Disclaimer: Inuyasha belongs to Rumiko Takahashi and its respective owners.
"When You Were Young" written by Mark August Stoermer, Brandon Flowers, RonnieVannucci Jr, Dave Brent Keuning
Also, a special shoutout to Lady Agnimitra who's helping to beta my work despite her busy schedule. *hugs*
* * *
You sit there in your heartache
Waiting on some beautiful boy to
To save you from your old ways
You play forgiveness
Watch it now, here he comes
-When You Were Young, The Killers
"Do you know that I'm actually scared of being in deep water? It doesn't matter whether it's a hot spring like this one or the big blue sea. I'm just suddenly reminded of my childhood fear."
It was a quiet night. Kagome and Sango were shoulder-deep in the onsen, their faces flushed pink in the relaxing warmth of the pool.
Whatever stiff muscles they incurred from hiking to the mountaintop had been thoroughly soothed and forgotten. Even Shippo had joined them, as the little kitsune floated alongside with the ladies with a buoy around his hips.
Earlier that day Kagome had sensed a subtle, fleeting cry of a shikon shard, so fine it might, or might not have been real. Deciding to trust her guts, she managed to sway Inuyasha and the others towards the peak of the mountain, only to reach barren lands devoid of any youkai activity. The only consolation was the surprising little hot spring cosying behind a large rocky formation, but Inuyasha had been pissed off as hell at her, and he as everyone knew, was always pissed.
Kagome glanced in surprise at Sango who had spoken earlier, just as Shippo kicked his little legs towards them.
"Scared of the water? For real?" Shippo went. "I wouldn't have guessed that at all, Sango-chan. You're the most kickass woman I know."
Kagome nodded vehemently. "Totally agree. Nothing about the way you hurl your Hiraikotsu screams aquaphobia!"
Sango laughed at her friends' reactions. "Well, I was pretty young back then. Kohaku and I were searching for mushrooms in the woods—when we were greeted by this beautiful, small lake in the middle of nowhere. It had a deep shade of cerulean that became darker the more I stared at it. I jumped into the water without thinking, swimming with so much excitement, when suddenly my right calf was seized by a muscle cramp. I was struck with so much pain that I could not move at all. "
Kagome and Shippo gasped. "What then?" he urged.
"I panicked, of course. I thought the lake was going to swallow me whole and I was going to die. When I came to, I was lying flat on the dry grass, and Kohaku's face was against the blue sky peering at me from the corner, all wide-eyed and afraid. My wee little brother had saved his big older sister. It was on that day when my fear of the deep waters became instantly printed into my being like a hot seal. That, plus the realization that for as long as I live, I will owe Kohaku my life."
Kagome and Shippo glanced at each other, their mouths shaped in an O.
"I really can't imagine how that must have felt," Kagome said. "Are you saying that it still scares you, even now?"
"Honestly? I wouldn't even dare step into this onsen if you guys weren't beside me."
Shippo mulled over it. Then he said, "Isn't it funny how it was a cramp that defeated you and not some scary demon? Me too. I'm scared of thunder. No matter how I imagine otherwise, it just reminds me of my dad. How about you? Aren't you scared of anything, Kagome-chan?"
Kagome laughed, waving a dismissive hand. "Gee, of course I am. I'm only human."
"Nah. I'm youkai and I'm still scared of something."
Kagome managed a kind smile. "I'm scared of crows," she then said.
"Crows?" Sango repeated, perplexed.
"Yeah. I guess I got pretty traumatized of them ever since one robbed the shikon jewel off me. The rest is history."
The three of them sighed heavily. Then again, Kagome thought, if that stupid crow hadn't stole the jewel, Inuyasha and I wouldn't be scuttling all around Old Nippon for shards, and I definitely wouldn't be hanging out in this spring with Sango and Shippo right now. Hmm. It's like a really long domino effect. A chilly breeze blew over the hot spring, accompanying her thoughts, and it broke goose-bumps all over her.
"You know what else scares me beside those pesky birds? Getting my skin all wrinkly like a dried currant! Let's go guys!" Kagome straightened herself up, before cautiously treading her way out of the water.
Shippo looked after her then at Sango. "Gee yeah, we've been in here for way too long! Inuyasha and Miroku might be wondering what the hell happened to us."
Her pale feet touched the muddy banks of the spring. It was dark, and Kagome couldn't see well. Her towel kept unravelling and she struggled to keep it upright, whilst trying to manage her footing at the same time.
Then it happened. Her foot gave way to the uneven, slippery ground and Kagome lost her balance.
"Kyaaaaa!" she cried out. Her hands flew in panic, one foot kicked up in the air, back tilted over. Then she saw a flash of white, and her body landed into something gentle, not unlike the hard ground she had anticipated. A shift of long silver hair flitted in her peripheral vision.
"Oh God, thank you, Inu—"
"You slipped," said a hard and cold voice near her ear. Kagome stiffened—it wasn't Inuyasha.
"And your pitiful human existence would very well have ended here…" the person continued, and goose-bumps broke all over her again, harder this time because it was a voice she recognized and it had a horrible quality to it, knowing exactly to whom it belonged to, and almost waaay impossible given the situation—" if this Sesshoumaru had not interfered to save your puny, insignificant life."
Her breath caught in her throat. Kagome steeled herself to look up his face.
Yuppo, it's him, alright. Say, this is the first time I've seen Sesshoumaru up this close—I didn't know he had quite a sharp nose on his face, talk about having too perfect features—
His sharp, gleaming eyes narrowed. "We're even now," he said.
Sango and Shippo, who had been watching the whole spectacle from the hot spring in sheer horror, finally found their voices, and they too started screaming. Because why not? Inuyasha's dangerous youkai half-brother had appeared out of nowhere and was cradling Kagome like a baby.
Kagome thrashed in his arms like a new-born foal, his large fluffy pelt at his side almost suffocating her in the face. She managed to scramble off, backing away at least a few feet from him.
"Cease your screaming, you damnable lot."
"Wha—What are you doing here?"
Sesshoumaru looked away with a quiet huff, and Kagome's confusion ballooned.
"It was just a simple slip," Kagome said, feeling slightly embarrassed. "I don't understand why you had to rush in to help."
He took a while to respond and when he did, his words were soft, but somewhat familiar.
"A small gesture of gratitude would have sufficed, but even that must be hard coming from you."
"An eye for an eye," Sesshoumaru then simply growled.
"Eye for an eye?" Kagome repeated, bewildered. Then it hit her. "W—wait. Hold on. Tell me this has nothing to do with what happened that time with the Demon Child-Eater. I did thwart a deadly attack on you but—"
His canine teeth gritted against each other the moment the Demon Child-Eater incident was mentioned. His fine eyebrows furrowed into grooves on his darkening face. Kagome's jaw dropped.
I know Sesshoumaru's lofty pride as a proud human-hating daiyoukai is something not to be trifled with, but this is ridiculous. "So…you were trying to return the favour with that weird attempt to…"
"This matter is not a subject for debate." He brushed back his long hair with his fingers, haughty as ever. "As I said, we are even now and so I shall no longer pursue this."
"No!" Kagome suddenly burst before Sesshoumaru could turn to leave. She pointed an angry finger at him, shaking. "Erase those thoughts! You did not save me! I was not in danger! That act was extremely unwarranted and made no sense at all!"
He raised an eyebrow slightly. "So you deny the possibility that when you fell, you could have cracked your skull open on a rock and have your brains spilled like a fruit?"
"No! I would have landed on my butt and have a sore bum, but that's all! And my head is not a fruit!"
"Then that would have increased the likelihood of you fracturing your tailbone, or in the worst case scenario, your spinal cord, and then you would have been rendered with paralysis—"
"Stop that!" Kagome was hopping mad now. "Stop making me sound like a pathetic, helpless little weakling! I lost my balance and that was all!"
A slight frown dusted over his face. Sesshoumaru was confused.
"But I was under the assumption that you were supposed to play the role of the damsel in distress in Inuyasha's group. I distinctly remember it was your voice incessantly screaming for Inuyasha's help on almost every..."
"No, no, NO!"
Shippo glanced at Sango beside him. "You know, I thought the same thing too," he quickly whispered.
Kagome's towel finally drooped loose from the mad jig she performed. By the time she realized it had fully dropped at her feet, it was already too late. She was standing buck naked in front of every one without a single thread on her. In front of her friends—who were still in the onsen, in petrified disbelief—and most mortifyingly, right before Sesshoumaru, who simply rewarded her with a miniscule lift of his eyebrow…
Inuyasha and Miroku had rushed to the spring upon hearing the feminine screams in the still night that could only belong to a particular group. Everything was one big web of confusion for the hanyou, who only moments ago had been awakened rudely during a much-needed nap. He hadn't had a decent rest for almost three days, and when Kagome suggested to scale the small mountain, he had said no immediately. But as usual she never listened, even pushing the others to follow her. Yeah, sure he was stronger than his peers but he was half-human too, in case anyone conveniently forgot, and not some super-youkai Kagome secretly hoped he was…
Inuyasha shook his head clear of his thoughts when he saw Kagome, who was crouching naked on the ground—mmmmm that butt! his inner voice hooted—for some reason, and then there was—what the holy f—Sesshoumaru?
Kagome grabbed her towel and started screaming for the umpteenth time, wishing the ground would just split and consume her.
"Inuyasha don't look at meeeee! Osuwari osuwari osuwari!"
Seeing that Inuyasha had been immobilized, Miroku took it upon himself to approach the onsen. He squatted near its edge, then cast a wary glance at the silent daiyoukai from afar. "Can someone explain what is going on here? Shippo, Sango?"
"You won't believe us even if we told you," Sango sighed.
"Alright, can the both of you at least leave the hot spring?"
"We can't!" Shippo cried. "We're naked!"
Sesshoumaru clicked his tongue in annoyance. "Ridiculous," he muttered as he turned to leave.
"I'm not done with you yet, mister!"
He paused and turned to look over his shoulder at the strange miko, who was still crouching on the ground whilst scowling like a furious cat. "The score is still 1-0!"
His golden eyes flashed back, and Kagome reeled for a second there. Uhhh, he's not going to kill me, is he?
"So there is a scoreboard now. I see. You think this is a game, no?"
"N-no, I don't really want to play with you—"
And then Sesshoumaru's lips broke into a small smile, one that froze her tongue half-way.
"We shall see, Little Miss Damsel. We shall see."
Kagome watched as he sauntered off into the night, his white figure disappearing into the distance, utterly speechless.
Did he—did he just called me Little Miss Damsel?!
"Ugh, my head," Inuyasha groaned somewhere, lifting his head from a crater that was shaped just like him, a perfect sat-Inuyasha silhouette. "For cripes' sake, someone just kill me…"
To be continued!
[A/N: Just another one of those dumb plots that visit my mind occasionally. Let's hope we find out in the next chapter who the damsel really is, eh? Anyway, I'm trying my best to make everyone stay in character here, so forgive me if Kagome is a bit annoying because…well she is….in a way… *runs from her fans*]