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Stealing Away by Sage McMae

Chapter 1

“They’re all gone!” Kagome cried. 

Sango glanced up from where she was polishing her hiraikotsu. “What’s gone?” 

“The ramen I brought Inuyasha,” she answered, rooting around in her pack. Another check confirmed her suspicions. There was a thief amongst them. 

“Miroku?” 

“Yes, Kagome?” 

“Did you take the ramen out of my backpack?” 

His brow creased. “No. I prefer not to instigate Inuyasha, especially when he’s in a good mood. It’s a rare occurrence.” 

“Right,” Kagome drawled. 

She knew Sango wouldn’t take anything without asking. That left Shippo or Inuyasha. Considering the latter always had her make his ramen, Kagome went looking for the kitsune. He wasn’t lounging in the grass with Kirara, nor was he arguing with Inuyasha— at least, not that Kagome could tell. She didn’t hear any yelling. The only noises outside of camp were birds flying overhead and the sound of rushing water. 

Grabbing her bow, Kagome decided to search by the river. Maybe Shippo had gone to get a drink. She knew he got bored easily. Seeing as everyone else was preoccupied with their own tasks, it made sense the kitsune would go looking for entertainment elsewhere. Kagome just hoped he didn’t run into any trouble. 

Inuyasha’s taunting was beginning to wear on Shippo. He was eager to learn new ways to use his abilities. Kagome was proud of him. For the most part, he was doing well but there were those days when his attempts ended up causing more harm than good.

It was those days that made her worry. 

“Shippo!” Kagome called, cupping her hands around her mouth. “Shippo!”

A large floating orb popped up. “Hey, Kagome!” 

“Ah, there you are! What are you doing out here by yourself?” 

“Practicing,” the kit answered. 

“Did you take the ramen out of my backpack?” 

“Nope,” Shippo said, transforming back into his fox form. 

Kagome frowned. Weird. If Shippo didn’t take them, who did? 

“Maybe Inuyasha got hungry?” the kitsune suggested.

“I doubt that,” Kagome grumbled. 

Inuyasha had wandered away not long after they made camp. Off to look for Kikyo again, she thought bitterly. 

“I’ll check the forest. Maybe one of the locals smelled the food,” Kagome decided. “You should head back. I’m sure when Inuyasha returns, he’ll want to get moving.” 

“Okay.” 

She watched Shippo hurry off then made her way toward the woods. 

Sunlight permeated the treetops, shooting down in streams of gold. Kagome wandered through the forest, eyes searching the gnarled roots and overgrown shrubs for signs of her supplies. 

She tried not to think about the absence of her food being a trap. Naraku had manipulated them many times but Kagome doubted he would bother with instant noodles. At least, she hoped he wouldn’t. 

“Miko.” 

Gasping, she whirled around to find Sesshomaru looming over her. 

He dropped a collection of ramen packets into the grass at her feet. “I believe these are yours.” 

“You?” 

“Rin,” he clarified. 

Kagome stared at the packets unsure what to say. She wasn’t going to admonish a child, especially not one who had suffered like Rin. “Uh, thanks for returning them.” 

Sesshomaru didn’t respond nor did he move to leave. 

She knelt down, gathering them up in her arms. “Was there something else?” 

“Your rations are strange,” he commented. “Their packaging— what substance is it made from?” 

“Styrofoam,” Kagome told him. 

“I have not heard of such a container before.”

“It’s popular where I come from,” she replied, straightening up. 

“Hn.” 

“If Rin was hungry, she’d have better luck stealing cereal,” Kagome suggested. 

“Cereal?”

“Yeah, then she wouldn’t have to worry about boiling water. Ramen is easy to transport but unless you have access to a tea kettle and a fire, you can’t cook it.” 

Sesshomaru looked about as familiar with the term cereal as he had been with styrofoam. 

“The next time I go home, I’ll make sure to bring her some.” 

“You would reward her behavior with treats?” he inquired in a disapproving tone.

Kagome tapped a finger against her bottom lip, considering. He had a point. “I’ll give them to you. That way, when Rin’s good, you can surprise her.” 

He stared at her for a moment, then inclined his head. “That is acceptable.” 

“Cereal isn’t really a treat anyway,” Kagome told him. “These are better.”

Juggling the ramen in her arms, she pulled a pack of Hi-Chew from her pocket. 

Sesshomaru took it, turning the package over in his clawed hand. “It smells sweet.” 

“It’s candy,” Kagome provided with a smile. “Shippo loves the strawberry flavor. I’m sure Rin will enjoy it too.” 

He continued to study the wrapper with thinly-veiled interest. 

When Kagome first saw Rin with Sesshomaru, she didn’t understand how the little girl could choose to follow him. Watching the care he took toward his charge made her understand. Rin needed a protector and Sesshomaru— well, he needed someone to protect. He needed a purpose. 

“Kagome! Kagome, where are you?” 

She turned in the direction of Inuyasha’s voice. Kagome heard the sound of bushes and stones kicking up as he made his way toward her. Worried, she cast a glance at Sesshomaru. 

He was gone. 

“Huh?” Kagome scanned the trees, hoping to catch a sight of silver hair. 

“Hey.” A hand closed around her arm making her jump. “What are you doing out here alone? Did you sense a jewel shard?”

“No,” she answered, tearing her gaze away from the forest’s shadows. “The ramen went missing.” 

“Shippo!” Inuyasha roared. 

Kagome didn’t bother to correct him. She followed Inuyasha back toward camp, missing the golden eyes that watched her leave. 

The next time Kagome returned from across the well, she took a detour before visiting Kaede’s hut. With her backpack slung over her shoulders, she ventured into the forest. 

She found a hollow at the base of a tree and placed several boxes of cereal and one package of Hi-Chews inside. Kagome wrapped them in her scarf. Sesshomaru would recognize her scent and know it was safe to share with Rin. When she returned, all that remained was her scarf.

Stealing away became part of her routine. Each time she went home, Kagome packed extra rations for her new friends. She found herself lingering by the tree. No matter how long she waited, Sesshomaru never appeared.

A few months later, a new threat appeared on the horizon. Finals. Between worrying over the looming threat of Naraku and the backlash from Inuyasha for having to leave, Kagome nearly forgot about her offering. As prepared to jump into the well, she was reminded of magenta stripes and a crescent moon. Kagome left her backpack in the grass and ran over to the tree hollow. 

Inside, her scarf was folded neatly on the ground. Smiling, she reached in to retrieve it but the scarf wasn’t the only thing left behind. 

Nestled within the folds was a carved jade hairpin, depicting a dog chasing a bird. Kagome’s grin widened.

She attempted, rather unsuccessfully, to put her hair up. The soft black strands fell down around her face, dropping the pin into her lap. With a frustrated sigh, she tried again. The result was the same. 

“Allow me.” 

Kagome froze as a hand combed through her hair. She closed her eyes, focusing on keeping her breathing even and her heart rate steady as Sesshomaru worked. With the same poise with which he conducted himself in battle, he twisted her hair into a bun and drove the pin through, securing it at the base of her neck. 

Slowly, she glanced over her shoulder at him. “Thank you.”

“Safe travels, Kagome.” 

It wasn’t until she climbed out of the well in her own time that Kagome realized he’d called her by her name. 

Ducking her head to hide her blush, she failed to notice the way her grandfather was staring at her. “Kagome?”

“Yeah?”

“Where did you get that?” he asked, pointing to the hairpin. 

“A friend,” she answered, feeling her cheeks burn. 

“A friend, huh?” Gramps questioned, skeptically. 

“What’s wrong with a friend giving me a gift?” 

“And did your friend also help you with your hair?” her grandfather inquired. Kagome nodded. “Are you aware of what that means?” 

“Gramps,” she cried exasperatedly, “why does everything have to have a meaning? Can’t a gift just be a gift?” 

“Not when it’s a courting shimada,” he revealed. 

Kagome’s blue eyes went wide. “A what?” 

She dropped her pack and ran to the well house.

Sesshomaru had some explaining to do.

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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