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Mad World by Ëryyyn

Familiar Faces, Worn Out Places

Author’s Note: This story contains spoilers from the Final Act. If you have not seen the conclusion to InuYasha, I highly recommend that you return to this story only after you have.

This story contains violence, gore, death, adult language and graphic adult content. Reader discretion is advised. You will not be warned again.

I've been away for quite some time, and I'd like to apologize to my readers. I am completely rebooting this story, so I ask that everyone be patient with me while I update every chapter. I highly recommend reading again, as some changes have been made. Thank you for sticking this out with me.

~*~

White steam rose up in tendrils from the mirror surface of the water, disappearing into the night sky. Kagome sighed heavily as she sank further down into the sweltering hot spring, unable to quite reach that peak of bliss as she usually did when in such a relaxing environment. She didn’t understand. She just simply could not wrap her head around it. Now that all of her worst problems were solved, her most horrible adversaries overcome, why could she not relax?

The battle with Naraku was over. Through a string of complicated events, Sesshomaru had regained his left arm and a new sword, Bakusaiga. InuYasha had gained a new technique for his Tessaiga, the Meido Zangetsuha. Kagome smiled softly at the memory of the two brothers, finally working together to bring down the greatest evil that the world had seen in a very, very long time. Through their combined efforts, the great spider had fallen, nearly decimating Edo in his wake. Kagome had purified the beast, piercing the Jewel and sending Naraku to his demise.

The final wish upon the Jewel Kagome had also made - a selfless wish; “Shikon no Tama, I wish for you to disappear. Forever.” And the Shikon no Tama was no more.

So simple a wish! So why had everything suddenly gotten so much more complicated? Life should have returned to normal. Shouldn’t it?

Kagome knew the answer. The Bone Eater’s Well had been sealed off forever, leaving her in the Sengoku Jidai. As it turns out, Kagome thought with a mocking laugh, she did belong here after all. Otherwise, she would have been returned to her own time to live out her life, go to college, maybe get married eventually - the way that life should be. And for a little while while, she thought she had. She had returned to the other side for three years - she had finished high school - until her desire to return was so great that on the day of her graduation, she revisited the well. It had granted her wish. She had been returned to Edo, five hundred years in the past. InuYasha had been there to greet her when she emerged, and he had been so happy to see her… at first.

But why did she belong here? Now that the Shikon No Tama had been purified and Naraku had been slain, what was there for her here? Suddenly, Kagome was reminded of why she couldn’t relax. Kikyo.

Yes, Kikyo. Oh how ironic it was that now that the priestess had passed on, that she and InuYasha still could not be together. The hanyou was so torn, so inconsolable over the death of his lost love, that he had left Kagome and the rest of his friends to live the life of a loner. She hadn’t seen InuYasha in almost four weeks.

Cerulean eyes clenched hard, but it was futile; warm tears still trickled down either cheek, disappearing into the hot spring. What had she become? Over the past four weeks, she too had become a recluse. She almost never spoke anymore and every smile was forced. What was she to do? She no longer had a purpose. And she no longer held a spot in the hanyou’s heart. She had become a broken shell of a woman, just like the undead priestess Kikyo had once been.

Kagome sunk down into the hot spring, heat seeping into her pores. Here, beneath the surface of the water, there was no light, no sound, and no smell. No sensation other than warmth. Was this what it was like to be dead? She supposed after all the pain, torment, and disappointment in her life, this was exactly what she needed. A dark blanket of nothingness pulled over her cruel reality.

After what seemed like an eternity of submersion, Kagome’s lungs began to ache. She sprang to the surface - eagerly gulping air - before sighing as she looked down at her slender hands. Her fingertips were just beginning to prune. Her time in the spring was done. She waded to the rocky edge of the hot spring in which she had placed her kimono, the traditional garbs of a miko; a white haori and red hakama. She had discarded her school uniform in favor of this new attire aside from her undergarments; she had refused to give up her bra and panties, arguing that traditional clothing allowed too much room for uncomfortable bouncing. Now that she was going to live in this time permanently, she may as well fall into step with tradition.

Stepping out of the water, Kagome shivered as the night breathed cool air over her damp skin. Hurriedly, she pulled on her kimono, ran her fingers through her wet hair, and began to rub her hands together to warm them. I’ve got to get back to the village, she thought. Even though Naraku is dead, I still don’t like being out here alone for too long.

At that precise moment, somewhere in the shadowed forest behind her, a twig snapped. Her blood ran cold in her veins and her limbs locked up. She was frozen. Her breath came in short, shallow pants as she slowly forced herself to turn to face whatever was coming. A demon’s youki flared threateningly. Stupid, stupid, stupid! She cried to herself. You’re so stupid to come out here unarmed!

The youkai in the shadows laughed a deep, monstrous laugh that sent wild shivers down Kagome’s spine. She took a step back, putting as much distance between her and the demon as her body would allow.

“It has been quite some time since a human so willingly wandered into my midst!” Kagome whimpered at the large, glowing red eyes that were approaching at a menacingly slow pace. “You even tenderized yourself for me, steaming in the hot spring!”

Now the demon was in full view. It was an ogre, with scaly green skin, a hideously flat face and very, very large teeth. Those red eyes bore into Kagome’s. The beast stepped closer, lumbering, shaking the ground at her feet. Kagome braced herself. She had to defend herself, or else she was going to end up youkai dinner. She couldn’t let that happen; if she was going down, it wouldn’t be at the hands of this monstrosity. With surprising speed for its massive size, the ogre swiped a huge clawed hand at the miko, colliding with her petite form like a wrecking ball.

Before Kagome could process what was happening or her reiki could spring to the surface, she was suddenly airborne, her body wracked with pain from the blow - and hurdled into a large oak tree. Her bruised body slumped down the ground at the trees’ twisted roots, a sob wrenching from her mouth. The demon cackled hysterically as it swiftly approached the human woman, his jowls dripping in anticipation.

“No,” Kagome whimpered. “No, no, no. Not like this…” The youkai was closing in.

It took tremendous effort to raise herself up. With defiant, shining sapphire eyes, she glared scornfully at her attacker. A bright pink light burst from her palm, a warm, electric, pulsating energy that purified the demon on contact. It screeched to a halt, bellowing, screaming, as its body disintegrated into ash. The recoil had her body airborne once more as the shockwave of two energies colliding slammed into her. Raw, searing pain had her vision darkening at the edges as she sailed over the treetops.

Kagome’s poor, battered, broken body crashed into a solid form in the sky, knocking the last of her breath out of her lungs. Her head swam dizzily and her vision blackened. Youki swirled around her form, burning her, setting her nerves aflame, as two strong arms folded around her. She began to fade into unconsciousness, and she fell into blackness.

~*~

Light filtered down through the forest canopy, turning the black inside her eyelids red. Kagome groaned as a fresh wave of pain overtook her, seeping into her bones. What happened? Finally her eyes slid open to find that she was lying on the ground, staring up at the boughs of the merrily swaying trees. How did she end up here? Last night, she had been-

Last night!

Terrifying images flooded Kagome’s brain, blurs of shadows and sounds and smells. She gasped aloud and flung herself upright, only to cry out in agony as a ripping sensation coursed over her abdomen. Wrapping her arms around her torso as if she had to hold herself together, she doubled over in a groan. Taking deep, calming breaths, she slowly righted herself and took in her surroundings.

She was somewhere deep in the forest. Knitting her brows, she surveyed the unfamiliar surroundings. As her brain scrambled desperately to remember something, anything, she swallowed roughly. Her throat was dry and gritty, as though she had swallowed dirt. She eyed a small canteen lying on the spongy forest grass and swiftly reached for it, threw her head back and drained it. The water splashed uncomfortably against the bottom of her empty stomach, but cleansed her mouth and throat of gritty, sandy dirt. In her haste, droplets trickled down her chin and ran down her neck.

Taking a deep breath, Kagome winced at the throb that the movement provoked and looked down to examine herself, when the breath caught in her throat. What on Earth… Panic bubbled up in her throat as she patted herself down, staring wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the makeshift bandages that encircled her torso from her hip bones to the top of her rib cage. Whoever had saved her had ripped the bottom half of her haori to wrap up her torso. A bright spot of blood on her ribcage was seeping through the pristine white bandages, doubling Kagome’s terror. Upon closer inspection, black and blue flowered on her arms and her legs and back ached in the worst of ways. Kagome knew there would be bruises there as well.

Stumbling to her feet, trying to fight back the hysteria that was beginning to prompt her stomach to clench, she fought against the retches that threatened to rob her of the water she had just downed. Calm down, Kagome, she prompted herself. Someone obviously saved me. If they went through all the trouble of saving me, they wouldn’t kill me, right?

She could sense something. A person? It was very faint, but there nonetheless. They were close. Could this be her rescuer? Bracing herself, Kagome walked on legs as unsteady as a newborn fawn towards the presence, determined to find them.

The closer she got, the stronger the feeling, and Kagome knew that this was no ordinary person. Staggering through the underbrush, Kagome came to a wide stream. Blue eyes scanned the area, and when she finally trained on the only entity there, the breath flew out of her lungs and her knees buckled. A thin film of perspiration coated her palms. Her head swam with the preposterousness of what her eyes were telling her. This was impossible!

“Sesshomaru,” she breathed, as the taiyoukai turned to bare down on her with steely amber eyes. “It was you? You saved me?” she whispered, unable to gain her breath.

“Hn.”

~*~

She was dead. I’m dead. I have died and now I'm dead, Kagome mused, but as she awoke once more on a blanket of thick shade grass she knew that that notion was horribly false.

Heaving a heavy sigh, Kagome slowly sat upright, pushing herself up with her hands. Idly, she noted that her bandages were once again fresh, replaced with a much finer silkier fabric that she couldn't place. She knew she had to face this problem - this horrible nightmare that never seemed to be ending. It wasn’t going away, so there was no point in running from it. Time to put on your big girl underwear, she thought to herself sarcastically as she met the sharp ocher eyes of none other than the Killing Perfection. He sat regally at the base of the tree opposite to her, one leg outstretched and the other pulled to his chest with his crossed arms draped over his knee casually. His head was tilted down slightly, and his eyes smoldered at her from beneath heavy, thick black lashes. His gorgeous mane of thick silver locks tumbled over his shoulders and pooled on the ground at his sides, shimmering in the mid-afternoon sun.

Wait, gorgeous? As Kagome silently studied the youkai, this was only one of the words that were flitting across her scattered thoughts. Yes, gorgeous. Why was Sesshomaru so… pretty? Clearing her throat timidly, Kagome opened her mouth to speak, but no words would come. She closed her lips quickly, racking her brain for something, anything to say.

Sesshomaru watched in perfect stillness as the woman opened and closed her mouth several times, resembling a fish that had been jerked from the water, trying to compose herself. He was no fool; this was a great deal to take in, even for himself. Yes, he had saved the young miko that had for years traveled with his hated half brother, after she had suffered an honestly terrifying attack from an ogre. The lacerations on her rib cage had drained her of copious amounts of her human blood, and she was fading fast when she was thrown into the night sky. Sesshomaru, who had been traveling to retire to his Western premises, had spotted the airborne woman. Recognizing the clarion call of her flaring reiki, he had leapt up and caught her, half-dead and vanishing quickly.

He did not quite understand why he felt the need to save her. Perhaps his young human ward Rin had softened him. But, alas, he had - bandaging her wounds and laying her on the forest floor. No lesser youkai dared to approach them in the night, not with him around, even with the sweet aroma of her blood hanging like a thick curtain of temptation in the air. Sesshomaru had to admit to himself that though the woman was human, her scent had a strange, pure allurement to it - citrus and jasmine. Pleasant. Nearly scowling as that though entered his mind, Sesshomaru snorted inaudibly at himself. Ridiculous.

Finally, the woman spoke, her soft voice only slightly shaky. Impressive, for someone as afraid as she was at that moment. Her fear added a gingery spice to her scent that invoked an odd sensation in Sesshomaru’s gut.

“I-I want to thank you, Sesshomaru-sama, for helping me.” She began, gulping slightly as she paused before continuing. “You saved me. I could have died. I don’t mean to take away from the… unexpected chivalry of your actions, but I have to ask - why?” by the time she had finished, her voice no longer quavered, replaced by a tone of determination that Sesshomaru had always furtively found admirable in the small human woman.

A single, sculpted dark brow rose for an instant as Sesshomaru contemplated his reply. Instead, he would give her a question of his own, one that had been nagging at the back of his conscience for weeks. “Tell me, miko - where is InuYasha? His absence has not gone unnoticed by This One.”

Ah, that struck a nerve. Kagome visibly shrunk away from the name of the hanyou, resembling a wilting flower. “In-InuYasha,” she whispered. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen him in a month.”

“So, InuYasha is on the run.” Kagome shivered as the smallest of smiles crept onto Sesshomaru’s statuesque face. “As is anticipated. Still, This One cannot but wonder, why he has left his greatest possession vulnerable and unprotected.”

He was not surprised by the abrupt flare in her reiki, nor by how she flashed those large, defiant eyes of lapis, or the glare she fixed him with.

Possession?” the girl spat, her tone hard. “I’ll have you know that I am no object, and I certainly do not belong to anyone - least of all InuYasha!” Kagome nearly gasped aloud as the words sprang from her own lips. Was this how she felt? It was true, that through most of the duration of her companionship with InuYasha, she had felt like nothing more than a tool - a Jewel shard detector and a cheap substitute for an undead lover. Still, she had surprised herself with the vehemence in her own voice.

Sesshomaru’s glare didn’t faze Kagome as it would have just minutes ago. Instead, she glared right back. They locked eyes for what felt like an eternity before finally, Kagome turned her head away. Sesshomaru smirked in satisfaction as the young woman backed down, her face a pretty shade of dark pink. She was clearly agitated. No matter.

With fluid grace Sesshomaru rose to his feet, strode over to the miko and - in a very uncharacteristic gesture - held out his hand to Kagome. With a small surprised gasp, Kagome stared at his large, clawed white hand, before placing her much smaller hand in his. The skin of that hand was slightly calloused and emanated strength. He pulled her gently to her feet with what seemed to be no effort at all, careful not to shred her fragile human skin on his claws.

His brows knitted as he watched her. The woman was indeed intriguing. Moments ago she had been defiant and hard-eyed, but now, here she was, looking in every direction but his and wringing her hands in submissive silence. He watched as a small hand tipped with rounded claws fluttered over her wounds.

Now, she was in a predicament. She knew that Sesshomaru was ready to depart, to God knows where and for how long. Yet, here she was, wrapped up in bandages that he obviously provided. She was -Kagome grudgingly admitted- indebted to him for saving her life. After all, was she really so eager to return to Edo? There was nothing for her there but a life of constant reminders of what almost was, what could have been and what never will be. Besides, in her current state she wouldn’t last half an hour in these youkai-infested woods, bruised and battered as she was. Kagome chewed on her lower lip absentmindedly as she contemplated her situation.

Sesshomaru’s eyes were drawn to the woman’s plump, pink lower lip that she was worrying with pretty, square, white teeth like a bee worries a flower. When she spoke, he was taken aback by her request, settling his eyes on hers once more, but he hid it well. After all, could he have expected anything else?

“I know you are probably a very busy youkai, Sesshomaru-sama, and I don’t want to be a burden, but…” she sighed exasperatedly, raking back her hair with a frustrated hand, and went on with it. “But the situation I’m in isn’t a very good one. You’ve seen the shape I’m in. I’m in no way able to defend myself right now and my reiki is drained. No youkai is stupid enough to come near you. I’m not exactly eager to return to the village, either. So, if you don’t mind, I would like to…to…”

“Accompany This One?” he finished, quirking a brow.

Kagome was struck suddenly at the realization of how handsome this man -no, youkai- in front of her really was. Sure, she always found him undeniably attractive but she hadn't been this close to him without being scared out of her mind in, well, ever. The recognition had blood flaring bright pink in her cheeks as she averted her gaze. “Yes. Just until I am healed and able to defend myself.”

Sesshomaru was silent for a moment, studying this human miko that now, for unknown reasons, refused to look at him. With a grunt that was not quite a refusal, he turned on his toes and headed along his way silently without so much as a glance back.

Hurriedly, Kagome jogged to catch up with the taiyoukai, biting her lower lip fervently. What on Earth had she just gotten herself into?

~*~

Author's Note: This is my first Sesshomaru/Kagome fanfiction. Bare with me!

 

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