Impression by The Hatter Theory

Chapter 2


By : TheHatterTheory

Chapter Two

Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to Inu Yasha or The Sentinel. 

Notes: So right around the turn of the millennium The Sentinel was an HBO show with a human character that had incredibly strong senses. He had an equally human friend that 'guided' him. Fanon took over from there, and since then the trope has evolved, so there's a huge range for how sentinels and guides function, fic to fic. I'm hoping I've written it well enough without being info dumpy to actually get what's going on lol. If not just harass me in the reviews or send a message here or on tumblr.


It was practice, and not restlessness that drove him outside. Habit. Years and years of his mother telling him that the outside world was nothing to be afraid of, that they could function within it if they wanted it badly enough. It was all about will. A walk in the park was never just a walk. It was a gauntlet, one that had been difficult, once.

It was easy now, despite the few zones he'd had. Every sense was resting evenly, nothing dialed back or forced to focus. The sky was a pale blue, the clouds traces of fog against it, and the sun warmed his skin through his clothing, rolled pleasantly down the back of his neck. Scents assaulted his nose, ice cream and sweat, children and parents animals and food and trash. Cologne and perfume and baby powder. The beginnings of fall already hung in the air, a crispness to the leaves that reminded him of apples crunching in his mouth.

Spring flowers out of season and child's sweat grew stronger, the sound of sneakers thumping on the concrete.


Sesshoumaru looked down at the little girl in his path, then around for anyone waving their arms and screaming like a madman. It was what parents tended to do, especially when their child was speaking to a stranger. When no one presented themselves, he cast his hearing out, listening for panic or fear. There was no one, though. No one at all looking for the child.

“Where are your parents?” Sesshoumaru asked, hunkering down to look at the girl. Her brown eyes were wide, pupils blown. He could smell the mix of hormones that declared 'guide', and even though he mentally recoiled, he knew it would be criminally irresponsible to leave her alone. Not when there were dozens of sentinels looking for a guide and willing to settle. Even for a child.

The thought made something in his mouth sour.

“Rin's parents died.”

That might explain why she'd already manifested. “Where are you staying?”


A shrine. Inu Yasha's words came back to him with startling clarity. He should have known. Willow and copper clung to the child.

“Rin!” A panicked voice called out. Another higher pitched voice was shouting Rin's name. A child's voice.

“This way,” He said, getting up and walking towards the sound. The child fell into step beside him with ease, chattering about how much she loved apples and didn't he? She went on about the upcoming season, happily anticipating the cooler weather. When he caught sight of the pair he stopped.

The guide's blue eyes landed on him, something punching low in his stomach in recognition. Drift ice scalded his tongue.

“Go to your tutor,” He instructed.

“You know Kagome!” Rin said, bouncing excitedly. Her tiny hand grabbed his and she was stumbling forward, attempting to drag him behind. “Kagome, the detective found Rin!”

Sesshoumaru wondered how she knew he was a detective.

The small boy, another sentinel, bounded over, not stopping until he slammed into Rin. Her hand was yanked from his in the tumble, Rin chirping excitedly, nonsense words that the other child repeated back. A secret language between them, a child's language. Sesshoumaru barely noticed, watching the woman staring at the children.

Kagome's eyes scanned Rin, and even if he hadn't known what to expect, he understood immediately that she was checking for any hint of harm.

“I would not coerce a child,” Sesshoumaru heard himself growling.

“It's not-I-” Kagome stuttered out, flushing as her eyes met his. “It's a valid concern,” She finally said, back straightening. Damn if that wasn't a little respectable, because he'd feared the same thing for the little girl. And a guide was standing up to him without resorting to forcing him back. He couldn't remember the last time it had happened, if it had ever happened to him.

“You were the one that blinded Detective Maki last week. At the precinct.”

“If you mean got him to back off,” Kagome said, walking over to the children and bending down to run her fingers through their hair. “While I was trying to help a waking sentinel, then yes. Higurashi, Kagome. And you are?” She demanded. He'd known her name, but it was nice to have the proper introduction.

“Detective Yamauchi.”

“Any relation to Inu Yasha?” Kagome muttered.

“Half, unfortunately.”

She muttered so quietly he could barely hear, although with her history around sentinel children, he supposed she'd gotten used to taking such measures. It did give the impression she agreed with his sentiments of his half brother though. Or maybe she just didn't like him.

“Thanks,” She finally said, letting the children cuddle. “Rin's still getting used to her situation. Sometimes she feels something and follows it.”

“She is very young,” Sesshoumaru observed. Both children were, but guides were more resilient, their nascent abilities more difficult to force to the surface. He'd only heard of a handful manifesting before they hit puberty.

“The incident at the bank in Shibuya a few months ago,” Kagome said, answering the unspoken question. “It was on the news.”

A robbery gone wrong, hostages dead. He hadn't heard of a guide manifesting in the middle of that, although he supposed it had been withheld from the public for the child's protection.

“If we hurry,” Kagome said, looking down at the children. “We can make it back home in time for snacks.”

“Fruit parfait?” The boy asked.

“Yes,” Kagome promised, beaming at him.

“Will the detective come?” Rin asked, looking back up at him.

“I don't think he likes fruit.”

“He does!” Rin protested, expression mulish. “He loves apples and blueberries and cherries!”

How the hell had she known that?

A quiet, unnameable sound got caught in Kagome's throat, impossible to decode. Her eyes went back to him, shuttered. “Do you mind-I mean-” It wasn't the tone of a favor, but a request for him to back off. Everything about her screamed 'go away'. Strange. His instincts latched onto the guide's unease, agitated by it. It was almost enough to make him say no, to arbitrarily resist whatever his instincts insisted on.

“Would you like parfaits?” Rin asked, interrupting Kagome.

Sesshoumaru could hear the plea in her voice, and Rin and the other child both stared up at him, their twin expressions hopeful.

It wasn't like he had anything better to do.

“Yay!” Rin said, cheering.

“Rin,” Kagome admonished.

“I don't mind,” He told them. If nothing else, he could figure out how the girl was reading him so easily.

“Shippou, don't forget,” Kagome warned when the boy darted away, back to the shrine. The child sentinel paused and waited for Rin to catch up, taking her hand in his.

“How is the girl from the raid?”

“Girl-Oh, you mean Souten. She's doing okay, still getting used to everything. My friend's been working more with her than I have, to be honest. She's a level three too. Her guide is helping out.”

“And they all live at the shrine?”

“It's a daycare,” Kagome told him, and he could hear the uptick of her heart stumbling through it.

“A secret, then,” He murmured.

“It's not-”

“It would be inadvisable to advertise the location of vulnerable children,” Sesshoumaru interrupted. “And a sound decision to pretend. However, I am a detective, and a sentinel. I have no wish to see them harmed.”

Kagome's eyes slanted in his direction, as if gauging the veracity of his word. “It's a temporary stop, nothing more.”

“I understand,” He murmured, knowing exactly what she was saying. Exploitation was a valid concern. “I am curious how such a place came about.” Most children were supposedly placed with a bonded pair to help them through their transition. Or so he'd been told. But two sentinels and a young guide all in one place said otherwise. Curious.

“My mother said we had the spare time and space, and it was a waste not to use it.”

Sesshoumaru glanced over at her, surprised at how little she was actually offering. It was admirable, how she gave him just enough to fend off demands for information and not give everything away. She was almost casual.

“Your mother-”

“Unable to bond after my father's death,” She supplied.

“Low functioning,” Sesshoumaru said, and the bitterness of fury hit his nostrils, startling given how little her expression changed.

“My mother's abilities aren't impaired,” Kagome informed him in a stiff voice. “She's still a class three guide.”

Sesshoumaru didn't bother to respond to that. She'd know anything polite would be just that, a lie for the sake of comfort. He had the feeling anything he said would only serve to incite her temper.

“How do you know Inu Yasha?”

“He courted my sister a few years ago.”

“I was unaware.” From her tone, it hadn't been an amicable parting. Then again, amicable rarely entered the equation, especially when his brother was involved. It did explain how he'd known about the shrine, at least.

“Inu Yasha's courted just about every guide in Tokyo,” Kagome snorted.

“Including you?”

“I said just about. And no. I'm not interesting in bonding.”

“Courting doesn't stipulate bonding.”

“But it implies it,” Kagome quipped. “Especially for people like Inu Yasha. I'm not interested in dangling something that important in front of them. It's cruel.”

“You make it sound as if all sentinels are interested in bonding,” He scoffed.

“I haven't met one that isn't,” Kagome said, still staring ahead.

Her audacity blew past offensive. “Now you have,” He informed her, unable to stop the condescension from creeping into his voice.

“Congratulations,” Kagome replied, just as condescending as her cool gaze flicked over him, almost dismissive. “You're unique.”

If it hadn't been such a complete turn around, he might have actually been offended. But it was amusing instead of infuriating. Relieving. A guide that wasn't oblivious, but indifferent to expectations. Uninterested.


“I have never met a guide that enjoys provoking sentinels instead of calming them. I suppose you're unique too.”

“Lucky me.”



“Is that Sesshoumaru?” Her mother asked, looking outside.

“He found Rin,” Kagome told her mother, trying not to be worried. There hadn't been any sign of imprinting, but his presence was setting her teeth on edge, making her movements jittery as she tried to put together the yogurt and fruit. Strangers always made her anxious. Even if he was Inu Yasha's brother- She'd heard stories from Inu Yasha about him, and wasn't sure how to feel about him knowing about the children. Wasn't sure how to feel about showing him the way to the shrine, letting him in. Doubts turned muscle memory into a stuttering, halting mess.

“He's Touga's son. It's fine.”

Kagome said nothing, had already known that who's son he was. She tried to let the fact be enough.

“He's a level five class three,” Nodoka observed. “Never had a guide.”

“Seriously?” He'd said he wasn't interested, but she'd assumed it was because he'd been dropped or even divorced by a guide. To have never had one at his age, with his range of abilities? She'd never heard of any sentinels managing to survive that long without going catatonic.

“Doesn't want one. His mother is the same. They're something of a legend in sentinel circles.”


“According to Kikyo, he's becoming unstable. Supposedly, it's all anyone can talk about at the office, although I think her information is coming from more reliable resources.” Nodoka paused and she looked over to her mother, waiting for an explanation. “His brother is courting her.”

“Again?” Kagome sputtered, remembering the first time it had happened. Inu Yasha and Kikyo had been an unlikely match, but it had appeared alright on the surface, until it hadn't. She didn't relish the idea of a second fallout. Kikyo had nearly lost herself in the first, and nearly taken her over the edge with her.

Even before coming online, they'd been sensitive to one another, nearly impossible to block the other out after.

“It's her choice. You know how Kikyo feels about it.”

A job, a chore. A duty, nevermind how hurt she'd been after breaking it off with Inu Yasha the first time, how difficult it had been to open up to another sentinel. Kagome shook her head, knowing her commentary wouldn't be welcome. “Is Sesshoumaru safe around the children?”

“From what I've gathered, it's only been zone outs, no frenzies. The police union is still forcing him to accept a guide or face termination,” Nodoka explained, staring out the window at the children playing.

“That's pretty serious. Don't they have guides working for the department?”

“None of them will go near him.”

“Is there a reason for that?” A reason they should be worried about?

“One tried to calm him down once. Not a feral moment, just temper. He reacted by threatening them, rather colorfully if rumor can be believed. It was a big deal, when it happened. No one was used to the idea of a sentinel not wanting a guide near them. Of a sentinel threatening one.”

“If he wasn't feral the guide shouldn't have messed with him, he had a right to be upset,” Kagome found herself saying, feeling offended on Sesshoumaru's behalf. “A bad mood is completely different from a frenzy. People are allowed to have their own feelings, sentinels included.” And it only reinforced the notion that guides were sentinel tranquilizers, there to drug them and keep them stable. Worse than being just insulting, it was degrading and dangerous.

“I know that, and you know that. Most guides know that. But you have to remember, some guides don't. And the best guides don't exactly end up as emergency backup in the police department.”

“No wonder people treat us like we're nothing more than a living mood stabilizer,” Kagome muttered, a familiar swell of bitterness swamping her.

A hand rubbed her shoulder. “It takes time.”

Sentinels and guides had existed for centuries. How much longer would it take?

“The children like him. Even Souten seems enamored,” Nodoka pointed out, looking back at the window and to the scene outside.

Kagome peeked over her mother's shoulder. Sesshoumaru was sitting on the picnic bench, Rin next to him and Shippou and Souten on the table itself, legs crossed as they listened to him. He had their undivided attention, the children all preternaturally still as he spoke to them. They were all solemn, as if he was speaking seriously to adults instead of little children.

“I can take these upstairs,” Nodoka murmured, separating three of the cups and putting them on a second tray.

“Has he come out yet?”

“Not yet, but Miroku and Sango will bring him out,” Her mother promised as she balanced a tray on her hand and walked past. Kagome chewed her lip, tried not to picture Kohaku staring blankly at the wall, Sango and Miroku trying to pull him out out of a zone.

When the image was out of her head, and nothing but the picture of the children, safe and content, filled it, she picked up the tray and walked through the house and into the courtyard. Sesshoumaru's voice was quiet, but as she got closer, she could hear him describing a sun dial and how it worked. The impromptu science lesson ended when Souten spotted her, a grin stretching her features.

“Snack time,” Kagome told them, grateful none of them had lunged off of the table, as they'd been known to do.

“Sesshoumaru was telling us how he controls his senses!” Shippou babbled as she sat the tray down. “It's a sundial like the one in-” Kagome watched him flounder before looking back to Sesshoumaru.

“Jaipur. It's name is the samrat yantra,” Sesshoumaru said, the words foreign to her. “It means supreme instrument.”

“It's the biggest in the world!” Shippou added, looking amazed.

Kagome felt the quip rising, knew the worst thing she could possibly do was insult the man's method of control. Even if he had to use the world's biggest sundial to do it.

“His is a small one though,” Rin said, looking up at her, frowning.

Sesshoumaru mirrored her frown, and Kagome throttled the panic that threatened to come out as a command for Sesshoumaru's departure.

“So you don't use the world's largest sundial?” Kagome asked, sitting down.

“No,” Sesshoumaru said, arching an indolent brow. Obviously he'd caught her taunt. “I was giving the children an example of one.”

“Thank you,” Kagome murmured, grateful for the diversion. Sesshoumaru accepted the cup of fruit and yogurt. For a moment there was nothing but the noise of the children smacking as they ate. Peace. Even with the addition of a stranger, it was peaceful.

Until Rin began whimpering, the sound starting low in her throat and bursting out of her mouth in a keening wail. Shippou's fruit cup dropped and Souten was scrambling back, away from Rin until she was off of the picnic table completely, stumbling away in terror. The wash of despair was only amplified by Rin's fear and sadness, an abrupt wave of too much from two completely different directions hitting her at once.

Kagome forgot about Sesshoumaru completely, tugging Rin closer to her and pulling her into her lap.

“Rin,” She hummed, focusing on the memory of her room. Beautiful colors and patterns moving in the breeze of a fan, comfortable blankets and sheets of different textures. Safety. Fur brushed up against her hand, the warm moisture of a breath breezed over her fingers before disappearing again.

Rin's wail turned into a sob, small fingers clutching at Kagome's shirt. She focused on the safety of her room, building it around them until she and Rin could have been there, protected by the curtains around her bed. Slowly Rin’s breathing slowed, the heartbeat fluttering beginning to slow.

“K-Kohaku,” Stuttered out, garbled and broken.

“He's alright now Rin. Sango and Miroku will make sure he's okay,” Kagome murmured into her hair.

“He keeps going away,” Rin whimpered. “He doesn't want to be here.”

“He's going to be okay sweetie,” Kagome promised, eyes closed as she tried to keep herself calm while another wave of desperation broke from the house. Rin trembled in her arms, desperate little noises escaping.

When Rin's trembling faded and she hiccuped, a wet, tired sound, Kagome finally looked up, surprised to see Sesshoumaru sitting there,expression chillingly blank.

“Shippou, Souten, can you take Rin to the living room please?” Kagome asked. Both children scrambled to the ground and around the bench. Shippou held his hand out to Rin, who slipped down from Kagome's lap and allowed herself to be led, their nonsense language erupting between them, whispers back and forth.

None of them looked back as they walked into the house.

“I heard screaming inside the house,” Sesshoumaru stated coldly. Kagome resisted the urge to hug herself, a wave of anger scraping along her skin, moving through her without any hint of mercy. It didn’t abate, instead only blanketing her, a suffocating, heavy thing pressing against her chest. In some attempt to dull it she tried to imagine a shadow eclipsing the moon, the way she’d done since childhood. It proved futile, his fury too intense in it’s relentless accusation.

“Kohaku is Sango's brother. They were both-A guide abused them. Sango's gotten-She's able to handle it now, but Kohaku came out of it-” She stuttered, trying to search for words as the rage scraped her consciousness. Kohaku and Sango had come to them utterly broken, Sango prone to frenzies and Kohaku almost catatonic. Sango had gotten better, had even bonded with Miroku and become friends with her. Kohaku though- “He doesn't try to fight zoning out. For him it's easier than remembering. That's what Rin meant about him not wanting to be here. He's intentionally forces a zone.”

Another secret shared, and Kagome really did hug herself this time, hoping that the virtue of blood meant something to Sesshoumaru, that he would keep the secret because his father thought the secret worth keeping.

“What happened to the guide?” Sesshoumaru demanded, the rage letting up. Kagome took her first full breath in what seemed like an eternity, the fury no longer threatening to choke her.

Taking a moment, she ignored him, took a deep breath and watched the shadow eclipse the moon until there was only a dark, indistinct circle. When he was just as indistinct, muffled, she took another breath. Light expectation, nothing else from him. “We don't know. They were found during a raid in San'ya. Traffickers had been drugging them for at least a few weeks.”

Sesshoumaru looked-Not satisfied with her answer, but willing to accept it. “And your family is helping them?”

“We're trying,” She admitted, the niggling sensation of helplessness returning. Kohaku was beyond her means, could barely stand to be near her despite years of cohabitation. And she understood it. But it didn't lessen the sensation of uselessness, the frustration.

“A stranger nearby probably didn't help,” Sesshoumaru murmured. “I understand why you didn't want me here.”

“I didn't-”

“I understand,” Sesshoumaru repeated, standing. “I apologize for the intrusion.”

“You were invited,” Kagome sighed, following his example and getting to her feet. Suddenly she realized how exhausted she felt, the tumult of emotions and control, or lack therof, in a few minutes draining her completely. Maybe Miroku was right, and she needed to take some time away and recharge.

“By a child. I let my curiosity overrule my manners. It was a mistake on my part.”

“And mine for allowing it,” She conceded.

“Good afternoon.”

It was so stilted and awkward. Kagome repeated the words and watched Sesshoumaru walk away.

The sensation of fur sliding across her hand followed, pressure winding behind her knees.

“Go away,” She muttered, shaking her head and collecting the scattered cups and spoons.

It lingered, following her through the day.



His work phone buzzed for the third time. Pausing the video (hour two hundred of asinine and counting, as far as he was concerned) he pulled it out of his pocket and frowned at the number, the same one as the prior two calls.


“Detective?” Kagome's voice asked. Rin was screaming in the background, voice thick with tears. His name came out, echoed behind Kagome, clear as a bell. “This is Kagome, from the other day.”

“I remember.”

“I know this is probably inconvenient, but something's happened here at the shrine and Rin needs to see you.”

The overwhelming urge to end the call warred with the impulse to go to the shrine. Something had happened. Vague and dissatisfying. Something. He hated that word.

“What happened?”

“We think someone was observing the house,” Kagome said, obviously taking care with her words. “And the sentinels here began zoning at the same time. All of them.”

And that was enough, the sound of Rin calling out for him echoing through the phone again.

“I'll be there shortly,” He said ending the call before Kagome could say anything else. Shutting off the video feed, he shrugged on his jacket and grabbed his keys.

The ride to the shrine was short, the interim lost to the memory of Rin screaming and crying in the background and the tremor in Kagome's voice. When he got there and stepped out, he looked around, seeing none of the children outside playing, as they had before. Scent followed sight, nothing immediately jumping out at him. Focusing on his hearing, he latched onto the needling sound, fine and thin-

Immediately he shook himself, recognizing the device. Keeping a firm hold of the ground beneath his feet, the pressure of the air and his clothes, he followed the sound and saw it, a speck of metal and wire on the ground.

The sound died when he broke it between two fingers, but it didn't completely abate.

By the time he'd circled the property, there were three more little broken chips in hand, and the sound was gone. Ignoring the need to check on the shrine, he circled the property again, hearing dialed down and focusing on the scents of the area. Too much. Layers and layers of scents that stood out, too many to discern. Sesshoumaru bit back a curse and headed for the house. The front door flew open, Kagome staring down at him with something akin to gratitude. “Thank you for coming. Rin's upstairs in our room.”

He followed her up, taking note of the neutral colors and quiet drone of air filters. A sentinel's home, with muffled sounds and hardwood floors. Everyone was inside, however, tucked into bedrooms and being told everything was alright by various adult voices.

Kagome's room, and by some form of osmosis or association, Rin's room, would have been a nightmare for lesser sentinels. It was a study in textures and colors, a riot in every possible way except for, strangely enough, scent. Her scent was embedded in the walls and furniture, in the subflooring beneath the lush carpet. Rin's lingered with it, lighter, less saturated. But there were no perfumes or air fresheners.

Any sentinel prone to zoning would, though. The room was geared to appeal to the senses, to get lost in them. From the bright curtains around the bed with beads and tiny flashes of silver mirror sewn into them to the various textured pillows and blankets. Shapes and textures beckoned, a colorful wash that seemed at odds with the cautious woman he’d met before.

“Is this okay?” Kagome asked, frowning. “I know it's-”

“It's fine,” Sesshoumaru said, thinking about the rest of the house. It wasn't devoid of color and texture and-Personality, maybe. But it was muted. This was a haven. A guide's haven. “Rin,” He said, calling to the little girl. The curtains shifted and moved, and Rin's small hand pulled it to the side, peeking out.

“Hello,” He greeted, keeping his voice calm.

Not once had it crossed his mind that the little girl would launch herself at him and cling, fingers clutching at his shirt like he'd disappear. But she did, and with a look at Kagome, who appeared increasingly worried, he leaned down and picked her up. Quiet sniffling sounds came out of the child, her scent already saturated by tears and snot.

“She felt something earlier today, right before all of the others started zoning,” Kagome explained.

“They want her,” Rin mumbled, voice hoarse. He could hear the abuse she'd put it through earlier, wondered when she'd stopped, when 'earlier today' had been.

“Who do they want?” Sesshoumaru asked, peering down at her solemnly. He'd never been the best with children, but he'd never been as awful as his brother either.

“Dunno. Her. She's a guide.”

“Did you get any other impressions?” Sesshoumaru asked, moving to sit on the bed. The curtain dragged down beneath him, and he had to shift, ignoring how Kagome pushed it away as if she’d been anticipating it. Just like he was ignoring the fact that he was sitting on a stranger's bed with a strange child clinging to him like her personal messiah.

Rin's head shook, her nose buried in his shirt. “They want the guide.”

“Rin,” He began, looking down at her. “Was it a guide, or the guides?”

Rin paused, brown eyes flicking back and forth like it was his shirt that provided the answer. “A guide. They want someone-” She searched for a word, clearly at a loss.

“Particular?” He supplied. Rin nodded, head jerking up and down in agreement. “So not all of the guides.”

“Not all the guides, just one,” She agreed.

“You did very well,” He told her, wishing for more, wishing for context.

“You're a sentinel. You'll protect us, right?” Rin asked, clearly expecting an answer.

“I will do my best.”

“Rin, I'm going to go get mom, and she'll stay with you, okay?”

Rin nodded weakly and obediently crawled out of his arms and back onto the bed. Kagome leaned down and ran her fingers through her hair before placing a kiss on her forehead. “She'll be here in a minute, promise. I'm going to talk to Detective Yamauchi about this.”

“Help him catch them?” Rin asked, curling into the array of sheets and blankets.


Sesshoumaru stepped out, but couldn't avoid hearing Rin swear to Kagome that he would keep them safe, as if the pair had switched roles. Kagome hummed, her only answer, and followed him out before closing the door.

“Why is she being kept alone?”

“Mom's worried about spontaneous bonding with all of them this stressed, especially her,” Kagome admitted, sounding exhausted. “I'll meet you downstairs?”

Sesshoumaru nodded, told himself he was walking through a government building instead of someone's house, that he was being treated as a detective and nothing more. But it still felt intimate, the house nothing at all like the bland or cold city buildings he'd walked through. For all that it was a house attempting to keep sentinels with little control comfortable, it wasn't sterile. He felt like someone trusted, a family friend walking through someone's home.

And that was completely inappropriate, on so many levels.

Kagome came down and found him in the living room, staring at the pictures but not really seeing them. He turned to her and finally saw her, and not the mask she'd been wearing while dealing with Rin. Worry, fear. Traces of anger, caution. Exhaustion.

“Thank you again, for coming to help her,” Kagome sighed, rubbing her face. “You didn't have to.”

“You said she sensed something before the others zoned, correct?” Sesshoumaru asked, reaching into his pocket and pulling out the device.

“Yeah,” Kagome sighed, looking at the broken piece of machinery. “What is that?”

“It's a sound emitter. This is one of the newer ones we've been warned about,” He admitted. “They're designed to force sentinels to zone, and almost impossible to trace once hearing is dialed down. Focus so much you get suck in, or not find it at all,” He explained.

“That’s why Sango couldn't find it,” Kagome muttered, running a hand through her already mussed hair. “We’ve been keeping the kids inside, but she tried after-” Kagome shook her head again.

Sesshoumaru wondered if telling her there had been four would be a good or bad idea.

“It's possible they heard Rin saying something, and chose to withdraw.”

“Is there anything I can do? I didn't even have anything solid, and Kikyo is on a case. I don't-” Kagome waved a hand, looking frustrated. Words were going unsaid, Kagome's face flush with temper. He could feel the heat radiating beneath her skin, the flush of hot blood pulsing and coloring in a blush.

“There is evidence now,” Sesshoumaru reminded her. “And given that I didn't even know this place had children, I'd say it's not well known, correct?”

“We've worked hard to keep it quiet, yeah,” Kagome agreed. “Most think the kids are placed in different families. It muddles everything enough that it's harder for traffickers to find them.”

Which meant he couldn't call just anyone. The liaison office, which Kagome couldn't call, apparently, or- He bit back a curse. “My father should be aware.” As the assistant director, he had to know. And if he didn't, he would certainly know to keep it quiet.

“He is,” Kagome hummed, looked up, startled, when a wash of disbelief crashed through him. He could see it register against her senses, ruthlessly drew it back and tamped it down so she felt nothing. “He and my dad were coworkers. He helped my mom get this place established, and I think he's the one that allocates the funding.”

Another facet of his father's life he hadn't known about.

“Is that-You-” She began, then stopped, obviously reaching her own conclusions. “Thank you. I'd feel weird, calling him about this personally.”

“He and your father were coworkers.”

“In a loose sense,” Kagome corrected. “My dad was SAS when your dad was working for the DA. I've only met him a couple of times in passing.”

That explained it.

“Would you like anything to drink?”

“As long as it's not in a juice box,” He said, taking the offer for privacy for what it was. Kagome left him alone, and he pulled his phone out and scrolled through the numbers. His father would at least keep him informed of the situation. If he called Saiten, the only assurance he would get was of being shut out of the case.

“Sesshoumaru,” His father answered. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I'm at the Higurashi shrine,” He began. Funny, he could hear his father bear down across whatever paper it was he was signing, the pen dragging in surprise. “There has been a situation. Miss Higurashi has informed me that calling the police would be inadvisable.”

“What happened?”

“I found four high frequency emitters. And one of the children said someone is after a guide here.”

“Anything else?”

“Something that's confusing the scents and making it difficult to parse anything,” Sesshoumaru said slowly, hating to admit the failure.

“And everyone there?”

“Unharmed, currently inside.”

“Good. I'll be down there shortly. If you could inform Nodoka, I'd be grateful. And Sesshoumaru?”


“What are you doing there?”

Sesshoumaru didn't open his mouth for an explanation he didn't have. Better his father not hear a failed defense and write it off to refusal than know he didn't have one.

“Fine. Stay there until I get there.”

“Of course.”

When he ended the call, he listened to the sounds in the kitchen. “You don't have to hover.”

Kagome walked back out, a class of juice in hand. She was fairly bursting out of her skin trying not to ask, and he didn't have the heart to withhold information when she looked so close to the edge.

“He's coming down here himself. I explained the situation.”

Kagome nodded dully, the news only seeming to deflate her. “I should go get mom.”

She looked ready to cave in. Empathy couldn't have been a gift through the ordeal, and he doubted she'd had an opportunity to ground herself. “If you need a minute, I can inform her,” He offered, wishing he could take the words back the moment he'd said them. The naked relief in her eyes did nothing to make him feel better.

“Thank you,” Kagome breathed.

Sesshoumaru resolutely turned away and headed for the stairs. The sensation of being a family friend had only gotten worse at the revelation of his father's involvement with the shrine. It was as if he had a right to be there, to be communicating with people he barely knew. The connections were tangible between their families, but not to him directly.

Kagome's mother was in Kagome and Rin's room, both of them sitting on a colorful rug, hands clasped and breaths in sync. Grounding.

“Hello Sesshoumaru,” Nodoka greeted calmly, with the air of someone that knew him. Maybe her acquaintance with his father made her comfortable. The feeling wasn't mutual.

“My father is on his way here.”

“Thank you. I'll be down in a moment.”

Sesshoumaru understood the dismissal, even if he didn't particularly like it. But empathy won out, theirs, not his. Rin had already been disturbed enough for the day; she didn't need his personal conflict interfering with her attempts to calm down. He shut the door and stepped back into the hall. Kagome waited, and he wasn't quite sure what to do about that. About her. He'd only ever seen calm, placid guides. Not-Worn thin and through guides that looked like they were on the verge of breaking apart. Frail, almost. Not that he would have called her frail. Brittle, maybe.

She was still sitting, but she'd braced her elbows on her knees, nearly bent double.

“Rin's exceptionally gifted,” Kagome murmured. “If there was anything higher than a class three, she would be it.”

“You think the intruders are after her?”

“If they want a guide, she'd be a prime target,” Kagome admitted, eyes clenched shut. “She can do more than just sense emotions. She knows things about people.”

“Like my vocation and fruit preferences,” Sesshoumaru guessed, taking a seat. Kagome's sudden forthcoming attitude made him wary. Something was amiss with her, for her to be sharing so much.

Kagome nodded, blue eyes cracking open. “Mom's been trying to keep it quiet, but I don't know who all knows at this point.”

It presented a whole slew of problems he could only begin listing. A truly gifted guide was one thing, a child that could literally read minds-It suggested she was an anomaly, or an evolution for guides. It also suggested a number of unpleasant futures, all of them including a lab or virtual slavery.

It wasn't a future he wanted for Rin.

“Does my father know?”

“Maybe?” Kagome said, looking helpless. “I haven't said anything to anyone but you. Mom and Kikyo though-” She shrugged. “Kaede has to know, she did the testing. Anyone that lives here knows, but no one would betray us like that. I just-” Kagome looked down at her laced fingers, the tips and knuckles white.

“This will be solved,” Sesshoumaru assured her.

“I can't let anything happen to her. To any of them,” Kagome added. The bite of salt hit the ear, and Sesshoumaru reeled back the urge to touch her. Inappropriate. Utterly inappropriate.

She-It, was nothing more than a case, he reminded himself. A very delicate case.

“Nothing will happen to the children.”

Kagome didn't respond before her mother came downstairs. Sesshoumaru watched the older woman put a pacifying hand on her daughter's shoulder and squeeze.

“Everyone's calm now,” Nodoka promised, taking a seat. “Rin is with the others. Thank you for coming Sesshoumaru. I know it was inconvenient.”

It was better that he had. Sesshoumaru took the emitters out of his pocket and put them on the coffee table, then began to explain what they were. The overabundance on scents and his theory on the timeline joined it. His father came in, not even bothering to knock, and took a seat next to Nodoka. No one interrupted him until he'd finished.

“It's possible Rin is the target,” Kagome repeated, looking less tired than she had before. Braced. Ready. It was almost admirable. But only almost. Her declaration hit the room and hung in the air, a portent of worse to follow.

“We can't be sure. Any of the guides living here are an ideal target,” His father said, leaning back into the couch. “I've made sure that Rin's abilities have been kept very quiet.”

“How quiet?” Kagome demanded. Sesshoumaru quietly applauded her temerity. Not many could stand up to his father. Fewer survived it intact.

“I falsified her papers,” His father declared bluntly. Sesshoumaru almost did a double take at the easy way his father admitted to breaking federal laws. “Kaede knows the stakes, and has remained silent. As of now, we're the only ones outside of the shrine that know anything about her.”

“Including your guide?”

“Izayoi knows,” His father acknowledged. “But she understands the nature of the situation.”

“That's a lot of people,” Kagome muttered.

“All of them have proved to be trustworthy,” Nodoka reminded her, the soft words an unmistakable rebuke. Kagome colored, shoulders hunching against it. Sesshoumaru wondered if she was remembering moments before when she'd so bluntly exposed the truth to him, a stranger with only a tenuous connection.

“Still, it seems professional,” Touga sighed. “Those emitters and the scent bombs are heavily regulated. That doesn't bode well.”

“Will we need to move?” Nodoka murmured.

“Not yet, I don't think,” His father said, brow furrowed in thought. “But it might become necessary in the future.”

“Leave the shrine?” Kagome asked, dazed. He actually felt sorry for her, saw the immensity of what had occurred beginning to bear down on her, the possible conesquences to what amounted to a few minutes of terror.

“It's always been a possibility,” Nodoka sighed, rubbing her forehead. “We're lucky this is the first time we've had to consider it.”

“The properties in Hokkaido and Ehime are still available. I can have someone go through and make sure they're ready.”

Sesshoumaru felt his world tip and tilt beneath him. This was another aspect of his father he'd never known about, never even guessed at. Secrets were a politicians life, but this? It was a level of deception he'd never credited to his father.


He blinked. Everyone was staring at him expectantly. He waited.

“Would you be willing to put some time in on this one?” His father asked. It had the air of repetition.

“Yes,” He agreed. There wasn't much to go on though. Even with police resources, he doubted he'd get very far. And that was if he could stay off of Saiten's radar. It went without saying everything would be off book.

“I can set you up with access to the private network,” His father said, standing up. Old joints popped, minuscule sounds that echoed in Sesshoumaru's ears. Age. “Nodoka, I've got three on the perimeter.”

“Thank you Touga.”

“Come on son,” His father instructed.

With nothing else to do, he followed. There were no goodbyes, both guides still sitting when they walked out of the room and then out of the house. Sesshoumaru was about to part ways with his father when a hand on his shoulder stopped him.

“How did you find out about this place?”

“One of the children wandered up to me in the park.” Rin.

“I mean today.”

“I didn't have anything to do with the incursion,” Sesshoumaru bit out, cold washing through him.

“I didn't imply that you did,” His father said, brow furrowing. “But why were you called?”

“Kagome-” He began, then bit back the name. “She called, saying Rin demanded to see me, that she wouldn't calm down.”

“Rin likes you.”

He bristled. “I have no interest in the child.”

“Don't put words in my mouth. Rin's an excellent judge of character, for obvious reasons. I'm just surprised. You've never had any patience for guides.”

“They're children.” Vulnerable, terrified children with nothing left but the shrine and the people who ran it.

“This project has been my top priority since it started,” Touga began. “Thank you for calling me first.”

A priority, for who knew how long. Another one of his father’s projects, a miracle it had gone unknown given how public his father’s career had been. “How secret is the shrine?”

“It's not the only one of it's kind,” His father admitted. “But it is the one where those in need of more care are placed. A handful of people know the orphans go to specified locations. It's a well kept secret, and one I intend to keep that way.”

And Inu Yasha had known about it, but not him. Sesshoumaru tried not to feel bitter, and failed.

“The ones guarding the perimeter-”

“All bonded pairs trained at keeping themselves scarce.”

There was no reason for him to linger then.

“Good evening, father.”



Kagome ran her fingers through Rin's hair, watching the little girl try to wind down. Somewhere outside, six people prowled the boundaries of the shrine. Three sentinels, three guides. All of them focusing on keeping them safe. She didn't feel safe. If anything, she felt exposed. Sesshoumaru's discovery was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. His father's easy declaration about falsified papers, Rin's falsified papers, made her wonder what else had been altered to keep the shrine safe.

Had Kohaku's papers been changed, his past erased? Had Sango's and Miroku's? Had they hidden her in the same way, lying about when she'd manifested? Or had someone from the Higurashi family, known for giving birth almost exclusively to guides, not been worth the paperwork? She'd always understood the need for secrecy. Sentinel and guide trafficking was a lucrative business, and only the most prominent threat to the children. But the depth of the secrets had multiplied in seconds, her mother and Touga easily discussing things she'd never thought to consider.

And Sesshoumaru-

He'd come when Rin had called. The implications would be terrifying if she didn't trust him. That she had no reason to trust him and did was even more troubling.

“It's because he's a good guy,” Rin informed her quietly. Kagome looked down and tried to summon a smile. It was a dismal failure, but Rin didn't seem perturbed. “He's like you.”

“I don't think we're at all alike,” Kagome demurred gently.

“He thinks we should be safe,” Rin countered, face settling into a familiar mulish expression. “He wants to be free, just like you. But he comes anyway.”

And that was a contradiction in terms if she'd ever heard it. A sentinel that was a cop, but didn't want to be bound by being a sentinel. Any sentinel in law enforcement was bound up in rules and regulations.

“He's not just a sentinel,” Rin said, relaxing. “He's Sesshoumaru.”

“We talked about reading people,” Kagome reminded her charge.

“Too tired.”

Kagome let it go, understanding intimately the exhaustion that led to weakened defenses.

“He woke up early, like you did.”

Kagome instinctively understood what Rin was saying. And that wasn't surprising. Somehow she saw it as an act of will on his part, a personal demand to be everything he could all at once instead of waiting for something as silly as puberty to bring his senses online.

Rin had no comment on it, her soft snores reaching Kagome's ears.

She worked carefully, slowly. With care she watched the moon’s shimmering outline grow dark, the perfect circle ion her mind’s eye becoming an eclipse, darkening more and more until everything around her, the people in the house and outside of it dimmed to nothingness. Alone. Every time she did it there was an eerie quality to it all, as if she’d fallen off the face of the earth itself. But given the people in the house, including Kikyou’s sudden presence, she knew she’d need to close them off, if only for a chance to breathe.

Even though she tried to relax, if only for Rin's sake, she eventually slid out from under the little girl and crept across her room, taking care to open and close the door quietly.

She found the others downstairs sitting around the kitchen table, all of them nursing cups of tea.

“Hey,” She greeted, grabbing a mug and pouring herself some from the pot. Sango was leaning against Miroku, his hand holding hers. Kikyo and her mother were staring down at their mugs in pensive silence. Souta was leaning against the counter, arms crossed over his chest. “Did something else happen?”

“We were discussing the possibility of a move,” Her mother said, voice quiet.

“Or splitting up,” Kikyo added. Kagome felt a rash of heat, the creast and break of Sango’s rash anger.

“Splitting up?”

“Wouldn't it be safer to keep some people here, so we don't lose the kids in the city?” Souta began, staring down into his cup.

“We wouldn't lose the children in the city,” Her mother said. It sounded like the declaration had been repeated more than once. “And I'm not sure we have the resources to split up.”

“This is our ancestral home,” Kikyo reminded them, looking to Kagome. “We grew up here, and you want us to give it away?”

“If it keeps the children safe,” Sango began.

“Why can't we operate both? Surely splitting the numbers would be safer,” Kikyo countered.

“That’s that opposite of safety,” Sango argued.

“What if,” Kagome began, looking down at the table. Her words to Sesshoumaru days before came back to her. “We made this a sort of way station?”

“What do you mean?”

“Someone stays to operate it, and it's a temporary home until we can get them to us? That way they're not here long enough for it to be dangerous. It keeps everything in house, so we don't have to worry about bringing in more people.” And the shrine would stay in the family. It would also give the illusion that the children were taken to different families, if they did it right.

“That-” Miroku began slowly. “It could work out to our advantage. If traffickers hit either place, the other will have warning.”

“We shouldn't split up,” Sango repeated. Miroku's mangled hand smoothed over her arm, an attempt at soothing her.

“Touga and I never expected this to grow as much as it has,” Nodoka told them, frowning. “We never wanted it to be necessary, but the world is what it is. And it has grown. Plans have to change to allow for that growth.”

“So who would stay?” Sango demanded.

“I would,” Kikyo volunteered. Sango made a face and it was only Miroku's hand that kept her silent.

“Me too,” Souta added. Kagome stared down into her mug, lost.

“It's a big decision, and I do need to discuss it with Touga and Izayoi,” Her mother interrupted. “It is something we all need to consider as a possibility. At this point we need to be prepared for anything.”

Kagome watched Sango get up and stalk out of the room. Miroku followed, and Souta was the third, leaving her alone with her mother and sister.

“Do you think they finally found us?” Kikyo murmured.

“I don't know what else it could be,” Nodoka admitted. “I need both of you to think very seriously about this. If Touga feels it's necessary, we may all be moving sooner than we think.”

With that, Kagome watched her mother get up and put her mug in the sink before walking away, presumably to her room.

“Thanks,” Kikyo said, moving to clean the cups up off of the table. Kagome opened the dishwasher and took loaded the cups and spoons into it as kikyo rinsed them.

“For what?”

“For backing me up. This is-This place has been in dad's family for generations. I don't want to lose it.”

Kagome nodded, biting her lip. “Are you going back to your apartment tonight?”

Kikyo shook her head. “I'm staying. Having another guide here tonight might help.”

Kagome didn't correct her sister, didn't say that having someone they trusted there would help, and that being a guide had nothing to do with it.



Sesshoumaru's computer screen was dark, the reflection of himself staring back at him.

The cloak and dagger bit his father had deemed necessary felt like overkill. A new laptop, various apparatus that kept his access to the private network (a very thorough, very private network) off of any particular radar. It was all a little much while being too little, his frustration manifesting in the first stages of a headache.

Then again, he supposed the news of a guide that could read minds was something to keep secret. The addition of raw sentinels would be a bonus to anyone around them. Untrained and innocent. The old stories weren't just myths and legends, even if they weren't publicly acknowledged. Military experiments, genetic engineering, thinly disguised torture. And that was only what the government would do. His mother's voice came back to him, chanting the horror stories she'd told him to teach him caution.

But the network hadn't provided him with anything. Profiles of slavers and traffickers, underground groups and militias around the world, even the nonviolent causes were carefully mapped out.

The profiles of the shrine inhabitants was irritatingly succinct. Dates of birth, employment records, and little more. Even inferences were simply that, with nothing more substantial than feelings to back them up. And only for the adults. Looking up names of the children had provided false addresses and families. Even the girl, Souten, had a thorough paper trail leading to a nonexistant cousin in Yokohama. His father's secret was apparently kept even from those privileged with most of the truth.

He had a wealth of information at his fingertips, and he didn't know enough, didn't know where to start.

He was a detective, even if he'd been benched. He had one of the highest closing rates in the city. The shrine's case was simply that, a case. It needed to be treated like a case, one he was not personally involved in. Which meant he needed to go back and examine the grounds, maybe speak to the bondmates his father had guarding the place. They'd had twenty four hours to observe the area.

Ignoring the sense that he was justifying his return to himself, he carefully unplugged the different devices and laptop before packing them in the case his father had delivered them in.

Another incongruous disturbance, his father coming to his apartment. He'd never stopped by before. That he was living in a 'normal' apartment, with none of the amenities sentinels usually required, had only garnered a slight change of expression before his father had gotten down to business, explaining the network he and others had created over time. That he was only being granted access now chaffed, but not so much that he had never guessed his father’s activities. He should have known better.

Tokyo was a mess of traffic and sound and stench. Sesshoumaru dialed back his senses and pulled onto the road, into a line of cars moving more slowly than he wanted them to.

When he parked at the shrine, he got out and allowed his senses to loosen, to open up to the world around him. Inspection, nothing more.

The calm, measured breaths of an adult. The fidgeting of children attempting to be still and failing. A washing machine. The kitchen was being cleaned. Kagome's scent overlapped with the mild citrus of whatever she was using. Her mother was upstairs, cleaning one of the rooms, her humming easy to spot. Two more sentinels in the back room of the house, speaking quietly.

He pulled his attention away from the house and scanned the grounds. Four people, three females and one male. Two sentinels, two guides.

They were short a pair.

“If I could speak to one of you, I'd like a report,” Sesshoumaru intoned, keeping his voice quiet.

The woman that appeared near him, slinking out of one shadow or another, gave him an appraising glance. Sentinel.

“I'd thought we were only reporting to your father.”

“He asked me to look into it. You've been here for twenty four hours. Is there anything unusual in the area?”

The woman's bemusement didn't bode well for her answer. When she spoke a moment later, he realized his assumption had been correct.

“Nothing since we arrived. They used scent bombs to cover their tracks. Mild, but good enough to keep us from finding anything. Your father asked us to focus on keeping the area safe. Not chase down evidence.”

That it was his job went unsaid.

“The other pair?”

“Sleeping. We're moving in shifts.”

Sesshoumaru nodded, acknowledging the wisdom of the decision. “I'm going to examine the area.”

“If you need a guide to help you, Shunran can help.”

“I do not require a guide,” He bit out, ignoring how her lips curved into a smile.

“Sure thing, Yamauchi.”

She walked away, her gait an easy roll and swagger. Mocking, maybe. Self assured, which she didn't have any right to be, not when she and her team hadn't figured anything out.


“You're disturbing the children,” A new voice broke through. Sesshoumaru turned, lips readying a retort. He stopped short, however, when he saw the man standing on the steps of the house. A mangled, broken hand rested on the railing, scars leading up his arms all the way past his elbow. It was startling, perhaps, but despite the impression the man purposefully put it in full view to demand attention, it was not the most obvious thing about him.

Vivid, violet eyes stared back at him, utterly, infuriatingly calm. The serene expression of a buddha, one worn by guides who pretended to know better.

“You're Detective Yamauchi, correct?”

“Yes,” He intoned as he walked up the stairs. “I came by to reexamine the area.”

“Perhaps you would like to come in first. Rin would like to see you.”

Sesshoumaru ignored the lack of introduction and followed the guide into the house and to the living room, where four children were engrossed in a television program of some sort, bright characters dancing across a screen in a motley assortment.

“We were trying to learn mediation techniques. Shippou and Rin recognized you and it made focus difficult.”

“Most children find focus difficult,” Sesshoumaru demurred.

“But not you, I take it.”

It was a blunt, unwelcome observation from someone he'd only just met. “I had exemplary instruction.”

“His momma taught him, like Kagome is teaching me,” Rin said, spinning on her bottom to look up at him, brown eyes wide with adoration. “You're here to look for the bad guys.”

Now the entire group was staring him down, three sets of young, wide eyes brimming with expectation and the amused gaze of the unknown guide’s. He’d been in law enforcement for years and he’d never felt quite so hunted. “I am.”

“Kagome knows this place better than anyone,” Rin informed him smartly. “She knows all the best hiding spots.”

“She can hide from us,” Shippou added, frowning. “Even Sango.”

“I have my ways,” Kagome called out from the kitchen, just as the washing machine sputtered to the end of it's cycle. Sesshoumaru heard her switching the laundry over and turning the dryer on, her bare feet padding on the linoleum. She appeared a moment later, cheeks pink from exertion. Mint and citrus clung to the surface layer of her skin, the crisp brightness of the cleaning supplies tailored for their kind. “Detective Yamauchi.”

“You should show him the best hiding spots. The bad guys probably found them,” Rin declared. Sesshoumaru saw heads bobbing in agreement. Including the male guide's.

“I'm sure he'll be fine. Besides, Miroku needs to help Sango clean their room,” Kagome protested gently, not even looking at him.

“I think Rin's right,” Miroku said, wise violet eyes flicking between them. “They probably couldn't completely erase their presence, just enough to throw them off. You know the best hiding spots. It'd give him a starting point, at least.”

He glanced over at Kagome, curious. Being able to hide from a sentinel was almost impossible. If she'd learned, and knew how, she probably could give him a starting point.


Sesshoumaru bit back the retort that rose in response to her hesitation. He didn't have to have her help, but it would be appreciated.

“Children,” Miroku said. “Try to rein in your emotions. We're going to try grounding some more.”

The comment felt aimed at him, but Kagome was the one that blushed even more brightly than before. She spun on her heel and walked back to the front door. He followed, watching her intently. She didn't bother with shoes, stepping outside and waiting patiently.

He closed the door behind him, heard her quiet sigh.

“Where do we start?”

“The scent bombs and sound emitters circled the property,” Sesshoumaru declared quietly. “Perhaps with the places they could have hidden, and work our way out.”

“Okay,” Kagome murmured, walking down the steps and to the left. Sesshoumaru followed her to the temple and up the stairs. She ignored the doors and walked around the wooden veranda, then paused, looking back at him with a frown. “Can you climb?”

“I'm sure I'll be fine.” Her doubt felt like a personal affront.

“Okay,” She repeated, moving to the back of the building and bending at the knees. Quick and graceful as a cat, she jumped from the veranda and caught a low hanging branch. Sesshoumaru watched her swing, use her momentum to hook a leg over the branch.

With easy, practiced movements that bespoke years of habit, she moved closer to the trunk and reached for another branch.

He followed her, just as graceful, if not a little more cautious.

She climbed higher and higher, until they were halfway up the tree. Kagome pointed, and he followed her gaze.

“The incense and oils from the temple cover the initial path,” She explained, the words bearing the weight of repetition. “And the vents from the sacred fire open here. Mom uses it pretty often for meditation, and Kikyo used to.”

Sesshoumaru nodded, looking around him. There were scents, decades of them wafting from the building, confusing the natural scents. Kagome remained still, unnaturally so, as he examined the area. It would be an ideal hiding place to avoid detection, at least if someone was unaware of people being there.

It had a good view of the house, and he could hear everything going on inside.

There was no trace of the scent bombs used on the perimeter, but there was something-

He moved along the branch, scooting closer to the roof and then slipping down onto it. Carefully moving, only too aware of Kagome's gaze bearing down on him, he followed the scent.

And immediately recoiled when recognition set in, a sour, bitter taste in his mouth. Semen and excitement, saliva and blood. Guide and sentinel pheremones, the riot of them, the traces of foulness embedding themselves in his nose and refusing to abate.

“What's wrong?”

He ignored her question and moved back to the branch, hauling himself up and waiting for her to move back.


“When we're done,” He ground out.

Despite her obvious reluctance, she moved back down the tree and led him to the corner of the shrine, where a small building reeking of must and rotten wood almost knocked him back a step. Once the doors were open the stench was almost overpowering.

One scent that matched to one of the traces on the roof.

After that she led him into the stand of trees, reminding him that it had been upwind that day. He didn't tell her that it reeked of myriad scents, all of them artificial and chemical.

Spot after spot, all of them choice hiding spots from a sentinel, several of them peppered with the scents from the temple's roof.

“That's it,” She finally said, pulling her hair back into a messy bun. He determinedly looked away from her, attempted to dial his sense of smell down as her ministrations sent sweat and willow blooming in the air. “Are you okay?”

“I'm fine.”

“I just know it's a lot-”

“I'm fine.”

Her hands went up in front of her, but for all of the submission the gesture implied, she didn't seem affected by his tone in the least. “Okay. Did you want to check the perimeter?”

They continued in silence, and she pointed out natural features, places where the woods led out into the greater world, where there would be issues crossing through without making too much notice. She had a through understanding of the property’s layout, and more than that, how to work with it. He was able to find several paths that had been used by the stalkers, all of them the ones she had suggested as the most likely.

By the time they were done, he knew there were at least four of them, likely more, more sentinels than guides in the group.

“How bad is it?” She asked quietly, hugging herself.

“It’s a group,” He admitted. “Which we suspected.”

Her worry spiked along his senses, a series of scents, the sound of her heartbeat fluttering, beginning to speed up. An aborted sound rising from her chest and getting caught in her throat. Teeth worried her lower lip, made him want to reach out. Stifling the response, frustrated with his own foolish instincts, he groped for something to say even as he throttled his inner turmoil, determined to give her nothing worth sensing.

“How did you learn to hide so easily?”

The question caught her off guard, something painful catching in her voice. “My dad showed us. His favorite game was hide and seek. It never struck as as strange that he would tell us all the best hiding spots, why they were good, and then not find us there when we played,” She admitted, a soft smile tilting her lips. “I don't think Kikyo or I realized why until we were older. He was teaching us to hide from sentinels in case we were in trouble.”

“And you teach the children now?”

“A little. They don't know why, at least, most of them don't. Rin might. It's difficult to hide things from her.” Her smile twisted. “And now strangers are using them to spy on us.”

Acrid bitterness and wet sorrow. It hadn’t occurred to him that the places were sacred to her, was grateful he hadn’t mentioned the all too human excitement he’d found at the various spots.

“Did you want to say goodbye to the children?” She asked quietly. “They’ve been talking about you nonstop.”

“I need to speak to my father,” He demurred, his desire to stay only serving to warn that he should go. “What I found today is important, and he may have some ideas of how to proceed.”

“Okay,” She said, nodding. “Thank you, for helping us.”

He gave her a tight nod, her gratitude scraping something unpleasant around him.

He refused to call it fleeing, no matter what his mind supplied.


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