayed behind at the immense castle with the sprawling grounds that Sesshoumaru called home. On a cliff that overlooked the sea on the western Japanese coast, it stood sentient and cold. She hadn’t stopped to wonder where Sesshoumaru called home. It had struck her as odd that the same youkai who made no bones about loathing humans would live in a castle that so resembled those built for human royalty.
But he’d told her the night before he left that she would join him. She hadn’t asked him why. Now as she stared at Sesshoumaru’s back from her place atop Ah-Uhn, she couldn’t help but wonder about his motives. Hair rippling in the late summer air, he looked like he was scanning the area for something. “Where are we going?” she finally asked.
Sesshoumaru didn’t spare her a glance as he sailed along over the tree tops, and he didn’t answer right away. “You wish not to be reunited with your friends?”
Kagome’s eyes widened in surprise, and she grimaced as the pain of their insistence that they didn’t want her to come with them anymore dug at her heart. “I . . . I don’t know . . . I do, but . . .”
He stopped moving forward. Drifting slowly to the ground in the midst of a clearing in the wood, he waited until the two-headed dragon landed before deliberately distancing himself from her. “Why do you return to him time and again, miko?” he asked.
Kagome bit her lip as she slipped off Ah-Uhn’s back. “That’s what a friend does,” she replied, shaking her head, wishing that her answer didn’t sound as weak to him as it did in her head. “They were just worried that I would get hurt . . . they always worry about that.”
“You defend them.”
“Of course I do.”
Turning his head, peering over his shoulder at her in that inscrutable way that made Kagome feel as though he found her to be little more than the dirt under his feet, he narrowed his gaze for a moment before offering her a curt nod. “I see.”
Sinking down on her knees, Kagome stared at her hands and sighed. She couldn’t understand why it was, but lately, the idea of returning to InuYasha and the rest of them hadn’t seemed as dire. Spending time with Rin while the girl played and asked her endless stream of questions had somehow filled a part of her where she ached for her friends. “I have to help them defeat Naraku,” she murmured.
She sighed again. “It was my fault; you see? Kikyou did what she could to make sure that the Shikon no Tama never fell into his hands, and I . . .” She swallowed hard. “I brought it back.”
He regarded her for another long minute before turning his face away again. Striding over to the trunk of a gnarled old tree, he didn’t bother looking at her again as he resumed his perusal of the area. “Rest now, miko. We leave at dawn’s first light.”
Kagome did as she was told. Spreading out her sleeping bag at the base of a short cliff, she crawled into the makeshift bed and closed her eyes, unmindful of the glimmering eyes that watched from the shadows of the trees across the clearing.
‘I must get rid of that woman!’ Jaken fumed as he plopped down on the ground on the edge of the little clearing. It was bad enough when Sesshoumaru had allowed the child, Rin to follow along with them. Now he was permitting the strange miko to do the same? Worse, he had saved her from the malevolent apparition that meant to kill her?
‘He said it was simply to test the growth of Meidou-Zangetsuha . . . That’s what he said . . . Still, why bring her along if he were doing nothing more than testing the power of Tenseiga?’
He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at his surroundings. He’d followed along behind his lord on a whim. Leaving Rin behind was easy enough. The child had seen much in her short lifetime. Being left behind was a common enough occurrence that she didn’t question Jaken as he’d hurried after Sesshoumaru and Kagome. No, the trick had been to keep Sesshoumaru from realizing that he’d taken it upon himself to follow.
‘If I could only figure out a way to get that nuisance out of here,’ he fumed. ‘Damn her!’
He wasn’t sure why she’d left InuYasha and the rest of her companions. He supposed it really didn’t matter. In the end, all he wanted was to get rid of her intrusive presence. He sat up a little straighter as a wisp of a thought occurred to him. ‘Maybe I can kill two birds with one stone . . . InuYasha has always been an embarrassment to Sesshoumaru-sama. Too uncouth and too tolerant of humans to be worthy of sharing Sesshoumaru-sama’s esteemed lineage, and he’s always gone out of his way to show his weakness toward his human blood . . . If I can rid find a way to get rid of her, maybe it will destroy InuYasha, as well . . .’
Jaken’s bulbous yellow eyes widened as his pupils narrowed to thin slits. Staring at the Staff of Heads in his hands, a plan started to form. Deliberating the pros and cons to the idea, he almost giggled out loud. There really weren’t any cons to speak of. InuYasha would be crushed, Sesshoumaru would be pleased, and best of all, the woman would be out of their lives for good . . .
Jaken rubbed his hands together and huddled lower in the bushes, thankful for the slight breeze that carried his scent away from Sesshoumaru as he mulled over the finer details of the plot. It would work. It had to . . .
He watched as Sesshoumaru regarded the woman with a faint hint of curiosity. After a moment, he turned on his heel, his clothing a pallid shade of blue in the dim light of the night sky. Turning toward the trees, he strode away, his back straight and proud, his hair shimmering with the stirring breeze. Jaken waited until Sesshoumaru was out of view in the trees before rising to his feet. He faced the clearing, stretching his arms wide. A thick fog rose from the earth at the base of the Staff of Heads, oozing slowly over the ground until it encompassed the clearing and obscured the loathsome woman from view. ‘That should be enough,’ he reasoned with a high-pitched little giggle before running deeper into the forest in the direction from which he’d come.
Kagome awoke with a start, blinking quickly and sitting up as she waved her hands before her face. She couldn’t see them. The night was shrouded in a thick fog that condensed on her skin like an oppressive blanket. It held no hint of malignance though she couldn’t help but shiver at the vagueness of her own thoughts. Coherence seemed a lifetime away, and in the thickening fog, she felt so very alone.
What did it mean?
She shook her head. Stumbling to her feet, she rubbed her arms through the thin material of her school uniform. The darkness seemed to close in around her, and she shivered. There was something electric about the night; something that she couldn’t quite understand. Her mind felt as hazy as the air around her. Names flitted through her mind but didn’t make much sense. Sango . . . Miroku . . . Shippou . . . Who were these people? Why couldn’t she remember their faces? Why did she feel like there should have been another face—another name: a more memorable one?
A flash of silver caught her attention. Just off to the left and barely discernible, the familiar presence of someone that she wanted to remember radiated in the night. Stumbling toward the darkened figure, she blinked, fighting to understand why she felt as though she needed to be with him—to touch him . . .
He was clad all in white: an ethereal vision in the dark. The pitch black armor that covered his chest and upper legs blended with the blurry darkness that ringed her vision. His contours were hazy at best—as though he were more of an apparition than a being, and when he turned to look at her, all she could discern was the flash of amber eyes.
‘Those eyes,’ she thought absently, shaking her head as she lifted her hand to him. ‘I know them and yet . . . Why do they seem so cold?’
She hesitated. She could see them in her mind, those eyes . . . burning with anger, they glowed with a fierce light. Why did that make her want to smile?
She frowned into the darkness. His clothing was white, and that seemed right, too. Why, then, did she also see him wearing red clothes? As if they weren’t the same person, then who was the youkai standing before her . . .?
‘I love him, don’t I?’ she realized with a start. ‘Why can’t I remember his name?’
If she could just get a little closer; if she could touch him, she’d remember, wouldn’t she? Her heart thundered in her ears, and she swallowed hard as a dizzying surge of electricity seemed to draw her closer to him. Stumbling over a small rock, she gasped as she fell to the ground. Her sense of balance was lost. She felt as though she were floating. Caught in the clarity of his curious gaze, she couldn’t remember anything at all. ‘He’s the one I love, isn’t he? I know his name . . .’
She could remember feelings: the sense of soaring . . . the wind in her face . . . the feeling that she was completely protected . . .
If she touched him, she’d remember . . .
Why did she know that was true?
She could feel his name on the tip of her tongue. It was there, and it wanted to be remembered.
He stepped closer to her, peering down at her with a strange sort of intensity. Pushing herself onto her hands and knees, she could feel the dull ache in her body where she’d landed on a small pile of rocks. His hand snaked around her upper arm, and he pulled her to her feet before jerking it away from her, scowling at his fingers as though they’d acted completely on their own. “Are you always so clumsy?” he rumbled, his deep voice adding a strange sort of ambiance to the night.
Kagome blinked and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. The moisture in the air dampened her skin, and she shivered as a bead of condensation slipped down the center of her back. “What happened to your clothes?” she asked almost absently, reaching out to touch his sleeve.
His gaze shifted from his fingers to her hand before slowly rising to meet her eyes. The intensity of his stare bored into her skull but did little to dispel the haze. ‘Silver hair . . . golden eyes . . . I wish . . . I wish I could see his face . . .’
The shadows were too thick to see through, but she had a feeling that he was scowling at her. “My clothes?” he repeated in a monotone.
She shook her head slowly, captured by the concentration of his stare. It didn’t matter, did it? If she touched him, she’d remember . . .
A quiet sense of desperation grew. The irrational belief that if she took her eyes off of him, he would disappear precluded the lethargic confusion that she didn’t understand. If she looked away from him, he’d leave her . . . why did she know that he would? ‘Because,’ she realized, eyes flaring wide. ‘He’s done it before, hasn’t he?’
He’d left her before? She grimaced as bitter urgency shot through her. If he turned and walked away, she’d never remember him, would she? And if she couldn’t remember his name, she’d never be able to remember the faces of the ones that she had thought about. ‘Not this time . . . not now . . .’
He started to turn away. She clenched his sleeve tight.
“Don’t . . .” she mumbled as tears stung her eyes. “Don’t leave me . . .”
He turned his head far enough to peer over his shoulder. The silver horns of his armor were dulled in the thick fog.
“Please,” she begged, stepping around him; planting her hands in the center of his chest to stay him. “Don’t leave me again.”
His gaze narrowed, but he stopped. Swallowing a desperate sob, she rose up on her toes, eyes closing as she smashed her lips to his. The contact was clumsy at best, yet it sent a searing bolt of fire straight through her. He didn’t kiss her back, but she didn’t care. He didn’t pull away, either . . .
‘If I touch him, I’ll remember . . .’
Hands tangled in his hair, she clung to him, willing him to respond. Still he stood without faltering. He didn’t touch her; didn’t kiss her; simply allowing her to do as she would, and maybe that was enough. She couldn’t stand the feel of the clothing that separated them. The fog seemed to press in closer and closer.
Touching his cheeks, running her fingertips over the face that she couldn’t see, she kissed his neck, this throat. He uttered a terse half-growl. It might have been a warning . . . maybe it was a promise. She wasn’t sure. Slipping her hand between their bodies and under his armor, she rubbed his crotch through his hakama. The growl grew louder, more insistent as he hardened under her touch.
Her mind spun at a dizzying pace. Unable to make sense of anything but the need to touch him, to remember him, Kagome kissed him again. His lips were cool, damp, warming on hers like melting butter, and when he slipped his tongue into her mouth, she moaned as her knees buckled. Catching her before she could fall, he smashed her body against his. The horns on his armor dug into her skin, but she didn’t care. The need to touch him—to feel him—dispelled the discomfort easily enough. A moan, a sigh, a squeeze in the dark . . . she needed more to remember . . .
Groping for the ties of his hakama, she pulled him free of his clothing. Thick, hot, throbbing, he jerked in her hands as an overwhelming desire to taste him brought her to her knees. Flicking her tongue out to catch the silvery drop on the tip of his penis, she moaned. He shuddered, his hand sinking into her hair as she carefully lowered her mouth over him. He thrust himself deep into her, and she gagged but didn’t let go. Blinking back tears, she sucked him in, cheeks collapsing as she tried to keep her teeth from scraping him.
He remained silent as she squeezed him gently. His hand on her head controlled the speed of the thrusts. He thickened between her lips, twitching madly as he hit the back of her throat again. Swallowing back the gag reflex, Kagome sucked him harder, her saliva dripping down her fingers as she held onto the base of his penis.
His growl grew choked and ragged, and he jerked her head toward him again, holding her mercilessly as thick, bitter semen filled her mouth. Swallowing fast, ignoring the burn, she pulled away. He sprang free, bobbing in the air. She swallowed a few more times, ignoring the rampant churning in her belly.
He dropped to his knees, pushing her back gently before rolling her over onto her stomach. Slipping his arm under her hips, he lifted her until she rested on her knees. Catching the crotch of her cotton panties, he cut through them with a flick of his claw. Supporting her with his forearm under her hips, he thrust himself into her completely.
She screamed in the night as his body invaded hers. The slippery friction welcomed him. Shaking, sobbing with the inundation of feeling, she pushed herself up on her hands, throwing her head back as absolute sensation slammed through her with the violent force of his thrusts. Her body was coming undone. She felt as though she wanted to scream as a thicker tension wrapped around her; as a startling wash of desire surged. Wanton need collided with the ache of longing. Quivering as the sounds of his body pumping into hers filled the air, she dug her hands into the soft ground, gritting her teeth together despite the sharp little whimpers that slipped from her lips. The heat in her belly was a visceral thing; a living swell of unchained desire driving her back to meet his thrusts.
Pulling her back against him hard, he unleashed a heavy growl. Driving her down against the ground, he pounded her harder, faster, deeper. The tension inside her exploded, and she cried out time and again. She could feel the surge of his semen spurting out of him and filling her, his penis expanding and contracting as waves of his climax spilled over.
The completeness of her pleasure clouded her mind. Unable to think, she lay in the grass. Her heart hammered wildly, almost painfully, in her chest, and when she finally opened her eyes, she was alone.
The fog was gone, wasn’t it? Disappeared without a trace . . . The sound of her own breathing filled her ears, and with a grimace, she rolled over and sat up. She slowly scanned the clearing for him.
‘Where did he . . . go? Inu . . .Yasha . . .’
Her sudden gasp caused her to wince as her hands shot up to cover her mouth. ‘That wasn’t . . . He’s not . . . oh, kami . . .’
What was it she’d called out in her passion? She flinched, her stomach convulsing painfully, and she lurched forward and retched. Sobbing as damning recrimination settled over her, she vomited time and again. He wasn’t . . . he couldn’t have been . . . and yet in her heart, she knew that he was. ‘Sesshoumaru . . .’
InuYasha . . . That was what she’d screamed. She’d thought . . . she thought that he was InuYasha . . . but why?
Her body ached as she crawled back to her sleeping bag. Weariness had stolen over her, and she huddled in the darkness as Sesshoumaru’s semen dripped down her thighs . . .
Something wasn’t right.
Kagome moaned and leaned against a tree, letting her forehead drop against her arm as she closed her eyes, willing the nausea to pass. Sesshoumaru had finally returned to the clearing just before Kagome had drifted off to sleep. Standing near the treeline and still looking as unreadable as ever, he hadn’t come close to her again. When she’d opened her eyes this morning, she could sense his youki near. She couldn’t stand to face him. She couldn’t stand to look at him and to know what she’d done in the night. Gathering her things, she’d set out alone, but she hadn’t gone far when the first of the pains had started.
Twisting her belly with the finesse of a knife, the pains had steadily grown worse through the morning.
A hot stickiness between her legs made her grimace. She needed to find a place to bathe. Her abdomen twisted again, and Kagome squeezed her eyes closed, willing the pain to pass before she made herself move on.
She was in InuYasha’s Forest. She knew the area well enough. Not too far from the meadow where the well stood, she was almost home . . .
Wiping the cold sweat from her forehead, Kagome pushed herself away from the tree and stumbled a few steps. Glancing down, she stopped abruptly, uttering a soft keening sound as she lifted a shaking hand between her legs and stared in horrified fascination at the blackened blood on her fingers . . .
‘Damn that Kagome . . . I told her to go home!’
InuYasha vaulted off the roof of Kaede’s hut and lifted his head, following the too-familiar scent of the young miko. Lifting his face into the air, he sniffed. She was close. He could feel her presence, and he could vaguely make out her scent . . .
It was another smell, however, that worried him. He knew the scent well enough. Kagome’s blood . . . he could smell it, but there was another scent mixed with it . . . one he didn’t want to understand.
‘Why would she smell like she’s been with . . .? That . . . that can’t be . . .’
He found her lying under Goshinboku, her body curled up as though she were in pain. The pretty features he knew so well were contorted in a mask of agony, and she whimpered as he carefully drew her into his arms. Her blood was everywhere, staining her green skirt nearly black. Her hands were covered in blood, too, and she stiffened as though he were hurting her.
The reek was overwhelming. Drenched in a cold sweat that matted her hair to her head, he knew the scent that he fought to ignore: the stench of death. Concentrating instead on the anger that she would have let his bastard brother touch her, InuYasha shook her gently. “What the . . .? Sesshoumaru?” he bit out.
Kagome whimpered again but opened her eyes, the misery in her gaze enough to shut down his floundering anger. “I thought . . . he was . . . you,” she murmured. “What’s happening to me?”
Clenching his jaw as he scooped her up and sprinted through the forest to the river, InuYasha didn’t answer as he lowered her into the cold water. She cried in protest and huddled against him. ‘P. . . poison . . .? She smells as if she’s been poisoned . . .’
“Why didn’t you fucking go home?” he snarled, carefully washing the blood off her thighs. “I told you to go home, damn it! I wanted—” he choked back a sob, “—I wanted you to be safe.”
Drawing her legs up as another pain gripped her, Kagome gasped as tears squeezed out of the corners of her eyes. “Fog . . .” she mumbled. “Wanted . . . to remember . . . you . . .”
Gently wiping the trickle of blood that trailed down from her lips, InuYasha closed his eyes, grasping for some sort of understanding that just wasn’t within his reach. He thought she’d gone home . . . he thought that she was safe . . . he hadn’t known . . . he should have known. Kagome never knew when to listen . . .
He could feel her heartbeat slowing, and he knew. “Come on, wench . . . you promised you’d never leave me,” he told her, desperation tingeing his voice as he tried to make her stay.
“I’m . . . sorry . . . InuYasha . . .” she said. She was having trouble focusing on his face.
“Don’t be sorry, stupid,” he growled, fishing for the anger that had always lent her a fire that he counted on.
“Find . . . Naraku,” she whispered. “Save . . . Miroku . . .”
InuYasha blinked and growled fiercely. “Fine, then. I can’t trust you alone. Never could. Helpless human . . . You’re coming with me.”
Kagome managed a wan little smile that melted into a grimace of pain but only for a moment before that little smile returned. Her entire body stiffened in his arms then went limp, and he knew. She’d left the way she’d come: in her own gentle way with a smile on her face that was meant only for him; just for him . . .
A bitter wail rose up in him. Clutching her body close, he lifted his chin as a familiar presence came to him. Rising to his feet with Kagome’s body dangling limply in his arms, he whipped around to face his brother.
Sesshoumaru stared at her for a minute, his expression inscrutable. Finally lifting his gaze to meet InuYasha’s, he nodded once and turned to go.
“Wait, you bastard! What did you do to her?” InuYasha screamed, unwilling to let go of Kagome long enough to run after his brother.
Sesshoumaru didn’t stop walking, but his words drifted back to InuYasha as he disappeared into the trees.
“Don’t fuck with a poison youkai . . .”
That was what he’d said . . .