Second Alliance – Chapter 12

Back to Chapter 11: Tails

Chapter 12: Take His Pleasure

“Holy crap,” the miko whispered. Milky skin, flushed with heat and embarrassment. Dark hair slick with water. His fur against her body. He had ignored the sensations in his tail since he had left it with her, so the only thing that surfaced to his consciousness was a distant feeling of soft warmth. Then his mokomoko was wet, which was startling and mildly irritating, enough to draw his focus to her, but not to force him to seek her out.

But something had changed within his mokomoko. Although it still contained a portion of his youki when it was separated from him, his tails were usually without anything more than faint instincts and extremely limited movement. She had done something to it, he was sure, because he was quite suddenly unable to ignore his tails, as if she was touching him directly. He had been tortured by the sensation of her fingers kneading his mokomoko, until, finally, he was able to leave his study and follow his nose and youki to her location. By the time he reached the entrance to the springs, he was moving too quickly to be seen. And the squeezing, stroking, caresses continued to grow in his perception. He arrived at the private springs set aside for his pack just as she thrust her fingers into his fur. The slender digits massaged his muscle, and he had to bite back a groan of pleasure.

She stared at him with wide blue eyes and he could do nothing but stare back. She was glorious. Beautiful, desirable, powerful. A temptress. She called to him as a male. She called to the youki of his beast. She gripped his mokomoko and he felt a throb of heat move through him.

Sesshomaru had developed a strategy to convince her to stay. The first directive would be to discuss things with her. However, there was no reason he could not achieve two objectives with one course of action. They were certainly secluded enough for a private conversation. The daiyoukai held back a smirk and untied the knot of his obi.

“Wha- what are you doing?”

Her voice rose to an almost painful pitch, but her delicious blush made up for it. The rosy color extended not only over her cheeks, but down her neck and onto the tops of her breasts. He wondered if she was more embarrassed than usual, or if the color was always so…rampant, and he had not noticed due to her clothing. The scent of turnips was crisp, but the rest of her scent was… He breathed deeply. It was incredibly strong. Freshly cut cherry wood. Magnolia blossoms. The steam carried her scent, as water always did, but it was also cleaner, less layered with other things. There was no trace of Inuyasha, or even the kit. No lingering scents of the food she had eaten, the places she had been, the people she had been near. Her scent was purely her, and his body reacted accordingly.

He draped his obi precisely over a rock, to keep it from wrinkling, and moved his hands to the narrow ribbons closing his short kimono. “Disrobing,” he replied in a flat voice. It was difficult, even for him, to contain a smirk when her face contorted. She appeared…speechless. The miko was extremely verbal. He made a note of the actions that had caused her current condition so that it could be repeated in the future.

She sputtered, and her scent fluctuated, still as clear and strong as when he had arrived. Embarrassment, anxiety and…he folded his white kimono carefully over the rock and loosened his shirt. Cinnamon. He did not bother to hold back a small smile. She was still upset, her maidenly anxiety was a reminder that despite how long she had traveled with his half-brother and the implications of her clothing, she was untouched. She was aroused by him, and embarrassed by her arousal. That could be advantageous; it was certainly pleasing. His shirt followed his kimono, and he stepped out of his boots.

Here? Right Now? Er, I mean, why?” Her voice was faint, but her eyes remained fixated on his hands as he moved to the ties of his pants. He congratulated himself on sending the guards further along the path, their senses out of range of the little spring.

“I do not wish to bathe in my clothes, Miko. Is that customary in your time?” His thumbs hooked under the waistband and her eyes squeezed shut.

“Nooo, nope, no not at all.” She was moving into deeper water, eyes firmly closed and both her blush and arousal in evidence. “I’ll just, ah, I’ll leave you to it, then. You probably want your privacy. I mean, who doesn’t, right? Bath time is private time, I always say! No need to…” He was amused by the return of her babbling. Unfortunately, she was getting dangerously close to the deeper part of the spring. He shed the rest of his clothes and swiftly took to the water, cupping her elbow just as her feet would have followed the sudden dip in the floor and carried her head under.

“Whoa!” Her arms flailed wildly, and even with his excellent reflexes he was unable to avoid her blunt human nails grazing his chin or her bare feet colliding with his legs. Her eyes flew open, and he stared into the blue depths. He could feel his body, his power, responding to her. She was so near, and her scent…

He pulled his head back sharply, finding that he had bent as though to press his nose to her neck. That was not part of the current stage of the plan. “Soap,” he requested. She blinked at him, breathing heavily, and then gestured to a plain cake and extra scrubbing cloth waiting nearby. He steered her towards a ledge that would keep her from drowning, and also force her to go past him to reach her clothes. Taking up the soap, he schooled his features into a calm mask and steered his own thoughts back to the task at hand. Sweet, sweet honeyed blossoms… It was difficult. “I have received reports of incursions on villages in the East and a few of my own in the far north of my land. I must travel to see to these incidents.” He did not elaborate on the details of the reports. There was no need for her to have such images in her mind.

“Incursions?”

“It means-”

“I know what it means,” she snapped. He turned his back on her blazing expression to hide his own smile. She was far too easy to bait. He enjoyed it. Both the fury of her response, and the way she straightened her spine, allowing the water to settle dangerously low around her attributes. “I’m surprised anyone would attack with the illness there. Didn’t you say it started in the north? I know it had been moving from north to south towards Edo. I suppose bandits might try to prey on towns that are already weakened.”

He approved of her firm grasp of all that she had learned thus far. She was indeed intelligent. “It is possible,” he acknowledged. He began a thorough scrubbing of his body, pleased to be able to do so despite the disrepair of his bathhouse. A self-satisfied smirk twitched at his lips. He would not have to clean his mokomoko for some time. The miko had been quite thorough. “While I ascertain the meaning of these attacks, I will also patrol my own lands and take measure of how much damage this pox has done.”

“I will go with you,” her conviction caused his head to turn. He was about to refute her foolish statement, a quiet growl of denial even escaped him, but he recalled Inuyasha’s warning about telling the miko, rather than asking her.

“I am reluctant to risk your life or health on such a task,” he said instead. “You are still weak from use of your reiki, and your scent is tired.”

“I’ll be fine,” she shrugged, and the movement did delightful things to the water level around her breasts. He noted with interest that her blush faded as she focused on their conversation. “I’ve been tired before, and there may be people who need me. I can’t let you go alone when I might be able to save some of them.”

“And if we are attacked?”

“I have no doubt that anyone foolish enough to attack the Saidai Mao would swiftly regret it,” she said dryly. Her eyes sparkled, and Sesshomaru felt another surge of lust. She trusted his skill to protect her, as she should. The miko would be his soon. He only had to deal with a few minor issues, then he could focus all of his concentration on her. “Besides, an attack wouldn’t be all bad, would it? Then you would know for certain what or who was causing them.”

“Hn.” He couldn’t refute her logic. He could leave her behind, where she could be guarded by his entire castle…and he would be distracted by concern for her every moment that he was unable to smell her, to sense her, to see her with his own eyes. Perhaps her ideas and suggestions merited consideration. It cost him nothing but a few moments of his time to listen, and he had the added benefit of watching her while he did so. It was an acceptable exchange. “If I allowed it, there would be conditions.” She leaned forward eagerly, doubtless anticipating his capitulation. Sesshomaru inhaled her excitement and clamped down on his own. There would be time for that later. “You will not leave my sight. You will follow my commands.” She nodded at each order and clasped her hands between her breasts. He almost groaned. “You will not attempt to use your reiki without my permission.”

Her face stiffened. “Excuse me?” Her voice was frosty, and Sesshomaru had to remind himself that he had the upper hand. He had already considered her hesitation, and had formed a strategy to combat it.

“You overexerted yourself when you healed me – and the castle. While I am grateful…more than grateful… for your assistance, I believe it sapped your strength. You exercised your powers for Aki too soon afterwards, and you passed out. I am not willing to risk your health again.” He refrained from mentioning that he did not trust her judgment to manage her own health.

“But Aki and Kento really needed help! I-” She cut herself off and bit her lip.

“Perhaps if you tell me the nature of your interaction with Aki I would better understand.”

“It was very personal,” she said primly.

Sesshomaru raised a brow, indeed? “Kento is my secretary, and I have known both he and Aki longer than my half-brother has offended me with his presence. If you do not wish to tell me, that is your prerogative, but I will be discussing it with Kento when he returns.”

“So he still hasn’t- I mean they’re- that is…” She fumbled, blushing, and Sesshomaru was intrigued to know that she obviously had a strong inclination as to what Kento was doing in Aki’s house. She tugged absently on his mokomoko, and Sesshomaru felt an answering pull inside himself. “Aki asked me to give her a fertility blessing. You know she and Kento are an item? Er, I mean, they are together?” Her words were strange, but he nodded to show her he understood her meaning. “Okay, well I guess she wouldn’t, um, mate him because she didn’t think she could have children, er, hatchlings.”

“Pups,” he corrected, fascinated that she had managed to get so much personal information out of the tightlipped Kento and wily Aki.

“Yeah, so I tried to figure out if there really was a problem, and it turns out that I am pretty sure she has polycystic ovaries, so I sort of fixed that, although I doubt it will be permanent. And then, just to be sure, I checked Kento-”

He couldn’t help himself. He growled, stalking closer to her. “You examined Kento’s virility?”

“Uh, yeah? With my power?” For some reason, that did not assuage his irritation or still a surge of possessiveness. “And he had some issues too, so I took care of that, I think, and when I was done he got all sniffy and said she was in heat, and I can guess what that means, so I left.” She was speaking so fast towards the end that her words nearly ran together, but Sesshomaru had no trouble understanding. He had more difficulty not shaking her, or, more likely, grabbing her to him and impressing on her the importance of never touching another male again. Even with her power. Especially as it related to virility. His fingers snaked around her upper arms and he pulled her closer, so that they were nearly touching. Her eyes widened, her breath quickened, her scent spiked. “It was really strange, actually. It is pretty rare for a couple to both have genetic markers for sub- or infertility. I would think that demons-”

Kagome,” he ground out, “cease speaking.” He pressed his lips to hers and was enveloped in the sensation of her. Soft full lips. Her scent, in his nose and lungs and settling on his skin where they touched. Sounds. A smothered gasp, a quiet sigh. The flutter of her hands under the water and then her gentle touch on his shoulder and neck. His tongue darted out and he licked the seam of her lips. She tasted as she smelled: Sweet. Strong. Perfect.

He wanted to devour her. He wanted to cover her with his scent. To take her. His last vestige of logical thought was screaming, Not yet! But his youki quickly stomped it out to make way for his libido. She parted her lips and a bolt of lightning seared him straight to his core, igniting his blood and calling to his beast to rise. His tongue took advantage and delved deeply, caressing the velvety walls of her cheeks, learning the feel of her blunt human teeth and the roof of her mouth. After a moment, her own tongue responded, hesitantly reaching out to trace the rounded side of one of his fangs.

He pulled away with a sharp movement, holding her at arm’s length and breathing heavily. Her eyes were wide with surprise, her mouth was slightly parted and swollen from his attention. He wanted her. Unknowingly, he tightened his grip until she squeaked with discomfort, and he immediately relented. She was more, better, everything that he had thought she would be. He would have her again. All of her. But he did not have the time at the moment. Sesshomaru bit back a snarl of frustration. His duties were always tedious, but never before had he considered throwing them aside to deal with his own needs. He could not. But he wanted to.

“Sesshomaru?” she asked hesitantly. The embarrassment and worry were returning to her scent, and he wished to bring back the spicy taste of cinnamon, before he had to leave her and attend to the West. He leaned in close again, bringing his lips within a breath of hers. Her eyes fluttered closed, and her chest rose and fell quickly, giving him tantalizing glimpses of what was beneath the water. His mokomoko wound and rubbed against her skin in places he had not yet had the pleasure of exploring, but he promised himself he would soon.

“Dress and return to Rin’s rooms, Miko. We will discuss the terms of our departure after dinner.” He flicked his tongue over her full lower lip and was rewarded with a tiny sound of pleasure and a rush of cinnamon. He was back in the alcove and partly dressed before she realized he had taken his mokomoko with him. He glanced back, and lost his cool facade for a moment when he realized he could now see quite easily though the clean, clear water of the springs.

She folded her arms over her chest and glared through a heavy blush. He forced his eyes away and swallowed. “You may borrow this one,” he gestured with his mokomoko and a gust of youki wind blew across the springs, sapping the water from his hair and leaving his fur fluffier than it should be. “But you must repair it as you did before with your oils.” He laid it out across the rocks near her new clothing and finished tying his obi. “And Miko,” he glanced over his shoulder to catch her staring at him, somewhat lower than his face, with a look that he could not categorize. He allowed himself a smirk. He did not need to know her expression, he knew her scent. “Miko,” he repeated and her eyes snapped to his, “do not repeat your vigor with my tail, or I will be forced to leave my work to continue your education on the consequences of such actions.”

He turned and left, speeding his passage with youki. He did not wish to leave her, but the rest of the morning, and the long afternoon ahead, would be made more tolerable by the glare of outraged indignation that accompanied her scent of cinnamon and pepper. He looked forward to dinner.

ooo

“Arrogant, egotistical…thinks he can just…I should have…next time he…” Kagome stopped her angry, muttered tirade abruptly. Next time. She finished toweling off more slowly and sat down to comb and oil her hair; her skin needed moisture too. She wasn’t sure if she wanted a ‘next time’. She shook her head, there was no point in trying to fool herself, of course she wanted a next time. She was nineteen, and the only kisses she had ever received were from a youki-crazed Inuyasha and fumbling Hojo. Inuyasha hadn’t really kissed her back, so she wasn’t sure that even counted. And Hojo had missed her lips in his nervous excitement and hit her cheek, not that she regretted it. His hands were clammy on her arms and his breath smelled like butter popcorn: it was not a turn-on.

Sesshomaru, on the other hand…her face heated up at the memory. He was, well, perfect came to mind, but that seemed trite. He was tall, handsome, completely ripped, and broody in a sort of bad-boy meets disapproving literature professor. She might have had more interest in attending university if professors actually looked like Sesshomaru. On top of that, he was an amazing kisser. Obviously, she didn’t have a lot of personal experience to compare it to, but from everything she had read and heard from her modern friends, the inability to form a coherent thought and weak knees – weak everything – was a strong indication of an excellent make-out session.

She frowned, fumbling with her package of new clothes. Could a single kiss and a – a lick constitute a make-out session? She wasn’t sure. Whatever she labeled it, it was something she definitely wanted to have a ‘next time’. Even though it was Sesshomaru. The reminder that she had been naked kissing Inuyasha’s naked older, sometimes murderous, cold brother did nothing to dampen her desire. Which was strange and yet, did not cause concern. He wasn’t all that cold with me.

Then he had to go and ruin it. Irritation built again, and all of her fuzzy, melty feelings were pushed aside to make room for indignation. She was perfectly ready to stay in the springs and kiss him until she got pruney, and then he opened his big, fat – firm, talented – mouth. Not that his voice wasn’t nice to listen to. It was deep, low and when he said her name it sent shivers-

Kagome shook herself and glared at the mokomoko. It sat in a fluffy pile on a nearby rock, looking completely innocent. “You’re worse than a cursed hand,” she snarled at it. She was blushing, she knew, but she held on tightly to her anger. He let her think he was giving her basically a blanket, and it was his tails! He had felt it whenever she touched it. Her hand flew to her mouth and her eyes widened in horror. She had been stroking it. “Kill me now,” she whispered. If she had made those same motions to any part of his body that was attached-

She groaned and leaned forward to bury her burning face in her clothes. And stopped abruptly. The plain wrapping had fallen open, to reveal the most beautiful material she had ever seen. Kagome checked to make certain there was no oil left on her hands before holding it up.

She gasped in pleased wonder. Aki had outdone herself. The outer kimono was cherry red across the right sleeve and chest. Beginning at the shoulder seam, the cloth was scattered with white magnolia blossoms that caught the light and reflected it with a silver sheen. She held it closer to her eyes. The silver was actually tiny dewdrops that had been stitched onto the petals. No human hands, or even machines, could have made such an intricate design. The flowers blew across the chest, growing in number until they were dense enough to make a field of white. The remainder of the kimono was a solid, snowy color. The obi was wide, and dark blue. It was accompanied by a simple blue kimono and white silk under kimono. He commissioned this for me? The sweet, melty feeling returned and no matter how many times Kagome reminded herself that he had tricked her with the mokomoko, that the cost of the garments were probably nothing to him, she couldn’t work back into her earlier outrage.

She quickly french braided her hair and tucked the ends up to keep any oil from brushing against the kimono. She dressed carefully, lamenting for the first time that she was unable to manage more than a simple knot with the obi. Even that she had to tie in the front and swivel around to the back. Sandals had also been provided, and she slipped them on and gathered everything up in her basket. Except the mokomoko.

She stared at it, not really mad, but still irritated. It twitched a little, as if it knew she was watching it. It seemed to have a mind of its own – or at least a brain stem – and its only thoughts were perverted. Okay, maybe also protective. She recalled the way it wrapped around her tighter whenever she tried to remove it. And maybe also a bit possessive. Still, it didn’t deserve to be – she blushed – stroked and oiled. If Sesshomaru knew people saw his tails looking so ludicrously, adorably fluffy, he might think twice about leaving it to maul her.

She nodded to herself and poked the pile of fur. “Listen up, Fluffy,” She did her best to sound stern, hoping the mokomoko would respond to authority like a puppy would. “I’m going to carry you around-” The thing shifted and slithered up her finger to latch around her wrist. She quickly clamped her other hand over it to stop its advance. “If you so much as twitch inappropriately, I will take you through the well and let Grandpa use you as a floor mop – got it?”

She wasn’t sure it could really understand her, but it curled around her hand and went passively limp. She wrapped it around her upper arms, but found that the end would drag on the ground. She didn’t want it to get dirty again. Kagome looped it around her waist and commanded, “ Stay,” it squeezed gently, “but no funny business.” Satisfied that it would obey, she walked carefully back down the path towards Eiji and Eiichi. She only tripped once, and she caught herself against the wall before either demon could see her complete lack of grace. She considered it a successful morning.

She might have revised that thought if she had known how many stares she would get as she walked slowly back through the castle. In the traditional kimono, her pace seemed painfully slow, and it gave every demon they passed the opportunity to stare, whisper, and bow low as she walked past. Some looked awed, others afraid, and a few offended. The longer it took, the worse it seemed to get.

A group of soldiers, most she had not seen before, passed and stopped to ogle. One even approached her, holding out his hands for hers and bowing low. “Miko-sama,” he said smoothly, “I am humbled by your-”

“Kagome-sama is quite busy,” Eiji interrupted smoothly, stepping in front of her and preventing the soldier from taking her hands.

She gripped her basket tighter as Eiichi continued with less finesse than his brother, his mohawk vibrating with irritation, “And her hands are already occupied.”

“Such a beautiful female ,” he sniffed discreetly and Kagome felt her face flame, “should not have to carry such burdens.” He glanced meaningfully at the mokomoko and her embarrassment grew.

“Not all things that are carried are burdensome, pup,” said Eiji. The group of soldiers behind the newcomer had taken a keen interest in the conversation. Kagome felt her irritation slowly taking over. Were they seriously talking about her as if she wasn’t even there?

“Indeed, some things are worth carrying.” The soldier’s eyes roved over her body and Kagome felt something snap.

“Eyes up here, buddy,” she spit out between gritted teeth, pointing to her own face. “What I carry I do because that is my desire – and none of your business. And don’t think for a minute that I want someone else to fight my battles for me. If I need help, I’ll ask, and I am most definitely not asking you.” She called her reiki to light her outstretched hand with a little purification. It hurt, great kami, it hurt more than the time she broke her leg, or when Inuyasha had dropped her out of that tree, or even when a moth youkai had thrown her into a cliff. But her power came and flared bright pink, causing the pushy demon to back up with stammered apologies. His friends stared in awe and then broke out into snickers and taunts for the one who had been so thoroughly put in his place. Eiji and Eiichi swept her along the corridor and out of sight before she made them stop so she could lean against the wall and gasp for breath.

“Are you alright, Kagome-sama?” Eiichi asked with concern.

“Perhaps we should take you to Sesshomaru-sama,” Eiji suggested.

Kagome growled. The daiyoukai had been right about straining her reiki. She was willing to admit that, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of telling him so if she didn’t have to. Still, she wanted to lie down with a cool cloth on her head and take a nap. “I’ll be fine. I just want to get back to the rooms and rest for a bit.” The rock brothers moved her as quickly as she was able, which was pretty slow, and took her to an unfamiliar portion of the castle. “Where-”

“Construction and repairs have made the family quarters uncomfortably cold for humans,” Eiji answered her unfinished question.

“And too loud for inu ears,” Eiichi added dryly.

Shippo and Rin were waiting inside with crayons and paper spread across a low table. She found a comfortable spot to sit and admire their work until lunch came. Jaken led a pair of female servants bearing more trays than Kagome thought would even fit on the table. He groused and squawked at the children for making a mess, and then ordered the females around, straightening and bringing in additional bedding and furnishings while they ate. The two sleeping rooms and the anteroom were cozy and ready for everyone’s temporary residence while the hole in the wall was fixed. Privately, she wondered how long it would take to repair a single wall. She mentally shrugged, perhaps the damage had been structural.

Kagome finished her third helping and forced herself to stop; she wasn’t quite full, but her strange appetite would make it difficult to fit into her clothes if she wasn’t careful. Jaken bowed low and whisked the dishes and servants away. Rin got out her brushes and ink and Shippo promised to show her his kanji if she would show him how to use the traditional writing implements. Kagome lay down on a simple futon, the screens open to the anteroom so that she could watch the children.

She felt like she did nothing but sleep and eat since she had healed Sesshomaru. And kiss. And touch all that pale skin. Her thoughts were treacherous. Her eyes fluttered closed and she wondered what Sesshomaru was doing, and how much it would bother him to have her oil his tails. Thoroughly.

ooo

Rin and Shippo began plotting as soon as Kagome was laying down out of earshot. “Sesshomaru-sama has been very distracted,” Rin clapped her hands with glee. “Kagome-sama has done a very good job being herself. My Lord is already wanting to spend time with her. Sesshomaru-sama misses her when they are apart, I can tell.”

“Yeah, everybody can tell that,” Shippo rolled his eyes. “It is a good thing Sesshomaru smells okay, ‘cause I can’t get near my mother without breathing in him too.”

“That is very good,” Rin nodded excitedly. “Inuyoukai only scent mark things that belong to them. So Sesshomaru-sama must want Kagome-sama to stay.”

“Well, okay, maybe,” Shippo admitted reluctantly. “Although it isn’t like a scent mark is permanent. He could just want her to stay for a while – like, until the sickness is all taken care of, or something. For all we know, he’s going to kick us out as soon as everyone in the West is better.”

“No, no,” Rin shook her head and began preparing her ink. “Sesshomaru-sama gave her his mokomoko-san.”

“You said she was cold.” Shippo stared at his friend, uncomprehending. Sure, it was weird that Sesshomaru let Kagome wear his tails around, but Shippo didn’t know any other demons that could detach part of themselves like that, and most inuyoukai couldn’t manage it either. He figured that it wasn’t a big deal, or Sesshomaru wouldn’t have done it. Besides, apparently it had to be washed, and while Shippo wouldn’t let anyone he didn’t really trust touch his tails, the daiyoukai was probably powerful enough that even his fur could defend itself.

“She was,” Rin nodded and smiled widely, “but Rin has lots of blankets and furs to keep Kagome-sama warm. Sesshomaru-sama has only let Rin use mokomoko-san twice, and she had never been allowed to wear it.”

“Are you…” Shippo had a sinking feeling, “that doesn’t bother you, does it?”

Rin considered him for a moment, before answering seriously, “Rin wishes sometimes that Sesshomaru-sama would hold her, and mokomoko-san is very good at cuddling. But if Sesshomaru-sama keeps Kagome-sama, then Rin will get lots and lots of hugs and cuddles!”

Shippo could see the logic in that. It made a weird sort of Rin-sense: like flowers plus Jaken equals happiness. Strange, but her math seemed to work. “I’ll take your word for it. So Sesshomaru is following the plan. He likes Kagome.” Shippo frowned, “Now we just have to worry about Mama.”

Rin gasped. “Kagome-sama doesn’t like Sesshomaru-sama?” Her voice was horrified.

“Nooo,” Shippo drew out the word. “Not exactly. She likes him well enough, I just can’t tell if she likes him.” Rin frowned, and Shippo struggled to explain. It was weird trying to tell a girl, but Rin hadn’t lived nearly as long as he had, and she didn’t remember how her parents had been together, so she probably didn’t have a lot of experience with adult stuff. He doubted Sesshomaru spent a lot of time telling Rin about feelings and where babies came from. “When adults like each other, like that…” he backed up. “Humans fall in love, they love each other right?”

Rin nodded. “Rin loves Sesshomaru-sama and Kagome-sama and Shippo-kun.”

“Well, thanks. I love you too, Rin-chan. But this is a different kind of love, the kind that makes babies.” Rin’s eyes widened comically, and Shippo smiled.

“Sesshomaru-sama and Kagome-sama will have babies?”

“Well, they’d call ‘em pups. Or maybe, well, they’d be hanyou, I guess, so…” He trailed off and considered her surprised expression. “That is what you wanted, right? For Kagome and Sesshomaru to get mated, er, married?”

“Yes!” Rin squealed, and then covered her mouth with both hands when Shippo cringed. They both glanced at Kagome. Luckily, she appeared to have fallen asleep. “Rin wants Kagome-sama and Sesshomaru-sama to be together forever.” Her voice dropped a few levels so that she was almost whispering, “If Shippo-kun doesn’t mind too much, Rin would like Kagome-sama to be her mother too.”

Shippo hesitated for a moment. Kagome was his. He had lost a lot: his parents, his home. But Kagome was his. Except…she told him lots of times that the more she loved, the more she had to give. So he supposed that meant that if she started to love Sesshomaru and Rin, that she would have more love for him too. Huh. That was like… Kagome-sense. Weird, but right. “I bet Kagome would really like that, Rin. I would too, if you don’t mind being my little sister?”

“Rin would be your big sister, silly! Rin is much taller!”

Shippo laughed, “But I’m older.” Rin’s eyes widened when Shippo told her how much older. He grinned and continued, “So I know Kagome likes Sesshomaru, but it’s hard to tell if she loves him. And Kagome won’t stay forever unless she does love him.”

“How will we know?”

“Well,” Shippo dredged up every memory he had of Kagome while she was in love with Inuyasha, and Sango after she had agreed to marry Miroku. Well, maybe Sango and Miroku were a bad example. “She’ll want to be with him, even if he is mean or grumpy. Kagome will stare at him when she thinks he’s not looking. She’ll be really worried about him if he’s hurt or sick, and she’ll get scary mad if anyone calls him names or tries to hurt him. Oh,” Shippo remembered one last thing, “and sometimes she’ll smell kind of like…” His voice faded away and he turned to stare through the open shoji screen. Kagome was asleep, wrapped in Sesshomaru’s tails, with a small smile on her face.

His eyes widened in realization, “Like that.”

ooo

“No!” Ryukostokken snarled in fury and threw the first thing he touched. An intricate carved table, replacement for the one he had gouged with his claws, flew across the room. The spy neatly sidestepped and the furniture crashed into the wall, breaking into kindling.

He could feel his youki building, tearing and clawing at his form and ready for release. His fangs lengthened and his claws sharpened. Heat bled into his eyes. The pup lives! It was an outrage, it was disastrous, it was unbelievable. Only a few of his own, whom he had given medicine from the far west of the mainland to ease through the disease, had survived. All of them, every single one, were deformed in some way for that victory: scars, blindness, aching joints, reduced youki, stunted growth and malformed limbs. And yet he was to believe that the pup, the weak, arrogant teat that had stolen what should have been his…the cowardly pretender to power who rode on his father’s ill-gotten laurels…that Sesshomaru had survived unscathed… It must be a lie. Blood-red eyes turned on the spy and a deep sound of promised pain echoed in the room.

“The human woman has healing powers. She cured the Western Lord.” Ruykostokken paused, his violent temper checked by the revelation of another source for his enemy’s health. “They call her the Miko no Mao,” his spy said.

Ruykostokken roared, this time the silk hangings in his reception room receiving his wrath. Great, sharp implements of death shredded millennium-old works of art. The dogs were doing it again! Like the spineless worms they were, they slipped out of the noose that fate should have tightened around their necks long ago. Sesshomaru could not have beaten his disease on his own inferior strength, so he had enlisted another. The human woman. The whore.

The dragon lord braced himself against the stone ledge of the window and stared out at the thickly falling snow. He had been planning his revenge since his father had been sealed. He had fled his enemies, but returned to Japan with a new weapon, a disease that no youkai could combat without his assistance. His own body had been deformed, and he had to sit back while the bastard of Inu no Tashio killed his sire so that he could enact his plan. He refused to be thwarted by a worthless human female. Although…perhaps not worthless. The spy was detailing that his informant had seen her collapse. Sesshomaru had raced to her aid, protecting her with his own fur and youki. A tiny whisper of inspiration brought a smile of vile hope to Ryukostokken’s face. The spy halted in his report.

“Ryukostokken-denkaue?”

The dragon lord turned his new strategy over in his mind, searching for errors and looking for faults. He found none. No miko would be strong enough to kill him, and no miko would have willingly entered the service of a youkai. If she hadn’t managed to fend off the sniveling pup then Ryukostokken had nothing to be concerned about. The smile widened, until his fangs were bared in a fierce grin. Thin tendrils of smoke curled from his mouth and nose. Illness had proved that Sesshomaru was not untouchable. The pup’s concern for the human displayed another chink in his armor. The dog would cower and beg at his feet, and after Ryukostokken had claimed all that Sesshomaru held with pride, the greater demon would gut him.

“Bring the female,” he ordered. Malice dripped from his words and his eyes glittered with dark intent, “This one will have the Miko no Mao.” Her suffering at his hands would be a welcome enjoyment, a far better distraction than the wind demoness or those dragon females he allowed at the castle. Even better, the sensitive nose of the dog would know that she had been taken. He laughed at the sweet duality. His pleasure, Sesshomaru’s pain.

Chapter 13: Know Your Alpha

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