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Curiosity Caught the Miko by Stella Mira

Shadow of Doubt

Two days passed since Sesshōmaru decreed he would join Kagome in her journey to the Eastern lands. Two days, in which he mainly remained silent, vigilant, and if Kagome wished to be honest, a bit disapproving – of what though, she hadn't the slightest idea. It only made sense the second night of their conjoint travel when he flung a deer at her feet and claimed that females and pups should be well fed. Sesshōmaru simply hadn't approved of her less than adequate meals since what prey she managed to catch was mostly fed to Daiki.

"You didn't have to hunt for us, Sesshōmaru."

It wasn't that she didn't feel grateful or that she begrudged him his hunting prowess or that her feminist side reared its ugly head. No, it was none of those things – and she told him as much.

"I can't repay you for this consideration, even though I want to. You never need anything, do you?"

"Do not worry over such meaningless matters, miko. It is but nourishment."

A mere flutter of silver lashes, Sesshōmaru didn't even bother to answer her veiled question – but Kagome knew he understood what she asked. Hence, she tried again, blunter than ever.

"You didn't answer my question though. Is there anything you need, anything I can do for you?"

"No."

Terse, laconic, that no hung heavy in the space between them, leaden with unspoken things from both sides. Kagome's lips thinned, but she nodded, didn't voice any of them.

"I see."

Half an hour later, full of silence and blood and fur, as Kagome was skinning the deer, his voice inundated the wind, glided over the nape of her neck. It stroked her skin, cool yet warm.

"You are displeased."

Kagome swallowed thickly, focused on her task with more vigor, but she could feel his eyes on her back, cooler, warmer than his voice.

"Well, I –"

Something bitter and viscous clogged her throat, drowned her words. Ceasing all pretense, she dropped the bloodied carcass, cleaned her hands with a piece of cloth, but didn't turn to meet his eyes.

"I left the village so I could do something with my life, be someone that other people need. Yet you keep appearing and helping me out every step of the way. I feel…useless."

It was uttered low, almost whispered, her last word barely audible. A pause stretched between them – until he spoke once more. His voice was neither cool nor warm. It was sharp yet blunt, another antinomy, another kind of tone.

"You are strong for a female – and I am your alpha."

Kagome tasted his words, the sharpness in them, and their bluntness – then she laughed. Once she began, she found herself unable to stop. What was it with this man? He said all the right things at all the wrong times and vice versa.

"That you are. I guess that explains everything when it comes to you?"

Her neck slanted. She glanced at him, mirth and something else, soft, blue copper. Kagome wasn't aware of what it was, Sesshōmaru most surely wasn't, but she didn't give more thought to it.

"Hn."

She reckoned he would speak no more after that, but he surprised her once again.

"How have your travels fared?"

Mischief and teasing morphed into a smirk. Of all the things to ask…

"You don't know?"

Sesshōmaru neither denied nor confirmed it, but he didn't have to. Still, Kagome humored him, mostly because she had things to ask him.

"I passed by a few villages, offered my help. Then there is Daiki. I wish to return him to his pack, but I'm not sure what to expect when I finally find them. Do you know?"

Teeth bit into her lower lip, a manifestation of uncertainty and apprehension.

"He's a male pup. He will add strength to their pack when he comes of age. They will accept him."

Sesshōmaru's reply didn't allay her doubts – if possible, it made them grow.

"Is that the only reason?"

Bemusement slinked within the gold of his eyes – and Kagome hurried to clarify.

"I mean, will they love him? If I give him to them will they care for him like his mother did?"

Understanding dawned then. Sesshōmaru nodded, dispersed any shadow of doubt that dwelt in her mind.

"Ōkami yōkai have strong bonds. If he has blood relatives, they will care for him as his parents would."

"Then that's that. It was foolish of me to worry."

She exhaled a long sigh, shook her head, but Sesshōmaru sensed there was more beneath the surface, more than she allowed to show.

"Miko."

Gleaming gold, too bright to look away. Kagome stared at him, transfixed, awaited his voice.

"If you wish to keep the pup, they will allow it. He recognizes you as his alpha."

She drew back at that, escaped the snare of his eyes.

"What? No, no, he should be with his family. I will stay with his pack for a while to see how they treat him, though."

A tensile nod, whether to herself or Sesshōmaru, Kagome wasn't certain, but she would do as such. Daiki belonged with his family – and that was final. Sesshōmaru's poise changed then, became tensile as well.

"I would not advise this if there are unmated males in his pack."

Kagome didn't know if she should laugh or not, hence a sound between a snort and a chuckle fell from her throat.

"I'm well past the age for such offers for this era's standards, Sesshōmaru."

She resumed her task of skinning the deer, but didn't miss the daiyōkai's last words.

"Perhaps, perhaps not."

~~~~~

They were well into the Eastern lands, no more than a mile away from Kōga's den according to Kagome's memory, when male voices halted their steps – excited, impatient sounds.

"Neesan!"

"Kagome-neesan!"

Daiki furrowed into her arms and Sesshōmaru took to the skies right before two brown blurs appeared, panting and heaving and grinning. Kagome chuckled at the familiar sight the wolf siblings made, greeted them with smiles and cordiality.

"It's been some time, Ginta, Hakkaku. How have you been?"

It took a few minutes to catch their breath, but when they did, all she heard was petulance. It was endearing, though.

"Why didn't you send word you were coming, neesan?"

"We would have prepared a feast!"

She shook her head, still smiled, but inclined her neck in apology.

"I hadn't planned on visiting so soon. I'm sorry for not telling you in advance."

Their reaction was immediate, furthered her delight and amusement. Kagome truly missed the wolves and their warm hearts and open manners.

"It's fine, no worries! Everyone will be so happy to see you!"

"Kōga most of all!"

Daiki chose that moment to sniff loudly, taking a whiff of his fellow ōkami. Disinterested, almost scowling, he burrowed back into her arms, and Kagome chuckled. The pup was possessive of her, which was fine for now, but she should find his pack soon before he became overly attached. Ginta and Hakkaku noticed the wolf pup, but said nothing on the subject, more concerned about another's presence. They exchanged a wary glance, mentally fought about which of the two would broach the matter, and finally Hakkaku spoke, careful, if a bit abashed.

"Um, Kagome-neesan…is he…ah –"

Kagome saved him of explaining more, already catching on.

"Sesshōmaru-sama means you no harm. He wishes to speak with Kōga-kun as my alpha regarding a matter of importance. I want to speak with him about another matter as well."

Her reply seemed to alleviate their fears, if nothing else. Both exhaled then grinned once more.

"He has gone to hunt, but he should return by noon. Inuyasha, too."

Hearing the hanyō's name lightened Kagome's mood.

"How are Inuyasha and Kamiko-san?"

She couldn't tell what elicited this reaction from the wolves, but they both fidgeted with nervous motions, exchanged another wary glance, yet kept their thoughts to themselves, this time.

"You should come see for yourself. I bet you'll be surprised…"

"Come, we will lead you to the caves."

~~~~~

Kagome had followed the ōkami males into the caves, but Sesshōmaru had preferred not to venture into their den. Perhaps it was the musky scents or his solitary nature or bad blood between them, Kagome could never be certain with him, but she didn't press the matter, all but dismissed it once she met with Kamiko. Surprise was too mild a word for what she felt once Inuyasha's mate swept her up in a crushing embrace and announced she was with pup. Kagome stilled for the barest moment – then a smile slashed across her cheeks, genuine and sunny and strained with a touch of pain. If Kamiko noticed, she didn't mention it – and, for that, Kagome was grateful.

As Kamiko blathered about her mated life, Inuyasha's rivalry with Kōga, pack affairs and the like, the miko pondered the daiyōkai's character, even envied his disposition for disassociation and detachment. Sesshōmaru made things seem easy, easier than they actually were – and much more bearable. It was Kōga's timely entrance though that saved Kagome from excusing herself to seek Sesshōmaru and seclude herself in the daiyōkai's impenetrable calm outside.

"Kagome! How's my woman doing? It's so good to see you!"

Kōga was as loud and belligerent and blue-eyed as ever – and quick to indulge in physical contact.

"I'm fine, Kōga-kun. And you?"

Slightly drained, if a bit wary, Kagome accepted his embrace but didn't reciprocate the gesture.

"Now that you're here I couldn't be better."

Kōga neither minded not took notice, only grinned, oozing joy – until someone, blissfully, dragged him off of her, none too subtly.

"Enough with your love-struck bullshit, wolf. She's here to see me, not you. Ain't that right, Kagome?"

In the midst of habitual curses and mock-blows, the miko finally smiled warmly, forgot everything that didn't make sense in her world anymore. Inuyasha had not changed either. When Kōga walked away, almost sullen, Kagome buried herself in the hanyō's arms, inhaled his scent, earth and male and comfort – and home. Inuyasha would always smell of home to her.

"I missed you, Inuyasha."

He might not have spoken, might not have returned her sentiments with words, but his arms tightened around her, pulled her closer. She released him after a few seconds, aware that it might be improper now that he was mated, smiled again – but it didn't reach her eyes, this time.

"I suppose congratulations are in order… You didn't waste time, did you?"

Head downcast, Inuyasha shuffled uncomfortably, mumbled under his breath, but Kagome could hear the revelry in his voice – and the anxiety.

"Well…stuff happens, you know?"

She laughed, the sound heavy yet light, patted his arm, feeling a pang of guilt for holding his happiness against him even for a fragment of a second.

"You're going to be fine, Inuyasha. I know you will."

"Thanks, I guess…"

He then cleared his throat, raised his gaze to her level, many questions in the gold of his eyes, confusion and worry.

"Ah, what's he doing here, though? I can smell him outside. The wolf wasn't too happy about it either. The only reason he's not still here fawning over you is 'cause he went to talk with the asshole."

It was redundant to ask who he was, but Kagome didn't appreciate the distrust she sensed in Inuyasha's demeanor. She gave him a hard stare, half-lidded warning, her voice cool and steady when she spoke.

"Sesshōmaru came as a favor to me. Be civil, Inuyasha – and don't call him an asshole."

His eyes widened, his brows almost disappeared inside his bangs. More confused, more worried than before, Inuyasha stared at her, incredulous – and a bit offended.

"Favor…to you?"

Kagome didn't know why, but she felt anger welling inside her at his insinuation. Wasn't she good enough to associate with the Western Lord, to guarantee his amity – is that what her friend hinted at?

"He's my alpha."

If Inuyasha was surprised before, he now was well and utterly shocked. A sputter of words and disbelief was all that came out of is mouth.

"He's your what!?"

Kagome's chin rose, dipped with something serious, unyielding, as if she was daring him to refute her.

"He's your alpha, too. Unless you prefer Kōga-kun for that role?"

Inuyasha didn't even hear what she said, dismissed it in favor of something else. What underlay her assertion wasn't merely admiration. No – it was far worse than that, far deeper than he would have liked to believe.

"Kagome…you –"

The expression he wore, how he gazed at her, astonishment twined with pity, gave her pause, made her regard him closely.

"What?"

"You like him… I mean, you really like him."

 

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