Breath in the Pages by Profiler120

Part I - Oneshot

"Guilt is the source of sorrows, the avenging fiend that follows us behind with whips and stings." -- Nicholas Rowe

Kagome turned her gaze to the book upon her shelf guiltily once more. Each morning when she rose she looked at it and each evening she silently apologized to it.

It was her fault. It was all her fault, it always was.

She was the singular reason the beautiful, ornate, antique book held such a dark secret. She was the reason everything that had happened during that climatic day had gone wrong. If she had only listened...

No, if she had listened things wouldn't have ended up much differently. She had gone because she was convinced she could help against Naraku but she'd only ended up being a distraction. An unhelpful distraction that had cost - no, she wouldn't think of it.

In the end, Naraku had been extinguished, Kohaku had died, Miroku had been freed of his curse, and the Shikon no tama had returned to her body.

It was Inuyasha's fate that had proved to be unchangeable. He had still gone with Kikyo to hell and for a while, she'd been heartbroken over it. For a while it had hurt like nothing else. For a while, she had been consumed and wallowed in what she viewed to be her own lack of worth. But it had passed. Eventually.

Even stranger still was what had transpired one evening as she returned from archery club.

She had just returned home and was heading up to change clothes when just inside, by the window, she viewed a strange figure. She had stepped inside fully, the door already closed and the figure turned away but it seemed so familiar to her.

The figure turned, and Kagome could not hold in the gasp. Feelings she thought had gone from her were renewed with a vengeance, heartbreak, anger, and sadness. There, by her window stood the reason why so many things had gone wrong. There, the only other person to cause as much trouble as herself. There, stood Kikyo.

"Kikyo," she couldn't contain the name in her mouth, it slipped out.

She was not happy to see her incarnate, not the least. Off handedly she wondered if Kikyo had felt the way she felt now as she stared into the eyes of a person that shouldn't exist in this time. Kikyo however didn't say anything immediately but held out her hands and in them, the book appeared.

The book she had seen fall. The book she had seen torn asunder on the battlefield by a wayward strike of the Tetsusaiga. The book she had watched, in horror, bleed. She recoiled, afraid of the book, afraid of its ghastly implications.

"It's your responsibility now."

Her voice was low, commanding as though telling her in no uncertain terms she refused to be shamed by her reincarnation. Kagome looked up and met her gaze, but the hatred she'd seen in the almond orbs so many times, was gone. Death, it seemed, had finally quelled her hatred and returned the priestess to her former self.

Kagome returned her gaze to the aged book, sighed, and reached for it. Kikyo's ghostly fingers were untouchable and only the solid feel of the book pressed against her hands as she took it. She stared pensively at it, remembering, thinking, and pondering... This book was...

She looked up to see if Kikyo remained and the priestess' image was still lingering before her.

Kikyo. The woman Inuyasha had loved more than her. Somehow it was hard to get beyond that tiny little fact and suppress the bitterness that came with it.

"Your destiny lies ahead of you, not behind."

Even in death she was still the perfect, stately miko with words of wisdom and lack of smiles. Her image faded from sight and in her hands was something she had never wanted to see again. Something, for the life of her she'd been trying to forget.

That had been months ago. For months the book had sat upon her shelf and aged further. It had done nothing but silently mock and taunt her. It's delicate hard cover collecting dust. 0ne would never guess that inside that hard covered book lies an ancient, rolled scroll. A scroll that housed a very dangerous entity, something, that if released could conceivably be catastrophic. She didn't dare think of it, and stood rather brushing her hair.


Realizing how late she was running, she quickly finished her task, grabbed her schoolbooks, and headed out. She was going to be tardy her first day!

She was still brooding over it several days later. Now the book sat on her desk, spread over her math book preventing her from her homework. It was her fault, she, and Kikyo and he had been innocently -

She turned her gaze down toward it, before flipping the lid open to view the contents of the hallowed space within. The scroll was tightly wound and tied with a length of vibrant red ribbon.

She had been clutching Rin close to her to prevent harm from coming to the girl. She hadn't anticipated Kikyo arriving. She certainly hadn't expected to view the full force of Kikyo's legendary miko powers. She had only known that one moment she was watching the battle the next she was only too aware of a blast of dark miko energy barreling toward her. She had, instinctively, thrown Rin behind her, but the blast she expected had never come. In front of her she watched as Sesshoumaru was struck with the bolt of fuchsia colored energy and watched in horror, as the light grew too bright to continue staring onward. It faded momentarily and in his place a strange book had hovered.

The battle around them continued and a stray band of devastating energy from the Tetsusaiga ripped forward tearing into the enchanted book. She vaguely heard Rin scream behind her as blood spurted in every direction. She could still feel the warmth as droplets landed against her cheeks, falling like tears. Sesshoumaru...

Rin was inconsolable. And it was all because of her.

She wasn't sure how the book had been repaired or even for that matter whether Sesshoumaru still lived within it. Evidence suggested he did however as she could sense a weak youki surrounding it. She reached for the scroll apprehensively.

Her grandfather had sensed the youki some weeks before and had tracked it to her room and attempted to purify it or seal it with wards. He had been unpleasantly surprised by the strength of the seal that guarded the book. He had spent two days in bed thereafter after the youki surrounding it had unexpectedly gathered and shot up through his fingertips. She was justifiably nervous.

She reached toward the scroll, awaiting the shock of pain but none came as her fingers closed around the delicate paper roll. With more confidence she reached toward the silken ribbon and pulled and watched as it unwound itself. She unloosed it from around the paper and, moving to the floor, sat it down and began to unroll it.

She grabbed her math book, placing it on one side and then placed a rather heavy bottle of powder on the other side as she unrolled its complete length. There were but a few words across it, some in black ink while other kanji blazed in red.

"Seal the winged spirit of life.

Age be but a number -

Life be but a memory -

Time be but a word -

For none shall touch upon you."

Kagome stared at the words and wondered if there was any way to ever undo what had been done. Kikyo had declared it was now her responsibility but she didn't know how to fix this. What could she possibly do?

She thought of him so often. He had become a fixture in her life. An unpleasant fixture. A source of endless guilt and sorrow that ate away a little bit more as each day passed. Some days she could barely drag herself from her bed. He was suffering because of her.

All his ill deeds passed out of memory and only her ill actions remained. She had imprisoned Sesshoumaru, albeit indirectly. She had left Rin, crying and desolate, near screaming for Sesshoumaru. She had left the Western Lands open, without their master and Jaken without someone to serve. Because of her.

He was trapped, stuck with her, in her time, inside this scroll, perhaps... Perhaps wherever this spell had taken him was unrecoverable. Perhaps this damaged scroll was the equivalent of Miroku's cursed hand. A vacuum with no conceivable end, a complete, scary mystery.

It only increased the guilt. It only weighed that much more heavily upon her. Tears brimmed in her eyes and spattered onto the ancient ink, one droplet and then another. Two small, perfect circlets now stained the tattered page of Sesshoumaru's prison. Two small spatters that were quickly soaking into the paper causing the ink to run, if only a bit.

She was too distraught to notice the damage she was wreaking over the scroll. The damage that could prove to be the final lock in sealing him permanently inside that prison where he was, where he barely clung to life, if that was so. If her own conscience was right. He haunted her, day and night. In her dreams, while she ate, while she listened to her teacher speak, everywhere, he was there with her. His face, his voice, and her memory of him - she couldn't escape him and it was nearly driving her insane with grief.

Sometimes she woke at night, his name upon her lips.

She quickly rolled the scroll back up once more, tying the ribbon about it. She would get back to it, now... she needed a breath of fresh air. A moment away from her mind if that could be obtained.

She delicately placed it back in its box and slid the book underneath her desk, hoping maybe she'd forget about it as a new wave of guilt rushed over her. Forget. How could she?

One day merged with the next creating a virtually seamless oblivion in which she was helplessly trapped. She sat now at the dining table but her mind was with him again. She was far beyond the point of obsession; it was almost a physical need, to free him of that prison. How could one become enslaved by their emotions? And yet she had. She stood, leaving her tea at the table. The kitchen was vacant except for her, the house was empty, and she was alone in her torturous solitude.

She quickly scaled the stairs and fetched the book from under her pillow. It was one of several places she'd kept it recently. It had also slumbered in her desk drawer, beneath her bed, underneath the bathroom sink down the hall and once in the courtyard below her window when she'd lost her temper and tossed it outside. It had hardly spent an hour outside before she, in the dark of night, had gone searching for it.

Just recently she had been clutching at it while alone. Last night it had slumbered beneath her pillow when on previous occasions she had grasped it to her like a prized plushy. The discomfort of such was lost on her however, she was driven. The book seemed to cast it's own spell on her given her one-track mind these days, continually doting on it. If it were a breathing creature she would have been its servant, lower than Jaken had ever been striving to meet it's every whim and fancy.

The cover of the book was absent of words, only a delicately painted scene ordained it's cover, the back was the same. It was inside that held it's treasure, it's precious cargo, it's inmate.

She lifted its cover and quickly undid the ribbon as she had many times since that first time a week ago. She spread her hands across the paper, no longer concerned with the delicacy of the ink staring at the ink smudged kanji. It was still very recognizable and readable. She was shackled, as bound to this scroll of paper as Sesshoumaru was within it, or wherever he was.

She stared at it, her mind wandering as it did many days like this one. She ended up laying the unrolled scroll upon her empty desk, pinning down the rolled edges leaving it open, exposed to anyone's view should they come in. She moved back to her bed, laying down, feeling the pull of sleep upon her. She was near exhausted, how long had it been? How long had she been trapped under her own conscience?

Her thoughts drifted away as the veil of sleep descended over her.

She woke with a groan at the persistent rustling sound. As she drifted toward consciousness the sound became clearer and her eyes fluttered open, her head lulling to the side. She watched the hunched figure of her brother as he toiled away at something on her desk, wondering what it might be before she realized what she'd left upon that desk and shot from her bed.

"What are you doing in my room?" she demanded almost shoving him away.

She took one look at the sight and almost fainted, the gasp torn from her mouth.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! It was an accident," he pleaded, clearly distraught over the 'accident'. "I'll make it up to you... I promise!" he exclaimed before quickly leaving her alone in the room.

There, upon her desk sat her bottle of black ink, its lid half cocked to the side twisted carelessly laying beside the wet tipped bamboo brush. It was her scroll, his scroll, Sesshoumaru's. She could see the clear path the ink had taken as it had very clearly been tipped over.

The kanji on the page were gone, completely unrecoverable underneath the thick layer of black ink that had spilled over them, obscuring the message. A sob tore from her throat and her knees suddenly gave out from beneath her. She fell into a sobbing heap on the floor. Now things were truly her fault. If she hadn't left it on the desk -

It was another set of sounds that drew her from her weeping. It was crackling, almost the sound of fire. She raised her tortured eyes gasping in fright as she viewed a blue flame engulfing the scroll almost spraining her neck as she whirled around to see if the book too was burning. It was-

She leapt to her feet and attempted vainly to put out the abnormal blaze but it was resistant. Not only was the color an anomaly it was cold to the touch and in mere moments the tattered scroll was nothing more than a thin layer of silver ash upon her desktop.

"No! Sesshoumaru!" She cried.

She failed to notice when it was her own body that began to glow and shimmer. Or even the strange warmth that suddenly enveloped her. She was only brought back to reality when the heavy burden of a body was suddenly and forcefully fallen upon her, causing her to collapse under its superior weight.

A screen of silver hair was splayed across her face and she could feel the fine points of something metallic pressing against her skin. She heard a deep intake of breath and then a low, painful groan as the figure currently weighing her down dragged itself up slowly, just enough to put several inches between them.

A startled gasp of delight sprang from her when she met the familiar gold eyes of the Lord of the Western Lands, Sesshoumaru. She threw her arms up around his neck pulling herself against him ignoring the uncomfortable jarring from his armor.

"I'm so happy you're okay!" She exclaimed, feeling his entire body become tense against her.

He growled and she released him and he staggered off of her but was very clearly injured. Tears welled in her eyes as she sat there, staring at him staring at her, a smile adorning her lips.

"I'm so happy you're okay!" she repeated. "I've been so worried..."

His confusion was evident, as was his displeasure.

"Where am I?" he growled.

"It's hard to explain ... but I'll give it my best." She started in on the story beginning with the battle winding her way up to the present moment.

He sat stone faced through it all bearing the news quietly, patiently, but he in no way looked happy about it.

He didn't interrupt or accuse her of lying or trickery. She almost crumbled at his feet begging for forgiveness and her genuine repentance seemed to quell his hostility for the moment.

His movements were slow and obviously pained. She was on her feet in a moment attempting to help but he brushed her aside, but she refused to be put off and returned obstinately to him.

"Sesshoumaru please..."

She knelt before him, eyes shimmering with more tears, a broken pleading tone.

"Please let me help..."

"Fine," he snapped. "But step away, miko, you are too close."

A new world was what it was. He could hardly believe the sights, the scents, the tastes - the world his brother's woman came from was truly wondrous. Humans had advanced so much it was truly admirable, but the decline of his own species was disturbingly real. That his own, superior race, could dwindle and die while humans in their pitiful inferiority could advance and to such heights of amazement. He had seen just yesterday an up close picture of the moon and learned so many things it was beyond even his comprehension.

He turned curious eyes toward his young host. The girl had been upon him almost constantly since the moment he'd been reawakened from his slumber. He hadn't spent all of his imprisonment sleeping but a good portion of it was lost to memory.

It was almost unbelievable her incarnation had cast a sleeping spell upon him.

With things they way they were it would seem the girl and not he had been the one suffering under a spell. He had merely slept while the girl toiled. Her distress was plain enough upon her face, as was her grief, her guilt for his situation. He felt no particular loss over it, it was gone, and he could do nothing about it now. She reminded him of Rin every now and again however. It was even worse; when he'd asked about Rin - the look upon the girl's face had made him sorry he'd even breathed his young ward's name.

She had apologized so much he tired of the words and longed never to hear them again. He felt at peace, there was no hostility to be had in him toward her; perhaps her suffering over him had been punishment enough. Even now she labored to give him anything he needed, if he but breathed a word - even a hint of a word, she was upon it and he was finding as time passed, it was becoming bothersome.

At first it had been incredibly desirous, his brother's wench scampering to serve him but now it merely annoyed him. He liked it even less when she looked up at him with those stricken eyes, pleading for his forgiveness. Conversation between them had been scant really, she spoke of the past, and he merely listened when she was inclined to speak.

Her family had accepted his company with little difficulty and he watched their daily routines each day with interest. Even the human food of this time period was enjoyable. Despite the comfort of his surroundings, he longed for his own home, for the Western Lands and the Western castle where his heritage remained. He longed to see Rin and to alleviate her distress.


He thought momentarily she hadn't heard before she was up and out of the room leaving him alone. Saddening truly, he even missed Jaken. Jaken never looked at him the way the girl did. He never had to meet such heartbreaking eyes. Rin had made him softer than he realized, but he was not sorry for it. He was not unhappy that he longed to soothe her sorrows as he did for Rin. Even though this girl would be much harder to please than Rin and he had no experience comforting humans.

She returned some minutes later, kneeling beside the low table where he sat setting out the tea set she'd brought to him preparing to pour for him. He reached forward, stopping her hands.

Perhaps it was his physical weakness that had caused this emotional upheaval he seemed to be experiencing. She had explained how the book had been wrought apart and bled and he feared it was this event that had caused his un-healing wounds. The bloodless, un-healing tears in his flesh that pained him every day causing the loss of his demon speed and the effectiveness of many of his abilities to this weak crippling struggle for movement.

She cast her wide, fearful eyes up at him once more. He latched his fingers gently around her wrist hoping to convey his silent wish for no more sadness. He had the sinking; despairing suspicion the message had not been received as she continued to stare, a hint of a blush coloring her cheeks. Well, that at least, was new.

He released her and allowed her to continue her task.

The rain pattered against the windows and the wind howled as the storm passed far overhead. Kagome stared out into the gray colored skies; school was over for the day. The debilitated youkai was sitting behind her probably staring off into space. Since Sesshoumaru had been revived from the book his attitude had been withdrawn and occasionally irritable.

Most of the time he preferred to sit alone in an upstairs room, usually hers. Normally she would have been upset with the prospect of someone else hanging out in her room but somehow because it was Sesshoumaru, it didn't matter so much.

He was tinkering with a jigsaw puzzle, she realized turning to view him. She had received the puzzle for her birthday the previous year. It was a panda shaped puzzle and he had nearly completed the entire outline. She suspected he liked the puzzle as an excuse to sit and brood without being pestered.

He raised his gaze, meeting her eyes and she felt her heart soften once more. Even though he would likely despise this weakness, he looked vulnerable. His eyes were sad, the shields that typically guarded them, broken. The youkai prince was a wreck and all by the hand of a human.

She felt the words forming more than she thought about them. He however anticipated her comment and quickly cut her off.

"Do not apologize, miko."

She quieted, the comment, the phrase, the apology died on her lips. He held her stare a few more moments before breaking it off and staring back down at the puzzles pieces scattered on the table, but he made no move to switch or fit any of the pieces. From her observation he never moved unless the pieces fit. He traced each piece and matched them on the tabletop with his eyes long before he pained himself with the physical movement of connecting them. It was truly a feat then that most of the outline was complete.

She came and sat down across from him, staring over his puzzle progress.

"Do you need anything?"

Her answer was silence, his typical negative answer. She frowned. She longed to ease his obvious pain, the daily discomfort she could see etched into the hidden lines of his face.

It was hard to explain how much her views had changed. She had never hated Sesshoumaru, but granted he hadn't been one of her favorite people. She hadn't felt before like she felt now. She wanted to grab her brush and comb through his luxurious silver locks if only to relax him or sate her own curiosity about it's texture. She wanted to comfort him, to have him lean against her and simply allow her to be there for him. He wouldn't and she couldn't do anything about it.

"Stop it," he warned.

"Stop what?"

"Staring at me as though I'm lower than those bawling human babes."


"I don't need you hovering over me all the time!"

She stood wordlessly. The comment stung, she wanted to get away. Before she did something stupid like crying or trying to hug him or something. He had his pride, she understood, but she only wanted to help. There was no one. No one who wanted to be there for him more than her and he just wouldn't allow it.

She wasn't sure where she was going but she had to be somewhere else. She had released Sesshoumaru - she shouldn't still be feeling this way. She wandered into the kitchen and plopped lifelessly into a chair while her mother moved about humming.

"Anything wrong, Kagome?"

"No," she mumbled before standing abruptly. "I'm going out," she declared.

"It's storming outside."

She turned back and faced her mother's concerned stare. "I just need to go out for a little while, I won't be gone long, and it's only raining a bit."

Something in her gaze must have given her mother an inkling and she nodded. "Try to be back before dinner, okay?"

She smiled, her mother always understood. "I will, thanks."

She grabbed her coat, slipped on her shoes, and was out the door into the storm. Okay, so it was more than a little rain, but she had her pride too. She walked ahead even as the wind pelted her with the large water droplets, stinging occasionally as the wind gusted. She was thoroughly wet by the time she collapsed back against a sturdy tree in a nearby park. The tree with the large sweeping canopy over her head provided little protection against the battering elements.

She wanted to go home. Being out in this storm was lousy, and she direly regretted it. She closed her eyes, leaning back against the tree. She was just about to swallow her pride and head back to the house and seek refuge in her room when suddenly the rain ceased its barrage against her. She opened wide, startled eyes to view the object or person it now appeared protected her from the storm. She blinked in surprise.


"It's not really a good time to be outside Higurashi, you'll get sick again."

She smiled warmly at his concerned tone and launched herself forward against him. Although startled, he folded her into his embrace.

"Are you sure everything's okay?"

She nodded against the wet cloth of his coat but didn't say anything. Of course, let it be Houjo that rescued her, but at the moment, she didn't care. Someone was there to pick her up when she felt like falling. So what if it was Houjo, he was possibly the nicest boy she'd ever met. She turned her head up to him and smiled once more.

"It's really good to see you Houjo-kun." She stated. "Why are you out in the storm?"

"I was on my way home, my mother needed a few things." He motioned to the grocery bag draping at his wrist.

"Oh," she stepped away. "I'm sorry, please don't let me keep you. I don't want to hold up dinner, besides you're getting all wet."

He chuckled. "I was getting wet anyway, don't worry about it. You want me to walk you home?"

She looked up, her smile fading. "I don't..." she looked away. " ... want to go home right now."

The rain felt surprisingly nice, reminding him exactly why he missed home. Patrolling his territories just him, his servant, Rin, and the endless wilderness. It was something he couldn't quite get over, his desperate feeling of ... what had the girl called it... 'homesickness'? He sighed leaning heavily back against the old tree. Stupid girl, why'd she have to leave the house in a huff anyway?

Seeing as he was very clearly the source of her distress he could hardly allow the weakling to wander out into a raging storm and all because she didn't want to cry in front of him. He had no doubt it was something inconsequential, she was always doing pointless little things like that. He turned his golden gaze across the swath of sopping lawn that separated them, watching as she embraced the human male that had approached her. Did she always behave this way with strangers?

He moved around the tree coming closer into his audible range so he could tune into their conversation. He approached the next closest tree and sank back against it, exhaling heavily.

"I don't... want to go home right now."

He felt his frown deepen. She didn't even want to see him, not even to be in the same house with him. He felt his lead lower a notch, and after all the pain he'd dragged himself through coming out here to make sure she was all right. He straightened, pain shooting up his left arm, the only arm he had left, he thought bitterly.

He turned his gaze to her again, at having heard nothing. She was standing apart from him now, looking away from him, the male she was standing with.

"Are you sure you don't want me to walk you home, Higurashi?"

Her attention was clearly elsewhere but after a moment she responded. "N-no, I'm okay. I just remembered something," she said with a thoughtful look. "I'll see you later okay, Houjo-kun?"

Although hesitant, he left, walking off into the rainy afternoon. He watched her watch him before she turned around and her gaze flew straight in his direction. He was certain she couldn't see him from where he was standing and yet with the certainty of her gaze he might have doubted that. Casting even more uncertainty upon such a claim she began walking toward him, eyes directly in front of her as she passed over the soggy grass.

Around one tree and then another - and then she was in front of him, staring up with misty eyes.

"You shouldn't be out. Someone might see you."

He stared down at her, the rain still battering them. He was in pain because of this girl. He was separated from his home, his companions, and his rightful place because of something attached to this girl. Yet he was living because of this girl. He was standing, instead of being held captive all because of this girl.

She was the lone, solitary figure that cared about him. That worried over each and every hiss of pain that dared to escape his lips, and scurried to make sure he wanted for nothing. She went out of her way to care for him, tending to everything and anything he needed. Yet he couldn't help the bitterness he felt for her, even while his conscience whispered he was being ungrateful.

Told him that he was in debt to her for taking care of him, for worrying about him... for caring at all about him when he had tried to kill her so many times before. He was, in reality, quite lucky that he had fallen into her hands and not someone else's lest he would have been destroyed without a second thought. How many people, how many humans would not jump at the opportunity to slay the Lord of the Western lands?

"Foolish girl."

One would think she might be more considerate. He had come all the way out here for her. He ached because of her, because he had worried for her out here in this weather. Worried because it had been him that caused her to flee into it. Even as he stood there he felt his strength weakening, his legs were going to give out on him and moments later they did. He fell onto her, his one arm looped around her tightly as he slumped down onto his knees.

He tightened his grip, crushing her to him, despite his aches. He didn't want her but he needed her as much as he hated the thought. He needed the weak human girl. This weak bundle of a female that guarded within her such a fierce, dangerous power.

The water was soaking his knees and up his pant legs now. Her arms looped around him, tightening as his grip slackened, trying to hold him up as more and more of his weight was brought to bear on her. Ultimately, she failed, and the two of them toppled over, down into the mud. They were going to be unpleasantly soiled before they got back to the house, but despite the storm, despite the wetness, he was in no rush to return. Rather, he was finding he rather liked being cuddled up against her; she was warm despite his cold surroundings. All those years being trapped, he now realized he'd longed for the touch, the warmth of another person, and having found one, why give it up?

So there he stayed, pressing the girl down into the earth as the ground around them became muddier and muddier, the wind kicking up every so often.

"I..." her voice was soft, uncertain. " I promised my mother I'd be home before dinner."

There was no response but the soft feel of his breathing.

"Sesshoumaru?" He could hear the concern rising in her voice. He wouldn't be surprised if she started pawing at him, trying to alleviate her own fears and to confirm that he was indeed well.

Moments later she began doing just that as her arms raised, and briefly he thought she would embrace him. And briefly he desired it, to be held and comforted. To be kept warm by this human girl. But the desire passed, as did the thought as she began raking her fingers through his hair. Then she began stroking his head like she would her cat.

He wasn't sure if he should be content she was trying to comfort him, or insulted she was treating him like a pet. He settled on the former, figuring her to be too uncomfortable with him to embrace him. Yet even as he thought it his mind drifted back to her hugging that human some minutes before. Who was that? How did she know him, and why she had she embraced him?

Perhaps her going off to 'school' everyday was not such a good idea, especially seeing how he did not know what she was being exposed to when out of his sight. The moment the thought flitted through his mind, he stiffened. The girl beneath him noticed and tensed as well. He was not her protectorate! He could not be thinking such things. Nor was he in a position to protect her, although he was certain that even in this unfortunate condition he could still take any band of humans.

He managed to drag himself up with considerable assistance from the girl, but, as he expected, she didn't seem to mind. Rather, her eyes were alight with her concern again, worrying about him. The same eyes that had followed and worried about his brother so many years ago.

This, he thought back, was the same girl. It was difficult and surprisingly easy to associate the two. Sometimes it was difficult to compare this flitting creature with that girl who had stood so proudly before him, attempting to assist Inuyasha in his battles.

But it truly was her, as her scent and power gave evidence of. She had a powerful aura that he didn't sense on any of the other humans in this place. Being so it was strikingly easy to sense when she was returning home in the afternoons from school, just as it was disturbing she returned with so many strange scents upon her.

He pushed the matter aside however as he was now back on his feet and they were moving. The house wasn't a very far walk really unless you were in pain during each step, as he was. Pain had not bothered him much during his lifetime, but he'd been suffering with it for the past 500 years, during his wakefulness while suffering under the imprisonment of the miko, and eventually it simply wore you down.

Not even he, the great Lord of the Western lands was exempt from his body's senses.

So homeward they traveled, reaching the shrine grounds just as lightning began to make an occasional appearance, lighting the skies in dramatic flashes.

They reached their destination, soaked through and through not stopping until they had reached the safe haven of her bedroom. He didn't question why she had brought him there. With the log of hours he had spent in this room he felt it was justifiable that it be half-his anyway.

She rose from his side without a word, leaving him. Once she was out of sight he allowed himself to slump forward resting against the hard floor under his feet. Exhausted didn't even begin to describe his lack of energy, everything hurt. He was struggling not to pant in front of her. She returned all too soon, he thought grimly not even bothering to open his eyes as her footsteps announced her presence. She knelt down beside him and began attempting to dry him with a towel.

He could tell by her frustrated noises she was about ready to give up the fight with the towel.

"Okay, new plan!" She announced. "The clothes come off."

"Really, miko, aren't there more interesting ways of trying to get under someone's clothes?"

He could almost see the blush that crept over her face. He could see it if he opened his eyes but he was too tired, so he let his imagination do the work. Really, he was watching too much television; these humans were having a bad effect on him.

"I didn't mean it like that!" She snapped before returning to her task, but her hands were much more timid. More so than they would have been had he said nothing. There was really nothing she could do about his clothes anyway with him lying with his back to her. His human clothes all buttoned up the front.

"Kagome, dinner time!" Her mother's voice called up and she sighed unhappily.

He rolled over onto his back. He was simply too tired, sleep would claim him in moments.

"Go eat woman, I am fine."


"I'm not going anywhere." He growled bitterly.

He heard her soft sigh, that most certainly meant concession. He had won, he had expected so.

He half-listened as she moved around in the room, but wasn't curious enough to see what she doing until he felt himself being enclosed underneath something warm. His eyes shot open to see her tucking her pink bed spread over his body and then gently lifting his head and placing a pillow underneath it.

It shouldn't surprise him, her little acts of kindness and concern, but he wasn't quite used to her yet. Or her pampering.

She didn't say anything but he understood.

She worried about him when she couldn't be there.

She left him then, and he couldn't help but watch until she was out of sight and he heard her settle down at the dinner table. Sleep was not elusive.

He hadn't experienced the deep sleep that came from complete safety and security since he was a pup under the protection of his father. In this time period however he had to fear nothing, and Kagome's delicate scent made it all too easy to drift off into slumber. It had happened many a time before when he had not intended to sleep but had simply been here, brooding over his pathetic lifestyle.

He drifted toward wakefulness and as he did his senses became aware of her. She had returned from dinner. He groaned as his eyes drifted open and he peered around him. The stiff, uncomfortable wetness of his clothes reminded him he hadn't changed and he wasn't looking forward to the difficult task. It was hard enough changing clothes that he avoided it as much as possible.

He had barely begun the troublesome task of sitting up when he felt her hands, guiding, pulling him into an upward position. She was dry, and warm, and he unconsciously leaned back into her warmth. He realized after a moment what he was doing, but made no attempt to pull away from the arms that wrapped around him.

It was nice to relax. To let someone else simply soothe you and your worries and pains. This human girl wanted nothing from him. It didn't matter anymore that he wasn't feared. Maybe his pride was broken, he thought off handedly. Maybe it didn't matter because no one but her was here to see it. No one but the nonjudgmental woman that cared for him, smiled at him, held him. He breathed in softly, she was enough to send him straight back to dreamland for several more hours but he struggled against fatigue's hold.

The oddly detached tone he was used to, the one he registered as her uncertainty. The one she used so often with him because he felt she didn't know how to feel toward him had gone. Now her voice was soft and almost mirthful.

"Are you fully awake, Sesshoumaru?"

He liked it. Hearing his name. Hearing someone say it so affectionately. He hadn't heard his name in so long and she said it different than any of her house members.

He mumbled a reply but even he knew not what it was. She simply smiled.

"If you're going to stay awake let's get you into something warmer, and how about something to eat too? Mama and I kept some food for you, plus I spent the last hour preparing some soup. How about it?"

"Hour?" He heard himself mumble. Had it been so long?

"It's been almost four hours since you dozed off. What do you think? Want to rest some more, if so, why don't you move up to the bed, it's more comfortable."

He grunted in reply and she giggled quietly. "Is that a no?"

He pulled himself forward, free of his private paradise in her arms, and she helped him up. Her shyness seemed to have faded a bit as she came around and began pulling at the buttons on his shirt, but this time he kept quiet. Once loose she peeled the damp garment off his shoulders catching on his one wrist at the cuff. She came around undoing the small plastic button before pulling it completely off and tossing it absently toward the corner. He had no doubts that would be the last garment she would be pulling off him; he knew she was too timid to try something more assertive.

He was not surprised, as she suddenly looked contemplative, her gaze shifting from his eyes to his waistband and back. "You should... how about I get something for you to change into?" She suggested, eager to quit the room.

He excused her with a weak inclination of his head and she rushed off pulling the door closed. He attempted to undo the clasp at his waist. He detested human clothes, he thought miserably, failing to undo the button. The buttonhole was too small to slip the button easily through it.

She returned with a simple cotton yukata, much to his relief. He hated these horrible form-fitting garments.

She gave him a once over. "One second thought, perhaps you'd like a bath first?"

He took note of his mud-streaked hair and agreed. He followed her to the bathroom and snatched her wrist to keep her from leaving.

"Undo this."

She faltered. "Undo this?" She repeated curiously and with a note of hesitation.

He shot her an impatient glare. "The button, miko!"

He watched the color drain from her face.

"Your pants button?" She asked, as though desperately seeking confirmation before she even came a step closer.

"Do you see any other buttons?"

He wasn't half as agitated as he was pretending to be. He actually found this little exchange to be quite amusing.

"O-kay." She proceeded toward him and reached out with slightly shaking hands, never raising her eyes from the button while trying desperately not to drop it lower either.

She fumbled for a moment, at which point Souta walked by the open bathroom door. He halted in shock just staring as Sesshoumaru stared back before stepping back and rushing toward the stairs.


Kagome looked up but Souta was already gone. She got the button unclasped and quickly dropped her hands, and spun toward the doorway.

Although tempted, he didn't interrupt her leaving and he was left to fend for himself in the bath.

It was really quite amazing to watch something as trivial as emotions chip away at someone's soul. Yet even as he watched day by day as her memories tormented her he wondered just how trivial emotions could be. She was being eaten alive by anguish, by her guilt over him, and over something to do with his half brother, although he wasn't certain as to the exact nature of it.

Though his curiosity burned, he would not lower himself to inquire after it. It was her own personal matter and he deemed it unworthy of his attention even as it captivated him.

Now, the said girl had stepped into the room, leveling her calm, tormented eyes upon his frame. She stood there so silently he wondered if perhaps something more was troubling her, something else she was hiding even further beneath her obvious veil of pain.

The thought was fleeting however as he watched her vision clear, her thoughts falling into line and she seemed to refocus on him.

"Oh... you're up early." She commented before stepping past him to gather her bag of textbooks. He'd paged through those very books on many occasions while she slept trying to avail himself of what was in them. It was a bit of a taxing task, but he would not lower himself to ask for any more help than he was already getting from her. "I gotta go to school now, so... I'll see you later then."

Her gaze wavered unnecessarily on him before she finally left.

His thoughts lingered on her long after she was gone, but after an hour he found the floor to be uncomfortable. This time period was spoiling him, but somehow he didn't care. He crawled up to the bed, collapsing onto the soft, comfortable surface, burrowing his face into her pillow. Her scent in the room overall normally relaxed him but he was helpless here. Her scent radiated from her bed and it pulled and tugged him toward the deepest form of relaxation, sleep. He knew already he would spend the day here, unwilling or unable to move himself from the soft haven.

He'd come to recognize her aura and the delicately concealed power that lay hidden beneath her weak human exterior. Sensing her approach was easily done in this time of few youkai and even fewer powerful humans. Even in this city of millions Kagome's power was one of very few he could discern as anything that might be remotely threatening to him.

He stretched himself out on her bed, reveling in her fragrance. The girl was a distraction like no other - her scent sent him reeling into a small, pleasant refuge. It seemed the transference of his abhorrence of her to his adoration of her scent was quick. Logically, his brain told him he'd turned on her too quickly, but the rest of him was pleased. There was no need for aggression toward her, and she held her place serving him, as she rightly should being a human. All quite logical, but something still nagged every now and then.

Even now he felt it, the stinging questions. He put them aside as he pulled her pillow against him, cuddling uncharacteristically against the stuffed material. Oh to be young again, he thought. He'd never desired it before, to be cast back into the helplessness he'd regarded as 'childhood' but this room made him feel that way. Young, protected, safe. Damn the girl - she was turning out to be far more damaging to him than Rin ever was.

He allowed his eyes to drift closed, intending only to rest them a moment, but sleep claimed him without his consent. When he was pulled back to wakefulness he did not expect to find bright eyes staring down at him happily.

"Hi, Sesshoumaru!"

He frowned at her. "What is your problem, woman?" He snapped. "Do not hover over me."

He was tempted to pull her down with him, to discard the pillow he'd been holding - er, was he still holding the pillow? He quickly chucked it out of his grasp, causing her to giggle. Laughed at? Him? He growled - hoping the viciousness of the sound would startle her, knock her back into her proper place, and cease her inane laughter. It did stop, but it only caused her to frown at him.

"Sorry, are you okay? You probably shouldn't make such sudden movements and-"

It took only a moment to shoot from the bed. He was slow. Much slower than he'd been before, but still faster than her weak human reflexes could handle. He leapt at her, she couldn't handle his weight and fell backwards and they both tumbled off the end of the bed. She landed underneath him, hitting the floor in a way that was probably painful, but he was not concerned for her welfare.

"I do not take orders."

When she failed to respond he looked closer at her, drawing nearer. The delay might have been caused by her recovery from her pain; she looked to be slightly grimacing.

"No one gave you any orders - but I'll give you one now. Get off me!"

"I will not - inconvenienced I may be by these wounds, I am still your better, woman. I will not be looked down upon, especially by Inuyasha's bitch!"

Rage was boiling through his veins; perhaps he had simply been holding it in. Perhaps he'd been holding too much in. Too many emotional upheavals, too many changes, too many and too much of too many things. The door swung open and Kagome's younger brother stepped in, once again crunching on something from a bag.

"Hey what's - oh!"

The girl underneath him attempted to shift away from the suggestive position he was holding her in, but he held her fast.

"S-Souta, could you come back later?" She tentatively asked.

"Be gone!" Sesshoumaru snarled, allowing his demon blood to pulse to life within him tinting his eyes a dangerously red color.

The boy faltered and then took off, calling for his mother loudly.

"Weakling - the woman cannot save him. She cannot save you. He should be strung up and drained of his blood slowly, until his screams cease to entertain me."

His claws dug into the area rug by her head and yet she still looked up at him calmly.

"It's all right," she urged. "I know you're upset."

He growled at her once more. Her calmness was only adding to his fury, how dare she not fear him? When had he ceased being who he was, 'Lord of the Western Lands'?!

"It-it doesn't have to be this way though. I've been thinking about it for a while. I can... change this, if it's what you really want."

The angry haze cleared slightly as her words came to him, and his tense hands went lax.

"The well doesn't work anymore, but... within my body I still carry the complete Shikon no tama. I could... use it to wish you back to the era you belong in, free of this time and of the injuries you've suffered."

He could go back? He pulled himself painfully to his feet and hauled her up as well. He could go back. He could get away from all this madness. This life he couldn't live. The life he'd been fumbling through so far was no longer bearable compared to the alternative of returning to his home. His true place, not this warped version of reality. Maybe he could even prevent this from happening? But that was a far off thought and he put it aside for another day.

He dragged her to the well house and waited. Waited for her to tell him what to do. What to do to send him home again.

"I can't... the jewel is embedded within my body. My left side, you'll have to remove it."

He turned toward her and she lifted the left corner of her blouse pulling it up slightly, turning her head away, and closing her eyes, waiting for his claws to pierce her flesh. He trailed his fingertips against her skin, her warmth staining his fingers. He paused momentarily thinking about what he was doing, about what he was about to do. About this girl whose scent so delighted him. This girl who had so endeavored to care for him, but he could go back home. He could return to his place in history, and free her of the burden of caring for him. He could go back to Rin, and it would also free her of her responsiblity to the shikon jewel. Yes, this was the right decision. He would always have his memories...

Before he could think further he flicked his wrist, slicing her open cleanly and her blood poured rather than oozed as a small fuchsia colored ball dropped to the ground. She collapsed onto her knees, reaching to clutch the jewel and it glowed in her hands. She closed her eyes again and lowered her head in concentration as her blood continued to soak into her white school uniform top and down into her green skirt.

She was somewhere else, but she didn't know where. A foggy covered plane with no ups or downs, and there seemed to be nothing beneath her feet, just as there was nothing above her head. Yet despite the lack of dimensions she heard footsteps - small, diminutive footsteps approaching her, and then a voice.


"I need to make a wish," she stated firmly. She felt obligated, she needed to do this.

"'Need'?" the voice repeated.

"I have to... it's my fault. I wish to correct a wrong and make it right again. It is an unselfish wish, please let me have it."

"An unselfish wish, you say?" The figure materialized into one she'd known to be Midoriko. "Perhaps you simply want this wish to annul your own guilt. Is that unselfish?"

She lowered her head in shame. "Maybe you are right, but it does not change my mind. Please?"

"You are the chosen one, the only miko that may purify this jewel and cease this useless struggle I am forced to fight. Make your wish if you believe in it whole - heartedly. Drain this jewel of its power and let us all go to our graves in peace."

Kagome was uncertain whether or not she would be included with those going to their graves, but she was willing to risk it.

"I wish that Sesshoumaru be returned to his rightful time period, with Rin and Jaken. Let his injuries be soothed and most importantly, let this time here with me... be forgotten."

"This wish..." Midoriko replied, her image glittering. "... will be granted as you have decreed. Thank you."

Kagome opened her eyes. The jewel in her hands was gone - and the youkai who had been so impatiently by her side was also gone. She was alone, polluting the ground of the well house with her blood. Alone. Completely...alone.


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